Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The all new Joanie Loves Chachi







The violence has, of course, created the largest refugee crisis in the world. There's a report that's being spun by some outlets -- including Voice of America -- that an International Organization for Migration report is maintaining refugees are returning to Iraq and that the migration out of Iraq has stopped. IOM is part of the United Nations. In Syria, the UN is still registering (as of this week, I just got off the phone) Iraqi refugees who are just arriving. The IOM report (click here for IOM's summary) is not about external refugees. It's about Iraqis who stayed in Iraq but fled their own homes. The internal refugees.

On the subject of refugees, War News Radio latest weekly broadcast features a report on the Mandaeans -- ninety percent of whom have now left Iraq.

Caitlin Jennings: A few months after the US invasion, Basil al-Majidi began working for the coalition forces in Baghdad. He was appointed general manager of a tracking company responsible for making contracts to support US operations in Iraq As a member of the Iraqi minority group, the Sabian Mandaeans, al-Majidi says that he felt like a second class citizen under Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. With Hussein no longer in power, al-Majidi and his parents were optimistic about the future but in the months that followed sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Pacificsts by doctrine the Mandaeans are one of the most peaceful religious groups in Iraq; however, al-Majidi felt forced to keep his religious identity a secret.

Basil al-Majidi: I worked from 2004 'till 2007 and no one -- absolutely no one -- in my company knew that I was Manaean. They knew that I was a Muslim. When they used to ask me, "Are you Sunni or Shi'ite," I refused to tell them. I told them I was just a Muslim. I don't discriminate.

Caitlin Jennings: Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist and their religious practice centers on the rites of Baptism. But for Majidi and many Mandaeans public religious practice was out of the question.

Basil al-Majidi: We couldn't do funeral ceremonies for dead people. It was a problem. Many people were buried in their own backyards to avoid going to the cemetary which was in the Abu Ghraib area. So, like for practicing rituals, for maintaining and preserving your own faith inside yourself? No. We just forgot about that. We just left it behind.

Caitlin Jennings: He started to receive death threats from Islamic militias both at his work and at his house. By 2006, the situation had reached what he refers to as unbearable limits.

Basil al-Majidi: You just feel that you are, that you are being rejected from all of the community, from all of your surroundings, from all of your surroundings. So I had to escape.

Caitlin Jennings: al-Majidi and his parents fled to Syria where they joined 1.3 million other Iraqi refugees already there. After two and a half years of waiting, al-Majidi was accepted for re-settlement in the United States. Although al-Majidi is now safe in the US, he is still unable to practice his religion. He no longer fears religious persecution but without priests and other Mandaeans, he cannot practice or perform rituals. Dr. Suhaib Nashi, Secretary General of the Mandaeans Associations Union -- an umbrella organization that encompasses all Mandaean Associations outside of Iraq and Iran argues that the resettlement of Iraqi Mandaeans around the globe while saving individuals is destroying the community as a whole.

Dr. Suhaib Nashi: Dispersing them all over the place is sweet poison for us. It kills the religion It finishes what the insurgency are doing. With all of our benevolence, with our feeling of doing good for them, we are destroying them without us knowing. We really, really need understanding and being sensitive to that part of the salvage of Mandaeans. That's not salvage of a family, it's salvage of a culture -- salvation of a whole community and a whole group of people and a language and religion.

Caitlin Jennings: Originally from Iraq, Nashi, who is Mandaean, fled in 1991 after the Iraq War. He currently lives with his family in New Jersey. He says the only way for the group to survive in the longterm is to have a sustainable community in one place.

Yesterday's snapshot noted the first panel -- DoD -- of the Commission on Wartime Contracting's hearing. Some e-mails came in about the second panel. The first panel was of more interest. We'll note the second panel which lasted about a third of the time the first panel took up. Today we'll note panel two which was composed of contractors: AECOM Government Services CEO Jay Ward and CACI International's senior vice president Terry Raney. The Co-Chairs are Christopher Shays and Michael J. Thibault. Aegis Defense Services president Kristi Clemens was scheduled to testify but did not show. Thibault swore the two men before they gave any testimony. We'll note two sections.

First, AECOM has been in Iraq and in Afghanistan since 2005. Questioning Ward, Thibault noted that in Afghanistan "life support and security" is provided for Ward's employees by the US Army and he

Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: Does the company in any case or for other purposes or other have to employ your own security?

Jay Ward: Yes, in Iraq, we've had security subcontractors provide transportation primarily from Bagram or the Green Zone or out to the different locations. And then because we work on Iraqi military installations as opposed to inside the wire at Taji, we'll have uh a security service provide parameter security at the gate into our living compounds.

Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: And that is -- those are contractors that are awarded by the site security -- are those JCCIA contracts or are they your own?

Jay Ward: They're subcontracts to us.

Co-Chair Michael J. Thibault: That are your own?
Jay Ward: Yes, sir.

Especially due to the Afghanistan conversation, it appeared that Thibault was concerned regarding the oversight of the subcontractees in Iraq. The other moment that appeared to be going somewhere addressed disbelief on the part on the part of one commissioner.

Commissioner Grant S. Green: You have about how many people providing support to JCAA? About fifty people?

Terry Raney: We have 40 in Iraq and 12 in Afghanistan.

Commissioner Grant S. Green: And these people are providing aquisition management services, they're providing program management advice, aquisition advice to officers and managers, true?

Terry Raney: Yes, sir.

Commissioner Grant S. Green: You had mentioned in a response to Commissioner [Dov] Zakheim's question, 'Has anyone ever called, oop, I got a problem, my boss is asking me something and it crosses the line?' And you said, 'No, they never had."

Terry Raney: Not that I've received that call or I believe --

Commissioner Grant S. Green: I just -- I just find it hard to believe, human nature being what it is -- and you acknowledged this initially, that your people were probably more experienced in the workings of JCCAI/A contracting than is the new civilian or military contracting officer walking through the door to a new assignment. It's just hard for me to believe since 2004, there has not been any discussion that crosses this line. So I guess my question to you is what is your level of confidence in percentages that nothing like this has ever happened?

Terry Raney: I'll come at your question from two ways. The first is, we've been -- The requirement we have from the JCCI from day one has been to bring very experienced people. That means people familiar with the authorization processes and systems and recognize these things. And we talk about that before they go over, alright? So I guess I would say I am sure, likely, that there have been conversations between some of our people that are very experienced with somebody who's not relative to 'This is the way that I see this but it's your -- it's your -- I'm providing advice, that's what we're required to do. You have your responsibilities as well to do and that's in awarding the contract, making those decisions.' So I would suspect and I would guess that we've had some of our more experienced people handle it on a personal basis and that's the way we would look to -- look to handle it because that's what we expect of people with that kind of experience and expertise.

Again, the most interesting panel was the first one (which was covered in yesterday's snapshot). Tomorrow we may cover a hearing from late to date but it was bumped to cover the above. Meanwhile Barack went to California and it was not pretty. Though he was attempting to drive up support for Barbara Boxer, he only succeeded in antagonizing the crowd. Lin Zhi (Xinhua) reports he "was repeatedly interrupted by a number of listeners who attacked him on his policies barring gays from openly and equality serving in the military when he was delivering a speech . . . . The protesters come from GetEQUAL, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group that has also organized similar protests recently. A coalition of groups called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan." It left some acid rain dripping on Barack's attempt to fundraise for Senator Barbara Boxer's increasingly challenging run for the US Senate. In an effort to appease the protesters, Barack made the ridiculous claim that he and Barbara were leaders on Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. That kind of crap would fly in NYC -- where Panhandle Media would lap it up because it sounds good to them. But in California, we know Boxer's done nothing. We know that Senators Roland Burris and Kirsten Gillibrand have been doing more and doing more in public and that both were just appointed to the Senate in 2009. Boxer's a senator from California who's been elected to her seat repeatedly. She bragged in 2004, in fact, that she won a greater percentage of the vote than did Bully Boy Bush. She should have been leading on this issue. Instead, allegedly due to the Prop 8 vote and the video of her that's supposed to portray her as disrespectful of the military, she's hung in the background.
Well . . . hung in the background and promoted her poorly written (co-written) latest attempt at Harold Robbins. Bad books, after all, rarely sell themselves. And picture that -- 2004, she got a higher percentage of votes than any other senator (or Bush, for that matter) and joked about having a "mandate" but today, her first re-election run since then, she's in the fight of her life just to hold on to her seat. How out of it, how non-leadership is Barack on this issue? In the middle of the protest, he had to ask Boxer if she voted for Don't Ask, Don't Tell originally and she said she didn't at which point he informed the audience "I just checked with Barbara, so if anybody else is thinking about starting a chant, Barbara didn't even vote for 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the first place." Thanks for that 'breaking' news, Barack. If she had voted for it, you better believe she would have been a one term senator. For just a moment grasp what took place.Barack claims he wants to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And he claims he is in Los Angeles standing by his friend Barbara Boxer . . . and he doesn't even know how she voted? That tells you exactly how distant Barack actually is from this issue. Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) reports of one protester, "'I am protesting because while I volunteered for, voted for, and still believe in Obama, I also believe is time to repeal don't ask don't tell,' an apparent protester wrote on"When not spinning Boxer's professional lethargy, the two were confronted by people such as Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner, of March Forward!, who the AP quotes telling Barack, "As an Iraq War veteran, I understand the importance of stopping these unjust wars. Too many civilians and soldiers are dying, too much money is going to fund death and destruction, while so many of us are hurting here at home."We are in the Great Recession and it probably doesn't help Barack look 'of the people' when the Los Angeles Independent reports, "A ticket to the dinner was $17,600 per person, a figure arrived at by combining half the maximum $30,400 contribution to a national party committee combined with the maximum $2,400 donation to a candidate. All the events sold out." They also report Barack whined about the issues he faces as president. Oh, I'm sorry, did he think it was all pageant waving and super market openings? Cover shoots and Jay Leno interviews? Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) also notes the price:
As The Ticket reported here earlier Monday, Obama flew across the country for no public events but just two fundraisers for the embattled liberal Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer seeking a four Senate term where tickets ranged up to $17,600 to sip wine and hear the president.
Obama's batting average campaigning for fellow Democrats is a pathetic 0-7 in recent months,. But Boxer needs help (especially in the money department in this expensive state) even in liberal California where she's been unable to reach the key 50% approval rating this year against a trio of potential Republican opponents.

Cedric's "He Loves LA, LA Remains Lukewarm" and Wally's "He Loves LA, LA Remains Lukewarm" (joint-post) covered the less-than-warm welcome Barack received, Ann covered the silence on Iraq "Diane Rehm has time for sleep none for Iraq," and Ruth ("Out-FM disgraces itself") and Mike ("Queer Voices, Goldman Sachs, Third") covered LGBT issues.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The distraction that saved Nouri?"
"Barack courts California, California pleads headache"
"Diane Rehm has time for sleep none for Iraq"
"The economy"
"Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd on Good Morning America"
"disclosures, jokes and previews"
"Out-FM disgraces itself"
"No, I won't note KPFA's Women's Magazine"
"Progressive Forum"
"Center for Media and Democracy (disgrace)"
"Kazan, Williams and Fey"
"Queer Voices, Goldman Sachs, Third"
"He Loves LA, LA Remains Lukewarm"

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