Tuesday, April 20, 2010

He Loves LA, LA Remains Lukewarm






Chris Wallace: If the Shi'ites succeed in disqualifying more membrs of the Allawi Sunni alliance and also if they are able to create a government without Sunnis, do you worry about a possible return to sectarian violence in Iraq?
Gen Ray Odierno: It's been clear from all of the political leaders that everybody understands they must include all major political blocs in the government. And we think that's a very important point as we move forward because it's important that we don't alienate any of the major blocs -- whether they be Sunni or Shia or the Kurds. And we believe that the conversation going on today is focused on participation of all the different blocs so we're confident that all will be included in the government. And it'll be very important because what we don't want is to have people who don't feel like they're represented, people that -- they feel are alienated which then could chose, potentially, to go back to violence.
Those comments were made yesterday -- before it was known that Nouri was still calling for a recount (US Ambassador to Chris Hill has stated publicly and repeatedly for the last two weeks that Nouri's request for a recount was a thing of the past). Read them again in light of today's developments.
Further in, you will note that Chris Wallace raises the (laughable) '9-11-like-attack-foiled' nonsense from last week and Odierno does not take the bait, gives a lengthy response and never legitimizes the (false) rumor nor comments on it in any way. Speaking of rumors, the White House is attempting to force Odierno out. On Fox News yesterday, Wallace asked him about the rumors he was giving up his command in Iraq and Odierno termed them rumors. We've ignored the rumors (reported widely by everyone from AP to the New York Times to Antiwar.com) because they are rumors (floated by the White House as a trial balloon) but since he's now commented on them, we'll note that he shot them down.
On the Status Of Forces Agreement, he does note that it could be extended: "If the government of Iraq thinks it would be to their advantage to ask us to stay longer than that, then we'll see. And then we'll have to have a discussion in the United States whether we decide to stay longer or not. But that will be up to the new Iraqi government, whether they want us to stay or not. And then we'll make our own decision based on our own policies."
Diplomatic. Reality, in the summer of last year, Nouri al-Maliki (who desperately wants to continue as prime minister, in case you didn't notice) was in the US and -- see Margaret Talev's "Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) and Anne Gearan coverage of al-Maliki's remarks for AP -- discussed how the SOFA might need to be extended and the US might need to remain in Iraq. Nouri has been propped by the US. The US government has long known that (many senators have pointed it out openly in Congressional hearings including Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, and then-Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Norm Coleman). You better believe Nouri knows it. I have no idea why the press continued to promote the lie that Nouri was popular among Iraqis (maybe to continue reporting in Iraq) because he's not. And the world saw that when, despite press claims that Nouri's State of Law would destroy the competition in the March 7 elections, his party came in second. And now the press has been forced to note that Moqtada al-Sadr can't stand Nouri and, at some point, they'll have to get honest about how SICI can't stand him either.
Following the December 2005 elections, Ibrahim al-Jaafari was the choice of the elected -- a Sh'ite dominant body (unlike this year, many Sunnis elected not to participate in the elections). A Shi'ite dominant body that still did not want Shi'ite Nouri. The US said no to al-Jaafari (who was the first post-invasion prime minister of Iraq, followed by Ayad Allawi, followed by Nouri) and Nouri was the (unpopular) compormise candidate. Nothing he has done in the four years he has held the post has built confidence. For the average Iraqi, there is the fact that potable water and continuous electricity remain a dream. For the political parties? The disgust with Nouri is best underscored by the fact that he's been unable to keep a full cabinet. He couldn't even appoint the original cabinet in a timely manner (and missed his own self-imposed deadline). After appointed, the key characteristic of his cabinet has been how many ministers have walked out on it, repeatedly.
Nouri may well pull it out and continue as prime minister (never underestimate someone with no ethics). He's aware now that the Iranian government entered into an arrangement with Ahmed Chalabi and not as willing to accept their promises at face value (and he's taken to complaining semi-publicly about Iran). He's working every legal and illegal means to ensure he's prime minister. He may pull it out. If he does, remember that he's a puppet of the US. He only made anti-US remarks as part of his campaign.

"Good morning," declared Michael Thibault in DC today, clearing his throat and explaining why everyone was gathered. "My name's Michael,Thibault, co-chairman of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome to all. This hearing will probe the government's management and oversight of contracting for services to support contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Commission estimates that these contracts have consumed some $80 billion of tax payer money over the past five years. Most of the services contracts for tasks like logistical support, security, transportation and maintenance are distinct from buying weapons or equipment and are made by the US Army. I will say at the outset that we have serious concerns about the Army's management and oversight of these vast and costly arrangements. We will explore those concerns today."
As with their most recent hearing (see March 29th snapshot), they put the witnesses under oath. The first panel (our focus for this snapshot) was composed of DoD's Shay Assad, the Army's Lt Gen William Phillips and the Army's Edward Harrington.
Despite noteworthy statements by Thibault and Co-Chair Chris Shays, the first panel was a lot of jibber-jabber. "Oh, there's no doubt," declared Shay Assad, "about it that we need to do more. The taxpayers get a better deal when we compete." If there's no doubt about it why was this -- and every other thing -- something they're 'working on' as opposed to something they're doing?
Or take Lt Gen Phillips declaring that training ("years of training, education and hands-on experience") are needed to do the jobs . . . that are being done now? The ones he would, in fact, oversee. But don't worry, he insists they are "getting closer to the goal."
Nothing's being done but, don't worry, they are aware of the problem (the apparent "remarkable change" Assad testitified to) and, Assad, "we are moving forward with significant change [. . .] It's going to take some time, but we are making significant improvement."
It was left to one of the Commissioners, Grant Green, to point out the obvious: They have had seven years to work on this. Faced with Commissioner Katherine Schinasi's specific questions, Assad attempted to dance around them and when she persisted, he whined "I've been on the job about eighty days so I'm eighty days into the effort." If you're not prepared to appear before the Commission maybe they should have sent someone else and eighty days should have allowed you more than enough time to familiarize yourself with your role. Harrington tried a similar dance and was confronted with the fact that he was "14 months into your tenure" and that he was aware of the problems prior to that so "we have begun to look into" really doesn't cut it.
The witnesses were clear on the number of contractors in Afghanistan. They think. They admitted no one had oversight of the Afghanistan contractors at this point so the number offered (107,000) really can't be verified.
It was a disgraceful and sad hearing for the witnesses who repeatedly resorted to saying that long-established problems were now (NOW) being looked into and that plans to address them were now (NOW) being thought up. If this is an indication of DoD working "seriously," Congress needs to hold a hearing on just that aspect and to do so immediately.
Friday's snapshot covered a US House Armed Services Comitttee's subcommittee hearing. Ava reported on it last night in "Walter Jones discusses strain on the Guard," Kat in "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and Wally in "Military Personnel Subcommittee." And Kat's "Kat's Korner: The return of Natalie Merchant " went up yesterday as did her "Kat's Korner: Jakob Dylan announcing."

Over the weekend, news came out of Iraq that Marc Hall was discharged from the military. Marc is the soldier who had completed his service when he learned he was being stop-lossed. In response to that, he recorded the rap song "Stop Loss" -- an apparent crime which would lead the US military to attempt to court-martial him and to whisk him away to Iraq for said court-martial thereby denying him his needed witnesses. (The song was recorded in the US.) CNN reported that Marc Hall entered into a plea agreement to avoid court-martial and has now been discharged with an "other than honorable discharge" and that Hall "will lose military and veterans benefits and be reduced to the lowest enlisted grade (E1) in the Army." Marc's plea agreement has him stating he threatened people and that the threats went beyond the song. Reality: If a member of the US military threatens to kill other soldiers and brass, the US military doesn't do a plea agreement. They toss your ass behind bars and they go overboard on it because they want to send a message. The fact that they allowed Marc to enter a plea agreement means they did not have proof of any threats. There is an alternative to that: the military command needs a huge shake up because the brass is so inept that they just released a man who threatened multiple members of the military. Were that the case, a number of higher ups would need to be relieved of duty immediately. So take your pick. The simplest explanation is that the military never had a case (which explains the decision to do the court-martial in Iraq and separate him from his witnesses) and offered a plea which they now try to spin as a 'major accomplishment' on their part. Courage to Resist explains:
In a joyous victory for Specialist Marc A Hall and his supporters nationwide, this morning the US Army announced that the "Stop-loss" objector will not be court martialed next week at Camp Liberty, Iraq as scheduled. Instead, Spc Hall will be discharged immediately. In December, the Army jailed Spc Hall in retaliation for his formal complaint of inadequate mental health services available to him at Fort Stewart. The Army used an angry song that Spc Hall, a combat veteran of the Iraq War suffering from post traumatic stress, had produced criticizing the "Stoploss" policy as the pretext.
Specialist Hall's civilian attorney, David Gespass, explained, "I believe we would have won the case, even in Iraq. While I'm gratified that the Army finally decided to discharge Marc, I'm appalled at the disregard it has shown for Marc's wellbeing and fundamental rights for nine months. Whatever lip service the Army gives to its concern for its soldiers, its only real concern is insuring they risk their lives without questioning why. Marc's greatest transgression was asking that question." Mr. Gespass is the president of the National Lawyers Guild.
In a message to the supporters nationwide who organized a grassroots campaign on his behalf, Spc Hall provided the following message by phone from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait: "I'm out of the confinement facility! Thank you to everyone for all the efforts everyone made. Hopefully I'll be home very, very soon. I appreciate all of the love and support so many people gave me through my ordeal." Spc Hall, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, also enjoyed the support of the Veterans for Peace organization.
Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist, an organization dedicated to supporting military objectors, noted, "Spc Marc Hall pled guilty today to producing a hip-hop song the Army didn't like in exchange for his freedom. It's utterly outrageous that Army spokespersons continued to slander Marc today. Despite the Army having stacked everything against Marc -- including moving the scheduled trial from Ft. Stewart, Georgia to Iraq -- supporters overcame each obstacle in order to provide Marc with a fighting chance for justice. In the end, we won."

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