Thursday, February 07, 2008

Boston Globe, Socialist Worker, etc.

Thursday, one day to go until the weekend! :D Tomorrow, I have my interview with Marcia. We did it today and I've got to type it up. I'm doing the roundtable right now for the gina and krista round-robin so I'm typing, listening and talking. That's probably at least two things more than I can manage! :D Thank goodness Chuck isn't on tonight. :D

This is from the local paper:

The Clinton campaign just told donors that they have now raised $7.5 million online in the first week of February, $6.4 million of it in the last 30 hours -- that is, since the reports emerged that Hillary Clinton had to loan herself $5 million.

If Hillary gets the nomination, I'm voting for her in the general. The fact that Ralph Nader beat Cynthia McKinney in the Green primary kind of soured me. It doesn't seem fair that someone who wasn't officially on the ballot and who hasn't declared he's going to run is able to take votes away from McKinney. I know they still have their convention and have some convoluted way of determining their nominee. But I was excited about McKinney and could have handled if someone like Kent Mesplay had won. But to pick someone over her who hasn't even got the guts to say "I'm in" just really turned me off. So it's good that I didn't realize we had closed primaries here until it was too late to change my party registration. I'll just stay a Democrat for this cycle unless Bambi gets nominated. In which case, I'll write in or vote Green.

If you want to check out Hillary's position or even donate, her website is here. I can't vote for Bambi. He's everything we're supposed to be against -- a Democrat who sucks up to Republicans, a Senator who does nothing, a liar, a really bad liar.

Unlike Hillary, Bambi's for tearing apart Social Security. On NPR today, there was this Heritage Foundation (right wing group) guy and a Washington Post reporter praising Bambi for having the guts to see "something needed to be done." They were both lying. Social Security is just fine. But they love Bambi and there's a reason, he's their boy.

Hillary's far from perfect but she's not going to destroy Social Security. That's among the reason that those of us in the working class perfer her. Bambi gets his pleasing press because he will privatize Social Security and don't kid yourself that this isn't what's going on.

And don't kid yourself that The Nation doesn't support that for all the pretense otherwise. Read John L. Hess' book -- it's not pretty. My grandfather passed it on to me and I was thinking, "If Hess were alive today" he died this decade "he'd be calling out The Nation and this nonsense Bambi Love." I'm not trying to speak for him. I have no idea who he would support and doubt he'd support Hillary. But read those chapters on the myths of the "old geezers" and grasp who -- even on the left -- participated in that nonsense. With Bambi signaling that he'll 'fix' it -- it doesn't need fixing -- Hess would be calling him to the carpet unless he had some miracle change. He documents all the lies about Social Security in his book. My Times is the title, I think. I just finished it yesterday. If that's not the title, I'll put in the correct title first thing tomorrow night.

The Nation doesn't give a damn about the working class and you just have to go to their crappy sight or pick up one of their filty issues to realize that.

This is from the Socialist Worker's "Will your vote end the war?:"

But the qualifications remain. Obama and Clinton both maintain that a significant number of U.S. troops will have to stay in Iraq to protect the U.S. embassy, train Iraqi forces and carry out operations against vaguely defined "terrorist threats."
In debates and during his speeches, Obama focuses on Clinton's vote in favor of the 2002 congressional resolution that gave Bush authorization for the Iraq invasion. Clinton's claim that she thought she was voting to keep weapons inspectors in Iraq rings hollow--especially for anyone who remembers her husband's cynical manipulation of the inspection teams when he was trying to start his own war in 1998.
Nevertheless, the Clinton campaign is correct that Obama's opposition to the invasion changed when he became a senator--and was in a position to do something about it. Like Clinton, Obama voted until last year for each and every bill to fund the Iraq occupation and the Pentagon war machine.
Likewise, Obama points to Clinton's vote last year in favor of a Senate resolution that ramped up war threats against Iran. But this begs the question: Why didn't Obama vote against the resolution himself, even though he was in Washington when it was taken up? His rhetoric about Iran has been every bit as confrontational as Clinton's.
These examples show how narrow the differences are between Obama and Clinton when it comes to actual policies. When they can even be distinguished from each other, their disagreements about Iraq are about details, not anything of substance.
And in fact, when you look beyond the rhetoric, at what the candidates actually propose to do about Iraq and the "war on terror," Obama and Clinton are actually closer to the Bush White House than they are to the masses of people who want to vote for them as an alternative to Bush's wars.
This underlines a fundamental fact that goes unstated, by the candidates and their staff, as well as the mainstream media--that the Democrats and Republicans, for all their rhetorical differences, share a fundamental agreement on the aims and methods of the U.S. imperial project around the world.
Obama and Clinton may say one thing to win votes. But as leaders of one of the two mainstream parties that control U.S. politics, their loyalties lie not with the antiwar sentiments of the majority of the population, but with the interests of the U.S. government in projecting its power around the globe.

The refusal to call out Bambi out (I'm not talking about the Socialist Worker) allowed all the candidates to play like they were anti-war -- Edwards, Clinton and Obama. If The Nation and all those disgusting groupies (Katrina vanden Heuvel, the Airs, Laura Flanders, Richard Kim, Chunky Katha Pollitt, etc.) hadn't kept lying and saying, "He's against the war! He's always been against the war!" then we might have been able to get a real discussion going on Iraq. Instead they're just cheap little liars who disrespected us and treated us like fools.

I had planned to write about Law and Disorder tonight. I'm not going to. Zach sent me a write up of the report he heard last week on the KPFA Evening News. Aaron Glantz wrote it up and I'm left with Glantz got it wrong or Michael Ratner is wrong. So if it's Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith, I'll consider writing about it, if it's an episode with just them. But I'm not interested in writing about Ratner. The way it reads, Ratner is upset that Hillary's response to whether she'd allow torture in a ticking bomb scenario was to note it was a hypothetical -- hold on, here's the section. I mentioned it to C.I. just now in a break in the roundtable and C.I. said, "I don't have a link but I can e-mail you the story."

Obama and Clinton have both said they are against torture and have spoken out against the mock drowning technique known as water boarding.
In a debate last September, Clinton was asked if she would support torture if she knew a prisoner in U.S. custody had intelligence that could stop an imminent terrorist attack on the United States.
"There is very little evidence that it works," Clinton said.
"These hypotheticals are very dangerous," she added, "because they open up a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president take toward the appropriate treatment of everyone and I think it's dangerous to go down this path."
Ratner is as concerned about the Democrats' refusal to get specific on the issue of torture as he is on their specific plans for prisoners held in Guantanamo.
He called on all presidential candidates to disavow not only water boarding, but also "chaining to the floor, stripping, hooding, the use of dogs, sexual humiliation, cold temperatures, and loud music."
"That's what Mitt Romney calls ‘enhanced interrogation techniques'," Ratner said, "but they're clearly torture according to every single person who’s ever looked at that. We don’t know the answers [as to where the Democrats stand] on these kinds of questions. Hillary [Clinton] once gave a fairly vague answer on things like that saying, 'well, until I get into government and see what's going on I'm not willing to answer.' Obama seems more against it, but again we can’t really say."

It was at Common Dreams yesterday under news but when you click "more" you don't get Wednesday and it's not currently listed on the front page. To be clear, I'm not stealing from C.I.'s NLG friend who e-mailed it to C.I. I had the same problems and was going to blog on it before C.I. forwarded me the e-mail. And I want to be clear, because I like Michael Ratner, that the article's not written by Ratner and he may be responding to something else. But "Obama seems more against it" -- based on what?

Let's put Hillary's comments back in:

In a debate last September, Clinton was asked if she would support torture if she knew a prisoner in U.S. custody had intelligence that could stop an imminent terrorist attack on the United States.
"There is very little evidence that it works," Clinton said.
"These hypotheticals are very dangerous," she added, "because they open up a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president take toward the appropriate treatment of everyone and I think it’s dangerous to go down this path."

"There is very little evidence that it works." Well it doesn't work at all but that response is close to okay. "These hypotheticals are very dangerous" -- they are.

And, yeah, I know that from Ava and C.I.'s TV commentaries (too many to link to -- if you don't realize how much they do in those things, go back over them just for the subject of torture and grasp that they reach a huge audience that might not otherwise be introduced to that topic from a left perspective). I also know that from Michael Ratner's work.

And the "ticking time bomb" is a "hypothetical." And it is being used to justify torture. Hillary's not as left as Michael Ratner. But when I read that response from her, I thought Ratner could support it. Not be thrilled by it (I'm not), not being doing cartwheels (I always fell over when I would try!), but saying, "Well, for someone running for president, for all the ones running for president, that's probably the best answer."

Because it is a center argument for what he makes. She's rejecting the hypothetical and dangerous concept. That's how I read it. Again, Ratner may have been commenting on something else. He might have been thinking of another comment. But we don't have a radical in the race. Between her and Bambi, that comment is closer to what Ratner's talked about and written about.

As I read the remark, she's rejecting Alan D.'s nonsense that's been used -- while a lot of Americans were scared to death -- to make torture seem 'normal.' I saw it as Hillary dismissing that and saying, "Not going there. Not participating in that nonsense 'theory'."

But that's the report Zach heard and warned me about. And I really don't want to put Michael Ratner on my s**t list. So I'll just step away from Ratner for awhile. Which is too bad because the show was pretty good this week. But I do not get why he's upset with that answer. (Nor does C.I.'s friend.) It's better than what I've heard from Bambi.

As Paul Krugman points out, Bambi's to the right of Hillary. He praises the Republicans, he toys with Social Security, his healthcare proposal leaves out a lot more people than her proposal does. And I've really been thinking about the last one. That's a big issue with my mother. She clipped Krugman's column about how universal health care may be decided in this election and how we can't afford to go with Bambi because his plan leaves so many uncovered and starts from a weaker position. So she clipped it and taped it on one of the cabinets in the kitchen. (Our fridge door is full of stuff on Iraq each week.) And he's right.

Whatever they propose is going to have to go to Congress and get through it. We need the strongest proposal possible. This may be the only chance and Bambi's all about "present" and "reach across the aisle" as it is. We can't afford to waste this chance.

When Ma taped it to the cabinet, there was one sentence underlined. She keeps underlining things. (She's not trying to get anyone to vote for Hillary, she's just thinking very seriously about that column. My mother does not like Hillary. That column is making her think about voting for Hillary. I don't know who she voted for in the primary.)

And like Dad says (Tony's parents make the same points and they were over for dinner twice this week, I heard this over and over), if Hillary were saying and doing what Bambi is, she'd be slammed for it. But the left keeps giving Bambi passes. He can use homophobia, he can be caught lying, he can be caught being 'asked a question' that was planted, and it's never an issue. He gets a pass over and over.

That's not fair. Neither will be any better on the illegal war. Bambi would be worse because the US wants war in Africa and he's got Sarah Sewell and Sammy Power on his side (and they lust for war). Plus he's got the 'cousin' in Kenya who wants the presidency. So on war, he's probably even worse than Hillary.

But health care. Every American getting health care. That's pretty big. That's something that benefits all Americans.

Okay, we're done with the roundtable and C.I.'s trying to find the Krugman column for me online. I'm posting this quick because I also have an exam tomorrow and need to study. But Dave Zirin has a new column here. I wasn't ignoring him, I just wasn't interested in CounterPunch and their crap about Hillary owes Paula Jones and all that other b.s. that's been up there in the last two weeks. That's Zirin at Z-Net and I don't have time for an excerpt but I know a lot of you don't want to go to a lot of sites because of the slurs and smears so I linked to Z-net. It really is a class thing and I do agree with that. (Read the roundtable.) Hillary's a little "too common" for our elite 'independent' media. If you don't get the gina & krista round-robin, Jim claimed that for Third Estate Sunday Review last week. We were supposed to write it Sunday but there wasn't time and C.I., Dona and I said, "It's past time to do Naomi Wolf's book." It was too. So the point is, we'll probably grab it this weekend and if you don't get the round-robin and miss C.I. and Keesha's comments, you can see something similar at Third on Sunday.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 7, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military death toll in Iraq climbs with very little attention from the press, Mosul prepares for assault, an editorial supports war resisters (so you know it wasn't written by US 'independent' media), Iraqi external refugees aren't returning and the internal ones are receiving no assistance, and more.

Starting with war resistance. Chuck Wiley is a US war resister currently in Canada. He and his wife (also in the military) left after Wiley served in the Persian Gulf and realized he couldn't take part in an illegal war. In doing so, he gave up a lengthy military career. "Drastic and difficult measures" is how the The Whig Standard characterizes it in their editorial "
Welcome U.S. war resisters" advocating that the Canadian Parliament take action on the part of the war resisters and pass the motion for safe harbor put forward by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration:

Canada should welcome these combat refugees without hesitation. Most Canadians recognize that the conflict in Iraq is an unjust war. That's why former prime minister Jean Chretien opted to fight the war on terror in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Chretien knew invading Iraq was unjustifiable and that there were some places one shouldn't follow even a close ally. Some will argue that men and women like Wiley knew when they enlisted that some day they might find themselves in combat; that it would be their sworn duty to fight on behalf of their country. But Bush, as the American commander-in-chief, abused the trust of his military personnel. We should not send them back to face further injustice.

Reality check -- where is independent media? Matty Rothschild could weigh in on Super Duper Tuesday at The Progressive. Katrina vanden Heuvel at The Nation is stomping her feet and insisting that "Howard Dean and the state parties need to head off a situation in which back-room deals determine the Democratic nominee." Where are they on war resistance? It's not as if they're shy about writing about governments or other countries. But independent media -- print and broadcast -- has shown no interest in this story. In November the Canadian Supreme Court refused to weigh in. The Canadian Parliament is the only answer and there is a window of time for passage. But it's not 'pressing' apparently. And let's not forget Professor Patti who, apparently flipping through the latest People magazine yet again, manages to write about Britney Spears but not one damn word about war resisters. Professor Patti's a law professor and surely the latest on Spears is more pressing than granting refugee status to resisters of an illegal war.

Unlike them, you can make your voice heard by the Canadian parliament which has the ability to pass legislation to grant war resisters the right to remain in Canada. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." As part of their fundraising efforts for the event, they are holding houseparties and a recent one in Boston featured both IVAW's Liam Madden and the incomprable Howard Zinn as speakers.

Turning to Iraq.
UK MTV News reports, "Angelina Jolie has made a surprise visit to Iraq in her role as a UN goodwill ambassador. The gorgeous actress touched down in the Baghdad today to raise awareness of the 2 million refugees displaced in the war-torn Middle Eastern country." Video of Jolie being interviewed by Arwa Damon (CNN) here and transcript of the interview here. Jolie explains, "Well I came to the region about 6 months ago, I first went to Syria because I work with U.N.H.C.R. and there are 1.5 million refugees in Syria alone from Iraq and while I was there, I went inside and met with some internally displaced people. And this trip is to get a better picture of the internally displaced people and to discuss with the local government, with our government, with the NGOs and with local people, the situation and to try to understand what is happening, because there are over 2 million internally displaced people and there doesn't seem to be a real coherent plan to help them and there's lots of good will and lot's of discussion -- but there seem to be a lot of uh -- just a lot of talk at the moment and a lot of pieces need to be put together." Jolie goes on to note that more than four million Iraqi refugees exist and, of the four million, two million are internally displace with an estimate that the latter includes 58% under the age of the twelve. Note that it's Angelina Jolie talking about the issue which we will get back to later in the snapshot. The Iraqi Red Crescent Organization explains, "Pregnant mothers and young children suffer particular hardships and health risks as a result of the instability and displacement of the war. Electricity shortages, insufficient clean water, deteriorating health services and worsening living conditions have led to a doubling of the child mortality rate since 1990. Chronic child malnutrition has reached 21% of the population." In addition, they note of the internal refugees, "Some families have been forced out of their homes as a result of the sectarian realignment that has affected many areas, and many have had their living space destroyed as a result of the armed conflict. Families fleeing the violence take immediate shelter wherever they can find it, sometimes in areas of uncertain safety, too often with limited access to clean water."

As Jolie calls attention to the internal refugees, new developments emerge on the external refugees. Working from AP and AFP wire reports, the
Taipei Times reports the numbers are yet again rising in Iraqis fleeing Iraq and going to Syria: "A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), citing Syrian immigration officials, said that late last month, an average of 1,200 Iraqis came to Syria ever day compared with around 700 who returned." As before, the ones who go back to Iraq are not returning due to the 'safety' myth, they are doing so because they have exhausted their funds or are unable to receive visas (or have them extended). And while the UN was looking at externam refugees, Reuters reports the Iraqi Red Crescent has found the same trend among the internally displaced, "Iraqi officials have been eager to stress that displaced families, who fled across Iraq or to other countries because of fierce clashes between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Muslims, were coming back in large numbers as security improved. But the IRC's report for January, seen by Reuters on Thursday, said the number of internally displaced people (IDP) returning home had slowed sharply. The number of registered IDPs fell by 110,000 in October, but dropped by fewer than 3,000 in December, it said."

In what sounds like an attempt to change the dialogue (while actually doing nothing), the puppet government in Baghdad is making noises about 'help' on the way.
IRIN reports that Ali Shaalan, of the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration's planning directorate, is announcing "compounds" will be construction "nationwide" that will provide 'homes' to the displaced and he declares, "We are still at the drawing-board phase for residential compounds to be built over 50,000 square metres, scattered nationwide. We expect to complete this phase in about a month. So far we've managed to buy land in only seven provinces including Missan, Karbala, Basra and Thi Qar; we are planning to buy more land nationwide." Drawing-board? Yeah. And note that homes will be "compounds." The UNHCR report is entitled [PDF format warning] "UNHCR Syria Update on Iraqi Refugees." The report offers the estimate of 1.5 million Iraqi refugees residing in Syria and that the "UNHCR has registered over 153,516 Iraqi refugees (53% male, 47% female). 18,969 registered since 2007 are classified as victims of torture/violence in Iraq. 21,546 registered since 2007 have an important medical condition. 2,654 registered since 2007 are considered to be women at risk." The report also notes, "The Office is following up to secure access to 50 Iraqi women in Douma Prison, and Iraqi Girls (12-17 years old) in the Juvenile and Rehabilitation Centre. The majority of the women are charged because of their involvement in prostitution acts, and the majority of the girls are survivors of SGBV including rape and forced prostitution." Those who turn to prostitution are then at risk for deportation because the report outlines that prostitution, "forring documents" and "petty crimes" are among the crimes that can lead to deportation in Syria. The Syrian government has now implemented a policy where visas are only valid for three months.

Like Syria, Jordan also has a large number of Iraqi refugees.
AFP reported yesterday that the puppet government in Baghdad has made a request to the Jordanian government: "exempt Iraqis living illegally in the kingdom from hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines in a bid to help them return home". The Iraqi government is arguing that a significant number of Iraqis living in Jordan (the estimate is 360,000 Iraqi refugees are currently living in Jordan) are being prevented from returning home due to the fact that leaving Jordan would require paying fines. And what of the US?

As noted in
Tuesday's snapshot, despite the US State Dept's declared goal of accepting 12,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal year 2008, there have been only 1,432 accepted thus far. Note, fiscal 2008 started October 1, 2007 so already four months of the fiscal year are gone. That leaves 8 months for the US to accept and settle a little under 11,000 Iraqi refugees and the most recent month, January, found the US accepting a mere 375. Tuesday, US House Reps John Dingell and Alcee Hastings sent a letter to US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice asking for a reply by March 7th. In the letter, the two representatives note their "concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. While we commend you for your appointment of Ambassador James Foley as Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues, we remain concerned that not enough attention and resources have been focused on the situation deemed by many the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world. Most disconcerting is the fact that our government does not appear to have a long-term strategy to address this crisis." From the letter:

* What are the State Department's long-term objectives in terms of addressing the plight of Iraqi refugees and IDP's? What plans are in place to coordinate with the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration to assist with this crisis? What plans exist to work with the Iraqi government once the United States military forces withdraw from the region to prevent a vacuum that non-state actors providing humanitarian assistance might fill?

* Do you believe that the United States will meet its goals of admitting 12,000 refugees this year? If not, what is preventing the United States from meeting this goal? Given the State Department's difficulties in meeting its resettlement golas, why does the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget sumbitted by the President reduce funding for Migration and Refugee Assistance by $59 million?

* It is our understanding that very few Iraqis currently in Iraq are able to apply for resettlement. Why has the United States not begun to process larger numbers of IDP's in Iraq, many of whom have been forced to leave their homes because of the assistance they provided to the United States government? What actions does the State Department need to take to begin processing these internally displaced Iraqis? Does the State Department need additional resources to process externally displaced refugees, particularly in Jordan and in Syria, to meet its resettlment goal for 2007.

*Please clarify exactly what Ambassador Foley's role is. During a briefing to Congressional staff last year, he indicated that he is tasked solely with improving the processing of visa applications for Iraqi refugees and IDP's. However, as stated above, the United States does not appear to be making progress towards this goal. We are troubled that Ambassador Foley's mandate apparently does not include coordination of humanitarian efforts, either in Iraq or in other nations in the region currently hosting Iraqi refugees. To that end, are Ambassador Foley's actions limited by a narrow mandate? Does the State Department have any plans to appoint another Senior Coordinator who is solely responsible for coordinating the United States' humanitarian efforts in Iraq and surrounding nations?

* What further recources does the State Department need to adequately respond to the Iraqi refugee and IDP crisis? Are there legislative or budgetary issues that Congresss should address in the coming year that will assist you in responding to this crisis?

On the issue of James Foley,
Charley Keyes and Elise Labott (CNN) reported on Monday, "Foley was brought in last year in last year to cut through bureaucratic red tape between the departments of State and Homeland Security, after Congress harshly criticized the slow pace of resettling Iraqi refugees." They also note, "Despite comments by U.S. officials to the contrary, Foley challenged reports from last year that the United States had planned to admit 7,000 Iraqis for the financial year ending last fall, saying an official misspoke." As noted Tuesday, Labott and Bloomberg's Janine Zacharia were among the ones asking for numbers at the press conference Monday afternoon and refusing to be snowed. Labott was the one who brought up the 7,000 issue and Foley tried to deny that had been promised previously and then declared "I came on board in September" (which would have been the end of fiscal year 2007). Yet Foley maintains that 12,000 will be settled this year (fiscal year 2008, ending September 20th) and that he can be held to that pledge.

Among the other questions in the letter, they ask what the State Dept is doing regarding the distributing of the $25 million the puppet government in Baghdad promised to surrounding countries that were taking in Iraqi refugees, how is the State Dept tracking this?

The US Defense Department had their hands out begging yesterday.
Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen's visit before the Senate Armed Service Committee yesterday where they informed that the "administration's plan to withdraw some 20,000 U.S. troops from Iraq this summer will do little to relieve the stress on the Army and Marine Corps" and begged "for $588.3 billion in defense spending for the 2009 budget year, which begins Oct. 1." David Stout and Thom Shanker (New York Times) point out, "The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $170 billion in the next fiscal year over and above the $515.4 billion regular Pentagon budget that President Bush has proposed, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday." The budget was the topic of the first hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today.

Diane Rehm: How can you talk about these other big ticket items when you've got the war? When you've got the growth of this defense budget that seems to -- I understand your point about taking a lesser percentage of GDP but let us not forget Eisenhower's comments about the growth of the military-industrial-complex. And here we have this huge military budget which is almost off budget because they're not telling us the truth about what this whole war is costing?


In other news,
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has not renewed his cease-fire/truce (which will soon expire) but is telling his "followers to abide by" it "or face expulsion from his Mahdi Army militia". Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) reports that it is due to "expire in the next few weeks and political and military leaders loyal to Mr Sadr are advising him not to renew it. They complain that state security organs, in effect controlled by their Shia rivals in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), are using the truce to attack them, particularly in and around the southern city of Diwaniya from which 300 Sadrist families have been expelled. The Sadrists also complain that US troops and the Iraqi army are targeting Mehdi Army leaders and al-Qa'ida has once again started bombing Shia civilians as they did last Friday when two bird markets in Shia districts were attacked, killing 99 people."

Crispin Thorold (BBC News) reports that as puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki is making noises about Mosul being the "decisive battle" and quotes an Iraqi journalist who explains the tensions as Mosul as stemming from inaction: "For five years Mosul has been occupied by the US and the Iraqi military and still we have no electricity, no water. We have nothing." Charles Levinson (USA Today) sounds positively giddy, "The battle for Mosul that will play out in the coming weeks and months could be a very different struggle than the successful U.S. campaigns against al-Qaeda militants in Baghdad and elsewhere." Thorold notes that many expect the assault on Mosul to begin shortly and that "locals have been stockpiling food and fuel in preparation for the operation."

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two police officers, a Baghdad bombing (which was attempted to be safely detonated by authorities) wounded three police officers, a Baghdad bus bombing claimed 3 lives and left seven people wounded, a Salahuddin Province bombing claimed the life of Lt. Khalid Kwan and two more people, a Diyala Province that wounded four "shepherd boys . . . between 4 and 10 years of age," a Mosul roadside bombing wounded three police officers and another one in Mosul wounded two police officers.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 man was shot dead in Baghdad while driving and four of his passengers were wounded and a Diyala Province home invasion targeting 'Awakening' Council members in which women were "ordered" out of the home by unknown assailants and 3 male US collaborators were shot dead prior to the home being blown up.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Today the US military announced [PDF format warning]: "
A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed when the Soldier's vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in western Baghdad Feb. 6." As noted this morning: "The ICCC total since the start of the illegal war for US service members killed while serving in Iraq is 3950 with 6 for the month. 50 away from the 4,000 mark but since Ted Koppel stepped down from Nightline does the media -- big or small -- even bother to let those numbers register?" The numbers have gone up -- due to DoD namings, not M-NF announcements. Currently the total is 3952 since the start of the illegal war and 8 for the month thus far. On the 7th day of the month, the number of US service members who have died in the illegal war this month is 8.

Turning to 'justice' or maybe it's 'compassion,' two stories.
Africa Jones (Free Speech Radio News) reported yesterday, "The Justice Department argues that while the law says that veterans are eligible for health care that does not create an entitlement to any particular kind of care beyond medical services deemed necessary by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The DoJ also arges that even VA-approved medical care hinges on the availability of funds. The court filing came after a judge denied the government's request to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth. They accuse the government of illegally denying mental health services to some troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Plaintiffs say that over 600,000 disability claims have not been processed and that 120 veterans comit suicide every week. The government claims they have improved VA services by hiring more mental health professionals. The plantiffs' attorneys intended request a court order to compell the government to treat veterans seeking mental health care at the next hearing on March 7th." The US Department of Justice is arguing against health care for veterans. Meanwhile Tracy Barker was sexually assaulted in Iraq while employed by Halliburton's KBR and she was sexually assaulted by US State Dept Ali Mokhtare ("He jumped up and grabbed me around the neck and tried to get my shirt off," she told 20/20 in December -- for text on the interview, Ava and I covered it here ) and she was sexually harassed by co-workers. Maddy Sauer and Justin Rood (ABC News) report that her sexual harassment will be 'addressed' in "a secretive arbitration process rather than being able to present her case in open court" while the sexual assault "climas have been severed from her case against Halliburton/KBR and transferred to the Eastern District of Virginia. As in similar cases, KBR had moved for Tracy's claim to be heard in private arbitration, instead of a public courtroom, as provided under the terms of her original employment contract. In arbitration, there is no public record or transcript of the proceedings, meaning that Tracy's [sexual harassment] claims will not be heard before a judge and jury."

Monday's snapshot, we noted Bill Moyers Journal but I should have noted the book issue. On last Friday's program, Moyers posed the question of which book should the next president take to the White House? I believe this is the YouTube link for that segment but you can also find it online at Bill Moyers Journal if it's not. Remember the show broadcasts Friday night in most PBS markets (some may air it on another night or repeat it at another time) and online it is read, watch or listen. This Friday, he will be noting some audience suggestions. You can leave your recommendation here. Each year, Martha and Shirley and do their community book wrap up for the year here and they require all of our assistance in tabulating the community choices so I'm sure some members will want to weigh in. And I'm even more sure that the multitude of book readers in this community will want to check out the latest installment of Moyers' program to find out choices his audience has made. That should be this Friday. Check your local PBS listings for TV and go to Bill Moyers Journal online. And we don't have time to pick back up on Jolie. We'll do that tomorrow.