Monday, December 07, 2009

Who is he?






Asked in Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire what she most dislikes, singer-songwriter Carly Simon responds, "War or anything to do with instruments of war, or war-like tendencies." Carly's latest album is Never Been Gone in which she revisist many of her best known songs (including "You're So Vain," "Anticipation," "Coming Around Again" and "Let The River Run") to find new nuances and shadings. (Kat praised the new album here.) We've got a 'heavy' snapshot so we'll open with Carly for that reason and also because friends at Van Fair have repeatedly asked for links in the past weeks and I haven't had time (for their pain). Staying with Carly for a minute more, as Kat noted Friday, Mike Ragogan (Huffington Post) interviewed her last week and here she's explaining the making of Never Been Gone:

It started in the summer of 2008, when I had been promoting This Kind Of Love which was the Starbucks album, and they had withdrawn Hear Music five days before my record was released. So I didn't have the marketing, I was riding on a horse and there was no horse under me. I was so unhappy, and it was embarrassing, and it was like, "Oh my god, what have I been doing for the last two years but writing this record, making this record, and being so proud of this record." But I was the horseless rider. So I was quite self-involved and indulgently so, and really depressed. It was the summertime and there were lots of people around my house -- Ben and his friends and a lot of musicians were up there working on a project with him. I couldn't be consoled I was so upset. Ben said to me, "Come on, let's turn this into productivity. We have all these musicians here, just sit down in the living room and play the songs the way you wrote them. Let's do an unplugged version," which you picked-up on in your review. There are no drums except for "You Belong To Me" and "No Freedom," we just didn't allow drums on the record, even on "You're So Vain" which was daunting to redo after it was my most popular song. But we did it and I really love the energy that was put into the song, and that really carries all the way through. It's got new vocal ideas, and I just think it's an inventive version.

Inventive was Barack's speech last week where he took Bully Boy's 'lyrics' and made them his own. Al Jazeera's latest Inside Iraq began airing Friday and the topic was Afghanistan and Jasim al-Azawi was joined by retired US General Richard Myers (former commander of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and current War pushed from the boards of Aon Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation and United Technologies Corporation) and Professor As'ad Abu Khalil of the University of California at Berkeley.

Jasim al-Azzawi: General Myers, let's call a spade a spade. In Iraq, pretty much the US army bought off those fighters from the Awakening Councils, you know, paid them salaries and said "Stop shooting at us." And overnight the fighting stopped. Are they going to do the same? Are they going to pour money at the Pashtuns?

General Richard Myers: You know, it's a good question. I don't -- I don't know what incentives will be used and how they'll be used. In that part of the world, money is often used as an incentive. But I mean, Iraq is far from being stable and far from being a sure bet that it's going to be successful. On the other hand, it's been relatively stable and we'll see if they can get through elections here -- coming in January, there's some question about that. But if they do, then I think whatever methods were used, you'll have to say, "Well those were successful."

Jasim al-Azzawi: As'ad Abu Khalil

As'ad Abu Khalil: Let me say the following. I notice that General Myers uses the word "stable" government in Iraq and this is the new lingo because of American officials. It was used by the Bush administration, it's being used by the Obama administration. Remember that we were promised an exemplary democracy in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Instead, we have created some of the most corrupt governments on the face of the earth. Don't take my word for it, look at the recent rank by Transparency International in London and you will find these two governments are literally among the most corrupt in the world. Plus, I want to take issue with the model of success by the revival council in Iraq. These are some of the most repressive, sexist and thuggish tribal councils that oppress women and want to impose traditional views on society. That is not the kind of alternative we need against the sexism and misogyny of the Taliban. Plus, he said that we are moving away from [US-installed Afghanistan 'president'] Hamid Karzai. I'm not sure that's the case. We are, in fact, using two tract policy. On the one hand, we are throwing more additional money -- taxpayers money -- to be embezzled and misused by the Hamid Karzai government and we're also, on the second tract, relying on new council like the so-called Kandahar Strike Council. That council is related to none other than the brother of Hamid Karzai. The notorious, corrupt person known as Ahmad Karzai. So it seems to me with that strategy, we are creating more corruption and we are giving more time for America's enemy to wait it out until the date of withdrawal. Obama is clearly emulating not only the policies and war actions of the Bush administration, he's even copying the rhetoric, the empty rhetoric, that is out there --

Jasim al-Azzawi: As'ad Abu Khalil, let's give the general a chance to answer this.

General Richard Myers: I -- I think that's -- I think those comments are probably -- uh, uhm -- there's a lot of hyperbole in those comments, in my view. If you look at Iraq and Afghanistan, they both adopted -- their citizens both adopted what most people consider liberal constitutions and yet -- it's not playing out, they've elected these governments. Certainly there is corruption but that's not new to that particular region and that's something that has to be worked on daily and I think the president [Barack Obama] said they were going to work on corruption. I know in my conversation with Adm [Mike] Mullens --

Jasim al-Azzawi: That being the case, General Myers, corruption is still rampant in Iraq. How you're going to prevent in Afghanistan? As'ad Abu Khalil just alluded to the president's brother who is somehow in bed with all the corrupt people not to mention trafficking in narcotics.

General Richard Meyer: Well I think, Jasim, I think that's going to be one of the focuses of the strategy in Afghanistan -- is to hold people accountable and, if there's corruption, to hold them accountable for that-that corruption. Now that's easily said, hard to do, but I think you're going to see that in the way both our military and-and the civilians. By the way, it's been little noticed but the embassy in Kabul is going to be increased from 320 staff earlier this year, in January of this year, to about 1,000 by the end of this month and a lot of those people will be deployed to the provinces and a lot of them, I think, will be trying to mentor --

Jasim al-Azzawi: Then again, General, you know the number of US officials in Baghdad was increased, I don't know how many folds. Maybe twenty, thirty. It's the biggest embassy in the world and yet corruption is rampant in Iraq.

As'ad Abu Khalil: 700 additional diplomats are not going to do the job just as 30,000 additional troops are not going to do the job. And just let me say for the record to the audience I would never refer to the government set up in Iraq as a liberal democracy. A constitution that was devised by a Grand Ayatollah who is inspired by Iran and who has not left his house except once in seven years is not a liberal democrat. And I think people in the region are clearly not impressed with whatever set-up -- sectarian, religious, traditional, and sexist government set up in both places. Again, go back to Transparency International. I take my clues from there.

The broadcast offers a look at and fact check on Barack's speech and Myers objects to the terms "colonize" and "occupation." He foolishly rejects both. For the record, it is an occupation and there was no reason for Myers to make an idiot out of himself on international television. The UN approved (after the war started) the occupation (they never approved the war), the UN mandate that was repeatedly renewed until the end of 2008.

He also expressed foolishness when he spoke of January elections when those have been off for some time. Saturday AFP reported that the Iraqi Parliament adjourned today because they did not have a quorum despite the session being called by President Jalal Talabani. Then Sunday night, ten minutes before midnight, the Parliament passed (another) election measure which still has to go before the presidency council (like the last one) and will become law only if it is not vetoed. Warren P. Strobel and Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) did the best job reporting on the developments. They not only provided the details of what happened just before midnight, they provide the details of what happened before and they explain, "While agreements have been reached in the past only to fall apart, there were high hopes that this one would stick. Hashimi withdrew his veto threat early Monday morning." Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) quote Tariq al-Hashimi (Iraq's Sunni vice president) stating on satellite TV, "All of our demands have been achieved. The displaced people have been treated fairly, the value of people inside and outside Iraq are the same. I am happy because of this accomplishment and I consider it a historic day in building the modern Iraq." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) quotes a statement issued by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today, "The secretary-general congratulates the Iraqi Council of Representativeson finalizing amendments to the Election Law and commends Iraqi leaders and parliamentarians for overcoming their differences and reaching a compromise. The way is now paved to hold national elections in Iraq on a date to be determined by the Iraqi Presidency Council. The secretary-general firmly believes that these elections will be an important step forward for Iraq's political and democratic process." In a sign of just how incompetent the US 'diplomatic' mission is in Iraq, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports today that "uncertainty over" the vote had "US Ambassador Christopher Hill rushing back from Washington" -- along with not grasping that he goes by Chris -- officially, he is Chris Hill -- Arraf doesn't grasp that this is a huge detail and instead buries it in a puff piece. (It is puff -- Barack has no pull with the KRG. It was their 45 minute phone call with Joe Biden that sealed the Kurdish agreement to the deal. And it's nice that she's been led off the trail -- nice for the White House and other interests. The following paragraph is word for word from last night.

Parker and Salman note that the Kurdish Regional Government extracted a promise from the US that a census would take place in the coming year. Presumably, the promise had some form of 'teeth' to it since the US has long promised that the Constitutionally mandated census would take place and yet, year after year, it has not. The KRG is aware of that and presumably would not fall for yet another round of pretty words. If that is indeed the case, one wonders how the press will report on this issue since Barack and Bully Boy Boy Bush both asserted Iraq was a sovereign nation -- that was the whole point of ending the UN mandate (it truly was -- as a sovereign nation, Iraq could start the tag sales on their assets that they couldn't while under UN supervision). If Iraq's a sovereign nation and since Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, has been the road block to a census since 2006, what did the US government promise the KRG this time that convinced them? The tensions between Baghdad and the KRG aren't exactly secret nor is the tremendous ill will towards Nouri from the KRG a secret. So if he's the roadblock and he's hoping to be the prime minister (elected by Parliament) again after the elections, what did the US promise the KRG, how did they convince the KRG that it would be different in 2010 then it has been in the last three years?

Dorothy Parker once said you can lead a horticultural but you cannot make her think -- true as well of the press which has a huge story staring it in the face but either can't see it or is on orders to refuse to see it. I have no idea which. People often ask, in DC when the gossip is flying, "Why don't reporters report on ____?" Because they're not able to either because they're so easily distracted or because their superiors won't let them. The big story is what the US government promised the KRG. I said it last night and said it for a reason. I can lead you to the water but I'm not putting in your mouth, kids. Let's note something.

The United States welcomes the resolution adopted December 6 by Iraq's Council of Representatives regarding the election law. This legislative action will allow Iraq to hold national elections within Iraq's constitutional framework. It is a decisive moment for Iraq's democracy and we congratulate the Iraqi people and their elected representatives. As part of the ongoing U.S. dialogue with the Iraqi leadership, the President and Vice President spoke on the morning of December 6 with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani. The President and the Vice President confirmed the U.S. commitment to a long-term relationship with Iraq, including the KRG.

You say, "Uh, it's the White House's official statement. And?" Click here and you go the KRG's website where that statement is posted in full. No, that is not common for the KRG's website. In fact, it's highly uncommon. You need to start using your brain because obviously you can't count on the press.

Though the press in the US has never been perfect, even as late as the 1980s, you could still count on the press to ask: What deals were made and how?

Apparently we need a sports star with a scandal or a woman willing to pose topless to get some attention to the deal that was struck. A deal was struck. Leaving aside what was all the talk in DC, we all know Barack has no pull with the KRG. We all know Joe was put in charge of Iraq -- after Barry's handpicked two-some failed (that's not a reference to Hillary, Iraq was never assigned to her) -- because the KRG trusted him and he had a solid relationship with them. Anyone who paid attention to pre-war and early war issues knows that the US used the KRG for the Iraq War and knows that the KRG agreed with the understanding that not only would Saddam Hussein be removed from office but also the KRG would stand to benefit. The Bush administration repeatedly broke key promises -- the PKK issue is what forever broke the trust the KRG had in the Bush administration. Barack, as senator or as president, has never had anything to do with the Kurdish issue and spent the bulk of his time -- on his for show trips to Iraq in 2008 and 2009 -- attempting to woo Nouri. Barack has no pull with the KRG. Joe Biden they trust. Barack spoke to them, but Barack offered pretty words and promises. It took Joe to sell them on the promises. The issue for the press should be what was promised?

"A census!" shout some. Uh, a census has been promised forever. In fact, the 2005 Iraq Constitution requires one. How did the US government convince the KRG that a census would take place in 2010? The press needs to be asking that question. Again, when sides in any conflict suddenly agree, the immediate question for a working press is always: What deals were made? That's the question that's not being asked and it's the most important question -- far more important than the elections. Iraq didn't fix its Constitutional crisis (or stop being a Failed State) by possibly passing a measure that will allow elections to take place AFTER the Constitutionally mandated deadline for them to be held. The elections had to take place at some point. And they will. Maybe with this measure, maybe with another. But to get this measure signed off on, deals were made.

The KRG feels (rightly or wrongly) that they have given and given and no one has lived up to the bargain on the other side. That is their attitude. They feel the previous administration made a ton of promises and it is the PKK issue that (still) most enrages them because it was supposed to be dealt with (by the US) in 2003. That didn't happen. They have a relationship of trust with Joe Biden but that relationship can go down the toilet if promises aren't kept. So the US public has a right to know what was promised? We have a right to know because if the promises aren't delivered what keeps being pimped by the press as "stability" in Iraq is going to get even worse.

Nouri has been the thing preventing the census. How can the US government promise the KRG that a census will take place? It hasn't thus far and it's in Iraq's Constitution. The census would especially effect Kirkuk -- a disputed territory sought by the central government in Baghdad (who asserts that it is not a predominately Kurdish population in the area) and by the KRG (who asserts that it is historically Kurdish and point out the Kurds were forced out by Saddam Hussein). Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports new construction is ongoing in oil-rich Kirkuk with Kurds constructing new homes. The Kurds want Kirkuk. They may or may not deserve it and they may or not end up getting it. But when the US government discussed "census" with the KRG, you better believe the KRG representatives and president brought up Kirkuk. What was promised? More importantly, what was the KRG led to believe?

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