Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sinking fast






This afternoon Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweeted:
janearraf Obama: "After nearly nine years, America's war in #Iraq will be over" raising the question 'What about Iraq's war?' Goodbye and good luck.
Today in DC, US President Barack Obama held a press conference to announce . . .
Well, let's look at how it's being reported. The best reporting? How about Mark Landler's "U.S. Troops to Leave Iraq by Year's End, Obama Says" (New York Times)? The journalists didn't write the headlines. We're not holding them responsiblve for them. We will, however, hold them reponsible for their content. Mark Landler didn't sleep through the press conference and it shows. Not among the worst but probably somewhere above the middle is Yochi J. Dreazen's piece for National Journal which opens: "President Obama's speech formally declaring that the last 43,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year was designed to mask an unpleasant truth: the troops aren't being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out. They're leaving because the Iraqi government refused to let them stay."
The biggest flaw for that? Remember the ones that will remain with the embassies in Iraq (under the State Dept) for a moment? Yochi didn't and didn't realize that in addition to those, there will be others. CNN notes that approximately 150 "will remain to assist in arms sales." Julian E. Barnes, Carol Lee and Siobhan Hughes (Wall St. Journal) remembered the ones assigned to the State Dept and also report on the ones who will remain for "arms sales." It's a toss up between the Los Angeles Times and AP on who has the worst report. Both are pretty ridiculous. But Reuters was probably the worst report until Ben Feller (Christian Science Monitor) elected to file. Normally, we don't link to Wired but a friend called in a favor so we'll note Spencer Ackerman (Wired) observes, "But the fact is America's military efforts in Iraq aren't coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas." Ackerman also notes there will be a CIA presence. It's a strong report. Eli Lake (Daily Beast) notes:
But the end of the war does not mean the end of the U.S. presence in Iraq. Indeed, speaking after the president's brief announcement, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough acknowledged that the United States would continue to train Iraq's military in the new weaponry that Obama has agreed to sell the government that emerged after U.S. troops toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Just this year, the Pentagon approved a sale of F-16s to Iraq's air force.
Also remaining in Iraq will be military contractors who currently protect American diplomatic missions in Iraq, such as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Irbil.
I spoke to many people today. The news media sure is compliant -- not the ones praised above or below. I was told by friends at State that we were correct about negotiations and bluffing (see earlier this week). (That's their term, I call it the power of no and note you can't bluff the power of no. You have to be prepared to walk away if you don't get what you need.) From the Vice President's office, no, it's not time (in reply to whether I should announce here that the site would be going dark shortly -- and please note, this from a friend who is not only unhappy with the way Barack comes off here but also that I critique Joe when I feel it's needed). So I'm really not understanding why there's so much hoopla. Between what was said especially. As a friend at State pointed out, Barack specifically spoke of discussions being ongoing for "trainers" and the White House has never considered "trainers" to be soldiers. My friend at the Pentagon suggested I think of a scene we both quote to one another from Black Widow.(starring Debra Winger as Alex and Theresa Russell as Catherine) written by Ronald Bass, directed by Bob Rafelson)
Catherine: The truth is, I'm sorry it's over.
Alex: The truth is, it's not over yet.
So what does that all mean. For starters, is a withdrawal really a withdrawal if you move from Iraq to Kuwait? October 12th the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations held a hearing. As Ava noted in her coverage, State's Patrick F. Kennedy provided testimony about how State will have "employees" in Kuwait that will be flown in as needed via airplanes ("long wing") and helicopters. Who'll ask that question?
Probably few. But credit to Brian Montopoli (CBS News -- link has text and video) who gets it right from the opening sentence: "President Obama announced Friday that the United States will withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, effectively bringing the long and polarizing war in Iraq to an end." And Brian Montopoli also grasps what many others didn't hear -- he quotes Barack stating at the press conference, "As I told Prime Minister Maliki, we will continue discussions on how we might help Iraq train and equip its forces, again just as we offer training and assistance to countries around the world." Mark Landler also notes that statement and points out, "Mr. Obama appeared to leave open the possibility of further negotiations on the question of military trainers".
New York Times' Tim Arango Tweeted, (if only he'd been drunk):
tarangoNYT props to @larajakesAP and @ruskygal. they nailed this iraq news last week
"If only he'd been drunk"? It would excuse his not grasping what Mark Landler -- who works for the New York Times as well -- had reported. It's nice of Tim to credit Lara Jakes and Rebecca Santana of AP but it's not really over yet and he might need to read his own paper to discover that. In addition, the sources that spoke to AP for that article were incorrect. Listen to the press conference by Barack and then the one that followed. (We'll get to the one that followed in a moment.)
What Barack announced was not anything to cheer. There is the continued negotiations (I'm told Joe Biden will still be going to Iraq shortly to press on "trainers") for post-2011. David Swanson points out that what Barack announced today and what he promised on the campaign trail were two different things. There's also the issue of the remaining soldiers -- for 'arms sales' and for the US Embassy staff -- and there's the issue of contractors. Iraq Veterans Against the War posted a stupid, stupid statement which opened with: "IVAW is excited to hear President Obama's announcement this afternoon about a total troop withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011. We are happy to know troops will be home with their families soon. However, there will be many issues to resolve in the aftermath of this disastrous war and occupation." When a lot of us were supporting to IVAW, the people in charge were aware of issues like 'security' contractors. But it doesn't seem to matter at all to IVAW today.
But that's IVAW. They've repeatedly embarrassed themselves over Barack Obama and it goes to the split that has led some to leave the organization. For whatever reasons, certain elements of IVAW got behind in 2007 and they've really whored for him and turned the organization into, as one former member likes to put it, "a bunch of __s" (p-word for vagina). And that's how they're seen now because in 2008 they went partisan and they never got their intelligence back. The same former member likes to point out that he can't take one of the faces of IVAW seriously because (quoted with permission) he's an "extreme 9-11 Truther, extreme, heavy, and he's also a member of that whole Cult of [St.] Barack you talk about. In other words, George W. Bush, all by himself, planned 9-11 and Barack is peaches and cream and puppy dog tails -- or maybe puppy god tales, I have no idea. But it's one foolish extreme or the other, where someone's the supreme goodness or else the supreme badness." And in each 'belief' there is naivete.
Then again, as another former IVAW points out, maybe it wasn't a good idea to make someone executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War when the person never served in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's a puzzler.
Now they're gearing up to talk "reparations." The US doesn't owe the puppet government reparations. Those exiles lobbied the US government to invade Iraq. If anything, they should be paying the US. The Iraqi people, I believe, deserve reparations. But I don't believe you turn that over to the Iraqi government. Not when so many Iraqis continue to live in poverty while the Iraqi government officials not only steal freely (and proudly) but also waste money like crazy. Dar Addustour reports the Iraqi government is spending $150 million to buy three deluxe planes -- one of which will be for the Iraqi president, another for the prime minister. $150 million. While people struggle in poverty. And someone thinks it's a good idea to give the government of Iraq more money?
If IVAW had anything to offer, they would have issued a statement today noting that Barack stressed negotations were still ongoing. They would have called out the contracters as well as the US soldiers who are going to be remaining on the ground in Iraq not to mention those who will be stationed in Kuwait. But that would have required leadership and IVAW turned themselves into a get-out-the-vote organization. For those who've forgotten, IVAW got punked big time at the Democratic Party's convention in Colorado. We were there, Ava and myself, reporting on it for Third and IVAW had the Democratic officials running scared. They were making demands, they were going to have a protest. People in the press that we knew were asking Ava and I about it and the excitement was building and IVAW was geared to get more publicity than they'd ever had in their lives. Then they got stage managed right out of their press moment. They were all happy and thrilled and Barack was going to meet with them and blah, blah, blah. The clock had already been running out. They got punked. The party shut down their protest and shut them up and then ignored them.
The big split in IVAW, that it's never recovered from, was not, as some want to reduce it, about whether or not a political statement was being made with a US flag or whether the flag was being disrespected. That was the eruption point and it was issues like the refusal to be the independent organization that was going to hold all politicians accountable. IVAW was not a Democratic Party organization but that's what it became in 2008 and they have made clear today that they have chosen to remain that. That's a priority but being a veteran of the Iraq War or even the Afghanistan War, not so much. Despite being named Iraq Veterans Against the War.
If that hurts, I really don't give a damn today. We don't link to Wired and I dislike Spencer Ackerman. While a favor called in got Wired it's link, I didn't have to give kind words to Ackerman. I did it because he did a good job reporting on what's really going down. I don't care for David Swanson and usually see him as the most extreme Barack apologist but he didn't try to spin it or lie today and he got a link. He earned his link, good job, David Swanson.
By the same token, I didn't intend to write about IVAW today. Except for a few passing sentences about the shameful 2008 behavior, I've not criticized the organization. But this snapshot was ready an hour ago when Kat tugged on my shoulder and whispered (as I was finishing dictating in my cell phone), "You have to take this call." And I said "Hold the snapshot, I'm going to have to change something I know" and took the other cell phone and it was two former members of IVAW telling me about the IVAW statement -- which I hadn't even read yet -- and expressing their extreme anger.
I don't blame them. The fact that they're not IVAW now doesn't matter -- and doesn't matter to them. They worked to build up that organization and IVAW had core beliefs about the Iraq War. Those beliefs got shoved aside to promote Barack today. They're outraged and I think they're right to be. If it was just their opinion and I didn't agree with it, I'd present as "two former IVAW's feel . . ." and leave it alone. But they are right and IVAW really needs to take a look what they believe in what they started and the mutant child they've become.
Today was interesting. It wasn't what much of the press portrays but it was interesting. Like this statement, after Barack's press conference, by Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, "You know, Matt, I think it's important to point out that we have a capacity to maintain trainers. In fact, the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq will have a capacity to train Iraqis on the new kinds of weapons and weapons systems that the Iraqis are going to buy, including, importantly, like the F-16s that they just purchased just about a month ago. So we will have a training capacity there. We'll have the kind of normal training relationship that we have with countries all over the world. You'll see, for example, Central Command looking for opportunities to have increased naval cooperation. You'll see opportunities in naval exercises; opportunities to have increased air force training and exercise opportunities. So we're going to have the kind of robust security cooperation with the Iraqis that we have with important allies all around the world. So the suggestion of your question that somehow there is not going to be training is just not accurate."
Did those doing their shine-on-the-glory write-ups bother to pay attention to that press conference? Apparently not. We'll probably go into that one on Monday (including the admission that ups the numbers -- probably by about 45, I'm guessing -- of US troops that will remain in Iraq).

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

No comments: