Tuesday, February 17, 2009

He spends, he buys

BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE
 
 
BUT THERE WASN'T MUCH TIME TO NOTICE THAT PEOPLE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO TRACK THE STIMULUS SPENDING (OF THEIR MONEY) ONLINE BECAUSE BARACK WAS BUSYING 'BUYING THE AFGHANISTAN WAR.'
 
CONGRATS, BARRY, YOU OWN IT, YOU WAR HAWK.
 
 
We''ll start by noting three women.  And three topics: propaganda, the return of something that should have stayed gone and silence equals death. Two get called out.  One doesn't.  Follow along. 
 
We're almost always glad when other outlets not normally associated with Iraq provide some coverage.  Almost always.  wowOwow features an article allegedly on the provincial elecitons by Zainab al-Suwaij.  What they don't tell you -- click here for Zianab's SourceWatch profile -- is Zainab and George W. Bush were tight.  wowOwow forgets that Zainab is just another Iraqi exile who pushed for the US to start an illegal war. Most of all, they -- and this is so laughable (though possibly telling) considering the women involved in wowOwow -- seem to think a woman can speak for servants.  That's what Zainab does in her bad bit of propaganda.  She has no real data to offer so she goes with "Several women work in my grandmother's home, assisting with cleaning and other domestic work" and wants to tell you what they were planning.  I have household assistance.  I would never attempt to speak for any of them nor would it be my place to.  Nor would I ever assume that someone working for me and agreeing with my point of view was necessarily expressing an opinion they actually shared.  The power dynamics involved in any employer-employee relationship make such assumptions dangerous (and smug when offered by the employer) but that should especially be seen as the case when Zainab tells you her grandmother's household help cannot "read or write."  Zainab offers a lot of lies (maybe she's thinking wowOwow readers don't follow current events?) and what's especially funny is that all her propaganda is defeated with the photo run with her article.  Reader Jera Y has no time for current events or even common sense A.E.B.: "If this war had not happened, would those children have been allowed to play?  Would these women have been allowed to vote?"  As Reader Marina B so aptly responds, "If there was a restriction on children playing in Iraq prior to our invasion, I am not aware of it.  Source, please?  In pre-invasion Iraq, women were allowed to vote to the same extent as men."
 
Anna Badkhen has reported on Iraq for some time, originally for the San Francisco Chronicle and recently for SalonShe has an article in The New Republic and from it, we'll note this section:
 
In addition to cajoling the sheiks, Dr. Phil had another idea for insuring the generator's success. On a scorching May afternoon, he invited Betson and a group of soldiers to a sun-drenched intersection on Alwa Street, where a stocky Iraqi in rolled-up gray sweatpants dragged a filthy sheep along the tiled sidewalk. The Iraqi's name was Bassam the Butcher, and, true to his name, he put his right foot--shod in a rubber, manure-caked flip-flop--just below the animal's neck, pinning it to the ground, and, with one swift movement of a short, thin blade, slashed its neck. Betson and his company lowered their M4 rifles and snapped pictures with their digital cameras.    
After methodically repeating the procedure on three more sheep, Bassam carried plastic bags sloshing with blood across the street, to the 500-kilowatt generator, fuel tank, and transformer booth that Betson and his company had recently installed. There, the butcher and some neighborhood boys dipped their hands into the sacrificial blood and pressed their palms against the canary yellow walls of the spanking-new equipment.  
The ancient tradition of public ritual slaughter has made a comeback in Iraq since the war began. Bloody handprints adorn the metal gates of houses of newlyweds and recently freed detainees. Sacrificing the sheep on the sidewalk and then smearing the generator with their blood, Dr. Phil explained, would show Saidiyah's residents that the people behind the project shared their culture, their beliefs, and their superstitions. For this reason, he paid for the sheep and for the butcher's services out of his own pocket--$180, more than half the average monthly income in Iraq, per sheep. "This is something private, " Dr. Phil said, as he watched Bassam the Butcher work. "It's for me, for my family, for Saidiyah."
 
File it under 'progress.'  And some say the illegal war did little -- it brought back animal sacrifices!  (Anna's the one who didn't get called out, for those counting to two.) 
 
ESPRIT is willing but her flesh is weak.  Naomi Klein hasn't done much of anything since her wonderful job cobbling together The Shock Doctrine from other sources (with a wrap around interview on torture done by Klein).   Which may be why her recent antics document her slow side back to the mall rat she once was.  She disgraced herself in Chicago before the elections with a now notorius speech.  This month, she wets herself in public on the pages of  Matthew Rothschild's The Regressive where Naomi can't stop gushing about how she lowered the boom on her "anarchist" "friends" -- does Naomi know anarchists or have friends? -- and told 'em it's her party and she was going to wet her panties if she wanted to, wet her panties if she wanted to because Barack was joyous . . . and moist apparently.  It was so special to her, the US elections.  Naomi, pick a damn country already.  Your father fled the US to avoid serving in Vietnam. You stayed tight-lipped about that post-9-11 all the way through December 2008.  Your paranoia insisted that you'd be denied entry to the US if the truth was known!  Oh, no!  But if you want to be Canadian, then be it.  In which case, America doesn't really need your smug ignorance on display.  Go back to your country and work on getting minorities elected there instead of trying to 'take pride' in something that has nothing to do with you. 
 
Proving that the only thing sharp about Naomi were the corners on those ESPRIT sweaters she used to fold, she embarrasses herself in public again: "In an interview Tuesday, Klein, 38, said she welcomes the election of Barack Obama.  But she has two problems: his refusal to insist on accountability for recent American misdemeanours abroad and at home; and his 'narrative that everything went wrong only eight years ago' with the election of George W. Bush."  Naomi leaves out the Iraq War, doesn't she?  The illegal war Barack's not ending.  The Tiffany of the Great White North may find out shortly that those who pick up the pretty doll and play with it, thereby creating interest in the toy, can put it down just as quick at which point it just gathers dust or ends up in the trash. 
 
What the mall rat can't explain, Thomas E. Ricks (author of The Gamble) did on  Washington Unplugged (click here for just the Ricks' segment) wher
 
John Dickerson: Where are we now in Iraq? There's this feeling -- there's been this recent election, 'Oh, things are getting better in Iraq.' What's your view?



Thomas E. Ricks: My view is that there are two fundamental misunderstandings that Americans have about this war. First was how tough the surge was. It was not just a matter of putting a few more troops out into Iraq. It was a very tough six months -- probably the hardest phase of the war so far. The second theme of this book is this war is far from over. Yeah, the war has changed several times. It was an invasion, it morphed into an occupation, into an insurgency, then into a civil war then into an American counter-offensive. It's changing again. Just because it's changing, doesn't mean it's ended. The elections the other day? Yeah. Remember the elections a couple of years ago, purple fingers, people coming out? Followed by a civil war. So I think there are a lot of reasons that Iraq '09 is going to be very tough and in fact harder than the last year of Bush's war. And I think there's a good chance that Obama's war in Iraq will last longer than Bush's war.




John Dickerson: So who gets this? Does the president get this? You know, he talked about sixteen months removing troops. What are the commanders tell him? Is there a clash coming here in terms of the ground truth versus what the president may think.



Thomas E. Ricks: I think there well indeed might be a clash by the end of the year. Obama's campaign promise to get American troops out of Iraq in sixteen months was a fatuous promise. When Americans heard it, what they heard was I will have no American troops dying in 16 months. But it was a false phraseology: "combat troops." Well, newsflash for Obama, there is no such thing as non-combat troops. There's no pacifistic branch of the US Army. Anytime you have American troops out there, there are going to be some of them fighting and dying -- in counter-terror missions against al Qaeda, if you have American advisers with Iraqi troops, they're going to be getting into fights, some Americans will be dying. So I think we're there for a long time and as long as we're there -- unlike, say, the occupations of Korea, Japan and Germany, American troops will be engaged in combat. General Odierno says in the book he'd like to see 35,000 troops there as late as 2015. Well into . . . it will be Obama's second term. So I think that at the end of this year, you're going to see a conflict. Obama's going to want to see troop numbers coming down. Odierno, the other big O, as they call him in Iraq, is going to say, "Wait a minute, you're holding general elections here in December, in Iraq. That's exactly the wrong time to take troops out."
 
 
(That's the transcript Ava and I used in "TV: Blustering Boys" -- full transcript is in today's Hilda's Mix.  You can also refer to Michelle Levi's write up of the interview.)  "Well, newsflash for Obama, there is no such thing as non-combat troops." Exactly and it's too bad the likes of Naomi Klein care so damn little. 
 
Sunday Leila Fadel (McClatchy's Baghdad Observer) reported, "The Independent High Electoral Commission has announced and then canceled a series of press conferences. Today they nullified 30 ballot boxes after finding fraud, most in the province of Anbar where tribal sheikhs accused the incumbent Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, of vote rigging."  Monday K. I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) informed that Iraq's 'election' 'commission' was admitting there was widespread fraud ("in all 14 provinces," said Kareem al-Tamimi) but they weren't concerned about it.   Gulf Daily News notes, "Iraqi officials nullified election results in more than 30 polling stations due to fraud in last month's provincial balloting, but the cases were not significant enough to require a new vote in any province, the election chief said yesterday." Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) reports that the results are supposed to be revealed on Thursday and notes, "the ISCI, followers of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other politicians have alleged voter fraud and accused the elections commission of not doing a good job. Iraqis had until Feb. 3 to file elections day-related complaints. Elections Commission Chairman Faraj al-Haideri said in a press conference today that he regrets some politicians have accused the commission of acting improperly." Does al-Haiden regret that?  Oh, boo hoo.  One person who screamed and threatened was Sheik Ahmad Abu Risha (here, here, here, here and here for starters).  Sheik Ahmad Abu Risha is the thug who got his way, the thug who got the elections results changed. The thug that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have 'paid their respects to' and been photographed with. He didn't like the results of the January 31st elections so he threatened violence. Instead of being shut down right then and there, he was catered to. The results were changed for him.  Dahr Jamail is back in Iraq and he reported on the way monies are wasted in Iraq including 'construction':
 

That's a polite phrase for what they're doing, and the rubric under which a lot of the payouts take place (however modest actual reconstruction work might be). Think of it this way: Every dealer needs a front man. The U.S. bought the sheiks off and it was to their immediate advantage to be bought off. They regained a kind of power that had been seeping away, while all the money and arms allowed them to put real muscle into recruiting people in the tribes they controlled and into building the Awakening Movement.   

The reasons -- and they are indeed plural -- why the tribal leaders were so willing to collaborate with the occupiers of their country are, at least in retrospect, relatively clear. Those in al-Anbar who had once supported, and had been supported by, Saddam Hussein, and then had initially supported the resistance became far keener to work with occupation forces as they saw their power eroded by al-Qaeda-in-Iraq.  

AQI proved a threat to the sheiks, many of whom had initially worked directly with it, when it began to try to embed its own fierce, extremist Sunni ideology in the region -- and perhaps even more significantly, when it began to infringe on the cross-border smuggling trade that had kept many tribal sheiks rich. As AQI grew larger and threatened their financial and power bases, they had little choice but to throw in their lot with the Americans.  

As a result, these men obtained backing for their private militias, renamed Awakening groups, and in addition, signed "construction" contracts with the Americans who put millions of dollars in their pockets, even if not always into actual construction sites. As early as April 2006, the Rand Corporation released a report, "The Anbar Awakening," identifying America's potential new allies as a group of sheiks who used to control smuggling rings and organized crime in the area.  

One striking example was Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who founded the first Awakening groups in al-Anbar and later led the entire movement until he was assassinated in 2007, shortly after he met with President Bush. It was well known in the region that Abu Risha was primarily a smuggler defending his business operations by joining the Americans.  

Not surprisingly, given the lucrative nature of the cooperative relationship that developed, whenever an Awakening group sheik is assassinated, another is always there to take his place. Abu Risha was, in fact, promptly replaced as "president" of the Anbar Awakening by his brother Sheik Ahmad Abu Risha, also now in the "construction business."    

 
And that about says it all.  Staying with the political front, as Thomas E. Ricks explained on NPR's Fresh Air last week, "The surge worked militarily.  There's no question that violence declined in Iraq as a result of the surge and the associated things we've talked about -- the deals with the Sunnis, with Sadr's organization, and the grim fact that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was largely completed by the time the surge began.  That said, the surge failed.  I say that because the surge's purpose was not just to improve security.  It was, as the president said, to create a breathing space in which political change could occur and the fact is that political change has not occurred.   All the basic questions facing Iraq before the surge are still there and have not been addressed, have not been solved. Those are, for example, the disposition of the disputed city of Kirkuk, the power relationships [. . .]  between the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, who holds power in the Shi'ite community and, most importantly, the sharing of oil revenue.  None of those exestential issues have been solved.  All of them threaten still to be solved violently."    Note the Fresh Air link also contains a text excerpt of Ricks' new book.
 
 
Truest statement of the week Truest statement of the week II A note to our readers Editorial: The simulated 'stimulus' TV: Blustering Boys Sadder Sirota Mailbag The Bronze Booby goes to . . . The Cult of St. Barack Go ask Phallus, Phallus Walker Red It's coming . . . Two things not to miss Iraq roundtable Highlights


"Roundtable on Iraq"
"IRAQ ROUNDTABLE"

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