Saturday, November 05, 2011

If he's smiling, jobs don't matter





This morning the Associated Press reported that another US service member has died in Iraq with the military providing "no further details" other than that the death occurred yesterday. AFP declares, "A US soldier has been killed in northern Iraq, the US military said on Friday, the first American service member to die in an attack here since the US announced its forces would depart by year's end."
The need for a 'hook' may leave some insulted. Barack gave the announcement on October 21st. The day before, October 20th, the official Pentagon count -- a government supplied number unlike the 'dabbling' website AFP relies on (AP is the only news outlet that has done their own count throughout the war) -- was 4482 military personnel killed in the Iraq War. You'll find that same number on October 23rd. October 27th the count jumps 3 to 4485. Pfc Steven Shapiro, Sgt 1st Class David G. Robinson and Capt Shawn P.T. Charles all passed and there deaths are Iraq War deaths. Sometimes the media really really is unable to hide their desire to be war pornographers by what they emphasize and what they don't, by which deaths they think count and which ones they don't bother with. Aaron Glantz is a familiar name to the community for his coverag of Winter Soldier, the Iraq War, veterans issues and much more. He reports on Steven Shapiro's death for the Bay Citizen here. Shapiro was the first announced death after the speech. He's also from California and our governor (Jerry Brown) issued the following statement October 26th:
SACRAMENTO -- On behalf of all Californians, Governor Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown honor Pfc. Steven F. Shapiro who bravely gave his life in service to our state and nation. The Governor and First Lady extend their deepest condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.

In memorial, Governor Brown ordered that flags be flown at half-staff over the State Capitol today. Pfc. Shapiro's family will receive a letter of condolence from the Governor.

Pfc. Steven F. Shapiro, 29, of Hidden Valley Lake, CA, died October 21, in Tallil, Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, TX. Shapiro was supporting Operation New Dawn.

So the death announced today is the fourth death since Barack's speech. Today the White House issued the following:

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Upcoming Visit of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq

WASHINGTON, DC -- President Obama looks forward to welcoming Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to the White House on December 12. The two leaders will hold talks on deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq. The President honors the sacrifices and achievements of all those who have served in Iraq, and of the Iraqi people, to reach this moment full of promise for an enduring US-Iraq friendship.
Matt Spetalnick, Jeremy Pelofsky and Eric Beech (Reuters) observe, "The administration has left the door open to negotiating a military training assistance agreement after the U.S. troops leave." This is the meeting that Moqtada al-Sadr declared (last weekend) Nouri should not have.
Robert Parry. We've ignored him for some time. Today Parry again gives ammo to those who would argue AP and Newsweek parted ways with him for good reason. That was less clear when Bush was in the White House because suddenly Parry was pratically a peace nik, ready to, in the words of Melanie, "Lay down, lay down, lay it all down, let your white birds smile up at the ones who stand and frown." "Assessing Obama's 'Peace' Moves" reads like a mix of Parry's 'greatest' hits. Sexism and hatred of Hillary expressed? Check! Fantasy passed off as fact? Check! Defense of any and all Democratic males? Check! I actually know Leon Panette and have known him for years. That hasn't meant that I haven't called him out here. But Parry's the one claiming to be a journalist? Seriously?
I don't read Charles Krauthammer and don't know how to spell his last name -- it'll be spelled correctly by the person I'm dictating this too. He is nothing in my world and I'll keep it that way. (And I'm sure I'm nothing in his and that's more than fine.) I skipped Parry's section on that columnist, the second section of his column.. If he's less than honest in that section, I wouldn't be surprised. But in the final section he wants to accuse the "neocons" (but not the neoliberals -- remember, when you whore, you get a little limited in your vision and for Parry that means forgetting all Democratic males who supported the Iraq War and/or voted for the 2002 authorization) of things like, for example, accusing others of being "disloyal or feckless." That might stand as a solid charge if Parry didn't immediately move into comparing them to Adolf Hitler. That's a really strong charge and I don't think it stands up but when you want to whine that some right-wingers are accusing Barack of losing the war and you want to act outraged by that but you also want to respond by comparing these people to Hitler, you're not going to be seen as very rational to most people. [Malou Innocent (New Jersey Star-Ledger), covering much the same ground Parry does, neither feels the need to act as if the war hawks are all on the right nor to compare opponents to "Hitler" in order to establish a solid argument.]
There are many ways that it could be argued that Barack lost the Iraq War. You may not like that, but people can feel that way and not be right wingers and not be a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler. Had Barack immediately drawn the war to a close upon being sworn in -- what candidate Barack led people to believe in the tent revivals for the Cult of St. Barack -- then there would be one and only one way to argue that he lost the war: By ending it. Instead he made the decision to continue the Iraq War. And don't give the lie that he had to follow the SOFA. There was a cancellation clause in the SOFA that he could have exercised.
The thing that would make many real journalists cringe is this statement by Parry: "Finally, the President has gotten rid of many holdovers from the Bush administration, such as Robert Gates at Defense and the old high command in Iraq and Afghanistan." What? Ray Odierno remains. David Petraeus got promoted to the CIA. And Robert Gates? Barack didn't get "rid of" him, Gates left on his own. Barack wanted him to stay and, in fact, Barack was just singing Gates' praises on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last week. (And, in a senior moment, Barack forgot that Gates had left the administration while speaking to Leno.)
Robert Parry disgraced himself in 2008 and we've ignored him since then but when he comes off as crazy as he does today (including floating conspiracy theories), we call him out. For those who've forgotten his 2008 crazy, we'll drop back to "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally (Year in Review):"
In that month alone, prior to Glen Ford, she'd already offered Robert Parry, apparently enroute to the padded room he now inhabits, insisting that 'evil' Hillary would do just what her husband did because wives behave exactly like their husbands. If, indeed, that's the case, better get the Thorazine ready for Mrs. Parry. There was never an effort made by Goody to stop the foaming at the mouth Parry and say, "Hold on a second. You have spent this decade and the bulk of the nineties writing one article after another in defense of or in praise of Bill Clinton. Why are you suddenly so scared that your deranged fantasy of Hillary being just like Bill will come true?"

You don't ask those questions. To you or me, those questions may seem basic. It's not every day, for instance, that journalist Robert Parry morphs into nutty Christopher Hitchens. But what you're forgetting is that adolescence is all about recreation. It's all about finding another identity. New hair styles are tried, new clothes, new friends, it's all about reinvention. And who but a sane person would attempt to deny Bobby Parry his shot at a second adolescence? And there were so many more important questions to ask.

Is she really going out with him?
Well, there she is. Let's ask her.
Betty, is that Jimmy's ring you're wearing?
Gee, it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today?
By the way, where'd you meet him?
I met him at the candy store
He turned around and smiled at me
You get the picture? (yes, we see)
That's when I fell for (the leader of the pack)
-- "The Leader of the Pack," written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Shadow Morton
He's still writing as the love struck Bobby Parry. You sort of picture him penciling "BOBBY LOVES BARRY" all over his spiral notebooks.
Robert Parry may want to argue that revisionary tactics will set in on the Iraq War -- they certainly did on Vietnam -- and further argue that by calling people "Hitler," he's attempting to stop the revisionary tactics.
The Iraq War was illegal. It was built on lies and there was never a second authorization from the United Nations. It was continued with non-stop lies. And we can go into all of that and allt he damage that was done. But if we want to stop revisionary tactics from taking hold one of the first things we should probably do is not compare our political enemies to Hitler.
Kelley B. Vlahos ( runs down various Iraq remarks of those seeking the GOP's presidential nomination (only US House Rep Ron Paul favors ending the war -- excuse me, of all those running on the Republican and Democratic side, only Ron Paul favors ending the war which means no enduring occupation via the State Dept or any other US vehicle). Vlahos notes:
Critics say Republicans are digging themselves into a hole on this issue, and that might not be such a bad thing. "The polls show overwhelming opposition to the Iraq War, and if the Republicans want to say that 'Obama lost Iraq,' Lord let them," quipped Conn Hallinan, a writer for the liberal Institute for Policy Studies.
A phrase I learned to stop saying in 2008: I have never heard anything so stupid in my life.
As Democrats and Communists and Socialists in the alternative media demonstrated very quickly, the minute you say that you've never heard anything so stupid, another one pops up to pipe off something even more stupid. Conn Hallinana's remark is very, very stupid.
As we know, if we paid attention in 2007, Barack Obama stated he had no problem, even after withdrawal, sending US troops back into Iraq.
What could make US troops go back into Iraq?
Well with Samantha Power in charge, we all know the response to 'humanitarian crisis' is bombs and bullets and not aid and medicine. So should a blood bath take hold in Iraq or, more likely, should efforts be made -- strong and possibly violent efforts -- to take down the despot Nouri al-Maliki, it's possible the US would go back in. Some, like Allan Gerson (Huffington Post) feel that the most likely immediate humanitarian issue will be what happens to the Iranian dissidents who now reside in Camp Ashraf:
On Dec. 31, 2011, the day that the last American soldier is due to leave Iraq, Camp Ashraf is under orders by the Iraqi regime to close down and for its residents to be dispersed to prisons or concentration camps, or to the tender mercies of Iranian executioners. Two unprovoked armed assaults by the Iraqi Army on Camp Ashraf in 2009 and last April resulted in over forty dead and hundreds injured by Iraqi soldiers carrying US-made weapons. There is no reason to hope that the impending closure will be either peaceful or humane, despite the fact that the Ashraf residents were granted protected persons status under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the US military.
Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Ashraf residents were provided with written guarantees by US authorities that, in return for disarming voluntarily, the US would protect them. But, since early 2009, when the US handed over responsibility for the security of Camp Ashraf to Iraqi forces, that guarantee has become a cruel hoax as the Iraqi Army continues to impose a punishing blockade, depriving residents of basic services, including access to medical care.
Camp Ashraf residents were welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein in the 80s. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003, led for calls (from the US) for the residents to surrender all their weapons. They did so after being promised that the US would protect them. Bernd Debusmann (Reuters) picks up the story there:
After being vetted for possible involvement in terrorist activities, the PMOI members at Ashraf were granted "Protected Person" status under the Fourth Geneva convention and the U.S. military assumed control of the camp. That was a bizarre twist even by the standards of the Middle East because the PMOI remained on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations.
American protection of the camp ended in January 2009, when the U.S. transferred control to the Iraqi government. According to testimony to a Congressional hearing, that transfer followed an explicit and written assurance by the Iraqi government that it would respect the protected status of Ashraf residents.
Just seven months later, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp, whose inhabitants include around 1,000 women. In the ensuing clashes, at least nine residents were killed and scores injured. On April 8, 2011, Iraqi security forces moved into the camp again, using what Amnesty International termed "grossly excessive force and live fire." Thirty-six residents were killed and more than 300 wounded.
So much for respecting assurances to the Americans.
Repeating, Barack's stated that he would be fine with sending troops back into Iraq. Are you prepared for that possibility?
Are you prepared for the fact that insta-polling is complete bulls**T. I just want to scream when dumb ass like Conn speak. I can remember, for example, a number of people gloating in 1991. They insisted that they were right and that Anita Hill wasn't believable. That was an insta-polling result. But people need time to think and come to their own conclusions. And not only did the polling shift after the media found a new topic to gossip about while pretending they were investigating but the outrageous treatment of Anita Hill set the stage for the gender quake of 1992.
Insta-polling is pretty much meaningless with one exception: 15%. If someone below 52% doesn't get at least a 15% bounce in insta-polling, there's no victory in sight. When the news media obsesses over one thing -- be it an economic plan or a budget cut or whatever -- it can and does shape opinion but that's for a brief time. If the best it can turn out is a 15% increase, that's going to vanish in less than three months. That's the only thing to study in an insta-poll.
The news media has (falsely) sold ALL US TROOPS LEAVE IRAQ. They have failed to adquately convey what the State Dept will be doing. It's no surprise that people are embracing what the media and the government's selling. But things change. And as George H.W. Bush found out with a war bump of his own, public opinion can change very quickly.
If Republican candidates want to argue against what Barack's done or that he's lost Iraq, the better argument for them would revolve around the March 2010 elections and the White House's decision to back Nouri al-Maliki for a second term. They pressured Ayad Allawi to go along with it, they pressured the Kurds to go along with it. Without that pressure, Nouri wouldn't be prime minister. And after noting that, they could talk about how Nouri's a dictator and they could quote to back it up. Quote Nouri? Americans don't know Nouri. They do know Hillary Clinton. They do know Joe Biden. They do know Barbara Boxer. They know them and a lot of others and that's who they should quote. In fact, they should quote Joe Biden on how the US was being asked to recognize a government that's not even a real one and doesn't even exist.
By refusing to honor the will of the Iraqi people, by backing Nouri al-Maliki and doing deals behind the scenes to ensure Nouri remained in office, you could argue -- and history probably will -- that Barack and his advisors made a huge, huge mistake.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

He threatens to go topless





Holly Petraeus: As a lifetime military family member, I've seen first hand the devastating impact financial scams and predatory lending can have on our military families. I also spent six years as the head of the Better Business Bureau's BBB Military Line program and that was an education for me about the consumer issues and scams that impact the military. Unfortunately, there are still too many young troops learning financial lessons through hard experience and years of paying off expensive debt. In January 2011, I was asked to join the CFPB and head up the Office of Servicemember Affairs. The OSA's job is to educate and empower service members to make better informed decisions regarding consumer financial products and services , to monitor their complaints about consumer financial products and services and the responses to those complains and to coordinate the efforts of Federal and state agencies to improve consumer protection measures for military families. In support of our mission, we've already signed a Joint Statement of Princiles with the Judge Advocate Generals of all the services about how we will coordinate the exchange of information between us concerning military complaints and the actions we take to protect service members. We've already set up a working agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs. We are now referring any military personnel or veterans who call the CFPB's hotline claiming that they are in danger of foreclosure directly to the VA home loan program [1-800-827-1000]. As for our educational mission, I think it's important to get out and hear from military families about the issues that concern them the most. I've visited bases all over the United States since I started my job. I also met with the National Guard in Oklahoma, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. So what are the issues that have come up? First, the housing meltdown has hit military families hard. When they received orders to move, . often they can't sell their homes for enough to pay off the mortage. They can't rent it out for enough to cover their mortgage payments. They're told they can't get a loan modification or short sell because they're not yet delinquent and they can't refinance for a better rate because it will no longer be considered their principal residence once they leave. We've heard of a number of cases where the service member has opted to go alone to the new duty station and that's pretty tough when you consider that he or she may have just had an overseas deployment and the family is now facing another separation -- this time for finanacial reasons. [. . .] Another big issue we've been hearing about concerns military education benefits and for-profit colleges. There have been cases of very agressive marketing by for-profit colleges to military personnel and their families -- of both educational programs and private student loans. Another issue is car loans. Service members are often sold clunkers at inflated prices with high financing charges and when the original clunker breaks down, they sometimes take an offer to roll the existing debt into another loan for yet another clunker which may also break down. There is also yo-you financing, where service members drive away thinking they have qualified for financing only to be told later that the financing fell through and they will have to pay more.
That's Holly Petraeus (yes, her husband is David Petraeus) testifying before the Senate Banking Committee this morning. The above is from her opening remarks and that's remarks delivered orally (the written remarks cover the same topics but in more depth). She was part of a panel along with Rushmore Consumer Credit Resource Center's CEO Bonnie Spain, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society CEO Charles Abbot (retired US admiral), USAA's CAO and Executive Vice President Kevin Bergner (retired major general) and Pentagon Federal Credit Union's President and CEO Frank Pollack. Senator Tim Johnson is the Chair of the Committee and Richard Shelby is the Ranking Member.
We'll note this exchange.
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: Mrs. Petraeus, in your testimony, you discussed that you joined the [Better Business] Bureau in January of this year. to start an entirely new office, the Office of Servicemember Affairs. How many people have you hired to work in your office? How many total staff members do you hope to hire? What's your budget? And, lastly, are you getting the resources that you need here?
Holly Petraeus: Thank you for the question, Ranking Member Shelby. We now have -- I have six employees working for me. So we're a small but mighty office I hope. I don't expect to have it get much larger than that -- at least not for the moment. Of course, everybody has a wish list and there's nobody that if you ask "Can you use more employess?" that they would say "no." And I do have a wish list of a few more to extend our reach but you know there are other divisions with the CFPB that we are able to tap for their expertise as well. So we don't have to -- don't have to do everything ourselves. As for our budget, that's still being hammered out and, thankfully for me, my deputy's doing the numbers, so I'm a little bit removed from that, so I can't give you accurate information on that right now.
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: You think you're getting the resources overall that you need thus far? I know you're just getting started in a way.
Holly Petraeus: Yes. Although the resources are there but I think it's a frustration, again, to not be able to do everything that people expected us to do. When I first began, I got letters saying that 'We're so excited that there's an agency right now that you, Mrs. Petraeus, will be able to do something about these people that pray on the military.' So I'm very excited about the day that our non-bank supervision team can -- if I can use an analogy -- stop circling the earth field and get permission to land and start their work.
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: Mrs. Petraeus, as you well know, in 2006, Congress passed the Military Lending and this gave the Department of Defense the ability to promulgate regulations that addressed these unscrupulous lending practices that targeted the military. And after Dodd-Frank legislation was passed, the Department of Defense still continues to have the sole authority to write regulations implementing that particular act. What's your view of the effectiveness of the act in stopping unscrupulous lending?
Holly Petraeus: Well I think we heard from Adm Abbot --
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: Absolutely.
Holly Petraeus: -- that there has been success on the classic definition of a pay day loan. I think the problem is there are a lot of predatory products out there right now that have managed to write themselves a definition that puts themselves outside of the implementation. I went online yesterday and I searched the search term "military loans" and I got 9,980,000 hits and the top two search terms that came up were "military loans bad credit" -- which was almost two million -- and "military loans no credit" which came back also two million. So there's obviously a ton of people out there who are managing to exist outside of the protections of the Military Lending Act and it's a problem.
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: Uhm, Mrs. Spain, should the VA require first time home buyers to receive financial education of some sort before they can obtain a VA secured loan? In other words, counseling -- serious counseling as to the implications and obligations of a loan like this.
Bonnie Spain: My opinion would be yes. And the reason that I say that is that buying a home is a complicated process and unless you are a realtor or a morgage lender you can't possibly know everything that you need to know.
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: And it's a big buy for most people, isn't it?
Bonnie Spain: It is a big buy. It's probably the most important, largest purchase they will ever make.
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: Adm Abbot, have you, uh -- In your testimony, among other things, you stated that the Military Lending Act -- and I'll quote your words -- "has dramatically curtailed payday loans to active duty service members." We're glad to hear that. You also point out, however, that some financial institutions have found loopholes in the regulations that the Department of Defense promulgated in 2007. They always do this and you have to come back. Have you contacted the Department of Defense regarding these issues and, if so, what's been that response to close some of those loopholes?
Charles Abbot: Yes, senator, we did in fact, in the year immediately after the act was passed and implemented, have a period where we examined its effect and we reported the results that we had seen to the Department of Defense and it had already begun to be clear that it was having a positive effect and also the same phenomenon you described of the work arounds were coming. The narrowness with which we saw the act implemented gave us concerns at the beginning and now in the light of four years of experience it continues to cause us concern and that is the direction that the financial industry has gone in using the particular limited application of closed-end loans in certain circumstances to, in effect, offer new products that were essentially new pay day loans.
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: Regarding online lending and the growth there, are there additional steps DoD can take to ensure that they adequately cover online lending because people will be resourceful to get around anything.
Charles Abbot: You know, Senator, I believe that education may be the single most important weapon in that particular fight.
Ranking Member Richard Shelby: So you agree with Ms. Spain?
Charles Abbot: Yes.
And we'll note Bonnie Spain from her opening remarks explaining the steps she felt needed to be taken to best prepare service members and veterans as they seek loans throughout their lifetimes.
Bonnie Spain: In wrapping up I'd like to recommend the following actions: Let's close the loopholes that pay day lenders are using to charge military members over 36% interest, require online businesses to post their locations and their range of interest rates, strengthen regulation for the debt settlement companies that target individuals and are abusive, apply the same standards for for-profit credit counseling agencies that non-profits have to adhere to. continue to support financial education for our military and allow the bases to use the funds to purchase materials that they know are good for their agencies and their military, require home buyer education for first time home buyers It's vital we help people seek homes to revitalize our troubled economy, and support and fund housing counseling.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Where is it?






Al Mada reports that negotiations continue for US military forces to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 and that both the Iraqi government and the US government agree that some US presence is needed for training Iraqi forces. The report also notes that 'trainers' could get immunity via either the arrangement with the State Dept or NATO.

Eli Lake (The Daily Beast) speaks with Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and reports:

Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraq was continuing to negotiate the details of the post-2011 U.S. training mission in his country.
Bowen said the Iraqi army has some important bright spots. "The military and police are better equipped and trained than they have ever been before in modern Iraqi history, but they have a significant way to go before the military is capable of external defense, defending its borders," he said, singling out Iraq's special operations forces in particular. "They are among the best in the Middle East, if not the best."
In the latest report from Bowen's office, released Friday, Gen. Babakir Zibari said Iraq is not capable of providing for the country's external defense now, though he added that the country may be able to suppress internal strife. He also said in an interview published in the report that Iraq's air force will not be capable defending the country's air space until 2020.
"The Iraqi air force is still at a very rudimentary phase," Bowen said. "They have no jet aircraft -- they rely on rotary wing aircraft."

The last time we corrected Joel Wing it was not pretty on his end so prepare to cue up Jackson Browne's "Here Come Those Tears Again." Wing writes, "The 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Washington and Baghdad allows for a police training mission past the December 31, 2011 withdrawal date."
How did the SOFA get so screwed up in the coverage? Because people don't know what the hell they're talking about but continue yapping away. Several e-mails came in asking if Joel Wing is correct? Of course not.
Before we get into anything else, let's deal with a basic of contract law. Remember this and you'll never have to wonder when someone makes an idiotic statement whether they're right or wrong: When a contract expires, it expires. If you sign a contract to star in one film for Paramount and also sign a contract to star in one film for Universal and you finishing filming the Paramount picture and begin shooting the Universal one, no one would be stupid -- hopefully, no one would be stupid enough to say -- "The Paramount contract allows for ___ to make the film with Universal." A contract's only good for what a contract's good for. And when a contract's done -- as it appears the SOFA is -- then it's done. The SOFA appears to expire December 31, 2011. Something could change tomorrow and the US and Iraq could decide to extend it. Barring that, the SOFA is set to expire December 31, 2011.
An expired contract is an expired contract. That's so basic that if you can't grasp that, you really need to be checking legal issues with others before writing about them. So now that we've established that the SOFA -- unless it's renewed or extended -- has no say beyond December 31, 2011 when it is currently set to expire, what is the governing document? As we've noted repeatedly, it's the Strategic Framework Agreement. And we could offer many State Department officials testifying to Congress on this topic as reported in earlier snapshots. But to make it real easy for cry babies, we'll instead link to this State Dept page of the Ambassador Iraq Transition Coordinator Patricia Haslach, testifying to Congress (link is text and video) on June 1st of this year and we'll offer this excerpt:
The Strategic Framework Agreement sends a strong signal that our relationship with Iraq extends far beyond miltary support alone. The agreement focuses on seven areas of cooperation: political and diplomatic; defense and security; cultural; economic and energy; health and environment; information technology and communications; and law enforcement and judicial. In 2009, Secretary Clinton hosted Prime Minister Maliki for a Higher Coordinating Committee meeting to lay out our shared vision for this reinvigorated partnership. Ambassador Jeffrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, and other U.S. officials in Iraq work to implement this vision on a daily basis. Our partners in the interagency -- including Commerce, Energy, Justice, Transporation, and Treasury -- play a crucial role in sharing expertise. The SFA is the cornerstone of U.S. diplomatic efforts in Iraq, and its vision of parternship pervades all of our efforts and steers our future goals.
Or you can click here -- still State Dept -- for Michael Corbin (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs) specifically invoking the Strategic Framework Agreement on August 16, 2010 in a press briefing with Colin Kahl. And if all of that doesn't do the trick for you, check out the Special Inspector General on Iraq Reconstruction's October 24th report [PDF format warning] entitled "Iraqi Police Development Program: Opportunites For Improved Program Accountability And Budget Transparency." On page two of the report, you'll find this: "The Strategic Framework Agreement between the United States and Iraq, signed in November 2008, provided a basis for continuing bilateral law enforcement and judicial training. One provision directed cooperation on enhancing law enforcement. The PDP grew out of this agreement." PDP is "Police Development Program."
I hope we're clear on that now. It's no sin to be wrong. We're all wrong at some point and I'm more wrong than anyone else. It's a mistake to pretend you're not wrong. And while we're talking about the Strategic Framework Agreement, there's a reason we've emphasized it so much this year and last: We didn't cover it.
In real time, it's a sentence here, a sentence there. In November 2008, we weren't interested. If you leave out the shoe tossing incident -- that occured when Bully Boy Bush and Nouri al-Maliki were signing both the Strategic Framework Agreement and the SOFA -- you'll find very little of it in 2008 or 2009.
And that's my mistake. I focused on the SOFA because that's what hearings were held on that's what Senators and Representatives -- of both parties -- were objecting to. I never foresaw the possibility that diplomacy would be militarized and the SFA would be used in any way other than it had been in the past. That was my mistake and don't I look like a fool today over that? Absolutely. I was wrong, I was stupid and I was foolish. And copping to all of that? Didn't make the sky fall in. Didn't mean my life ended or I collapsed in tears. It's a fact of life, if you're going to try to cover something, you're going to make mistakes. When you do, the smartest thing is to admit to it.
I don't play on the SOFA and the reason for that is because enough lies were given on that already. Here we told the truth about the SOFA. And those who think the illegal war is really over should grasp that their belief system needs to include praise that Iraq balked at immunity. Because the SOFA didn't mean the war ended ever. And as we always stated it could expire, it could be renewed it could be replaced. If others had bothered to be truthful, the Iraq War might really be ending or it might have ended a long time ago. Instead a number of serial liars provided non-stop spin and declared the Iraq War over. Leslie Cagan, that means you and the leadership or 'leadership' of United For Peace & Justice.
By the same token, the same serial liars -- we were dealing Tom Hayden just yesterday -- are backing spinning again. They're lying and they need to stop. A friend at State explains the announcement Barack made last month as giving him and Nouri a 'victory' for their domestic audiences and then when 'trainers' go in (the friend believes that the negotiations will be successful and trainers will go in), Barack and Nouri will both still insist they ended the war and occupation. I don't know. What I do know is that negotiations are ongoing. What I do know is the Iraqi press is very interested in those negotiations. What I do know is Moqtada al-Sadr is concerned enough that he's called an emergency session of Parliament and stated that Nouri needs to call of his visit to DC next month.
I'm not a psychic. I can't tell you what's going to happen. I can provide a list of possibilities. And we did that with the SOFA and we were attacked for doing that. People who whore themselves to the Democratic Party were really interested in attacking us. And now there's a small group -- including this site -- who are interested in trying to get across that the negotiations have not ended, that the 'lovely' speech was spin. Do I get some great thrill in doing this?
No, I'm damn tired of it and I wish to hell people would start doing the jobs they say they hold -- whether that's reporter or leader of the left.
Here is what we know about the US and Iraq after December 31, 2011. 1) The CIA will maintain its presence. 2) Special-Ops will maintain their presence. 3) The Iraqi Air Force is not trained and cannot patrol its own airspace and really doesn't have the equipment for that at present. 4) The US Embassy in Baghdad will have Marines (as all US embassies do) and they will have soldiers as well. The Iraqi press is concerned with how many. The American press likes to keep repeating the 'all' lie. 5) The US Embassy in Baghdad will oversee 'security' contractors. 6) Negotiations are ongoing between DC and Baghdad on the issue of 'trainers.' 7) Kuwait and others will be used -- as Barack noted they would in 2007 -- as a staging platform for US troops.
That's what we know. There are rumors -- the big one in the Iraqi press today was whispers that Nouri had approved 200 "trainers" -- granted them immunity. But in terms of what is known, that's not what people think they heard in the speech. And on number seven, Lolita C. Baldor (AP) is reporting, "While all but a small number of U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year, they won't all be home for the holidays as President Barack Obama promised last month. The Pentagon is poised to move at least 4,000 soldiers from Iraq to Kuwait at the end of the year, pending a final decision expected soon by Pentagon and Kuwaiti leaders, U.S. officials said Wednesday." Somewhere Tom Hayden's clutching the pearls and calling for the smelling salts.

If you don't like those seven realities -- and I don't (although I can live with the Marine half of number four) -- then you need to be objecting now. Not in January, not a year from now. Gallup published a poll today -- they did a random sample of 992 American adults and the survey has a 4% plus/minus margin of error. Asked if they approve of Barack's decision, 75% of "All Americans" say they approve. 21% say they disapprove. But do they know what's going on because the media's done a very poor job of explaining what was going on and so-called voices of peace like Tom Hayden have ignored reality and, when forced to address any of the seven realities we noted two paragraphs up, dismiss it as fantasy. Well Tom used to take joy in the killing of Palestinians as well, I do remember. I'm not really sure he's who we need to go to for ethical advice.
Joel Wing mentions the Interior Ministry, how the US State Dept will be helping to strengthen it. He should do a piece on why?
Why should the US waste their time on the Ministry of Interior? Or the US tax payers money? Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November 2010. He was supposed to name a Cabinet -- not a partial one, a Cabinet -- in order to move to prime minister (per the Constitution). He didn't. It's now one year later.
The Ministry of Interior, that the US government is going to spend millions of tax payer dollars to 'assist' and 'train,' still has no Minister. An 'acting minister' isn't a minister. An acting minister is a puppet. Without him or her going through the Constitutional process, they have no protection and serve only as long as Nouri wants them to. They are his puppets. If you've forgotten our 'brilliant' US press assured us as December came to a close that Nouri would name ministers for Interior, Defense and National Security in a matter of weeks.
He still hasn't. Does anyone know what March is? Yeah, it's the anniversary start of the Iraq War. But it will also be two years after Iraq held elections. Those elections were to determine the national government (citizens voted on members in the Parliament). In four months, it will be two years after those elections and Iraq still doesn't have ministers for the three security ministries. But the US government is willing to throw away tax payer dollars -- during The Great Recession -- on training a department that's so unimportant to Nouri, he won't even nominate a head for it and take that nomination to Parliament for a confirmation (or denial). We'll pick up there tomorrow. Let's stay with the New Saddam.

Nouri's crackdown on 'Ba'athists' has taken a lot of attention off the continued targeting of Sahwa also known as "Sons Of Iraq" and "Awakenings." These are largely Sunni fighters who were paid by the US government to stop attacking US military equipment and US troops. (That's Gen David Petraeus explanation from April 2008.) Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) speaks with Sahwa leader Abu Azzam al-Tamimi who states there are 50,000 Sahwa left in Iraq, 30,000 of which are in Baghdad. (At their height, there were approximately 98,000 according to Petraeus' 2008 Congressional testimony.) When the US turned control of the Sahwa over to Nouri, there were promises of bringing them into the process via government jobs. That never really happened and al-Tamimi notes it is unlikely to happen by year's end when the program is supposed to end. What happens when these Sahwa, who've struggled for pay and have waited not just for checks but also for government jobs, get nothing? Does that increase security in Iraq or does dismissing and ignoring one time armed rebels mean that they rejoin the resistance?

Nouri's never going to be mistaken for a smart person. Back to his crackdown on political enemies. Dar Addustour reports politicians are calling on Nouri to release the over 600 Iraqis he's had arrested recently. And they report that more were arrested yesterday in Basra -- two journalists working for Basra radio: Mohammad Matouk and Zia Albzona. Al Rafidayn carries an article on the "Sons of the General Command of Jihad and Liberation" which is supposedly a Ba'athist group and supposedly distributing pamphlets throughout Nasiriyah demanding people joing them in a coup attempt against Dhi Qar Province. Last week Reidar Visser (Gulf Analysis) pointed out, "Suffice to say in this context that the Iraqi constitution actually offers pro-active protection of former members of the Baath. Article 135-5 explicitly says 'mere membership of the Baath party is not a sufficient basis for transfer to the court'. Article 7 of the constitution outlaws propagation of a number of political ideologies where Baathism is mentioned alongside racism, terrorism and ethnic cleansing, but stipulates the passage of a law by parliament to codify this more precisely, which has yet to be done. In other words, there is no basis whatsoever for prosecuting anyone for simply having been a Baathist member -- and arguably, at the current time, not even for propagation of Baathism since this is not covered by any specific form of legislation."
Dar Addustour also reports that Sheikh Ali Hatem Suleiman states he was at his office last night when the government attempted to harm him either by arrest or by killing him. The government states that they raided his home yesterday and that this was over a property dispute.

Moqtada al-Sadr has called for an emergency session of Parliament to discuss what the US is doing in Iraq and what the plans are. That session is scheduled for tomorrow. (He's also called for Nouri al-Maliki not to go to DC next month.) Dar Addustour reports that a meeting is to be held at Jalal Talabani's home and there's some indication the meeting may take place today, ahead of the emergency session. It's also noted that when the meeting does take place the topics will include US Vice President Joe Biden's scheduled trip to Iraq this month.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The world laughs at him







Tom Hayden announces at The Nation that he has a blocked carotid artery while his blocked brain is to be inferred from the column itself. Here's how it goes, little boys like Tom Hayden always want to be in the mix. The 8 years of Bush were sheer torture for Tommy because he had to stand up and speak out. Now a Democrat's in the White House and he can lie to himself and everyone else that things are great. There's no whore like an old whore. Hayden describes a recent gathering he'd hoped to testify at but it didn't turn out to be the Cult of St. Barack he was hoping for:
A certain jadedness has affected our consciousness after this very bad decade. Some people in the room didn't believe Obama was actually going to pull out of Iraq. He would sneak in 5,000 manipulative mercenaries to take over from the last of the American troops. And what about those other wars? Wasn't he worse than Bush? Yada yada yada, ad nauseam.
[. . .]
Yes, the other wars ill continue, corporate power will continue, global warming will continue, but the lessons of the campaign against the Iraq War may be helpful as we face these other challenges.
They might be helpful, lessons, if we could be honest. But Tom Hayden can't be honest. Reality, I put in the time and I'd love to be able to say, "Success!" I'm not even talking about the fact that US troops and contractors will remain in Iraq. I'm saying there was no "success" at all from the US peace movement. And if we're honest, we can learn things. Failure's the far better teacher than success. But when we lie to ourselves, we learn nothing.
Honesty requires character. There are lessons to be learned from the last years. To learn them we'd have to be honest and people like Tom seldom are. Remember when he embraced Cindy Sheehan? As he used her to beat up Republicans? Remember when Cindy ran against Nancy Pelosi for the 8th District? I certainly do because, damn, suddenly everyone was apparently in my zip code and, trust me, most can't afford it. You had Cindy being told by The Nation not to run, then being attacked in The Nation for objecting to being told not to run. There's a lesson there and it's not the lesson Tom wants to impart. It's an ugly reality about the way the peace movement was co-opted and how 'leaders' worked overtime to whore it out. It's a story of Naomi Klein's personal distaste for John Kerry allowing her to take on Todd Gitlian and others in 2004 but, in 2008, using a book tour to promote Barack Obama. In 2004 and after the election, Naomi would insist that the peace movement should never allow itself to be hijacked by the Democratic Party but in 2008 she'd be one of the hijackers. It wasn't just her. In 2005, Sharon Smith was rather savage with Naomi. In 2008, Smith's outlet (US Socialist Worker) couldn't whore itself out fast enough as it became a house organ for the Cult of St. Barack.
In this space, I had earlier encouraged Danny Schechter to explore why so many got taken in by Barack. He never did and it now appears his 'realization' about Barack was a temporary one. Well the money's made by spinning for the Democratic Party and Danny's got as much right as anyone else to that money and can certainly offer better writing than Tom Hayden and most.
But don't b.s. America. Those of us truly against the wars, are truly against them and we don't believe a Tom Hayden when he shows up to whore. Yes, Barack is worse than Bush. Bush detained people without going through the courts. Barack does that, yes, but he also has claimed the right to use drones to kill US citizens with himself as judge and jury. He's decided that the War Powers Act -- something Tom Hayden used to give huge lip service too and, in fact, was claiming (as late as 1976) was a victory for the earlier peace movement -- doesn't matter. With Libya, Barack trashed the War Powers Act. Suddenly, Tom Hayden no longer cares about the War Powers Act. Which goes to the most extreme way Barack is worse than Bush: When Bush was in office, we freely called him out. Loudly. Publicly. These days Tom Hayden's exist solely to provide excuses and cover for War Hawk Barack.
The lessons were never learned because few people were willing to be honest. Danny tried, I give him credit for that. But I am aware a lot of people have to make money and if you go against the Democratic Party -- as Naderites discovered following the 2000 elections -- you will be punished. As Nader himself discovered, in fact.
Tom wants to impart 'lessons' because Tom wants to be in a position of leadership. But what's he leading? A glorified pep rally and as his age that's a damn embarrassment.
Today Al Mada reports State Of Law (Nouri's political slate) is confirming that the US Air Force will remain in charge of Iraqi skies beyond December 31, 2011. The article notes it will take years for Iraq to be able to patrol its own skies. Dar Addustour notes those recently order F-16s will be arriving in 2013. Prashant Rao (AFP) sketches out an absurd vision of Iraq without help when "they will lack their own modern radar systems" and, in the words of one air force lieutenant, "you have to visualise the aircraft, where they are." Yeah, that seems logical and do-able. Maybe they can just grab some flashlights and stand out on the runway? Dar Addustour noted yesterday that Gen Babakir Zebari, Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army, has declared, in the latest SIGIR report, that Iraq will be unable to protect its own air space or national borders until 2020. Fang Yang (Xinhua) quoted the report, "General Zebari suggested that the MOD (Ministry of Defense) will be unable to execute the full spectrum of external-defense missions until sometime between 2020 and 2024, citing GOI ( Government of Iraq) funding shortfalls as the main reason for the delay." Reuters quotes Zebari stating, "While we have no enemies, we also have no real friends."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Debbie got hit with the ugly stick - repeatedly







Today Mark Thompson (Time magazine) observers, "Just like clockwork, the Administration lets the New York Times know that it's planning to leave a big force in Iraq's 'hood to keep an eye on troublemakers in Tehran, Baghdad and elsewhere." What's he referring to? Saturday (online, Sunday in print) Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reported, "The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran." Good for them for noting it, but why didn't anyone note it two Fridays ago (or the Saturday after) when covering Barack's assertions about 'all' troops coming 'home'? As Shanker and Myers note, this has been known for "months." We noted it two Fridays ago. And while it has been known for months, it's funny how so many outlets ignored it that day (the day Barack gave his speech) and in all the days that followed. When criticism got too much for the administration, as Mark Thompson notes, they ran to the New York Times which only then 'found' the story. (See Third's editorial, "Editorial: US press doesn't give a damn about Iraq.") Dar Addustour reports that DC is in negotiations to boost US troops in Kuwait to use it as a staging platform as well beef up its presence in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE. Al Mada notes Kuwait has been discussed for months but now has "urgency" as the year ends and might end without the US securing 'trainers' in Iraq. The paper notes that this is among the alternative solutions being sought. Mark Thompson explains, "The betting here is that thousands of U.S. troops in Kuwait and elsewhere around the Gulf will keep the lid on any Iraq explosion -- at least until after next year's U.S. presidential eleciton."

It was so very nice of the New York Times to play dumb on this subject until the White House gave them approval to write about it. We're dropping back to a Third feature from November 4, 2007:

Presidential candidate and US Senator Barack Obama who is perceived as an 'anti-war' candidate by some announced that he would not commit to a withdrawal, declared that he was comfortable sending US troops back into Iraq after a withdrawal started and lacked clarity on exactly what a withdrawal under a President Obama would mean.

Declaring that "there are no good options in Iraq," Senator Obama went on to explain that even with his 16 month plan for withdrawal, he would continue to keep US troops in Iraq, agreeing that he would "leave behind residual force" even after what he is billing as a "troop withdrawal."
"Even something as simple as protecting our embassy is going to be dependent on what is the security environment in Baghdad. If there is some sense of security, then that means one level of force. If you continue to have significant sectarian conflict, that means another, but this is an area where Senator Clinton and I do have a significant contrast," Senator Obama offered contrasting himself with his chief opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination. "I do think it is important for us not only to protect our embassy, but also to engage in counter-terrorism activities. We've seen progress against AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq], but they are a resilient group and there's the possibility that they might try to set up new bases. I think that we should have some strike capability. But that is a very narrow mission, that we get in the business of counter terrorism as opposed to counter insurgency and even on the training and logistics front, what I have said is, if we have not seen progress politically, then our training approach should be greatly circumscribed or eliminated."

The Senator insisted, "I want to be absolutely clear about this, because this has come up in a series of debates: I will remove all our combat troops, we will have troops there to protect our embassies and our civilian forces and we will engage in counter terrorism activities. How large that force is, whether it's located inside Iraq or as an over the horizon force is going to depend on what our military situation is."

That's pretty clear. We wrote it at Third using the transcript of the interview conducted by Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny. As we pointed out in the November 2, 2007 snapshot:

On the subject of Iran, Barack Obama appears on the front page of this morning's New York Times.
War pornographer Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny who lied in print (click here, here and here -- the paper finally retracted Zeleny's falsehood that should have never appeared) present a view of Barack Obama that's hardly pleasing. Among the many problems with the article is Obama as portrayed in the article -- and his campaign has issued no statement clarifying. The Times has the transcript online and from it, Barack Obama does mildly push the unproven claim that the Iranian government is supporting resistance in Iraq. Gordo's pushed that unproven claim repeatedly for over a year now. But Obama's remarks appear more of a reply and partial points in lengthy sentences -- not the sort of thing a functioning hard news reporter would lead with in an opening paragraph, touch on again in the third paragraph, in the fourth paragraph, in . . . But though this isn't the main emphasis of Obama's statements (at any time -- to be clear, when it pops up, it is a fleeting statement in an overly long, multi-sentenced paragraphs), it does go to the fact that Obama is once again reinforcing unproven claims of the right wing. In the transcript, he comes off as obsessed with Hillary Clinton. After her, he attempts to get a few jabs in at John Edwards and one in at Bill Richardson. Here is what real reporters should have made the lede of the front page: "Presidential candidate and US Senator Barack Obama who is perceived as an 'anti-war' candidate by some announced that he would not commit to a withdrawal, declared that he was comfortable sending US troops back into Iraq after a withdrawal started and lacked clarity on exactly what a withdrawal under a President Obama would mean." That is what the transcript reveals. Gordo really needs to let go of his blood lust for war with Iran.

The New York Times could have published a story on this issue in 2007 but didn't. They did publish an expurgated transcript to the interview (that's what we used as source material for the piece at Third -- and all quotes in the Third article were from that transcript). It's a shame scribes for the Times are unaware what's in their own archives but it's a greater shame that when they had a real story in 2007, they pulled their punches and refused to inform readers the story they really had about 'anti-war' candidate Barack.

Simon Tisdall (Guardian) ponders the staging area plan, "Exactly what the Pentagon might do with its expanded Kuwait and Gulf-based forces, should Iraq implode again at some future date or become destabilised by the unrest in Syria, is unclear. A second invasion would not command much public support, to put it mildly. If, on the other hand, the new American deployments are primarily about containing, intimidating or potentially attacking Iran, the emerging picture becomes more comprehensible, although not more reassuring." Lara Jakes (AP) reports Ali Akbar Salehi, Foreign Minister of Iran, sees this as an attempt "to meddle" in Iraq's "internal affairs." Jakes notes US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's remarks that approximately 40,000 US troops will be stationed in the region. Coming home? Leaving the region? Another blow to Barack's big 'withdrawal' speech.

"The crackdown on ex-Ba'athists started earlier this month," Kelly McEvers observed today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link is audio and text). And the crackdown sees a response from the provinces. Thursday, Salahuddin Province's council voted to go semi-autonomous. Iraq has 18 provinces. Three make up the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government. Salahuddin Province's vote was to move towards that sort of relationship. (A form of federalism once advocated by Joe Biden when he was in the Senate.) The next step would be a referendum (that Nouri al-Maliki's government out of Baghdad would have to pay for) and, were the popular vote to back up the council and were the rules followed (always a big if with Nouri as prime minister), Baghdad would control only 14 provinces (of the 18). Though some outside the province are attempting to dispute that the council had the right to vote on the issue, the measure's apparently very positive with the residents (which would explain the 20 to zero vote on the council -- eight members were not present for the vote). Over the weekend, Al Mada reported that people turned out throughout Salahuddin Province (including in Tirkrit, Samarra, Dhuluyia and Sharqat) on Friday to take to the streets after morning prayers and demonstrate in support of the council's vote. Ahmed Abdul-Jabbar Karim, Deputy Governor of the Province, is quoted stating that this decision is something that the officials will not retreat from and that it was backed by the voice of the people. Various State of Law members are quoted offering varying reasons why the vote was wrong or doesn't matter. State of Law is Nouri's political slate. Friday, residents of Anbar Province took to the streets advocating for their province to follow Salahuddin's lead.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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