Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I had planned a basic New Year's Eve. That flew out the window. My son came home and said he was sorry for being late. I didn't know he was. Turns out my husband is stuck in traffic and he planned for us to go out tonight.

I told my son I was fine with staying here and watching my granddaughter but he's going to stay here and some of our other children are coming over as well so hopefully it will be a nice evening.
I really am thrilled (and surprised) that something's planned for tonight but I have had my share of nights out and it would have been fine if we'd just stayed here.

I was planning to think up a New Year's Eve resolution or two. I don't normally do that but thought maybe it was time to start.

And Happy New Year to everyone. I hear my husband's car in the drive.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Wednesday, December 31, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, hype passes for hope and neither are realistic, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died, Dec. 31, in Balad, Iraq from injuries sustained during combat operations, Dec. 30." And they announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died from wounds sustained during a mortar attack in Baghdad Dec. 31." The announcements bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4221. The toll for the month thus far is 14. You could say, "The death toll so far is the same as the media reported for October" but . . . 14 was the October death toll; however, the media rushed to insist it was 13. So it'll be cute to see if anyone references the October death toll in their reporting and, if so, how they do it. If your outlet reported 13 and never corrected it, you're really pushing it to just say, "The same number as in October." 13 was the death toll for July -- the lowest monthly death toll for 2008.

Speaking of bad reporting . . . The
Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin wrote a laughable column (another one) that was published in the US on Christmas Eve and was published Monday in Taiwan. Trudy sees "signs of change on the streets of Baghdad" but, silly fool, she also believes that the US treaty with the puppet government in Baghdad will be followed. There are puppets in Baghdad smarter than Trudes. Where to start?

The "US Troops Withdrawal Agreement" is what the treaty was called by al-Maliki and what foolish idiots believed it was. It was no such thing. The treaty was needed to grant another one-year extension. The United Nations' Security Council could have extended the mandate for a year but the White House didn't want that. (Nor did al-Maliki who had -- two years in a row -- already gone around Parliament to get the mandate extended twice.) The treaty needed to cover a year. When the US began addressing it (in 2007), they frequently spoke of that reality. Trudy (and Patrick Cockburn) must have been sleeping. 2009 is the only year that both sides have to follow. 2010 can find the contract altered or cancelled. The same with 2011. In 2010, both parties may choose to replace it with a new treaty. It is a one-year contract with two options for renewal.

In mid-November, al-Maliki took to Iraq TV (state TV) to declare, "The pact stipulates that U.S. troops are to withdraw from cities and towns by June 30, 2009. And it is a deadline that will not be extended. It also says that [the US] should withdraw from Iraqi land, water and air space by January 1, 2011 -- which is a deadline that will not be extended." That was back when he was calling it the "US Withdrawal Agreement."

Nouri and Bully Boy were shoulder-to-shoulder recently. Remember that? At al-Maliki's palace? Maybe people forget because the one-shoe, two-shoe incident attracted so much attention? But check the transcript at the White House and see what al-Maliki's calling it? Is he calling it the "US Withdrawal Agreement"? No. He's using the same term the White House did "SOFA" -- Status Of Forces Agreement. It's not a withdrawal agreement. And at the December 20th Green Zone press conference, Iraqi Maj Gen Qassim Atta called the treaty the "US Withdrawal Agreement"? No. He referred to the June 2009 'withdrawal' as being "according to what's been said during -- the agreements, an agreement, the security agreement".

The US Withdrawal Agreement was just a brand al-Maliki slapped on it in November when he was attempting to pressure Parliament to vote for it. Since then, that 'term' is no longer used, not even by al-Maliki. Now let's deal with the June claim Trudy's pimping. From the
December 22nd snapshot:

Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) examines the realities of the so-called US withdrawal from Iraq and it's not a pretty sight. Bumiller and Thom Shanker reported last week on how the 'plan' presented to president-elect Barack Obama -- the Petraeus-Odierno plan -- wouldn't allow for that campaign 'promise' of a US withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. Friday Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reported that word games could allow for the impression that promises were being kept -- including what the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement allegedly promised. For context, Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) explained last week, "American combat troops will remain inside Iraqi cities to train and mentor Iraqi forces after next summer, despite a security agreement that calls for their withdrawal from urban areas by June 30, the top U.S. military commander said Saturday." With all that as the backdrop, Bumiller explains today that "a semantic dance" has begun at the Pentagon over what qualifies as a combat soldier and, with regards to the treaty, "Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed "trainers" and "advisers" in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else." Bumiller notes that "trainers" and "advisers" will be the renaming terms for "combat troops" in order to keep them in Iraq: "In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else." Of Barack, she notes, "it has become clear that his definition of ending the war means leaving behind many thousands of American troops."

So that means we've taken care of The Trudys and their "withdraw from major cities in June!" nonsense. (And it's already been learned that even the private contractors/mercenaries clause may not stand.) With the well known history of US treaties, you really had to be naive to think it would work out any differently. Naive or a liar.

So let's back up to this 'safer' claim. The same December 20th Green Zone press conference found Maj Gen Atta expounding on what's in store for the coming year: "The year of 2009 is going to witness a lot more coordination between Baghdad Amanat and the BOC and also the traffic police to reopen all the closed roads and streets and to also lift or remove all the concrete barries or security barriers, and [. . . .]" Really? And the security's going to hold? Hmmm. It's very likely that some of the news outlets pulling reporters from Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan may have to alter those plans at some point in the new year.

Campbell Robertson (New York Times) reports on some things that actually are planned to happen. On January 1st, warrants will be needed. Arrest warrants and detention warrants. The former must be received before arrests, the latter can be granted as late as 24 hours after a detention. So, Robertson explains, the US military is doing the house-to-house searches and other activities they can still do before the January 1st date when they will (may)be required to consult the Iraqi judiciary.Robertson notes that Company C of the "First Battalion [,35th Armor Regiment] has been trying to complete missions, like general house-to-house searches, that will soon become far more complicated, if not impossible" but, this month, as they were attempting to gather the backing that they hoped would result in a warrant being issued in January on one suspect, they came across him and "did what they had been doing freely for nearly six years: they detained him on the spot."
"(may)be"? As Capt Lloyd B. Osafo points out in the article, "Who knows if the Iraqis are going to follow all of this to a T? That's my personal opinion about all of this: who knows?" And the doubt is only increased by Iraqi Maj Hasson S. Hussein al-Zoubadi whining about how the Iraqi military will now have to follow these new rules. Robertson points out, "Actually, the agreement changes almost nothing for the Iraqi security forces: they are supposed to have been operating under the warrant-based system since 2007." When they haven't been it backs up Osafo's opinion.

Also expected in the new year is the holding of provincial elections. They are scheduled for January 31st and Maj Gen Atta was talking them up in the December 20th press conference as well.
Missy Ryan and Andrew Dobbie (Reuters) report Mowaffaq al-Hamdani was shot dead in a Mosul cafe today and that al-Hamdani was "a candidate for the Sunni Arab party Iraq for Us". Following the shooting, police pursued the killers and 1 police officer was shot dead while another was injured. The reporters note, "The results of the vote, which will choose provincial council leaders in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, will set the tone for parliamentary elections due at the end of 2009. The government of Nineveh province, where Mosul is located, has been in the hands of minority Kurds since many of the Sunni Arab majority boycotted the last provincial elections in 2005."

Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bombing that followed another bombing (apparently the first was to draw people in for the second bombing) that left 4 dead and seven people wounded while a Sinjar car bombing claimed 5 lives and left forty-five wounded.


Reuters drops back to Tuesday to note 1 corpse discovered in Mosul and another just outside of Mosul.

CBS and AP note that New Year's Eve is being celebrated around the world. But not in the allegedly 90% democracy Iraq, Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports that Baghdad residents will not be allowed to celebrate the New Year tonight. It's been outlawed.Dagher explains that hotels and clubs have been ordered to close down (and cancel reservations). Why? Shi'ites have a holiday. Remember the back-patting al-Maliki just received last week? "Christmas is a legal holiday in Iraq for the first time ever!" was what the headlines screamed at many outlets. Murharram is going on! All must be placed on hold for this Shi'ite religious period (Shi'ite but not Sunni).

Turning to US politics.
Roland Burris has been appointed to the US Senate by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich is governor and the state constitution gives him the right to appoint the replacement for Barack Obama who has left the Senate for the White House.The Illinois legislature has already taken the issue of Blagojevich to the state court and the court took a pass. The legislature had it in their power to impeach Rod Blagojevich and still might. However, they have yet to impeach him.He has appointed Burris. That appointment can't legally be overturned. And though the Illinois Secretary of State insists he will not confirm Burris, that's not really allowed in the state constitution. The Secretary is not allowed to override a governor's choice. Those egging the SoS on should be ashamed because they're applauding the subversion of the law. On the front page of today's New York Times, Monica Davey offers up "Defiant Illinois Governor Names Pick for Obama Seat" which includes an offensive statement:The choice of Mr. Burris immediately injected the issue of race into the appointment process, which may very well have been party of the governor's calculation. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, who was called to the lectern at the news conference by Mr. Burris said he did not believe any senator "wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate." The offensive statement is Davey's first one and we'll be using "Black" and not African-American in this entry, just FYI.Barack Obama is a person of color, he is bi-racial. He was the person holding the seat. Of course a person of color should have been considered to replace Barack. More importantly, appointments have often been a traditional road to address disenfranchisement. What's especially offensive about Davey's sentence is that she writes for the New York Times. New York which has their first Black governor, David Paterson. And they may have Hillary's Senate seat up for grabs but no one at Davey's paper has advocated for the governor to appoint a person of color to the Senate seat should Hillary become the next Secretary of State. Not only has the paper refused to advocate for it, they haven't even suggested it. (Marcia has raised the issue here and she's noted a qualified woman of color here.)Blagojevich may or may not be innocent. The courts will decide that. But the state legislature could have removed him if they had the votes and the will to do so. They did not. His powers include naming a replacement senator. If they didn't want him to do so, they should have impeached him (or at least tried).Blagojevich has exercised his powers and named the new US Senator from Illinois: Roland Burris. It is too late now and no loophole should give the legislature a second chance. They have had weeks and weeks to take action and they haven't done so. Too bad if they don't like the results.Shouldn't have dragged their feet.Talk of not seating Burris is offensive. The Times offers Carl Hulse's "Democrats Seek to Black Appointee to Obama's Seat, but Authority Is in Question" which addresses the disgraceful efforts now with Burris and in 1969 with Adam Clayton Powell. It really doesn't matter what Harry Reid thinks he wants, he is not the governor of the Illinois. Rod Blagojevich is and he acted within his (state) constitutional duties in appointing Burris who is qualified. The US Senate is being offensive with their threats and their claims now that they'd do this with anyone appointed by Blagojevich. No they wouldn't. And they probably won't be able to do it with Burris. The only thing that could have stopped the appointment was for the governor to be impeached. The legislature didn't do that.Roland Burris is Black. And if they're going to try to deny him his Senate seat -- which he was legally appointed to -- they are going to look very offensive and very racist. Barack Obama -- bi-racial -- has already issued a statement saying Burris shouldn't be seated. A bi-racial man with all the breaks, spoiled from youth and barely out of his youth, wants to deny a Black man who took part in the Civil Rights struggle of the sixties? He wants to deny a Howard University graduate? He better check himself real quick because this will not play well and someone better remind Barack that racism allows him to be considered "Black" but that's a day pass, a temporary one, and it can be pulled at any point. Attempting to deny Roland Burris a seat in the US Senate could result in some of the most pointed criticism Barack's yet to receive.Roland Burris will be only the fifth Black person to become a US Senator. Hiram Revels was the first (1870, from Mississippi), Blanche K. Bruce (1874, Mississippi),Edward Brooke (1967 - 1979, Massachusetts) and Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman elected to the US Senate (1993-1999).Barack is bi-racial, he is not Black. (That's why we're using "Black" and not "African-American" for this entry.) Burris would be the fifth Black US Senator. And someone thinks he can be denied just because they're all huffy over Rod Blagojevich?What Blagojevich did was legal and within his rights. Efforts to deny Roland W. Burris his Senate seat will be seen as racism due to the historical pattern.Trivia note, like Burris, Edward Brooke was a Howard University alumni.Andrew Malcom's blog post "Inside Blagojevich's bold, brash &*%$^# pick to replace Obama" (Los Angeles Times' Top of the Ticket) does a better job than Davey's overly long article in addressing some of the realities involved. As Mike wrote last night, "I hope he does well by his state and its citizens and I say, 'Congratulations, Senator Burris'."Disclosure: I've known Bobby Rush for years (and years). The only participant in this (that I'm aware of) whom I know. (I don't know Burris, I don't know Blagojevich.)
Barack remains in the news despite his tropical vacation. While he vacations, Gaza is under assault.
Rebecca has been following that and noted last night Cynthia McKinney joined doctors and human rights activits on the Dignity to take medical supplies and help to the Palestinians however the ship was attacked by the Israeli navy. Black Agenda Report points out:

President-Elect Obama has been silent on the Israeli attacks, while President George Bush has supported Israel's actions.
"I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world," said McKinney, who was the Green Party's presidential candidate in November. "As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, let us remember what he said. He said that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what: we experienced a little bit of that violence, because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that were supplied by the United States government."

Vacationing Barack also remains dogged by the controversy he created when he invited homophobe Rick Warren to preside as some sort of anti-gay activist at the inauguration.
Margaret Kimberly (Black Agenda Report) observes:

Obama has been courting Warren and other conservative evangelicals for some time. In June of 2006 Obama gave a speech that purported to show Democrats how to reach out to religious voters. At that time he had not yet officially declared himself a presidential candidate, but he very clearly showed his strategic hand and his political plans. He smeared religious progressives by saying that they didn't even exist and he smeared all progressives by claiming that they were
hostile to religion. The much talked about speech consisted of one right wing talking point after another.
The Warren invitation is vintage Obama. Like Bush, Obama believes that he is the decider and that opinions differing from his own are to be ignored. Unlike Bush, he is savvy enough to pretend otherwise, and his smooth talking feel goodism fools many into maintaining a vow of silence about anything he does. The Warren invitation is yet another instance of the patronizing Obama telling the left that they shouldn't worry their pretty little

Dr. Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) observes:

I wrote about the Warren thing when it broke, and noted at the time that -- ahem -- there's a hell of a lot more wrong with the guy than just the gay marriage thing. But who am I kidding? Women's rights don't matter. My Google news feed is full of articles and editorials on how Warren's presence at the Inauguration is an insult to right-thinking liberals everywhere -- but only because of his homophobia. There is no mention of the sexism. Thinking that women are born-to-obey is fine, apparently, but the anti-gay thing is just beyond the pale. Golly, Richard Cohen's sister even canceled her Inauguration party.
And you know what? Homophobia is awful. It's ugly primitive bigotry. Kind of like racism, which is also awful. Ridiculous to think that skin color or sexual orientation makes some humans inferior to other humans.
But sexism? Thinking women are inferior? Even preaching that women were put on earth to serve men? Eh. Whatever. Different strokes.
Forty years after the Second Wave started, and we're still at the back of the bus.

Socks' point is valid but it also needs to be noted that homophobia effects women. It effects women who are lesbians, it effects women targeted for being or suspected of being lesbians. It effects women with LGBT friends and family members and Richard Cohen's sister is a lesbian which is why
he emphasized the homophobia when writing of his sister's decision to cancel a planned party to celebrate president-elect Barack's inauguration.

2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley's book commentary -- went up yesterday and Ruth's "Ruth's 2008 Public Radio Report" went up today.

the new york timeselisabeth bumiller
thom shanker
the washington postsudarsan raghavan
the los angeles timesjulian e. barnes
missy ryan
campbell robertsonsam dagher
andrew malcolmthe los angeles times
laith hammoudimcclatchy newspapers
margaret kimberley
sex and politics and screeds and attitudemikey likes itruths reportsickofitradlz

Monday, December 29, 2008

Caroline, Ted, etc

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Princess Brat Speaks" is below.

Princess Brat Speaks

We're suffering through our own Kennedy issues in my state. For example, we have someone of advanced years, with cancer and he refuses to step down even though life expectancy for those with his type of cancer is less than two years. And you know what? If Ted were smart enough to step down, no one would begrudge Caroline getting the seat.

She's not qualified at all. But if our governor (Governor Who?) appointed her, we wouldn't have a fit. It's Ted's seat. It's been his seat forever. Even if we're not thrilled by that, we recognize it. More and more, we realize he needs to step down.

The relief of his stepping down combined with his history in the seat would allow Caroline to grab the seat without anyone being upset. Or too upset.

She should meet residency requirements because she has a place on the Vineyard. That puts her in Mass. residency.

As the woman who stepped into her ailing uncle's seat, we'd accept her. That's completely different from her trying to hop ahead of qualified people for Hillary's seat.

I'm posting today to include the snapshot. C.I. and I have been getting e-mails from two right-wing outlets. They are always nice. They are persistant. And C.I. and I were speaking of that this weekend and how the season of giving might mean we could toss out a link. So we're tossing out the link this once (it's in the snapshot). Happy Holidays.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Monday, December 29, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, even as the networks pull out, the US military announces another death over the weekend, the US military opens an investigation into what is being called a "military execution," and more.

At McClatchy's Inside Iraq blog, an Iraqi correspondent explores the security issue:

Yesterday, a taxi driver agreed to take me to a west Baghdad neighborhood, as we arrived he stopped his car not far away from the main street of the block and told me: "I can't, forgive me"
He explained that he has a family and don't want to take any risk. I told him I am coming to this neighborhood on daily bases with many drivers but he said he can not trust the situation.
The neighborhood was, and still for many, a fearful place after all fighting against the American troops, Iraqi troops, sectarian killings, crimes and displacement.
I had to step down and to take another taxi.
Doctors, engineers, teachers, drivers and students do not go to many places because of fear remembering the situation in Baghdad is better than the last few years.
It made me think again and again why people don't trust the new situation but how can people trust the situation enough when blast walls are still surrounding neighborhoods?

Not only does the end of the month approach, so does the end of the year which leads to reflection (on everything but the status of their own outlets) from the press.
Deborah Haynes (Times of London) contributes one of the better articles where she notes that despite the (small) drop in violence in 2008, "an average of 25 Iraq civilians were killed every day in Iraq in 2008. Since January, two British soldiers were killed in action in Ira and another two shot themselves. In contrast, 47 British troops died in 2008". Two shot themselves. That's Lee Churcher, the second one, who died December 11th. From that day's snapshot: "The British military announces a death (and it's strange how closely it resembles their most recent Basra death) . . . Today the British Military announced: 'It is with profound sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death in Basra yesterday, Thursday 11 December 2008, of a solider serving with 20 Armoured Brigade. At approximately 2200hrs local time, a report was received of a soldier who had suffered a gunshot wound within the Contingency Operating Base. Immediate medical assistance was provided but sadly the soldier died at the scene. No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that any third party was involved in the incident. An investigation by the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch is underway.' This is the second British military fatality in Iraq this month. December 4th David Kenneth Wilson died in Basra from a gunshot wound and, note, 'No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that anyone else was involved.' Today's announcement brings the number of British service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 178".

Meanwhile, Sunday the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died of wounds from an improvised explosive device explosion in northern Baghdad Dec. 28." The total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war currently stands at 4219. The number for the month of December thus far is 12 and that illustrates how quickly things change. Up until December 20th, outlets were preparing their "ONLY TWO US SOLIDERS KILLED IN IRAQ FOR THE MONTH!!!!!" Over the last nine days, ten deaths have been reported. Harshing the mellow for those wanting to scream "Mission Accomplished!" And when those types pimp that 12 they might want to wait a day or two after the first since M-NF has a pattern of holding death announcements for the month until after they get those more pleasing pieces. October is only the most recent example of that. If you're late to the party, you can see "Robin Morgan's homophobic candidate" (the homophobic candidate is, of course Barack, and though it gets harder and harder for even the devoted to deny, pay attention to the Iraq portion) and pair it with "October's death toll? Want to run your corrections?" And, no, they didn't want to run to the corrections nor did they.

The impulse to roll in the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk may be irresistable for many outlets who may need some excuse to hide recent decisions.
Brian Stelter (New York Times) reports that ABC, CBS and NBC (the broadcast networks) have further downrated their Iraq coverage and are instead moving staff to Afghanistan and Pakistan in anticipation of the death tolls president-elect Barack Obama will provide them with in the next year: "Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces." Stelter speaks with independent reporter Michael Yon (who goes back and forth between Iraq and Afghanistan) and Mike Boettcher of No Ignoring which is where the former NBC correspondent and his son Carlos report as embeds from Iraq. Stelter explains, "The staff cuts appear to be the latest evidenc eof budget pressures at the networks. And those pressures are not unique to television: many newspapers and magazines have also curtailed their presence in Baghdad. As a consequence, the war is gradually fading from television screens, newspapers and, some worry, the consciousness of the American public."

here's Workers World's "
Iraq now, Vietnam then:"EDITORIALIraq now, Vietnam thenPublished Dec 22, 2008 6:02 PM The news from Iraq is starting to remind veteran political analysts of the events four decades ago in South Vietnam as successive U.S. puppet governments disintegrated under the weight of tremendous popular sentiment, with a liberation war knocking at the door. The U.S. secret services then hatched and executed coups to remove some discredited, inept and well-hated puppet leaders. Their replacements had not yet exposed to the world their own corruption, favoritism and brutality that would soon make them just as inept and well-hated. Only 500,000-plus U.S. troops could keep them in power for more than a week. Now in Iraq, with the continued U.S. occupation up for debate, cracks are exposed in the puppet regime. Bush's surprise visit humiliates him, the occupation and the puppet leader, Nuri al-Maliki. Within days, the Maliki faction arrests 24 high-level military security figures. Al-Maliki's regime leaks charges to the New York Times that those arrested are secret Ba'athists--the ruling party in Iraq before the U.S. invasion--who were plotting a coup. It's true that enough agents of the Iraqi resistance have infiltrated the regime to track military maneuvers. But the Ba'athists, who are part of the resistance, have said they don't believe a coup could succeed against the will of the U.S. occupation forces. They expect the resistance to wear down the U.S. until its forces leave. The "plot" story, then, is far-fetched. Sure enough, two days after the Times story ran, the Iraqi military dropped the charges against the 24, calling them "patriotic officers." It turns out a Maliki-appointed security agency had charged and arrested the "patriotic officers."Instead, al-Maliki himself is now under suspicion. Because of his friendly relations with Iran, al-Maliki has lost favor in Washington. If there is a "coup plot," maybe the U.S. is behind it. Speculation aside, there are some points--which were also true in South Vietnam--that these events have underlined: The puppet regime is unstable, even more than it appeared up to now, and is torn apart by internal contradictions. Despite all the propaganda about the U.S. "surge" working, there is no feasible pro-imperialist government than can run Iraq without large numbers of U.S. troops as an occupation army. One way or another, Iraqi sovereignty will assert itself. There is no way the Iraqi people, even though horribly damaged by the U.S. invasion and occupation, will submit. It is impossible for the U.S. to find an Iraqi political leader who is honest, courageous and capable to direct the puppet government. Any Iraqis with those characteristics joined the resistance long ago. For the U.S. anti-war movement, it is time to move more forcefully into action. There is no way out except for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces, the recognition of the Iraqi resistance and payment of adequate reparations to the Iraqi people.Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011 Email: Subscribe Support independent news

Nabeel Kamal and Huda Mohammed (Alive in Baghdad -- link has video and text) file a report on the reconstruction process in Amarah which is in the Maysan Province, an area that was deprived and targeted prior to the start of the illegal war. The province's governor explains:

Adel Mahawed Radi: In the name of Allah, Mericful and Compassionate, as is well known, during the ex-regime, the country was centralized, all governorates connected to one center, Baghdad, through the Ministry of Interior.

The head of city services, Ali Hassoon Atwan cites the inheritance of "many bad things" during the Saddam Hussein era and states this impacted 2006 and 2007 plans for constructing sewer and water systems. The engineer over the city's projects, Majeed Ibrahim Jabr, agrees with Ali Hasson Atwan's call but feels there are also additional issues. He says, "There are difficulties with deparmental complications and this can interfere with the sewer problems. Also the Maysan governoarte his limited finishing projects, such as damage to equipment or communications cables and also to phone booths due to sewage in most streets. The rain interferes with this. The biggest problem is the violations by citizens building phonebooths on the sidewalks, or by illegal homes, sometimes in the middle of the street!" In addition, the quality of the roads themselves is said to be a problem with most not being paved with either concrete or asphalt in the past and the asphalt brought in recently was not of good quality and cables had not been buried deep enough prior to the pouring of asphalt causing more problems.

Governor Adel Mahawed Radi: We demand truth in all governorates and more authority to decentralize the process and make a more stable system, we must give more authority to the governorates so we can improve our governorates' security situation or its services [. . .].

More provincial power was a demand on Saturday. Sunday
Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reported on a protest ("thousands") in Basra where "three thousand people" called for Basra to be "a semi-autonomous state" similar to what the Kurdistan region has. al-Maliki may have to work harder to buy votes. Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that al-Maliki's gearing up for the scheduled provincial elections (January 31st): "As the election nears, Maliki is busy maneuvering. He has tapped local leaders to organize tribes in support of the central government. And under Maliki's direction, the national government has funded $100 million worth of reconstruction projects in Basra, bypassing the provincial council. The national government also has started paying unemployment benefits in the province."

Over the weekend
Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on the plans to turn Diyala Province over to Iraqis on January 1st where the big news was that despite the November 1st headlines of Baghdad taking over the "Awakening" Councils, approximately half the members are still under US control.

Meanwhile the December 10th death of Haedan al-Jabouri (that may not be the correct spelling) is in the news and the subject of a military investigation.
Michael Ware (CNN -- link has video only) reported the latest events yesterday.

Michael Ware: Following a nighttime military operation outside of Baghdad two weeks ago, the US army is now investigating allegations an Iraqi man, a suspected al Qaeda member, was executed in cold blood by a secretive American unit. An Iraqi farmhouse after a recent raid by US forces. Items scatted by the soldiers search for weapons. An elderly mother mourns. Hadan, her son shot dead by the Americans in Madain on Baghdad's outskirts. It was Hadan the special forces had come for suspecting he was a bomb maker for al Qaeda. But now troubling questions have arisen from the operation, questions not of Hadan's life as a potential bomber but rather questions into his death at American hands. Questions grave enough that the US army has launched an inquiry probing claims the death was a special forces execution. The military released to CNN a few details of the night's operation, saying the shooting was provoked.

An unidentified voice reads from
this December 10th M-NF press release: A man from the building initially complied with Coalition forces' instrucitons, but then returned inside the house. When he returned outside, he attempted to engage the forces with an AK-47. Perceiving hostile intent, the force engaged the armed man, killing him.

Michael Ware: But the dead man's brothers who witnessed the raid say that's a lie. Hadan, they say, was unarmed, his killing an American execution. The truth however is unclear. . . . But the Iraqi version is different. They say all [four] the brothers were stripped to their underwear and forced to lay on the ground, unable to move without the Americans permission, let alone grab a rifle. When Hadan did return inside, they say, it was the Americans who ordered him to do so.

Nurhi Subbi [translated]: The American forces ordered my brother to go back into the house.

Michael Ware: He was told to turn the lights on, says his brother named Nurhi, and the moment he turned on the lights, the soldiers open fired and then dragged him deeper inside the house.

If it was a military execution, take note, that would be the reality of "counter-insurgency" strategies. The press has refused to explore that and everyone's rushed to airbrush any realities out of it but that is "counter-insurgency" tactics and strategies. In other news, despite the claims of 'safer but not safe' Iraq, Saturday saw a bombing with mass fatalities.
Usama Redha and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported at least 24 dead, "A mini-bus laden with explosives ripped the Kadhimiya neighborhood by Zahra square, which hosts a market and bust stop, police said." Sam Dagher (New York Times) offered, "Jalal Hussein, 56, had just parked his car, after dropping off his wife and daughter at the gate, when the bomb exploded a few yards away, creating a huge ball of fire that consumed several vehicles and many pedestrians. He said the bodies and limbs of victims, including many children and women, were scattered everywhere." Ernesto Londono and Azia Alwan (Washington Post) quoted survivor Ali Abdul Ameer whose wife and daughter were wounded in the bombing, "There is no security. How come a car like this full of explosives could enter this area?"

Moving to some of today's reported violence . . .

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baquba roadside bombing that left six people injured, a Basra sticky bombing that wounded the driver of a police vehicle, a Hilla sticky bombing that claimed the lives of 1 police officer and his wife and their daughter. Reuters notes a Mosul bomber who took 1 life as well as his/her own "in a grocery shop".

Today the Washington Post's Amit R. Paley and Andrea Bruce explore female mutiliation in Iraq.
Andrea Bruce's photos are here and Amit R. Paley's text report is here. The two specifically explore seven-year-old Sheelan ANwar Omer whose mother promises her she's going to attend a party but instead is taken for a backroom circumcision by an insane woman wielding "a stainless-steel razor blade" and screaming, "I do this in the name of Allah!" as she mutilates Sheelan's genitals. Paley notes that over 60% of the females in the Kurdish region have undergone this butchering -- consistent with the numbers WADI was providing in 2005. WADI explains:

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one important mechanism, among others, of tight social control over women. Through the work of Wadi's mobile team in Germain region, it has been discovered that FGM is common in this area. A pilot study shown that 907 out of 1544 women questioned in the survey were victims of FGM. Through this local survey a taboo has bees been broken. FGM had been considered an 'African problem', unspoken of in these parts of Iraq. Following the evidence the FGM is widespread in Northern Iraq, WADI's staff initiated the first campaign against FGM in the country. Local mobile teams found out that FGM in Northern Iraq is usually practiced by female family members or traditional midwives on girls aged between 4 to 12 years. Instruments like razors and knives are used to cut girls' clitoris according to the "sunnat - excision". The wound is usually covered with ash, but no drugs are given. Sometimes girls have to sit into a bowl of icy water. Women justify this practice either by religion, tradition or medical reasons. Uncircumcised girls are not allowed to serve water or meals. Many women said that their daughter would not be able to be married uncircumcised. Most of the women are not aware of the long-term medical and psychological consequences of FGM. WADI prepared two awareness films about FGM in close cooperation with local cinema directors and women's organizations. One film is used to spread awareness in Iraqi population. The film is shown daily by the mobile teams across Northern Iraq, giving information and an opportunity to discuss the problem. A second film will be shown in Europe in 2008. WADI organized the first Iraqi conference against FGM in Arbil in February 2006, which was successful in attracting the interest of Kurdish Regional Government's (KRG) interest. WADI's campaign "
STOP FGM in Kurdistan" obtained more than 14 000 signatures for a petition to ban FGM presented to the Kurdish Regional Government. Recommendations for a law to ban FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan were prepared by local specialists and members of WADI´s mobile teams and presented to KRG in spring 2007. Wadi presented the law recommandations also to Kurdish women's parliament. The bill is now in the legislation process in the regional parliament.In summer 2007, additional mobile teams were set in order expand the campaign and fight FGM in Northern Iraq. Until 2006, more than 4000 women took part in WADI's campaign against FGM. Supported by the Swiss Caritas, the Austrian Development Agency, the Roselo Foundation and the Iraqi Civil Society Programme, six teams are currently working all over Kurdistan. A comprehensive research of FGM and its practice in Iraq is now in preparation. In February 2008 "A handful of ash", Wadi's documentary about FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan produced by a local director was presented in Germany for the first time. Additional screenings are scheduled for Mars in Switzerland and in Germany. Those who would like or need audio can refer to Jessie Graham's The World (PRI) report on the female circumcision in the Kurdish region from January 2006. Nicholas Birch's "Female circumcision surfaces in Iraq" (Christian Science Monitor, August 10, 2005) noted the reaction of some to WADI's study: "When WADI presented the results of its survey in Vienna this spring, Mr. [Thomas von der] Osten-Sacken recalls, various Iraqi groups accused the group of being an agent of the Israelis. Even the Iraqi Kurdish authorities, who have backed efforts to combat FGM since the late 1990s, were rattled."

We'll explore the topic of Iraqi refugees futher tomorrow but
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition) reported last week on the number of Iraqis working with NPR who are applying for refugee status in the US: "Like many NPR Baghdad staffers, Mahdi is now on the last leg of a lengthy process. But as his departure becomes imminent, he is wondering whether he is doing the right thing. Producer Kais Al-Jaleili, on the other hand, wants to leave as soon as he can, despite what he has heard from other Iraqis who have already resettled in the U.S." And Reuters is highlighting Matthew Hay Brown's Baltimore Sun report on Iraqi refugees and how most observers (rightly) point out how little the US is doing (both in terms of assistance to countries taking in the refugees and in terms of the number the US is allowing to enter the United States). The report notes this important point, "Iraqi officials have offered payments and organized flights and bus rides from Cairo and Damascus for refugees to go back. But with continuing violence in the country and no effective system in place to resolve disputes between returning homeowners and squatters, neither the United States, the United Nations nor refugee advocates are encouraging returns." Again, we'll go into that topic tomorrow. (And tomorrow Matthew Hay Brown continues his series by exploring Iraqi refugees struggling in the US.)

A few non-Iraq related topics. First,
Joshua Frank (Dissident Voice) explores the current attack on Gaza and the reaction of the president-elect:

"The president-elect was in Sderot last July, in southern Israel, a town that's taken the brunt of the Hamas attacks," David Axelrod told Chip Reid on Face the Nation. "And he said then that, when bombs are raining down on your citizens, there is an urge to respond and act and try and put an end to that. So, you know, that's what he said then, and I think that's what he believes."
If Axelrod is correct, and Barack Obama does indeed support the bloodshed inflicted upon innocent Palestinians by the Israeli military, there should be no celebrating during Inauguration Day 2009, only mass protest of a Middle East foreign policy that must change in order to begin a legitimate peace process in the region.

Independent journalist
David Bacon latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) and at his website (and at many publications) he covers the labor movement in the US and in Mexico. For his coverage from Mexico (photos and text) including on the striking teachers who were met in Mexico City by the police in full S.W.A.T. mode, click here.

Meanwhile the music group
I AM THREE is making a Bootleg recording from their European tour available online, available for download, free of charge. You can click here (and on the widget for the European tour) or here or here.

We're a site/community for the left.
Net Right Daily is a site for the right. The Daily Grind is a news mailing you can sign up for from ALG News which is also right-wing. On the latter, BW with ALG News has been especially persistent (and nice) in e-mailing all community sites various ALG News items. Various people have mailed Net Right Daily items to community sites. Trina and I were discussing this and wondering about it? We've gotten some very rude e-mailings from on our side (the left) asking for help (try demanding it) and when we discussed it, others weighed in. The feeling is that the two outlets have been very polite and we're going to toss out a link. We wish the outlets all the best but we are a site for the left. Their persistance and their politeness (and professionalism) means they get the links in this paragraph. If you're looking for what the other side's saying, we would recommend those two. If you're looking to be enraged by what the right's up to, we would recommend those two.

iraqthe new york timesbrian stelter
sam dagherthe washington postamit r. paleyandrea brucejesse grahamnicholas birch
alive in baghdad
workers world
ernesto londonoaziz alwanned parkerthe los angeles timesraheem salman
michael yonmike boettcher
david bacon
trina's kitchen
i am three
lourdes garcia-navarromorning edition
deborah haynes
mcclatchy newspapers
joshua frank

Friday, December 26, 2008

Relaxing in the Kitchen

No recipe this week.

I'm so wiped out from the holidays, I don't even feel like blogging.

Please do not think I am either whining or complaining but . . . My son who moved back with his wife and daughter only to have the marriage end has been able to grab some tremendous overtime with outrageous overtime pay. I am very, very happy for him. And I love my granddaughter so much. But when you put the two together, it will mean I am exhausted. And would be if I were still 20. It's not an age thing. Or not an adult's age issue. That's how things are with toddlers.

So between that and, of course, cooking for the holiday, it has been a really busy time.

I love to read and that's something I've blogged about here many times. But this week is winding down with me so tired that I doubt I'll even read the newspaper tomorrow, let alone a book. I'm planning, embarrassing confession, to blog and then crawl into bed with Bill Murray's The Man Who Knew Too Little on the TV. I just want to veg out and relax.

I should also add that there were numerous church things this week which included going door to door with carols and also included an adopt-a-family and volunteering at the soup kitchen. It's just been a very busy week but a very productive one. Personally productive. For our country's economy, no change. Still in the toilet there.

If the holidays meant you stepped away from the news, allow me to depress you:

Citing economy, FedEx delays opening of PTI hub
Rocky Mount Telegram, NC - 1 hour agoBut FedEx spokesman Jim McCluskey told the Greensboro News&Record on Friday that the lagging economy and lower shipping volumes has forced the company to ...
FedEx will open later, with fewer workers Greensboro News Record
FedEx announces delay in opening cargo-sorting operation at PTIA Winston-Salem Journal
all 36 news articles » FDX

That's one hub. It's our baby step towards the bad news, by comparison:

Holiday Spending Down 8 Percent Amid Bad Weather And A Worse Economy
RTT News, NY - 12 hours agoThe combination of an economy mired in a deep recession, with the loss of over $10 trillion in home value, 401k's and equity markets and a smattering of ...
document.write(NVF_generateVideoLink('"javascript:NVF_toggleBox(\'429496729511\', \'\',\'u-AFQjCNGwOjoxxAQpfRJLBLhxpV7apVH4aA:v-1-1_1283925241\', \'n\');" ','zippy429496729511','va429496729511','Video: Rotten Holiday Season for Retailers'));
Video: Rotten Holiday Season for Retailers AssociatedPress
Weak economy, winter storms impact retail sales Kansas City Star
US holiday season retail sales plunge amid recession AFP
Denver Post all 422 news articles »

If you did pick up a paper or catch a newscast this week, you are aware there was one growth industry: shop lifting.

It didn't matter what the outlet was, if they reported on it, the story offered the following:

1) Someone nabbed for shop lifting who had no arrest record. S/he would say that they made a mistake and shouldn't have been so stupid.

2) The report or reporter would explain that arrest rates were actually lower than shop lifting rates because sometimes, instead of having you arrested, they will merely ban you from a store.

3) The economy would be semi-addressed.

Semi? Well, the economy ties right in with number one. And some thing more than being "stupid" led people who presumably have not shop lifted before to decide to try.

It was frequently presented as if number 3 had no connection to number 1.

The usual retail Christmas high never arrived. People did not rush out to spend and why would they when the economy is so poor and iffy?

And that's probably all I'm going to be able to manage tonight. Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's. This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Friday, December 26, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a prison break takes place in Ramadi, Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas in select areas within the country and as exiles, Barack prepares to trash the Constitution, and more.

In the day's big news,
Jamal Naji and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Prisoners in a western Iraqi jail staged an armed revolt Friday morning that lasted for at least two hours. Ten police men and six prisoners were killed in the battle that ensued. Three Al Qaida in Iraq prisoners escaped and are on the loose, Iraqi police said." Some reports lower the death toll to thirteen (from sixteen). The BBC dubs it a "shoot-out" and then adds "Ramadi police have imposed a curfew across the city following the incident. Police are searching through houses in the city for the escaped militants." Kimi Yoshino (Los Angles Times) reports that there were four escapees but one "turned himself in without incident". Al Jazeera notes "police were going from house to house with photos of the fugitives on Friday morning." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) explains, "The jailbreak comes as U.S. officials are shutting down their detention facilities across the country and as U.S. troops are sharply reducing their presence in Anbar province, a predominantly Sunni territory that was the cradle of the insurgency. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar." NPR (text only currently) notes that the US handed over responsibilites for the prison, al-Forsan, to the Iraqis last September and that today's events "could call into question the timetable for relinquishing U.S. control over the country." That is also when security tasks/control of Al Anbar were handed over to the Iraqis (from the US).

In diplomacy news, Iraq's Sunni vice president Tareq al-Hashemi visited Turkey last Saturday. al-Hashemi just concluded a visit to Syria.
UAE Daily News notes that "he met with Preisdent Bashar al-Assad, Vice President Faruq al-Shara, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid" and emphasized "the security agreement between Iraq and the US in addition to the conditions of Iraqi refugees in Syria." Xinhau also reported that al-Hashemi conveyed his thanks for the hosting of Iraqi refugees and added, "The Syrian government says that there are about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria now, down from a number of 1.5 million two years ago." Meanwhile al-Maliki just finished a visit to Turkey. It did not go well. He breezed in dismissing concern over the PKK and mouthing remarks about bi-lateral trade and how there were so many issues that Iraq and Turkey had to address, important issues. As Carole King sings in "Chalice Borealis" (which she wrote with Rick Sorensen), "Didn't turn out quite the way you wanted, how were you to know?" So when the news shortly after he arrives is that the PKK in northern Iraq has just killed three Turkish soldiers with seventeen more injured, it demanded a statement and he had nothing to offer but mealy mouth words. Repeating, he came into Turkey dismissing the need to address the PKK (despite Iraq's president and vice president both visiting Turkey in the last seven days to address the issue of the PKK and other issues)and, when the news broke of the dead and wounded soldiers, he fell back on soundbytes he's been using since 2007. It was not a diplomatic success. But Turkey was only one stop on his tour of diplomacy. Or was supposed to be. Dalya Hassan and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) inform that the planned trip to Iran has been cancelled and no one is sure why that is: "The cancellation prompted speculation among Iraqi officials that Maliki changed his plans for a possible visit to Baghdad by President-elect Barack Obama, or because of the tumult in parliament that followed the resignation this week of its abrasive and sometimes strident speaker. Others suggested that Maliki was simply required to be in Baghdad ahead of the implementation of a new agreement that, starting Jan. 1, regulates the once almost unquestioned authority of the U.S. military here." Hurriyet reports, "Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that the central Iraqi government was not a party to the issue of disarmament of the terrorist PKK organization. His remarks came in response to questions if he discussed a concrete plan with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to combat the PKK during their bilateral meeting Wednesday." However, as Iran's Press TV points out, when Talabani visited a few days ago, he stated "that both the government in Baghdad adn the autonomous Kurdish administration were determined to end the presence of the PKK in the north." And China's Xinhua notes today, "Commenting on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's statement and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's visit to Turkey, [Turkish] Gen. [Metin] Gurak said that 'we hope that Iraqi authorities could contribute to the fight against the PKK." Deciphering: The General references what Talabani said on his recent vist but is just noting al-Maliki's say-nothing visit. Balita-dot-ph observes that Iraqi is considering puchasing "50 train sets from Turkey" and that, "In the upcoming days, Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian transportation ministers would convene either in Istanbul or Baghdad in order to discuss new joint projects".

Meanwhile, possibly because it was Christmas, Iraqi Christians were actually in the news.
Larisa Epatko (PBS' NewsHour) did an online "update" (text only) where they report on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (see the December 19th snapshot): "The USCIRF said non-Muslim religions in Iraq, particularly ChaldoAssyrian and other Christian groups, Sabean Mandaen: a small religious sect tied to John the Baptist, and Yazidi: a relgion with influences from Islam and Christianity, are experiencing targeted violence and have had to relocate to other parts of Iraq or other countries." Missy Ryan (Reuters) reported on Iraqi Christians celebrating in Baghdad and quoted Amira Daoud who "was relieved that the number of bombings and attacks has slowed over the past year. Yet she takes a practical approach to her daily life: 'Of course, there's still kidnapping. Everyone says to themselves that this could be their day. So we take precautions." Today Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports on Iraqi Christians in Mosul and notes that those who have returned (a small number) cite the Chaldean's Church's Rev Basman George Fatouhi and three nuns, including Sister Autour Yousif, who had remained behind in Mosul "working against the tide to keep their faith alive. Durign the depths of the crisis in October, they were not only providing moral and spiritual support, but often venturing out at great risk to buy food and provisions for families who were too scared to even go to the market. They have also been determined to maintain church services in some of the most dangerous parts of the city. On numerous occasions the pair have found themselves carrying out the grim task of collecting the bodies of Christians from the morgue because their families were too afraid to do it." Kimi Yoshino and Ali Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Issa Zakariya, a Chrisian in Mosul, stating, "Years ago, we were spending Christmas congratulating our friends and relatives in Mosul, but today everything has changed. But despite all that, the flavor of Christmas still exists and the dream of Santa still exists in the hearts of the children. I just hope peace and safety come back to Iraq." Meanwhile Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) reports on Iraqi Christians who've fled the country for their own safety, "At the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in this working-class Christian suburb east of Beirut, Rev. Joseph Malkoum preaches to an Iraqi congregation that expands every Sunday, swelled by the ranks of Christians fleeing Iraq. In recent weeks, he has noticed an increase in the number of new faces crowded into the pews as a surge in violence directed against Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul fuels a fresh wave of refugees."

Mosul is covered in
Alissa J. Rubin's analysis (New York Times) of current conditions in Iraq where she notes the rumors that some of the violence aimed at Iraqi Christians is coming from Kurds with the hope of pushing them to support the Kurdish Regional Government extending beyond its current boundaries. Rubin explores how al-Maliki is seen to be consolidating his power and doing so at the expense of others. She explores his "controversial" program of putting tribal councils on his personal payroll. For those paying attention in April, this is what Joe Biden was publicly warning against. Rubin notes that, despite the amnesty for Sunnis, the bulk remain imprisoned, she offers that along with talks of coups in Iraq, there is talk of holding a no-confidence vote to replace him: "But unless there is a consensus about a successor, the government could drift for months as it did after the elections in 2005, when there were several months of discussions about who would become prime minister, and in 2006, when the previous prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was removed." She explains all of this drama and intrigue takes place as provincial elections approach. They are currently scheduled for January 31st. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported earlier on the provincial elections and noted that they would "give natioanl parties a local toehold to advance their agendas. That's why posters of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki blanket Baghdad's streets even though he isn't running for office next month. The banners are meant to build support for his Dawa Party."
In other Iraqi political news,
UPI reports, "Communist parties in Iraq are resuming their campaign after several years by embracing youthful energy in the run-up to provincial elections, Sot al-Iraq said Friday. The Communist platform of unity and equality among the various social classes is impossible under the crisis caused by the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Their solidariy, however, differs from other parties as they do not differentiate or support any one plaform over the other. The Communist Party emerged out of the southern Wasit province to embrace a dream of equality, hoping the bloodshed of its martyrs would usher in a new hope for tomorrow, the news service said."

Along with the prison break, Iraq saw other violence today . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Bahgdad home bombing that claimed 1 life and left two people wounded (all family members), a Baghdad roadside bombing that left six people wounded (four are police officers), a Baquba roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers, with two more and two military officers wounded (total of four people wounded) and, dropping back to Wednesday, a Falluja roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 "children and their mother." Reuters states the Baghdad home bombing death was the father and that the two injured were the man's sons.

CNN reports 1 truck driver was shot dead in Falluja by the Iraqi police and his "truck was rigged with explosives."

Yesterday, the
US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died of wounds as a result of an indirect fire attack near Mosul, Iraq Dec. 25." ICCC's count for the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war stands at 4217. Eight deaths since last Friday (the deaths began on Saturday) and little interest on the part of the media.

Turning to the US political scene, earlier this month
ETAN called out talk of Dennis Blair being appointed Director of National Intelligence by president-elect Barack Obama:

"President-elect Barack Obama's rumored selection of Admiral Dennis C. Blair for Director of National Intelligence is unacceptable," the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said today."During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties to Indonesia's military despite its ongoing human rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN."His actions demonstrate the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior and his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day," added Miller. He undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit assistance.""It is unfathomable that Obama would consider appointing someone to such a prominent position who has shown so little concern for human rights in the past. Can we expect someone who has sought to undermine efforts to link human rights to military assistance to be a champion of reform? We don't think this is the kind of change people are expecting," said Miller.In April 1999, just days after Indonesian security forces and their militias carried out a brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' To Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit.
Barack has long cozied up to those responsible for and encouraging of that slaughter in East Timor. ETAN's full release can be read
here or here. Tom Burghardt (Dissident Voice) sounds the alarms on Blair as well and the section that may most stand out is this:

Obama's choice for ODNI is well-placed to continue the mercenary "tradition" of intelligence outsourcing and what one can only describe as the corporatization of government. According to the Journal, some of the "tougher intelligence issues" the incoming Obama administration seeks to resolve "is weighing whether to propose the creation of a domestic intelligence agency," modeled after Britain's MI5.

Marjorie Cohn, Naomi Wolf and all the others who embarrassed themselves by public slobbering over Barack Obama and insisting he would 'save' the Constitution, when do you plan to get your lazy asses and call the above out? Now the Gitmo attorneys made fools out of themselves as well but they've already been publicly punked and no longer rush to assure how dreamy Barack is. But let's see some of these 'brave voices' for the Constitution step up to the damn plate. They could be counted on to DELUDE themselves and schill for Barack. Can they now try standing up for the Constitution of the United States of America or is that too damn hard? Bill Clinton could not -- at any time during his eight years in office -- have gotten away witha d omestic intelligence agency (currently against the law) but Barack might be able to because so many 'leaders' are chicken s**t when it comes to calling him out. So come on Marj, you could distort reality to attack Hillary and advance Barack. Let's see you address the Constitution, big girl, let's see you protect it. Naomi, you made an utter fool out of yourself. Your racism in Fire With Fire was nothing compared to what you did in 2008. So if you're not zonked out on drugs or 'love,' how about you step up to the damn plate and call out this attack on the Consitution?
And those are only two of the many public fools -- idiots who damn well should have known better but felt running a fan club was more important than protecting the Constitution and our civil liberties.

iraqmcclatchy newspapersjamal najileila fadel
mohammed al dulaimythe new york timessam dagherkimi yoshinoali hameedthe chicago tribuneliz sly
alissa j. rubinthe washington postdalya hassanaziz alwan
ernesto londonohurriyet
etandennis blair

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spicy Potato Slices in the Kitchen

Sybil e-mailed me to complain that her favorite recipe resource has never been highlighted her. Her favorite resource is CD Kitchen annd this is Spicy Potato Slices from them:

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil3 large yellow potatoes
2 russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 sweet onion (such as Vidalia, or Walla Walla), sliced
1/4 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
Turn this recipe into a puzzle! [click]

Stir thyme, paprika, garlic
salt and pepper into oil; set aside. Fold a 36 x 18" piece of heavy foil in half to make an 18" square. Cut potatoes crosswise into 1/4" thick slices; place with onion in center of foil. Drizzle vegetables with oil mixture. Bring up 2 opposite edges of foil and seal with a double fold. Fold remaining edges to enclose vegetables, leaving a space for steam to build. Grill packets on the rack on an uncovered grill directly over medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Serve with sour cream and chives.

For Sybil -- who swears by it -- please check out CD Kitchen.

This will be my last regular post before Christmas so I thought I'd share some things on Christmas from e-mails. If you read this, think, "Well, I wrote her about my Christmas and she didn't share my thoughts," go check your inbox. I e-mailed everyone to get permission and am only noting those who then e-mailed their permission. I'm just using first names for all.

Carrie: On Friends [TV show], Phoebe made sock bunnies and with that and your warning in my head about not waiting until the last minute, I decided to learn to knit. It would allow me to make gifts for the family and my grandmother knits so it would allow us to spend time together. I went to my grandmother all eager, I had bought yarn and knitting needles. I told her what I was planning. She told me, "There's not enough time for you to get good at knitting." Instead, she taught me crochet. I have three girls who are obsessed with their Barbies. I crotched bed spreads for their dolls' beds, I crocheted what I am calling capes for their dolls, I crocheted 'tube dresses' for their dolls, I crochted purses for their dolls and, just when I thought I was done, my grandmother showed me more tricks of crotcheting increasing my abilities. Each of my girls has a favorite color and I did their doll stuff in that favorite color. It's going to be a very tight Christmas for us and the girls are going to love all the crotcheting. And I got a new skill!

Terry: The designated cook every holiday right here. And I wasn't keen on using the Thanksgiving suggestion re: keeping it simple. However, money wise, we had no choice this year. We'll be doing it again at Christmas and if anyone wanted to try it but didn't because they were afraid it wouldn't go over, let them know that it worked out fine for us. The only thing that's changed is that, for Christmas, I've assigned pies. Can you also tell anyone who asks that keeping it simple made Thanksgiving so much easier?

Sharon: I'm from the country. Christmas for us, when I was growing up years ago, might just be an apple, an orange and some pecans in your stocking. Except for our youngest son, all the kids are out on their own. He's fourteen. He's used to having everything. But my husband got laid off over the summer and he can't find anything other than one temporary job after another. So I thought about Christmas a lot. What I ended up doing was taking two points you made that would work for us. I have four other kids and they're all grown and on their own. They don't have any kids of their own yet so I told them that their father and I were really struggling and if they wanted to do something special for Christmas, just buy their brother one nice gift so he could have the kind of Christmases they had when they were his age. I also thought about your other point about how maybe someone likes something like olives. Our son loves sweet pickles. So a jar of that is the stocking stuffer. He'll eat that over the break before school starts back up and it'll be just his and he'll be thrilled. I'm worried about the economy, honestly, but we're focusing on getting through Christmas and making it a good one so I'll worry about the economy after Christmas or maybe New Year's. If I could make one suggestion to your list about making the holiday cooking more simple, it would be serve a soup. I don't care if its potato soup or onion soup. It doesn't have to be fancy. But everyone having a bowl of soup is going to help the rest of the meal last a little longer. I served potato at Thanksgiving and it went well so I'll be doing that for Christmas too. We start with the soup and then when everyone's done we move on to the turkey.

Bill: I appreciate how you try to simplify and I enjoy reading your blog but you're still over my head. I know you're aware of how bad the economy is so I'll just assume that you're writing for your readers and they're all doing a lot better than I am. I have two kids and it's just them and me. We won't have a big Christmas dinner because that money's going to their gifts. It really was a choice of Christmas gifts or Christmas dinner. I don't think I'm the only one who is going to have to make that decision this year.

I am sure Bill's not the only one who is going to have to make that choice. If you serve peanut butter sandwiches, that's more than fine. The important thing is to be together. (And it is very true that there are many families who will not be able to afford the gifts or the dinner.)

Most drug stores have a little six or eight ounce ham -- cooked ham in a can. Bill and I exchanged e-mails and that came up at some point as a joke on his part. Don't joke. Those hams can be tasty and he got three on sale for $1.79 a piece. He is slicing all three lengthwise, putting the pieces into a microwaveable dish, topping with BBQ sauce and heating. That's going to be the meat for their dinner and that's more than wonderful. We were able to work on some other ideas as well.

Bill's story is not the saddest one in the country and has worked out, as he says, better than a large number. I'm not trying to Jimmy Stewart you here or tell you, "Feel good because others have it so much worse! Be glad you're not them!"

But there are many people who will not have what they usually do. With children, you'll just have to explain that to them. No, it's not easy. Believe me, my husband's been on strike often enough that I know how hard that can be. (And remember, we have eight kids.) But it's part of being the parent. That doesn't mean you try to frighten them about the money issues, it does mean that you explain to them that money is tight and some things just aren't possible at this time. It's not an easy conversation and it's not one I've ever wanted to initiate.

I'm sharing it because I've got no shame here. I'm not afraid to tell you we struggled when the kids were little. I'm not embarrassed to discuss any of the dificulties we've been through.

And sometimes we went long periods without being able to give the kids what we wanted them to have. Guess what? They all lived and so did we. And when we stopped hiding the reality of what was going on, yeah, we still felt bad (my husband and I) but we were better able to enjoy the time together with our kids. No need to think up excuses for why this can't be or that isn't a gift. There's just not money for it right now. You put that on the table and then you can move on to the other things which are the things that matter.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and I'm sorry that I only heard back from the above. I do understand that some of you might not have wanted to share your stories even with just a first name to them. I don't blame you for that. I also know that some of you are busy with a number of things and not necessarily checking your e-mails every minute of the day.

But I do want to say that I appreciated every e-mail that came in about how you were coping with the holidays.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Friday, December 19, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Thursday's arrests for a 'coup' appear even more questionable, a journalist's injuries are finally noted, and more.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released their first report since May 2007 this week. As
they note in their Tuesday press release, they are calling for Iraq to "be designated as a 'country of particular concern' (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), in light of the ongoing, severe abuses of religious freedom and the Iraqi government's toleration of these abuses, particularly abuses against Iraq's smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities. . . . The situation is especially dire for Iraq's smallest religious minorities, including ChaldoAssyrian and other Christians, Sabean Mandeans, and Yazidis." Yazidis were the most recently known to be targeted with a late Sunday night, early Monday morning home invasion in a village outside of Mosul that saw 7 members of the same family shot dead. Mosul and the immediate surrounding area have especially been active with acts of violence aimed at religious minorities since this summer. The report is entitled "Iraq Report - 2008" and it is not in PDF format (and it displays as a single page). The report notes, "Like Mandaens, Yazidis as a community are particularly vulnerable to annihilation because one can only be born into the Yazidi religion." The report notes flyers posted around Mosul in 2004 promising "divine awards awaited those who killed Yazidis". On Iraqi Christians, the report notes, "The most recent attacks took place in the northern city of Mosul in late September/early October 2008, when at lest 14 Christians were killed and many more report they were threatened, spurring some 13,000 individuals to flee to villages east and north of the city and an estimated 400 families to flee to Syria. The United Nations has estimated that this number is half of the current Christian population in Mosul. Those who met with displaced Christians were told that Christians had received threatening text messages and had been approached by strangers asking to see their national indentity cards, which show religious affiliation. At the time of this writing, the attackers had not been identified, and Chrisian leaders had called for an international investigation." They also note the half of returnees in November when 2 young Christian girls were killed and their mother wounded. The Mandaeans are estimated to number between 3,500 to 5,000 in Iraq currently after following "almost 90 percent reportedly having either fled the country or been killed". Mandaen women have been kidnapped, raped, forced into marriage with non-Mandeans and "forced to wear the hijab" while Manaean "boys have been kidnapped and forcibly circumcised, a sin in the Mandean religion." The Baha'i population is noted briefly and said to number approximately 2,000 while the Jewish population is said to have fallen to ten -- ten who must "live essentially in hiding." Previous reports and press reports in past years has noted a concentration in Baghdad and, as the numbers fell due to deaths (from violent attacks) and due to fleeing the country, the small number remaining were said to be elderly. The report makes no mention of the age of the ten.

The report notes:

Nineveh governorate, however, especially in and around Mosul, remains one of the most dangerous and unstable parts of Iraq. Insurgent and extremist activity continues to be a significant problem there, and control of the ethnically and religiously mixed area is disputed between the KRG and the central Iraqi government. While violence overall in Iraq decreased in 2007 and 2008, the Mosul area remains what U.S. and Iraqi officials call the insurgents' and extremists' last urban stronghold, with continuing high levels of violence.D Increased security operations by U.S. and Iraqi forces have led to some decrease in the violence in and around Mosul, but the area remains very dangerous, as evidenced by the October attacks on Christian residents, which killed at least 14 Christians and spurred the flight of 13,000 from Mosul to surrounding areas. According to the September 2008 U.S. Department of Defense report to Congress, "[d]uring the past few years, Mosul has been a strategic stronghold for [al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)], which also needs Mosul for its facilitation of foreign fighters. The current sustained security posture, however, continues to keep AQI off balance and unable to effectively receive support from internal or external sources, though AQI remains lethal and dangerous."D According to the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, from April 1 to July 1, 2008, there were 1,041 reported attacks in Nineveh governorate and from July 1 to September 30, 2008, there were 924 attacks, still a significant number.

This situation has been exacerbated by Arab-Kurdish tensions over control of Mosul and other disputed areas in Nineveh governorate. The dispute stems from Kurdish claims and efforts to annex territories-including parts of the governorates of Kirkuk (Tamim), Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Diyala, and Waset-into the KRG, on the basis of the belief that these areas historically belong to Kurdistan. During the Saddam Hussein era, Kurds and other non-Arabs were expelled from these areas under his policy of "Arabization." Since 2003, Kurdish peshmerga and political parties have moved into these territories, effectively establishing de facto control over many of the contested areas. Key to integrating the contested areas into Kurdistan is Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which calls for a census and referendum in the territories to determine their control. In this context, military or financial efforts undertaken by either Kurdish officials or Arab officials (whether in Baghdad or local) is seen by the other group as an effort to expand control over the disputed areas, leading to political disputes and deadlock.

The commission states there are 2 million external Iraqi refugees and 2.8 million internal refugees. On external refugees, the report explains:

Between November 2007 and May 2008, the Commission traveled to Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Sweden to meet with Iraqi asylum-seekers, refugees, and IDPs. These vulnerable and traumatized individuals provided accounts of kidnapping, rape, murder, torture, and threats to themselves, their families, or their community. While the vast majority of interviewees could not identify the perpetrators, they suspected various militias and extremist groups of committing these acts, and often provided specific identifying details.

Non-Muslim minority refugees told the Commission that they were targeted because they do not conform to orthodox Muslim religious practices and/or because, as non-Muslims, they are perceived to be working for the U.S.-led coalition forces. Members of these communities recounted how they, as well as other members of their families and communities, had suffered violent attacks, including murder, torture, rape, abductions for ransom or forced conversion, and the destruction or seizure of property, particularly businesses such as liquor stores or hair salons deemed un-Islamic. They also reported being forced to pay a protection tax and having been forced to flee their homes in fear after receiving threats to "convert, leave, or die." In addition, they told of their places of worship being bombed and forced to close and their religious leaders being kidnapped and/or killed.

Sunni and Shi'a Muslim refugees told of receiving death threats, of family members being killed, of kidnappings, of their houses being burned down, and of forced displacements. Some refugees reported being targeted because of jobs held by them or their relatives, either connected to the U.S. government or to the Ba'athist regime. Other refugees spoke of being targeted because they were part of a mixed Muslim marriage or because their family was Sunni in a predominately Shi'a neighborhood or vice versa. Many stated that the sectarian identities of their relatives and friends were either not known or not important before 2003, and several spoke of their families including both Sunnis and Shi'as and of the diverse nature of neighborhoods before the sectarian violence. One refugee woman told the Commission that, after her son was kidnapped and returned to her, she received a phone call from a government official who knew the exact details of the kidnapping and who told her that her entire family should leave Iraq. When they got their visas to go to Syria, their passports were stamped "no return." Because of this incident, she alleged to the Commission that the government must have been involved in the violence directed at her family.

Adelle M. Banks (Religion News Service) observes, "Commissioners encouraged President-elect Barack Obama's incoming administration to make prevention of abuse a high priority and to seek safety for all Iraqis and fair elections. They also asked the U.S. government to appoint a special envoy for human rights in Iraq and Iraqi officials to establish police units for vulnerable minority communities. They also seek changes in Iraq's constitution, which currently gives Islam a preferred status, to strengthen human rights guarantees." Tom Strode (Baptist Press) quotes the committee's chair, Felice Gaer, stating in Tuesday's press conference, "The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities." UPI notes, "The commission also condemned a decision to reduce the representation allocated to members of the minority religious community in the upcoming provincial elections scheduled for January."

Meanwhile in Iraq,
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports, "Muslim preachers from both sides of Iraq's once-bloody Sunni-Shi'ite divide appealed to the government on Friday to release the journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. Preisdent George W. Bush." The latest voices calling for Muntadar al-Zeidi's release sound out as his injuries become less of a whispered aside and more of a centeral issue. Nico Hines (Times of London) reported early this morning that Judge Dhia al-Kinani has declared "he would find out who beat" Muntadhar and that al-Kinani "said that Mr al-Zeidi 'was beaten in the news conference and we will watch the tape and write an official letter asking for the names of those who assaulted him'." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes "bruises on his face and around his eyes" and, as for the alleged letter, adds: "A spokesman for al-Maliki said Thursday that the letter contained a specific pardon request. But al-Zeidi's brother Dhargham told The AP that he suspected the letter was a forgery." Timothy Williams and Atheer Kakan (New York Times) report, "The government did not release the letter, and a lawyer for the reporter said that during a conversation with him on Wednesday the reporter did not tell her about it. But the lawyer, Ahlam Allami, also said the reporter, Muntader al-Zaidi, had told her he had never meant to insult the Iraqi government or Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki when he hurled his shoes at the president during a news conference with the two leaders on Sunday." CBS and AP note, "CBS News Baghdad producer Randall Joyce says al-Zeidi has been kept completely out of the reach of his legal representation and his family since the show-throwing incident late on Sunday - a fact which typifies a deeply flawed Iraqi justice system." Wednesday saw the Iraqi Parliament end a session with the Speaker threatening/vowing to quit. Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "Parliament speaker Mahmoud al Mashhdani threatened to resign at one point during Wednesday's debate over Zaidi's status. Anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr's party pressed Zaidi's case. . . . Mashhani's colleagues refused to convene when they saw him return to parliament on Thursday, several of them said [Muhsin al] Saddon said he expects the political parties to accept Mashhdani's resignation Saturday, after which they'd appoint a new parliament leader. Others aren't so sure that Mashhdani will step down."

No one appears very sure of what happened with yesterday's arrests ordered at the Ministry of the Interior ordered by puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. Today Interior Minister Jawad Bolani held a press conference and
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) quotes him stating, "It is a big lie. The public must understand this." He was speaking of the whispers that a coup was being plotted by those arrested. Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) explain that several MPs are raising the issue that the arrests were for political reasons, specifically "an attempt by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to demonstrate his power." They also note this basic fact, "On Thursday, senior government officials continued to provide contradictory explanations for the detentions." What is known, the reporters point out, is that:

Maliki has steadily consolidated his power this year. In March, he ordered the military to combat Shiite militias and assert government control over the southern city of Basra, a goal that Iraqi forces accomplished with help from the U.S.-led coalition. Since then, Maliki has sought to tighten his grip across the country. His brokering of a U.S-Iraq security pact that requires the American forces to withdraw by the end of 2011 has bolstered his popularity among many Iraqis.

Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) speak with MPs such as Mahmoud Othma who states of the arrests, "This reminds me of the old regime. It's confusing. First they were saying coup d'etat . . . It's not clear what is going on. I'm afraid this may have some political ends from the government, maybe from the prime minister." Campbell Robertson and Tareq Maher (New York Times) advise, "The conflicting accounts of the operation prompted an urgent question from Mr. Maliki's critics: Were the arrests politically motivated, carried out as a way for Mr. Maliki to weaken his rivals before the nationwide provincial elections planned for next month? Suspicions were fueled by reports that a counterterrorism force overseen directly by Mr. Maliki was part of the operation, though several officials denied it." Thursday's snapshot incorrectly had Tareq Maher's first name dictated (by me) as "Tariq" -- that was my mistake. My apologies. Oliver August (Times of London) refers to the events as "a sectarian turf war" and observes, "The power struggle exposed the deep sectarian faultlines in the Iraqi Government. . . . A source in the ministry and a member of the Constitution party, told The Times: 'This is a move against our party. They are trying to get all the Sunni officers out of the ministry. It's a political game, not a coup." Meanwhile Waleed Ibrahim, Ahmed Rasheed and Missy Ryan (Reuters) report Nineveh Province voted to delay provincial elections but that vote isn't being headed by the Electoral Commission whose deputy head Osama al-Ani states, "No one has the right to delay the provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 31 except for the prime minister . . . with the approval of parliament." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) breaks the news that all arrested have been "released without charge" according to Jawad al-Bonai.

In England,
Andrew Grice (Independent of London) details "a political storm" following Prime Minister Gordon Brown's rejection of an Iraq War inquiry declaring it not "right" at the current time, "Opposition parties believe Mr Brown is keen to ensure the full investigation does not report until after the next general election, which must be held by June 2010. Although the controversial 2003 invasion was seen as 'Tony Blair's war', Mr Brown has backed it and said he would not have acted differently."

Meanwhile tensions and bombings continue on Iraq's northern border.
Delphine Strauss (Financial Times of London) noted Thursday that Turkey continued air strikes on northern Iraq -- targeting the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) for the second day in a row. UPI added, "The Turkish General Staff said it bombed several positions in the Qandil Mountains belonging to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK." Despite statements of joint-commissions -- Iraq, Turkey and the US -- being set up to address the issue of the PKK -- designated a terrorist organization by many nations including the US as well as by the European Union -- no such committee has yet to be created. Reuters observes, "Around 40,000 people have been killed in fighting between the PKK and the military since 1984, when the PKK took up arms to establish an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey." Hurriyet reported that Hoshyar Zebari (Foreign Minister) is among the Iraqi officials expected to travel to Turkey shortly and Sunni vice president Tariq al Hashimi is another but that Turkish President Abdullah Gul suffers from "an ear problem that makes flying difficult." Zebari most recently (December 16th) met with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayied Al-Nhayan, the United Arab Emirate's Foreign Minister, at the UN as part of the Ministry's continued diplomatic outreach. And while the much-touted joint-talks amongst Iraq, Turkey and the US seem stalled or forgotten, Hidir Goktas (Reuters) reports, "Kurdish leaders from Turkey and Iraq will hold a peace conference aimed at ending decades of violence by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group, the head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish party said."

And tensions remain around the mercenary corporation Blackwater which is responsible for the deaths of many Iraqis -- most infamously the September 16, 2007 slaughter in Baghdad. (
AP is trumpeting radio logs -- Blackwater radio logs -- 'back up' Blackwater's actions.) Luis Martinez (ABC News) observes, "The controversial security firm Blackwater may have to cease its operations in Iraq come Jan. 1, 2009. Despite four separate federal grand jury investigations of its operations, Blackwater has continued to provide security services for the U.S. State Department. . . . Numerous officials tell that the State Department has approved a long-term contingency plan to hire as many as 800 security personnel to ultimately replace its private security contractors. These "Security Protection Specialists" would receive limited immunity because they would be State Department employees. They will not be considered Diplomatic Security agents because they will not have arrest powers and will not be investigators." It's a shame that the Marines are good enough to protect US Embassies but apparently not considered good enough to protect the State Dept in war zones.

Staying with violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Baghdad roadside bombing that resulted in "three policemen and three civilians" being wounded.


Reuters notes 7 "decomposing, severed heads and two decomposing bodies" were discovered in Baghdad today.

Turning to the US,
Yesterday's snaphot noted Elisabeth Bumiller's reporting on Petraeus and Odierno's 'plan' for Iraq and what it means compared to Barack's alleged campaign promise (16 months for a withdrawal!). Today Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports on the issue and since "troops" was always just combat troops for Barack, Barnes documents a novel way to reconcile the generals and Barack:
The two plans could be squared by moving to reclassify, or "re-mission," U.S. troops still in Iraq after 16 months to change combat forces to training units or residual forces, according to military officials. Already, military officials have reassigned combat infantry soldiers and Marines to training jobs. Combat forces still in Iraq after May 2010 would probably be needed more for training missions in any case, officials have said.As we've long noted, the classification is meaningless and can be abused. Barnes is documenting a proposal to abuse it. Hey, if Barack declares the 149,000 US troops currently in Iraq "police" or "training" ones on January 21st, he can claim he completed his 'withdrawal' of combat troops in one day!
Staying with the president-elect, wowOwow notes "
Firestorm Reactions to Obama's Pick of Anti-Gay Rev. Rick Warren Role in Inauguration" and explains that 'it's his outspoken opposition toward abortion and gay marriage that has many human-rights activists, lesbian and gay activists finding [Rick] Warren's presence at Obama's inauguration a slap in the face." At The New Agenda, Violet Socks explains:

An almost all-male
Cabinet. A speechwriter who thinks sexual assault is funny. A senior advisor who's on record with his belief that innate inferiority, not discrimination, is what's keeping women back.
And now, with another twist of the knife, President-elect Obama has invited Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the Inaugural.
Rick Warren.
Most of the
outrage surrounding this choice focuses on Warren's opposition to gay marriage and reproductive rights. But there's something else about Warren, something the women of America might like to ponder as they watch this worthy pray aloud at our new President's swearing-in: this is a man who believes that wives should be subservient to their husbands. Marriage is not an equal partnership, in Warren's view, but a dominance hierarchy, a union between a superior and an inferior. Kind of like a boss with one employee.
As explained on Warren's
Ministry Toolbox site by Beth Moore, a suitably submissive wife: "It is a relief to know that as a wife and mother I am not totally responsible for my family. I have a husband to look to for counsel and direction. I can rely on his toughness when I am too soft and his logic when I am too emotional."

Those wanting or preferring video can
click here for CBS' The Early Show video where Harry Smith discusses the issue with David Corn and Robert Jeffries. "Excuse me, this is a serious civil rights issue in this country," Harry Smith says when Jeffries tries to turn it into a joke and good for Harry Smith. Women's Media Center chooses to go the pathetic and useless route: "Disappointed By Obama's Rick Warren Pick, But Not Discouraged." In other words, please don't break my arm and blacken my eye, just blacken my eye. Pathetic. They offer that in their "Daily News Brief" (it's nothing but a link to content outside WMC). A record number of e-mails came in today regarding the trojan at WMC. Women's Media Center not only does not get a link here, it is pulled from all community sites. If you've visited it this week, scan your computer for virus. NOW -- who has been extremely disappointing to put it mildly -- did offer "We HOPE You Will CHANGE Your Mind:"

Today, we are disheartened that one of the voices that may be privileged to be part of this historic moment is that of Rick Warren. His delivering the invocation would be an insult to all of us, women and men, who support women's right to self-determination. His presence is offensive to all of us, gay and straight, who support equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.
We understand your desire to engage people from opposing sides of many issues. But dialogue requires treating your opponents with respect. Rick Warren has compared abortion to the Holocaust and stated that he would not vote for a "Holocaust denier." He implies that those of us who support abortion rights are equivalent to Nazis.
Rick Warren worked to take away the rights of LGBT people in California by supporting Proposition 8, calling it a "moral issue that God has spoken clearly about" and stating the "homosexual marriage is one of the five issues that are not negotiable." He calls LGBT people "unnatural."
Words do matter, President-elect Obama. Words lifted you to the White House and all of us to a place where we felt included in your vision. By choosing Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration you have deeply offended progressive people who worked and voted for you in record numbers. This is not the tone we hoped you would set on this historic day - and giving a platform to a messenger of intolerance does not send a message of acceptance and change.
There are limitless opportunities for your administration to work with people who do not agree on every issue, but who nonetheless agree that we must end poverty, address climate change, and achieve human rights for all. We are deeply disappointed that you have made a different choice and hope that you will reconsider Rick Warren's inclusion in this important and historic celebration.
President-elect Obama, you can still select a minister who will speak to our collective vision for hope, change and the promise that we will all be part of this great country, and we urge you to do just that.

Not as weak or pathetic as WMC (silent except for tossing out a link) but not as strong as the National Organization for Women should be. It is the National Organization for Women, not the National Organization for Obama. If you want to see really pathetic, check out the types
Ashley Smith and Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) encounter at the convention of United for Piss & Injustice. UPFJ has done nothing for two years and plans to do nothing for four. They are pathetic. Leslie, I am personally ashamed of you. Of people quoted in the article, only Iraqi-American Zaineb Alani can hold their head high:

Local actions are not loud enough. The media will not cover them, and so the message will be silence. I am for mass action this spring in Washington where all the decisions are made with regard to economic and foreign policy.
With all this talk of change in Washington, the Iraqi people do not see any change. They're not going to see any change in the next three years because they will still be under occupation. The SOFA [status of forces agreement] is full of loopholes. We do not know what is coming. All the Iraqi people can hear is silence in Washington.

Public broadcasting notes. Yesterday
Gwen Ifill participated in the online chat at the Washington Post. There's much to amuse and I'll leave it at that and carry it over to Third for Sunday. Gwen's Washington Week airs on PBS and, in most markets, airs tonight. Her guests include Washington Post's Michael Fletcher, Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook and the Bobsey Twins John Dickerson and John Harwood -- even their hairdresser can't tell them apart. NOW on PBS also begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (check local listings) and their focus is slavery in Nepal where "many families in western Nepal have been forced to sell their daughters, some as young as six, to work far from home as bonded servants in private homes. With living conditions entirely at the discretion of their employers, these girls seldom attend school and are sometimes forced into prostitution." Journalist Sarah Chayes speaks with Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers Journal which also begins airing tonight on PBS in most markets. Chayes is probably the American journalist most knowledgable of Afghanistan. The Journal's Michael Winship notes:

The amount is $904 billion -- that's how much we've spent on American military operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, since the 9/11 attacks; 50 percent more than what was spent in Vietnam, reports the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. Their study does not include the inestimable toll in human life. Of that money, nearly 200 billion has gone to Afghanistan, where 31,000 American troops are nearly 60 percent of the NATO peacekeeping force. When he becomes President, as promised during his campaign, Barack Obama will oversee the deployment of at least another 20,000 troops there. This has been the deadliest year for American forces in Afghanistan since the war began. Our military faces a resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda, better trained, better armed, supported from sanctuaries in Pakistan. But in
an op-ed piece in last Sunday's Washington Post, Sarah Chayes -- the former National Public Radio reporter who has lived in Kandahar province since shortly after 9/11 -- argued that America's and Afghanistan's biggest problem comes from within -- our continuing support of a corrupt and abusive Afghan government that's driving its people back into the arms of the fundamentalists. Chayes, who organized a co-op of Afghan men and women making skin care products from herbs and botanicals as an alternative to the opium poppy trade, wrote, "I hear from Westerners that corruption is intrinsic to Afghan culture, that we should not hold Afghans up to our standards. I hear that Afghanistan is a tribal place, that it has never been, and can't be, governed. But that's not what I hear from Afghans."Chayes followed up that article with an interview conducted by my colleague Bill Moyers on the latest edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. She told him that the United States and its NATO allies have had to convince themselves and public opinion in each of their countries that "this is a democratically elected representative government [in] Afghanistan in order to justify the sacrifices in money and troops. But the Afghans see it differently."What they see instead, she said, is a restoration to power under President Hamid Karzai of the gunslinging, crooked warlords who were repudiated when the Taliban first started taking over vast parts of the country a few years after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The "appalling behavior" of officials in the current government, including rampant bribery, extortion and violence, is a serious factor in the Taliban resurgence -- it's estimated that they now have a "permanent presence" in 72 percent of the country, according to one think tank, the International Council on Security and Development.
On broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday,
60 Minutes:SchwarzeneggerThe former Hollywood action star-turned California governor may be facing his most formidable foe in a $40 billion state budget gap caused by the economic decline. Scott Pelley reports.
Screening The TSAAre the hassles passengers endure at airport security checkpoints really making them safer? The Transportation Security Administration says they are, but a security adviser who has advised them says those measures are "security theater." Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video
The OrphanageIvory is selling for nearly $1,000 a tusk, causing more elephants to be slaughtered and more orphaned babies in need of special care provided by an elephant orphanage in Kenya. Bob Simon reports.
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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