Saturday, November 03, 2012

More fandom for Barry










All Iraq News reports that US Ambassador to Iraq "Stephen Beecroft" (that's how he's billed -- maybe he's finally dropped the three names) is praising the Baghdad International Fair which just started.  Al Mada notes the fair started Thursday and that the first Baghdad International Fair was in 1957 though it wasn't called that until 1964.  Alsumaria notes this is the 39th Baghdad International Fair and that twenty countries are participating.  Yang Lina (Xinhua) quotes Nouri al-Maliki declaring,  "Iraq is now the investment opportunity in the region that everything here needs for reconstruction, particularly its infrastructure." 
Everything you need here -- if what you need is no booze, if what you need is security forces who do not obey the law they're supposed to enforce.  In fact, here's a YouTube video of Nouri's forces executing someone on the spot.  Iraq, where there's so much corruption, you may not even notice the bombings. Baghdad, infamous for kidnapping and killing foreigners.  Or maybe you'll be like Peter Moore and just suffer for years in captivity without being killed.
Nouri attended the opening ceremony and then split.  If you were Nouri, you would too.  That's a pathetic showing.  And if you doubt it, consider the 8th Erbil International Fair was last month and had 23 countries participating.  Poor, inept Nouri, always living in the shadow of the KRG. Hurriyet notes that, despite sharing a border with Iraq, "not many Turkish firms attended the event."  It appears to be shaping up to be another Arab League Summit type event -- where people grade on the pity scale and say, "It's a success!  Regardless of the fact that it accomplished litte or even nothing, it's a success!"  Poor Nouri, between his threats against corporations and his authoritarian streak, there's little to attract international investors to Baghdad. 
  And it's going to be evident for a prolonged period because Dar Addustour notes it's a ten day event.  The KRG where there's, by comparison, safety.  Where religious zealots will not prevent your consumption of alcohol.  Where you aren't confined to a pen named the "Green Zone."  And the KRG already has a business image -- a strong one.  Businesses don't fear they're going to be ripped off.  Of course Nouri has given Baghdad a strong image as well -- as a contract-breaking center.  And the only thing worth less than a written contract with the Baghdad government is Nouri's word.
Moving over to violence, Alsumaria reports a roadside bombing just south of Mosul claimed the life of 1 contractor who was killed "on the spot" according to source with the police. Alsumaria also reports that in Salahuddin Province a student was shot.  All Iraq News notes that Turkish warplanes began bombing northern Iraq in the early morning hours today.  Today's Zaman adds that there are reports "that four Turkish F-16 jets struck the PKK targets in the region."  This is part of the ongoing struggle between the Turkish government and the PKK.    Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."  Ofra Bengio (Minority-Opinion) offers this take today:
The signs are not hard to read.  Most dramatically, the traditionally marginalized Kurds of Syria have found new energy in the cauldron of the Syrian uprising and are now demanding a federal system in which they would gain significant autonomy in a post-Assad Syria.  The extremely restive Kurds of Turkey are pressing for what they call democratic autonomy.  The Kurds of Iran, typically unremarked upon in the media, are stirring beneath their blanket of obscurity.  But most important of all these are the Kurds of Iraq.  Iraq was the epicenter of the Kurds' great leap forward in the early 1990s: the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which is a euphemism for a de facto Kurdish state.  It is to the KRG experience that Iranian, Syrian and Turkish Kurds increasingly look for lessons and guidance, and rightly so.
This is an ongoing struggle throughout the region.  In Turkey, that gets resolved only by recognition and equality of the Kurds. The Kurds there have been denied inclusion and that's what's fueled the struggle.  It's what's led to a hunger strike.  Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz (CNN) report,  "Turkey's government announced Friday that at least 682 inmates were participating in a hunger strike in at least 67 prisons across the country, but it insisted that no protesters were in critical condition." Daren Butler (Reuters) explains, "Jailed Kurdish militans on hunger strike in Turkey may start to die within the next 10 days, Turkey's main medical association warend on Thursday, saying the prime minister's dismissal of the protest as a 'show' risked hardening their resolve."   Gareth Jenkins (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports:
Up to 200 people from Kurdish and Turkish organisations protested outside the Turkish embassy today, Friday.
The protest marked the 52nd day since 63 Kurds in Turkish prisons started a hunger strike. They have been joined by 600 others.
Some may be near death. Thousands of Kurds around Europe have gone on solidarity hunger strikes.
Kurds make up roughly 30 per cent of the population in Turkey and have faced decades of repression. Thousands of Kurds, including MPs and mayors, are political prisoners.
Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish nationalist party, the PKK, has been held in prison since 1999.
Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently dismissed the hunger strikes—but protests have broken the wall of silence.
Mehmet Aksoy from the Kurdish Federation told Socialist Worker, "We want freedom for Öcalan, for there to be meaningful negotiations. And we want an end to the ban on using Kurdish in the law courts and in schools.
"We want the cries of the hunger strikers to be heard. We are here today to call on the international community to pressure Turkey into meeting our demands as the only way to bring a just and honourable peace."
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
The KRG (three provinces in Iraq) are the closest to a Kurdish homeland.  As such, the government of Turkey has long been threatened by it, afraid that the KRG would result in (louder) cries among Turkey's Kurdish population for a section of Turkey to set up a homeland.  UPI  notes, "Turkey will not condone a separate autonomous Kurdish government in Syria, similar to the one in Iraq, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said."  Hurriyet quotes Erdogan stating, "We cannot let playing of such a scenario [Kurdish autonomy] here [in Syria].  We told this to [KRG President Massoud] Barzani too.  We wanted him to know this."  Whether he heard it or not, Emirates News Agency reports, "His Highness General Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces has received Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq who is on current visit to the UAE."
The statements by Turkish government officials will not be surprising to the KRG nor will they be all that important to the KRG either.  There are a number of issues, however, that are important to the KRG.  For example, the Kurdistan Regional Government notes Glen Campbell's BBC World Service News report:
Iraqi Kurds in Britain have begun a campaign for the mass murder of their people in Iraq in the late-1980s to be formally recognised as genocide.
At least 180,000 Kurds were killed by Saddam Hussein's forces. 
The justice4genocide campaign says many more died in atrocities carried out by regimes from the 1960s onwards. 
It is petitioning the UK government to declare the mass killing of Kurds as a genocide and press the European Union and United Nations to do the same.
Though not everyone may agree on genocide, there's this believe that everyone will agree on voting.    Al Mada reports that the United Nations is urging Iraqis to vote in the upcoming provincial elections scheduled for April 20th currently.  If UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler really wants Iraqis to turn out for the provincial elections, he might try working on a slogan -- something like, "Vote in the provincial elections -- the only ones so far that the US government doesn't overrule."

Friday, November 02, 2012

The crazy gets loose









Starting with Munaf al-Saedi (Niqash) who explores a new Facebook campaign:
One young Baghdad woman has ambitious plans for Iraqi women's rights – and she has started a Facebook campaign to back them. She already has 10,000 online supporters. NIQASH asks Ruqaya Abdul-Ali how this will translate to action/
She's not even 20 years old but Baghdadi university student Ruqaya Abdul-Ali has started a wildly successful Facebook campaign. It is called "Revolution Against Patriarchal Society" and it's only three months old – and already Abdul-Ali has got almost 10,000 supporters involved.
Abdul-Ali says she aims to educate Iraqi women about their rights, to stop sexual harassment in Iraqi society and to get some of the country's most discriminatory legislation changed. NIQASH asked her exactly how she plans to achieve those grand plans.
NIQASH: Could you tell us exactly what you mean by a "Revolution Against Patriarchal Society"? 

Abdul-Ali: It is a revolution against tribal, patriarchal norms and the traditions that deprive women of their basic rights, ones that cause them to live like machines whose sole purpose is to give birth and to do household tasks. It is a revolution that will make women more aware of their rights and help them become more informed, introducing them to new ideas. The campaign is about encouraging women to read and to educate themselves.
NIQASH: Why are you doing this?

Abdul-Ali: I launched this campaign on Facebook because of the pressures being put on women as a result of the revival of tribal traditions in Iraq [following the 2003 US-led invasion that ended former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime]. There are also increasing levels of violence, discrimination and verbal and sexual harassment.
The phenomenon of early and underage marriage also seems to be becoming more widespread and this prevents women from getting an education, not to mention the societal impact this has on divorced and widowed women.
And I used Facebook because I wanted to remind Iraqi women of their rights. Many women both inside and outside Iraq have joined the Facebook page and that number has almost reached 10,000. Many of them are human rights activists.
Iraqi women suffer in a multitude of ways as a result not limited to the hardships involved of war turning your nation into a country of widows and orphans.  In 2005, Ghali Hassan (Global Research) explained how Iraqi women were being robbed of their rights:
Prior to the arrival of U.S. forces, Iraqi women were free to go wherever they wish and wear whatever they like. The 1970 Iraqi constitution, gave Iraqi women equity and liberty unmatched in the Muslim World. Since the U.S. invasion, Iraqi women's rights have fallen to the lowest level in Iraq's history. Under the new U.S.-crafted constitution, which will be put to referendum on the 15 October while the bloodbath mounts each day, women's rights will be oppressed and the role of women in Iraqi society will be curtailed and relegated to the caring for "children and the elderly".
Immediately after the invasion, the U.S. embarked on cultivating friendships with religious groups and clerics. The aim was the complete destruction of nationalist movements, including women's rights movements, and replacing them with expatriate religious fanatics and criminals piggybacked from Iran, the U.S. and Britain. In the mean time the U.S. moved to liquidate any Iraqi opposition or dissent to the Occupation.
Iraqi women were not helped by the exiles the US government put in charge of Iraq or by the unrest the US government encouraged in an attempt to intimidate, silence and control the people.  No one has been more damaging than Nouri al-Maliki.  This can be seen by women in his Cabinet.  In his first term as Prime Minister, Nawal al-Samarraie served as Minister of Women's Affairs.  February 6, 2009, she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio).

Nouri didn't care for Nawal al-Samarraie or the needed attention she raised. Which was reflected in his second term when he tried to erase women completely. From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:

Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).

42 posts to fill and Nouri couldn't think of a single woman? And wouldn't have if Iraqi women hadn't gotten vocal on the issue. And note that Nouri increased the Cabinet from 31 in his first term to 42.   That tells you just how inclusive Nouri isn't. Also note that it was Iraqi women and they did it without any help from the United Nations which is so cowed that it refuses to stand up for women in Iraq.   Nouri also oversaw the appointment of commissioners to the so-called Independent High Electoral Commission.  While the United Nations tried so hard to find a rainbow in manure, the reality is that one third of the members were supposed to be women.  This is a point that the UN was making as late as the summer.  But when only one woman was named a commissioner, the UN decided to just pretend that didn't take place -- even when the Iraqi court ruled that, yes, a third of the commissioners should be women.  Maybe if the UN had pushed for the law and for women, that would have happened.  But it was much more important to the United Nations to use up all their happy face stickers that day than it was to stand up for Iraqi women. 
At the end of 2011, Iraqiya MP Nada Ibrahim explained to AFP, "It has been a very bad regression" for women in Iraq.  Last January, Equality in Iraq featured Emily Muna's interview with Housan Mahmoud (Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq) for Workers Liberty:
What issues do women in Iraq face?   Many: kidnapping, prostitution, sexual slavery, honour killings, stigmatising and marginalisation from wider society, as well as lack of employment and poor pay, so many different issues. Also, women aren't the only ones who suffer at the hands of patriarchy in the country. OWFI was the only organisation that stood up against homophobia and the murder of homosexuals in Iraq. We raised issues homosexual Iraqis face with Shi'a Islamists.   How usual is it for women to be employed? Has it become less usual as Iraqi society  moves towards Islamism?   It depends. Some places have always been deeply religious, while others are progressing towards Islamism. If a woman finds a job, she works, but it is all about who you know. Even prostitution is now an income for some women, if they get paid at all. Prostitution itself is illegal and we stand up for the welfare and employment and human rights of sex workers because they are victimised and dehumanised in such societies. I met some ex-prostitutes, and they were still in danger. They sought help from many women's groups, but were turned away for moral or security reasons.
Zhala Aziz (Warvin) reports that Sunday, October 21st, a marathon was held in Hawler.  (Hawler is in Erbil, a province of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- semi-autonomous area in northern Iraq.)  The marathon was for breast cancer and the city's Director of Health, Qasim Ali Aziz, explained, "To raise awareness among women and protect themselves against this disease, in the memory of breast cancer, we organized a marathon between the female high schools students with the commerical high schools girls." In addition, Jim and Deb Fine (Mennonite Central Commitee Iraq) reports on how bee keeping is creating opportunites for Iraqi women living in the KRG:
In the Yezidi village of Beban we met our first woman participant, Aasimah (not her real name), whose husband was kidnapped in Baghdad in 2006.  The family sold goods from the camera shop they owned to raise the $50,000 ransom the kidnappers demanded.  They paid the ransom but to no avail.  The kidnappers killed Aasimah's husband and Aasimah fled Baghdad with her four children to live in the safety of Beban, her family village.
Aasimah reported that she had already sold 4 kg. of honey for $50 a kg., although her five hives had been working for only three months.  Aasimah, like the 25 other displaced female heads of household participating in the ZSVP project, can expect to earn some $2,000 a year in the first years of the project and could earn much more as the bees swarm and populate new hives. (On our visit we met one man who had been the beneficiary of an earlier ZSVP beekeeping project.  He received five beehives in 2009.  He now maintains fifty hives and sells bees as well as honey to customers in the area.)
October 22nd, in London, the Women of the Year Lunch & Awards was held and one of the Barclays Women of the Year Award winners was "Iraqi-American women's rights activist, author and co-founder of Women for Women International Zainab Salbi."  (For more on the awards, click here and read about the Lifetime Achievement Award which went to internationally known singer, actress and activist Lulu.)  For more on Zainab Salbi, you can refer to Sarah Morrison's profile on her which ran in Sunday's Independent of London.  As well as WBAA's From Scratch (link is audio) today which found Jessica Harris interviewing Zainab. 
Still on the topic of Iraqi women, Tupperware is one of the few international companies that has been working to empower Iraqi women.  US Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues (US State Dept) Melanne Verveer was to have spoken at Rollins College Monday about empowering women and girls globally but the event was postponed.  The Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College has partnered with Tupperware and the Office of Global Women's Issues to create Global Links "a yearlong esternship designed to inspire a new generation of Iraqi women entrepreneurs and, in turn, help strengthen the country's struggling economy and rebuild its middle class."
Voices for Creative Nonviolence's Cathy Breen is in Iraq and she will be writing about this latest trip for The Progressive.  (Good for The Progressive for remembering Iraq.)  Her first report includes:
It is almost ten years since the U.S.-led war against Iraq. The electricity keeps going off here and all throughout the country. Sami, whose family is hosting me in Najaf, remarked yesterday with no ill intent, "Maybe we could send them some of our electricity!"  We had to laugh.
I read another email this morning from an Iraqi friend of Sami's whom we were unable to see in Basra. He spoke about the lack of electricity and the high humidity in Basra, where temperatures reached almost 50 degrees Centigrade last summer (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit), and this was during the fasting month of Ramadan when no water, or food, is taken from dawn to dusk. "How is it," this friend asks, "that the U.S. has poured billions of dollars into Iraq and yet there was no project for a [national] electrical power station to help cool temperatures and calm temperaments that went along with the political instability, the insecurity and the sectarian killings…?"

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Aren't we all sick of him?





Turning to US television, Andrew Kirell (Mediaite -- link is text and video) notes on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night, Leno's opening monologue included, "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is back.  Not for gays in the military.  It's President Obama's new policy for questions about Libya: don't ask, don't tell!"  What happened in Libya?
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:  On September 11, 2012, four brave Americans serving their country were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.  Tyrone Woods spent two decades as a Navy Seal serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since 2010, he protected the American diplomatic personnel.  Tyrone leaves behind a widow and three children.   Glen Doherty, also a former Seal and an experienced paramedic, had served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  His family and colleagues grieve today for his death.  Sean Smith, a communications specialist, joined the State Dept after six years in the United States Air Force.  Sean leaves behind a widow and two young children.  Ambassador Chris Stevens, a man I had known personally during his tours, US Ambassador to Libya, ventured into a volatile and dangerous situation as Libyans revolted against the long time Gaddafi regime.  He did so because he believed the people of Libya wanted and deserved the same things we have: freedom from tyranny. 
That's US House Rep Darrell Issa speaking at the House Oversight Committee (he is the Chair of the Committee) on October 10th.  We covered the hearing in the October 10th and October 11th snapshots -- a lot of people seem to 'know' what was said in that hearing but they weren't present and their 'facts' don't fit what unfolded in the hearing.  Issa's a Republican.  A lot of people want to reduce it to Republican or Democrat.  That's because a lot of people -- not the only ones -- asking questions are Republicans and a lot of people -- not the only ones -- screaming "LOOK THE OTHER WAY!" are Democrats.
Someone e-mailed to attack what I've written and insist that I'm wrong about what the State Dept knew and that I'm a Republican.  I'm a Democrat.  I know a great deal more about what the State Dept knows than what I've written here.  What I've written here has largely been what was put before Congress.  (In the days ahead of the hearing, I probably dropped hints.  I know Elaine did a post based on our discussion about what was going to come out in that hearing and she wrote it the night before the hearing. I assume that I probably dropped hints in entries here about what was coming out.)  Because you don't know something, that doesn't mean you scream, "Liar!"  I could care less what anyone thinks about me (I'm not campaigning for office and, as noted before, I function best in situations where I'm not loved).  But you've had ample time to find out what was said in the hearing.  The hearing should be archived and up at the House Oversight Committee's webpage so you should be able to stream it.  You may not like what the State Dept witnesses said but that doesn't mean that they said it.
As for my position being 'Republican' or something surprising, go back to July 26th.  I wrote "The threat against the US and the failure of 'trusted voices'."  The Islamic State of Iraq issued a threat to the American people and most US outlets didn't even report it.  Those who alluded to it later on called it "al Qaeda in Iraq."  Strange that a group linked to al Qaeda in Iraq can be called "al Qaeda" but the Benghazi suspects who are linked to al Qaeda?  Scotty Shane and other 'reporters' want to draw a line there. to insist, 'Don't call them al Qaeda!' -- while their own outlets refuse to use the term "Islamic State of Iraq" and instead call that "al Qaeda"?  Oh, yeah, let's pretend not to notice the hypocrisy there.  In the July 26th entry, I wrote the following:
Look at how the US press is failing.  There may be a threat to the US on domestic shores coming out of Iraq.  (There may not be.)  And the tape was released Sunday.  Where's the network television coverge.  At least Bennett and the Los Angeles Times covered the hearing. (And the Tribune is syndicating the story so you'll read it in various newspapers across the country.)   But where are the other news outlets doing their own coverage?
And where is their inernational news coverage?
Not the crap ass, Carrie Nations, rush to the scene of natural disaster and shed a few crocodile tears and wail "Oh, the humanity!" b.s. that the press specializes in but the real reporting that they were supposed to be doing, that they were supposed to return to, after 9/11.  Remember the 'never again' nonsense?  Remember how they were going to return to their roots?
Maybe they did, after all the roots of American journalism are tabloid journalism.
If there's another attack on US shores, the 'winners' are the conservatives in Iraq because, in their periodicals, they never forget the potential of another terrorist threat.  Should one be executed on US soil, they will have 'bragging rights' and be on the ground ready to discuss what happened, to explain how they had already been covering it and everyone else will largely be scrambling.  So who controls the narrative in that situation?
The right-wing.  And that is disgusting because it demonstrates that the left has not learned one damn thing from 9-11.  Who do we have that can speak as an authority if an attack happened at noon today?  Who at the opinion journals cover this?  No one.  The Nation can offer one useless piece of crap every two weeks but can't do a piece on safety and, as everyone should avhe realized after 9-11, a sense of safety is as important in the US as it is anywhere else.
The wallowing in fear after 9-11 allowed so much that is currently wrong with our country to take place.  That especially includes the PATRIOT Act and the rounding up of Muslims.  But there has been so much more.  And yet, on the left, we'd rather waste our space -- our limited space -- on some nonsense like lies about the death of a dog on a family vacation (I'm referring to the nonsense about Mitt Romney's dog -- nonsense that invaded the Senate yesterday) than address what matters.
The left really needs to grow the hell up and grasp that if terrorist attack in the US, the vast majority of Americans -- who don't fall into the left or right holding tanks -- are going to be in front of their TVs attempting to find out what's going on and they're not going to take seriously the musings of a 'Mad Professor' (to name one of many worthless Nation magazine columns) or the pith of the MSNBC no-stars.  In fact, they're going to remember all the stupid jokes the MSNBC 'anchors' (talk show hosts) have wasted everyone's time on when they could have been addressing reality.  I'm referring to the evening and prime time MSNBC shows.  I'm not talking about, for example,
Andrea Mitchell's show.  Andrea is a news reporter and usually knows what's actually news as opposed to what's the hype of the week.  But the rest?
You discredit yourself daily by being unable or unwilling to do anything other than pose as the latest Comedy Central hire.
That was two months before Benghazi.  I think my position was very clear.  And I'm not an authority on the topic but by default I have become one of the main left voices.  Ruth's another.  I don't think Larry Johnson identifies as left (No Quarter).  If he does, he's certainly more knowledgable on the topic than I am.  But these are serious issues and for all the money wasted on non-think tanks for the left, we don't have people stepping up and addressing the serious issues.  I cannot be the left voice against terrorism.  We're all in trouble if that comes to pass.  But I can and have pointed out it is past time that voices step up in this area.
Exactly what I said was going to happen has.  We've got smarmy little MSNBC hosts offering snark and being pompous.  And Americans wants answers.  They see the right wing asking questions.  They see the left dimissing it.  It's time for left leadership on this issue, there is none currently.  Dismissing it and attacking the right for asking questions or leveling charges is not addressing the topic.  It is a serious topic, it goes to all of our safety.  We can be snarky and bitchy and useless.  But you damn well better get it through your head just once, if we were better prepared on the left on September 10, 2001, the fear mongering wouldn't have worked, the PATRIOT Act wouldn't have been pushed through (by Democrats and Republicans) because we would learn to talk seriously about terrorism and its dangers in a manner that offered perspective and information, not fear and fright.  Fear and fright is what drove the country into the mess that it has still not emerged from.  So all you idiots who think snark and hypocrisy is going give you 'pull' with viewers if and when there's another 9-11 on US soil, you better think again because all you're doing is saying to the American people -- over and over -- "I'm too stupid to discuss serious, weighty issues like this.  But let me offer some snark and let's giggle."
I've covered Benghazi seriously.  If I can do it, anyone should be able to.
Eternal failed candidate for public office James P. Thurber Jr. (Mercury News) wants everyone lining up behind Barack.  He leaves out that he's a Democrat who's run for public office (repeatedly -- always a failed campaign, one of the biggest jokes coming out of California from either major party).  Thank you, Thurber, for that totalarian message.  I'm sure that Republicans will pull out this nonsense at some point in the future to justify whatever Republican president wants.  In the meantime, on the left, we're not supposed to be marching behind anyone.  We're supposed to be citizens in a democracy who demand sunlight and transparency.  Think Progress likes to pretend it's left, but it's just a schill for the Democratic Party.  Always remember, Congressional Democrats were exploring impeaching Bully Boy Bush ahead of the invasion of Iraq. Think Progress is part of the Center for American Progress whose first President and CEO was John Podesta.  Podesta's the one who threw the fit when Ramsey Clark and others were explaining how to go about impeachment if Bush insisted upon invading Iraq.  Podesta went nuts and started screaming that impeachment could not happen, it would hurt election efforts! Podesta went nuts when asked if Iraqi lives mattered at all and declared that his concern was getting Democrats into public office.  In other words, there are no ethics for the Center for American Progress or for Think Progress.  They are whores.  Complete whores.  And they have blood on their hands, the blood of the Iraqi people.
With that in mind, Hayes Brown posts video of and offers praise for Condi Rice.  She thinks people need to wait and see what investigations find out.  It's a "reasoned response," Hayes Brown wants you to know. 
It's no such thing.  And shame on Brown.  One of the few illuminating moments of the public testimony that the 9-11 Commission recieved was when Condi Rice appeared before them and played her "No one could have guessed" card yet again.  No one could have guessed that terrorists would hijack jets and fly them into a building.  No one could have known, Condi insisted covering her own ass (she was National Security Adviser at the time of the attacks).  After she had sung that tired song several times too many, Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste asked her if she recalled the title of the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing. Condi infamously responded, "I believe the title was 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States'."
No surprise, she was wrong even on that: Title was "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the US."  Condi is the last one anyone should cite on topics of terrorism and the public's right to know.   Think Progress cites her because they're playing politics.  To them, this is just about making sure Barack doesn't face any tough questions.
Leaving partisans (Thurber) and a partisan site (Think Progress) for a real media site by a journalist who stirves to be objective, Rachel Manteuffel of the Washington Post, your little tirade does no one any good.  It didn't reach comical.  It certainly wasn't factual.  No one who regularly reads the Washington Post can claim that the paper has ignored Benghazi or refused to call it a terrorist attack.  That 'honor' would go to PBS' The NewsHour (refer to Ruth's many posts on that, she monitored it repeatedly).  But are people asking what you imply they are as you try to be funny?  Or are they saying, "Yes, there's been Benghazi coverage but it's been dismissive and unquestioning."  If it's the latter, I know the circulation figures and the Post can't afford to run off any readers -- online or in print.  So if it's the latter, you might try leaving stand up to comedians and actually addressing what criticisms the e-mails and phone messages are making. For the record, my opinion, the Post has done a better job of covering this issue than any daily newspaper.  Manteuffel should have been able to have made that case with examples but she was too busy writing a column that was beneath her and attempting to be humorous when she should have been doing the job she was hired for.  And if that assessment hurts feelings at the newspapers, sorry but I didn't get out of bed this morning to kiss boo-boos and make everything all better.
As I end my comments I have some suggestions for those who seek to exploit the ambassador's death for political purposes. First of all they should heed the admonitions of Stevens' parents: The attempts to "place blame are unproductive" and the blatant attempts to exploit the ambassadors death are "abhorrent." We all would be better off if we returned to the bygone ethic of past leaders who sought to unite our nation on issues of foreign policy, not divide it. I hope, if nothing else, these tragic events make those exploitative voices reconsider their efforts to diminish the amount of resources our country commits to its foreign service.
Well justice is blind. Which is how an idiot writes 19 paragraphs on Chris Stevens and the tragedy.  You know what, it was a tragedy for Glen Doherty as well -- but the dumb ass judge doesn't mention Glen.  It was a tragedy for Tyrone Woods -- again, someone the judge never makes time to mention.  It was a tragedy for Sean Smith -- yes, he's another ignored by the judge.
Betty addressed this issue last night with another idiot.  Don't think Americans don't see what happens before their eyes.  You show up with bad columns filled with Chris Stevens.  You use him as a club to silence others while pretending you care about what happened last month.
But if you cared, it takes only a few seconds to type the names: Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.  Those three man died in the attacks.  It wasn't just Chris Stevens.  And America knows that and when they watch you render invisible those three men, they know you're full of s**t and that you're the one playing politics because if you honestly gave a damn, no one would ever be pointing out that you refuse to name all four of the victims.
The Dumb Ass in the Robe wants you to listen to the parent of the fallen.  As long as the parent is Chris Stevens.  Don't listen to Charles Woods who feels the government is lying to him about what happened to his son Tyrone.  Don't listen to Pat Smith who feels the White House has refused to give her an honest answer about what happened to her son Sean.  And certainly don't listen to Sean's father Ryan Smith who becomes the latest parent to speak out today.  Tara Dodrill (Inquisitr) reports:
The grieving father is also a former US Marine. He wants the Obama administration to explain what happened at Benghazi and why multiple calls for help were denied, according to WTSP News. Ryan Smith had this to say during an interview with the news station:
"They haven't done anything. My son and them dialed 911 for help and they wouldn't help them. I want whoever did this, whoever didn't answer their phone, I want them brought to justice too. He was murdered. He was murdered. I want them to get the people who did this."
Smith contacted Florida Representative C.W. Bill Young and asked for help getting answers to his questions. Young reportedly became a willing ally in the father's struggle to garner more information.
But, of course, Ryan Smith doesn't matter.  Pat Smith doesn't matter.  Charles Woods doesn't matter.  Because their sons are rendered "three other people" when the press writes yet another piece about Chris Stevens.  Don't think the American people don't notice the way Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and Glen Doherty are ignored -- not even mentioned by name -- in article after article pretending to be about the Benghazi attaack.
Four Americans died in the September 11, 2012 attack.  Chris Stevens' death is no more tragic and no more upsetting than the deaths of Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.  And all four were killed because they were Americans.  This was a terrorist attack.  It has national security implications.  There is no need for Americans to sit silently on the sidelines and pretend that -- for the first time ever -- the government is going to function just fine without any citizen oversight.  Questions are being asked because they need to be. 

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oh, how they waste our time










On October 16, 2012, the Council of Ministers dismissed Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) Governor Sinan al-Shabibi, amid allegations of corruption leveled against him. This peremptory and constitutionally questionalbe move occured as an audit of the DBI's foreign currency auctions surfaced. The audit purportedly found that perhaps 80% of the $1 billion purchased at weekly CBI-managed auctions was tied to illegal transactions, with the funds subject to those transactions potentially lost abroad to money laundering. This development is symptomatic of a troubled year in Iraq, evidenced by increased corruption, resurgent violence, deepening ethnosectarian strains, growing apprehensions about the conflict in Syria, and widening divides within the coalition government.
So notes the latest quarterly report from the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction which was released today. It's findings will largely be ignored by the US press that focuses on the disaster and aftermath from Hurricane Sandy and the race of president. Since we mentioned al-Shabibi, let's go back to the report:
The former CBI Governor is credited by many analysts for maintaining the stability of the Iraqi dinar and for keeping inflation and interest rates low -- all viewed as crucially important prerequisites for the kind of well-managed economic growth Iraq hopes to achieve with its enormous oil wealth.
Political opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with many banking and financial experts expressed immediate concern that the dismissal of Dr. al-Shabibi -- who is widely viewed as personally honest and professionally effective -- was an attempt to bring the CBI and its $63 billion in reserves under executive branch control. They pointed to the CoM's action as just one of among several steps the Prime Minister has taken to concentrate power within his office. For example, in 2010, al-Maliki won a legal case that effectively shifted control of independent agencies, such as the CBI, from the Council of Representatives (CoR) to the CoM. In an advisory opinion issued in February 2012, the Higher Judicial Council affirmed the earlier ruling, this time naming the CBI. The ruling drew criticsm at the time as a violation of the CBI's independence as guaranteed under the 2005 Iraqi Constitution.
September 19th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Robert S. Beecroft's nomination to be the next US Ambassador to Iraq. He was confirmed the Saturday after the hearing. We covered the hearing in the September 19th and 20th snapshots. Senator John Kerry is the Committee Chair, Senator Richard Lugar is the Ranking Member. From the hearing:
Ranking Member Richard Lugar: Now you mentioned the relative security of our embassy and what have you. In the past, there's been considerable discussion, not only among diplomats but among the American public about the size in Iraq. There was discussion when this was first built -- a monumental structure, to say the least. I remember at one conference, I suggested in fact that this structure is so big that it might really serve as a unifying purpose for Middle Eastern countries -- a sort of united forum in which they would all come together -- or like the Hague or what have you. And some people found some interest in this even if the Iraqis did not necessarily nor could our government since its our embassy. But what is the future, simply of all of the real estate, all of the responsibilites? They're huge and this is going to be an ongoing debate, I'm certain, in the Congress as we come to budget problems in this country.
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Uhm, thank you very much. We-we recognize that this is an issue we started with an embassy that was staffed to address all possible contingencies, to follow up on the wonderful work that the US military had done in Iraq. Since that time, and again starting with Ambassador [James] Jeffrey, and it's something that I personally am continuing and have been very closely involved in and we will pursue -- We're calling it a "glide path exercise" where we're looking at what our objectives are and how we are resourced and staffed to meet those objectives. And what we've found is that we can prioritize and can focus our mission and will continue to do that on what we really need to accomplish. And as we do that, we're able to reduce personnel. Since the beginning of the year, we have reduced personnel by more than 2,000. We're now somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 personnel in Iraq -- down from over 16. Facilities? We have given back in the last couple of days, facilites we had in Kirkuk, had an airbase up there, and facilities we had in Baghdad for police training center. And we have another facility in the next few days which we'll give back also in Baghdad. So we're reducing not just the number of personnel but we're reducing the number of pieces of property we occupy and use and we are very mindeful of the cost that it takes to support the mission in Iraq and I personally am dedicated to reducing those costs by again focusing on the mission on what we really need to achieve.
"Since the beginning of the year, we have reduced personnel by more than 2,000. We're now somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 personnel in Iraq -- down from over 16." That's what he said. Turns out it wasnt true. From the report:

Although Ambassador Beecroft told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19 that the size of the U.S. Mission in Iraq continued to decline this quarter, reporting to SIGIR on the personnel totals indicated some ambiguity about actual numbers. U.S. Embassy-Baghdad reported that 16,035 persons supported the U.S. Mission in Iraq at the end of the quarter, including 1,075 U.S. government civilian employees and 14,960 contractor personnel. The Embassy said the discrepancy was due to earlier underreporting of certain staff categories.
Numbers are important, accurate ones even more so -- especially when the US government continues to spend vast sums in Iraq. For example, the report notes that the State Dept wants $149.6 million to 'train' the Iraqi police in Fiscal Year 2013. $149.6 million for one of the most trained and re-trained forces? For a force that the 'acting' Minister of the Interior stated does not need US training?
The US government has that money to waste when sequestration is supposedly looming, a 'financial cliff'?
Do people realize how many years the US has spent training the Iraqi police force? How much money?
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program? Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program. When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue." The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete? Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it." She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government. But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name. That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States." He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
8 years. 8 years of training last November. And for Fiscal Year 2013, the State Dept wants $149.6 million dollars to train yet another year?
From that hearing:
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
[long pause]
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye." Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.
The State Dept still can't answer Ackerman's question: "When will they be willing to stand up without us?" They can't even answer his second question: "Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?"
If sequestration kicks in and Americans see the safety net further gutted, you damn well better believe that $149.6 million dollars going to yet another year of 'training' the Iraqi police is going to be an issue.
Now let's talk about the 'acting' Minister of the Interior. That's Deputy Minister Adnan al-Asadi. He is one of the Iraqis Ranking Member Ackerman referred to in the November 30th hearing, "Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector Generals how utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue."
Ackerman's right and Adnan al-Asadi is who stated, to SIGIR, that the US government should spend the money in the US. In addition, in July, the Office of the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction issued [PDF format warning] "Iraq Police Development Program: Lack Of Iraqi Support And Security Problems Raise Questions About The Continued Viability Of The Program."
What did that report find?
That the US State Dept had wasted ("de facto waste") approximately $206 million in training the Iraqi police since they took over October 1, 2011. How so? They spent $98 million on a Bsara training facility and $108 million on a Baghdad training facility.
What happened to those US-owned facilities?
The US turned it over -- at no charge -- to Nouri's government. Why?
The June 29th snapshot covered the most recent hearing on this topic (the June 28th House Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing). Jason Chaffetz is the Subcommittee Chair but he'd stepped out of the hearing and US House Rep Black Farenthold was Acting Chair. As he established in his line of questions (to the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy and Peter Verga and the State Dept's Acting IG Harold Geisel, DoD's Special Deputy IG for Southwest Asia Mickey McDermott, US GAO's Michael Courts and SIGIR's Stuart Bowen Jr.), the US government did not secure a lease for the land. Here's that exchange.
Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Mr. Courts, Ambassador Kennedy and I got into a
discussion about the absence of or presence of land use agreements for the facilities
we have in Iraq do you have the current status for that information from your latest
report as to what facilities we do and do not have land use agreements for?
Michael Courts: What Ambassador Kennedy may have been referring to that for 13 of
the 14 facilities the Iraqis have acknowledged a presence through diplomatic notes.
But there's still only 5 of the 14 for which we actually have explicit title land use
agreements or leases.

Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Alright so I'm not -- I'm not a diplomat. So what does
that mean? They say, "Oh, you can use it until we change our minds" -- is that
basically what those are? Or is there some force of law to those notes?

Michael Courts: Well the notes are definitely not the same thing as having an explicit agreement. And as a matter of fact, there's already been one case where the Iraqis
required us to reconfigure, downsize one of our sites. And that was at one of the
sites where we did not have a land use agreement and so obviously we're in a much
more vulnerable position when there's not an explicit agreement.
As Farenthold noted of the Baghdad Police College Annex, "It was intended to house the police department program -- a multi-billion dollar effort that's currently being downsized. And as a result of the State Dept's failure to secure land use rights, the entire facility is being turned over to the Iraqis at no cost. The GAO reports Mission Iraq has land use agreements or leases for only 5 out of all of the sites that it operates." That number has increased by only one since that hearing.
This is tax payer money being wasted at a time when the US government is supposedly in the midst of a fiscal crisis. These two facilities, worth approximately $206 million were turned over -- free of charge -- because the State Dept failed to secure land-lease agreements.
In other words, you could say: The US government built it, but it didn't own it.
Having wasted that amount of money, you might think the State Dept would stop trying to spend hundreds of millions in Iraq. And yet they want $149.6 million to spend in the next fiscal year just on Iraqi police.
And not a penny should be spent on this program. The Ministry of the Interior is over the police. But the Ministry has no minister. Adnan al-Asadi is the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior. An actual minister would have certain rights and powers and that would give him or her independence. Adnan al-Asadi is an 'acting minister' -- a qualification that doesn't exist in the Iraqi Constitution.
The Constitution requires Ministers be nominated and that the Parliament vote in favor of confirming them. Once that happens, a person has their position until the term expires, they resign or the Parliament removes them. Nouri can't remove them.
So if al-Asadi were Minister of the Interior, that's who the US would be interacting with on this program. Instead, they're interacting with the 'acting' minister who has no job protection and is kicked to the curb the second he displeases Nouri al-Maliki. al-Asadi is a puppet allowing Nouri to control the Ministry of the Interior.
Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." He's refused to name nominees and have them go before Parliament. This is a power grab. By January 2011, Iraqiya (the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 parliamentary elections, ahead of Nouri's State of Law) was calling it a power grab but the (US and European) press was insisting that it was only a matter of weeks before Nouri named nominees. We're closing in 2013 and he's still never named nominees. It was a power grab. It is a continuing power grab. The Parliament declared last week that they would take up this new 'classification' of 'acting' ministers.
The State Dept wants to waste more US tax dollars training people who work for a ministry that Nouri refuses to find a head for. That is not a recipe for success. It has not been a recipe for success.

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