Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who will she give diet tips too?






Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died, Nov. 27, of non-combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4366.

Meanwhile, I wasn't aware Thanksgiving was an Iraqi holiday but apparently it is. That would explain all the outlets off today and unable to report especially on any violence. The US military hypes, "Two cultures come together at a table. The hosts, strangers in an exotic land, welcome native guests with a rich history stretching back thousands of years.
This scene, reminiscent of the historic celebration at Plymouth, took place here on Forward Operating Base Falcon, Nov. 26, as dozens of Iraqi tribal, civil and military leaders and their families were guests of the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team for Thanksgiving dinner." Reminscent of the historic celebration at Plymouth? Did they really just say that? And then they want to act shocked when accused of attempting to colonize Iraq. Also suprisingly unhelpful is US Maj Marty Reigher who declares, "Iraqi culture is built on trust and a man's word." It's disgusting how the US military continues to do their part and then some to make life more difficult for Iraqi women. Not only was an American officer stupid enough to say it, someone was stupid enough to include it in a write up.

But at least the one writing up the hype worked today. More than you can say for those who should be reporting on violence. (No, there's no chance in hell that there was no violence in Iraq today.) Yesterday AFP reported that a Mosul "church and a convent were struck by bombings" -- the Church of St. Ephrem and St. Theresa Convent of Dominican Nuns -- and quoted Father Yousif Thomas Mirkis stating, "These attacks are aimed at forcing Christians to leave the contry."

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left ten people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a second Baghdad sticky bombing left one person injured, a third Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left three people injured, 2 Babil market bombings which claimed 2 lives and left twenty-eight people injured.
Turning to the issue of Iraq's 'intended' January elections and Iraq as Groundhog Day. It's apparently November 8th or a few days prior all over again. Anthony Shadid and Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reported Thursday that a proposal has emerged which may or may not have backing in the Parliament and which may or may not pit Sunni against Kurd and, "Even with the agreement, which must now be approved by the Iraqi electoral commission, election officials said it would be almost impossible to hold the election in January as originally planned. Mid- to late February was more likely, since a major Shiite Muslim holiday will not end until Feb. 10." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explains, "A compromise, however, did not appear likely to be reached before next week, as Iraqis began to celebrate the Islamic holiday Id al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, which lasts until Tuesday. One of Iraq's two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, released several statements suggesting that he was open to a compromise. At the same time, he threatened to veto a new election law, as he did last week, raising the specter of a political and constitutional crisis." Shadid and Barki reported this afternoon that while Tariq al-Hashimi has called the proposal "good news" he has also stated, "It's still early to talk about ratifying the law, because we are awaiting the electoral commission's interpretation of the agreement." In addition, the reporters explain the Kurds have yet to indicate where they stand on the proposal. Liz Sly and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that even though the country's "constitution stipulates that the poll must be held by January," it does not appear to be likely that January elections will be held "so a delay will require some constitutional tinkering, which could set a dangerous precedent." AFP quotes Speaker Iyad al-Samarrai stating, "The (election) commission announced it would be held on January 16th, this is not possible anymore because there is no law. I believe that the election will be held in March."

In England, the Iraq Inquiry continues. Those needing audio can't turn to Pacifica Radio because, despite all those "Thanksgiving is abomination!" 'reports' they inflict on listeners, the holiday rolls around and everyone needs off for Thursday and Friday so programs such as Free Speech Radio News and Democracy Now! offer canned 'news' programming. Not unlike KPFA's infamous New Year's Eve Special on December 31, 2006 that was, in fact, not live despite being presented on air as live. For audio on the hearing, the Guardian's podcast this week features Anne Perkins and Polly Toynbee discussing the inquiry. Thursday the inquiry heard from Christopher Meyer on the topic of Transatlantic Relationship and Jeremy Greenstock offered testimony today on the topic of Developments in the United Nations [links go to video and transcript options for the testimony of each witness]. Chris Ames (Guardian) observes of Meyer's testimony:

At the Iraq inquiry this morning, Sir Christopher Meyer has let so many cats out of the bag that it is hard to keep up with them all. He has confirmed that by the time Tony Blair met George Bush at Crawford, Texas in April 2002, Blair had already agreed to regime change. Meyer and others had told the US administration about this change of heart in March 2002. The "UN route" was a way to justify the war but the inspectors were never given the chance to do their job. Or did we know all that already? Ever since the war, there has been a massive gulf between what various leaked documents have shown and the official version. Previous inquiries have failed to close that gap. Now Meyer, who was the UK ambassador to Washington at the time, has done exactly that. The government's version of events was always that it was taking action to deal with the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Leaked documents, most notably the Downing Street documents, show that the policy was to go along with the US desire for regime change and use weapons of mass destruction as a pretext. This version of events was confirmed by what Meyer said this morning. I don't think it could be more explosive.

We'll pick up where Meyer is discussing the 2002 meet-up between Bush and Blair.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: That brings me to my last question before I hand over to Sir Roderic Lyne, and it brings me to Crawford in April 2002. What I would like to ask you is this: to what extent did American and British policy towards Iraq merge in April 2002 along the lines that you suggested during that weekend at the Crawford ranch, in particular Bush's commitment at that time, as he put it, to put Saddam on the spot by following the UN inspectors' route and also by constructing and international coalition, which was the Prime Minister's strong input? How do you feel about the convergance of policy at that time?

Christopher Meyer: It took a while for policy to converge -- sorry, if we are talking about Americans, the President accepting, for realpolitik reasons, it would be better to go through the United Nations than not, which was a repudiation of where his Vice-President stood. It took a while to get there, probably until August of that year. I said in my briefing telegram to Tony Blair, before Crawford, a copy of which, again, I couldn't get hold of in the archive -- and by that time there had been a couple of months, maybe more, maybe three months, in which contingency discussion of, "If it came to war in Iraq, how would you do it?" It was all very -- it was all vey embryonic. Of course, while regime change was the formal policy of the United States of America, it didn't necessarily mean an armed invasion, at that time, of Iraq and it may sound like a difference without a distinction or a distinction without a difference, but it wasn't, not at that time, and so I said -- I think as I remember I said to Tony Blair, "There are three things you really need to focus on when you get to Crawford. One is how to garner international support for a policy of regime change, if that is what it turns out to be. If it involves removing Saddam Hussein, how do you do it and when do you do it?" And the last thing I said, which became a kind of theme of virtually all the reporting I sent back to London in that year was, "Above all" -- I think I used the phrase "above all" -- "get them to focus on the aftermath, because, if it comes to war and Saddam Hussein is removed, and then . . .?" The other thing at that time, Sir Martin, which people tend to forget is actually what was blazing hot at the time and a far more immediate problem -- and it wasn't Iraq, it was the Middle East, because the Intifada had blown up, hideous things were going on in the West Bank, the Israeli army were in the West Bank and we had prevailed on the Americans, as one example of British influence working that year, to put out a really tough statement before Tony Blair arrived in Crawford telling the Israelis in summary that they needed to withdraw from the West Bank towns and withdraw soon. Now, let me be quite frank about this. Crawford was a meeting at the President's ranch. I took no part in any of the discussions, and there was a large chunk of that time when no adviser was there, I think -- I don't know whether David Manning has been before you yet, but when he coomes before you, he will tell you, I think, that he went there with Jonathan Powell for a discussion of Arab/Israel and the Intifada. I think it was at that meeting that there was a kind of joint decision between Bush and Blair that Colin Powell should go to the region and get it sorted. I believe that, after that, the two men were alone in the ranch until dinner on Saturday night were all the advisers, including myself, turned up. So I'm not entirely clear to this day -- I know what the Cabinet Office says were the results of the meeting, but, to this day, I'm not entirely clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood, at the Crawford ranch. There are clues in the speech which Tony Blair gave the next day at College Station, which is one of his best foreign policy speeches, a very fine piece of work.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: How do you assess the balance in that speech between, as it were, potential pre-emption and the UN rule in Iraq?

Christopher Meyer: There were lots of interesting things in those speeches. It sort of repays a kind of criminological analysis. To the best of my knowledge, but I may be wrong, this was the first time that Tony Blair has said in public "regime change". I mean, he didn't only deal with Iraq, he mentioned other issues as well. But he -- I think what he was trying to do was draw the lessons of 9/11 and apply them to the situation in Iraq, which led, I think, not inadvertently, but deliberately, to a conflation of the threat by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. It also drew in spirit on the 1999 Chicago speech on humanitarian intervention.

In one of the more interesting bits of the testimony, he recounted when the Bully of England met the Bully of the US with George W. Bush saying, "Hello, Tony. May I cally ou Tony? Welcome to Camp David," and Tony Blair responding, "Hello, George. May I call you George? Great to be here. What are we going to talk about?" Oh, there's nothing more heart warming than two dithering idiots bonding. He went on to declare that "I remember Condoleeza Rice saying to me, 'The President has just got back and he said the only human being he felt he could talk to was Tony, the rest of them were like creatures from outer space'. or some such phrase."

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