Thursday, January 08, 2009

Barack slips into a lobbyist more comfortable

Today Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, informed the UN Security Council about the refugee crisis in the world and noted that the total number of refugees falling under the UNHCR is 11 million -- up from 9 million in 2006 -- with the numbers being driven by Somalia and Iraq.  The United Nations notes of his briefing, "In Iraq, UNHCR was working hard to help the Government create appropriate conditions for the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of refugees and the internally displaced, he said.  Two million Iraqis were hosted mainly by Jordan and Syria, and a similar number remained displaced inside their own country.  UNHCR called on the more prosperous States to offer full support to countries and organizations bearing the brunt of the Iraqi exodus.  To prepare for returns, UNHCR had redeployed its represenatives for Iraq from Amman to Baghdad and established an international presence in Erbil, Mosul and Basra.  Beyond security, sustainable return to Iraq would require effective action in the areas of property restitution or compensation, and full and equitable access to welfare services and public distribution systems."
Yesterday the US Department of Defense announced "the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Staff Sgt. Anthony D. Davis, 29, of Daytona Beach, Fla., died Jan. 6 in Northern Iraq, of wounds suffered when he was shot by enemy forces.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia."  Audrey Parente (Daytona Beach News-Journal) has a strong article on Davis's life.  M-NF never announced that death.  The way it works -- when it works -- is that M-NF announces a death has occurred.  Later, after the family has been notified, DoD issues the name of the deceased.  4223 is the current number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
Repeating, 4223.  Not 4213, as Eric Owles maintains in a New York Times blog post  allegedly written today: "Will it be the Iraq where 4,213 American service members and an estimated 90,000 Iraqis have been killed?"  Christmas Day, the death toll was 4217.  When did Owles write that 'think' piece?  Again, the date on it says today but today's death toll is 4223.  As for 90,000?  If he can't even get the US death toll correct, don't expect miracles when it comes to Iraqis.  Approximately 1.3 million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war.  Owles is using the numbers from the laughable Iraq Body Count -- numbers embraced by Bully Boy, in case anyone forgot.  SourceWatch notes of Iraq Body Count, "However, as Medialens notes: 'In reality, IBC is not primarily an Iraq Body Count, it is not even an Iraq Media Body Count, it is an Iraq Western Media Body Count'."  Having tired himself out handling bad numbers, Owles steers readers this post by Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) where Ricks predicts that 2009 will be "tougher" in 2009 than it was in 2008 and that "Obama's war in Iraq may last longer than Bush's".  Ricks also notes, "The recent Status of Forces Agreement also means less than it seems.  For example, U.S. forces are supposed to get out of major bases in the cities later this year.  But there really aren't major big bases in the cities now -- the last time I was in Iraq I was told there is really only one -- and U.S. military advisors will remain in urban outposts along with Iraiq forces.  I suspect the SOFA really is most meaninful for the political help it will give Prime Minister Maliki in getting re-elected at the end of 2009 by taking the American presence off the table as a wedge issue for Iraqis."
A presence kind-of departing Iraq is the Denmark military.  The Copenhagen Post reports that the last six Danish military officers have left: "The UN mandate for the force ran out at the start of the year and the Iraqi authorities have not asked the Danes to remain in the country." But the paper reports, "Between 40 and 50 members of the armed forces remain in Iraq providing security for the embassy, connected with the UN and on a Nato training mission."  As Stevie Nicks once sang, "No one ever leaves, every one stays, close til the fire fades" ("Fireflies," written by Nicks, on Fleetwood Mac Live).  Sidebar: Stevie joins bandmates Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham for the group's first tour which kicks off March 1st in Pittsburgh (March tour dates are up at Fleetwood Mac's site).
No one ever leaves . . .  Elaine Brower (World Can't Wait) reports what happened to those who protest the illegal war in 2009.  Tuesday when Congress did it's first day of 'business' (Its business, so very rarely ever the people's business),  Activist Response Team staged a March of the Dead which found 70 or so activists in "white masks and wearing all black signifying the souls of those who will be haunting the criminals who are sending bombs to kill Iraqis, Afghanis, Palestinians and members of the military who are the lethal arm of this government's quest for empire" begam marching in the rain through DC, stopping at the Supreme Court before moving onto the Senate Hart Building where they unfurled banners in the atrium as the names of some of the dead were read out loud.  The banners read "THE AUDACITY OF WAR CRIMES," "IRAQ," "AFGHANISTAN" and "PALESTINE" and "Capitol Police, who were present when the march came into the building, quickly responded to remove the words that were so hurtful to those who were guilty of committing these war crimes.  Within seconds, the banners were pulled up, but it gave press and other independent media a chance to photograph it all.  An everlasting message to the murderers who keep spending taxpayer dollars to kill innocent people.  At that point seven people were arrested for unfurling the words of truth, but those on the ground floor of the Hart Buidling remained reading the names of the dead.  The police were gathering in force, and just as a secure perimeter was formed around the masked readers, another banner announcing 'WE WILL NOT BE SILENT' was dropped.  Quickly, three people were carted off by the police, and the banner was cut down."  In all, 17 activsts were arrested including those 'guilty of the crime' of reading the names of the dead outloud. 
Though democracy is never 'exportable' possibly the White House had such a difficult time with 'giving' it to Iraq because it wasn't to be found in much of the US?  But they will try again January 31st when provincial elections are scheduled.  Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that yesterday's Holy day was seen as a campaign tool for "Iraq's ruling Shiite Muslim parties" and they conducted a poster war "from Baghdad to the southern city of Karbala" in anticipation of the provincial elections in "14 of the country's 18 provinces." Fadel notes that a number of voters state they will not vote for "their sects or their ethnicity" due to no progress on the ground in terms of basic services. A former school teacher, Widad Hamid, offers another reason, "Unfortunately it seems that when all is told it is Shiite support Shiite."  (Hamid is Sunni.)  Fadel judges the race in "the Shiite south" to be chiefly between Nouri al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance-Islamic Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and notes some were not pleased to see the Holy day co-opted by political campaigns.  Basheer Aoun al Anbari states, "Under the past regime God cursed us.  Now God curses us again.  It upsets us that they use our religion.  They did not apply what Imam Hussein symbolizes: justice."  Kimi Youshino (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) observes that the "concrete blast walls make the perfect blank canvas for election posters" and that, "Judge Qasim Hasan Abodi, head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission, said several candidates and political parties have been warned about defacing posters -- as well as putting them in  areas off-limits for posters, including government buildings and security checkpoints."  Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports that many, many men celeberated the Holy day in honor of Iman Hussein -- allegedly a holiday for all Shi'ites but al-Maliki refused to allow women to participate.  Allegedly, the fact that suicide bombers are women resulted in them being blocked from the ceremonies.  Of course, many, many more suicide bombers are men and no one blocked them from celebrating.

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