Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is he searching for jobs overseas?





On this Veterans Day, the Pentagon finds itself in another scandal. Last night, David Martin (CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley -- link has text and video) reported on the Air Force's landfill scandal. Here's a transcript of the first minute of the report.

Scott Pelley: Just when you thought the scandal over mishandled remains of fallen American troops at Dover Air Force Base couldn't get any worse. It did today. David Martin has been reporting on the investigation that led to a career ending letter of reprimand for the commander of the mortuary and tonight David is at the Pentagon with new developments.

David Martin: A landfill is no one's idea of a fitting resting place for a soldier fallen in battle.

Gari-Lynn Smith: No service member, no human being at all, should be placed into a landfill -- no matter if it's a finger nail, a foot or an entire body

David Martin: Yet that is what happened to Gari-Lynn Smith's husband, Sgt 1st Class Scott Smith, who was blown apart by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006. Without her knowing part of his body was incinerated and disposed of as medical waste in this Virginia landfill. She found out two years after his funeral.

Gari-Lynn Smith: I have honestly no idea what we buried of him because they forbid me to see him in the casket.
The issue was raised by Senators Kelly Ayotte and Claire McCaskill in yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. We noted the hearing in yesterday's snapshot in terms of Ayotte and McCaskill's remarks and questions on the disrespect shown to the remains of the fallen (Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Portions" notes Ayotte's exchange). That was a needed topic and one more senators could have explored. But the topic of the hearing was whether or not the Chief of the National Guard should be a Joint-Chief of Staff.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Now, Mr. Johnson, headlines are made at every hearing. Is the headline from this hearing "Obama Administration Opposes Putting the National Guard Bureau Chief on the Joint-Chiefs"?
Defense Dept General Counsel Jeh Johnson: Uhm, uh, Senator, you've, uh, heard the best military advice from --
Senator Lindsey Graham: Well I'm going to tell you what Vice President [Joe] Biden said in 2008 when he spoke to the National Guard Conference in Baltimore, "It's time for change. Change begins with giving the Guard a seat at the table -- that table in the Pentagon where the Joint-Chiefs sit." President [Barack] Obama's campaign document, Blueprint for Change, page 55, if you want to read it, I haven't read it, I'll be the first one to admit to it, but this part I do like. Obama will restore the readyness of the National Guard and Reserves. He will permit them adequate time to train and rest between deployments, provide the National Guard with equipment they need for foreign and domestic emergencies. He will also give the Guard a seat at the table by making the Chief of the National Guard a member of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff." Has he changed his mind?
Defense Dept General Counsel Jeh Johnson: Uhm, the, uh, uh, not to my knowledge
Senator Lindsey Graham: Don't you think when he said that, he thought long and hard about this and he came to conclude as a prospective commander-in-chief this would be a good idea? And you're not here to tell us he's wrong, are you?
Defense Dept General Counsel Jeh Johnson: The president and the vice president are above my pay grade.
Appearing before the Committee was the Defense Dept's General Counsel Jeh Johnson --noted above -- as well as the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm James Winnefeld Jr., the Army Chief of Staff Gen Ray Odierno, Chief of Naval Operations Adm Jonathan W. Greenert, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen Jame Amos, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Norton Schwartz and the National Guard Bureau Chief Gen Craig McKinley. Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Scott Brown is also an attorney with the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
Senator Scott Brown: I'm looking at a letter from General Amos and Chief Greenert. In paragraph three of the letter says that "CNGB does not represent a branch of service nor is CNGB responsible for manning and training and equipping the National Guard to the extent of the service chiefs." And I've got to respectfully disagree. Pursuant to the DoD directive as to the responsibilities of what the Guard in fact does, they are responsible for entire cradle to grave planning program budgeting and execution of these budgets. Provides the President's budget for each of the APPN, which goes to Congress, validates those requirements, provides the annual financial reports to Congress. It's in fact the service chiefs that don't have any of that budget responsibility. Is that -- Was there a mistatement in your letter there?
Gen James Amos: Well, senator, the point we were -- that I was making was making in the letter, we-we the service chiefs, testify to -- are held accountable to the Congress for the execution of those budgets as well. We have budget submitting offices -- pardon me -- in the Navy who do similarly that you just listed there.
Senator Scott Brown: But you said specifically, they have -- they have, they're not responsible at all. And, in fact, that's not correct. That being said, I'd like to just shift gears a little bit. Um, on -- Mr. Johnson, you indicated that you felt that maybe it would create confusion as to who represents the Army and Air Force and I've referenced letters -- General Odierno's "confusion and balance," obviously General Schwartz' confusing lines of authority and you, sir, Adm Greenert, complicated unity of command. I mean, it is really any question as to what the chain of command is with the Joint Chiefs? Obviously General McKinley would go through General Odierno and obviously General Schwartz to General Dempsy. There's no chain of command breach at all. I think it's very clear. And in addition to that, it would -- it would -- I don't think there's any question that the command authority, the Title X Command Authority wants to change. I don't believe the Guard or General McKinley in his capacity is seeking a seat wants to change that at all. He wants -- he wants -- and I believe, I don't -- I guess I'll just ask you, sir. You don't want to change the Title X Command Authority at all, do you?
Gen Craig McKinley: No, sir. As I said in my opening remarks, it's working well for us.
Senator Scott Brown: There's no confusions as to who you have to go through in the chain of command, is there?
Gen Craig McKinley: I-I-I have no confusion.
Senator Scott Brown: And with regard to the total force integration, do you feel that that would be benefitted by you having a seat at the table?
Gen Craig McKinley: It's improved greatly as the service chiefs have testified. It can only get better.
Senator Scott Brown: And is there any question that you in your capacity of having a seat at the table would be the person that could best advise not only in any capacity through any of the service chiefs or the president or anybody on the domestic mission and what the non-federalized units would be able to do? Espececially the homeland security issues that we're facing? Is there anyone else better quaified than you in your capacity to do that?
Gen Craig McKinley: Sir, I think it's my role and responsibility to be that person.
Senator Scott Brown: I would agree with you and just to follow up on what Senator Inhoff said, General Schwartz, on the fighter aircraft issue, is it a fair statement that due to the effort to save money with the Air Force, the Guard units are going to be eviscerated when it comes to aircraft. And especially, I've heard and others have commented that the TAGS can't gain access to the plans as to what wings will be effected and how many of the aircraft are going to be lost and isn't that another reason to have somebody like General McKinley at the table that can advise those TAGS and others what the plan is for the aircraft --
General Schwartz: Senator Brown, that's not a role of the Joint Chiefs, but beyond that, the reality is that if the Air National Guard is going to be eviscerated so will the active duty and the reserve. We are getting smaller together. That is what's underway here. And I would emphasize the point that -- that we are now the smallest Air Force that we've ever been and so -- And because of that, those reductions that occur because of diminishing resources -- which we all face -- will be shared by all the components.
Senator Scott Brown: Well you know that's interesting. You know, that is another reason why we all need to get back to the table and get this select committee to work so sequestration doesn't come in and dramatically effect this more.
Senator Kelly Ayotte noted that the record indicated that in 1978 the then Joint-Chiefs opposed the Commandant of the Marines becoming a member of the Joint-Chiefs of staff. Gen Amos agreed that the change had not hurt the Joint-Chiefs but stated he was not aware of the positions in 1978.
If there was a valid reason not to make the Chief of the National Guard, it wasn't expressed in the hearing by the witnesses. What they offered repeatedly came off as, "If someone else is promoted to our level, our level becomes less special for us." If all them together couldn't come up with one solid reason then either verbal skills are sorely lacking in military leadership or else there is no solid reason to deny it.
An important point: The Guard is not being used as it was in the last century. Under Bush the Guard became another unit of the military to be deployed to war overseas. If that's what the Guard now is, then, yes, they need to be represented in the Joint-Chiefs. Their role has changed and they suffer a tremendous burden and carry more than their weight. That largely went unsaid except for Senator Daniel Akaka who noted it and how it calls for some adjusments such as elevating "the Chief of the National Guard bureau to the Joint-Chiefs of Staff is something that is overdue and will show our guardsmen and their families that they are a true partner. It will also let them know that their voices and views will be represented at the highest levels of government."
Long before he became a senator, Lindsey Graham was serving in the Air Force and today he serves in the US Air Force Reserves and is a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School.
Senator Lindsey Graham: General Amos, pound for pound, do you agree the Marine Corps is the best fighting force in the world?
Gen Jame Amos: Yes, sir. We celebrate that today on our birthday.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay. Good. I agree with you. Do you agree with me that the only thing older than the Marine Corps when it comes to defending America is the citizen-soldier?
Gen Jame Amos: Sir, I believe that's true.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Well okay. So I'm here to tell everybody I appreciate it but the citizen-soldiers' day has come. You're going to get a seat at the table, General McKinley, if I have anything to say about it. We're long into this fight as a nation. The first shot was fired by a citizen-soldier, it is time for the citizen-soldier to be sitting at the table -- not for political reasons, but for substantive reasons.
The most vocal opponent was Senator Jim Webb who had no real reason to explain why he opposed it today or why, when he was 25-years-old, he wrote an article expressing the belief that the National Guard should have a seat on the Joint-Chiefs.

Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

And the cow jumped over the moon








Today Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) reports, "US Air Force officials admitted that from 2003 to 2008, body parts sent from war zones to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware were burned before being handed to a private contractor for disposal in Virginia. Family members of the dead troops were not aware of the practice, which emerged amid anger over earlier disclosures that remains were also lost and mishandled by mortuary officials at the base." Craig Whitlock and Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) broke the story: "Air Force officials acknowledged the practice Wednesday in response to inquiries from The Washington Post. [. . .] Asked if it was appropriate or dignified to incinerate troops' body parts and dispose of them in a landfill, [Lt Gen Darrell G.] Jones declined to answer directly." Julian E. Barnes (Wall Street Journal) adds, "The revelation that a landfill was used for the remains came a day after the Air Force released the results of an extensive investigation into complaints that body parts were lost in 2009 in at least two cases at the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, which handles the bodies of all service members killed in action oversees. The use of a landfill for some of the partial remains was not connected to the cases of missing body parts."
The issue was raised today in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing into whether or not the Chief of the National Guard should be a Joint-Chief of Staff. Appearing before the Committee was the Defense Dept's General Counsel Jeh Johnson, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm James Winnefeld Jr., the Army Chief of Staff Gen Ray Odierno, Chief of Naval Operations Adm Jonathan W. Greenert, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen Jame Amos, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Norton Schwartz and the National Guard Bureau Chief Gen Craig McKinley. Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In his opening remarks, Chair Levin noted, "I believe that this hearing is a first -- the first time that we have had every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at a single hearing. Each of them has appeared before us individually and in different combinations, but never all together." The plan was to cover the hearing in tomorrow's snapshot since tomorrow is Veterans Day. We're going to stick to that with the exception of the issue of remains of the fallen being dumped into landfills. A number of senators weren't present for this full Committee hearing.
Senator Kelly Ayotte: General Schwartz, on a different topic and I just feel the need to ask -- ask about this. Uhm, I'm deeply troubled by the reports about what happened at the mortuary at the Dover Air Force Base. And I'm sure you would agree with me this is outrageous that remains of our soldiers would be put in a landfill and not treated with the appropriate dignity and honor which they deserve. Can you tell me, uh, where we are with this? And how we're going to ensure that this never happens again? And, most importantly, that those who have participated in this outrage are going to be held accountable?
Gen Norton Schwartz: Senator Ayotte, first of all, let me clarify the allegation about putting remains in a landfill. These were portions, prior to 2008, which were sent away from the Dover mortuary to a funeral home for cremation -- which is an authorized method of dealing with remains, particularly those that are separated from the larger portions of remains returned to the family. After that, the results of the cremation came back to the mortuary were sent to a medical support company for incineration. So you had cremation, then incineration and it was at that point that this medical support organizations placed the residuals from that effort to a landfill. In 19 -- In 2008, the Air Force came to the conclusion that that was not the best way to deal with those remains and so it is now done in a traditional fashion of burial at sea. It has been that way since 2008. It will continue to be that way in the future and let me just conclude by saying the Secretary of the Air Force, Mike Donley [Secretary of the US Air Force] and I take personal responsibility for this. Our obligation is to treat our fallen with reverence and dignity and respect and to provide the best possible support and care for their families. That is our mission. The people who did not fulfill our expectations were disciplined and there's no doubt what our expectations are today.
Senator Kelly Ayotte: Well I -- General Schwartz, I appreciate your updating on that and, uh, when I think about the fact that we have Veterans Day tomorrow, this is so important, obviously, that we treat the remains of our fallen with dignity and respect and I know that you share that concern as well. And please know that members of this Committee will be there to support you in any way to make sure that the families know that we certainly won't allow this to happen again.
Let's examine Schwartz' statement.
Senator Ayotte, first of all, let me clarify the allegation about putting remains in a landfill. These were portions, prior to 2008, which were sent away from the Dover mortuary to a funeral home for cremation -- which is an authorized method of dealing with remains, particularly those that are separated from the larger portions of remains returned to the family. After that, the results of the cremation came back to the mortuary were sent to a medical support company for incineration. So you had cremation, then incineration and it was at that point that this medical support organizations placed the residuals from that effort to a landfill.
So remains were dumped in a landfill. You didn't clarify a damn thing, you did try to pretty up what happened and make it seem formal and dignified. Dumping ashes of the fallen into a landfill will never pass for "formal," "dignified" or "proper" unless that is in fact what the service member specifies for their remains in writing.
In 19 -- In 2008, the Air Force came to the conclusion that that was not the best way to deal with those remains and so it is now done in a traditional fashion of burial at sea. It has been that way since 2008.
What's the deal with 2008? In the next section, he'll note himself and Michael Donley and 2008 again. What's the deal?
Donley becomes Secretary of the Air Force October 17, 2008. Schwartz becomes Chief of Staff of the US Air Force in August 2008. The floating of 2008 repeatedly is an attempt to say, "This didn't happen under my watch or under Donley's." (The Washington Post reports the policy was changed in June 2008.)
It will continue to be that way in the future and let me just conclude by saying the Secretary of the Air Force, Mike Donley and I take personal responsibility for this. Our obligation is to treat our fallen with reverence and dignity and respect and to provide the best possible support and care for their families. That is our mission. The people who did not fulfill our expectations were disciplined and there's no doubt what our expectations are today.
If you take full responsibility, then you take full responsibility. I realize that Schwartz uttered those words on Tuesday as well. It seems to be his standard phrase that he thinks let's him off the hook.
But does it?
No, it doesn't. He may have come on board after the policy was changed but he was in charge when whistleblowers who stepped forward on the loss and damage to remains took place. Tuesday David Martin (CBS Evening News -- link has text and video) reported that three whistle blowers (Mary Ellen Spera, Bill Zwicharowski and James Parsons) had been subject to retaliation for coming forwarded with Zwicharowski being put on administrative leave and James Parsons being fired. Martin notes that they have their jobs today because "a federal office created to protect whistle blowers stepped in." That was under Schwartz watch. He takes responsibility?
Tom Bowman (NPR's Morning Edition -- link has text and audio) reported yesterday on Schwartz Tuesday remarks to the press including that the families who were given fallen remains -- partial remains -- due to body parts being 'misplaced,' would have been notified but that, due to the issue of the whistleblowers, they were unable to tell families per the Office of Special Counsel. From Bowman's report:
CAROLYN LERNER: That's patently false.
BOWMAN: Carolyn Lerner is the special counsel. She says her office urged Air Force lawyers back in March to talk with the families, and they did so again recently.
LERNER: We asked them again, why hadn't you notified them? Their response was that these families, some of them had blogs; they couldn't be trusted - that they might go to the media.
BOWMAN: The special counsel's report, which is now with the White House and Capitol Hill, says the Air Force is still unwilling to acknowledge culpability.
You didn't notify the families? And you lied about why you didn't? Or, to be kind, you didn't actually know why you didn't? And you're claiming you take responsibility? Seems like you need to be out the door right now to demonstrate that there is accountability. I'm thinking back on US House Rep Phil Roe who is a doctor and a hearing about the Miami VA Medical Center (the October 12th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing covered in the October 20th snapshot) and it's failure to contact service members potentially exposed to diseases while receiving care due to the medical center's lack of proper care of medical instruments. Dr. Roe was appalled to find out that calls weren't made. He talked about how he made mistakes in his practice and when he did he picked up the phone himself as the director of the Miami VA Medical Center should have done. Roe has spoken of this in other hearings as well. If Schwartz had appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, it would be very likely that, based on past Committee record,
US House Rep Phil Roe would have raised that issue and pursued it.
Today one senator did bother to raise it. In doing so, she became on the second senator in the hearing to note the disrespect for the remains of the fallen. Yes, both times it was women who had to do the heavy lifting in the hearing.
Senator Claire McCaskill: I want to specifically, for a minute, General Schwartz, go to the situation at Dover and I don't want to dwell on how hard this has to be for you and the leadership at the Air Force. No one needs to convince me that you want to get this right at Dover. I'll tell you what I do want to bring to your attention and I've did so with a letter today and that is with the finding of the Office of Special Counsel. And so people understand what the Office of Special Counsel is. It's an investigatory and prosecution oriented agency whose primary responsibility under our law is to be independent of all of the agencies and protect whistle blowers. And what I am concerned about is their investigation into what the Air Force did in response to the whistle blowers. And specifically the fact that the IG of the Air Force, they failed to admit wrong doing in their report. And while I understand people have been moved around as a result of the problems that have occured because of mishandling of the sacred remains of the fallen, I'm not sure that they have been held as accountable as what we saw happen at Arlington in connection with that heart breaking incompetence. And what I want to make sure is that there is an independent investigation as to whether or not the IG shaded it a little bit [Chair Carl Levin began nodding his head in vigrous agreement with what McCaskill was saying] because everyone was feeling a little bit protective of the institution for all the right reasons. The vast majority of the people who serve at Dover and who do this work, I'm sure, do it with a heavy heart but with a passion for getting it right. But when we have a circumstance like this arise, I want to make sure the Inspector Generals are not so busy looking after the institution that they fail to point out wrong doing -- which was not ever acknowledged -- and that there is accountability for the people involved. And so, I want you to address the Special Counsel's report as it relates to the Air Force investigation.
Gen Norton Schwartz: Senator McCaskill, there was -- There were -- Clearly were unacceptable mistakes made. Whether they constitute wrong doing is another matter entirely. And when you look at a situation like this, you look at the facts of a case, as an attorney might say. You look at the context in which the event or the mistakes occurred. And you also consider the demands that are -- are placed on individuals and-and organizations. With respect to accountability, we also had an obligation to ensure that the statutory requirements for Due Process were followed. We did that precisely. I can only speak for the case of the uniformed officer. But the uniformed officer received a letter of reprimand. We established an unfavorable information file. We removed him from the command list and his anticipated job as a group commander at Shaw Air Force Base was red-lined. This is not a trivial sanction.
Senator Claire McCaskill: Well I - I understand that's not a trivial sanction but I-I-I'm worried that there was a conclusion that there was not an obligation to notify the families in these instances and obviously this deals with more than uniform personnel and obviously the Secretary of the Air Force is also copied on the letter that I sent today calling for this independent investigation. What happened at Arlington, nobody was intentionally mismarking graves. They were mistakes too. And I just want to make sure that we have really clear eyes while we have full hearts about the right aggressive need for investigations by Inspector Generals in circumstances like this. And thank you very much and thank all of you for being here today.
McCaskill's call for an independent investigation has been picked up by the head of the Department and Charles Hoskinson (POLITICO) explains US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has stated, "None of us will be satisfied until we have proven to the families of our fallen heroes that we have taken every step necessary to protect the honor and dignity [of the fallens' remains]. This department has to be fully accountable in what we intend to deliver on this matter."

The Whiner In Chief






One of 2010's important books was Deborah Amos' Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East which examines Sunnis who relocated to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, most as part of Iraq's refugee population -- a population created by the Iraq War and so huge that it became the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948. People forced to flee their homes rarely arrive in a new area on strong footing. Most refugees have to play catch up for basic items that didn't make the journey, for cash that is usually finite and dwindling. In such circumstances and in countries where they are legally forbidden to work, a black market economy develops. For women, black market employment has historically included prostitution. In Syria, Deborah Amos met a number of women engaged in the sex trade:
Another woman said her name was Abeer. "My husband tried to smuggle the kids to Sweden, but they got caught and are back in Baghdad," she told me. She had divorced her husband when he set off for Sweden. She had agreed to the separation for the sake of her two children. Now, she lived with her sister, and worried about her kids. She sent her club earnings home for them. But why had she come to Damascus, I asked; what had driven her to come here in the first place?" "I was a journalist," she said. In 2007, she was hired by a television station based in Baghdad. She worked as a correspondent until the day her mother found a ltter that had been thrown into the family farden: "Leave in 28 hours or we will kill you." Syria was the only open border. While I was pondering Abeer's choices, she clicked her cellphone shut, took one last look at her mirror image, and moved toward [the] door. "Have a good night," she said knowingly, one businesswoman to another, as she made her way into the dark nightclub.
I could see why this was Um Nour's favorite club. The system of cost-and-rewards favored women who wanted some control over their work. It was a freelance market. We had walked in through the front door for "free," while the male patrons paid a steep cover charge and even more for the alcohol and snacks delivered to the table. Um Nour explained that women paid the Syrian men at the door at the end of the night -- but only if they left with a man.
Iraq has a long historical connection to prostitution. The Whore of Babylon is a character in the Bible's Book of Revelations, the symbol of all things evil. The world's oldest profession was first recorded in Mesopotamia in the second millennium B.C. The code of Hammurabi, the ancient world's first fixed laws for a metropolis, acknowledged prostitution and gave prostitutes some inheritance rights.
How much choice a woman selling sex for money is debatable -- even when we're not looking at a refugee population. But the women in that section of Amos' book are women who have reached their decisions apparently without being forced into by another person. Many Iraqi women are not so fortunate and are forced into prostitution. Today, Hajer Nailis (WeNews) reports:
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, as many as 5,000 women and girls have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, with most ending up in Syria, according to a preliminary report released today by the London-based Social Change Through Education in the Middle East.
Jordan is the second-ranking destination for trafficked girls and women, according to the Nov. 9 report.
These two bordering countries have maintained a relatively liberal policy of granting visas to refugees while also subjecting them to labor restrictions. That combination, the report finds, puts girls and women at high risk of seeking money through prostitution and also being prostituted by families and organized networks.
"Both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have failed to address the problem of sex trafficking," the report finds, also noting that the Iraqi constitution prohibits the trafficking of women and children, as well as the sex trade and slavery.
1. Between 2003-2007, 4,000 Iraqi women went missing, 1/5 of whom is under 18
2. Tens of thousands of Iraqi girls and women are trafficked internally and internationally into the sex trade
3. Iraqi women are trafficked mainly to Syria, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf countries
4. Traffickers reportedly sell girls as young as 11, for figures such as $30,000
5. Some traffickers have the girls operated on in severe conditions, whereby the hymen is sewn up, so the girls can be sold as virgins again
6. It has been reported that some girls and women are kidnapped, drugged and forced to have sex with between 10 and 15 men every day
7. Tafficked women and victims of sexual violence often find themselves in jail, while authorities ignore their exploiters and the society rejects them.
April 9th, they presented a paper, entitled [PDF format warning] "An Investigation into the Sex Trafficking of Iraqi Women and Girls in Syria and Jordan," to the Women Solidarity for an Independent and Unified Iraq Conference. Among the findings:
Professional traffickers target young girls and women whilst they are still inside the Iraqi borders. These traffickers, very often women, target young girls who have left their families (for reasons of fear of violence, abuse, forced marriage or the threat of honour crimes) typically in places such as public transportations in larger cities. Kidnapped, the girls may be kept for a period of time while negotiations on their prices are undertaken, before they are sold on.
In other cases, male solicitors are recruited by trafficking gangs. These men are used to lure vulnerable young girls, eventually persuading them to elope whereby; again, they will be sold for sexual servitude. Some taxi drivers, too, are used as recruiters to lure girls with the false pretence of help, whereas women who are already involved in the sex industry are used as intermediaries who again pretend to offer assistance, offering to bring the girls to shelters when, in fact, they bring them to brothels.
We noted Syria via Deborah Amos' excellent book so let's also include the paper's discussion of the three levels of prostitution being practiced in Syria.
The first level [prostitution on the individual level] refers to a girl or woman who has made the decision to engage in prostitution and without the knowledge of her family. In reality, this decision is often one arrived at as a consequence of being forced by poverty and circumstance. Whilst the well-being and safety of these girls is absolutely important, SCEME's research and campaigning focuses on the subsequent, and often interconnected, two levels which relate to the forced sexual servitude of girls and women; the levels of family and organized networks.
The second level [prostitution on the family level] refers to those forced in work with the knowledge and active involvement of family members; these family members are most often male. This type of prostitution is also called "secret prostitution" and is most frequently reported in the Jaramana area of Damascus.
Complexly interwoven with trafficking and forced prostitution we also report that Iraqi girls are increasingly finding themselves in mut'a marriages. As the Karama Movement in the Arab Region has uncovered, on Fridays young girls are married off at price and on the following Sunday the couple is divorced. Research suggests that rates at which these mut'a marriages are carried out intensifies in the summer when male tourists visit Syria from the Gulf. Some of these tourists arrive looking to pay dowries to the families or pimps of these girls in exchange for brief marriages for the purposes of sexual exploitation for the duration of their visit. These so called 'summer-marriages' in which the girls and their husbands live together temporarily of course also provide none of the legal rights associated with marriage, such as alimony and inheritance, making vulnerable both the women involved and their resulting children. Although this particular kind of marriage is not explicitly called prostitution, it is in effect sexual exploitation, often forced, as means of either securing livelihood, or generating profit.
The third level [prostitution on the level of organized networks] involves organized networks and criminal gans which offer women and young girls for sale to people in the local community, tourists, as well as night clubs and casinos. Traffickers played an important role in opening such nightclubs in collaboration with brokers in Syria, relying on the selling of the bodies of female Iraqis. Clubs such as Al Nigma and Al Manara in the suburbs of Damascus are frequented both by local Syrians and tourists from the Gulf and beyond.
From time to time, I'm asked by a friend to note something -- sometimes something they've worked on. [Like right now, Laura Smith-Spark's CNN report will be noted in tomorrow's snapshot.] I deliberately took a pass on Women, War and Peace -- a five-part PBS mini-series because I think it's bulls**t and garbage. Here's the link to the mini-series for any who feel the need to check it out. Why do I have such a harsh judgment of the mini-series? It's not for Geena Davis' narration (Geena's narration may be one of the few things worth praising).
You want to pretend you're talking about war and women and peace -- you want to pretend your five-part series focuses at all on women? Then how about you note Iraq? You can't because it won't allow you to bulls**t the way PBS and the US government wants. (BS that also, it should be noted, avoids peace activists while putting "Peace" in the title of the program.) Check out the stories. The series is about how the US government helped. In some cases, well after the fact, but always it helped. And including the reality that the US-led war on Iraq destroyed women's rights in Iraq doesn't allow us to all feel so happy and pleased with ourselves. It's nothing but junk and garbage on supposed 'education TV.' PBS is lying as badly as Barack when he speaks of 'success' in Iraq.
The lies that you tell
Will leave you alone
They'll keep you down
They'll catch you and trip you up
Keep you hangin' around
-- "Love You By Heart," written by Carly Simon, Jacob Brackman and Libby Titus, first appears on Carly's Spy album
Francine Kiefer (Christian Science Monitor) reported on the reality for Iraqi women last March as documented in Freedom House's "Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa 2010:"
War hurt both sexes in Iraq, but it significantly increased gender-based violence against women. Kidnappings, rapes, and "honor killings" soared in Iraq. That made many women afraid to go out, with a negative spin-off on their employment and education.
Meanwhile, Iraq seems to be moving toward a more conservative society, and this has affected the role of women in politics. Only one woman serves as a cabinet member in the new Iraqi government, as the minister for women's affairs. In the two previous governments, women held from four to six positions.
And in parliament, many of the women are relatives of party members. The New York Times reported this week that only 5 of 86 female parliamentarians got their seats because they won them. The rest were placed there by party leaders to meet the 25 percent quota.
The women MPs are often locked out of party strategy sessions. But some of them don't mind, in part because they don't believe they have the necessary experience (as if democracy is somehow newer to Iraqi women than it is to Iraqi men).
The declining rights of women in Iraq are not a new development or even a just discovered one. Nadje Sadig Al-Ali was covering this topic for Le Monde back in May of 2007:
Women's organisations have also documented Islamist violence to women, including acid thrown into faces, even targeted killings. In 2003 many women in Basra reported that they were forced to wear a headscarf or restrict their movements because men began to harass or shout at them.
Women of all ages are now forced to comply with dress codes and be careful when they go out. Suad, a former accountant and mother of four, lives in a neighbourhood of Baghdad that used to be mixed before sectarian killings in 2005 and 2006. She told me: "I resisted for a long time, but last year I started wearing the hijab, after I was threatened by several Islamist militants in front of my house. They are terrorising the whole neighbourhood, behaving as if they were in charge. And they are actually controlling the area. No one dares to challenge them. A few months ago they distributed leaflets around the area warning people to obey them and demanding that women should stay at home."
The threat of Islamist militias now goes beyond dress codes and calls for gender segregation at university. Despite, indeed partly because of the US and British rhetoric about liberation and rights, women have been pushed into the background and into their homes. Women with a public profile (doctors, academics, lawyers, NGO activists, politicians) are threatened and targeted for assassination. There are also criminal gangs who worsen the climate of fear by kidnapping women for ransom, sexual abuse or sale into prostitution outside Iraq.
It isn't a surprise that many of the women I interviewed remember the past nostalgically.
In March 2010, three years after the Le Monde article, Dahr Jamail and Abdu Rahman (Al Jazeera) were reporting: the same findings:
"The status of women here is linked to the general situation," Maha Sabria, professor of political science at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad tells IPS. "The violation of women's rights was part of the violation of the rights of all Iraqis." But, she said, "women bear a double burden under occupation because we have lost a lot of freedom because of it.
[. . .]
Sabria tells IPS that the abduction of women "did not exist prior to the occupation. We find that women lost their right to learn and their right to a free and normal life, so Iraqi women are struggling with oppression and denial of all their rights, more than ever before."
Yanar Mohammed believes the constitution neither protects women nor ensures their basic rights. She blames the United States for abdicating its responsibility to help develop a pluralistic democracy in Iraq.
Iraq doesn't get much reporting from the US mainstream media but it does get a lot of opinion pieces -- though calling them "opinion pieces" might be overstating since most people can back up their opinions with facts and the bulk of the gas baggery reads like one long feelings check with maybe a little "highs and lows" of the day tossed in.
So we get nonsense like "Who lost the war?" and "Is leaving responsible?" and "Is the US leaving Iraq in a responsible manner?" and a host of other garbage.
The Iraq War was a failure. In fact, "failure" is probably too weak. If I attempt to give a speech and am struck with a panic attack resulting in an inability to speak, I have failed at my speech. If my speech makes life worse for people, results in their deaths and more, my speech is much worse than a "failure." I'd call it criminal.
And the illegal Iraq War is criminal. Last week (see yesterday's snapshot), I had to sit through the idiotic Senate Foreign Relations Subcomittee hearing where everyone pretended they gave a damn about women in the Middle East and of course they all avoided Iraq because we can't be honest and discuss how we screwed up the lives and rights of Iraqi women. Better to just disappear it.

But Republican or Democrat, what did all the senators give lip service to? That women's rights were indicators and measurements of how much freedom a society had.
So someone explain why in all the pontificating of the last three or four weeks by various men with column inches to fill on Iraq, no one wants to address Iraqi women?
The Iraq War is a criminal failure. If you happen to believe it was a big success and you're not referring to the theft of Iraqi oil, what are your measurements? And if you think the US should continue to stay in Iraq (as some Republicans in Congress want and as Barack will ensure thanks to the militarization of diplomacy) what are you measuring with?
The Iraq War has destroyed the rights of women. We're not just talking about the women and girls who have to live through the ongoing war. That's bad enough. We're talking about robbing women of rights, removing legal rights, overturning them. That is what the Iraq War "accomplished."
And that is what the Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee didn't want to deal with last week, what the five-part PBS mini-series works overtime to ignore and what US gas bags in newspapers across the country refuse to pontificate on.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

His river of no return






We'll start by dropping back to last Wednesday when the Senate's Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues held a joint-hearing with the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. Senators Barbara Boxer and Bob Casey co-chaired the hearing. Senator Jim DeMint was the Ranking Member. What stood out the most?
How important Hillary Clinton's work on women's issue in the 90s was.
Dismissed, attacked and belittled in the 2008 Democratic Party primaries, even Barbara Boxer had to acknowledge the work when introducing witness Melanne Verveer who worked with Hillary on women's rights while Hillary was First Lady. So much heavy lifting did Hillary do during that period that even Republican Senator Jim DeMint had to acknowledge her and quote her ("Women's rights are human rights."). Hillary created a benchmark which can still be used as a benchmark.
Subcommittee Chair Barbara Boxer: But I want to talk about why we thought this was a very timely and important hearing and, from the attendance here, I think we were right. In December 2010, the world turned its attention to Tunisia after a young street vendor set himself on fire to protest the government's unjust treatment of the Tunisian people. His actions and his subsequent death sparked widespread protests and within weeks the government fell. Since then we have seen dictators toppled in Egypt and Libya and anti-government protests erupt from Syria to Yemen. And, in each of these countries, we've seen women fighting for change -- whether it was the young female students marching in Tahrir Square or the women in Yemen who took to the streets in their veils in a sign of defiance. These women have much at risk and their courage has inspired women around the world.
Ambassador Melanne Verver noted Mahnaz Afkhami "was the minister for women in Iran at the time of the revolution and as she was mentioning nobody thought that revolution was going to create the theocracy and the kind of Iran that exists today."
Appearing as witnesses at the hearing were five women. As already noted, Melanne Verveer was one. She's the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issue. The State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs and Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions, Dr. Tamara Wittes and Verveer made up the first panel. The second panel was Women's Learning Partnership's president Mahnaz Afkhami, Freedom's president and CEO Sandra Bunn-Livingstone and a name this community is already familiar with: Manal Omar. She is the United States Institute of Peace's Director of Iraq, Iran and North Africa Programs.
We know Manal Omar's work from interviews and speeches she's given and most of all from her book Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos which we've noted here many times and which, at Third, we picked as one of the ten most important books of the last ten years. And since our Iraq is our focus, that's who we would emphasize, right?
Wrong. She had no interest in Iraq -- it rated a fleeting single sentence mention and that was when it was lumped in with other countries. Oh well, at least she got a book out of the country, right? In fairness to her, none of the senators demonstrated interest in Iraq either.
Considerable time was spent by Senator DeMint addressing religious freedom in the Middle East. He and Bunn-Livingstone were very interested, for example, in the targeting of Christians in Egypt. Apparently Iraqi Christians can just rot in the hell the US government has created for them?
Joining them in that US created hell will be not just Iraqi Christian women but all Iraqi women. I asked a senator (not named above) who briefly participated in the nonsense hearing how in the world this hearing takes place with no recognition or acknowledgement of Iraq and was told (this is a direct quote), "Come on, you know we don't want to face what we've done to that country." Exactly.
Another senator (who is named above) told me after the hearing that Iraq "isn't really part of the Arab spring." And Libya is? Seriously? That was civil protestors conducting aerial night bombings of Tripoli? As for Iraq and the Arab Spring, of course that got avoided. No way in the world is the US Senate ready to get honest about that.
Nouri ordered protesters attacked, you may remember. The US government looked the other way. February 25th, Nouri ordered the press assaulted. The US government looked the other way. Nouri spied on protesters via electronic devices that track cell phones and internet use. The US government didn't look the other way. No, the US government sold a would-be Saddam Hussein that equipment. Nouri demonized the protesters, in speech after speech, as "Ba'athists." The US government looked the other way. Hadi Mehdi -- journalist, activist and critic of Nouri -- is murdered in his own home and Nouri's security forces are the chief suspect. The US government looked the other way.
And it was cute to watch as the US Senate endorsed that response (looking the other way) by refusing to address Iraq in the hearing. I think Gore Vidal needs to change his United States of Amnesia which was always far too kind of a description of the government's actions and motives. We're living in the United States of Denial.
And in this land, according to the Department of Justice Statistics reported by Lynn Langton ("Women in Law Enforcement, 1987 - 2008"), women are a visible part of law enforcement:
By 2007, nearly 4,000 state police, 19,4000 sheriff's and 55,3000 local police officers were women. In 2008, across 62 reporting federal law enforcement agencies there were about 90,000 sworn officers, of whom approximately 18,200 (20%) were women. These 2007 and 2008 numbers suggest a combined total of almost 100,000 female sworn officers nationwide in federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
What's it like to be a police woman in Iraq? Kholoud Ramzi (niqash) answers that question in a lengthy report detailing how police women "cannot wear uniforms or badges of rank because male officers don't want to salute them." I'm remembering Barbara Boxer's encounter with the military in one hearing where she corrected the witness and informed him he could call her "Senator" because she'd earned that title. It's a shame her concern is only with what she earned and that she receives respect. Iraqi women will have to look elsewhere to find someone concerned about their right to respect and what they've earned. Ramzi reports:
Ministry of Interior official statistics indicate that there are around 600 women among the ranks of the country's police. There are also 4,150 plainclothes policewomen working in inspections -- that is, they man security checkpoints on roads and in places like offices, airports and other public areas where security is required.
Besides not being able to show their rank, most policewomen also are not allowed to wear their uniforms on the street. They arrive at work in civilian clothing, then change into uniform during the working day and then must change back into civilian clothing before leaving their place of work. This is ostensibly to keep the female officers safe. But questions arise as to whether this rule is in fact motivated by social opinions because male officers are not expected to do the same.
Sexism within the police force doesn't stop here. In Iraq, a policewoman's work is usually restricted to administrtaion or to working at a checkpoint. More physical or dangerous activity outside of the office is left to male officers and generally there is the perception that women cannot peform these more demanding tasks.
Ramzi notes that the situation is better in the Kurdistan Regional Government where "police women can work as investigators on criminal cases and they are able to wear uniforms as well as badges of rank." Michael M. Gunter (Foreign Policy) looks at Kurdish nationalism in the Middle East and this is from his section on the Middle East:

In Iraq, of course, autonomy had already been achieved with the creation of the KRG following the Gulf War in 1991 and the KRG's constitutional recognition in 2003. However, many wonder what will happen to the KRG once remaining U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011. Already the KRG and Baghdad have come perilously close to blows over Kirkuk and their disputed internal border, often referred to as "the trigger line."

Will the KRG and Baghdad begin fighting once the U.S. troops are no longer there to separate them? In addition, despite warming economic and even political relations between Turkey and the KRG, Turkey began bombing PKK militants in northern Iraq in August 2011 and then even sent troops over the border to pursue them in October. Turkey also asked the KRG for help in these efforts, even though it is clear that the KRG does not want to fight against fellow Kurds in the PKK. Iran, too, has been shelling the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) -- dissident Iranian Kurds -- entrenched just over the border in northern Iraq. How will all this play out once U.S. troops are withdrawn and both Turkey and Iran have a freer hand in intervening in northern Iraq? It remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Kurds have had their own "Kurdish Spring" of sorts. First, the anti-corruption Gorran (Change) Party split the long-entrenched Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the KRG elections held on July 25, 2009. Subsequently, violent demonstrations broke out in Sulaymaniya on February 17, 2011, the KRG's second largest city, and continued until they were forcibly curtailed by the KRG leadership on April 19.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Some wisdom offered



This is how centrist liberals make themselves complicit in the indefensible.

These are the sorts of treatments that permit well-educated Obama supporters to evade certain uncomfortable truths, like the fact that the president to whom they'll give campaign contributions and votes violated the War Powers Resolution when he invaded Libya; that in doing so he undermined the Office of Legal Counsel, weakening a prudential restraint on executive power; that from the outset he misled Congress and the public about the likely duration of the conflict; that the humanitarian impulse alleged to prompt the intervention somehow evaporated when destitute refugees from that war were drowning in the Mediterranean.

In saying that Obama has "awakened to the miserable realities of Pakistan and Iran," Remnick elides an undeclared drone war that is destabilizing a nuclear power, the horrific humanitarian and strategic costs of which Jane Mayer documents at length in The New Yorker; "Obama is responsible for an aggressive assault on Al Qaeda, including the killing of bin Laden, in Pakistan, and of Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen," Remnick writes, never hinting that al-Awlaki was an American citizen killed by a president asserting the unchecked write to put people on an assassination list that requires no due process or judicial review, and that the administration justifies with legal reasoning that it refuses to make public. "He has drawn down forces in Iraq and Afghanistan," Remnick writes, obscuring the fact that there are many more troops in Afghanistan than when Obama took office, and that in Iraq he has merely stuck to the timetable for withdrawal established by the Bush Administration, after unsuccessfully lobbying the government of Iraq to permit US troops to stay longer -- instead, he plans to increase the presence of American troops elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, and to leave in Iraq a huge presence of State Department employees and private security.


Turning to the ongoing Turkish military assault on northern Iraq, Saturday Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani stressed with Turkish President Abdullah Gul the necessity to solve all problems by peaceful means and dialogue within bilateral relations framework, according to Kurdish government electronic site today." The Kurdistan Regional Government is a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. Turkey borders it from the north. The problems between the two governments start with the fact that Turkey doesn't want the KRG to exist and fears it fuels dreams and hopes for Kurds within Turkey.

The Kurds are said to be the largest ethnic minority on the globe without a homeland. Amar C. Bakshi (CNN) observes, "As way of very brief background, the Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group without a state. After World War I, when great powers careved up the Middle East, the Kurds, riven by internal strife at the time, did not get a seat at the table. In turn, they did not get a state on the map." Many groups fight for Kurdish independence. Among those are the PKK. Throughout the Iraq War, the Turkish military has bombed northern Iraq with the latest wave of attacks beginning on August 17th and they intensified last month. The Turkish government has maintained the attacks are targeting the PKK. Over the weekend, Bayram Kaya (Today's Zaman) reports, "A special ops unit of the National Police Department was recently sent to northern Iraq to capture or kill the senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the National Police Department has said." Al Mada reports that PKK is warning that a civil war may break out. That's only one of the potential threats in the news cycle. Today Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports that 24 PKK who were killed October 19th left behind corpses with burns which appear to indicate "that some chemical agent was used. Their claim has now been raised by MPs from the legal pro-Kurdish party, the BDP, and tkaen up by the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD)." Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar (Kurdish Rights) notes, "In 2010, Kurdish activists sent numerous photos of PKK rebels that were similarly maimed, scorched and barely recognisable to German experts." And Hans Baumann found it "highly probable" that the Turkish military had used "chemical substances" in those attacks.
At The Daily Beast, Owen Matthews writes on behalf of destruction and ignorance, stamping his feet and insisting, "The PKK started it!" That's not really how it happens. In his one-sided view he insists that the PKK has "forced the depopulation of millions of villagers into the cities." That would be Turkey. Set aside the PKK's issues and Turkey's issue. The Iraqi people living in the villages of the northern Iraq mountains are innocent victims. They've done nothing to either side. But the Turkish military saw fit to bomb their homes and now Iraq has even more internal refugees than it did before. That's not the PKK, that's the Turkish military. Matthews doesn't grasp that, doesn't grasp the roots of rebellion or anything to do with it which is how he mischaracterizes the IRA. (Click here for the University of Ulster's professor Paul Arthur explaining in great detail the IRA and the struggle for independence in Ireland for PBS' Frontline.) And just as it's not the PKK turning Iraqis into internal refugees, it's not the PKK rounding up people in Turkey. Wade Jefferson (Kurdish Rights) reports on his father-in-law being rounded up in Istanbul, targeted with other intellecturals, on Friday:
My father-in-law was one of fifty people arrested on Friday morning, and while the police were civil at his house -- calling him beyefendi (sir) and taking care not to break anything -- in other parts of Turkey they kicked in doors and turned homes inside out. The detainees are all members of the Kurdish-affiliated BDP party -- all minor party officials and academics. They were not all Kurdish either. One of the arrests was Professor Büşra Ersanlı -- a sixty-one year old woman. She is distinctly Turkish, a liberal constitutional law professor and a member of the BDP's constitutional commission -- and therefore a person who could have challenged the ruling party when the new constitution is drawn up later this year. Another is Ragıp Zarakolu -- a sixty-three year old publisher and human rights activist. All are charged with membership in 'a terrorist organization', namely the KCK -- the supposed urban arm of the PKK. This is only the latest round of arrests. The government has been chipping away at the BDP for a while now. 7798 party members have been taken into custody -- from mayors to city council chairs to members of parliament. 3939 of those have been formally charged and are now waiting in prison for trial.
The reality is that the Turkish government holds the power. They can include or exclude. They've made a point to exclude Kurds. The minute they offer Kurds full citizenship, full inclusion, there's little reason for the PKK to exist. But they're rather drop bombs, conduct raids, murder and kill then successfully end the Kurdish quest for inclusion. It's their decision and their choices have brought the situation to where it now stands.
Dropping back to October 30th for WPIX's News Closeup interview with the Los Angeles Times' Ned Parker who is currently an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Marvin Scott: This week, a group of senators, mostly Republicans have called for full hearings on the president's decision to withdraw from Iraq. Do you feel from your experience there, what you've seen and observed that the timing is right for American troops to withdraw?
Ned Parker: Well I think a big part of the equation of why there was this announcement is that Iraq made the decision for US troops to leave if they were not willing to stay without immunity. So it was as much an Iraqi decision really as it was an American one.
Marvin Scott: Now the president made it sound like it was his decision to pull them out. Originally, he wanted to remove troops in 2010 and, originally, this was a campaign promise to remove all forces. But actually, it goes back to 2008, it was a decision by President Bush and they set the December 31st as the deadline. Isn't that correct?
Ned Parker: Exactly. They did. And you can really trace the departure of US troops this year to the decisions made under the Bush administration meaning that there was a decision then -- the signing of the Status Of Forces Agreement for US forces to leave at the end of this year and also in terms of these questions of influence and how much influence US forces could have on the ground really with the original agreement it declared that all infantry troops had to be out of the cities by June 2009. So many people feel that was really the moment where America lost a lot of its leverage to intervene on the ground in ways that it hoped would promote stability in Iraq.
Marvin Scott: So we're not actually leaving on our own. In essence, we're being pushed out, aren't we?
Ned Parker: I wouldn't say pushed. It's more about the Iraqi internal debate as much as it is about America. Now I think most Iraqi political factions would still like the Americans to stay because they see the Americans in some way as an honest broker for better or worse. I don't think there's any Iraqi side that looks at America 100% as a great friend. I think there's a lot of pain and humiliation for Iraqis over the course of the nine years just because there was a lot of violence during that time. Despite that, America is seen though as the closet thing to an honest broker. The reason why Iraqis couldn't come to an agreement on having America stay was because of the nastiness of the current Iraqi political scene, the competitions between the prime minister in Iraq and his rivals.
Negotiations are ongoing between the US and Iraq. Over the weekend,
Al Sabaah quoted an MP (unnamed) with State of Law insisting that the security ministries are working on a plan for the country and that they will need US military help with intelligence efforts as well as for logistical support and that the purchase of weapons will also mean the need for training and maintenance via US troops. Nouri and Barack meet face-to-face in DC next month. Aswat al-Iraq reports:

Al-Alawi pointed out to Aswat al-Iraq that "there are pending dossiers, such as the present political crisis, the security situation following the withdrawal, immunity to trainers, latest developments on regions' questions", but he added that "the visit should come out with something new".
The White House announced that Premier Maliki will visit Washington on 12 December next upon an invitation by President Barrack Obama.
He elaborated that both sides will "reconsider the situation if the armed group found a way after US withdrawal".
Meanwhile as provinces explore becoming semi-autonomous, Al Sabaah reports that Nouri thinks he can alter the Constitution via his Council of Ministers. At question is Article 119 of the Constitution which covers how a province can become independent. The Council has written their own new bill and intend to force Parliament to vote on it. Another power grab by Nouri. Al Mada notes that the country is in the midst of a political crisis with no end in sight. This is Political Stalemate II. Nouri's refusal to abide by the outcome of the election and surrender the post of prime minister caused Political Stalemate I which only ended (November 2010) when the political blocs met up in Erbil and ironed out an agreement where everyone made concessions. This agreement is known as the Erbil Agreement. Upon all parties signing off, Parliament held their first real session in over eight months and Nouri was named prime minister-designate (Jalal Talabani would wait over a week to name him that 'officially' in order to give Nouri more time to put together a Cabinet.) Upon getting what he wanted, Nouri went on to trash the agreement. This is the start of Political Stalemate II which has continued since. The National Alliance, Iraqiya and the Kurdish politicians (except for Goran) have called for a return to the Erbil Agreement.

Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports on the continued stalemate and notes Nouri is firing people from the security and targeting people with arrests and "At the same time, Mr. Maliki is delaying appointments to top posts that oversee the security forces, now almost one-million strong including the army and police. Mr. Maliki continues to run the ministries of defense, interior and national security himself or through party and sectarian allies, contravening an agreement with Sunni-dominated and Kurdish political blocs that formed the current coalition government more than 10 months ago." Alsumaria TV reports Ayad Allawi is calling for the UN to appoint a human rights minister in Iraq. Congress should echo that call.

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