Friday, August 07, 2009

Not only is he not important, he's not potent!




Three US citizens were allegedly hiking and allegedly crossed from Iraq into Iran and are now -- the only point of the story which doesn't require "allegedly" -- being held by Iran. The issue was raised on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, where Diane was joined by McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef, Foreign Policy's Susan Glasser and National Journal's James Kitfield.

Diane Rehm: And what about the three Americans who were arrested for apparently crossing the border from Iraq into Iran, Nancy?

Nancy Youssef: That's right, that's right. These are three hikers in Iraq in Kurdistan who somehow crossed the border and we learned this week and again there's a question of what their fate is and what-what --

Diane Rehm: But they were warned. That's what bothers me. They were warned by Iraqis that they were getting close to the border.

James Kitfield: Can we -- can we put out an all points bulletin now: "Please American hikers don't go into the Kurdistan mountains near the border with Iran because that's not helpful. It's not helpful to you and it's not helpful to our diplomacy with Iran."?

Susan Glasser: And it's not helpful to Iraq which is so trying to change its image and saying that this is a place you can come to and this is a safe place and trying to revamp it's image and, um, this does not help it.

Diane Rehm: So what happens next or is there some ongoing communication, Susan?

Susan Glasser: Well, I think, unlike in dealing with North Korea, there is a much more established, you know, track record of Americans being able to engage with Iran through back channels. Europeans, of course, several countries actually have relations with Iran. So, you know, there's a much more filled out relationship that's ongoing even in times of stress than with North Korea for example. One question and I didn't see what the follow up was, I think these hikers actually were still being kept in Iranian Kurdistan which probably bodes well for their fate. You know, if they're trucked all the way to Tehran --

Diane Rehm: I see.

Susan Glasser: -- and they're put on trial as spies and that sort of thing, then they're going to -- you might need another President Clinton mission at that point to get them out. If it remains at that level, I think you're dealing with something, once the Iranians verify these do indeed seem to be semi-clueless students who were language students in the region in Syria, at least, a couple of them were. So perhaps they can still be handled at the level of clueless interlopers.

James Kitfield: History suggest they'll use them as pawns in whatever game in whatever diplomatic game they decide to play with us and eventually let them go. What-what I will say about this is interesting to me right now is that the clocks that are ticking on the Iran issue are almost out of sync. We -- Obama has set for next month, as a deadline for Iran to-to-to respond to his offer of engagement. A lot of people are saying we should have a tactical policy because you don't want to be engaging with a regime that's lost significant legitimacy because of these elections. On the other hand, the Israelis who are trying to sort of push them to peace negotiations are saying "You have got to at least put a deadline on your dealings with Iran and your sanctions because we think they're going to get the bomb sometime in the next year to sixteen months." So it's very difficult right now this-this problem, these internal problems with Iran, although interesting have really sort of skewed the diplomatic schedule that Obama has set for Iran and it's difficult to know how you put it back in sync.

We'll come back to that program in a bit but that is covering what's known about the three Americans. And it is, as serious news consumers know, The Diane Rehm Show that you count on to provide you information about Iraq. Each Friday, there's a strong chance it will be addressed in the second hour of the program (the international hour). (In addition, Iraq was touched on by the increasingly flaky Senator Barbara Boxer on Wednesday's program and it was addressed in much more depth by Diane and her guest Anthony Zinni on Thursday's program.) These are discussions, not 15 second headlines. And that needs to be pointed out because Pacifica can't do a damn thing on Iraq as is most obvious with Democracy Now! where Goodman wastes one hour after another each day. Camilo Mejia is on (this week) and maybe we'll get to hear about Iraq? Hear about Iraq? Goodman doesn't even know he's the chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Camilo has to correct on air. That's how pathetic and uninformed she is. Because one of the American citizens is a 'journalist' who filed a 'report' on Iraq six months ago for her program, Goodman re-airs that today. And that's supposed to thrill us all. Hey, maybe if Dahr gets detained, she can re-air one of his segments -- though she'd have dip back very far because she hasn't had Dahr on in forever, despite the fact that he's just released a new book. (We'll be noting Dahr's book later in the snapshot.) It's embarrassing and it's shameful and she, not Diane Rehm, claims to go "where the silences are." She, not Diane Rehm, rests her reputation -- in every public appearance -- on her supposed Iraq reporting. When it's time to beg for more money, she's on air reminding people that she did this on Iraq or that and my goodness what about the New York Times' Judith Miller????? It's about time someone told her she looks cheap, disgusting and flithy as she falsely uses the Iraq War to raise money for her increasingly useless program. If you're a serious news consumer considering making a donation to public radio before the end of the year, make a point to remember that it has been The Diane Rehm Show in 2009 which has regularly covered Iraq. Don't buy Amy's self-hype and self-promotion and posing. She's done nothing. So if you do have it to spare before the end of the year and you're wanting to donate to public radio, remember Diane Rehm's the only one who regularly covers the ongoing war.

Today Iraq was rocked by violence. Getting the most attention was a bombing outside of Mosul, targeting a mosque, in which Reuters counts at least 38 dead and and at least one-hundred-and-forty injured. (Despite that and despite the fact that the bombing was known early this morning, Amy Goodman didn't even include it in headlines. Typical.) Sam Dagher (New York Times) informs the bombing utilized 1 Kia truck with reports conflicting over whether it was parked or "was driven by a suicide bomber". Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report, "The massive bomb exploded as worshipers were leaving the mosque in the village of Shraikan after attending Friday prayers, officials said. The bombing, which demolished 10 nearby homes, is certain to raise tensions between Kurds, who control the area, and the Sunni Arab administration of Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital." Ernesto Londono and Dlovan Brwari (Washington Post) add, "Zuhair Muhsan Mohammed, the mayor of Mosul, said many people at the mosque were attending a funeral when the bombing occurred. He said the assailant, driving a Kia truck, got through a checkpoint by telling guards he was there to pay condolences to the dead person's relatives." They quote eye witness Hussein Abbas Farhat stating, "I was screaming, but I couldn'te ven hear myself scream." CNN provides this context, "Friday was the end of a Shiite Muslim celebration in Karbala celebrating the birthday of Imam al-Mahdi, the last of 12 historic imams revered by Shiites. Pilgrims participating in such celebrations have been the target of similar attacks by Sunni Muslims."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

Thursday, August 06, 2009

He needs the roar of the crowd









US Gen Anthony Zinni is now retired from the military. He is now promoting a new book he's written with Tony Koltz entitled Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom. He was supposed to be serving in the current administration. On NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today, Diane raised that issue.

Diane Rehm: General Zinni, you almost went to work for the Obama administration. I'd like to hear from you --

Anthony Zinni: Right.

Diane Rehm: -- what happened.

Anthony Zinni: Well, uh, I was called right before the inauguration and asked if I would be willing to serve as, uh, to serve in the administration in a couple of possibilities. And then --

Diane Rehm: By whom?

Anthony Zinni: By General [James L.] Jones, the National Security Advisor. And I said I would given the-the positions he mentioned,. And right after the inauguration, he called and asked if I would serve as the ambassador to, uh, Iraq. And I said I would. And, uh, received a call from the vice president thanking me that I would take that on --

Diane Rehm: Vice President [Joe] Biden.

Anthony Zinni: Vice President Biden. And, uh, I met with Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton and, uh, deputy -- two deputies. Spent a long time with her in the office. She was asking me what I understood about Iraq, my assessment. I had just gotten back not long before that doing an assessment out there. And then I left that meeting, you know, understanding fully, you know, I was going to be the nominee. I mean I was told to prepare for it, we would move the process forward very quickly because of the outgoing Ambassador Ryan Crocker was coming out very quickly.

Diane Rehm: You shook hands on it?

Anthony Zinni: Yes, we did. I mean, there was no way I left and didn't think this was going to happen. And actually thought I had a very short period of time to get my affairs in order. I mean, obviously, there are a number of things you have to do in your own financial family and all that sort of thing. And for -- a week went by and I was told to stay in touch, be prepared, quote: "Move the paperwork forward." That we were going to move up the confirmation hearings. And nothing was happening. And I tried to contact people and I couldn't get any answers. And finally late -- about a week later -- I finally got a hold of General Jones and he informed me I was not the choice and I was kind of shocked and surprised by it. And then the next morning in the Washington Post, I read that it's Chris Hill and I thought: "Had I not gotten ahold of General Jones, that's how I would found out." To be honest with you, I-I don't, I can understand people changing their minds and I don't object to that. You know that's a fact of life. I-I was just put back by not being called or told by anyone and, to this day, I haven't had anybody explain to me what happened so. But I moved on. Clearly, you know, you have to understand Washington and the way things work and I've moved on from there.

Diane Rehm: What's your best guess as to why you were not chosen?

Anthony Zinni: Honestly, Diane, I don't know. Uh, one of the reasons -- I-I started getting calls that very day from the media, from the press and, uh, people saying, "These are the rumors we're hearing." And they were attributed to senior government officials so that was disturbing. And many of the-the reasons given, I clearly knew were not right because --

Diane Rehm: Such as?

Anthony Zinni: Such as, "Well the Pentagon didn't want you." Or, "A certain general didn't want you." All-all of whom I knew personally and it's just the opposite and matter of fact were calling me upset that-that it hadn't gone through. So I began to be bothered by some of the rumors that obviously were coming out of the -- supposedly attributed by the media to senior government officials.

Diane Rehm: What kinds of rumors?

Anthony Zinni: Well, it was this particular lobby that worked against you, it was this particular individual that-that stopped it or this person. And-and to me that -- you know, to me, many of them I knew weren't true, many of them I thought were only based on rumor and so I thought it important since they were asking me what happened I tried to not engage them but then I finally said, "Well look, let me just tell you the course of events that went by. So there's no misunderstanding that I didn't know or understand that I was be the nominee. And what happened." And-and to this day, nobody's told me what happened. Not that I'm interested anymore. But [laughing] I haven't been told.

Diane Rehm: So even speaking with General Jones, he did not give you a reason?

Anthony Zinni: He did not. Our last conversation, right after that was "Well I'll get back to you as I find out." And, you know, that was in January and then I have not heard anything about it. Not that I'm, again, I'm not interested anymore in what happened.

Diane Rehm: Of course you're not interested anymore since it's over and done with. On the other hand, as a human being, if I had been in your position, I would have felt really stung.

Anthony Zinni: Yeah -- well, yes. I guess the best way to describe my feelings, was I was disappointed because there were many friends and people I respected tremendously in this process and, uh, so that-that created a disappointment and confusion on my part as to what exactly happened.

We'll come back to another section of The Diane Rehm Show in a bit. As Michael Crowley (New Republic) pointed out this week, Chris Hill has no experience with Iraq, doesn't speak Arabic "and has a background in Eastern Europe and Asia." Chris Hill demonstrated in his confirmation hearings that he didn't grasp the issues at stake around disputed Kirkuk. Hill doesn't appear to grasp the issue of the MEK or how the lack of visible efforts to stop the targeting of the MEK by Nouri al-Maliki's forces is causing global outrage. James Morrison (Washington Times) reports Democrats and Republicans in the US House of Representatives have called out the inaction in a letter to the US State Dept -- 21 Democrats, 11 Republicans including Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Brad Sherman, Diane Watson, John Boozman, Bob Inglis, Ted Poe, Dana Rohrabacher, Carolyn B. Maloney and Edolphus Towns. The representatives note, "A community of protected persons has been set upon by security forces of the state to which we relinquished their protection. We believe there is cause to fear the forced expulsion of the Ashraf residents by Iraqi forces." The legislators urge Hillary to instruct Chris Hill to address with Nouri's government "international law and with the assurances Iraq gave the U.S. regarding Ashraf residents." Last Tuesday, Nouri al-Maliki ordered the assault on Camp Ashraf, home to the MEK. The MEK has been in Iraq for decades. They are Iranian exiles welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein. They are currently considered "terrorists" by the US. They were formerly considered such by the European Union and England; however, both re-evaluated and took them off the terrorist watch list. The US military protected the residents of Camp Ashraf during the first six years of the Iraq War. UPI explains, "Iraqi police in July stormed the Camp Ashraf base of the People's Mujahedin of Iran using tear gas and water cannons, promising to expel the 3,500 members of the group." Today The Economist notes, "After the Americans took over in 2003, the PMOI people at Camp Ashraf, as the place is known, were disarmed. More recently the Iraqis decided to take over the camp, doubtless with the ecnouragement of their ruling fellow Shias in Tehran. Ignoring American protests, the Iraqi forces killed at least 11 inmates. If such crude methods are used elsewhere -- for instance, in handling insurgents wanting to come onside -- natioanl reconciliation is unlikely to be achieved." The National Council of Resistance of Iran released the following statement today:

At 9:45 local time this morning, two Iraqi helicopters armed with heavy machine guns flew at low altitude over Camp Ashraf in a bid to intimidate the residents and patrol the area. The helicopters also dropped propaganda flyers. In light of last weeks' massacre of defenseless residents of Ashraf by Iraqi suppressive forces and the US forces' inaction in this respect, and in view of the US forces' role in Iraq's aerial control, particularly in Diyala province;
1- The Iranian Resistance expresses its strongest protest to the American forces for allowing Iraqi helicopters to fly over Ashraf and demands aerial security guarantees from the US forces for Ashraf and prevention of a war crime by violation of Ashraf air space. Considering widespread influence of the terrorist Qods force in Iraq, which has been emphasized by US commanders in Iraq on a number of occasions, and with regards to Iranian regime's plots to annihilate the residents of Ashraf, opening of Ashraf air space to such flights would no doubt be misused by the Iranian regime to commit further crimes.
2- According to our information, the clerical regime's ambassador to Baghdad, Revolutionary Guard Kazemi Qomi who is one of the commanders of terrorist Qods force, had provided the content of the propaganda flyers to the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister on Tuesday, August 4, to be dropped on Ashraf.
3- There is no doubt that all these measures have been dictated by the Iranian regime's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the government of Iraq in the midst of Iranian people's escalating uprising. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi Prime Minister, has now turned into a tool in the hands of the Iranian regime to be used against mullahs' main opposition.
Ashraf's defenseless residents who stood empty handed against barrage of bullets in one of the most barbaric criminal attacks last week by the Iraqi forces do not give any credit to Khamenei and Maliki aerial shows, thus they tore up the documents produced by Khamenei's Revolutionary Guards in Qom and Baghdad before the eyes of Iraqi forces and set fire to them.
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran August 6, 2009

Former US House Rep Tom Tancredo pens a column about the MEK for the Washington Times and he states:

Human Rights Watch has called for an impartial investigation into the Iraqi police action. Videos of the July 28 attacks show police wielding not only batons and water canons but iron bars in their assault on unarmed residents. Military Humvees ran over injured protesters. Residents also claim that at least two people were killed by sniper fire. Iraqi security forces have prevented journalists from entering the camp to interview residents.
Independent observers know that the action on July 28 is hardly an isolated incident, as it came on the heels of repeated Iraqi government statements that it intends to disband the camp and evict its residents. Such statements are contrary to the agreement signed with the United States guaranteeing the safety of the refugees.
Iraq is also a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which forbids the forcible return of political refugees who face torture or cruel punishments. But where can they go if the United States continues to label them terrorists?

Iraq's Alsumaria reports that Shirwan Waeli, Minister of State, declared they will not grant asylum to the refugees. Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) reports that Nouri's bag boy Ali al-Dabbagh issued denials that water, medical supplies and food were being blocked from arriving at Camp Ashraf and notes that the claims of the blockage comes from human rights activists as well as Camp Ashraf residents.

The betrayal of the residents of Camp Ashraf should alarm some in England. Today US Maj Gen Richard Nash briefed reporters at the Pentagon. Nash was appearing via satellite from Basra and he was explaining how, in sourthern Iraq, Iraqis are showing leadership. The British turned Basra over to the US and the US is now eager to pass it on to Iraqis. Nash declared, "The Iraqis have stepped up to the challenge and have faced threates head on." How does this apply to England? As the British troops left, they left behind a dog and a cat and asked the Americans to take care of them. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports the dog is Sandbag and has 32,000 Facebook friends and 6,000 people who petitioned the British government to allow Sandbag to come to England. Instead, Downing Street released this statement: "Our US colleagues have assured us that both Sandbag and Hesco will be well cared for. Both are currently fit and healthy." Hesco is the Iraqi cat the British soldiers adopted. Of course, the residents of Camp Ashraf were assured by Americans that they would be protected. And, seeing how that turned out, maybe the world should worry Nouri will next launch an assault on Sandbag and Hesco? If so, apparently the White House will remain mute as it has throughout the Camp Ashraf assault.

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Don't tell Media Matters!







We'll start with NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. Today US Senator Barbara Boxer was the guest for the first hour, in part to promote her new thriller, written with Mary-Rose Hayes, Blind Trust. We'll note the section on Iraq -- very brief. Those opposed to the Afghanistan War will have much to dig around in the section that follows -- none of it good for Boxer. We're jumping in where she's been listing regrets and grabbing at Iraq.

Senator Barbara Boxer: I regret that even after voting "no" on the War on Iraq, I should have been down there every day making my voice louder and stronger.

Diane Rehm: Why didn't you?

Senator Barbara Boxer: [Sighs] I thought that I said enough when I voted "no" and I continued to speak but not loudly enough and not clearly enough and you know that's why I like this novel because Ellen's my hero, she does everything right I don't.

Diane Rehm: That's quite an admission.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well it's true.

Diane Rehm: Alright. Speaking of Iraq, there is some talk that the US may, before it's planned deadline, pull its troops out and declare victory. What's your thought?

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well that is definitely some of the advice we're getting from some of our military people. I think it's time to leave, I thought it was time to leave before, so much blood and sweat and tears and guts have been left there and I just have a view of this that-that the people of Iraq have an opportunity now to-to build their own country --

Diane Rehm: They're still killing each other.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well, you know what? The people of Iraq have to decide if they want a country or they don't want a country and we can't decide it for them.

And that was it. It made Barbara's short list of regrets but?

But it passes like the summer
I'm a wild seed again
Let the wind carry me
-- "Let The Wind Carry Me" written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her For The Roses

A caller brought her back to earth and Iraq but first Barbara had to make an ass out of herself. It's one thing to say that you're not going to speak to the 'birther' topic, it's another to say that and go on to accuse them of not having their facts and then offer up idiocy passed off as fact. I don't follow that issue but I'm damn well aware that John McCain's birth has been addressed by them and, in fact, they point to Claire McCaskill's actions (including an aborted one) within the Senate to back up their beliefs. Ava and I began speaking to friends of Ann Dunahm's in 2007 and continued through 2008, we spoke to men who were friends with Barack Sr. in college. We do not believe he was born in Kenya. We heard one story repeatedly and consistently. Those who do believe he was born in Kenya should pursue that because this is still, Barbara Boxer's embarrassing performance today on Diane's show not withstanding, a democracy.

(Embarrassing performance? Examples include telling of trying to get a man kicked out of a public event for tossing fake money at her, referring to two journalists as "young women" over and over except to refer to one as a "mother" -- they have careers, Barbara, quit being so damn insulting, and her little grudge f**k against Bill and Hillary Clinton -- we're all sorry your daughter couldn't make her marriage work, quit being such little s**t about it, Barbara).

It's not our issue but, unlike Barbara Boxer, we don't need to tear down people who believe differently than we do. And we don't disgrace ourselves by coming off like a raving lunatic on NPR or, for that matter, by co-writing one book that bombed and inflicting another bad attempt at John Grisham on the American public. And someone who wants to lecture others on facts, should have them. Including on the name of the Feminist Majority Foundation. It's not a difficult name to remember, Barbara. But it's not difficult to follow the headlines and, as her Iraq answer revealed, she can't even do that. (And that's among the most recent statewide poll, PDF format warning The Field Poll, found 43% supproting her re-election and 44% "not inclined to re-elect her." When you're that evenly divided and you're a sitting senator, you've done a great deal wrong.)

Senator Barbara Boxer: First of all, I have never heard Nouri al-Maliki ask us to stay so I don't know what particular speech he [the caller] was referring to. He said for a long time it's time for Americans to leave and I think it is. And what will guide me, obviously the reports on the ground from the military but my overwhelming belief that we have bled so much and done so much that I already say and I said a long time ago we gave the Iraqi people the chance to govern themselves, to rebuild and anyone who served there or any of the families who lost people there or any of those who were wounded there should know they gave their all to give the Iraqis a chance and now they have to take that chance and run with it.

This is the best my state can do? This passes for liberal? Barbara Boxer lying, LYING, about the Iraq War. Did you hear the Barbara say one damn word about the Iraqis who have died? And excuse me, but Barbara knows Nouri's a thug so is she being stupid or playing us for stupid when she says the Iraqi people have a chance at a government?
The Iraqi people have had a government imposed upon them by the US government. The Iraqi people would never, NEVER, elect a government of exiles to represent them. No one would. You wouldn't elect someone to the board of supervisors if their 'qualification' was they hid in another region because they were too scared to stand up. With each addition of highlights, Barbara loses more intelligence so maybe she truly is as stupid as she came off but it felt more like she was playing listeners for stupid. Reality, Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." But Barbara wants to turn it into a fledging democracy?

it appears she's not looking at the facts and let me do her snide little laugh at her because the stupid idiot is so out of touch that she's not aware of the speech. Reading list for the failed and failing author, Margaret Talev's "Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) and, Barbara, Anne Gearan covers al-Maliki's remarks for AP. From the July 23rd snapshot:

The articles repeatedly (and falsely) claim the US will be out of Iraq in 2011. That's not what's happening. It's not even claimed to be happening. Does no one listen to Adm Mike Mullen, Gen Ray Odierno or even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates? Reading the articles today, it doesn't appear that anyone does. Uh-oh. Reality slaps them in the face. Aljazeera reports, "The Iraqi prime minister has admitted US troops could stay in the country beyond 2011." Yeah, he did it today and it's only a surprise if you've never grasped what the Status Of Forces Agrement does and does not do. The Washington Post, for example, has one person on staff who understands the SOFA completely. That's one more than the New York Times has. Drop back to real time coverage (Thanksgiving 2008) and you'll see the Washington Post could explain what it did and didn't do and get it right. No other US outlet can make that claim. (The Los Angeles Times hedged their bets but did appear to grasp it in an article co-written by Tina Susman.) McClatchy Newspapers? Oh goodness, Leila Fadel made an idiot of herself over the SOFA. Even more so than the New York Times (Elisabeth Bumiller -- in December and January -- offered some realities but they were lost on the other reporters at the paper). The Times just got it wrong. Fadel got it wrong and sang praises of it. It wasn't reporting, it was column writing passed off as such. Today, Nouri declared, "Nevertheless, if the Iraqis require further training and support we shall examine this at the time, based on the needs of Iraq." Sound familiar? It should. This month you should have heard Adm Mike Mullen make the same statement, you should have heard General Ray Odierno make it over and over beginning in May and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made it many times -- generally he's asked when he's visiting a foreign country because US reporters don't really seem to care. One exception would certainly be Dahr Jamail who was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday and explained, "We still have over 130,000 troops in Iraq. Troops are not being withdrawn from Iraq. They are being relocated to different bases, some of the bases still within cities, but they are not being withdrawn thus far." Dahr's latest book The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan has just been released this month. IPA provides this context from Global Policy Forum's James Paul: "For all the talk of 'U.S. withdrawal' from Iraq, the reality on the ground is starkly different. U.S. troops still patrol the cities, in flagrant violation of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, while Washington remains hugely influential in the politics of the country. The gigantic U.S. embassy looms large in Baghdad, U.S. forces still hold thousands of Iraqi prisoners in the vast U.S. prison camp in the southern desert, dozens of U.S. military bases remain in place including the sprawling 'Camp Victory' complex in Baghdad and Washington continues to press towards its ultimate goal -- the de facto privatization of Iraq's vast oil resources."

So before you go to town on others for not knowing the facts, Barbara, how about you first explain how you, a sitting US Senator pretending to give a damn about Iraq and putting the war on your list of regrets, aren't even aware of what Nouri publicly stated less than three weeks ago while he was in DC? Your incompentence does not do a great deal to encourage a belief that the US Senate knows what it is doing. It does, however, explain why you have NEVER led on the issue of Iraq despite the fact that you -- not Hillary -- had the safest seat from which to do it. Our state has sent huge numbers of service members to Iraq and has seen a large death toll and an even large number of wounded. We have had tremendous leadership in the House, we've had none in the Senate. Want to explain that, Barbara? Want to explain how little you've done to end the illegal war while allegedly representing the people of California? Want to match your record (or lack of it) against US House Rep Lynn Woolsey or Maxine Waters or Diane Watson or . . . Get the point?

Boxers done nothing on the issue of the MEK, of course. Someone explain to her how many potential voters in California care about this issue and maybe she'll suddenly 'discover' it? Last Tuesday, Nouri al-Maliki ordered the assault on Camp Ashraf, home to the MEK. The MEK has been in Iraq for decades. They are Iranian exiles welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein. They are currently considered "terrorists" by the US. They were formerly considered such by the European Union and England; however, both re-evaluated and took them off the terrorist watch list. The US military protected the residents of Camp Ashraf during the first six years of the Iraq War. Matt O'Brien (Contra Costa Times) describes the group as having "an ideology that has blended elements of Islam, feminism and Marxism. To some Iranian-Americans and their political backers in the U.S. Congress, the terrorist label unfairly maligns a group of former militants who have cooperated with America and dedicated their lives to ending an Iranian regime that had oppressed them." Tim Cocks, Muhaned Mohammed and Sophie Hares (Reuters) report the latest involving the MEK at Camp Ashraf, Shirwan al-Waeli (Minister of State for National Security) declares that Iraq will evict them and, if it means sending them back to Iran, they'll do so. Mark Knoller (CBS News) reports a domestic protest in support of Camp Ashraf residents, "Iranian-American protestors have set up camp directly in front of the White House. They're urging President Obama to intervene on behalf of an Iranian enclave inside Iraq." Ken McLaughlin (San Jose Mercury News) explains, "The 3,500 residents of Camp Ashraf are members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen of Iran, a dissident group initially formed in the mid-'60s to help topple the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 revolution that deposed the shah, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini turned against the group, executing more than 100,000 of its members and supporters -- and driving others into exile. Many of those exiles landed in the Bay Area, which has an Iranian-American population of more than 200,000." Ensieh and Parviz Yazdanpanah are among the Bay Area residents with relatives at Camp Ashraf and they tell McLaughling "that emails and phone calls have stopped since the July 28 raid". The National Iranian American Council notes US House Rep Bob Filner introduced a resolution last week calling out the assault on Camp Ashraf and that fellow Californian and Democrat US House Rep Howard Berman has called it out as have Republican US House Reps Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart both of Florida. The resolution (in PDF format form) is here and it is entitled "Deploring the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq:"

Whereas on July 28, 2009, Iraqi troops and police carried out a violent raid against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, the longstanding home of an Iranian opposition group;
Whereas Iraqi troops fatally shot a number of Camp Ashraf residents and wounded scores of others; and
Whereas the United States Embassy Statement on Transfer of Security Responsibility for Camp Ashraf of December 28, 2008, states that, "The Government of Iraq has provided the US Government written assurances of humane treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents in accordance with Iraq's Constitution, laws and international obligations.": Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives --
(1) deplores the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf;
(2) calls upon the Iraqi Government to live up to its commitment to the United States to ensure the continued well-being of those living in Camp Ashraf and prevent their involuntary return to Iran; and
(3) calls upon the President to take all necessary and appropriate steps to support the commitments of the United States under international law and treaty obligations to ensure the physical security and protection of Camp Ashraf residents against inhumane treatment and involuntary deportation by Iraqi security forces.

In England, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports that a group of demonstrators on behalf of Camp Ashraf have announced they are going on a hunger strike including Farzaneh Dadkhad who has relatives at Camp Ashraf: "'I am here for Ashraf and I will continue this until I die,' Ms Dadkhad wailed, collapsed on a stretcher at the rally because she was apparently too weak to walk. It was impossible to verify her fasting claim. 'I am here so that my voice is heard by the US Government. They are responsible for what happened,' she said. In a message to Britain, she added: 'Why are you silent, why are you doing nothing? You must take action'." Toby Cohen (Religious Intelligence) quotes "Lord Cobertt of Castle Vale, chairman of the all-party British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom" stating, "It is a shame to this Government and to the American government in particular that so far they have not done anything to stop the violence. I don't care about the arguments about the status of those refugees, under international humanitarian law the actions of the Iraqi security forces are illegal and any other UN member state has the authority to take action. The British Government and the American government are especially complicit in those acts of violence. Why? Because we were the powers that gave protected person status to the residence of Camp Ashraf under the fourth Geneva Convention, and we cannot walk away." The National Council of Resistance of Iran notes, "Today is the seventh day of such strikes [to protest the treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents] in Berlin and Ottawa outside the U.S. ebmassies" and that "demonstrations, sit-ins and gatherings by Iranians against brutal attacks by Iraqi forces on Ashraf and killing and arresting of PMOI members in the Camp have been going on in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo in Sweden; Geneva in Switzerland; The Hague in The Netherlands; Melbourne in Australia; Vancouver in Canada; Paris in France, Copenhagen and Arhus in Denmark; and Rome in Italy."

Robert Evans and Jonathan Lynn (Reuters) report, "Iraqi authorities are blocking supplies of food and water going into" Camp Ashraf. They're blocking food and water. At 11:00 p.m. in Baghdad, it was ninety-five degrees. At eleven at night. The high during the day was 114 degrees. And Nouri's thugs are preventing water from being brought into the camp. The reporters quote Jean Ziegler ("a top adviser to the U.N. Human Rights Council") stating, "Preventing people getting food is a gross violation of international law . . . Thas has been going on for 10 days. It is totally scandalous." World Against Torture's General Secretary Eric Sottas is quoted decrying the "sort of passivity on the part of international bodies" and states, "Unless these unarmed and defenceless people are properly protected, this could happen again, perhaps worse." AFP quotes Eric Sottas stating, "The most practical thing would be that the Americans assume their responsibility and intervene again to ensure protection (and) that should late be transferred to an international force." They quote Jean Ziegler stating, "It's shameful. The United States and the European Union should be ashamed of what they did." Massachusetts' Stoneham Sun observes that "an attempt by the Iraqi government to assert control over a camp of Iranian exiles, who until February were under U.S. protection, turned violent. The U.S. reaction was instructive. In essence, it was: While we disagreed with the methods, it was a sovereign matter for the Iraqi government." Eli Lake (Washington Times) maintains the US is pressing for action and quotes an unnamed US official who emailed them the following, "Embassy officials met with representatives from the Government of Iraq [GOI] on July 29, to stress the importance of the GOI fulfilling its commitment to the United States Government to treat Ashraf's residents humanely and to propose permitting an assessment of injuries and deaths by U.S. forces. The GOI allowed a U.S. medical assessment team to enter Ashraf and subsequently approved joint U.S.-Iraqi medical assistance to injured MEK Ashraf residents." Amnesty International issued the following statement:

Iraq: Concern for detained Camp Ashraf residents
Contact: AIUSA media office at 202.544.0200x302
Amnesty International is urgently seeking information about 36 Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf who have been detained since Iraqi security forces seized control of the camp on 28 July 2009 and have been moved to an unknown location in Baghdad amid allegations that some or all of them have been beaten and tortured. According to Abdul Nassir al-Mehdawi, governor of Iraq's Diyala province, quoted by Reuters press agency, "Their cases are being investigated now. They are being charged with inciting trouble. We will deal with them according to Iraqi law; we won't send them back to Iran". It remains unclear, however, whether the 36 have been allowed access to lawyers, contact with their families or any medical treatment that they need.
Amnesty International is urging the Iraqi authorities to disclose the whereabouts of the 36, to allow them immediate access to lawyers, to investigate, fully and impartially, allegations that they were tortured or beaten while held at a provisional detention facility near Camp Ashraf before their transfer to Baghdad, and to ensure that they are being treated humanely.
Amnesty International is also continuing to urge the Iraqi authorities to establish an immediate, independent inquiry into allegations that Iraqi security forces used excessive force when taking control of Camp Ashraf last week. According to unofficial sources, at least eight camp residents were killed and many others injured. 'Ali al-Dabbagh, the spokesperson for the Iraq government, has acknowledged that seven camp residents were killed but said that "five of them threw themselves in front of Iraqi police vehicles" and that two others were shot by other Iranians when they sought to leave the camp. He said that two members of the Iraqi security forces were also killed.
Camp Ashraf, situated about 60km north-east of Baghdad, has hosted some 3,400 members or supporters of thePeople's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition organization, since the 1980s. They were formerly under the protection of US forces in Iraq but in recent months they have come under increasing pressure from the Iraqi authorities to relocate to other parts of Iraq or go abroad.
Public Document
# # #
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

From the human rights organization to the US government's war think-tank, the RAND Corporation issued the following press release yesterday:

At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Coalition forces classified the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a militant organization from Iran with cult-like elements that advocates the overthrow of Iran's current government, as an enemy force.
The MeK had provided security services to Saddam Hussein from camps established in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War to fight Iran in collaboration with Saddam's forces and resources. A new study from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, looks at how coalition forces handled this group following the invasion.
Although the MeK is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, coalition forces never had a clear mission on how to deal with it.
After a ceasefire was signed between Coalition forces and the MeK, the U.S. Secretary of Defense designated this group's members as civilian "protected persons" rather than combatant prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The coalition's treatment of the MeK leaves it -- and the United States in particular -- open to charges of hypocrisy, offering security to a terrorist group rather than breaking it up.
Research suggests that most of the MeK rank-and-file are neither terrorists nor freedom fighters, but trapped and brainwashed people who would be willing to return to Iran if they were separated from the MeK leadership. Many members were lured to Iraq from other countries with false promises, only to have their passports confiscated by the MeK leadership, which uses physical abuse, imprisonment, and other methods to keep them from leaving.
Iraq wants to expel the group, but no country other than Iran will accept it. The RAND study suggests the best course of action would have been to repatriate MeK rank-and-file members back to Iran, where they have been granted amnesty since 2003. To date, Iran appears to have upheld its commitment to MeK members in Iran. The study also concludes better guidelines be established for the possible detention of members of designated terrorist organizations.
The study, "The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq: A Policy Conundrum," can be found here. For more information, or to arrange an interview with the authors, contact Lisa Sodders in the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 393-0411, ext. 7139, or

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

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With only himself present yesterday senate wise, Senator Byron Dorgan noted he was going to call the hearing ("in the interest of time") of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee to order. Dorgan declared the hearing was the 20th oversight hearing the DPC had done into the contracting fraud and waste in Iraq and Afghanistan and, "On June 20th of last year, we held a hearing that revealed how Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), at a site in Iraq, had exposed US troops and its own workers to -- among others -- to sodium dichromate -- a highly toxic, cancer-causing chemical. This exposure took place in the spring and summer of 2003 at a water facility -- water treatment facility -- in Qarmat Ali, Iraq. In my judgment, the Army's response to this incident and to the findings of our hearing has been tragically inadequate. Sodium dichromate is a deadly poison. According to an expert who testified at our hearing last year, a grain of sand worth of chromium dichromate per cubic meter could lead to serious long-term health problems including cancer."

Sodium dichromate was in the news at the end of 2008. From the December 4, 2008 snapshot:

Yesterday, KBR was in the news for imprisoning workers in Iraq and now Scott Bronstein and Abbie Boudreau (CNN) report KBR is being sued by 16 members of Indiana's National Gaurd who served in Iraq and maintain that KBR knew a water treatment plant (which the soliders were assigned to) exposed them to dangerous chemicals such as the carcinogenic sodium dichromate. David Ivanovich (Houston Chronicle) explains, "In their suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Evansville, Ind., the plaintiffs contend KBR knowingly allowed them to be exposed to sodium dichromate, a chemical used as an anti-corrosive but containing the carcinogen hexavalent chromium. The alleged exposure occurred while the guardsmen were providing security for KBR workers at the Qarmat Ali water plant in southern Iraq." Rajini Vaidyanathan (BBC) elaborates, "The soldiers say that they and other civilian contractors there were repeatedly told there was no danger, and that when they reported health problems such as nose-bleeds to their bosses, they were told they were simply 'allergic to the sand'. The court papers claim that these symptoms were the early side-effects of the chemical, and that some who served on the site went on to suffer severe breathing problems and nasal tumours."

December 22nd Armen Keteyian (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric -- text and video) reported on James Gentry's developing lung cancer after serving at Iraq where he guarded KBR's water plant, "Now CBS News has obtained information that indicates KBR knew about the danger months before the soldiers were ever informed. Depositions from KBR employees detailed concerns about the toxin in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003. And KBR minutes, from a later meeting state 'that 60 percent of the people . . . exhibit symptoms of exposure,' including bloody noses and rashes."

Dorgan's noted the witnesses for the hearing: Iraq War veterans Russell Kimberling, Rocky Bixby, Russel Powell and Glenn Bootay and Dr. Herman Gibb. Dorgan explained one person would not be with them, "Sergeant First Class David Moore, a platoon leader and a 20-year veteran of the Indiana National Guard, was exposed to sodium dichromate at Qarmat Ali. He died in 2008 from lung disease after returning from Iraq. He was wheezing, unable to breathe, constantly coughing, yet doctors were mystified by the cause of his disease." Dorgan noted the government's inability to take accountability from time to time such as with Agent Orange or, more recently, the repeated denials about KBR's shoddy electrical work in Iraq which led to the deaths of US service members.

Senator Evan Bayh wondered why the Indianna National Guard wasn't notified promptly since so many of those exposed were serving with the Indianna National Guard? He also declared, "I've got two principle interests in this. First, to ensure that all those of you who were exposed and were potentially exposed get the treatment to which you are entitled You served our country honorably, you deserve the best medical care possible. We shouldn't put the burden of proof on you because there are photographs of piles of this stuff sittting around. There's no doubt at all that people were exposed so you shouldn't be in the position, as Senator Dorgan was saying, today or five years or ten years from now trying to go back and prove that it was service related. So that's my principal concern: To make sure that you're treated well and get the medical care you deserve. And then the second thing, Senator Dorgan, would be to make sure that this kind of thing never happens again."

We won't note all the opening statements. Those two were worth noting. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid showed up. For what reason? To show that any senator serving on the committee was more qualified than he is to be Senate leader? It was an embarrassing reading of a statement, one in which he never managed to note the Iraq War veterans present as witnesses or to even look at them. But he appeared more concerned with his stop-and-start 'innovative' style of reading from a piece of paper -- or, as he might put it, in . . . novativestyleof . . . readingfromapieceofpap . . . er.

Batallion medic Rusell Powell spoke of being assigned to the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant and the orange power everywhere, with ripped open bags leaving the sodium dicrhomate exposed to the wind, "These bags were spread throughout the facility, both inside and outside the buildings. The bags were often placed at the doorways of the buildings so we had to walk through piles of the orange powder when we entered and exited the buildings. The soldiers at Qarmat Ali would even use the bags as protection during storms, we'd use them as security measures as sand bags, we'd eat there, we'd sit there and eat lunch." Despite the powder being everywhere, the US Army and KBR never provided any warnings or even "voiced any concerns." In 2004, he left Iraq and his rashes, nose bleeds, stomach problems and lesions continued. Finally, in 2009, the West Virginia National Guard notified him via letter that he was "exposed to sodium dichromate while serving at Qarmat Ali."

"My symptoms haven't changed since my service in Iraq," Powell told the committee. "I go almost weekly to doctors appointments for various medical conditions and I have to miss work and ask for additional sick time. I'm testifying today because it is disheartening to know I may not be able to see my sons graduate from high school , college, get married or hold my grandchildred because of this completely avoidable exposure."

And that really does capture what's been stolen and what the reckless endangerment has left those at the water treatment facility plant with: The knowledge that even events in the immediate future, their children's graduation, may be things they are not present for as a result of the actions and decisions made by KBR and, at the very least, the inaction of the US military command. Rocky Bixby noted his difficulty in carrying on conversations because he has to cough repeatedly. He explained that, "Each morning we received regular briefings from KBR about our security work. The only hazards identified at the Qarmat Ali facility were related to developments in the war. No one from KBR or the Army ever told us about hazardous materials at the Qarmat Ali facility."

Bixby explained x-rays have discovered a node on his chest. Approximately every fourth or fifth continuous sentence of speaking at the hearing would require Bixby having to clear his throat or experiencing a coughing spasm where he coughed repeatedly. As he pointed out, had they been warned, none of this would have happened. Had they been warned, they would have taken protections including using the suits provided because of the fear/threat that Saddam Hussein would use chemical weapons on US forces. In the end, Saddam had no chemical weapons and the real chemical threat came from KBR.

"At no time during our deployment," declared Russel Kimberling, "were we told to wear face masks or chemical gear." By the two month mark, he'd developed a hole inside his nose, the navel cavity, and he noted that all the people he knows who have served at Qarmat Ali has symptoms. He is now judged to have "a pre-existing condiction" and has difficulting obtaining life insurance as a result. As the father of a four-year-old son, this is not a minor worry for Kimberling. In addition, he explained, "I am hesitant to have another child because I could be passing on genetic defects to him or her. If I do develop cancer, I am concerned about the financial situation of my loved ones who would be left behind."

Dorgan followed up with a question about the insurance issue.

Senator Byron Dorgan: Mr. Kimberling, you said that you were turned down for life insurance. Did they tell you why that you were denied?

Russell Kimberling: I just got a letter, after after I found this out five years later. I had let my life insurance from the deployment kind of lapse and i figured uhOh I better go back in. And they didn't tell me it was directly related to my exposure they just said due to my -- I had to sign a waiver for my VA which, you know, I think it has my shoulder, hearing and a back problem. I wouldn't be denied life insurance for that. They said I was a high risk. And I don't know what -- they didn't give me a reason.

"After I returned from Iraq, I was never contacted by the army about the potential exposure at Qarmat Ali," explained Glen Booty. "I was unaware that I had been exposed to a toxic chemical but my health problems continued to get worse. I began vomiting up to twenty times a day and I couldn't keep any solid food down. My headaches continued. The point of origin of my illness was while I was in Iraq." Even now knowing about the exposure and receiving some treatments, Booty continues to suffer from: "constant headaches, constant chest pain with skipped heart beats, shortness of breath due to the lower edge of my lungs being collapsed, extreme fatigue, periodic skin rashes, inability to sweat, periodic vomiting without nausea, loss of feeling on my left side and torso, high blood sugar, episodes of kidney stones, episodes of blacking out and short term memory loss."

We'll note this exhange from the hearing.

Senator Evan Bayh: Captain Kimberling, you testified that you escorted a group of, was it KBR employees, who had the white suits on, the environmental suits on, to the site. Did I understand your testimony correctly?

Russell Kimberling: Civilian attired. I couldn't say whether they were, you know, Corps of Engineers or KBR.

Senator Evan Bayh: Ah but they had --

Russell Kimberling: Civilian attire on.

Senator Evan Bayh: Oh, civilian attire. I thought you said they had enviornmental suits.

Russell Kimberling: Well they had it, when they got in the vehicles, civilian attire, when they got out of the vehicles, at the site, they had white PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], the gear.

Senator Evan Bayh: So when you were -- why do you suppose they put that on? Before they got out of the vehicles?

Russell Kimberling: They knew something we didn't.

Senator Evan Bayh: Well that's my point. And so they drove up in civilian attire but before they got out to set foot on the ground, they put on the environmental suits obviously indicating they were worried about something?

Russell Kimberling: Yes.

Senator Evan Bayh: But you and your men and women hadn't been informed of anything at that point, correct?

Russell Kimberling: Correct.

Senator Evan Bayh: At what point after that, if at all, were you informed?

Russell Kimberling: It was within a couple of weeks that, uh, Lt Col [James] Gentry, once he -- once we figured out what it was, we were informed and we didn't go back to the site.

Senator Evan Bayh: So there were at least a couple of weeks there when presumably they didn't find out that dayso there was a period of some time, at least a couple of weeks, probably longer ,that people were aware there was some pretty hazardous stuff there -- so much that they protect themselves -- but you and your men hadn't been notified?

Russell Kimberling: Yes, sir.

The civilian visit was in August 2003. Kimberling had been stationed at the water treatment facility since April 2003. Elsewhere in the hearing, he noted that Lt Col James Gentry "is currently battling terminal lung cancer, most likely caused by his exposure to sodium dichromate, and has entered hospice care."

Meanwhile, David Martin (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric -- link has text and video) reports on Iraq War veteran Casey Owens who lost his legs while serving in Iraq who has had to fight the VA for needed treatment and who TBI is repeatedly swept aside and ignored. "I've gone to the VA and complained," he explains, "about certain symptoms but it's usually just shrugged off as sinus headaches or migraines or stress." Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports on the strain deployments are causing military families such as Lynn and Capt Mark Flitton with Mark having a very difficult time readjusting to life with his family after being deployed three times in the last ten years. He tells Zoroya, "I haven't come home yet. I'm still in the war mode, and I don't know that I'm going to come back out of it until I know I don't have any more war rotations to go back on." Drop back to Friday's snapshot and pair Flitton's statements with Mary who called into NPR's The Diane Rehm Show to share her story:Hi there. As a matter of fact, that's exactly what I was calling about. My husband is currently on his fourth tour in Iraq which is his fifth deployment in six years. As a matter of fact, he's physically lived at home six months since 2001. There's -- there's two reasons I think why the high suicide rate You have these up tempo deployments. When someone comes back from being deployed in Iraq you have what's called a honeymoon period and it might be a month or several months where everyone's happy to see you and every thing's going fine and then the cracks start to show a little bit the stress that every body's been under -- whether it's the normal stress or maybe PTSD. But by the time that starts to rear it's head, they're back for another deployment again and so those issues don't get addressed. And I live in fear for when my husband is home permanently and I know for certain that we're going to have to address that. My husband told me once a story when they were in Iraq, in a combat mission. There was a young gentlemen, maybe 19, scared to death to go out -- understandably. And he was out maybe thirty minutes and they got hit by an IED. He was absolutely terrified and the next day he had to go back out on another mission. And he did not want to go and he had to. And I asked my husband what do you do in those circumstances? And my husband said "Charley Mike" which is an acronym for CM and it means continue mission. That is the most important thing is you continue the mission and you don't stop until it's complete and then you look back and maybe try to figure out what's wrong with these poor people. The -- I don't care what any senior officials say -- the mental health is abysmal in the military. It's frowned upon, there's not enough services. Also I think because the rest -- only the military is at war and the rest of the country is not, there's not -- there's a big disconnect there and I think that adds to the situation. My husband is proud to do his service. He's happy to be there so many other fathers don't have to be. But he would like at least some acknowledgment and recognition. When you turn on the TV and very little is talked about.

Moving to the press, pundits, gas bags. And if they don't like being called out, they should try talking about the Iraq War than, for example Naomi Klein, repeatedly using women to get some cheap laughs. Like Klein, two journalists working for the Washington Post thought it was fine and dandy to go to town, CJR's Greg Marx calls it out here, Kirsten Powers (New York Post) goes further in calling all out all this sexist garbage:

If [Dana] Milbank made a "satirical" race-based joke about Obama, he'd be fired. But that's not going to happen here.
After all, calling Hillary Clinton the b-word is practically mainstream behavior. During the '08 campaign, a (female) questioner at a McCain event asked "How can we beat the bitch?" McCain laughed. Conservative commentator Alex Castellanos defended this on CNN saying that Clinton deserves to be called a "bitch."
For what? Running for president? How dare she!
The only thing worse would be running for vice president. Just ask Sarah Palin.
I'm no fan of the former governor of Alaska, but as a life-long feminist I can't ignore the endless stream of sexism directed at her.
Friday on MSNBC, guest host Donny Deutsch asked, "If Palin wasn't hot, would we be talking about her?" His two female guests -- one Republican and one Democrat -- were united in their disagreement with this assertion.
But Deutsch was adamant: "The only reason we are so fascinated, the American public has never seen a woman that looks like this in power. That's where the fascination starts."
Where was this insightful analysis when the vapid JFK-wannabe John Edwards and his silky hair ended up as the Dems choice for VP in 2004? Or was everyone too dazzled by his completely undistinguished one term as a senator?

Lastly, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Adam Kokesh is running for the US Congress out of New Mexico's third district and he announced last month he was going to be on the Republican ticket (link has video and text). An e-mail came in asking if we'd dumped Adam because he was on the Republican ticket? No. We'll continue to note him and Congress would be lucky to have Adam as member on any party ticket. There's just not time for everything -- the hearing covered today couldn't go into yesterday's snapshot because there wasn't room and I didn't feel like boiling it down to one paragraph which was all the room that was left -- so something's get held with the hopes that they'll be noted at a later date. This week, Iraqi refugees should be a topic, hopefully tomorrow. But I'm holding things on that. There's never enough room for everything on Iraq. Things like a political run are more likely to get held. But there's no walk away from Adam because he's running on the Republican ticket. We're not a Libertarian site but we never ignored Adam because he's a Libertarian. We'll continue to note him and probably more so this month because Congress is about to go on recess.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

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But don't look for them to call out thug-meister Nouri. The puppet's been holding meetings galore but it's his meeting today that is of 'interest'. AFP reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met members of the radical Shiite group believed to have kidnapped five Britons in Iraq two years ago after it said it had renounced violence, a government spokesman said on Monday." AFP calls the group the League of Righteous and states that Nouri's bag boy declared on Iraqi television yesterday that the League of Righteous had just announced that it "renounces violence and supports the political process and efforts to achieve national unity." Wait one damn minute, Nouri's attacking Sunnis, having them arrested for alleged actions three and four and five years ago but the League of the Righteous declares Sunday that they're renouncing violence and Nouri's meeting with them today?

That Righteous League, is responsible for the deaths of Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst. The British government also considers Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy dead. The family of the two continue to hold out hope. (The July 29th snapshot covers the families press conference.) They and Peter Moore were kidnapped in Baghdad May 2, 2007. Moore is not considered by the British government to be dead. Friday's snapshot noted the latest news on the kidnapping -- news which is all the more damning as Nouri rushes off to hold hands and skip down the lane with the League of Rightous. The Telegraph of London reported:

An unnamed senior Iraqi intelligence source told The Guardian the highly-organised kidnapping was "one only a government can do". Mr Moore had been installing a computer system to track billions of pounds in foreign aid and oil revenue through the finance ministry. The intelligence source told the paper: "Many people don't want a high level of corruption to be revealed. "Remember this is the information technology centre, this is the place where all the money to do with Iraq and all Iraq's financial matters are housed." Paul Wood, a former British Army officer who investigated the abduction for the four bodyguards' employers, GardaWorld, said it was "too perfect". "It would make sense to think that there was someone on the inside telling the kidnappers when to come, what to expect and how to deal with any security issues they were going to face," he told the paper. Meena Muhammed, Maggie O'Kane and Guy Grandjean (Guardian) added: Unknown to the kidnappers, two intelligence officers were parked opposite the centre, outside an outpatients' clinic. Through an intermediary -- a former high-level intelligence source -- one of the officers described the operation to the Guardian: "The cars started coming down the street and surrounding the ministry. The cars were marked 'ministry of the interior' – they are Toyota Land Cruisers, they belong to the ministry of the interior ... The operation was well planned and they were carrying Kalashnikovs. One group came out with two of the hostages. They put them in the first car. They weren't hooded or handcuffed. Then they brought the other three men out. Then they brought out the men's belongings, their briefcases and rucksacks. They put those things in a separate car. "People started gathering around. It was near the al-Rafidain Bank on Palestine Street. The people were gathering around and the kidnappers were shouting: 'Go home now, this is nothing do with anyone. Do not look, this has nothing to do with you.'"

Repeating, Friday fingers point at Nouri's government. This weekend the League of Righteous suddenly denounce violence. Today Nouri meets with them. It's offensive. It's outrageous. And that's just for the British. What about for the US? Dropping back to the June 9th snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

They freed them and Nouri made nice with them today. And if British reports are true, Nouri's been making nice with them for some time. Nouri's apparently saved his rage for the residents of Camp Ashraf. Over the weekend, Christopher Booker (Telegraph of London) observed, "Last week Iraqi government forces stormed the camp, bulldozing buildings, shooting and beating the inhabitants with nailed clubs and axes, leaving at least 12 dead and 400 injured. Despite outcries from the European Parliament and an all-party group of MPs and peers at Westminster, not a squeak of protest has been heard from the British Foreign Office, Brussels or Washington at this flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention." Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) notes how little press coverage the assault has received and declared, "The American-installed government in Iraq has shown its true colours. By fighting its way into an Iraqi camp of Iranian dissidents, possibly killing 11 people in the process, it has earned brownie points in Iran. America disapproved, but its diplomatic intervention was limited to medical assistance." The MEK has been told by Nouri & thugs that they have one month to leave Iraq. Or? Or is left unexplained. In addition, Nouri's 're-branded' Camp Ashraf following the assault which started on Tuesday. He now wants the press to call it the "Camp of New Iraq." The Iranian press is running with it and, probably a good idea, when you've committed a War Crime to change the name of the scene of your crime -- it helps confuse the issue. Today Chris Hughes (Daily Mirror) observes, "A few days ago a camp of dissident Iranians living near Baghdad was raided by Iraqi police and soldiers who proceeded to shoot seven dead and injure 300. It's one way to handle the local traveller problem but it might surprise some of the US forces who trained these Iraqi police and soldiers on how to behave."

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