Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One earns applause, the other hisses









Senator Barbara Boxer: First of all, I have never heard Nouri al-Maliki ask us to stay so I don't know what particular speech he [the caller] was referring to. He said for a long time it's time for Americans to leave and I think it is. And what will guide me, obviously the reports on the ground from the military but my overwhelming belief that we have bled so much and done so much that I already say and I said a long time ago we gave the Iraqi people the chance to govern themselves, to rebuild and anyone who served there or any of the families who lost people there or any of those who were wounded there should know they gave their all to give the Iraqis a chance and now they have to take that chance and run with it.

This is the best my state can do? This passes for liberal? Barbara Boxer lying, LYING, about the Iraq War. Did you hear the Barbara say one damn word about the Iraqis who have died? And excuse me, but Barbara knows Nouri's a thug so is she being stupid or playing us for stupid when she says the Iraqi people have a chance at a government?

The Iraqi people have had a government imposed upon them by the US government. The Iraqi people would never, NEVER, elect a government of exiles to represent them. No one would. You wouldn't elect someone to the board of supervisors if their 'qualification' was they hid in another region because they were too scared to stand up. With each addition of highlights, Barbara loses more intelligence so maybe she truly is as stupid as she came off but it felt more like she was playing listeners for stupid. Reality, Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." But Barbara wants to turn it into a fledging democracy?

it appears she's not looking at the facts and let me do her snide little laugh at her because the stupid idiot is so out of touch that she's not aware of the speech. Reading list for the failed and failing author, Margaret Talev's "Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) and, Barbara, Anne Gearan covers al-Maliki's remarks for AP. From the July 23rd snapshot:

The articles repeatedly (and falsely) claim the US will be out of Iraq in 2011. That's not what's happening. It's not even claimed to be happening. Does no one listen to Adm Mike Mullen, Gen Ray Odierno or even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates? Reading the articles today, it doesn't appear that anyone does. Uh-oh. Reality slaps them in the face. Aljazeera reports, "The Iraqi prime minister has admitted US troops could stay in the country beyond 2011." Yeah, he did it today and it's only a surprise if you've never grasped what the Status Of Forces Agrement does and does not do. The Washington Post, for example, has one person on staff who understands the SOFA completely. That's one more than the New York Times has. Drop back to real time coverage (Thanksgiving 2008) and you'll see the Washington Post could explain what it did and didn't do and get it right. No other US outlet can make that claim. (The Los Angeles Times hedged their bets but did appear to grasp it in an article co-written by Tina Susman.) McClatchy Newspapers? Oh goodness, Leila Fadel made an idiot of herself over the SOFA. Even more so than the New York Times (Elisabeth Bumiller -- in December and January -- offered some realities but they were lost on the other reporters at the paper). The Times just got it wrong. Fadel got it wrong and sang praises of it. It wasn't reporting, it was column writing passed off as such. Today, Nouri declared, "Nevertheless, if the Iraqis require further training and support we shall examine this at the time, based on the needs of Iraq." Sound familiar? It should. This month you should have heard Adm Mike Mullen make the same statement, you should have heard General Ray Odierno make it over and over beginning in May and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made it many times -- generally he's asked when he's visiting a foreign country because US reporters don't really seem to care. One exception would certainly be Dahr Jamail who was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday and explained, "We still have over 130,000 troops in Iraq. Troops are not being withdrawn from Iraq. They are being relocated to different bases, some of the bases still within cities, but they are not being withdrawn thus far." Dahr's latest book The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan has just been released this month. IPA provides this context from Global Policy Forum's James Paul: "For all the talk of 'U.S. withdrawal' from Iraq, the reality on the ground is starkly different. U.S. troops still patrol the cities, in flagrant violation of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, while Washington remains hugely influential in the politics of the country. The gigantic U.S. embassy looms large in Baghdad, U.S. forces still hold thousands of Iraqi prisoners in the vast U.S. prison camp in the southern desert, dozens of U.S. military bases remain in place including the sprawling 'Camp Victory' complex in Baghdad and Washington continues to press towards its ultimate goal -- the de facto privatization of Iraq's vast oil resources."

So before you go to town on others for not knowing the facts, Barbara, how about you first explain how you, a sitting US Senator pretending to give a damn about Iraq and putting the war on your list of regrets, aren't even aware of what Nouri publicly stated less than three weeks ago while he was in DC? Your incompentence does not do a great deal to encourage a belief that the US Senate knows what it is doing. It does, however, explain why you have NEVER led on the issue of Iraq despite the fact that you -- not Hillary -- had the safest seat from which to do it. Our state has sent huge numbers of service members to Iraq and has seen a large death toll and an even large number of wounded. We have had tremendous leadership in the House, we've had none in the Senate. Want to explain that, Barbara? Want to explain how little you've done to end the illegal war while allegedly representing the people of California? Want to match your record (or lack of it) against US House Rep Lynn Woolsey or Maxine Waters or Diane Watson or . . . Get the point?



In DC today, the House Armed Services Committee heard from the former Secretary of the Army Togo West and retired Navy Admiral Vern Clark about the November 5, 2009 Fort Hood shootings. Committee Chair Ike Skelton noted 13 people dead (Togo West explained 12 members of the military, 1 civilian) and 43 wounded in the shooting.

Committee Chair Ike Skelton: I'm troubled by the fact that it would appear that some of the circumstances that led to the shooting were the result of military officers not following existing policies and procedures. Specifically, there are numerous stories in the press -- NPR, AP, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and others -- that the alleged shooter's raters and senior raters failed to document negative information in his official record. We have questions. Why did it happen? Could it have been prevented? Was the response adequate? More importantly, we all share the same intent to ensure that everything possible is done to make sure that this does not happen again.

West and Clark's opening statement was read into the record [PDF format warning, click here] explaining how they were tasked by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to review the "policies, procedures and practices" leading up to the Fort Hood shooting. Following the reading of the statement, West and Clark then they hit some of the highlights of their report. West noted that details regarding the shooter are in a restricted annex available to members of the committee. Skelton had already noted that, due to ongoing prosecution issues, they would not be focusing on the shooter or alleged shooter. West explained that the military intelligence aspects -- did they fail? -- as well as the criminal aspects and the FBI review of sharing information with the military were segments West and Clark did not look into because (a) they were asked not to and (b) explorations of those three areas were already taking place.
Sec Togo West: With respect to the alleged perpetrator, you will note that we state openly in Chapter One [of the report] that several military officers did not apply Army policies to the alleged perpetrator. We also recommended that that finding and similar findings that are reflected in the annex be referred by the Secretary of the Defense to the Secretary of the Army for review as to responsibility, acountability and such other action as he shall deem appropriate. He [Gates] has done so. The Army has that referral, the review is underway now. Before I turn this over to Adm Clark, to fill in some details with respect to the review of the report that you have, three observations I think are important to-to point out. First, what we learned is that there is never enough preparation, there is never too much preparation. Authorities at Fort Hood had already anticipated a mass casualty event as reflected in their emergency response plans. And their response on that day showed their preparation. Two minutes and forty-seven seconds after the 911 call was received, first responders were on the scene of the shooting. And by "first responders," I refer specifically to members of the Fort Hood security team. A minute and a half after their arrival, the assailant was incapacitated. Two minutes and fifty seconds later, two ambulances and an Incident Command Vehicle from the post hospital arrived and began to provide life saving health care. With that response, lives were saved. And yet thirteen people died. Scores more were wounded. We can prepare better. We must plan with greater attention. And we must make the effort to look around the corners of our future and anticipate the next potential event in order to deflect it. Secondly, we need to pay attention to today's hazards. The fact is that we need to understand the forces that cause an individual to radicalize, to commit violent acts and, thereby, to make us vulnerable from within. And, thirdly, there is much in this report that is about violence -- violence by a service member against his or her colleagues. The effort is to detect the indicators that one might commit acts of violence, to catalogue them, to make them available to the persons who need to know what are the indicators -- and where have the indicators been noted -- and then prepare ourselves to act when that evidence is before us to make it available to our commanders so that they can act and to be clear about their authority. One further note, as has been pointed out, we were asked to do this review within 45 days. The Secretary clearly had in mind that there would be follow-on reviews of what we would come up with. For that reason, although we have cast our net widely, there were also boundaries simply in terms of what the 129 or so souls who were committed to our leadership could accomplish and thus you will find that there is space left for the follow on reviews. Often our recommendations are couched on term of the need to pay closer attention and to closer review that.

[. . .]

Adm Vern Clark: First, let me just talk briefly about force protection. The principle message is this: There are many policies, dozens of policies, in the Defense Dept about force protection. We built lots of barriers since 9-11. That said, existing policies are not optimized for the internal threat and the threat that we saw witnessed at the Fort Hood incident was evolving inside the barriers. Second, let's talk about employees who can be a threat in this sort of circumstance. It's a difficult challenge. The reality is that there is insufficient knowledge and guidance to identify individuals. Guidance involving workplace violence and the potential for self-radicalization or radicalization in general, as Secretary West indicated, it's inefficient. And the key here is that we focus on violence of any kind. What we found was a lack of clarity for comprehensive indicators which then limited commanders or supervisors ability to then recognize these potential threats. And so it doesn't matter if we're looking at somebody who might be inclined to hurt themselves. And, by the way, the Secretary of Defense had that specifically in our terms of reference -- incidents of suicide. Or criminal and gang behavior or somebody advocating supremist activity and doctrine or family violence or the evolving threats like radicalization. Identifying the key indicators is critical to focusing the force on the threat. So our focus was on violence that comes from any kind of behavior. But what we found especially was that policies on the internal threat are inadequate. Prohibited behaviors and actions need to be addressed. And our report says specifically that such guidance exists but it's incomplete for the day in which we live.

He continues with "remove the walls" over and over about intelligence sharing (over and over) to the point that he might as well have been singing the "tear down the walls" refrain in Jefferson Airplane's "We Can Be Together" (written by Paul Kanter, first appears on Volunteers).

Tear down the walls
Tear down the walls
Come on now together
Get it on together
Everybody together
We should be together
We should be together my friends
We can be together
We will be
We must begin here and now
A new continent of earth and fire
Come on now getting higher and higher
Tear down the walls

Only Clark was far less melodic and much more scary. The committee never asked him to define the wall tearing he wanted and "walls" are usually erected for a reason. Rush to dismantle "walls" can lead to, for example, the current economic crisis in the US (the 'barriers' of regulation were dismantled). There is a difference between "information sharing" and targeting and/or spying. That's especially true when it comes to military intelligence. We'll note this exchange from the hearing.

Chair Ike Skelton: It appears to me that there were two disconnects that lead to a major question. Disconnect number one is the actual performance of the alleged shooter on the one hand and the OER [Officer Evalution Report] and academic evaluation. The second disconnect would be one of intelligence type -- whether that reached the right superiors or not. Which leads to the bottom line question: Was a great deal overlooked because this was a medical person in a speciality in which there was a shortage? Mr. Secretary?

Sec Togo West: [Long pause] Mr. Chairman, I paused just for a minute because I'm trying to reflect on how much my answer leads me into a discussion of an area we've covered in the annex rather than in the report.

Chair Ike Skelton: Do your best.
Sec Togo West: But I -- thanks for the encouragement. But I would think that we could say in general as to the way uh uh officers are evaluated, especially medical officers, and that the way that is reported that what we have concluded and have said to the Secretary of Defense is this: First, the disconnect you noted is correct. That's what we mean when we say that the policies were not applied. That things witnessed were not always reported where they need to be reported and that in fact there are contradictory indications. And with respect to the Secretary, and we recommended to the Secretary of Defense that he take some public steps about this, that we had to say to the force -- or that he had to say to the force -- the Department has to say to the force, "Evaluations make a difference and we can't do the job of leading or protecting against threats if honest evaluations are not done by those who have the duty, the information and the authority to do so."

Chair Ike Skelton: Adm?

Adm Vern Clark: A major piece of this, Mr. Chairman, is what is part of the record. And our report -- we don't tell the Secretary of Defense what parts to make -- what should go into the record -- we say -- he asks us for gaps and weaknesses and so we said look if an individaul track history doesn't stay with him that leaves you open to potential weaknesses and gaps. So there are certain things that are required by regulation that cannot move from station to station with the individaul. That's something that needs to be looked at. With regard to the issue of performance appraisal, we all know that performance appraisal is a challenge in any environment. That said, we used specific terms to say things that we wanted to conote. We didn't just use the term "leadership," we used the term "officership." If you look on page six and seven of our report, we say specifically what we think happened here. We believe that some of the signs were clearly missed or they were ignored. I can't tell you which. And I can't go further than that because of the nature of the restrictions -- the information that's in the restricted annex. But there's no doubt in my mind or Secretary West's mind that there were issues here.

US House Rep Vic Snyder objected to the annex noting it confused the issue and that "it would be one thing if we had out there the criminal case file [. . .] But, in fact, what you all are conducting is an administrative proceeding based on the records that are in the military in order to problem solve. And it's not clear to me why the American people are not entitled to see -- because it's part of the problem solving process -- these undredacted reviews -- career reviews or academic reviews or college transcripts or whatever's in that record as part of an administrative proceeding. You're not putting those things out there." Snyder also wanted to know when would be the right time for such a discussion? After the trial? After an appeal process? "I don't know what the right time's going to be for the American people [. . .] to have a specific discussion about this specific case," he stated. West replied that the annex contains "officer efficiency reports and the like. Those are specifically protected. Secondly, the overall concern that what's contained in there will have an effect on the military justice proceedings." On the first aspect, notice that it's tear down the wall to let hidden spying take place (that is what Clark was advocating) but it's hide and hide again when it applies to what the American people can and cannot have access to.

Kat plans to offer a few thoughts on today's hearing tonight (including on US House Rep Loretta Sanchez) so be sure to check her site.

In Iraq, a bombing has resulted in numerous people being wounded. Xinhua reports a Mosul suicide car bombing claimed the life of the driver and left thirty people injured Al Jazeera reports that the bombing targeted an Iraqi military base and, citing police, states the injured are "18 soldiers, five police officers and 10 civilians". Reuters notes the injured has climbed to 45. In other reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Diyala Province motorcycle bombing which claimed 1 life and left four people wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer.


Reuters notes a Mosul attack in which 1 police officer was shot dead in a cafe while, in Baghdad, a robbery at a jewelry store resulted in the death fo the owner and 1 other person and was followed by Iraqi police and the robbers engaging in a gunfight in which 1 police officer was shot dead and 7 people were injured (two were assailants, the remainder civilians).

Today the Washington Post editorial board offers "Obama administration must intervene in Iraqi election crisis" on the banning of political rivals in Iraq with the claimes of "Ba'athist!":

There's not much clarity about who is behind the nasty maneuver -- but one protagonist appears to be Ahmed Chalabi, the notorious former exile leader and master of political manipulation. Now regarded as an Iranian agent by most U.S. officials, Mr. Chalabi, along with his associates, served Tehran's interests as well as his own by banning the Sunni leaders. Several of those blacklisted had recently joined cross-sectarian secular alliances that are challenging the Shiite coalition of which Mr. Chalabi is a part, as well as the list headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Over the weekend, Mr. Maliki appeared to endorse the disqualifications -- a step that would nullify his previous support for progressive electoral reforms. Surprised by the sudden decision, U.S. and U.N. officials have been trying to moderate it. Vice President Biden, who used his influence to good effect during previous disputes over the elections, has been working the phones again.

If the US had a real ambassador to Iraq (and not Chris Hill), maybe all these 'last minute' surprises wouldn't continue to pop up? Why is it that the US is repeatedly caught unaware over and over despite having Hill there supposedly to guide diplomatic relations?
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) notes "U.S. diplomacy has shifted into high gear" (that would be Biden) and that there are now "515 barred candidates -- the number keeps growing". Rahma al-Salim (Asharq Alawsat) reports: "The office of Iraqi parliamentary speaker, Ayad al-Samarrai informed Asharq Al-Awsat that US Vice President Joe Biden has called for the Debathification process to be postponed until after the elections on the condition that the electoral candidates in question prove that they are no longer affiliated to the outlawed party. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, hinted that his country would not support the elections if al-Mutlaq is not allowed to stand for election." And al-Salim notes that Nouri's spokesperson is stating that US attempts "will not achieve anything."
At An Arab Woman Blues, Layla Anwar offers her take including the following:

The news from Iraq where the Shiites from Iran are doing everything possible to ensure that only they present themselves to the forthcoming elections, by banning all secular and non Shiites representation i.e Sunnis. Which of course lead me to remember the ongoing genocide against Arab Sunnis in Iraq, the ongoing genocide led by Iran and its Shia supporters, a genocide within the grander American genocide on the Iraqi people. And of course that lead me to question for the 100th time the role of the filthy, despicable, depraved, perfidious Iraqis who supported and still support either the American or Iranian occupation of Iraq or both... These filthy, rotten to the core, dishonorable, undignified traitors on CIA/Pentagon payrolls and on Iran's -- who still 7 years on, despite the holocaust, despite the destruction, despite the exile, despite the mass terror inflicted upon us by both the Americans and their Iranian counterparts, still manage to praise, justify, rationalize, propagandize, glorify either the US or Iran. These filthy, depraved, complicit criminals calling themselves Iraqis, who made their money and fame from Iraqi blood, they live inside Iraq and outside of Iraq, they are men and women, young and old ; bloggers, journalists, so-called activists, so-called feminists, some are running NGOs, other are "analysts and experts", spokespersons...some of them are hiding in their spider holes, their rat holes in America, Europe, and elsewhere spewing more lies and more garbage, covering up the crimes, and some come to the limelight and appear in the media, having pocketed good sums of money from the murderers of Iraq, their masters. And they dare speak in the name of Iraq and Iraqis !

At Reuters, Suadad al-Salhy offers that the banned candidates are more often Shi'ite than Sunni. The tongue stuck out after 'reporting' that appears implied. Going far deeper than that, Reidar Visser examines the banned list and finds

The main problem with the de-Baathification measures, then, refers not so much to systematic and overt sectarianism or partisanship as such as to despotism more generally, albeit clearly with the ulterior goal of perpetuating a sectarian political atmosphere. The basic problem here is the attempt by the accountability and justice board to portray its decisions as "legal" and "constitutional" when they clearly are not – and the failure of the rest of the "democratic" system in the new Iraq to offer any meaningful resistance. Previous developments have shown that the accountability and justice board is an anachronism that lacks a clear legal basis after the passage of the accountability and justice law in 2008, that the formation of a seven-judge appeals court (to which these decisions may be appealed within three days) remedies this situation only in a partial way, that the Iraqi elections commission seems to be in league with the accountability and justice board in this matter, and that even if one accepts the dubious existence of the current de-Baathification board, its application of the relevant laws appears to be both partisan and selective in the extreme.
In sum, rather than being an attempt at a complete exclusion or elimination of political enemies, these de-Baathification measures seem aimed at intimidating and terrorising, with the overarching motive of keeping sectarian issues on the agenda. Any attempt at remedying the situation must keep this aspect in mind: What is at stake here is not a question of "Sunni participation" versus a "Sunni boycott"; rather this is about the very fundamentals of the post-2003 system of government in Iraq and the importance of offering hope to those Iraqis who wish to get rid of the narrow sectarian categories altogether. Hence, even if the US should miraculously succeed in reversing or postponing the de-Baathification moves, the ball will simply be kicked further down the road: The so-called independent elections commission (IHEC) which will oversee the elections is in practice owned by the same Shiite Islamist parties that control the accountability and justice board, and that authored the decision to exclude 511 candidates with reference to de-Baathification and with support from Iran. To really make a difference, what is needed today is some kind of appeals institution that does not mechanically replicate the structures of power in Iraq that have emerged since 2003 on an ethno-sectarian basis and their underlying sectarian logic, which after all is what the accountability and justice board is fighting so hard to preserve. An internationalised complaints commission similar to the one used in Afghanistan could be one possible option. On the whole, it is of course a good sign that US policy-makers today seem concerned about the gravity of the situation, but if they are really serious about solving it then they should realise that none of their current friends in Baghdad are capable of doing so in a truly sustainable fashion.

Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that Iraq's Presidency Council is supposed to take up the issue: "The initiative is under process waiting for the return of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, the source said."

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