Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sinking fast






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U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year was designed to mask an unpleasant truth: the troops aren't being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out.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

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

Friday, October 21, 2011

More problems for Barry





Panderer-in-Chief Barack needs to start firing some people immediately. How is Shinseki still over the VA after the scandal at the Miami VA Medical Center in 2009? Or the continued problems at the Miami VA Medical Center? As was noted at the start of a hearing last week, the Miami facility was in "the spotlight" two years ago when "endoscopes were not reprocessed correctly, placing over two thousand veterans at risk of exposure to disease." The instruments were used and reused and not steralized from one patient to another. In other words, a needle exchange for intravaneous drug users treated people better and more safely than the Miami VA Medical Center did. Back in July, Fred Tasker (Miami Herald) reported that 5 veterans using the Miami, the Murfreesboro or the Augusta facilities had "tested positive for HIV, 25 for hepatitis C and eight for hepatitis B."
That was the public safety scandal two years ago. You might think they'd get their house in order. But when you don't have a functioning head of the VA and you don't have a president who holds Cabinet heads accountable, you get one problem after another.
Last Wednesday, October 12th, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the facility and its myriad of problems. The hearing was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. If it started on time, I missed the first 90 minutes (I was at the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing). Any reference to opening remarks in the hearing will be the prepared remarks. I walked in as a tooth-pulling exchange between the Chair and the director of the facility was taking place. One that was apparently characteristic of the hearing as evidenced by US House Rep Bill Johnson's comment immediately following the exchange that "Are -- I'm just curious are you -- are you astutely hearing the responses to the questions that this Committee is asking and some of the answers we're getting?"
For those wondering here's part of the exchange immediately before Johnson spoke. Committee Chair Jeff Miller is speaking to Mary Berrocal who is the director of the Miami facility.
Chair Jeff Miller: So would you know if a veteran had come to your facility with a particular disease return home and then expire the next day? Would you have anyway of knowing that?
Mary Berrocal: Usually what happens is we -- Any deaths, we do review and there is -- Where indicated we do peer reviews, where the death is not expected, peer reviews are done and we --
Chair Jeff Miller: So there is a way that you would know if a veteran presented 24 hours prior to their death at your facility but was sent home? You would have a way of tracking that?
Mary Berrocal: Every -- every morning, we get a report on, uh, on anything that is unusual that might have happened, uhm, on the evening before or the day before. We get a report every single morning. I meet with my leadership. Uh, the staff in the ER presents their information following that, you know, we stay with the leadership and discuss anything we might need to follow up on.
Chair Jeff Miller: Is it unusual that a veteran would come to your facility, be dischaged -- not just discharged, but just be sent home, not admitted, and would pass away the next day? Would you consider that unusual? And if you do consider that unusual, is that something that you would report then to the VISN that this has occurred?
Mary Berrocal: Uh, we would normally report deaths, uh, unexpected deaths to the network, yes.
Chair Jeff Miller: So this particular, if an incident like this did occur, it would have been reported to the VISN?
Mary Berrocal: It would be my expectation that it would be reported. If it's an unexpected death, there are reports that, uh, that go forward.
Chair Jeff Miller: Regardless --
Mary Berrocal: Now we don't independently, like in an issue, report every single death if it's an expected death.
Chair Jeff Miller: Regardless of what the peer review may have found, you would still report it?
Mary Berrocal: Uh, the peer review's focus, uh, specifically on the provider to determine whether it was a, uh, uhm, something that didn't go the way it should go in that direction.
Chair Jeff Miller: If a --
Mary Berrocal: So yes.
Chair Jeff Miller: If a vet -- Okay, let's go inside the facility. Now we have somebody who has been admitted to the facility and is having surgery. If there is a death on the operating table, what would prevent that death from being reported to VISN?
Mary Berrocal: Uh, those, uh, would be reported to the network.
Chair Jeff Miller: All deaths on an operating table are reported --
Mary Berrocal: Are reported, should be reported. There's a system that we put through to report unexpected deaths.
Chair Jeff Miller: All deaths on the operating table are reported to the VISN?

Mary Berrocal: Yes, sir.
Chair Jeff Miller: All deaths?
Mary Berrocal: Unexpected deaths are reported.
Chair Jeff Miller: There's a difference now: Unexpected deaths or deaths? If a patient dies on the operating table, is that reported regardless? Is that reported to the VISN? And if not, why not?
Mary Berrocal: It would be my expectation that it would be reported.
Chair Jeff Miller: Is there a root cause analysis on every death on the operating table?
Mary Berrocal: There, uh, there would be, uh, a root cause analysis, again, if it's an unexpected death, there would be a root cause analysis --
Chair Jeff Miller: What would be an expected death on an operating table?
Mary Berrocal: [Sighs.]
Chair Jeff Miller: I would expect if I went in for surgery, you wouldn't expect me to die. You'd expect me to recover. Now what is an expected or an unexpected death? What is that?
Mary Berrocal: Again, it's, you know, I'm not a clinician.
Chair Jeff Miller: You're the director of the medical center.
Mary Berrocal: Correct.
Chair Jeff Miller: For now.
Mary Berrocal: Not a clinician. I, uh -- I, uh, I am not a clinician, uh, but, uhm, I, uhm, I would expect that -- I-I would -- Any unexpected death would be something where, you know, if they, uhm, found something that they were not expecting to find. Uh, I, uh-uh, you know, I believe that, uh, any death would --
Chair Jeff Miller: Who makes the determination as to whether it's expected or unexpected?
Mary Berrocal: [Long pause while she shakes her head repeatedly] There are systems in place to, uhm, to report, and we -- [a man hands her a note] and we've had, we've had a variety of -- of, uhm, of groups come and look and determine that we have done things appropriately. [Reading from card passed to her] All deaths are reported and they are investigated but not necesserarily through, uh, the RCA process. We do investigate, again, we do peer reviews to determine --
Chair Jeff Miller: Is a peer review punative?
Mary Berrocal: Uh, it could lead to be. But, uh, not necessarily a peer review. There's a group of peers that review to see whether or not the care that was provided was adequate care.
Chair Jeff Miller: So if everybody just decides that the care was adequate and that it was an expected death, you may not even report that to the VISN, right?
Mary Berrocal: Then there's a committee that, uh, reviews after, there's a, uh, peer review, it goes to a committee and then a deterimination is made. There is -- There are rankings or scores that are provided determining whether or not it's a --
Chair Jeff Miller: Who makes the final determination as to whether or not it is sent to VISN?
Mary Berrocal: They are sent to the VISN. The deaths are reported to the VISN.
Chair Jeff Miller: All deaths? All of them? Is there ever a death that's not reported to the VISN.
Mary Berrocal: Uhm, uh, we have, for example, deaths in the hospice, these would be expected, you know.
Chair Jeff Miller: I'm talking about on the operating table.
Mary Berrocal: I would expect --
Chair Jeff Miller: I'll let you think on that. Mr. Johnson?
There are a number of developments that are questionable and speak to a lack of oversight from the VA. But let's note the scandal from two years ago. When you give someone AIDS because you are not cleaning your equipment, the head of the facility needs to go down with everyone else. That's Mary Berrocal. Hepatitis is nothing nice to have either but what took place under Berrocal's watch, grasp this, is going to result in big money pay outs (there's already one lawsuit seeking approximately 30 million dollars). And most jurors would vote (I certainly would) to award the victim the maximum amount of money. Grasp that Mary Berrocal is paying a penny in any settlements or law suits or anything. The screw ups at her facility cost the US tax payer.
People have diseases they caught from Berrocal's facility because Berrocal didn't know how to supervise a facility. She shouldn't be running it. And grasp that she was removed from her position. Temporarily. Fred Tasker (Miami Herald) was reporting a year ago, "Mary Berrocal, director of the Miami Veterans Administration Healthcare System who was temporarily reassigned in July during a scandal in which thousands of South Florida veterans were given colonoscopies with improperly cleaned equipment, was back on the job Friday. It happened quietly. The announcement was made internally, without public notice. VA officials at the local, regional and national levels failed to return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment." They brought her back. And brought her back to leadership. After people were infected with diseases under her watch, she was put back in charge.
Where is the leadership at the VA? And maybe Barack needs to get off his candy ass and demand Shinseki's resignation. Maybe then, the VA will realize that these actions are not acceptable, do not show leadership and are not what the veteran expects from a medical center or what the US tax payer considers work worth paying for.
US House Rep Johnson noted a Fred Tasker Miami Herald article from last month: "Miami Veterans Administration hospital director Mary Berrocal and her former chief of staff, Dr. John Vara, should be disciplined for 'lack of oversight' that led to long delays in notifying 79 local veterans that they might have been infected with HIV or hepatitis through improperly performed colonoscopies at the hospital, a VA board has concluded." Johnson noted this information while questioning William Schoenhard (Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management, Veterans Health Administration, VA). Johnson pointed out that the information in the article was only obtained via a Freedom of Information request and . . .
US House Rep Bill Johnson: In documents submitted to us just last night, by the VA, only a draft unsigned and undated recommendation for action war provided and then 30 minutes before today's hearing a notice of admonishment was provided that was dated December of 2010 with no specific day. Can you clarify and explain this discrephancy and how that fits into your 'we're going to hold leadership accountable'? Yeah.
William Schoenhard: Yes, sir. The AIB recommended administrative action. The one that I conveyned, the national AIB, after the second disclosure of the veteran who had not been contacted and found that there was reason to take administrative action against the medical director and the chief of staff. The way that works in VA then is that I shared that report with Mr. Weaver and he took the administrative action. He may want to speak to the process we use in VA and in government to
US House Rep Bill Johnson: What administrative action was taken?
William Schoenhard: An admonishment was issued against both these individuals.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: A-a veteran escapes the facility and dies --
William Schoenhard: No, sir. This was taken predating this incident.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: Okay. So this admonishment that came through the Miami Herald incident from a previous AIB, correct? Have I got this right?
William Schoenhard: That's correct, sir.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: Then the patient that escaped the center and subsequently committed suicide happened after that, correct?
William Schoenhard: That's correct, sir.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: Right. So, do you think the admonishment worked?
William Schoenhard: I think --
US House Rep Bill Johnson: Next question. Can you provide to this Committee, Mr. Schoenhard or Mr. Weaver, a record of disciplinary actions from the Miami VAMC over the last 24 months? I would specifically like to see -- and with the Chairman's approval -- I would like to see the incident -- you don't have to give us names for privacy -- I would like to see the incident and the action and what level of leadership and management that action was taken against. Miss Berrocal, last week, one of your employees was arrested for selling names of veterans. In the past six years, it's estimated that more than 3,000 veterans' information has been sold. Have you alerted any veterans that their information may have been compromised and if so how have you done that?
Mary Berrocal: Actually, this was an investigation that was done by the IG and it was a covert operation. I learned about it at the time shortly before they were going to be arresting the individual and at the time what we knew was there was more than one, there was information on 18 individuals that was compromised and then, uh, uh, on --
US House Rep Bill Johnson: Have those veterans been notified?
Mary Berrocal: The, uh, the, uh, --
US House Rep Bill Johnson: Yes or no, have those veterans been notified? You talked earlier about a process for making sure that veterans are notified. I've heard that from various pieces of testimony this morning --
Mary Berrocal: We-we are in the process now of finding
US House Rep Bill Johnson: So they have not been notified? When was the guy arrested?
Mary Berrocal: Uh, this just happened in the last --
US House Rep Bill Johnson: And you didn't know anything about the investigation prior to his arrest?
Mary Berrrocal: I knew that they were doing an investigation and that they had some concerns The individual --
US House Rep Bill Johnson: So prudent leadership would be poised and ready to act if the investigation proved out, right? That you would immediately begin to notify those veterans whose information had been compromised. And you're saying that as of today, there have still been no veterans notified? You're only in the process of? 18 veterans. How long does that take? I can make 18 phone calls in 30 minutes.
Mary Berrocal: We have, uh, worked with our privacy officer to make sure that the, uh, information is done and, uhm, that we communicate to those veterans as we need to.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: Okay and have they been communicated with?
Mary Berrocal: I believe so. I --
US House Rep Bill Johnson: You believe so?
Mary Berrocal: Yes, sir.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: But you're not certain?
Mary Berrocal: The 18 have been communicated. The individual in the case --
US House Rep Bill Johnson: A few minutes ago, you told me you were in the process of notifying them. Now you're saying that they have been notified?
Mary Berrocal: We have communicated with the -- with the privacy officer whose --
US House Rep Bill Johnson: No, no, no. I'm not asking if you communicated with the privacy officer. Have the veterans whose information has been compromised been notified that there information has been compromised and sold by an employee under your direction?
Mary Berrocal: I will have to get that information for you.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: Okay. So now you don't know. First it was you've got a process. Then 'they have been notified.' And now you don't know. Mr. Schoenhard, if I'm the wing commander, I'm paying real close attention to these answers. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chair Jeff Miller: I can answer the question for you. According to AIG last night, they have not been contacted.

Thursday, October 20, 2011








Turkey continues attacking northern Iraq and, for years now, Turkish war planes have been bombing northern Iraq. The latest wave of attacks started August 17th. This morning Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Kurdish Workers Party announced today that the Turkish forces continued their military concentration on the northern Iraqi borders with Turkey. The source told Aswat al-Iraq that the Turkish forces have been gathering ranks since yesterday." Daniel Dombey and Funja Guler (Financial Times of London) notes, "Turkey has vowed to wreak 'great revenge' on Kurdish militants for the deaths of 26 policemen and soldiers on Wednesday as tension increases in both the south-east of the country and neighbouring northern Iraq." Citing Turkish military sources, Reuters reported that Turkish planes are bombing nothern Iraq and that Turkish helicopters are depositing "Turkish commandos" in Iraq. PRI's The World offers footage of Turkish forces entering Iraq. Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) adds, "NTV, a private television network, said 600 Turkish ground troops chasing the attackers pushed 2.5 miles into northern Iraq".
Marc Champion (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Some 200 PKK fighters attacked military posts in Hakkari province, near the Turkish borders with Iraq and Iran, said a PKK spokesman, contacted by phone in northern Iraq. The attacks began at 1 a.m. and ended around 5 a.m. after fierce gun battles, some of which were captured on video by Turkey's Dogan News Agency." Sahar Issa and Ipek Yezdani (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Iraqi government officials raised no immediate objection to the Turkish incursion, and Turkish officials promised tougher action aimed at the Kurdish Worker's party (PKK) rebels." Seyhmus Cakan (Reuters) offers, "Yet as winter snows approach, many doubt the second-biggest military in NATO can rout some 4,000 PKK fighters dug in at camps in Iraq, not least while Iraqi Kurds' own seasoned foreign guerrilla forces retain their ambivalance between solidarity with ethnic kin and building trade with a powerful neighbor." Kelly McEvers is back in Iraq and files a report for NPR's All Things Considered. (I'm sure it's wonderful, I haven't listened to it yet. An NPR friend asked for the link. Good to know Kelly' McEvers is back in Baghdad. Hopefully NPR can provide her with air time. I'll most lilkely note the report in tomorrow's snapshot in some manner.)
BBC News quotes Tukey's President Abdullah Gul swearing, "No-one should forget that those who make us suffer this pain will be made to suffer even stronger. They will see that the vengeance for these attacks will be great." I think the Kurds of Turkey are very familiar with what the government's vengeance looks like -- having lived under it for years. Dan Zak (Washington Post) quotes PKK leader Duzdan Hammo stating, "Turkish forces have provoked our fighters to conduct attacks. There is still a lot of heavy shelling on the border." Zak also notes KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a statement -- we'll quote that in full:
At a time when efforts are being made to find peaceful solutions to the Kurdish question in Turkey, it's very unfortunate that today 24 members of the Turkish forces were killed by an armed group in the Hakari area. We strongly condemn this criminal act and publicly state that this action is first and foremost against the interests of the people of Kurdistan. We call for an immediate end to these attacks and we reiterate our position that violence and conflict are not a solution.
That was one of many statements issued on the matter. Today's Zaman notes, "Ria Oomen-Ruijten, European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, has said every country had a right to defend itself and its citizens as she commented on Turkey's incursion in northern Iraq following the latest attack by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that killed 24 troops and injured 18 others." Deutsche Welle adds, "Support for Turkey has poured in from the international community" and notes, among others, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and US President Barack Obama. France's Foreign Affairs Ministry issued the following:
France condemns, with the utmost severity, the attacks made by the PKK terrorist movement on military posts in South East Turkey.These caused the death of 26 Turkish soldiers, with at least further 18 wounded. This was in addition to the attacks in Bitlis the previous day, with 8 dead. France expresses her fullest soldiarity with the Turkish authorities and her deepest sympathy for the families of the victims in this time of grief. The terrorist attacks of the last few days only strengthen the determination of France to stand alongside Turkey in fighting against terrorism -- and in supporting its efforts to achieve a political solution to the Kurdish question. France reiterates her appeal to the elected representatives of the Turkish populations of Kurdish origin, to clearly establish their distance from PKK terrorist violence.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent attacks by the PKK in Turkey's Hakkari province. I join President Obama in offering our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed and injured in this tragedy. We will continue our strong cooperation with Turkey as we work to combat violent extremism in all its forms and safeguard the security of peace-loving people everywhere.
If you're thinking that and other outpourings of sympathy meant a damn thing to the Turkish government, think again. Deutsche Welle reports that the government responded to the statements by blaming Europe (yet again, as DW notes) and declaring "true friendship cannot be measured solely by sincerity, and now we expect more than ever from our friends. EU member states can no longer accept the PKK's terror without doing anything about it." It's everyone's fault, proclaims the Turkish government -- the same government that refuses to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
1.5 million Armenians killed because they were Armenian, targeted solely for that reason, and the Turkish government denies it to this day. Back in March of 2009, Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) reported: "According to a long-hidden document that belonged to the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official population records from 1915 through 1916. In Turkey, any discussion of what happened to the Ottoman Armenians can bring a storm of public outrage. But since its publication in a book in January, the number -- and its Ottoman source -- has gone virtually unmentioned. Newspapers hardly wrote about it. Television shows have not discussed it." And although that was back in WWI, never forget how the current government responds to the genocide. Not just by denial but with modern day threats. BBC News reported last year that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was threatening to throw 100,000 Amenians out of Turkey and making insulting comments leading the Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian to declare, "These kinds of political statements do not help to improve relations between our two states. When the Turkish prime minister allows himself to make such statements it immediately for us brings up memories of the events of 1915." Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) quoted Armenian MP Hrayr Karapetyan declaring, "The statement once again proves that there is an Armenian genocide threat in present Turkey, thus world community should pressurise Ankara to recognise [the] genocide." Possibly if Erdogan and the current government could stop living in denial and threatening other governments over a very real genocide nearly 100 years ago, they could also learn to reach out to other communities the Turkish government has persecuted through the years? That might be the only thing that would ensure peace for the country. If you doubt that the attitude is part of the problem, refer to this analysis by Deutsche Welle of how a 2009 peace quickly fell apart. From an academic standpoint, the PKK has nothing and therefore no reason to cease and desist. The Kurds -- which is more than PKK members -- are the largest minority without a homeland. The persecution by the Turkish government created the PKK and the recent decision that Kurds in Turkey could have the 'right' to speak Kurdish (in some areas and public places) and that they could have a TV station that broadcasts in Kurdish is less than scraps. In addition, promising other things and then going back on them (such as refusing to seat elected members of Parliament) only further fuels the sense of being persecuted. The Turkish government has and has always had the power to recognize and treat fairly the Kurds. They've refused to do so. They are alarmed now by the number of Kurds in Turkey.
While too many in the press cluck, Seyhmus Cakan (Reuters) goes in search of the story and speaks to a number of people in Turkey including a Kurd named Hulya Yildiz:
The use of Kurdish, the mother tongue for up 15 million Kurds in Turkey, is banned at her children's school. Scores of Kurdish activists and mayors have been arrested in recent security crackdowns. Army operations and Kurdish guerrilla attacks make even a family picnic in the woods too dangerous.
"I would like to live in a city where we could take our kids to picnics on weekends. We don't have that freedom because we don't know if a bomb will explode or if there will be clashes," said Yildiz, a civil servant in the Kurdish city of Tunceli.
She was speaking days before Turkey launched air and ground assaults on Kurdish militants in Iraq in retaliation for the killing on Wednesday of 24 Turkish soldiers in one of the deadliest Kurdish attacks in decades.
"If a family is afraid to take their kids to picnics you can'tt talk about democracy," she said. "The prime minister (Tayyip Erdogan) has travelled to all problematic countries during this year, but he should come here and listen to his people's demands. Why can't we have a 'spring' like the Arabs?"
Instead of grand standing on 'terrorism,' Barack, Hillary and the rest of the US government should be explaining that this is how governments are toppled and that if Turkey wants to have a future, it will work to bring the Kurds into the process fully. The alternative is endless war and for proof of that look no further than Israel which is now a teetering nation-state as a result of its refusal to come to terms with what was a minority population but is now a fastly growing one. It's a real shame that people who could be weighing in on this issue would rather gas bag. I'm thinking specifically of Theda Skocpol whose "France, Russia, China: A Structural Analysis of Social Revolutions" (Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol 18, 1976, Cambridge Press) and "Revolutions and the World-Historical Developmen of Capitalism" (co-written with Ellen Kay Trimberger, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, vol 22,, 1978) are pertinent to the what's taking place. But instead of providing insight on that, Theda can be found nearly each day offering trite and banal gas baggery about the Democratic Party for POLITICO's Arena forum. Talk about bastardizing your craft.

Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Linus needs his blanket!







Today Kiran Stacey and Elizabeth Rigby (Financial Times of London) report that a United Kingdom delegation of over 70 business people -- including "BP, Petrofac and other oil and gas services companies" -- will visit Iraq next week, specifically Erbil, and work towards increasing trade between England and Iraq. So it was all worth it, right? The lies Tony Blair his Cabinet told to get England into the illegal war, the deaths of Iraqis, the deaths of 'coalition' forces, it was all worth it? Including yet another violation, just reported by Ian Drury (Daily Mail) today?
Drury reports that the UK sent 4 "child soldiers" -- under the age of 18 -- to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. Drury quotes the charity War Child stating, "Using kids as soldiers constitutes one of the most horrendous breaches of those rights and it is simply and unequivocally wrong." And the US got in bed with the UK -- and Bully Boy Bush and Liar Tony did heavens knows what but the world's still paying for the wars they started. In the US, five years after the start of the Iraq War, the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008 was passed. PDF format warning, click here. It calls on "the United States Government should condemn the conscription, forced recruitment, or use of children by governments, paramilitaries, or other organizations" but don't expect a peep when it's England. (And don't be surprised if similar news leaks out about the US military also sending under-age males into combat -- especially those attempting to earn citizenship.)
The greed sends a delegation to Iraq from the UK next week -- well to the 'safe' portion, to the KRG. But even there the ongoing war is felt. Luis Martinez (ABC News) quotes US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stating of negotiations between the US and Iraq to extend the US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011, "At the present time, you know, I'm not discouraged because we're still in negotiations with the Iraqis. At this stage of the game, you know, I think our hope is that the negotiators can ultimately find a way to resolve this issue in terms of what are the Iraqi needs and how can we best meet them, once we've concluded our combat operations." Panetta was in Italy and Robert Burns (AP) adds that he stated that the US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Lloyd Austin were still having "discussions with Iraqi leaders" and that Nouri publicly referred to a "NATO alternative." As noted here repeatedly during the first week of October, NATO is among the many possibilities that the White House has considered for keeping troops in Iraq. And should no deal be made by the end of the year? Barbara Starr, Chris Lawrence, Chelsea J. Carter and Adam Levine (CNN) add, "The United States also could send a limited number of personnel on training missions back into Iraq from Kuwait assuming the immunity issue can be worked out, a senior defense official told CNN on Monday." Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) offers:

Discussions with the Iraqis have focused on the administration's demand that U.S. troops remaining in Iraq have immunity from Iraqi courts. In August, Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie told The Cable that a deal on immunity was in the works and that the Iraqis would formally request an extension of thousands of U.S. troops' presence "in our own sweet time."
But the current U.S.-Iraq bilateral agreements dictate that all U.S. troops must withdraw by the end of the year, and as time runs out, the chances of a deal on immunity are fading fast.
Ramzy Mardini, a scholar at the Institute for the Study of War who traveled to Iraq in July, said that the reason a deal isn't likely is because, though there is a consensus among Iraqi leaders to give U.S. troops immunity, State Department lawyers determined that the immunity would only be ensured if the Iraqi parliament formally endorsed it.

As noted before, State and Defense have been at odds over whether or not immunity had to come through the Parliament. Those under Panetta have been of the opinion that it's a DoD issue so they really didn't see the point in giving credence to State's take. As noted yesterday, the White House is now of the legal opinion that Nouri can grant immunity by himself.
I try not to come down too hard on Think Progress, it's nothing but a partisan cheerleader fully willing to distort facts and lie at any given moment. Ali Gharib demonstrates today just how quickly that will happen. Herman Cain, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, has criticized Barack Obama for, among other things, possibly pulling all troops out of Iraq and Ali Gharib wants the world to know that if that happens, it's Bush's fault!!!!
Before we get to Ali's foolish nonsense, let's get Herman Cain's remarks in here. Cain appeared Sunday on Meet The Press (NBC -- link is transcript and video):
David Gregory: Were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a mistake?
Herman Cain: I don't think the war in Iraq was a mistake because there were a lot of other reasons we needed to go to Iraq, and there have been a lot of benefits that have come out of Iraq. Now, that being said, I don't agree with the president's approach to drawdown 40,000 troops and basically leave that -- leave that country open to attacks by Iran. Iran has already said that they want to wait till American leaves --
David Gregory: So President Cain would want -- even beyond the deadline -- leave American troops there?
Herman Cain: I would want to leave American troops there if that was what the commanders on the ground suggested. And I believe that that's what they are saying.
Now back to Ali Gharib's nonsense. I think the "Think" in "Think Progress" is meant to be hipster ironic. If all US troops were to leave Iraq, would Think Progress really hail Bully Boy Bush for the 2008 SOFA? Really? No, they'd praise Barack and give him all the credit. And, truth be told, if that should happen -- for whatever reason including incompetence -- Barack will deserve credit and will have kept a campaign promise.
But due to Ali Gharib's post, it's going to be really difficult now for Think Progress to take that position. While other Democratic sites congratulate Barack, Think Progress will have to be serving up praise for Bully Boy Bush.
Herman Cain is correct that Barack can continue to keep US service members in Iraq. Barack can do that right now by keeping 5,000 there without any immunity. He can give the order on that. He can keep US troops in by shifting them under the State Dept's umbrella (State has an agreement with the Iraqi government) or by using NATO's agreement. Or he can do it by playing hardball and telling Nouri, "You're getting immunity for the US troops."
Hardball? Iraq needs and wants US dollars. It needs them because their government is full of so many who have and continue to fleece the national treasury. It's very easy for the President of the United States to declare, "If you don't think US troops are worthy of immunity, we don't think, in the midst of an economic crisis, we need to invest billions in your country." Again, Think Progress is going to be a in a sticky position if the US does withdraw all troops because Ali Gharib has put them there via his bad spin. You better believe that if Barack does keep his campaign promise, there are going to be partisan sites on the right who insist that it was Bush's doing. How sad that Think Progress has joined them in that spin.
Ali Gharib clearly does not understand the legal aspects of the Status Of Forces Agreement. There's so much ignorance in that post, it is embarrassing. He could have taken on the Iraq War exchange in other ways. Let's go back to it.
David Gregory: Were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a mistake?
Herman Cain: I don't think the war in Iraq was a mistake because there were a lot of other reasons we needed to go to Iraq, and there have been a lot of benefits that have come out of Iraq. Now, that being said, I don't agree with the president's approach to drawdown 40,000 troops and basically leave that -- leave that country open to attacks by Iran. Iran has already said that they want to wait till American leaves --
Ali could have raised questions around the claim that there were "other reasons we needed to go to Iraq" but he surely should have been able to argue against Cain's assertion that "there have been a lot of benefits that have come out of Iraq." The most obvious thing that has come out of Iraq -- ask Iraq's neighbors -- would be the external refugees. That was a "benefit"? The largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1946. Iran and Iraq are now much closer as a result of the Iraq War. That's a benefit? The infrastructure of the country -- shaky before the start of the illegal war -- is destroyed. That's a benfit? The increase in widows and orphans is a beneift? Aswat al-Iraq reports today, "The Iraqi Press Freedoms Observatory expressed astonishment with the attack on the residence of journalist Khalil al-Alwani without a court warrant, calling to resort to law and the constitution. According to a statement issued by the Observatory, received by Aswat al-Iraq, Alwani said that a military force attacked his house and terrorized his family, while he was in the newspaper he is working with." That's a benefit?
And did it make other countries safer? No.
Dropping back to the July 20, 2010 snapshot:
[Eliza] Manningham-Buller was the witness to watch. BBC News notes that she's testified the Iraq War has "substantially" upped the chance of England being a target for terrorism and that the threat assessment wasn't "substantial enough" to merit going to war: "If you are going to go to war, you need to have a pretty high threshold to decide on that." Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) quotes her stating, "Our involvement in Iraq radicalised, for want of of a better word, a whole generation of young people -- not a wholel generation, a few among a generation -- who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as being an attack on Islam. . . . Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before." Miranda Richardson (Sky News) emphasizes the same quote Rayner did and the link has video of Manningham-Buller testifying.
Eliza Manningham-Buller is the former head of British intelligence, MI5, and she's returned to this topic repeatedly. From the September 6th (this year) snapshot:
Eliza Manningham-Buller: War was declared on a rogue state, an easier target than an elusive terrorist group based mainly at that stage in the difficult terrain of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. And, in my view, whatever the merits of putting an end to Saddam Hussein, the war was also a distraction from the pursuit of al Qaeda. It increased the terror threat by convincing more people that Osama bin Laden's claim that Islam was under attack was correct. It provided an arena for the jihad for which he had called so that many of his supporters including British citizens traveled to Iraq to attack western forces. It also showed very clearly that foreign and domestic policies are intertwined, actions overseas have an impact at home and our involvement in Iraq spurred some young British Muslims to turn to terror.
In addition, October 15, 2007 US National Counterterrorism Center's Adm Scott Redd told Richard Engel (NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams -- link has text and video) that the Iraq War had been a recruiting tool for al Qaeda. Former CIA Middle East expert Bruce Riedel told Engel that the Iraq War has made things worse: "No question, it's made America less safe. By diverting so much money, so much of our intelligence effort and so much of our special forces in the military to fighting a war in Iraq, we have diverted resources from the central battlefield in the war against al Qaeda." Last year the Los Angeles Times editorial board concluded, "The United States was no safer after the war, because there had been no imminent threat before it. Arguably, Americans were more at risk. Al Qaeda exploited Iraqi resentment of U.S. troops, who were viewed as occupiers rather than liberators by much of the Muslim world. Abuses committed by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison fanned anger and anti-Americanism. Though Al Qaeda was not a force in Iraq before the war, it was after. And rather than stabilizing the region, the war shook a strategic balance. Hussein's Sunni regime had servced as a useful if unsavory counterwieght to the Shiite government of Iran."
ABC News Radio notes the US military has announced the death of a US service member in southern Iraq. The Defense Dept will announce the name of the fallen after his or her designated contact has been notified and, once that's done, the death will be counted in the Pentagon's official count.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A tiny, little man






Starting with journalists, Aswat al-Iraq's Adel Fakhir has won the first prize in the Open Eye journalistic tournament for "Absence of health observation is a terrorism threatens health and economy" and the news agency also scored second place with Ali Nakeel's "The Marshes: Paradises of Water Changed to Barren Deserts." Aswat al-Iraq reports on Adel Fakhir and Ali Nakeel's wins as well as all the other jounalists who won awards at the Open Eye tournament held in Erbil.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI (didn't air today due to a WBAI pledge drive) and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include Occupy Wall Street with attorney Magaret Ratner Kunstler. Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler are the authors of Hell No, Your Right To Dissent and they discuss the attacks on dissent and your rights with regards to the Occupy Wall Street protests and beyond. We're going to stay with the topic of journalists and note the section at the start of the show on Jose Couso.
Michael S. Smith: Michael, reporter Jose Couso is back in the news. People have probably forgotten but it was a very important incident years ago. Bring us up to date.
Michael Ratner: Let's go back about eight years, April 8, 2003. The US has been bombing the heck out of Baghdad. They sent in troops. It's the Iraq illegal, unconstitutional war. And what do they do? The US kills 3 journalists who are living -- staying at the Palestine Hotel -- a big, modern looking hotel in the middle of central Baghdad. The US put a tank on a bridge and fired shots directly into the hotel, murdering Jose Couso and two other journalists. The US, of course, claimed some b.s. mistake or that they thought that they were doing something, etc. And Couso is a Spanish journalist. And the Spanish journalists have been extremely upset about this. In fact, one day they all went into Parliament in Spain, 50 or 100 of them put their cameras down on the floor of the Parliament, saying, "We want justice." Well eventually, of course, after there was no justice, not even a look at it by the United States, as far as I know, a case was filed in Spain against the US Army really but against the individuals who it was believed were in the chain of command in the division that not only shot Couso but also who ordered him to do the shooting. And amazingly on the 4th of October of this year the Spanish court which has now been investigating this case for a number of years came out with an order going ahead with the prosecution not only of the three but of two of their supervisors. And what the judge says -- it's Judge Santiago Pedraz -- what he said is first that it's not only the three soldiers but two higher ranking officials who are being prosecuted and secondly that one of the assignments of the division -- that division that shot Couso -- was "to prevent international media from reporting on the military operations during the taking of Baghdad." And what this reporter who wrote this article says -- from Al Jazeera says -- "that is why they managed to not have us report it and that there's no image of the attacks right after that." And this ruling, which is in Spanish -- but if you go online you can find it, it offers a precise account of the events on that day and that the Pentagon knew clearly where the journalists were staying and that it was clearly intentional. And what's interesting is that the Spanish judge didn't just do this abstractly, he took a visit to Iraq and he went to the very bridge and he noticed from the bridge that the tank had an unimpeded view of the balconies of the hotel where Jose Couso was standing and you had a good enough vision you could even see what people were holding on the balcony. So here we have this intentional case of the killing of journalists and unfortunately and sadly it's not the first time and unfortunately and sadly it appears that the US directly targeted them and it's all about really suppressing the news and suppressing journalists -- journalists that they don't like.
Staying with that topic, Spain Review notes, "The National Court has shelved the Couso case twice, but reopened it on orders from the Supreme Court." And they note, "The US has pressured the Spanish government and judiciary to block the investigation, according to secret US diplomatic documents obtained by the whistleblower WikiLeaks and quoted by the daily El Pais." November 30th, El Pais published this State Dept Cable. The May 14, 2007 Cable was sent from the US Embassy in Baghdad to several reciepiants including the State Dept and this is the section on Jose Couso:
A couple of other key issues will be in the air, if not actually on the agenda. For our side, it will be important to continue to raise the Couso case, in which three US servicemen face charges related to the 2003 death of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso during the battle for Baghdad. XXXXXXXXXXXX. I raised this issue with Vice President de la Vega on April 30. She was supportive but uncertain that direct GOS involvement would be productive. DCM spoke late last week with the Deputy Justice Minister and we continue to prod the GOS to appeal. We were informed Monday morning that the Chief Prosecutor of Spain's National Court has indeed filed an appeal, which will go to the same court which originally dismissed the case (in 2006) on procedural grounds. The Deputy DIGENPOL in MOD told the Embassy last week that MOD completely supports the US position, and said that he would raise with h is superiors the possibility of making a statement to the court or otherwise demonstrating support. The Deputy Justice Minister also said the GOS strongly opposes a case brought against former Secretary Rumsfeld and will work to get it dismissed. The judge involved in that case has told us he has already started the process of dismissing the case.
December 1st, Monica Ceberio Belaza (El Pais) reported that the US Embassy in Madrid had made getting charges dismissed against the three US soldiers -- Col Philip de Camp, Sgt Thomas Gibson, Capt Philip Wolford -- their big objective for the last seven years. Monica Ceberio Belaza reports that the US ignored the case the first year because it was moving slowly through the Spanish justice system; however, by July 22, 2004, they made their interest very clear and among those involved on the US side were Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and US Ambassador to Spain Eduardo Aguirre Reyes Jr.
Over the weekend, Lara Jakes and Rebecca Santana (AP) reported that they were told the White House has given up attempts to keep US soldiers in Iraq (beyond those which will fall under the State Dept umbrella) after 2011.[To be very clear, I do not agree with that take based on phone conversations since Saturday; however, I do not question that Lara Jakes and Rebecca Santana have accurately reported what they were told. And they may very well end up being correct and I may end up being wrong and wouldn't be the first time I was wrong or the last time. And if they're right, we all win -- or at least those of us who are against the Iraq War win. So I will happily be wrong if I am wrong.] As Reuters noted, the report was followed by denials from the Pentagon (spokesperson George Little: "Suggestions that a final decision has been reached about our training relationship with the Iraqi government are wrong") and the National Security Council (spokesperson Tommy Vietor: "President Obama has repeatedly made it clear that we are committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year."). What I was told this weekend by friends at State and the White House and one at Defense and continue to be told is that this is part of the negotiations and that AP sources had authority to speak. The US position to the Iraqi government is that the US walks away from the table if immunity is not provided for US soldiers. Dan De Luce (AFP) notes today, "The question of legal immunity for US troops remains a 'sticking point' in talks between the United States and Iraq over a possible US military presence beyond a year-end deadline, a defense official said Monday" and quotes the unnamed official stating, "Nobody's thrown in the towel yet." This morning Barbara Starr, Adam Levine and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) reported the latest on negotiations between the US and Iraq to extend the US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011. Noting the immunity issue as a stumbling block, an unnamed "senior U.S. official" tells CNN, "I think the discussions on numbers are over." The report includes the denials that talks have stopped -- denials in this article by the Pentagon and the National Security Council -- and notes that "while an agreement has not been reached yet, the United States will maintain a military presence nearby should Baghdad and Washington come to terms" -- nearby is Kuwait. If correct, it would now be Iraq's move if the White House knows how to bargain. (Meaning, if the report is correct, the White House should be ceasing all talks on the subject with Nouri and other members of the Iraqi government. The only way, from a position of strength, the talks would resume is if Nouri came back to the table and said, "Okay, we can do that immunity.") Starr, Levine and Carter updated their report this afternoon with more information, click here. Fox News quotes Ali al Dabbagh, Nouri's official spokesperson, stating, "Iraq and (the) USA collectively are looking for any other options which will make the training mission doable." Yochi J. Dreaen (National Journal) speaks to US military officers (unnamed) who feel that the negotiations are over ("the talks have effectively broken off in recent days") and that "U.S. officials publicly insist that Washington is continuing to discuss a possible troop extension with Baghdad, and it's possible -- though highly unlikely at this late date -- that a deal will be cobbled together to allow several thousand American troops to remain in Iraq past the end of the year."
We're not the foolish at Truth Dig where a "K.A." (we don't link to the site, look it up if you need it) babbles on about how it's a withdrawal. No, not yet.
These same fools distracted and deflected attention from the Iraq War -- Truth Dig lost interest in the illegal war as soon as Bush was out of office -- and now they want to do it again. I'd love it if the Iraq War were over -- I'd get my life back among other things and after nine years in February of going around the country speaking out against this damn war, I'd love to have my life back, believe me. But although I can be and often am stupid, I'm not stupid enough to believe that the illegal war has come to end before it has.
Yochi weakens his otherwise strong report by insisting "it's possible -- though highly unlikely at this late date -- that a deal will be cobbled together to allow several thousand American troops to remain in Iraq past the end of the year." Really? At this late date? What's your measure for that?
It's October 17th. When Nouri notified the United Nations at the end of 2007 that the renewal of the UN mandate for the occupation would be the final one, that's where you find your comparison measure. Throughout 2008, there was panic that an agreement wouldn't be reached. I was at the April 2008 hearing where then Senator Joe Biden was urging the State Dept and Defense Dept to speak to Nouri about renewing the UN mandate because it appeared that nothing would come about. The Status Of Forces Agreement did go through. Took a lot of strong arming and 'gifts' from and by the US, but it went through.
When did that go through?
November 27, 2008. If that hadn't gone through, over 150,000 US troops would have had to have left (really stayed in Kuwait and on US bases -- that was outlined by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee). So State and Defense testified to Congress last week that 43,500 US troops were in Iraq still and it's October 17th? Or 39,000 US troops are still in Iraq (CNN's numbers via DoD) and it's October 17th? By the 2008 measure, the current hysteria's being overplayed.
Christopher Preble (Cato Institute) notes no final decision has been made and points out:
The scale of violence is way down from 2007 or 2008, but this has not ensured an enduring political order. Yochi Dreazen's story in the current National Journal documents how Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has consolidated power and systematically marginalized and intimidated his political rivals, including former prime minister Ayad Allawi, and that he has done this under the noses of tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel. Perhaps Malki would have been more imperious in the absence of a major U.S. presence? Perhaps he will become more so after the last of the U.S. troops leave? Who knows? The obvious point is that the political reconciliation that the surge was supposed to facilitate hasn't materialized. Iraq remains a bitterly divided society, and it is likely to remain that way for a very long time.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Negotiations on hold or stopped?"
"Veterans issues"
"And the war drags on . . ."
"US leaving Iraq?"
"The economy and Iraq"

"The itch he can't scratch alone"