CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O ENTERED RICHARD NIXON TERRITORY YESTERDAY AS HE WENT ON A COMEDY SHOW IN AN ATTEMPT TO GET OUT THE VOTE.
OF COURSE, LAUGH-IN HAD A BIG AUDIENCE AND WASN'T A FADING SHOW ON BASIC CABLE AND, OF COURSE, GOLDIE AND THE GANG DIDN'T WHORE UP TO TRICKY DICK THE WAY OLD MAN JON STEWART DID.
BUT WATCHING BARRY READ FROM HIS SCRIPTED REMARKS AND THE NEARLY ELDERLY JON STEWART -- GRAY IS NOT JUST HIS COLOR THESE DAYS, IT'S HIS SKIN TONE AS WELL -- SUCK UP AND GUFFAW AND THINK HE WAS CUTE?
IT BROUGHT TO MIND THE MOMENT IN ANNIE HALL WHEN WOODY ALLEN'S WATCHING THE MIDDLE AGED COMEDIAN WHO THINKS HE'S CUTE BUT WOODY'S ALVY JUST FINDS HIM "MINCING" AND ANNOYING.
SUCK A LITTLE HARDER, JON.
AND THEN SWALLOW.
REMEMBER TO ACT ENTHUSIASTIC, YOU'RE GETTING PAID.
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Today the Christian Science Monitor's editorial board weighs in on Iraq noting that "many experts predict Iraq will soon ask Mr. Obama to extend the time for US forces to stay, not only to protect the nation's fledgling democracy but to help Iraq survive as a nation in a hostile neighborhood. Iraq is far behind the schedule set in the 2008 security pact with the United States to bolster its military and police. Its ability to defend its borders and its oil fields -- both of which are critical to US interests -- is years away. And there is much doubt in Washington about the US State Department's ability to take over the American military's role in managing key security aspects of Iraq, such as Kurdish-Arab friction or forming new police forces." The editorial appears to be advocating for a continued US military presence in Iraq so it's a little strange that they don't attempt to bolster their editorial by noting what went down at the State Dept press briefing on Monday. From Monday's snapshot:
Today Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) reports that former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker spoke last week to the National Council on US - Arab Relations and " that when the dust clears in the formation of a new government in Iraq that Baghdad would come to the United States to ask for an extension of the US military presence beyond the end of 2011. By that date, according to the accord signed in 2008 by the Bush administration, all US troops are to leave Iraq. But Crocker said that it is 'quite likely that the Iraqi government is going to ask for an extension of our deployed presence'." (He also expressed that Nouri would remaing prime minister. Why? The US government backed Nouri as the 'continuing' prime minister after Nouri promised he's allow the US military to remain in Iraq past 2011.) Today at the US State Dept, spokesperson Philip J. Crowley was asked about Crocker's remarks. He responded, "Well, we have a Status of Forces Agreement and a strategic framework. The Status of Forces Agreement expires at the end of next year, and we are working towards complete fulfillment of that Status of Forces Agreement, which would include the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of next year. The nature of our partnership beyond next year will have to be negotiated. On the civilian side, we are committed to Iraq over the long term. We will have civilians there continuing to work with the government on a range of areas – economic development, rule of law, civil society, and so forth. But to the extent that Iraq desires to have an ongoing military-to-military relationship with the United States in the future, that would have to be negotiated. And that would be something that I would expect a new government to consider. [. . .] Should Iraq wish to continue the kind of military partnership that we currently have with Iraq, we're open to have that discussion."
The Christian Science Monitor's editorial board argues that Barack needs to prepare Congress for the possibility of an extended military stay in Iraq for, among other reasons, the money that would be required. With Joseph Stiglitz, Linda J. Bilmes has long been charting the financial costs of the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. At The Daily Beast today, she writes:
Already, we've spent more than $1 trillion in Iraq, not counting the $700 billion consumed each year by the Pentagon budget. And spending in Iraq and Afghanistan now comes to more than $3 billion weekly, making the wars a major reason for record-level budget deficits.
Two years ago, Joseph Stiglitz and I published TheThreeTrillion Dollar War in which we estimated that the budgetary and economic costs of the war would reach $3 trillion.
Taking new numbers into account, however, we not believe that our initial estimate was far too conservative -- the costs of the wars will reach between $4 trillion and $6 trillion.
Turning now to the WikiLeaks revelations or, as John F. Burns believes, The John F. Burns Story. I believe the theme song is Joni Mitchell's "Roses Blue" or at least the line "Inside your own self-pity, there you swim." Though some people focus on the torture revelations, for Big Boned John, it's all about him. Yesterday we were noting his appearance on The Takeaway and Rebecca covered it even more in depth. John F. Burns whine and whined about the suffering . . . he'd been through. Apparently unable to afford therapy, he also showed up on PRI's To The Point yesterday. He repeated how hard life was for him because people leave comments on his New York Times' article and he gets e-mails and mean bloggers and whine, whine. But he had a new whine: Academia is attacking him! Academia is unreasonable. A lot of these e-mails he's getting, their e-mail address ends with "edu" and, in fact, some are from Harvard!!!!! Stephen Walt, who is a professor at Harvard and who was on the broadcast, offered, "To suggest that it's a group of academics who have it in for him is not useful."
Late Friday, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to. There are many more revelations to be found in the documents. The World Socialist Web Site editorializes:
The US-led conquest of Iraq stands as one of the most barbaric war crimes of the modern era. Writing in April 2003, one month after the invasion, the World Socialist Web Site noted that during the buildup to World War II "it was common to speak of the Nazis' 'rape of Czechoslovakia,' or 'rape of Poland." What characterized Germany's modus operandi in these countries was the use of overwhelming military force and the complete elimination of their governments and all civic institutions, followed by the takeover of their economies for the benefit of German capitalism. It is high time that what the US is doing is called by its real name. A criminal regime in Washington is carrying out the rape of Iraq." (See, "The rape of Iraq")
The devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people has only intensified over the past seven-and-a-half years. The US has engaged in sociocide -- the systematic destruction of an entire civilization. In addition to the hundreds of thousands killed, millions more have been turned into refugees. There has been a staggering growth of disease, infant mortality and malnutrition. The US military has destroyed the country's infrastructure, leaving an economy in ruins, with an unemployment rate of 70 percent.
To the horror of the world's population, the Iraqi people have been made to suffer an unimaginable tragedy at the hands of the most powerful military force on the planet. And for what? To establish US domination over the oil-rich and geostrategically critical country.
Every major institution in the United States is complicit in this crime. In the face of broad popular opposition within the US, both Democrats and Republicans authorized the war and have supported it ever since, expending hundreds of billions of dollars in the process. The American people have sought repeatedly to end the war through elections, only to be confronted with the fact that the war continues regardless of which corporate-controlled party is in office.
Obama, elected as a result of popular hostility to Bush and the Republicans and their policies of war and handouts to the rich, has continued the same policies. Running as a critic of the Iraq War, he now praises the US military occupiers as "liberators."
Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post) reports, "National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday to investigate actions by the American military in Iraq that may constitute war crimes as alleged by the WikiLeaks website." Hoffman quotes from Ben-Ari's letter, "The latest revelation of US military documents regarding the war in Iraq detailing torture, summary executions, rape and war crimes by US and US lead security forces in Iraq, paint a terrifying portrait of US abuse and contempt of international treaties. [. . .] That the Pentagon is looking to cover up these crimes from the world shows the US government has much more to hide." BBC News notes that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, calls for the US and Iraq to conduct an investigation and quotes her stating, "The US and Iraqi authorities should take necessary measures to investigate all allegations made in these reports and to bring to justice those responsible for unlawful killings, summary executions, torture and other serious human rights abuses," she said in a statement." AFP adds, "Pillay, based in Geneva, said the United States and Iraq should investigate all allegations in the Wikileak documents and 'bring to justice those responsible for unlawful killings, summary executions, torture and other serious human rights abuses.' She said documents released by the whistleblowing website added to her concerns that serious human rights breaches had occurred in Iraq, including 'summary executions of a large number of civilians and torture and ill-treatment of detainees'."
Tom Eley (WSWS) reports on the contractor revelations and notes:
The mercenaries, some of whom earn more than $500 per day, are accountable to no one. Soon after the US invasion of Iraq, Paul Bremer issued "Order No. 17," giving security firm employees total immunity from Iraqi laws. Nor has any US court punished the contractors, even for known instances of murder. They are also not under the jurisdiction of the US military, freeing them from the court martial and even the often-flouted rules of engagement laid out in the US Army Field Manual.
WikiLeaks documents analyzed by Al Jazeera, the Arab-language media service, reveal at least 14 previously unknown cases in which employees of the most infamous private security firm, Blackwater International, fired on civilians. These attacks resulted in 10 confirmed deaths and seven serious injuries.
Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, is most notorious for a 2007 attack it carried out in Baghdad's crowded Nissour Square, killing 17 civilians and seriously wounding 18 more. Five Blackwater mercenaries were charged with murder, but a US judge ruled the prosecution had engaged in misconduct and threw the case out.
"With all the attention focused on WikiLeaks' most recent release -- a trove of documents that paints a bleak picture of the war in Iraq," notes Razzaq al-Saiedi (Global Post), "it's easy to forget that the Iraq of today still has no government." al-Saiedi reminds that Sunday Iraq's Supreme Court ordered Parliament to reconvene and hold sessions. At present, they've only held one session since the election -- they took roll, took their oaths and adjounred -- all in less than 20 minutes..
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and twenty days and still counting.
Alsumaria TV is covering the latest developments. They report, "During his meeting with Kurdistan leader Massoud Barazani in Arbil, head of Al Iraqiya List Iyad Allawi cautioned that the government formation has grew into a serious and critical issue." And that: "Iraqi National Alliance announced after a meeting held at the house of Ibrahim Al Jaafari that it will send a delegation to take part in the meeting between the political blocs expected to be held on Wednesday in order to activate the initiative of the head of Kurdistan region Massoud Barazani who called for dialogue between the different political parties."
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