Saturday, June 06, 2009

Tax cheats and torture czars






Barry O! gave his big speech in Cario. Iraqi Alaa Sahib Abudllah of Karbala states, "The most important thing is to accomplish things, not just say them. I am astonished of how much the media is caring about it. I heard such speeches by Bush more than once. There is nothing new in Obama's speech." Patrick Murphy (WSWS) observes:

The speech delivered by US President Barack Obama in Cairo yesterday was riddled with contradictions. He declared his opposition to the "killing of innocent men, women, and children," but defended the ongoing US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US proxy war in Pakistan, while remaining silent on the most recent Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. These wars have killed at least one million Iraqis and tens of thousands in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories.
Obama declared his support for democracy, human rights and women's rights, after two days of meetings with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, two of the most notorious tyrants in the Middle East. He said nothing in his speech about the complete absence of democratic rights in Saudi Arabia, or about the ongoing repression under Mubarak's military dictatorship. In the days before the US president's arrival at Al-Azhar University, the campus was raided by Egyptian secret police who detained more than 200 foreign students. Before leaving on his Mideast trip, Obama praised Mubarak as a "steadfast ally."
While posturing as the advocate of universal peace and understanding, Obama diplomatically omitted any reference to his order to escalate the war in Afghanistan with the dispatch of an additional 17,000 US troops. And he tacitly embraced the policy of his predecessor in Iraq, declaring, "I believe the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein." He even seemed to hedge on the withdrawal deadline of December 2011 negotiated by the Bush administration, which he described as a pledge "to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012."

Hillary Is 44 points out, "Murdered Iraqis who are gay were never mentioned. Gays and their oppression was not mentioned at all. Instead Obama quoted the 'Holy Koran' with the verse 'Be Conscious of God and speak always the truth.' Then Obama proceeded to avoid telling the truth." Stanley Heller (CounterPunch) also breaks down the Iraq section of the speech:

His speech in Cairo was the usual glittering generalities, the dropping of an Arabic word here and there, a sophisticated tone, and the pledge to tell "the truth." But look what he said about Iraq: "Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible." Though the war was controversial the Iraqis are "better off". Over a million dead from sanctions, invasions, and civil war, and Obama had the utter gal to declare the Iraqis "better off". Our only problem was not recruiting enough flunkies to join the effort. Some on the Left immediately declared that Obama remarks were a "denunciation" of the Iraq war. Keep on dreaming.

Stan offered his take on the speech last night. Marcia noted that the Wall St. Journal offered "Barack Hussein Bush" because they heard in Barry's words a continuation of Bush policy. The speech came up repeatedly today on both hours of NPR's Diane Rehm Show and we'll focus on Iraqis and note this section between Diane Rehm and McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef.

Diane Rehm: Alright let's talk about the latest violence in Iraq in light of the president's promise that all troops will be out of Iraq by --

Nancy A. Youssef: The end of 2011.

Diane Rehm: 2011. And isn't there a June 30 deadline this year as well?

Nancy A. Youssef: Yeah.

Diane Rehm: How was that received by Iraqis? This morning we heard that many don't believe that is going to happen, that all US troops are going to be out. And in the meantime you've got bombings still going on in Baghdad.

Nancy A. Youssef: Yeah. And let's -- the June 30th requires -- and this -- I want to make a distinction. Obama mentioned it in the speech but the truth is this was outlined under the Bush administration, under the Status Of Forces Agreement that they signed with the Iraqi government, I think in part, with the anticipation of Obama coming to the White House and wanting to, I think the Bush administration wanted to set the withdrawal on its terms and not on the Obama administration's terms and so the June 30th deadline is part of that. The Iraqi government demanded that all US troops be out of major cities. Now we're already starting to hear a little bit of a dance: Maybe on the outskirts of Sadr City they'll stay? Maybe in parts of Samarra they'll stay? Maybe in parts of Mosul where we're seeing violence this week -- a US soldier was killed in Mosul. We're seeing a little dance about how strict that's going to be. Remember that for the Iraqis this is also their domestic politics. They have an election coming up -- if not at the end of the year, in January. Maliki, the prime minister, cannot afford to have US troops in the face of his people anymore. They are tired. That all said, you are absolutely right. You ask Iraqis, they don't believe that the United States is ever leaving -- that they'll be a presence there for the rest of their lives. And in some capacity you have to think there would be in the sense that, you know when the US -- with each soldier that leaves is less US influence over the course of events in Iraq. You know to me the most dangerous thing going forward is not a quick collapse of the security situation in Iraq but a small one, a gradual one that happens as the United States is increasing its force presence in Afghanistan. That United States finds itself with say 100,000 troops in Iraq and 70,000 troops in Afghanistan and truly stuck in both conflicts. But you're right, you ask Iraqis, the United States is going to be there in some capacity. And this year is this game of security and domestic and even US politics.

With regards to the points Youssef was making on the dance that's going on, yesterday AP reported that the US military is hoping to keep "about 14 joint facilities [open] . . . after the deadline." Back to Iraqi reaction, Michael Slackman (New York Times) explains Barry O's speech was greeted in iraq by "a heavy dose of skepticism" and quotes diners in Mosul yelling "What a stupid speech!" Campbell Robertson and the Times Iraqi correspondents (New York Times' Baghdad Bureau) offer more reactions. In Najaf, Fadhil Mohammed states, "Obama's speech is nothing more than a way to paint a phony improved image about America for Islamic countries." In Falluja, Abu Adil states, "We've heard such nonsense from your former White House guys. We're overstuffed with such words." Yes, the speech the press can't stop creaming their panties and briefs over has been given many, many times before. Now when George W. Bush did that and the MSM treated it as new, CounterSpin would ridicule them for that. Today? CounterSpin's working for the man. But Aluf Been (Haaratz) points out some of the realities regarding Barry's 'words' on Palestinians and Israelies:

The United States has objected to the settlements since 1967, but its position has changed. The Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations stated that the settlements were illegal. Since the Reagan administration (1981), the U.S. has called the settlements "an obstacle to peace" without referring to their lawfulness. Former president George W. Bush agreed to Israeli construction in the large settlement blocs in exchange for Israel evacuating the settlers from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank, and accepting the "two-state solution."

Rob Reynolds (Al Jazeera) noted The Changeling's shape shifting abilities, "Another thing struck me as distinctly political: Obama's constant references to his Muslim background, boyhood days in Indoensia, and frequent citations from the Quran sounded a bit odd coming from a man who made strenuous efforts to ignore those aspects of his autobiography in the 2008 campaign for the White House. In fact, Obama's campaign attacked critics who insisted on using his middle name; now, here was Barack Hussein Obama on stage in Cairo dropping a "shukran" (Arabic for "thank you" here) and an "assalaamu alaikum" (peace be unto you) there." Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller (ABC News) caught that shift on Tuesday: "Back then, the campaign's "Fight the Smears" website addressed the candidate's faith without mentioning his father's religion:
'Barack Obama is a committed Christian. He was sworn into the Senate on his family Bible. He has regularly attended church with his wife and daughters for years. But shameful, shadowy attackers have been lying about Barack's religion, claiming he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian. When people fabricate stories about someone's faith to denigrate them politically, that's an attack on people of all faiths. Make sure everyone you know is aware of this deception'."

Though that's just appearing on the radar it's long been known that Iraq's LGBT community was being targeted. Jessica Green (UK's Pink News) reports that Iraqi LGBT is stating the Ministry of the Interior is part of the assault and quotes Ali Hili stating, "A police office from the Ministry of Interior Intelligence told us secretly that there is a campaign of murder and violence against gays. We had to pay him $5,000 US to help release one of our members from jail. With all the evidence we have been presenting, including some from one of our members who was recently released from pison, we have evidence of mass arrests [of LGBT Iraqis]. Still, the US is denying Iraqi government involvement, doing nothing to stop it and not assisting with our efforts to help gays in Iraq." Green also notes that US House Reps Jared Polis, Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank have requested in writing that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill investigate the charges. Polis has posted [PDF formart warning] the letter on his website and we'll jump in after the congratulations to Chris Hill on being confirmed as Ambassador:

As you know, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Iraqi citizens have become more susceptible to discrimination and violence. However, over the last month, we became aware of alarming human rights violations that fundamentally threaten the safety of LGBT citizens of Iraq. Both in the United States and Abroad, reports of the harrassment, detention and execution of LGBT Iraqi by Iraqi law enforcement have reached a fever pitch.
The information we received was derived from two separate testimonials of gay and transgender Iraqi men that were detained, tortured and sentenced to death for being members of an allegedly forbidden organization in Iraq called Iraqi LGBT. One of these individuals was able to escape, while the other was reportedly executed by Iraqi Ministry of Interior Security Forces. Through conversations with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Heartland Alliance, it has become clear to us that these are not isolated reports, but instead, reports that accurately portray an aggressive campaign to locate, arrest and execute LGBT Iraqis in and around Baghdad.
As LGBT Americans and co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, we are disturbed and shocked at allegations that Ministry of the Interior Security Forces may be involved in the mass persecution and execution of LGBT Iraqis. As has been stated by the State Department, we are aware that LGBT Iraqis are not being officially executed or being held on death row in Iraq for being LGBT. However, the persecution of Iraqis based on sexual orientation or gender identity is escalating and is unacceptable regardless of whether these policies are extrajudicial or state-sanctioned.
We hope that by reaching out to you and members of your staff, that the U.S. Embassy in Iraq will prioritize the investigation of these allegations, work with the Iraqi government to end the executions of LGBT Iraqis, and make protecting this vulnerable community a priority. It is crucial that the United States government take action to address this urgent humanitarian crisis and examine the evidence provided by international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Heartland Alliance in Iraq. Given cultural sensitivity around these issues, it is also important that the U.S. Embassy work with human rights organizations to carefully ensure the safety of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Iraqis that may be afraid of reporting incidences to state authorities, particularly when those instances involve state authorities.
Please know that we will continue to monitor this situation and hope to be of assistance in your investigation. We wish you well in all of your endeavors as the newly confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

The targeting of journalists in Iraq also continues. Earlier this week, another journalist lost his life, Alla' Abdul Al Wahab and others were wounded (one in the same attack, two in another attack). Reporters Without Borders declared, "It is time the slaughter of journalists in Iraq was stopped. The Iraqi authorities created a special police unit last year to investigate murders of journalists. We urge them to investigate these two bombings very thoroughly. Only conclusive results are likely to discourage these killers and improve the safety of journalists." Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill (writing at the US Socialist Worker) provides the walk through:

The U.S. bombed Al Jazeera in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, attacked it multiple times in the 2003 Iraq invasion, and killed Al Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayoub. On April 8, 2003, a U.S. Abrams tank fired at the Palestine Hotel, home and office to more than 100 unembedded international journalists operating in Baghdad at the time. The shell smashed into the fifteenth-floor Reuters office, killing two cameramen, Reuters's Taras Protsyuk and José Couso of Spain's Telecinco. In a chilling statement at the end of that day in Iraq, then-Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke spelled out the Pentagon's policy on journalists not embedded with U.S. troops. She warned them that Baghdad "is not a safe place. You should not be there."
Last week, a Spanish judge reinstated charges against three U.S. soldiers in Couso's killing, citing new evidence, including eyewitness testimony contradicting official U.S. claims that soldiers were responding to enemy fire from the hotel. One year ago, former Army Sergeant Adrienne Kinne told Democracy Now! she saw the Palestine Hotel on a military target list and said she frequently intercepted calls from journalists staying there.
As I have reported previously, Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana was shot by U.S. forces near Abu Ghraib prison when his camera was allegedly mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The U.S. listed as "justified" the killing of Al Arabiya TV's Mazen al-Tumeizi, blown apart by a U.S. missile as he reported on a burning U.S. armored vehicle on Baghdad's Haifa Street.
There have also been several questionable killings of journalists at U.S. military checkpoints in Iraq, such as the March 2004 shooting deaths of Ali Abdel-Aziz and Ali al-Khatib of Al Arabiya. The Pentagon said the soldiers who shot the journalists acted within the "rules of engagement." And Reuters freelancer Dhia Najim was killed by U.S. fire while filming resistance fighters in November 2004. "We did kill him," an unnamed military official told the New York Times. "He was out with the bad guys. He was there with them, they attacked, and we fired back and hit him."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The US military announces 2 deaths"
"The VA's Madhulika Agarwal: Lying or grossly uninformed?"
"I Hate The War"

"Lonely GOP Wallflower"
"Tuna Casserole in the Kitchen"
"Debra Sweet"
"Chris Matthews, Go To Hell"
"Debra Sweet, World Can't Wait"
"gordon brown's troubles, debra sweet"
"stinky gordon brown part ii"
"John V. Whitbeck"
"Black and Black churches"
"Barack Hussein Bush"
"The nothing speech and the groupie Danny"
"Noam Chomskey on Barry O's speech"
"Dennis Loo, Tom Burghardt"
"Barack and the world's blue . . ."

No comments: