Thursday, October 06, 2011

Who sat Wonkette at the grown ups' table?




I go on about this because I'm personally uncomfortable with government-sanctioned murder, but if pressed, I'd have to admit that it falls somewhat outside the purview of this blog: though there is some back and forth about Awlaki's death on the fringes of the GOP race, it will have about zero impact on the 2012 election – except to rob conspiracy theorists of a terrorist to link Obama to.



Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports a series of gold shop robberies in Iraq today which left 2 people dead and three more injured. Reuters notes violence sweeps Iraq today with a Ramadi roadside bombing claiming 1 life and leaving fifteen more people injured, a Baghdad grenade attack claiming the life of 1 Iraqi soldier while injuring a second one, a Taji roadside bombing injuring four pilgrims, the mayor of Tuz Khurmato being shot dead, a Baghdad grenade attack left two Iraqi soldiers injured, another Baghdad attack left two police officers with bullet wounds, a Baquba attack claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers with three more injured, and, dropping back to last night, a Baquba boming claimed 1 life and left six more people injured, the corpse of 1 Sahwa was discovered in Qaiyara, and a Taza bombing injured one person.
News is more than, "There are bases in Iraq." In fact, "There are bases in Iraq" is just a fact. Exploring the bases, Dr. Joseph A. Kechichian (Gulf News) makes several important points:
In fact, the 39 remaining US military bases -- out of 505 -- included four large facilities which cost over $2 billion to build. The Al Asad Airfield in Anbar province, for example, is so well equipped that most servicemen refer to it as "Camp Cupcake." Likewise, at the Joint Base Balad, huge dining halls cater to thousands, many of whom have access to a "25-metre swimming pool, a high dive, a football field, a softball field, two full-service gyms, a squash court, a movie theatre, and the US military's largest airfield in Iraq." One can only imagine the numerous items stocked at each -- from toothbrushes to bombs -- though the Department of Defence estimated that at least 2.4 million pieces of equipment worth a total of at least $250 million (Dh919.5 million) were donated to the Iraqi army over the course of the past 12 months alone.
For reasons that remain murky, why did Washington authorise and actually build colossal facilities in Iraq if the assumption was not to transform the country into a long-term staging area for US troops in the Gulf region? Why create an extensive infrastructure to support large numbers of troops that would be fully operational with their latest equipment, if the American presence was temporary? Was it all a waste of money? Were there no dissenting voices that warned the Bush and Obama administrations that militarization was not a long-term option?
You might think people would show the same questioning with regards to the "trainers" issue currently. Most in the press don't. Rebecca Santana (AP) does:
When the security agreement was negotiated in 2008, U.S. and Iraqi negotiators figured out a solution that appeased both sides.
The agreement gives Iraq the right to exercise jurisdiction over U.S. troops for "grave premeditated felonies" when those crimes are committed by troops who are off-duty and outside of U.S. bases or facilities.
Good for Rebecca Santana and AP. News is more than a press release. A lot of people 'covering' the "trainers" issue don't get that as their 'reports' repeatedly indicate.
So the press that misreported on the "trainers," they were all over the press briefings today, right?
Jay Carney, White House spokesperson, did declare, "This President's position on Iraq, which was the principle preoccupation of the previous administration in terms of these wars, was clear during the campaign, and his promises are being kept. He is ending that war, has ended it. And we are on track to remove all troops from Iraq by the end of the year. And we are doing it -- we're ending that war in a responsible way."
Sadly, those lies -- Jay is quite the liar -- were in reply to the question about some Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans not feeling the war were worth it.
Not one question about Iraq was asked. Who's at fault? The public. Hell no. A lazy press that thinks they're cute laughing and cutting up with Jay Carney. (Not all. Jake Tapper asked hard questions as usual.) The press told us yesterday, this morning and this afternoon that there would be NO immunity for US troops remaining in Iraq beyond 2011. Who's commander in chief? Jay Carney's boss. But no one had time or sense enough to ask about this issue, did they? Again, that's a reflection on the press.
At the US State Dept, spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked in the press briefing (click herer -- transcript and video):
MS. NULAND: Please.
QUESTION: Yes. What is your reaction to the Iraqi Government decision not to extend immunity to U.S. advisors past the 31stt of December?
MS. NULAND: Well, first to say that we are reviewing the statements that were made -- that was made in Iraq yesterday. Ambassador Jeffrey and others are working with Iraqi leaders today on specifically what they have in mind. We certainly appreciate the democratic spirit that has been displayed by Iraqi leaders in debating this important subject, and we're going to continue those discussions.
I think you know that as a matter of practice, when we enter into these long-term relationships, which is what we are negotiating now, we always ensure that our forces have the protections they need when they're deployed overseas. So we have to work through these issues.
QUESTION: Well, the statement, when it came out at 4 o'clock Washington time, essentially caught the Defense Department by surprise. And one person said this isn't going to make the negotiations any easier. We've already started far later than we should have. And if they insist on no immunity for U.S. forces, that's it, we're not going to do it.
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Ros?
QUESTION: Was there any signal from the Iraqi Government that this was going to be coming down the pike? Was there any heads-up to anyone in the building on this?
MS. NULAND: I, frankly, can't speak to what our Embassy and our folks on the ground knew with regard to this particular statement. But as you know, Ambassador Jeffrey and General Allen have been in nonstop communication with the Iraqis. We are working through this now, and as I said, we appreciate the fact that the Iraqis have been working hard to build a constituency for a continued training relationship, and we need to work on that together.
QUESTION: Was there ever a sense that the Iraqis appreciate the bind that they're essentially putting the U.S. military in, and by extension, the work of the U.S. State Department in Iraq starting next year by, one, waiting so late to decide that they wanted to talk about what happens next, and then two, to let things like this come out on official letterhead, long into the evening and people are thinking about other things?
MS. NULAND: I wouldn't characterize it that way, Ros. We've been talking about these issues for a long time, and we need to talk about them until we come to an agreement that is strong for Iraq and strong for the United States and strong for the region.
Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) spoke with Iraqi MP Iskander Witwit who told him that what was reported yesterday was what it was. And he quotes Witwit stating, "This is the finish. It is final." Well there's no reason he would know what Nouri al-Maliki is planning or discussing with the US currently. But you'd hope he'd at least know what the Parliament was doing -- or is he one of the 100-plus MPs who have trouble making it to the sessions? At any rate he looks like a fool (as does Gutman who framed his report around Witwit) because Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports, "Iraqi lawmakers on Wednesday said they were discussing a deal to extend a NATO training mission that could allow U.S. troops to stay as trainers beyond the year-end deadline for withdrawal, with the type of legal protections demanded by Washington." Wait, it gets better, al-Salhy reports the bill was read out loud to the Parliament once already. Witwit (and Gutman) where were you?
And who was foolish enough to think Witwit was a go to? He's Iraqiya. He's got no inside line to Nouri's thoughts. More importantly, Iraqiya's wised up a little and is now toeing a tough line with all things US to have a position to negotiate from (as opposed to the lead up to the Erbil Agreement when Iraqiy unwisely gave up too much and had nothing to show for it). In fairness to Roy Gutman, he does grasp what took place on Tuesday which cannot be said for most outlets (including but not limited to the New York Times, Reuters, etc.) It is not a minor point and if the snapshot weren't being edited quickly to eliminate at least 30K, we'd have more in here on that. However, Gutman got what went down yesterday. Very few did. He deserves much credit for that. The Tehran Times reports that the Sadr bloc says they are opposed to US troops staying beyond the end of this year with or without immunity.

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