Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Time to pivot

BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE

CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O BETTER PREPARE FOR AN ONSLAUGHT OF CRITICISM FROM SOME OF HIS KOOL-AID DRINKERS.

CUBA HAS ANNOUNCED THE HONEYMOON IS OVER FOR BARRY O AND, THESE DAYS, THAT'S LIKE AN EDICT FROM THE U.S.S.R. IN EARLIER TIMES. LESLIE CAGAN IS SAID TO BE COMPOSING THE THIRD COUNCIL OF TERRANCE TRENT D'ARBY WHICH WILL PIVOT THE ONE-TIME SUPPORTERS INTO STRONG ANTAGONIST.

REACHED FOR COMMENT CAGAN DECLARED, "WISH ME LOVE A WISHING WELL TO KISS AND TELL."

FROM THE TCI WIRE:

When you make a deal with opposing forces, a cease-fire, it's news.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Mr Day, I wonder if I could now turn to the very specific question of the ceasefire by the JAM, which -- I mean a national ceasefire was announced on 29 August by Moqtadr Sadr and I understand that there was a separate ceasefire negotiated locally in Basra. Were there contacts between British Government and the Sadrists in Basra about this?

Jon Day: Yes, I mean, I can confirm that there were contacts between the UK and the Sadrists in Basra from the spring of 2007, and that as a result of this continuing dialogue, a series of -- I think I prefer to use the word "understandings" were reached with core elements of the Sadrist JAM militias in Basra. These understandings ran from mid June 2007 and they therefore pre-dated and were separate from the national JAM ceasefire in late August.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Can you say what the motives were for the British Government in talking to the JAM in Basra?

Jon Day: I think the government had a number of motives for authorising this dialogue. First of all, it was part of the coalition's outreach to groups involved in violence consistent with, though separate from, what was happening with Sunni groups further north. Second, we wanted to encourage the mainstream JAM to move from violence towards a commitment to democracy and to demonstrate to them a path to that goal, especially in the context of local government elections, which were then expected in early 2008, although in practice didn't happen until early 2009.

Yes, we're on the Iraq Inquiry taking place in London and never have so many words been used to say so little. The British negotiated a cease-fire in Basra in 2007. Why? What led up to 2007? From the November 22, 2006 snapshot:

In England, This Is London reports: "Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett this afternoon surprised MPs by signalling the countdown to a withdrawal from Iraq. She told the Commons that Basra, where the bulk of the UK's 7,200 personnel are stationed, could be handed over from British military control to Iraqi forces as early as next spring." Basra has been a violent area for British soldiers (and for Iraqis). Earlier this month, on England's Rememberance Sunday, four British troops were killed while on a boat patrol in Basra and three more were wounded. The four killed included Sharron Elliott who was "the second British female servicewoman to die in action." The other three were Jason Hylton, Ben Nowak, and Lee Hopkins. Mortar attacks have been common in Basra and, in August, a British soldier died as a result of wounds received from mortar rounds. In October, a British soldier died in Basra from road traffic. The end of October was also when the British consulate in Basra was evacuated after it was decided it was no longer safe after two months of mortar attacks. (In August, British troops 'evacuated' from their base in Amara due to repeated mortar attacks.)

And to zoom in on their being forced off their base, from the August 24, 2006 snapshot:

Meanwhile British troops of the Soldiers of the Queen's Royal Hussars are . . . on the move. Ross Colvin (Reuters) reports a lot of talk about how they're 'stripped-down' and mobile (in Landrovers) but the reality is that they're also homeless -- they've "abandoned their base in Iraq's southern Maysan province on Thursday". Though the base was under "nightly attack" and though it has, indeed, been abandoned, British flack Charlie Burbridge disagrees that "the British had been forced out of Amara".

Why did the British negotiate a cease-fire? Because they were getting their asses kicked and being forced to close consulates and flee their own base. In fact, let's stay with the base a second more because it was such an embarrassing moment and the Inquriy does not appear to be prepared to tackle that issue. From the August 25, 2006 snapshot, the day fater the British military fled their base:

In other violence, despite the British military flacks that were so eagerly allowed to spin in this morning's New York Times, Haidar Hani (AP) reports: "Looters ravaged a former British base Friday . . . taking everything from doors and window frames to corrugated roofing and metal pipes". As Ross Colvin (Reuters) reported yesterday, the base, which had come under nightly, heavy attacks, was abandoned. The AP story today notes: "Iraqi authories had complained that the British withdrawal had caught them by surprise" and allows flack Charlie Burbridge to holler Not-true-we-gave-them-24-hours-notice! Well, Charlie, on a rental, you usually have to give a minimum of 30 days notice. But it is good to know that as they packed up everything they could carry, someone did think to make a quick call saying, "Hey, we're about to split. If there's anything you want, better grab it quick, dude!"

Reporting on Day's testimony today, AP observes, "Britain has been accused of being too passive in the Basra region and leaving it without a proper post-conflict strategy that left it vulnerable to militias." David Brown (Times of London) reports:

There were persistent reports at the time that the British military had struck a deal with the al-Mahdi Army including transferring 60 prisoners to Iraqi custody in return for safe passage out of the palace. The Ministry of Defence at the time denied that there was any deal.
Mr Day said yesterday: "I can confirm that there were contacts between the UK and the Sadrists in Basra from the spring of 2007. As a result of this continuing dialogue I think I prefer to use the word 'understandings' were reached with core elements of the Sadrist JAM militias in Basra.
"These understandings ran from mid-June 2007 and they therefore predated and were separate from the national JAM ceasefire in late August."
Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the inquiry, said on Monday that he would hold a session in private about the British deal with the al-Mahdi Army.

Today the Inquiry heard from Gen Peter Wall, Mark Lowcock, Christopher Prentice as well as Day (link goes to video and transcript options). While Day was less than truthful, Wall was a bit more truthful. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports that Wall declared that British troops were "sitting ducks" and "the focus of the violence." Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger continues to live blog the hearings and we'll note this from one entry:

We aim for at least two entries a day here at the Iraq inquiry blog but someone much web-savvier than me (which, admittedly, could be almost anyone) recently suggested that less is more when it comes to the quieter days – and this was certainly one of those.

With the exception of Day and Wall, it was a very slow day. If you e-mail to state that something should have been noted on one day's hearings -- feel free to do so -- please note that (a) I can miss something (very easily, very often -- which is why the day after a hearing, most days, the next morning's entries will include some coverage of that hearing), (b) I'm speaking to friends in England about the hearings to make sure we don't miss the 'big talking point' and (c) I'm making a call. My call may or may not be right. And if a friend or friends is/are adament that something is the story, I'll let them overrule my own call. (They insisted John Chilcot's lengthy statement at the end of the last public hearing in December was the story, for example, and we went with that.) But a number of visitors are e-mailing about the US slowing the British withdrawal. Andrew Hough (Telegraph of London) and David Brown (Times of London) are among those who reported on that development. We didn't lead with it and didn't inlcude it in the snapshot because I made a call that it wasn't news. It may be new to some people but in October 2007, we repeatedly noted Kim Sengupta and Anne Penketh's "US 'delayed' British withdrawal from Basra" (Independent of London) on this issue. That's what the testimony was about -- what the two had already reported. You can disagree with my call and you may very well be right but I did not (and do not) feel that we have to spend time going over points from the hearing that were already established years ago. The only real exception is the NO WMD and that we will go over and over because so many were led to believe that there were or, after the invasion, that they were discovered. There were no WMD in Iraq. But other than that, we'll go for things that are new or at least "newish."

While we're dropping back to yesterday's snapshot, we noted the latest episode of The Progressive Radio Show where Matthew Rothschild speaks with Sami Rasouli and that Sami Rasouli is with Muslim Peacemakers Team in Iraq and also a part of the Reconciliation Project. I meant to include links to both organizations but forgot. So the links are now there.

Outside of the Iraq Inquiry, we will repeatedly note other topics. Such as the League of Righteous. Dropping back to the June 9th snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

Timothy Williams and John Leland (New York Times) report that Interior Ministry spokesperson Alaa al-Taei states that Qais al-Khazali was "released two days ago" by the Iraqi government (he is the "Iraq accues of being behind the killings in 2007 of five American soldiers"). Ned Parker and Saad Fakhrildeen (Los Angeles Times) add:The release followed the complicated transfer of Khazali and 450 of his supporters from U.S. to Iraqi custody, which began in June when his brother Laith and a senior aide were given their freedom. Since then, the League of the Righteous has handed over to the Iraqi government the corpses of three of the abducted British hostages, and the kidnapping's one known survivor, Peter Moore, a computer technician. Moore was freed last week after the Americans transferred Qais Khazali to Iraqi custody. The fate of the fifth hostage remains unknown, although he is believed to be dead. The U.S. military has backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government in its effort to bring Khazali into the political process and has said the League of the Righteous halted its attacks against the Americans early last summer. Khazali had been held since March 2007 in the kidnapping and killing of five U.S. soldiers in the southern city of Karbala in January of that year. His supporters kidnapped the Britons to bargain for his release. At the time, the Americans accused Khazali of working in direct collaboration with Iran's Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard.

Laura Rozen (Politico) did a brief write up yesterday. To be clear, the British government has every right to ask for help with their hostages -- in fact, as the Iraq Inquiry has demonstrated, if they didn't ask for help constantly, the British government would have no 'plan' when it came to freeing hostages. It is their obligation, not just their right. The British government is supposed to represent their citizens. The United States government is supposed to represent their own citizens' best interests. There will be trade-offs and one-offs and various deals made between governments.

There were no American interests in this trade, there was no benefit to the US in making this trade. The British are already allies, they can't get any closer short of gene-splicing and they can take a "no" as easily as any other country. So it did not win over support from a lukewarm ally or recruit a new ally. No American citizens had been kidnapped and were being freed as a result of the trade, so no benefit arrived that way.

All Barack Obama did was embarrass the United States. 5 US soldiers are killed. The US military has the suspected ringleaders in custody. To force their release, the League of Righteous kidnaps five British hostages. The US allowed itself to be blackmailed into a release that it had no business making. America did not benefit from the release and, in fact, the US suffered and suffers. The US military that is being sent in harm's way now knows that their lives matter very little to their commander in chief and any nut job in the world now knows if you want your leaders freed, kidnap British citizens and the US will cave. There was no benefit and it is a very disgraceful moment. Barack is desparately trying to portray himself as Mr. Security with his never-ending announcements about fighting terrorism but for all the speechifying, he let go two terrorists who are the ring leaders of the group claiming responsibility (bragging about it, not merely claiming) for the deaths of 5 US soldiers in an assault on a US base. It is not a proud moment for Barack Obama, nor is it a proud moment for the United States of America.


Today a US soldier died. Did the newly christened "USF" (United States Forces - Iraq) post a release? No, that would be actual work. (Note, USF also apparently doesn't plan on posting the briefings the way M-NF did.) David Culter (Reuters) reports 1 US soldier died "while on patrol in Baghdad" -- other than that, we'll wait for the official statement which may or may not include "The incident is under investigation." The death brings to 4373 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.



RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

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"Dems sell out again"

"They Hate Women on KPFA"

"Barack, still not ready"

"heroes"

"WBAI's The Arts Magazine"

"Not a good day"

"Barack pays off campaign debt"

"The White House has a problem"

"Pelosi's morning after doubts"

"Idiot and Coward Patrick Cockburn"

"Where's the accountability?"

"THIS JUST IN! BUT NO ONE'S FIRED!"

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