Saturday, November 27, 2010

Next he'll go shopping for a veil






The Iraq War is not about oil many insist. Then why is human life worth so damn little to the press? Hammoudi reports on it, Reuters reports on it. That's really it. Contrast that with the oil tanker -- OIL tanker -- exploding. Alsumaria TV reports it was "an accident," that it claimed 2 lives with nine more wounded and the explosion took palce "on the Iraqi-Jordan border" yesterday. CNN covers it Reuters covers it.. AP covers it. Press TV covers it. Bloomberg News covers it. AFP covers it. BBC News covers it. We can go on and on but I believe the point is made. It's not the 'numbers' because 2 (or 3 lives -- on is misisng in some reports, in others the person is listed as dead) and nine injured is less than 4 killed and thirty-one injured. But one gets massive attention. And then some wonder why people -- like Alan Greenspan? -- say the Iraq War was all about oil?
It certainly wasn't about creating a democracy. 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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, nineteen days and counting. Yesterday, Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explains, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positins that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."

Thug Nouri brokered a deal with -- among others -- Moqtada al-Sadr to remain as dictator of Iraq. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The Mahdi Army has also in effect seized control of cellblocks at one of Iraq's largest detention facilities, Taji prison. Within months of the U.S. hand-over of the prison in March, Mahdi Army detainees were giving orders to guards who were either loyal to or intimidated by them, Iraqi and U.S. officials say [. . .] Senior Sadr supporters are being brought into the Interior Ministry at high-level positions, according to Mahdi Army members and Iraqi officers. One Sadr commander who is being given the rank of brigadier general said he knew of 50 others who were being recruited for officers' positions." And if there's anything more frightening than the current Iraq prison system it's grasping that the Mahdi Army is more or less in charge of some of them. Paul Walsh (Minneapolis Star Tribune) reports that the Minnesota National Guard is sending 80 members to Iraq and the question should be why?

The government in Iraq is nothing but exiles installed by the US. It's not a real government, it's not of the people -- easily demonstrated when the people's voice was rejected this month. So why is the US military being used to prop up this corrupt regime? And when does it end?

The 'government' lacks the consent of the governed. So to keep these exiles in place, the US military will have to stay on the ground in Iraq for years to come?

That's not democracy, that's thwarting the will of the people.

Thursday the European Union adopted three resolutions. From the one on Iraq:

Condemning the recent attacks on Christian communities in Iraq, Parliament calls on EU High representative Catherine Ashton to treat the problem of the safety of Christians within Iraqi borders as a priority and urges the Iraqi authorities to "drastically increase their efforts for the protection of Christian and vulnerable communities". MEPs also call on the European Union to strengthen the fight against terrorism.

Iraqi Christians have been targeted throughout the illegal war. The latest wave of attacks began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad in which at least 70 people were killed and at least 70 were injured. Adnkronos reports that 7 hand written threats against Iraqi Christians have turned up throughout Baghdad this week and they quote "Christian community leader" Abdullah al-Nawafili stating, "Threats of these types have been coming in over the past few days that push us to leave the country." Vatican Radio reports that Cardinal Leonardo Sandri delivered a liturgy last night at St Peter's Bascilica in Rome and called for "peace and reconciliation":

Survivors from that terrible tragedy, who since November 11th have been receiving treatment in Rome's Gemelli hospital, were also present Thursday. They were the physical testimony of the wounds that the Iraqi Christian community has suffered and continues to suffer, for the faith.
Speaking to them Cardinal Sandri spoke of the saving mystery of martyrdom.
"Our thoughts, hearts and prayers go to Iraq and many other parts of the world, where to this day loyalty to baptism is answered in blood, for He who loved us to the Cross."

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hard working Barry






Myra MacPherson wrote:
"There was increased reliance at home and abroad on suppression by force and an increasingly arrogant determination to 'go it alone' in the world." This was not written when George W. Bush ignored the United Nations, colleagues, international treaties, and advice of allies and started a war but by Stone during Cold War escalation.
"All governments are run by liars . . ." This was not about the weapons of mass destruction or subsequent other Iraq War lies but those told during the Vietnam War.
That's from the foreword to her much lauded 2006 book All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone. All governments lie. And continue to lie. And then lie some more. Lies started the illegal war. Lies continue it today. UPI noted that day that the handover of a Basra airbase was the UK "formally ending its Iraq mission." But it wasn't the end. In that day's snapshot (where it's noted it's not the end) the most telling detail may have been CNN reporting that England was the location for a meet-up between then-UK prime minister Gordon Brown and then-Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki where they "discussed opening Iraq up to more investment opportunities." There's actual withdrawal and there's faux actions designed to confuse the public and tamp down on outrage.
Sam Marsden (PA) reports, "Most of the 150 British troops still serving in Iraq are set to be brought home next spring, the military said today." That's reported today and it's probably confusing to some since the British 'withdrew' some time ago. April 30, 2009, BBC News offered video and proclaimed, "A ceremony has been held in Basra to mark the official end of the six-year British military mission in Iraq."
Land of snap decisions
Land of short attention spans
Nothing is savored
Long enough to really understand
In every culture in decline
The watchful ones among the slaves
Know all that is genuine will be
Scorned and conned and cast away
-- "Dog Eat Dog," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same title
Lies and liars keep the illegal wars going. All governments lie, stated I.F. Stone though the useless whores among us -- such as Katrina vanden Heuvel -- insist there must be some sort of an exception for St. Barack of Obscurantism. There are no exceptions and there has been no end to the Iraq War.
It hasn't ended but it has created the region's largest refugee crisis. It's done that by targeting the vulnerable which can be defined as all the Iraqi people who were not among the select group of Shi'ite exiles plotting the illegal war before the start of it and then rewarded by being put in charge of Iraq by the occupying powers. These thugs also sometimes protect their 'followers' (muscle; goon squads). Everyone else has a target drawn on their backs. Maybe they're part of Iraq's LGBT community? Or maybe they're just thought to be part of it. That's enough to be kidnapped and murdered by the thugs the US and the UK put in charge of Iraq. Or maybe you're a doctor or a professor? That's enough to have your name on the targeted list. Shi'ite exiles really can't re-write history and present themselves as brave warriors for their country as long as academic pursuit isn't controlled or intimidated by them. Or maybe you're part of Iraq's religious minority which also includes the Sunni population. Or maybe you're a part of any of that or none of that because you're a woman? Women are among the most victimized in Iraq. First thing the thugs did once installed was take a country that had long had equality written into the law and instead attack the rights of women.
All governments lie. Which is how Barack claimed Iraq was a success and something to be proud of in his August 31st speech. There's no denying it is a success for the criminals who plotted it -- both the exiles and the US and UK governments. It's not a success for the Iraqi people but Barack Obama is not of the people. From where he sneers down, it's a 'success.' But that's nothing to be proud of as the ongoing violence, destruction and genocides demonstrate.
Michaela Yule (Global Post) reports from Syria on the estimated 1.5 million who have sought asylum there including a young woman whose family left Iraq 3 years ago and who states, "Personally, I do not even have a slight hope that Iraq will recover. It is impossible because of greed, and the fact that everyone wants to have a piece of Iraq." Yule observes:

The Iraqi refugee crisis is currently the worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle East since the start of the Palestinian refugee crisis in 1948.
An estimated 2.5 million Iraqis are displaced abroad, and an equal number are internally displaced. With little hope for immediate return, these displaced Iraqis live in a state of limbo, most unable either to return to their homes or settle in their new locations.

A very small number of Iraqi refugees have been accepted by the US and England -- despite both countries being the chief leaders of the march to illegal war. Those few allowed into the US often continue to struggle. Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) reports on Manal Jafer and her family. She and her husband lived well in Baghdad prior to the start of the illegal war. He was a professor, she was a medical doctor. After the illegal war began, things changed. A fall 2003 home invasion left her husband dead and her wounded, she believes the stress from all the violence is what killed her teenage son. With her remaining three children, she went to Jordan and then to the US where the economy and the cheapness of the Bush administration -- which was continued by the Barack administration -- means that refugees are receiving a tiny and limited stipend and then on their own -- in a country where the real unemployment rate is estimated to be around at least 17.3% but officially at 9.6%. Meanwhile BBC News reports that the UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has announced this week that England will continue deporting Iraqi refugees. Amnesty International issued the following:

Responding to comments from UK Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, saying that the UK would continue to remove refused Iraqi asylum seekers to Baghdad, Amnesty International UK Refugee Programme Director Jan Shaw said:

"The UK should listen to the European Court of Human Rights and, like the Dutch authorities, suspend removals to Baghdad until it's safe.

"The authorities are, of course, entitled to remove people if they don't need international protection and it's safe to return them. But Iraq is still incredibly dangerous.

"Amnesty is opposed to all forcible removals to central and southern Iraq until the security situation improves considerably.

"The UK government knows full well that anyone applying to the European Court under 'Rule 39' will have their removal suspended. So effectively they are just trying to catch out anyone who doesn't know about this ruling, or who doesn't have decent legal representation. Sadly this still includes far too many people."

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No MoJo




UH . . . NO.



In the US, Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Thursday. Many families and friends will not be celebrating together for various reasons including work and distance. That's especially true for military families. Sadly, it's also true for veterans' families, for families where veterans have served, are out of the military and should be able to enjoy the day. Rosie and Le Roy Torres could be with their children having a nice Thanksgiving but he was exposed to toxins he never should have been exposed to and now Thanksgiving is another day where the family that should be able to focus on being together instead has to focus on survival:
This year our Thanksgiving holiday will not be celebrated with our children, instead we will be spending our Thanksgiving on the road after seeking specialized medical care for illness resulting from exposures to environmental hazardous toxins and chemicals from the Burn Pits at Camp Anaconda Balad, Iraq. Two years and over 20 medical visits later, both DOD and VA both continue to deny a chemically induced diagnosis. Our only option has been to seek specialized medical care at our own expense from Dr. Miller and Dr. Lambright at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Tennessee, who have been able to confirm a diagnosis. The expenses associated with Burn Pits include lodging (hotel rooms), food, Tri-care insurance co-pays, medications, travel (airline tickets, gas, car rental), time off of work (without pay status under service members family medical leave act), but most importantly it has costs us our family (time away from our children affecting them emotionally).
Senators Byron Dorgan and Evan Bayh have used the Senate Democratic Policy Committee (which Senator Dorgan chairs) as a bully pulpit to attempt to raise awareness and document this issue. Both men leave the Senate in January (both chose not to seek re-election). While they deserve strong applause for the work they did, there is so much work to be done as the Torres family well knows. Along with the Torres family's Burn Pits site, you can also refer to for more information. Le Roy Torres served in Iraq as a Captain in the US Army Reserve and was also a State Trooper. Now he's got to fight for treatment the government more than owes him. There's nothing 'thankful' about that and it goes to a Congress who would rather sit on their ass than address a problem because -- here's the big point -- it costs money. US Senator Jim Webb stabbed Vietnam veterans in the back with his attack on the VA's Agent Orange Registry and that all came down to money -- Webb is more than happy to spend the American tax payers' money on more weapons, he just wants veterans to foot the bill. He was also one of the big opponets to Evan Bayh's proposal for an Iraq and Afghanistan War Registry. Evan presented that himself to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee where it was roped off and couldn't make it out of committee. One of the strongest objections to a registry was Jim Webb whining yet again about the costs. What about the costs the Torres family's paying? What about the cost of a holiday that the children won't spend with their parents because Le Roy and Roise Torres have to fight and battle just for him to receive NEEDED treatment?
Evan Bayh's registry would have taken care of this issue. It's over. Congress isn't going to vote on it. Jim Webb ensured that it died in committee. As with the Agent Orange Registry -- which VA Secretary Eric Shinseki went around Webb and the other cheapskates to implement -- Webb opposed it because of the cost.
And yet Webb votes to fund every War Supplemental. But the injuries in the war are supposed to be out-of-poket expenses after a service member discharges?
September 30th, a sparsely attended hearing -- which had already been scheduled -- was held. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bob Filner and a few of his colleagues -- including some not even on the Committee -- remained as others did a mad dash out of DC to go hit the road campaigning. At the start of that hearing, Chair Filner delivered some important remarks.
Now a democracy has to go to war sometimes. But people have to know in a democracy what is the cost. They have to be informed of the true -- of the true nature -- not only in terms of the human cost, the material cost, but the hidden cost that we don't know until after the fact or don't recognize. We know -- Why is it that we don't have the mental health care resources for those coming back? Is it because we failed to understand the cost of serving our military veterans is a fundamental cost of the war? Is it because we sent these men and women into harms way without accounting for and providing the resources necessary for their care if they're injured or wounded or killed? Every vote that Congress has taken for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has failed to take into account the actual cost of these wars by ignoring what we will require to meet the needs of our men and women in uniform who have been sent into harms way. This failure means that soldiers who are sent to war on behalf of their nation do not know if their nation will be there for them tomorrow. The Congress that sends them into harms way assumes no responsibility for the longterm consequences of their deployment. Each war authorization and appropriation kicks the proverbial can down the road and whether or not the needs of our soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan will be met is totally dependent on the budget priorities of a future Congress which includes two sets of rules: One for going to war and one for providing for our veterans who fight in that war. We don't have a budget for the VA today as we are about to enter the new fiscal year. We are trying to provide for those involved in atomic testing in WWII -- who were told would be no problems and yet they can't get compensation for cancers. We cannot -- This Committee and this Congress has a majority of people who say we should fully compensate the victims of Agent Orange for injuries in WWII -- I'm sorry, Vietnam. Yet was have a pay-go rule on a bill that's coming out of here. They say it's going to cost ten billion dollars or twenty billion over the next ten years. We don't have it. Why don't we have it? They fought for this nation. We're trying to deal with the Persian Gulf War still -- not to mention all the casualties from this one. So we have to find a pay-go. But the Dept of Defense doesn't have to. So the system that we have for appropriating funds in Congress is designed to make it much easier to vote to send our soldiers into harms way. That's much easier than to care for them when they come home. This Committee and everyone of the people here has had to fight tooth and nail to get enough money for our veterans. We got to fight for it every day. We've been successful in the last few years but we don't know if that will -- if that rate of growth will continue. This is morally wrong in my opinion and an abdication of our fundamental responsibilities as members of Congress. It is past time for Congress to recognize that standing by our men and women in uniform -- meeting their needs -- is a fundamental cost of war and we should account for those needs and take responsibility for meeting them at the time that we send these young people into combat.Every Congressional appropriation for war, in my view, should include money for what, I'm going to call it, a veterans' trust fund that will ensure the projected needs of our wounded and injured soldiers are fully met at the time that their going to war is appropriated.
If the cost was factored in, cheapskates -- when it comes to health -- like Jim Webb wouldn't be able to prevent veterans from receiving the care they need. It's amazing that Jim Webb has signed off on how many billions for war in his brief time as a Democrat and as a senator but getting him to back full medical treatment for veterans is about as difficult as getting him to pick a check. He should be ashamed of himself.
Many veterans and contractors are turning to the court system in an effort to get some form of justice that the Congress has been unable to deliver. Disclosure, I know Susan Burke and think she's one of the strongest attorneys around. This is a press release from Motley Rice Law Firm who have partnered with her on burn pit cases:
Motley Rice attorneys have joined with co-counsel Susan Burke and her firm Burke PLLC in the KBR, Inc., Burn Pit multidistrict litigation to represent clients against multiple defense contractors for allegedly exposing American soldiers, veterans and former employees of defense contractors who worked and lived on or near military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to toxic smoke, ash and fumes generated through the disposal of waste in open burn pits. The plaintiffs in Jobes v. KBR, Inc. et al. allege that prolonged exposure to the pits' smoke, ash, and fumes caused injuries such as chronic illnesses, risk of illnesses and wrongful death. The injured plaintiffs also allege that the defendants had a duty to warn U.S. service members and civilians working and living around burn pit fumes about health and safety issues but failed to properly do so.
Plaintiff's also allege that these contractors used open burn pits rather than clean-burning incinerators at the majority of U.S. Military facilities in the Middle East in order to increase profits. Items disposed of in the burn pits may have included hazardous medical waste, hydraulic fluids, lithium batteries, tires and trucks (see detailed list below).
On Friday, October 15, 2010, the US Government Accountability Office released the Afghanistan and Iraq Report, in response to a request by Congress. It states that of the four burn pits they surveyed in Iraq, all standards outlined in 2009 for burn pit operations are not being met.
On Wednesday, September 8, 2010, Honorable Roger W. Titus of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled that the lawsuits in In re: KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation may proceed after denying the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The ruling allows the litigation to move forward and "carefully limited discovery" to take place.
The defendants who contracted to provide waste disposal services for United States operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are Texas-based contractors KBR, Inc.; Kellogg, Brown & Root Services, Inc.; Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC; and Halliburton Company. The plaintiffs seek monetary damages to compensate them for physical injuries, emotional distress, fear of future disease and the need for continued medical treatment and monitoring.
Thanksgiving will be Thursday and service members will remain in Iraq because that war didn't end. In addition, veterans of both it and Afghanistan will include many who are fighting for treatment, some even fighting for breath. That is violence, that is ongoing violence and Congress needs to start funding real and full benefits.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

He doesn't like working







The US government has made quite clear it doesn't give a damn about Iraqi citizens. Feisal Amin Rasould al-Istrabadi (Today) observes, "Seven months after Iraq's national elections, the United States has publicly denied taking sides in the wrangling over who will be Prime Minister. Privately, however, the US is backing the incumbent, Mr Nouri Al Maliki. The US has applied tremendous diplomatic pressure on Iraq's Arab neighbours to get them to accept another Maliki term. Most have refused. Initially, the US backed Mr Maliki in order to keep the Sadrist bloc from gaining a share of power. However, that has now backfired, since the Sadrists are the only group other than Mr Maliki's coalition of Shia parties that supports him."
Well what about the US citizens?
Another US soldier dies in Iraq and Joe Biden's flapping his gums about what the US has to do for Iraq? In what world does that make sense?
Maybe in the same world where everything he publicly predicted about Nouri has come true but, being vice president, he has to toe the line when, if he'd stayed in the Senate, he could take credit for just how right he was about Nouri.
Once upon a time, not all that long ago, the US Congress expected Iraq to be wrapped up and for the puppets to get their act together enough for the US to leave. Let's drop back to April 2, 2008 and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, that then-Senator Joe Biden chaired, which was entitled "Iraq After The Surge." Let's zoom in on US Senator Barbara Boxer speaking to Stephen Biddle:
Barbara Boxer: Did you just say that Maliki uses the Iraqi security forces as his militia? Did you say that?
Biddle: Yes.
Barbara Boxer: If that's true and Maliki uses his military as a force to bring about peace -- that's scandalous and that we would have paid $20 million to train [it] and someone that we consider an expert says it's a militia, that's shocking.
She then attempted to question Rosen who attempted to add details. Details weren't needed and ate into the time needed for Boxer to make the case she was making. "I come out with a picture of Iraq today," she explained, "as a bloody lawless place, run by militias, a place that has undergone ethnic cleansing and the Shias won that . . . and also that the US presence there is only putting off the day when the Iraqis will find the way."
Eight months after an election and no government. Does Barbara Boxer think that's evidence of the puppets finding the way? In that hearing, she declared, "There is no good solution to this nightmare so why not just figure out a way to tell the Iraqis, 'We've spilled the blood, now it's your turn'." It's over 2 years later and still the US government isn't sending that message.
Is there any accountability at all? Does no one but US House Rep Lloyd Dogget even remember the 18 benchmarks the White House proposed and Nouri signed off on in 2007? Dropping back to the September 16, 2008 snapshot for that day's US House Committee on the Budget hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and this exchange is between US House Rep Lloyd Doggett and the GAO's Joseph A. Christoff:
Lloyd Dogget: All of us remember, except maybe President Bush, that in January of 2007, he selected the benchmarks, the guidelines by which to measure success, by which to measure victory in Iraq and when we sought an analysis so we would have an objective information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office. And my recollection is that when you came out with your report on August the 30th of last year that you determined that . . . 11 of the 18 benchmarks that President Bush had set were not met. Is that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Based on that prior report correct.
Lloyd Doggett: Yes, sir. And you found that of the 18 benchmarks the president set himself to measure success in Iraq that only three had been met as of August 30, 2007. Now this year, a year later, you did some evaluation again. You did not evaluate every single benchmark but you really found that there had been very little progress in the year. We know that fortunately fewer Americans are being killed there. But in terms of the objective of the Bush policy in Iraq, you had a grand amount of success in that they met one more benchmark than they had the year before, isn't that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Well we didn't go through a benchmark by benchmark analysis but we did provide a report that talked about progess on the security front, the legislative front and the economic front in our June report.
Lloyd Doggett: Right and I believe you found one more benchmark met than the year before.
Joseph Christoff: Again we didn't do a benchmark by benchmark analysis, sir.
Lloyd Doggett: Well if you look at the -- it may not have been called a benchmark analysis -- but you looked at some of the same factors you had the year before. Just to begin to go through them, on the Constitutional Review Committee, you found that they'd formed the committee but the committee hadn't done anything. Right?
Joseph Christoff: And that's still true.
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met that. On enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification you found that they had enacted the legislation but they hadn't implemented and of it, right?
Joseph Christoff: That's correct.
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met the second benchmark. On the question of enacting the hydrocarbon or oil legislation, you concluded that they had not met that again this year, did you not?
Joseph Christoff: Correct, and no progess this year either.
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions -- that was the fourth benchmark President Bush had -- you found that that was only partially met. Again they passed a law to allow the provinces to act but it hadn't been implemented.
Joseph Christoff: Well on that one it will be implemented when provinces come together to form regions so that's an open --
Lloyd Doggett: Right, but we're not there yet.
Joseph Christoff: Well no provinces have voted to form regions other than the KRG originally.
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation for an Independent High Electoral Commission you found only partially meeting it. Again, they passed a law but hadn't implemented it.
Joseph Christoff: The commission was established. The provincial election law -- the date was established for October 1 but the implementing laws have not been enacted.
Lloyd Doggett: Right. And they won't have the elections they've been promising us they'd have for a year in October.
Joseph Christoff: October 1, they will not meet that date.
What was the point of the benchmarks? The people were told it was to ensure progress in Iraq and that progress could be measured. Why present the benchmarks to Congress, get Nouri to sign off on them and then ignore them?
It makes no sense and it cheapens the lives lost in this illegal war.
No, we scream in cathedrals
Why can't it be so beautiful
Why does there
Gotta be a sac-sac-sacrifice
Gotta be a sac-sac-sacrifice
-- "iiiee," written by Tori Amos, first appears on her From The Choirgirl Hotel
Was Saddam Hussein a man of peace? Was he the new Ghandi? No, he wasn't. Not by any means and it's indicative of just how badly the US government screwed up everything that the exiles they have put in place, installed into power, have made things worse for Iraqis. This is the US-installed regime that's targeting Iraqi Christians. Iraqi Christians have been targeted since the start of the illegal war. The latest wave started on October 31st when assailants attacked Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and at least 70 people died with at least another seventy wounded. Iraqis covered in the press -- in the foreign press, little coverage on this comes from the domestic press -- would state in that immediate aftermath that they were thinking of moving to Mosul but a relative or friend warned them that it wasn't safe there. Mosul was the focus of a 2008 wave of assaults on Iraqi Christians and, since the siege of the Church in Baghdad, Mosul's again become a place where Iraqi Christians are targeted. Over the weekend Sam Eyoboka (Vanguard) reported, "Peeved by the continued massacre of Christians in Iraq, the umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has appealed to the United Nations, UN, to intervene and save the lives of the Christian hostages in interest of world peace. Speaking in an interview, the National President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor also appealed to the Muslim fundamen-talists in that country to take advantage of the Muslim feast of Eid el Kabir to ensure that lasting peace reigns in that region." From Nigeria to Rome, Asia News noted, "Card Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI), said that the Italian Catholic Church was close to all 'those who are victims of violence'. He made the statement as he promoted a Day of Solidarity with Iraqi Christians, who are persecuted in their own country. The event includes prayers in all Italian parishes this Sunday." Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco is quoted stating, "Inviting everyone to pray for the persecuted Christians of Iraq in all the churches of our country on the occasion of the Solemnity of Christ the King is a concrete way to express our faith and show our closeness to all those who are victims of violence, like the people affected by the 31 October carnage in Baghdad's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral." Catholic News Agency reports, "Pope Benedict XVI prayed for Christians suffering from persecution and discrimination throughout the world, especially those in Iraq, during the Angelus on Nov. 21. The Italian bishops invited the faithful to a day of prayer for the persecuted and for their persecutors after the Oct. 31 massacre of dozens of Iraqi Christians celebrating Mass in a Baghdad cathedral. Violence continues to be directed against the country's Christian minorities. The day of prayer was promoted as a sign of closeness and solidarity to Iraqi Christians and all those persecuted for their faith."

The targeting continues today. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports two Iraqi Christians, brothers, were at the Mosul welding shop they owned and worked at when assailants burst in and shot them dead while "an elederly Christian woman [was] strangled in her home in central Mosul." AFP identifies the two brothers as 40-year-old Waad Hanna and 43-year-old Saad Hanna. Asia News reports that "Saad dies instantly, Hanna, two hours later." Catholic Culture notes, "After months of occasional bombings, the targeted attacks on Christians have taken a more personal turn, with murderers breaking into homes and workplaces to murder the Christians they have targeted."
Internal and external refugees are created by the violence. Internal? Asia News reports that 40 Chrisian faimilies have left Baghdad for northern Iraq while Randa Habib (AFP) reports the latest wave has resulted in many Iraqi Christians seeking safety in Jordan:

On Sundays families gather at the Syriac Orthodox church in Jordan's capital Amman to pray, socialise and mull over the best ways of securing a visa to enable them emigrate to the United States, Canada, Australia or Europe.
There are always new faces in the crowd, like Suzanne Jilliani, her husband Hani Daniel and their year-old baby who fled after the October 31 attack on Baghdad's Syriac Catholic cathedral that left 46 worshippers dead.
The couple, who now live in a furnished flat provided by the Syriac church in Jordan, dream of joining Jilliani's family in the United States.

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