Thursday, June 30, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, 3 more US soldiers are announced dead in Iraq, the Christian Science Monitor doesn't get a lot of Iraq 'hits' and wonders why (we explain it for them), the Libyan War goes on, Human Rights Watch documents the attacks on peaceful demonstrators and notes that "It's not every day that thugs with clubs flash their police IDs at us," and more.
OBAMA: "Moammar Gadhafi, who prior to Osama bin Laden was responsible for more American deaths than just about anybody on the planet, was threatening to massacre his people."
THE FACTS: Gadhafi's history of supporting terrorist acts lethal to Americans did not stop the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, from cultivating a relationship with him after he renounced terrorism. Gadhafi's government shared information on its nuclear program, tipped Washington about Islamic militants after the 2001 terrorist attacks and persuaded Western nations to lift sanctions.
Elaine took on the lies of the administration noting, "They know what they're doing is wrong. But they have contempt for the law, contempt for democracy and contempt for citizens. [. . .] As awful as that is, has anyone explained to you why the US went to war with Libya. Excuse me, Barack doesn't call it war. Has anyone explained to you why the US is heavy petting with Libya? No, because there's no reason for the war. Did Libya attack the US? No. There's no reason for the war." Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) calls out the nonsense Barack was spewing yesterday:
Calling it a "limited operation" doesn't render the War Powers Act null and void.
Nor does saying the action is against one of the "worst tyrants in the world."
And Obama's insistence that we send "a unified message" is the same undemocratic claptrap that we hear from every war President who wants the Congress and the citizenry to shut up and keep silent and not dare question his royal judgment.
Madhi Nazemroaya: This war has not only hurt Libya, it's hurt the rest of Africa because Libya is a major investor in the rest of African and a pan-African leader. So many agricultural and development projects have been abandoned or frozen in the rest of Africa. And there's going to be famine underway in other parts of Africa because agricultural programs have just been frozen and stopped. And tens of thousands of people, tens of thousands of people in different countries have become unemployed. Like in Mali a huge agricultural project has ended because of this war and this was directly has to do with British, French and American -- specifically American interests in the rest of Africa. What they've done by attacking Libya and putting sanctions on it and stopping all of these development projects is they've blocked -- they've blocked Libya from developing these countries and have kept them in a position of dependence on the European Union and the United States. I was clearly told by their Minister of International Cooperation whose specific area is Africa because Libya is in Africa and most of their projects are in Africa, I was specifically told by him that the United States, France and the countries were not happy about what Libya was doing in Africa.
Kevin Pina: That's the voice of our special correspondent Madhi Nazemroaya who's speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya. He's also a research associate with the Center for Research and Globalization, I should say. Madhi, what you're describing isn't just effecting Libya although it's having a devestating effect on the Libyan people, this bombing campaign that continues by NATO but also it's having a regional effect in Africa because of the role Libya has played in funding other projects throughout the region.
Madhi Nazemroaya: Exactly, Kevin, exactly. You hit it right on the bull's eye. That's exactly what it's doing here. And there's a lot of Africans from other places who've come here to show their support by working in NGOs and by trying to help the world see that Africa, the African people, stand behind Libya. Libya is an African country as well as an Arab country and a country of the Mediterranen. And I've even talked to them about the devestating effects it's having on the rest of Africa. Another thing the war has done, it's stopped a pan-African railroad that was going to go north across North Africa and through Libya to the south. They stopped this and it's going to have a longterm devestating effect on Libya if the war does not stop. And everybody in Libya has just heard that in the United States, Senator [John] Kerry and a group of senators are talking about providing funding or support for the war to go on another year. So that is very dire news
Kevin Pina: Well Madhi let's talk about on the ground, the face of the so-called resistance or opposition to Libya. Is there a clear indication that they're being funded, that they've been built by the international community, specifically the US and Britain and Canada? That they built this opposition this resistance against Muammar Gaddafi's regime?
Madhi Nazemroaya: First of all, the rebels here, the resistance, the revolutionaries, the transitional council, whatever you want to call them, terrorists, whatever you want to call them, they have a lot of different names to a lot of different types of people. They're not a monolistic body. They are ecletic. They're a group of different people together. And fighting each other. We know that they're fighting each other. They've been fighting each other. Just like how, during the Chinese civil war, The Nationalist and the Marchists fought each other but they were also fighting the Japanese. These guys, they're also fighting their Libyan government in Tripoli, Col Gaddafi's government and they're fighting each other at the same time. In fact, they're -- they found out that they're giving each other's coordinates to NATO saying that these are enemy forces to have each other bombed. Now --
Kevin Pina: Wait, wait. Madhi, Madhi, you mean there's indications that the resistance or whatever you want to call them that they're actually targeting each other to get NATO to wipe out the other so that they can be the lead force?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Yes. I've been told that by numerous people, that they're fighting, yes, there's inter-competition. If these people take over Libya don't think -- Let's say, hypothetically for argument sake, that the transitional council in Benghazi takes over Libya which I doubt will happen. There will be another blood bath and another civil war. They're already fighting with each other in Benghazi, they're separate militais. This is not a monolithic body. They're fighting each other. They're kiling each other. There's actually more than one government. In Darnah they've declared an Islamic emierate, okay ? In Misrata there's another group which has tense ties to the groups in the east. They're all fighting each other. There's also even Communists involved in this. There's Islamists, Communists and former regime members as well and the -- specifically speaking about the Islamists, there's the Libyan Fighting Group which is a well established and old group and most people refer to it as al Qaeda because it is al Qaeda-like and has ties to al Qaeda as well as the CIA, it has ties to the CIA. Now a lot of these people have been caught and they've been giving explanations of foreign support and foreign funding. Yes, there's foreign funding because they're talking about how they've been helped from abroad. And these indigenous forces? There's a lot of foreigners fighting. I'm not talking about security forces or NATO forces, I'm talking about the jihadists coming in from other parts of the world. We have people coming in from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, people who used to be in Afghanistan. And they're part of these forces that are fighting the Libyan military right now.
Kevin Pina: Well Madhi, let me remind our listeners that you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and that's the voice of Madhi Nazemroaya who is speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi, I guess what I'm getting at is that there was a point where these forces were called "rag tag forces" and then suddenly we heard that there were advisors going in by Britain. We heard that there were advisors coming in from the United States that were assisting them to get their act together. And then there was talk that there was a lot of funding and assistance that were going to these groups. And I'm wondering, can we say that they're really indigenous or is most of this happening because of foreign funding and assistance?
Madhi Nazemroya: Okay, most of this is happening -- This wouldn't have happened without foreign funding and assistance. That's -that's very clear on the ground here and by talking to people who've come from Benghazi and by talking to Libyans in Tripoli, okay? This could -- This would have never been possible. They without even NATO air support without the political support without the financial support without any of that without the media support, this would have never happened. Col Gadhafi's support's gone up in this country. Call him a dictator or not, his support's gone up in this country. And it's very evident when you walk the streets of Tripoli and the district around it that his support has grown. And that's the bulk of the country's population, just to inform your listeners. My sense of the situation, and I also spoke to the pope's envoy in Tripoli days ago, the Bishop of Tripoli. His sense is the same as mine that this country's probably going to be Balkanized and divided in two cause NATO has no way of winning the war and neither do the transitional council forces based in Benghazi. They have no way of winning this conflict. The only thing they can do is make a settlement where the country is divided. Right now, they're pushing to get as much territory as possible and as much oil fields as possible. They're not going to come to Tripoli, I highly doubt it. Unless you see a NATO invasion. And if there's a NATO invasion, there will be a worse blood bath here than there was in Afghanistan or Iraq, that's very sure. The people's spirits are up, they're getting ready, they're training and they have contingeny plans for a ground invasion.
4469 is the number of US military deaths in the Iraq War as yesterday at ten a.m. So add three and you have 4472. (The DoD number does not increase until after DoD announces names of the fallen, FYI.) But the number is "48" (and, again, add 3 to get the current number of 51).
Tim Arrango (New York Times) notes that 15 is the sort of "monthly toll not seen since 2008." Arango notes 14 of the fallen were killed "in hostile incidents." That may be 15. One of the three killed on Sunday was killed, according to what the military told his family, while he was doing a house sweep. That's Sgt Matthew Gallagher and his death is under investigation, according to the military. The Boston Channel (link has text and video) reports Cheryl Ruggiero, his mother, is asking that US Senator John Kerry help the family find out what happened because the military's changed their story, "We're getting bits and pieces from different people and I don't know what to believe. And when it's your child, you want to know." John Basile (Fall River Herald News) cites Capt Matthew Merrill stating that the statements about Matthew Gallagher doing a home sweep were mistaken and that he died "inside the wire".
Again, the Iraq War is not over. Many people wrongly believe it is and not just due to the pretty words of Barack but due to a media that's refused to cover Iraq. We'll come back to that but let's yet again note the memo AP Deputy Managing Editor for Standards and Production Tom Kent sent out at the start of September 2010 (following Barack's 'combat's over, boys and girls!' speech):
Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid. To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas. As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country." However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on. In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case. Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.
Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can't predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.
It's a shame more outlets couldn't follow the AP's lead.
Most can't even follow Iraq. Like Diane Sawyer. Long before ABC World News Tonight airs this evening, the news is 3 US soldiers die in Iraq. Will Diane cover it? Not likely. When 5 US soldiers died in a single attack on June 5th (the death toll rose to six when a soldier injured in the attack died days later), World News Tonight couldn't tell you because they just don't give a damn about Iraq (they were all over Anthony Weiner that night and George Steph had to inform the world that Katie Couric would be joining ABC News in the not-to-soon future -- either of those stories could have been trimmed to allow time to note the death -- and to be clear, Katie didn't participate in the in-house announcement George tried to pass off as news). Will she continue her month long pattern of ignoring Iraq this evening? You could turn into a drinking game, I suppose, but if you're wanting news this evening on the deaths, you're better off tuning into CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley or NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams -- both anchors have made a point to cover the news out of Iraq this month while Diane Sawyer's spent June attempting to turn World News Tonight into The View: Almost Prime Time. Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) pens something that I'm having a difficult time characterizing as anything other than a whine. Supposedly writing about the Iraq War he offers:
The war itself feels all but ignored by the general public here at home. On the desk at the Monitor, Internet traffic is our lifeblood and we follow how many "hits" individual stories receive. For at least a year now, it's felt like all our Iraq stories – whether features with strong, unique reporting; analysis pieces on the security situation; or simply straightforward accounts of a major bombing or political meeting – can't get any traction at all.
Let me break the news to Dan: Your paper and website do a lousy job. Lousy.
We get stronger reports from Jane Arraf via Al Jazeera than from the Christian Science Monitor. I doubt that anything in the last year from the paper has gotten anywhere near the hits that Arraf's occassional piece for the paper has. The Monitor has a lousy reputation when it come to Iraq and that didn't happen yesterday or last year. That has been throughout the Iraq War.
Sam Dagher made a name for himself at the New York Times (and then went on to the Wall St. Journal where I don't think he's done a good job at all). Long before the Times, Dagher was writing for the Christian Science Monitor. They do not know how to play their Iraq stories, writers have to write down when writing about Iraq, it's pathetic. Throughout the Iraq War that's been the case. Now once upon a time -- before the last ten years -- the Christian Science Monitor prided itself on having no bias in its reporting. Some of the watering down required for Iraq reporting results from that and that can be seen as a good thing. But it's clear that a writer like Anthony Shadid would never become Anthony Shadid at the Christian Science Monitor. They don't build stars or names at the paper.
When they ended up with one by accident, Jill Carroll, they showed how easily they could destroy a reporter. Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq at the start of 2006. She was held hostage for about three months. She did strong reporting for several outlets (she was a free lancer) and her work for the Christian Science Monitor had sparkle but not like her writing for other outlets (her work for the San Francisco Chronicle during this same period was far superior to her work for the Monitor). But she was kidnapped. And when she was released she had a story. Only the Christian Science Monitor could screw up her story. No one else would have been that stupid. At the very least, a backward publication would have thought, "Lifetime movie" (woman survives!). But instead it was play Carroll up as a victim and pathetic and pitiful. That's how that coverage came across. And part of the reason she's not a reporter now has to do with her having to take part in that covergae. Jill Carroll is and was a strong woman. Was what happened to her terrifying? Yes, it was a nightmare. And she survived it. None of the other journalists kidnapped in Iraq was turned into a victim by their outlet. And Jill Carroll wasn't the only woman kidnapped. The Committee to Protect Journalists counts 44 male journalists kidnapped in Iraq from 2003 through 2009 and 12 women. The most famous female kidnapping was that of Italy's Giuliana Sgrena who was kidnapped in 2005 and held for a month (her country negotiated her release). She was injured in a shooting . . . by the US military. There was no attempt to portray Giuliana as a victim. Even when she had trouble speaking early on (due to being shot and it effecting her breathing), she presented herself and was presented by others as a strong, brave journalist. There was something creepy and sick about the way the Christian Science Monitor portrayed Jill Carroll (again, Carroll is a strong woman and I am not insulting her, I am referring to the way the paper presented her). Rebecca called it out in real time. And good for her. I should have but felt like I was drawing attention to it if I did. As Rebecca observed of the paper's 'coverage' of Carroll:
this is the sort of thing you go on oprah and talk about it. it's not really what a reporter who wants to be known as a reporter writes about. when you are the story, you become a personality.
[. . .]
i think she got some bad advice and i thinkher paper (christian science monitor) felt this was a way to drive up interest. i don't know that it does anything for her as a reporter.
Now not only was the paper reducing her to a victim -- "Tuesday's victim, come, witness the tragedy" -- but she was also being attacked and the paper was no help there either. John F. Burns (New York Times) wrote a piece basically blaming her for the kidnapping and whining about how it requires so much work to free a kidnap victim in Iraq. (As we noted at Third, no work on the part of the US military appears to have been required for Carroll's release and if it had been, oh well.) John F. Burns never went anywhere in Iraq without armed bodyguards unless he was embedded with the US military. Jill Carroll was a freelance writer who didn't have the luxury of bodyguards -- armed or unarmed. The treatment of Jill Carroll, by the paper, did a lot to further decrease interest in anything the Christian Science Monitor could publish on Iraq.
Jill Carroll is the paper's most famous Iraq reporter and it's not for the work she did, it's for the way the paper portrayed her (a negative portrayal in my mind). Ellen Knickmeyer, Thomas E. Ricks, Damien Cave, Alissa J. Rubin, Sabrina Tavernise, Nancy A. Youssef, Leila Fadel, Lara Jakes, Rebecca Santana, Ned Parker, Alexandra Zavis, Tina Susman, Deborah Amos, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Stephanie McCrummen, Anna Badkhen, Robert Collier and many others built up a reputation as a result of their Iraq work. Does no one else notice that you don't have a Christian Science Monitor discovery on that list? Again, Sam Dagher did work for them but he only made a mark when he was working for the New York Times. Jane Arraf's reports lift the paper but if they gave her more freedom and didn't force her into "Christian Science Monitor style," she'd be doing a lot stronger work (as she currently is for Al Jazeera and PRI's The World).
Equally true, the Christian Science Monitor runs with whatever Barack Obama says. There's not Tom Kent at the paper saying, "Things are still dangerous in Iraq, just because the president says . . ." And that makes their articles laughable including Dan Murphy's. You don't know that US forces are all withdrawing on December 31, 2011. It hasn't happened yet. The paper should be an independent voice. Instead, it's seen as a play toy for the editorial staff that wants to feel part of the beltway.
Here's a little story the Christian Science Monitor doesn't like told, their daily paper? They killed it. Their own actions. Their own business model. They were aware of the problem in 2003 and ignored it. In 2003, with the Iraq War impending or just starting, people were looking for independent news sources. Many contacted the Christian Science Monitor -- by phone, by e-mail, by letter -- about how to subscribe. Specifically, how much was the weekly rate. From January through April 2004, these people were repeatedly informed of a special rate (I believe for six weeks -- and I first heard this story from a friend with Knight-Ridder but heard it from other outlets as well and have seen some of the e-mail replies due to a friend -- editor NYT -- hearing about the issue and e-mailing them near daily as a private joke). Okay, but after the special rate, how much will it cost?
That's a fairly easy answer. Or it should be. But the Christian Science Monitor couldn't provide it, wouldn't provide it. Repeatedly. Over and over for four months. They lost a ton of potential subscribers. People knew the paper would be mailed to them (by snail mail) and would arrive after the news was 'dated' but they were interested in an independent resource. Instead of using that moment to build the paper's base, the circulation staff refused to answer the question and people went elsewhere. That's what killed the daily print version of the Christian Science Monitor and it was no one's fault but their own. They could have seen their circulation soar; however, they were repeatedly unable to tell potential subscribers how much it would cost to subscribe to the paper (after the six week 'special' offer expired).
And if Dan Murphy wants to increase "hits" for Iraq stories at CSM, he might try having more stories like the one he wrote this evening -- in fact, the paper could carve out its own niche just by covering the protests. Human Rights Watch remains the best non-Iraqi source for coverage of the protests due to HRW's coverage of all the violence that the protesters experience. (The Great Iraqi Revolution remains the best Iraqi source for coverage of the protests.) Today HRW issues a finding which includes:
Iraqi authorities should order a prompt and impartial inquiry into the role of state security forces in attacks by pro-government gangs against peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad on June 10, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. The groups of mainly young men, armed with wooden planks, knives, iron pipes, and other weapons, beat and stabbed peaceful protesters and sexually molested female demonstrators, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.
In the days following the attack, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 25 demonstrators who said they were punched, beaten with sticks or other weapons, or stabbed during the June 10 assault. Human Rights Watch observed and witnesses said that security forces stood by and watched in several instances. Several organizers told Human Rights Watch that the attacks have had a severe chilling effect on people exercising their right to peaceful assembly. In the two Friday demonstrations since then, on June 17 and 24, many regular protesters and organizers have stopped attending the demonstration, mainly because of fear of attacks, they said.
"Instead of protecting peaceful demonstrators, Iraqi soldiers appear to be working hand in hand with the thugs attacking them," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The Iraqi government needs to investigate why the security forces stood by and watched as thugs beat and sexually molested protesters - and take action against those who did so."
Two separate Defense Ministry sources told Human Rights Watch that a ministerial order authorized more than 150 plainclothes security forces from both the police and army to infiltrate the June 10 protests. The sources indicated that the government was worried about increased numbers of demonstrators on that date because the 100-day period for improvements that Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki had promised in February would have ended.
During the attacks, four government supporters, some carrying planks and chasing after demonstrators, identified themselves to Human Rights Watch as members of Iraqi security forces. Two others showed Human Rights Watch concealed Interior Ministry police ID badges.
"It's not every day that thugs with clubs flash their police IDs at us," Stork said. "The government needs to find out who was responsible for the assaults and punish them appropriately."
It's amazing how HRW has had to stand alone on this issue. In part because few paid attention but it's also true that a number of people and outlets did and they chose -- and continue to choose -- to be silent.
As noted yesterday, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, just back in Baghdad after a diplomatic visit to the US, allegedly floated the idea of a Sunni region in Iraq. It has created a firestorm. Al Mada runs a descriptive or charged headline proclaiming Nujaifi "set off a bomb" and they rush to quote State Of Law which is in such a tizzy they don't even have time to pimp prepared statements on the murder of Ali al-Lami's brother yesterday. (Remember how State Of Law tried to turn Ali al-Lami's death into a week-long tragedy?) State of Law's Abdul Ilah Naieli not only attacks the notion of a Sunni region, he insists that it could cause instability resulting in the US keeping troops in the country "longer". He calls Nujaifi's statement's strange but that would apply to Naieli's own statements. Hadar Ibrahim (AK News) adds MP Izzat al-Shabandar has collected signatures ("over 110," he says) to demand Nujaifi answer questions before Parliament. Aswat al-Iraq runs with the Ninewa Province rejects the proposal -- really? The whole province? A proposal floated yesterday? It was determined the entire province rejects it how? That's some polling. Aswat al-Iraq notes that Nujaifi denies having floated the idea and they quote him stating, "I can't accept the establishment of Regions on sectarian basis, but they can be set up on geographic basis, but not now; and I did not call for that during my visit to Washington."
Turning to Iraqi oil and, no, we're not interested in the "in two years, we'll meet . ." storylines. Iraq's pimped that claim every year of the war. But Iraq is leaving UN receivership status which Caroline Alexander and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) leaves open new issues: "The expiration today of United Nations protection of Iraq's oil revenue from creditors seeking damages stemming from Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait may make the assets vulnerable to seizure, exacerbating tensions between the two countries." Kuwait is owed millions and would be the most obvious challenge; however, it is far from the only country claiming to be owed money. The US cancelled Iraq's debt in 2004 (over $4 billion) as did many other Western nations. Today the United Nations Security Council's President Alfred Moungara Moussotsi issued the following statement:
The members of the Security Council welcomed the Government of Iraq's assumption of full autonomy over the proceeds of the Development Fund for Iraq as of 1 July 2011.
The members of the Security Council welcomed the Government of Iraq's establishment of a successor arrangement for the transition of the Development Fund for Iraq, consistent with resolution 1956 (2010).
The members of the Security Council noted that, in this regard, oversight of the full proceeds from the Development Fund for Iraq has been transferred from the International Advisory and Monitoring Board to the Government of Iraq's Committee of Financial Experts, which will exercise authority, in accordance with its terms of reference approved by Iraq's Council of Ministers.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their welcome of the ongoing efforts and commitment by the Government of Iraq to ensure that oil revenue is used in the interests of the Iraqi people, and to ensure that transition arrangements remain consistent with the Constitution and with international best practices in respect of transparency, accountability and integrity.
The members of the Security Council underscored the importance of Iraq's continued compliance with relevant resolutions, including paragraph 21 of resolution 1483 (2003) and resolution 1956 (2010).
In an interview with Rudaw, Iraqi member of parliament and former head of the parliamentary committee for gas and oil, Nuraddin al-Hiyali criticized the Iraqi oil policies, describing it as "unclear". Al-Hiyali also said that the Iraqi government has failed in running the country's oil sector properly. "It is an unclear policy," he said. "The Iraqi government has failed to manage the oil sector of Iraq." Regarding Kurdistan's oil contracts, al-Hiyali said that the oil companies benefit from those contracts more than anyone else. "A big portion of the oil income goes into the pocket of the foreign companies," said al-Hayali. Up to now, the Iraqi parliament has not ratified its oil and gas law and al-Hiyali attributes this to huge disputes over the details of the draft law. He admitted that neighboring countries are also a cause for this delay.
"The hospital is crowded, the medical staff are overloaded, and we are deficient of medical staff because doctors continue to leave Iraq," Dr Yehiyah Karim, a general surgeon at Baghdad Medical City, told Al Jazeera, "There is still the targeting of doctors."
Dr Karim said that many Iraqi doctors are continuing to flee the country because kidnappings and assassinations are ongoing problems. Since the US invasion in 2003, doctors and other professionals in Iraq have been targets of these crimes in staggering numbers.
According to the Brookings Institute, prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq had 34,000 registered physicians. It is estimated 20,000 of those have left the country, and between 2007 and April 2009 only 1,525 had returned.
"Many doctors are still leaving the country because we are in danger," Dr Karim, whose hospital is the largest medical center in the country, added. "Last week we had three doctors kidnapped in Kirkuk. Following this, doctors there didn't go to work for two days. We always feel insecure about our safety."
Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports that Ali Khamenei's criticism of an alleged deal in Parliament (already made) to keep US forces in Iraq beyond 2011 has resuled in an MP stating that some leaders of political blocs have already promised the US that they will support the extension and Tareq al-Hashemi (one of Iraq's vice presidents) is quoted stating that the focus on the agreement is taking attention away from more serious matters such as the continued lack of ministers to head the security ministries (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of National Security). Basra had a local council resolution last week that it would not house US forces beyong 2011. How binding that decision is or isn't is probably something Nouri will refer to the Supreme Court. But Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that the al-Sadr bloc is now targeting 10 provincial councils to do as Basra did.
I have been laughing so hard all night. Bonnie Franklin was on one episode. She looked really good. I haven't seen her since One Day At A Time went off the air. Valerie Bertinelli is one of the stars of Hot In Cleveland and that's probably how they got Bonnie Franklin to guest star.
There's a hilarious episode with a hilarious Melanie Griffith.
It and Happily Divorced air on Wednesdays on TV Land.
I'll try Happily Divorced later in the week but this Hot In Cleveland is hilarious.
So if you can stream, make a point to do so.
My favorite episode is probably the one with Melanie Griffith. Jane Leeves (do I have her name right?) from Fraiser is hilarious when interacting with Betty White. And Wendy Malik and Valerie Bertanelli are as well. This is just a great show.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, talk of Iraq developing a Sunni region is shot down, officials are repeatedly targeted in today's violence, Iraq is discussed in the US at a Senate Subcommittee, and more.
Starting with this on veterans employment from Senator Patty Murray's office:
Chairman Murray Applauds Committee Passage of Landmark Veterans Employment Legislation
Having unanimously passed the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, the bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, applauded the unanimous passage of her landmark veterans employment bill, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 (S. 951) through the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Chairman Murray's bill is the first of its kind to require broad job skills training for all service members returning home and comes at a time when more than one in four veterans aged 20-24 are unemployed. In addition to providing new job skills training to all service members, the bill will also create new direct federal hiring authority so that more service members have jobs waiting for them the day they leave the military, and will improve veteran mentorship programs in the working world.
Having unanimously passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Read Senator Murray's statement about the passage below:
"With today's passage, this critical legislation moves one step closer to providing veterans with the broad job skills training and support they need to break down barriers to employment. For the first time, this comprehensive bill will require service members to learn how to translate the skills they learned in the military into the working world. It will also ensure that more veterans have jobs waiting for them when they leave the military by streamlining the path to private and federal employment.
"Our veterans sacrificed greatly to fight for our freedoms and they shouldn't have to fight for jobs when they return home. I'm hopeful that this legislation will quickly make its way before the full Senate, and I look forward to fighting for it when it does."
Senator Murray has long championed veterans and her bill should be passed quickly by the full Senate.
Turning now to the wars that produce the veterans (the wars also produce the fallen).
Cynthia McKinney: Congress must exercise its authority and reign in this president. [Applause.] If this president proceeds -- now we already know that this president is guilty of committing war crimes. [Applause.] We know that. Now if having oral sex is an impeachable crime certainly war crimes and crimes against humanity are also impeachable crimes. [Applause.] Ignoring the War Powers Act and the Constitution is an impeachable crime. If President Obama refuses to heed public opinion in the United States -- 60% of which is against the involvement against Libya -- if he is determined to violate the Constitution and violate the War Powers Act and defy Congress, I'm hoping that we will bring enough pressure to bear on our members of Congress that they will follow the House and, in the Senate, also vote to cut off the funding for this NATO operation. [Applause.] Because of what NATO is doing in Libya, what we're seeing is the Israel-ization of NATO policy against the people of Libya. Whether it's collective punishment -- NATO now is refusing to allow food, fuel and medicine to come in as they bomb people and hurt people, NATO is refusing to allow Libya to import the necessary medicine. That too is against international law. That makes our president's actions also criminal in the collective punishment that is being visited on the Libyan people. They can't even fish in their own territorial waters because NATO is stopping that. Sounds a lot like Gaza, doesn't it?
Michael S. Smith: Michael, Heidi, there's been a lot of ink spilled over Obama overstepping legal authority with the war in Libya. And Michael, you've litigated this question on the War Powers Act. What's your take on it?
Michael Ratner: We should first say that, as hosts, we're against this war to begin with, apart from the legality, that this is just another US imperialistic war in the Middle East. I mean, whatever we think about that. But, in addition, what's come out lately is that it's flatly illegal and the administration is fighting an illegal war. I wrote an op-ed on this way back at the end of March that this was an unconstitutional war because it was attacking another country and under the Constitution you have to get the consent of Congress. He didn't. Since then, of course, the War Powers Resolution has clicked in. That's the resolution that was passed in the wake of the Vietnam War. And it was passed for a particular reason: Congress was afraid that presidents would continue to go to war without their consent and so they built an automatic trigger into the War Powers Resoultion saying that 60 days after the president initiated a war, for whatever reason, whatever basis, if it didn't have explicit Congressional consent, the troops had to automatically be withdrawn. I say that again: automatically be withdrawn within 30 days after the 60-day time clock expires. So that's 90 days. There shouldn't be any attack on Libya going on that the United States is involved in at all -- not involved in coordination, not involved in helping with the radar, not involved in helping send its own missiles -- which it's still doing, not involved in bombing -- which it's still doing. So the 90 days are over. The war started over 90 days ago. And there's now been a big debate in the administration with Obama saying, 'I'm not violating the War Powers Resolution. There's no hostilities. We haven't entered into hostilities.' I mean, it doesn't pass the straight-face test. I mean, it's ridiculous. It's a total lie. And what's sad about it, of course, is that he got advice from the administration official lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel --
Michael S. Smith: And the Pentagon.
Michael Ratner: And the Pentagon which -- the OLC actually is authoritative on the law with the president. Yes, he can override it, but it's authoritative. Very rarely over-ridden. Then he went to some other people at the State Dept and elsewhere -- including Harold Koh -- who I used to work with very closely. And they give him the opposite opinion. They said, 'Oh, no. There's no violation of the War Powers Resoultion here.' And Obama, to the American people, with a straight face, has the nerve to say, "We're not violating the War Powers Resolution." So now you see them scrambling around in Congress -- you know, [Dennis] Kuccinich and some Republicans -- saying 'let's cut off all the funding for this war.' They never actually funded the war. That's another interesting point. Obama took the money from some raw defense dept budget. He didn't even use specific funding for the war.
Michael S. Smith: That's utterly unconstitutional. The Constitution [says the Congress] is supposed to have the power of purse and since war is so important they're supposed to fund them or not fund them.
Michael Ratner: Right and I was asked this morning, about how do you compare Obama and Bush on the war? Well whatever you thought of the resolution authorizing -- 'authorizing' -- the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq, there was at least resolutions. I mean there isn't one for Libya. And now you see the great scene is to see [John] Kerry, our former presidential candidate who, you'll recall, when he ran for president saluted the Democratic Convention saying, "Reporting for duty" to show that even though he was against the Vietnam War after the fact, that he was still a figher. Well he proved he's still a fighter. He's now joined by [John] McCain at the hip to say, 'Now let's pass a resolution authorizing the war.' So here you go, the president does an unconstitutional war, he violates the War Powers Resolution and then, of course, exactly what the problem was in Vietnam, you're seeing with a war going on, Congress is saying, 'Well we can't abandon our troops in the field, we can't abandon our troops in the air, our credibility is at stake if we abandon NATO. The same BS we've heard forever. So underneath it, and it's the only analysis that counts, is this is one of a half-dozen imperial wars the US is fighting. And, as someone once said to me, "If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail." In the US, the world looks like a bunch of nails that it can just hit around when it gets into a problem.
Michael S. Smith: I think the other point is whether it's Bush or whether it's Obama, whether it's a Republican, whether it's a Democrat, that certain necessities of empire that these guys follow regardless of what party they're in or what promises they make when they're running for office.
Michael Ratner: I think that's right. I mean, you always tell me about there's two capitalist parties --
Michael S. Smith: One party with two wings.
Michael Ratner: Right, so this is, you know, we have one War Party really, the question is are there even two wings?
We'll stop there but I do love what Ratner says next. From the illegal Libyan War to the never-ending Afghanistan War, Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observes Barack and Richard Nixon:
In our response to the Obama speech, the World Socialist Web Site stated: "The plan announced by Obama will spell an escalation rather than a reduction in the bloodshed in Afghanistan. The aim is to carry out a military offensive over this summer and the next in an attempt to militarily crush the popular opposition to US occupation. To the extent that the withdrawal affects firepower available to US commanders, it will inevitably lead to the use of more air strikes and drone missile attacks and, as a result, an even greater number of civilian casualties."
The opinion piece drafted by Rose provides added confirmation to this assessment.
Both the author of this piece and the publication that he edits are worth examining. Foreign Affairs, the organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, has long served as a public forum for debating foreign policy issues within the US political establishment. It is the same magazine where Henry Kissinger, then a private citizen, first advanced views on Vietnam that would subsequently be embraced by Nixon after his 1969 inauguration.
As for Rose, he is described by the magazine as an expert on international conflict, terrorism and economic sanctions. He was a Middle East advisor on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, helping craft the sanctions regime against Iraq estimated to have claimed the lives of over half a million Iraqi children.
And if Barack's Tricky Dick, Tom Hayden's Rose Mary Woods because his revisionary and 'creative' interpretation of Barack's speech creates its own highly edited response and we long to see him demonstrate the Rose Mary Wood stretch. David Walsh (WSWS) observes, "Hayden makes entirely unwarranted claims about the so-called withdrawal plan and then attributes the 'de-escalation' to pressure from a 'peace movement' that is largely the product of his imagination." Ivan Eland (Antiwar.com) also sees Richard Nixon when he looks at Barack:
Richard Nixon faced the same dilemma presiding over the lost Vietnam War. In 1971, he wanted to withdraw U.S. forces from South Vietnam until Henry Kissinger reminded him that the place would likely fall apart in 1972, the year Nixon was up for reelection. To avoid this scenario, Nixon unconscionably delayed a peace settlement until 1973, thus trading more wasted American lives for his reelection.
Obama appears to be up to the same thing. A phased withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops before the election will push back at Republican candidates' demands for more rapid withdrawal and signal to the conflict-fatigued American public that he is solving the problem, while leaving 70,000 forces to make sure the country doesn't collapse before that election. Again, American lives will be needlessly lost so that a slick politician can look his best at election time.
WTVB reports on a new report from Brown University on the financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and the drone war in Pakistan which finds that $2.3 trillion dollars have already been spent in the last ten years on these wars. Reuters explains that the three wars have resulted in "between 224,475 and 257,655 deaths." Alex Sundby (CBS News) adds, "However, one of the project's co-directors told Reuters that the Pentagon's tally of troops who died from the wars should include those who come home and commit suicide or die in car accidents." And Tim Mak (POLITICO) offers that "the report asserts that conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will continue through the decade, adding to both financial and human costs." John Glaser (Antiwar.com) provides another aspect of these costs, the return:
With those kind of numbers, you might think people would be wisely pulling up and pulling out of these costly and deadly wars; however,Xinhua (link has text and audio) reports 55 soldiers from Fiji are being deployed to Iraq, increasing their total number in Iraq to 278. The Fiji Times cites a statement from the Ministry of Information stating that the deployment was made at the request of the United Nations.
Eight years after the start of the illegal war and the installation of exiles into a puppet government in occupied Iraq, there's little that can pass for 'progress' and "political stagnation" has become the watchword. Will US troops remain in Iraq? The issue, Al Mada reports, is little more than a "political pressure card" within Iraq used by various blocs in various ways. A political scientist at Baghdad University tells Al Mada that he fears that politicians are not factoring in what's best for Iraq but how to posture on the issue. Aswat al-Iraq adds that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met and Talabani's office issued a statement which includes: "The bilateral relations between the Republic of Iraq and the United States were discussed in the meeting, and necessity for their expansion and development, especially the bilateral future cooperation, within the Strategic Agreement, concluded between the two friendly countries."
What the White House wants is an extension of the SOFA or a new agreement which would allow US troops to stay on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011 and under the US Defense Dept. If that is not possible, the plan is to take the troops remaining in Iraq and slide them under the umbrella of the US State Dept in which case their presence is covered under the Strategic Framework Agreement of 2008. Ed O'Keefe does the "Federal Eye" beat for the Washington Post. For the next several weeks, he is in Iraq. This morning, he Tweeted:
In his article on this issue he explained that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, in a GAO Office report, "acknowledged it is not designed to assume the military's mission in Iraq and will have to rely on its own resources and the assistance of the host country to protect the U.S. mission in the absence of the funding, personnel, equipment, and protection formerly provided by the U.S. military." He was referring to the report entitled [PDF format warning] "Expanded Missions and Inadequate Facilities Pose Critical Challenges to Training Efforts." The report stood as prepared remarks by GAO's Jess Ford as he appeared this afternoon before the Senate's Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Federal Workforce and DC. Senator Daniel Akaka is the Subcomittee Chair. He noted, "This Subcommittee held a hearing in 2009 to examine staffing and management challenges at the State Dept's Diplomatic Security Bureau which protects State Dept employees and property worldwide. Today's hearing will build on the previous hearing, as well as examine the results of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of Diplomatic Security training challenges."
There were two panels. Ford was on the first panel with the State Dept's Eric J. Boswell. The second panel was Susan R. Johnson of the American Foreign Service Association. We'll excerpt this from the first panel.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: My question to you, what planning is underway to make sure DS [State Dept's Diplomatic Security] will be able to be prepared to protect diplomats and US civilian personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan as the military withdraws?
Ambassador Eric Boswell: Mr. Chairman, thank you for that question. We are engaged -- we the Dept of State and DS -- are engaged in a marathon of planning. I think that's the right way to describe it. It's probably -- The planning for the transition in Iraq is probably the most complex planning effort ever undertaken by the State Dept and perhaps one of the most complicated civilian planning efforts ever undertaken by the US government. We've been working on it for years. We think we have a very good planning strategy and we think we have a good plan and the short answer to your question, sir, is that I think that we will be able to be in a position to provide the security for our people in Iraq after December 31st of this year when all US troops will be gone from the country. Having said that, as I said, it's a very, very complex and difficult task. We are going to be dramatically increasing the number of security personnel at post in Iraq. And we will be increasing also the use of contractors in part for some of the things you mentioned and Mr. Ford mentioned, certain functions and activities that are not mainstream State Dept functions and were we are taking over functions now provided by the US military. We think we've got the structure in place to do it. I'l -- I-I-I should make the point that combat operations in Iraq ceased over a year ago, US military combat operations in Iraq ceased over a year ago. We have been providing security to our very large US embassy in Baghdad for over a year without any assistance from the military beyond certain very specialized funtions and we expect to be able to continue to do so. You asked about Afghanistan also, sir. Obviously, we are not there yet, there is not a transition yet. The president has just announced the beginning of a drawdown in Afghanistan but I can assure you that we have learned a lot in the planning process for Iraq and we will apply those lessons in Afghanistan.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Ambassador, as the military withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan -- later Afghanistan -- DS will provide certain security and protective services that the military is performing now such as downed aircraft recovery and explosive ordinance disposal; however, the military provides many services such as intelligence collection and providing a visible deterrence in ways that DS cannot. How will the loss of these important capabilities effect the way DS provides security in Iraq and Afghanistan? And is DS equipped to handle all of the functions it will be asked to assume?
Ambassador Eric Boswell: Uhm, senator, Mr. Chairman, I was in Iraq several years ago and the security situation in Iraq now, I think it's fair to say, is infinitely better then it was at the worst of times: 2005 to 2007. You are right, sir, in saying that certain key functions of the US military will be absent. They can't be replaced by DS -- notably, uh -uh, counter-rocket fire. We are not an offensive unit in DS. Some intelligence functions as well. We are going -- As Iraq normalizes as a nation, we are going to rely as we do in most countries on the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi police for these functions to the maximum extent that we can.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: Well, Mr. Ford, in 2009, GAO recommended that State conduct a security review of diplomatic security's mission, budget and personnel as part of State's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. While State agreed with the recommendation, the QDDR did not include this strategic review. Will you please discuss how inadequate the stategic planning may effect DS operations?
Jess Ford: Uh, yeah, Mr. Chairman, let me respond to that. First of all, I can say that we were disappointed that the QDDR did not take a more strategic look at DS operations. Our 2009 report suggested that DS has been required to expand a number of missions that it's asked to support by the Dept overall and that they're often put into what I would characterize as a reactionary posture which we don't think is good from a planning point of view and our goal of that 2009 was that the Dept would take a longer look at DS and come up with a more strategic way of asessing needs, resources and requirements. I think I can say that our current report which is focused on the training parts of DS suggests that there still seems in my mind to be a gap here.
Asked about the use of security contractors, Boswell insisted this was a must, that multiple studies demonstrated this and he cited his 2007 visit as somehow proof. He then suggested that at some point, as Iraq becomes more 'stable,' they might be able to replace the foreign security contractors with "nationals" (Iraqis) and stated that they currently use "nationals" in Erbil. He also claimed "about eighty" DS employees would be providing contract oversight to ensure that contractors were behaving properly (in his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka noted the Nassar Square slaughter in September 2007 by Blackwater mercenaries guarding the State Dept). He noted there were two kinds of security contractors: contract guards and the bodyguards -- contract guards = static guards; bodyguards = protective security details, "the movement people who travel in the motorcades and who run the motorcades."
Meanwhile Iraq has a Kurdish region, some want it to now have a Sunni region. And, no, we're not talking about US Vice President Joe Biden. (Biden favored a federation system for Iraq made up of a Shi'ite region, a Sunni region and a Kurdish region.) Al Mada reports that while Osama al-Nujaifi (Speaker of Parliament) has long supported (that's their call, I have no idea whether he's long supporter it or not) a centralized Iraq, he's now begun talking about a Sunni region. The Secretary-General of the Justice and Reform Movement, Abdul Hamidi al-Yawar, finds the idea distressing and claims it will add to the tensions. Aswat al-Iraq quotes Hussein al-Muayad stating, "The Iraqi people, with all their fraternal components, strongly reject any step to ignore the national principles, mainly the unity of Iraq. Sunnis in Iraq understand well that their real and active existence can't be achieved through projects of secession and division, but through cohesion towards Iraq's unity." Alsumaria TV carries the response from Iraqiya:
"Al Iraqiya stands firmly against any attempt to strip down Iraq through despicable sectarian motives", Iraqiya official spokeswoman Maysoun Al Damlouji said in a statement which Alsumarianews obtained a copy of. "Marginalizing citizens is not restricted to a specified province. Bad services, unemployment and poverty affect all people while the only beneficiaries of Iraq's wealth are a group that does not represent a sect or a rite", she said.
Aswat al-Iraq quotes the Iraqi Republican Gathering stating that this talk is "a dangerous turn that will open regional and international greed."
Rawya Rageh: Sheikh Osama al-Tamimi recalls a time when he couldn't pray freely here. The Shi'ite cleric was imprisoned under Saddam for fourteen months for leading worshippers in this Baghdad shrine. But today the Sheikh calls the mosque named after a revered 8th Century Shi'ite figure has emerged into the light. He says thousands of visitors come here to pay their respect to an Imam whose life story exemplifies the suppression of Shia Islam with numbers swelling during an annual festival marking his death.
Sheikh Osama al-Tamimi: We found the freedom to hold our religious rites and rituals and, year on year, there's more creativity and development in commemorating these religious occasions.
Rawya Rageh: Scene like there would have ben unimaginable under Saddam Hussein. Iraq's Shia have been experiencing a renaissance that's enabled them to express their identity openly and proudly and has created a whole new political landscape. For the first time in modern history, Shia have come to power in an Arab country. Their various competing political parties have been predominantly shaping Iraqi politics differences between them at times advancing democracy, other times deadlock.
Turning to today's violence, Reuters notes a military officer with the Ministry of Interior was left wounded in a Baghdad shooting, an employee of the Hajj Commission was injured in a Baghdad shooting, Lt Col Mohammed Abdul Ridha with the Ministry of Defense was injured in a Baghdad shooting, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left seven people injured, a Baghdad bombing injured two people and Ali al-Lami's brother Jamal Faisal was shot dead.
In the US, an Iraq War veteran is facing legal trouble. 26-year-old Elisha Leo Dawkins, Susannah Nesmith (New York Times) reported last week, has been "in federal lockup" for a month with the government planning to deport him because of a passport application and his apparently not being a citizen. His attorney explains that Elisha was raised in this country and led to believe he was a citizen. He was never informed he wasn't. The US military considered him a US citizen and gave him a very high security clearance. The State Dept issued him a passport. Kyle Munzenrieder (Miami New Times) added, "Dawkins applied for a passport in order to serve in Guantánamo. A question on the form asked if he'd ever applied for a passport before. He checked no. That wasn't entirely true. He had begun an application for a passport before deploying to Iraq but never finished the process. That single check on a box is why he now sits behind bars." Carol Rosenberg (Miami Herald) explained, " His lawyer says he grew up fatherless and estranged from his mother, staying with relatives in Miami, believing he was a U.S. citizen. He even obtained a Florida Birth Certificate to get a passport to travel to war as a soldier, with neither the Navy, the Army nor the state of Florida apparently aware of a two-decade-old immigration service removal order issued when he was 8 years old." Today Susannah Nesmith (New York Times) reported that an offer was on the table: Elisha takes an offer of probation and completes the probation, he can then apply for citizenship. (A felony conviction would interfere with the citizenship process. Probation would allow him to avoid a felony conviction.) The judge, Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, thinks it's a strong offer. Marc Caputo (Miami Herald -- link is text and video) reports US Senator Bill Nelson raised the issue on the Senate floor today and his remarks included:
A federal indictment says the serviceman failed to acknowledge he'd once applied for a passport when filling out a new application - something prosceutors call passport fraud; something his public defender calls an innocent oversight.
Mr. Dawkins now faces up to 10 years in prison, if he's convicted.
All John Dillinger served in prison was 8 ½ years on a conviction for assault and battery with intent to rob and conspiracy to commit a felony.
According to his lawyer, he came to this country from the Bahamas when he was just a kid. His mother brought him here. And he's still not a U.S. citizen....
Mr. President, some have wonder whether passage of the Dream Act might have prevented something like this from happening in the first place. That legislation would grant legal status to some undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children and who join the military. Let's finally pass it.
It wasn't all that long ago that a Tom Hanks film was something to see. Teamed with Meg Ryan, you knew it would be entertaining even if it wasn't believable. (Even at his most fit, Tom Hanks was never handsome enough to be the object of desire he was too often cast as.) Left on his own, you'd know he'd give an earnest, rote performance in a bad drama that was supposed to make you feel good for having sat through it.
But then came the '00s and they were not kind to Hanks as he made one bad film after another and repeatedly exhausted the goodwill of the audience.
By the time he got to those shlocky books about the Vatican (disclosure, I'm Catholic), his career was as dull as his performances.
I hope Larry Crowne flops at the box office. I've seen the trailer. People were booing it. The trailer has Tom Hanks losing his job and going to college where an annoying and one-note Julia Roberts is his professor. He learns 'skills' and gets a job.
In 2008, you might have been able to get away with that. As The Great Recession has continued, people aren't in the mood for that insulting crap.
People are out of work: With skills. With employable skills. We don't need this Hollywood crap.
Tuesday, February 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa and government officials remain targeted, political stagnation is the new term to describe the Iraqi government, the US Senate hears from Vice Adm William McRaven that US forces should stay in Iraq, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley explores the subject of which families receive condolence letters and which ones don't when a loved one in the military dies, and more.
This morning Gen James Thurman, Vice Adm Wililam McRaven and Lt Gen John Allen appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding promotions. For example, McRaven is nominated to become Commander of United Nations Command/ Combined Forces Command/United States Forces Korea. The issue of Iraq came up at length twice. The first time was near the start of the hearing when Senator John McCain asked his questions. (As Ranking Member, McCain asked directly after Chair Carl Levin finished his questions.)
Ranking Member John McCain: Adm McRaven, do you believe that the United States should have a residual force in Iraq in order to assist -- with particularly special operations, functions and intelligence?
Vice Adm William McRaven: Sir, I think that it would be mutually beneficial to us and the Iraqis if in fact that was the case. Obviously, remains to be seen whether the Iraqis will want us to stay past the intended drawdown time. But clearly there is still a threat in Iraq. And a small, soft presence there I think would be advisable.
Ranking Member John McCain: And if you look at recent US casulties, the situation -- at least in some respects -- politically as well as militarily has shown some deterioration. Would you agree?
Vice Adm William McRaven: Sir, I would. Statistically that appears to be the case, yes, sir.
The second time the issue arose was when Mark Udell felt the need to embrace, to wallow in counter-insurgency. Save the transcripts of his praise for the War Crimes Tribunal. It's really sad that (a) ethics are so unimportant in the Senate and (b) that with all that's going on in Iraq currently, anyone would think Iraq could be sold as a 'success.'
Senator Mark Udell: Gen Allen, if I could turn to you. I know that you've had some
Let me turn to the success that you had and we had in Anbar in Iraq. You reached out to a population that had been previously pretty hostile and then worked with them to turn their focus to al Qaeda and the elements of terrorism that had really created enormous chaos. In the process, the COIN doctrine was validated. I don't want to imply that the two countries are alike but could you talk about the primary lessons that we learned in Anbar and how we're going to apply those lessons in Afghanistan.
Lt Gen John Allen: Senator, much of what was accomplished in the Anbar Province, needless to say, much of it was accomplished on the shoulders of the sacrficie of many soldiers and marines and sailors and Airmen. We honor that service and their sacrifice. And having accomplished that really remarkable outcome. But what was accomplished in the Anbar Province was really the result of a comprehensive civil-military counter-insurgnecy strategy. It was a strategy that leveraged every aspect of military capacity that could be brought to bear in the battle space -- civil affairs, conventional military capabilities, advisory capacity to build the Iraqi police, the Iraqi security forces. the two divisions of Iraqi infantry that we had, special operators who worked both as advisors and mentors but also euphemistically the term "black soft" the strike forces that would enter the battle space to attack the insurgent network. We pressurized the insurgent network constantly. And while we were pressurizing and shredding the insurgent network and blunting their capabilities with the use of conventional forces, we worked very, very hard to build the capacity of the Iraqi security forces -- both the army -- those two divisions -- and we went from about 4,000 police to almost 30,000 police in the year that we were there in '07 and '08. All of that was complimented with a comprehensive plan with respect to civilian outreach as well. USAID resourced 3 embedded PRTs and resourced our PRT -- our provincial PRT in Ramadi. And I believe that the wise outreach to the sheiks in the tribe. The wise expenditure of tax dollars with respect to both
From your perspective as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command, what are the main "lessons learned" from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn?
Both operations have provided us with many lessons learned which we have incorporated into our current operations. Some of these lessons include: the need for a unified U.S. government approach, active and integrated interagency coordination, the necessity for culturally attuned forces and the need to maximize combined operations. U.S. military and government efforts need to be synergized to provide a focused effort while reducing the likelihood of duplication and opposed efforts. Inter-agnecy integration is essential in our fight against violent extremism. Some of our greatest accomplishments would not have come to fruition without this coordinated effort. Our forces are now more culturally sensitive than ever before, greater language skills and incorporating female military personnel into our post operations activities have allowed out forces greater access and integration with the Iraqi and Afghan civilian populace. Lastly, we have maximized out combined operation efforts by working with and through the host nation forces. Every operation is coordinated with the Government of Iraq and Afghanistan and the Iraqi and Afghan Partnering Units. These combined operations are not only doing a tremendous job in accomplishing the mission but, also help enable and empower the Iraqi and Afghan special operations forces for future success.
What's McRaven saying?
Nothing really. He's using buzz words . . . from twenty years ago. He's demonstrating he can string together words . . . if not answer a question. The question was about Iraq and page 16 clearly indicates "IRAQ" And asked about "lessons learned'' in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn (September 1, 2010, the Iraq War is renamed "Operation New Dawn" -- you're soaking in it -- by the White House), McRaven attempts to run to Afghanistan ("Both operations . . .") immediately indicating that he has little to offer on the topic of Iraq.
Staying with the topic of US forces remaining in Iraq (under the umbrella of the Defense Dept), Al Jazeera reports today: "US troops are scheduled to withdraw completely from Iraq by year's end, though few observers expect they will fully meet that goal. Iraq, after all, has no viable air force; struggles to control its borders; and lacks sophisticated military intelligence and surveillance technology. So the Pentagon has long planned to leave a 'residual force', perhaps 10,000 to 12,000 troops, to perform those functions and to continue training Iraqi troops." Meanwhile using an unnamed source (presumably someone in Parliament or in the Cabinet), Al Mada reports that talks are ongoing between political blocs and US government representatives over US forces remaining in Iraq beyond 2011. The source states that there are the talks various blocs know of and that thee are also "secret talks" but insists that any deal reached will have to be approved by Parliament. Alsumaria TV reports, "A senior official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by President Jalal Talabani stressed on Sunday the necessity for US Forces to stay in Iraq beyond the end of 2011. Iraq is still an inconsistent State, he said noting that the majority of political parties approve the extension of US troops term in Iraq." In another article, Al Mada speaks with political scientist Hussein al-Shammari who worries that conflicts between Al Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi) and State of Law (led by Nouri al-Maliki) may lead to a bloody physical conflict. If you look at all the fears, the continued stalemate or the Iraqi military's lack of readiness, you really don't see the 'success' that Bush, Barack and various others have painted the war to be. Meanwhile (more success?) Aswat al-Iraq notes that Jalal Talabani (president of Iraq) and Iraqiya's Saleh Mutlaq met today to discuss "political stagnation" and how to overcome it. Al Jazeera provides a brief backstory on the conflict between Iraqiya and State Of Law:
Maliki and Allawi agreed to set up a national strategy council as part of the power-sharing deal they reached in December. The council was meant to be a check on Maliki, who as prime minister enjoys wide authority over the Iraqi security forces.
But the agreement left key details unresolved, namely, the exact powers and responsibilities of the council.
Iraqiya signed the deal anyway; al-Maliki now claims that the council is unconstitutional; and without a concrete agreement, Iraqiya has found itself politically sidelined.
"Iraqiya keeps asking for the implementation of 'balance' in the ministries of state, as well as the creation of a strategy policy council," Reidar Visser, a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said.
"But if the details weren't hammered out at the time, Iraqiya's leverage is now greatly diminished."
AP notes "hundreds of thousands" are making the pilgrimage to the Kadhim shrine for Imam Moussa al-Kadhim and that some estimates put the number of visitors to the mosque at three million recently.Al Rafidayn adds that young children and all the way through the elderly are walking north of Baghdad on this annivesary of the Imam's death. He was persecuted, imprisoned and then poisoned, dying in 799 AD. The article notes that he was praying in the mosque when he was arrested (795 AD). The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Our Correspondent in Baghdad: Da'wa Party members taking advantage of the Anniversary of the death of the Imam Moussa Al Khadhim by carrying Maliki's pictures during the marches!" NTD television (link has text and video) quotes Kitab Shran stating, "The pilgrimage process is going well and the processions too, thank God. Police and army are at the service of the people and the pilgrims and the service is very good and beyond our expectations. The service is good and everything we need is available and if one has an emergency he will find assistance. Thank God, the pilgrimage is going smoothly and all the streets are open." Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh shares these observations of the pilgrimage via her Twitter feed:
Leo: (singing Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville") Nibble on sponge cake, watching the sun bake . . .
Jane Arraf: That's Leo. Now during the day he teaches music but at night you can find him in what has become my favorite restaurant. And Leo plays music, the most amazing music with that fantastic accent you just heard. And we have to remember this is a country where Iraqis are pretty much divided over American soldiers, American culture. He says that one thing that pretty much all of them agree on are American movies and music. They love it.
Leo: Two part of Iraqi people. One of them called them liberators, the other called them invadors. But most Iraqi people, as I saw in front of my eyes, like American culture.
Leo: (singing the Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody") You don't know what it's like, you don't know what it's like, to love somebody
Jane Arraf: I have to say that while Jimmy Buffett is a particular favorite of his, his real love is the Bee Gees. "Tragey," "Staying Alive" particularly suited to life in Iraq of course and this one.
Leo: (singing) You don't know what it's like, you don't know, you don't know what it's like, To love somebody . . .
Jane Arraf: It really is hard to describe how awful it was for Iraqis during the civil war when a lot of people basically just stayed home for those entire two, three years. And when the was on what they did when they were trapped in their homes was watch TV and like thousands of Iraqis, Leo is a huge fan of Dr. Phil. But his real love, his dream is to be on with Oprah.
Leo: If I sit in with Oprah, I want to tell Oprah one thing is people are people
Jane Arraf: Leo says one day he'd like to visit the United States again particularly, because of the songs, San Francisco and Boston. In the meantime though he sings about it
Leo: (singing the Bee Gees "Massachusetts") I'm going back to Massachusetts, something's telling me . . .
Staying on the cultural topic, Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad was a cultural point for many years and remains so even now despite the bombings and other violence. (The area is known for its bookstores and even at the height of the ethnic cleansing, when the yearly book festivals take place, Iraqis turn out.) In San Francisco, poet Beau Beausoleil started to the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project to foster a sense of community with Iraq's lively and culturally rich Al-Muntanabbi Street. Sarah Browning (Foreign Policy In Focus) reports:
Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here grew as printers and poets responded to the call to build solidarity with the people of Iraq and, at the same time, remind Americans of the great toll the war is taking on Iraqi society. "I have come to feel that wherever someone sits down to read, or where someone takes up their pen and paper to write, it istherethat al-Mutanabbi Street starts," says Beausoleil. The broadsides now number 130, one for each person killed or maimed in the attack. An anthology will be published in 2012 by PM Press.
The broadsides may present just a few words, such as "Books Not Bombs" by Nina Ardery of Carillion Press of Indianapolis, Indiana, in which the word BOMBS is slowly transformed into the word BOOKS. Or they may incorporate full poems by contemporary and historic poets writing in English or Arabic, poets such as Iraqis Buland al-Haydari and Saadi Yousef, Palestinian Americans Naomi Shihab Nye and Deema Shehabi, and Iranian Americans Persis Karim and Sholeh Wolpé. They are stark and bloody and beautiful, a great diversity of visual styles, and they can all beviewed on-line.
Beausoleil explains: "Some broadsides are kind of subtle. Some are really anti-war. Some address the idea of censorship and the idea of attacking a street that sold books, a place where ideas were exchanged, and how no matter the devastation, whoever had done it could not erase what was there, ultimately."
Turning to today's reported violence. Reuters notes a Baquba roadside bombing injured Baquba Mayor Abdulla al-Hayali and two bodyguards, an Abu Ghraib sticky bombing claimed the life of a Sahwa leader and 1 male corpse was discovered in Kirkuk. Aswat al-Iraq adds that Bayan Di'zai'i (former Minister of Reconstruction and Housing) was targeted today in Kirkuk when her convy was attacked and she was injured and "rushed to hospital, without any further details."
AFP reports that US forces caught three Iraqis -- Mohammed Salim Lafta, Munif Hashim Shinawa and Saeed Ubayd Sabir -- "on a highway south of Baghdad" March 14th where they were suspected of placing a roadside bomb. Today the 3 appeared before court for approximately 2 hours before they were let go without being charges with any crime. The time limit and being unable to provide testimony has angered the US military whose spokesperson, Col. Reginal Allen, states, "We are deeply disappointed in the court's decision."
Three US soldiers died in Iraq Sunday. L. Finch (Boston Globe) reports that one of the three is 22-year-old Sgt Matthew Gallagher who was on his deployment to Iraq and who was supposed to have a brief leave to return home next week for his 23rd birthday. James Ruggiero, Matthew Gallagher's step-father, states, "He loved the Army so much he was talking about reenlisting when the time was up." Sean Teehan (Cape Cod Times) adds a quote from Katie Gallagher, Matthew Gallagher's spouse, "He died a hero." In addition to his wife and his step-father, his survivors include his mother Cheryl Ruggiero and his biological father Peter Gallagher. His mother explains the military told her that he was doing "a house sweep" when he had been shot and she states, "I'm a gold star mother. But I'd give that gold star back if it could bring my baby back." WCVB offers a video report which includes Katie Gallger speaking of her late husband, "He's the most generous nice person that I've ever met in my life. He was everything to me. He was my best friend." Manny Gamallo (Tulsa World) reports 20-year-old Pfc Dylan Jeffrey Johnson was killed by "a grenade attack in Iraq on Sunday, his father said" in Jalula and that another soldier (a sergeant) was killed as well. Jeff Johnson says of his son, "He knew they were going to Iraq, but he didn't know when. He was really excited about going over there."
The three deaths Sunday brought the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq this month to 12, with 11 of them dubbed combat deaths and 1 under investigation. Please note, if parents above are accurately remembering what they were told (and I'm sure they are), there are 12 combat deaths. The 1 under investigation is from Sunday and was a single soldier. Now we learn that soldier was shot dead while doing a house sweep? Unless it was by a fellow US soldier, that was combat or else there's another death that hasn't been acknowledged. This needs to be cleared up by the Pentagon and it needs to be cleared up very quickly.
June 6th there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of 6 soldiers (5 died that day, one of the wounded died after he had a medical transport back to the US). One of the six who died June 6th was buried yesterday, 27-year-old Spc Micahel Cook Jr. CBS3 Sprinfield provides a video report which includes, "While family members of Cook declined to go on camera, they tell us Cook leaves behind his wife Samantha and two young children. Even though Cook is not from Pioneer Valley, family and friends say it's special for him to be buried with full military honors at the Massachusetts Veterans Cemetery in Agawam because his uncle, who also served in the military, is buried there as well." I'm going to go ahead and be rude here and not give a damn about it. It's your job to know what you're saying. If you're on camera or you're in print, it's your damn job. You need to learn to do it. CBS 3 wrongly states June 5th was the worst attack (based on US deaths) in Iraq in 2 years. No. That was the week of June 6th. Go back to June 12th here and you will find "Another US soldier dead from the Iraq War" and the Defense Dept annoucement:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Spc. Marcos A. Cintron, 32, of Orlando, Fla., died June 16 at a medical facility in Boston, Mass., of wounds suffered June 6 at Baghdad, Iraq, when insurgents attacked his unit with indirect fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. For more information, the media may contact 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359 or 785-307-0641.
That took the number to six dead from that attack. June 12th. It's now June 28th. There's no excuse for not knowing about Marcos A. Cintron's death now. It's disrespectful to him and makes you look like a lazy ass when you can't get your facts straight. 6 US soldiers were killed in that attack, not 5. That is so disrespectful. It's not like DoD just announced the death yesterday. Nor is it like you're doing a podcast. You've got a whole newsroom behind you and you can't get your facts right.
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of five soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn.
They died June 6 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with indirect fire. They were assigned to the1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
Spc. Emilio J. Campo Jr., 20, of Madelia, Minn.;
Spc. Michael B. Cook Jr., 27, of Middletown, Ohio;
Spc. Christopher B. Fishbeck, 24, of Victorville, Calif.;
Spc. Robert P. Hartwick, 20, of Rockbridge, Ohio; and
Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri, 26, Chicago, Ill.
For more information, the media may contact the 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359 or 785-307-0641.
Here's George Graham (The Republican) writing about Cook in a story published yesterday at 5:00 pm, "U.S. Army Spc. Michael Benjamin Cook Jr., one of five soldiers killed in action in Iraq earlier this month, was laid to rest here Monday at the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery." But, as we've established, he wasn't "one of five," he was one of six. Again, there's no excuse for this. I am appalled.
Jake O'Donnell (Patch) notes, "During the funeral ceremony Cook was honored with several posthumous awards and medals, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Good Conduct Medal. Cook has also been honored with the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Army Service Ribbon." O'Donnell provides a photo essay of the service here. David Roback (The Republican) offers a photo essay here.
There are two who were seriously wounded this month. There are probably more than that but they aren't getting noted by the Pentagon. One lost both his legs, a 28-year-old soldier. June 11th, Ryan E. Little (The Ledger) reported that Spc Charles Lemon has arrived back in the US early after surviving a bombing ("improvised explosive device in An Najaf") June 8th. Lemon has "lost both legs and suffered other injuries including burns to his body" according to his sister Kimberly Lemon. June 18th, Matthew Pleasant (The Ledger) reported on the event (Clicks For Charles) Brianna Towns was doing to raise funds for her cousing Charles' immediate family who were at Walter Reed with Charles Lemon and Pleasant noted, "On Tuesday, he was strong enough for doctors to remove him from life support, but he is still undergoing surgeries." Updates can be found at Charlie's Change for Change where secure donations can also be made. Judy Zavalla (Alvin Sun) reports Joseph L. Finney was injured in the June 6th attack. Zawalla notes of the father of three and husband of Heather Kinsey Finney, "He is doing better at this time. His brain has experienced trauma and he still has serious injuries to his right shoulder. The last report said the doctors were keeping him sedated to let the brain swelling subside. When he is awake, he will not rest because he is constantly texting his family to assure them he is alright."
Yesterday on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, Pelley (link has text and video) introduced Bill Whitaker's latest investigative report, "On any given day in this country, more than 75,000 military veterans are homeless. So we were shocked to discover what's become of land in southern California that's meant to house homeless veterans and once did." Whitaker's report reveals how the city of Los Angeles is misusing land that was given to the city for veterans housing and how the city can't explain why they've misused the land for over a century or where the money has gone that they've charged various companies they've rented it out to in that time. Today CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley (link has text and video) reported on military families whose loved ones take their own lives receive no letter of condolence from the president of the United States. Elaine Quijano reports on Gregg and Jannett Keesling whose 25-year-old son, Spc Chance Keesling, took his own life while serving his second deployment in Iraq. In addition, the president sends no condolence letters to those like Jessica Conckling's family whose loved one dies "in stateside training accidents." Sara Conkling tells Elaine Quijano, "She was willing to put her life on the line and she did lose her life doing it. But it doesn't count as much to them."
Senator Patty Murray is Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. For some time she has been raising the issue of veterans employment -- young veterans of today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from a very high unemployment rate -- as she's pointed out in hearings and in news conferences, many are worrying that listing their service is harming their employment chances. Tomorrow her Committee will address proposed legislation and her office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 29th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on pending legislation. During the hearing, the committee will vote on pending legislation. Included among the bills to be considered is Senator Murray's Hiring Heroes Act, a major veterans employment billthat make jobs skill training necessary for the separation of service members from the military and provides new pathways to federal and private sector employment. A full list of the bills the committee will vote on is available HERE. WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee