Friday, February 03, 2012

Kill Bill

So it's Friday and it's the weekend. I'm skipping "Idiot of the Week" -- in part because I think it's WSWS and think C.I. already established that with her "I Hate The War" -- which I really loved and am so glad she wrote. I almost called it out last week and I thought about it and I had written this long post and it was late and I was thinking that it would take forever to write another post. And I looked at the clock and knew C.I. would still be up so I called her and told her what was going on and she listened and then I decided to be nice.

Why? As we saw yesterday, they pulled the same s**t again.

So I was going through the e-mails and hoping to find something with an idea in it for a post. You know there are places you can go for post suggestions? I haven't used any yet though I need to. And when I cross-posted at The Common Ills mirror site on word press, it will help you if you don't have ideas.

But anyway, Peter e-mailed to ask me if I'd seen Kill Bill and if so if I preferred volume one or two?

I love Kill Bill.

Uma Thurman should be in a ton of action films.

If you haven't seen it, the two films were shot as one film but were over four hours so Quentin Tarantino (director and writer) turned them into two films.

Uma is "The Bride." At her own wedding, before it takes place, she's shot. Others are killed and it's assumed she is. But she's in a coma and then slowly she comes to. She's determined to make the people who killed her fiancee pay ending with Bill.

So which do I like?

Both of them.

But if I only have time to watch one, I always go with Volume 1 because of the whole Japan sequence. I love that whole thing especially the snow as they're fighting.

I really like 2, especially when ___ gets an eyeball squashed! :D But 1 really does it for me. And I love the anime in 1 as well.

Thanks, Peter, for your e-mail.

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

Friday, February 3, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the attorneys representing the American soldier in the Haditha massacre find their computer systems hacked by Anonymous, the political crisis continues in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani delves into the issue, State of Law reportedly has entered into a secret deal with some aspects of the National Alliance, Turkish war planes again bomb northern Iraq and more.
The online group/collective Anonymous is in the news cycle today as various sites -- including law enforcement -- are thought to have been hacked. Elizabeth Flock (Washington Post) reports on one non-confirmed hack: Anonymous states it has hacked the computer systems of the law firm Puckett Faraj who represented Staff Sgt Frank Wuterich in the Haditha case recently (In 2005, 24 Iraqi civilians were killed by a number of US service members. Wuterich entered a guilty plea last month.) The group claims they will be releasing confidential communications regarding the case ("a massive archive of e-mails" as well as transcripts and faxes). Elinor Mills (CNet) notes they left a message on the law firm's website which included:

As part of our ongoing efforts to expose the corruption of the court systems and the brutality of US imperialism, we want to bring attenttion to USMC S Sgt Frank Wuterich who along with his squad murdered dozens of unarmed civilians during the Iraqi Occupation. Can you believe this scumbag had his charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter and got away with only a pay cut? Meanwhile, Bradley Manning who was brave enough to risk his life and freedom to expose the truth about government corruption is threatened with imprisonment. When justice cannot be found within the confines of their crooked court systems, we must seek revenge on the streets and on the internet -- and dealing out swift retaliation is something we are particularly good at. Worry not comrades, it's time to deliver some epic ownage.

Jaikumar Vijayan (Computerworld) adds, "According to Anonymous, the emails contain 'detailed records, transcripts, testimony, trial evidence, and legal defense donation records pertaining to not only Frank Wuterich, but also many other marines they have represented'." Adam Martin (The Atlantic) offers this evaluation, "Most of the emails from the Puckett and Faraj firm have nothing to do with Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, whose conviction without prison time sparked Anonymous's interest in his lawyers. We found some messages discussing unrelated evidence, some about the planning of office presentations, and some involving a car purchase. But nothing on Wuterich so far."
The political crisis continues in Iraq. The National Newspaper observes, "The political stand-off that began in Iraq last month is likely to escalate into a sectarian conflict that threatens the future of the entire political process and could throw the country once again into the furnace of sectarian violence that has reaped tens of thousands of innocent lives on all sides so far." How bad is it getting? Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that in a Karbala sermon today, Ahmed al-Safi, believed to be speaking on behalf of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, declared, "Politicians must work fast and make concessions to solve the crisis." Ahlul Bayt News Agency notes, "Ayatollah Sistani normally exerts his considerable influence through sermons and statements made by his aides." Hayder al-Khoei (Foreign Affairs) offers his take on the crisis which includes:
As for Maliki and Allawi themselves, they have as much as to worry about within their own coalitions as they do outside them. Both their respective blocs -- the National Alliance and Iraqiya -- were formed on shaky grounds and contentious issues such as the Hashemi warrant have exposed these cracks. In this fractious game of politics, Maliki is doing extremely well: not only has he managed to chip away at Allawi's support but he is also keeping his own allies at bay. In the government formation process that took up much of last year, Maliki managed to drive a wedge between two powerful movements in southern Iraq: the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by Ammar al-Hakim, and its former military wing, the Badr Organization, led by Hadi al-Amiri. Both ISCI and Badr are part of the Shiite-dominated National Alliance. By enticing Amiri with a position as minister of transport last November, he frustrated Hakim and created confusion within ISCI and Badr -- a move that strengthened Maliki because he brought Badr to the table while ISCI remained reluctant in backing Maliki.
Now, Maliki is using a similar intra-sectarian ploy against another rival power base: the Sadrists. Under the pretext of national reconciliation, he is bringing the League of the Righteous (Asa'ib Ahlil Haq) into the political process. The League leader, Kais al-Khazali, was a former spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr but the two split in 2006, when Khazali decided to work independently of the Sadrists and instead coordinate directly with Iran. Perhaps one of the most well known of the Iranian-backed Special Groups, the League has reemerged in Najaf, under the auspices of Maliki, and is now engaged in war of words with the Sadrists. The two groups have skirmished in the past, and it possible that violence could break out again.
In both these cases, the factions that Maliki is bringing toward him are thought to have close ties to Iran, leading many analysts to conclude that with the United States out of Iraq, Tehran is increasing its influence over Baghdad. This may be true, but it is by design: Maliki recognizes these fissures and is playing on them as a means to survive. The Sadrists initially reacted against the arrest warrant on Hashemi, and their parliamentary bloc leader even talked about dissolving the parliament. Now, however, Maliki's moves have paid off, as the Sadrist rhetoric is more in line with the prime minister's own tone. The Sadrists now say that Hashemi should be put on trial in Baghdad and that his case should not be politicized.
Nouri al-Maliki has been on a power-grab since his first term. It continues. Over a year after he assumed his second term as prime minister, he's still refused to name heads to the security ministries (Defense, Interior and National Security). By refusing to name heads (nominate them, have Parliament vote on them), he controls the portfolios. He continues to target his political rivals (Iraqiya -- which beat him in the March 2010 elections). His political slate was State of Law. His political party is Dawa. Al Mada reports that Dawa is (loudly) insisting that they don't know why Ayad Allawi met with Iran's Ambassador to Iraq for three hours this week. Dawa's Walid al-Hilli went on TV to declare that Dawa has no idea why the meeting took place. In upcoming news, Dawa announces on TV that they have no idea whether Oswald acted alone. The Tehran Times notes, "The Iraqi news agency Al Nakheel has recently reported that Ayad Allawi, the leader of the al-Iraqiya List, will take a trip to Iran in the near future."

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is among the Iraqiya members Nouri is targeting. Aswat al-Iraq reports that alleged legal 'expert' Hatif al-Mussawi is stating the charges of terrorism Nouri has brought against al-Hashemi cannot be transferred to an international body. That's incorrect. There is nothing barring that in the Iraqi Constitution. That's the supreme law of the land (or is supposed to be) and trumps some provincial law (if al-Mussawi even has that on his side -- like most faux 'experts,' he's unable to cite a passage that backs him up). It's becoming an international incident. They could easily transfer it to an international body. That could be the UN. Equally true, the 'expert' might want to check out the written arrangement the government of Iraq signed with NATO. (For the Nouri apologists, Tareq al-Hashemi is actually very lucky. Nouri is charging terrorism from several years back. When Iraq was legally recognized as occupied. That occupied status has bearing on who can and cannot hear charges. It's a bit more complicated than supposed 'experts' would have you believe.) You might also want to check the numerous international pacts Iraq has signed off on, look at the huge rate of people being executed by the state of Iraq and grasp that what al-Hashemi is charged with can result in the death penalty if convicted. It's not as simple as the 'expert' would like it to be. al-Hashemi told AFP this week that it was "my right to go to the international judiciary." Roshan Kasem (The Majalla) has an extensive interview with al-Hashemi. Excerpt.
Q: It is said that you are to be referred, as an absentee, to the Criminal Court, according to the amended Article 121 of the Code of Criminal Procedure law of 1971. What is the worst you expect to happen during the investigation procedures and how intense would the measures to be taken against you be?
I am optimistic and have full trust is that a fair court will vindicate me. Thus, I have appealed for the proceedings to be transferred from Baghdad to Kirkuk.
Q: Do you have any suspicions that certain trade-offs would be made in regards to your case towards achieving political interests -- given the complicity of the political situation in Iraq?
I ought to be expectant of such incidents, especially when my case is solely, and extremely, political and not criminal in nature.
Q: To what extent does the Iraqi leadership in other respective parties support your appeal for a trial subject to Arab and international supervision?
The issue concerns me personally. The fact that the Judiciary is being politicized and its independence jeopardized leads me to seek necessary Arab and international involvement. I was obliged to make this decision. If an impartial investigation and a fair trial were an option, I would have preferred to have my case contained internally.

Another prominent Iraqiya member being targeted is Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq whom Nouri is demanding be stripped of his post.

Dar Addustour reports that Nouri's State of Law has made a deal with some elements in the National Alliance (a Shi'ite alliance that State of Law became part of after the elections but that Nouri refused to run with ahead of and during the elections) which agrees that they will not allow Saleh al-Mutlaq to return to his post (which he retains -- Parliament has not voted to strip him of it -- unless and until they do, al-Mutlaq remains Deputy Prime Minister). Not only will they not allow him to return, the deal supposedly is that they will not replace him with anyone and that they will also not replace Tareq al-Hashemi with anyone. That would leave only one vice president -- a Shi'ite. Iraq is supposed to have two vice presidents per the Constitution. Following the end of Political Stalemate I, Iraq ended up with three vice presidents. One resigned leaving two. (Adel Abdul Mehdi and Tareq al-Hashemi were Iraq's vice president during Nouri's first term. Both were renamed to the posts in the second term -- by President Jalal Talabani. Adel Abudl Mehdi quit the government over the corruption and dysfunction. He was a political rival of Nouri's and hoped/hopes to be prime minister himself. Khudayer al-Khuzaie is the third vice president and he's from Dawa). If State of Law has its way, there will only be one vice president.
Jim Loney (Reuters) observes/warns, "The political crisis and a Kurdish oil exploration deal with oil giant Exxon Mobil could push disputes between Baghdad and the Kurds to new heights, increasing anxiety in Iraq's disputed territories, already a potential faultline for conflict without U.S. troops to act as a buffer." On this issue of oil & gas, Jeffrey Blackwell (Democrat and Chroncile) reports that gas prices are increasing in Rochester, New York which means an increase in "everything from groceries to airline tickes." Robert Gibbons (Reuters) reports that "crude prices rose to a near three-month peak on Friday" and that "exports from Iraq's southern hub Basra were halved by bad weather." Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Rzzouk (Blomberg News) round out the topic noting, "Iraq's proposed energy law, intended to spur foreign investment in the world's fifth-largest holder of oil depostis, will be delayed for the rest of this year due to political division, the prime minister's top adviser said."
There is no oil & gas law passed but the Parliament did decide to pass a no smoking law regarding government buildings and purlbic plasces, Al Mada reports. Considering all the chemicals the US and British military used in Iraq -- chemicals now in the soil and water -- which have resulted in the high rate of birth defects post-invasion, you might think there were a few more important things the government could take up besides the dangers of second hand smoke in a toxic ward. Maybe it's just another sign that the political crisis continues? Alsumaria TV (which has a new visual look) reports additional details including that the law forbids the promotion of smoking (directly or indirectly) by the media and cultural institutions and bans the importing of tobacco products. Of course, even movement on this minor issue (Iraq is a toxic dump thanks to other countries, the cigarette smoke is a minor issue) isn't resolved. Dar Addustour reports State of Law is insisting the law has elements that are unconstitutional and that they're taking the issue to the courts.

On the issue of oil and gas

Al Mada notes State of Law not only continues to attack the Turkish government (and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan by name) but attempts to tie Turkey around Ayad Allawi's neck stating that Turkey is interfering in Iraq's affairs and that Allawi is perfect okay with that. That's a highly charged statement, especially on a day when Alsumaria TV is reporting that Turkish war planes have again bombed northern Iraq. Today's Zaman adds, "Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement on Friday that Turkish fighter jets bombed three PKK targets in Zap." AFP notes the claims that the planes were targeting the PKK and quotes PKK spokesperson Bakhtiar Dogan stating, "Turkish aircraft have since yesterday (Thursday) bombed the Zap and Abshin areas from time to time." The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." Those bombings, don't forget, are okayed by Nouri and State of Law might want to remember that before painting others are too close to Turkey.

Al Mada notes the Parliament Commission on Human Rights has echoed the recent Human Rights Report and states that human rights and freedoms are declining in Iraq.

Last month, the corpse of a 26-year-old woman was discovered hanging in a Hilla school. That was in the middle of the month. No one has been charged with the crime and there's been no real investigation indicating yet again the lack of respect the Iraqi government has for women. In Nouri's first term, women continued to lose out. In his second term, there wasn't even a pretense made that Iraqi women would be treated with the equality promised in the Constitution. From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:

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

Now let's turn to the issue of women and former Minister of Women's Affairs Nawal al-Samarraie who publicly stood out and decired the discrimination within the government during Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister. February 6, 2009, she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio). Excerpt:
COREY FLINTOFF: Nawal al-Samarraie had served as Iraq's minister for women's affairs for less than six months when she created a stir by turning in her resignation. She complained she had never received support from the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and that her budget for projects had been slashed from about $7,500 a month to around 1,500.
Ms. NAWAL AL-SAMARRAIE (Former Minister for Women's Affairs, Iraq): I think it is wrong to stay as a minister without doing anything for my people, especially in this time and in this situation of Iraqi women, that an army of widows, violated women, detainees, illiteracy. Many, many problems we have. I had to resign.
FLINTOFF: Iraqi women's advocates have coined the phrase an army of widows to refer to the women who lost their breadwinners in the conflicts reaching back to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Samarraie says there are more than three million such women, most of them with children, who have no social safety net.

There are between one and two million Iraqi war widows. Reuters notes Halima Dakhil who pays $210 for rent for her and her children. And that Iraqi widows receive $85 a month from the government and $13 a month for each child. This is ridiculous and shameful as Nouri spends billons on toys for warfare. Gender-traitor Ibtihal al-Zaidi shows up in the story to insist, "I agree it is little. But there is a real plan to increase these benefits." Let's hope all the widows and children living in poverty can afford to wait for al-Zaidi to get around to addressing the "real plan."
Who is this woman who goes along making excuses? Now in his second term as prime minister, Nouri appointed his stooge, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. . She's gotten herself in trouble in the last weeks in Iraq. She's declared that she doesn't believe in equality, that Iraqi women need their husband's permission before doing anything (presumably their son's or father's permission if they're widowed, divorced or unmarried) and has come up with a little dress code for Iraqi women employed by the government. Al Mada reports today that MP Safia al-Suhail is calling the gender traitor out and asking that al-Zaidi appear before Parliament to explain this dress code (which bans certain skirts, t-shirts and sneakers among other items -- but only for women) and al-Suhail points out that al-Zaidi's remarks are troubling and run contrary to the oath the Minister of Women's Affairs took when assuming her office.
Meanwhile Online International News notes that there is a worldwide rise in cases of measles after years of decline and that Iraq had 30,328 cases in 2011. That's over one person in every thousand of Iraq's population. In other health news, as last month came to a close, the World Health Organization held a handover ceremony in Sulimaniya Province where they and the United Nations Development Program "handed over the first specialised Tuberculosis (TB) hospital to the Government of Iraq at a cermoney.''
In violence, Reuters reports a Baghdad sticky bombing injured one person and, dropping back to Thursday night for the rest, a Muqdadiya shooting that killed 1 man and a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured.
MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. The drone controversy, the drone controversy in Iraq?
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Said?
QUESTION: Yes. I -- about the drone controversy, that's my question. The fiery cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is saying that this is a breach of Iraqi sovereignty, that the U.S. Embassy is, by doing this spy drone thing, is breaching Iraqi sovereignty, and he's calling on Iraqis to resist and he's calling on the Iraqi Government to stop the U.S. Embassy from doing that, and in fact given you -- gave you a timetable, a deadline timetable. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: I don't have any comment on that, no.
Please, Dima.
QUESTION: Do you know -- actually, do you know -- has the Iraqi Government actually complained about this to you?
MS. NULAND: I -- given the fact that we are continuing discussion about a whole host of issues having to do with how we manage our very large Embassy presence in Iraq, including aspects of security, I don't think it's so much a matter of complaint, as you would say, as an ongoing dialogue about what's appropriate going forward.
QUESTION: No, but the -- when this was first reported on Monday or Tuesday, or sometime earlier this week --
QUESTION: -- or maybe it was last week, I don't even remember now, but it had been presented that the Iraqis were furious -- the Iraqi Government, not a cleric here or there, but that the actual Iraqi Government was upset, was angry and demanding that this not happen. You're not aware that that's actually the case though, correct?
MS. NULAND: I am not. But let me take the question. Okay?
Earlier this week, Al Mada reported Iraqi government sources stated US drones are not the only US aircraft occupying the Iraqi skies currently. In addition there are the US helicopters (such as the one that went down in Baghdad recently) and F-16 aircraft. Al Mannarah adds that while the US claims to respect the sovereignity of all countries even as it sends drones across borders. Felicity Arbuthnot weighs in with "War Or No War In Iraq? Drones Over Iraq: When is a Pullout not a Pullout?" (Centre for Research on Globalalization):

First the world was sold imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, General Colin Powell, at the United Nations in February 2003, asserting: "My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
Now it seems the world is sold a withdrawal from Iraq which was not quite what it seemed, as presented by the Panetta-Obama-fest in the Baghdad, Fort Bragg speeches of just six weeks ago. At Fort Bragg: "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history …" said the President.
Well, not quite.
In an interesting sleight of hand, the State Department, rather than the Pentagon, is operating a fleet of surveillance drones over Iraq.
In: " … the latest example of the State Department's efforts to take over the functions in Iraq that the military used to perform."(i)
Further, the near Vatican City sized US Embassy in Baghdad is protected by five thousand mercenaries and has a further staff of eleven thousand, a large number, seemingly in a "military advice" capacity, training Iraqi forces -- a nation that, ironically, nine years ago the US and UK cited as having a military capability not alone a threat "to the entire region", but to the West.

The issue really received attention when US President Barack Obama spoke about it in an online townhall. Nicole Goebel (Deutsche Welle) quotes Barack insisting Monday, "It is important for everybody to understand that this is kept on a very tight leash." But as Patt Morrison noted on her self-titled program (KPCC) yesterday, more than 200 strikes in Pakistan alone since 2009, "it's the CIA that runs the drone program not the air force [. . .] and the drone question has never really come up before Congress in all the years of its use." The broadcast was a debate on the issues between the Heritage Foundation's James Jay Carafano and the University of Notre Dame's law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell. Excerpt.

Mary Ellen O'Connell: Patt, I've got very serious concerns. It is true that if a drone is used on the battlefield -- and today the United States is involved in armed conflict hostilities in one place only, that is Afghanistan, that is the only place where we can use the current generation of drones lawfully because those drones fire missiles and drop bombs. If we want to do covert operations today, the United States moved to the point before 9/11 where we were not having the CIA involved in lethal operations. After the 1980s, the dirty wars in Central America, we got the CIA out of killing. That also followed, of course, the tragic years of Vietnam in which the CIA was doing a large amount of killing and we didn't think the way that Vietnam turned out was right for our country or right for the world. And then after the compounded problems of the CIA involved in lethal, covert operations, the Congress stopped it. Now what we're seeing today is not only a replay of that failure -- moral and legal -- to have the CIA involved in those kinds of operations but it is exacerbated by the this type of weaponry kills so many people in addition to the target.

O'Connell stated that a conservative estimate for the number of people killed in US drone attacks so far would be 2200 people. Robert Wright (The Atlantic) notes the skill with which Barack navigated, controlled and circumvented the topic:

At one point in his Google Plus conversation, Obama did a masterful job of describing the function of the drone strikes in a way that did allude to their battlefield function, but still appealed to "war on terror" psychology. The people targeted by the drones, he said, "are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases, and so on." When you're at war, is it really "terrorism" for the enemy to kill your soldiers? If so, why isn't it terrorism for your soldiers to kill the enemy (especially when you sometimes, as with drone strikes, kill civilians)? But of course, the virtue of the word "terrorism" is that it makes us think of al Qaeda, whether or not al Qaeda is in fact involved.
If drone strikes are indeed increasing America's vulnerability to terrorism in the long run--and if in the short term they're a price paid for Obama's 2008 political calculation--then it's no wonder the president is using these sorts of verbal smokescreens.

Again, thus far, no armed drones are being used by the US State Dept in Iraq -- as far as we know. However, the US is in talks with Turkey to provide them with armed drones to patrol northern Iraq. (That should be a done deal since Turkey's already given over land for a CIA base on the border.) But the CIA is operating within Iraq. Whether or not they're using armed drones? I would imagine they were. Considering that they an US Special Ops continue to operate in Iraq, it's very likely that the CIA is operating armed drones in Iraq. (And possibly using the State Dept's unarmed drones as a cover.) RT notes, "Aside from the fleet of drones flying overhead, the tally of American-aligned personnel in Iraq totals close to 15,000. The US Embassy in Baghdad is the largest of its kind, and holds around 11,000 staffers. Military contractors on assignment to protect the embassy account for around another 4,000. If that presence on the ground wasn't enough, now the US is putting its planes overhead." M. Dennis Paul ( observes, "Obama went on to lie directly to the Nation in stating no Americans remained in combat in Iraq and that a favor had been done to that nation and the world. This writer happens to know several Americans who are still in Iraq and are still fighting there. It is doubtful they represent a small number as there are literally hundreds of thousands of hired guns who have replaced the uniformed GI in Iraq. They protect embassies, government officials, corporate big wigs, and every manner of $$ making operation in that nation that so benefited from our incursions it looks like a scene from one of so many futuristic films about global war and destruction. Ask any Iraqi on the street if he appreciates the American invasion. A constant and sad refrain is that Iraq was better off before... not after. Death, displacement, destruction of over 80% of infrastructure, toxic air, land and water, deformed children, hundreds of thousands of innocents struggling to obtain care for themselves and their families.. many struggling just to find their families, constant sniper fire, bombings, threats, crime of all sorts... Yes, Obama can sell it like his predecessors."

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The War Hawk

Thursday, soon to be the weekend. Bill Van Auken (WSWS) covers Barack and the Drone War:

President Obama on Monday issued a public defense of the murderous drone campaign that the US began against Pakistan in 2004 and sharply escalated after he entered the White House.

The US government has generally maintained a policy of not commenting on the drone attacks. They are directed by the CIA and are considered to be covert operations, despite the fact that the Pakistani people have no doubts about who is raining death upon them, and details of the campaign have been widely reported in the press.

Administration officials dismissed expressions of concern that Obama’s public comments represented a security breach and insisted that it was no unintentional slip-up by the president.

Indeed, there is every reason to believe that Obama sought a forum to publicly embrace the drone killings. The Google-sponsored “online town hall” where he made his remarks reportedly received some 130,000 questions from the public out of which just six, including the one on the drone attacks, were selected.

And on the topic of War Hawk Barack, Jim Vandehei (POLITICO) reports:

In short, there’s a new Congressional Budget Office report that shows unemployment likely to climb to nearly 9 percent by the election, there’s polling data showing Obama tied or trailing Mitt Romney in the most important swing states (and doing only marginally better against Ron Paul), and there is mounting evidence that the assumption of a decisive Obama fundraising advantage for the fall might be flat wrong. All of this is happening while Republicans are at their worst, with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich spending millions of dollars and using all of their air time explaining why the other is untrustworthy, deeply flawed and eminently beatable by Obama.

Barack. November cannot come soon enough.

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

Thursday, February 2, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's war on Iraqiya continues, and the US Congress flaunts ignorance in every way possible in a Subcommittee hearing.
You join the National Guard or Reserves. The government calls you to active duty and deploys you outside the United States. This requires you to go on leave from your job for nine months. You make it through your deployment, return home and attempt to return to your job but despite the law protecting your job your employer's rigged it so that you no longer have a job. For some members of the Guard and Reserves, this has been a too common experience. For it to happen to even one member of the Guard or Reserves is unacceptable and against the law. In DC today, the House Veterans Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing. US House Rep Marlin Stutzman is the Subcommittee Chair. US House Rep Bruce Braley is the Ranking Member.
Chair Stutzman: [. . .] [M]embers of the Guard and Reserves have born a significant share of the combat since 9-11. Clearly there are no longer weekend warriors -- if there once was. It also means that employers, especially small business owners, have seen labor challenges not seen since WWII and by and large have supported their employees. Unfortunately active duty call ups combined with a bad economy have created historically high unemployment rates among the guards and the reserves. Even more unfortunate, you will hear some employers have used what I believe are less than ethical tactics to terminate members of the Guard and Reserves. As the owner of a small business, I understand the pressures on employers that the loss of a critical employee creates. But in the end, the question I always ask is who is making the greater sacrifice? The employer or the service member who is literally going in harms way and that member's family who must cope with all the stresses of a deployment?
Wow. What a hearing that must have been, right?
The hearing was divided up into three panels. The first panel was the President and CEO of VetJobs Theodore Daywalt and The Manufacturing Institute's President Emily DeRocco. The second panel was composed of: MG Terry M. Haston, Adjutant General Tennessee National Guard; MG Timothy E. Orr, Adjutant General Iowa National Guard; BG Margaret Washburn, Assistant Adjutant General, Indiana National Guard; BG Marianne Watson, Director; Manpower and Personnel, National Guard Bureau; Richard Rue, State Chair, Iowa Employer Support of Guard and Reserve; Ronald Young, Family and Employer Program and Policy, Dept of Defense. The third panel was the Dept of Labor's Junior Ortiz.
You see veterans in that mix?
No, you don't. But we heard Daywalt and excuses and pleas and business needs this tax break and they need this and they need that and . . . Is VetJobs focused on employers or veterans? Yeah, if the federal government will subsidize private employer health benefits for members of the Guard and Reserves, they probably will get hired more often (and more often than civilians -- was he trying to create a two-tiered group of citizens?) but that's not addressing the issue. It's tossing money at it and if we want to do that, fine, but let's be honest about it and honest about what Daywalt's proposing will do.
It will mean that most employers would lay off not Guards and Reserves in order to save dramatically on medical expenses.
That will reduce veteran unemployment and it will aslo put a ton of people out of work.
How can you be the a subcommittee for the House Veterans Affairs and hold a hearing in which no one from the VA [Veterans Administration] and no veteran testifies?
This was a tactical error in terms of the press. There's really nothing for most people to write up or show on TV from the hearing. The stories that needed to be shared were the veterans stories and when they're not invited to the table, their stories aren't told.
This was an embarrassment. And that falls on the Subcommittee Chair Stutzman.
In addition, a witness and two members on the Subcomittee seemed unaware that it was against the law for companies to give away the jobs of the National Guard and Reserves. Since the US government allegedly isn't rolling in the dough (there's more than enough money for weapons and war), might the answer not be to prosecute existing laws instead of creating yet more write-offs for businesses?
They can start with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act which basically holds the job of the active-duty while he or she is serving. The Labour Dept is supposed to enforce this law. And Junior Ortiz could have educated them but after the snooze-fest that was the second panel, a number of Subcommittee members left (the eight members on the Subcomittee were reduced to five). But maybe he wouldn't have. In his opening statement, the only time he controls what he declares, he reduced enforcement to two passing sentences. Those sentences were: "The last piece I want to discuss is DOL's efforts to educate about and enforce the provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Vets enforcement programs investigate complaints filed by veterans and other protected individuals under USERRA, assess complaints alleging violation of status requiring veterans' preference in federal hiring, and implement and collect information regarding veterans employment by federal contractors." Though he claimed he wanted to talk about it, the fact is in writing, this appears in the opening of the final section but although four more paragraphs follow, they have nothing to do with enforcement, he provides no figures on convictions or settlements. He has no interest in the matter.
Nor did members of the Subcommittee. Ranking Member Braley made time to joke with the witness about his use of "Junior." There's a time when Congress wouldn't have found that at all funny. They would have tolerated it from a citizen, but a government employee that came in wanting to be called by a nickname? They would have cited the status of the Congressional record and called him "Ishmael" Ortiz throughout the hearing.
But Braley had time to laugh about it and how it must be because everyone trusts a guy named "Junior." Thanks for wasting our time, Braley.
For 25 minutes Ortiz appeared before the Subcomittee -- appeared as the sole witness on the third panel -- and not one of the five men who chose to stay for the third panel had a question about whether the law was being enforced, what the law said, statistics on it, etc. They never mentioned the law. It only popped up in those two sentences as Ortiz read his prepared remarks.
What does Congress do?
The legislative branch passes laws.
Why is Congress passing laws if they hold a hearing where they express alarm that Guard and Reserves are returning from active-duty to find they have lost their jobs and no one wants to discuss the law?
You pass a law, it better need to be enforced or you've wasted tax payers time and money.
Is Congress bored with their job? If so, remember that all members of the House are up for re-election this November (unless they're not seeking re-election).
If the hearing was about Guard and Reserves losing their jobs, it failed by not providing a face to the issue (allowing those who had lost their jobs -- or had to fight to keep them -- to share those stories) and it failed by refusing to address if the laws are being enforced. And how stupid do you have to be to be on the Subcommittee. I'm being really kind and not naming names but it was more than one member who, by their own remarks during the first panel, demonstrated they were unaware that it was against the law to fire a Guard or Reserve member who was on active-duty. How do I know that for sure? Because the second time it came up, I stepped out during the first panel to call a friend at the Justice Dept and ask if the law had changed? (No, it had not.) I thought surely that members of Congress, hearing about an issue they supposedly cared about would know the basics of the law. I was very much wrong.
Remember the alarmist rate that some were applying to veterans unemployment and how, when we checked with the Labor Dept statistics, the statistics didn't back up the claims?
Ortiz testifed in his opening statements, "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2010, recent Veterans who served during the post-9-11 era had an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent, compared to a 9.4 percent rate among civilian non-veterans. Unemployment rates were particularly high among recent Veterans who have served or continue to serve our nation in the National Guard and Reserve forces. These Veterans had an unemployment rate of 14 percent in July 2010, almost five points above the civilian unemployment rate."
That's 2.1 percent more for the overall rate for the year 2010, 2.1% greater. Now iin an ideal world, the two figures would be equal. But 2.1% more than the general population figure? That's not a crisis, that's not as alarming as it was repeatedly made to be in order to pass legislation. We heard figures as high as 16%. (Sometimes with a subgroup of post 9-11 veterans attached to it, sometimes.) Those figures came from somewhere but they didn't come from the Labor Dept. As we've repeatedly noted throughout the Great Recession, neither Congress nor the White House has pushed to do a damn thing for African-Americans. The highest unemployment rate for the Great Recession -- any year -- has been young, male African-Americans. But no one was troubled by that, no one was concerned, no one thought to address it with any programs or any monies. Among elected officials, no one cared. This summer, the unemployment rate for African-American teens (male and female) hit over 40%. And no one rushed to create a program or do a damn thing on the federal level.
In addition to calling out the claims on the actual rate, we also noted that no one wanted to give a break down on the numbers for female veterans. Ortiz didn't provide that information today. But US House Rep Linda Sanchez did raise the issue of female veterans in the hearing. It's really the only exchange worth noting from that hearing.
US House Rep Linda Sanchez: I'm going to start with Mr. Day. You offered many suggestions in your written testimony to improve the National Guard unemployment rate. And I want to sort of focus in in this large group of National Guardsmen who are a group in need of ways to help them over some hurdles to unemployment. I want to focus actually on a subset of women veterans because I think they may experience unique possibilities of overcoming additional obstacles other than the fact that they are serving in the National Guard. And I want to talk about specifically the fact that that age group tends to be a group that may be mothers of future mothers. And sometimes that, in and of itself, is a barrier to employment for women. Do you think it's reasonable that a female National Guard member may face even greater obstacles when attempting to find a job because of those two factors combined?
Theodore Daywalt: On a case by case basis, yes, They probably have more things that they have to face. [. . .] And there are job boards that are out there just for women, in the civilian sector, identifies a need pretty fast and they can move quick. And many of us identied the fact that people weren't getting the help that they need when they came out. Many have said that TAP is broken, I'll let others make that decision but that's why Vet Jobs is there. And to the women, especially if it's a single mother. Maybe it's because I"m an old fart, I cannot imagine being a single mother, being in the Guard, trying to get a job and raising a child or two or three children all at the same time. I mean, my hat goes off to them.
US House Rep Linda Sanchez: Well I have to tell you I am the mother of a 2-and-a-half-year old. And I travel bi-coastally with him to do this job which is more than, you know, 40-hour-a-week job. And I have a respect for single mothers that do that. I think that they are super women in evvery sense of the word.
Theodore Daywalt: Yes they are.
US House Rep Linda Sanchez: But what I'm trying to focus in on and this is something that kind of gets lost in the shuffle, you talk about the higher unemployment rate for National Guard members than the general unemployment rate in many of these states and I'm wondering if there's been an effort to try and extrapolate what that rate might be based on gender because I suspect -- and this is just a suspicion on my part -- that for young female National Guard member that unemloyent rate is probably even higher than it is for the general population?
Theodore Daywalt: Ma'am, two weeks ago, I remember seeing a press article and I remember that it did say -- and I'm sure they got their information from BLS -- that female veterans have a higher unemployment rate than male veterans.
US House Rep Linda Sanchez: Right. And I suspect because they face these additional obstacles. And the reason I raise that is because in my home state of California there was an Assembly bill that passed in 2004 which would essentially create a voucher system by which child care vouchers would be available to veterans seeking employment and it would be a way to try to help ease the cost of childcare and, you know, provide that. We're budget-challenged in California so that the funding hasn't necessarily been there but I'm thinking of these practical solutions and it seems to me that type of concept of helping with some of those barriers to employment which would be reliable and affordable child care might be something that we could do to reduce that.
Theodore Daywalt: When I get on the phone and counsel with a single mother, I generally try to point them to more forward-thinking companies that are labeled as a "employer of choice" something that their [. . .] group could stop. One thing that's in there and it's a fact that so many companies do offer child care on the premise in order to bring in qualified employees. And that's a smart employer that does that and we try to steer them towards the employers that do stuff like that. Trouble is, it's not always apparent who offers that and who doesn't and that's where vet jobs and some of the other military sites become the intermediary because we know these companies. Someone comes to me and says, "You know, you would reallly do well at UPS. They need secretaries or they need this or they need a manager and by the way they have child care on the premises." A lot of the health care have gone to that. It's the only way they can draw nurses and the health care people they need and they start offering child care and that's an ideal spot but they don't always know that that's out there.
US House Rep Linda Sanchez: Right.
Theodore Daywalt: So that's where we come in and try to --
US House Rep Linda Sanchez: And my suspicion would be that employers who would offer that generally are of a certain size, many small companies are excluded from that --
Theodore Daywalt: Very difficult for companies --
US House Rep Linda Sanchez: -- expensive. If the Chairman will indulge me for just one last, quick question. Ms. DeRocco, you mentioned efforts to partner with community colleges to help get the skills that veterans need in order to go into the skilled manufacturing sector. The district that I represent is very working class, urban and one of the things is that they would like to get those skills but the cost is a barrier for them so I'm intrigued when you talked about the paid internships and I'm sort of envisioning something where employers who have the need for skilled employees who have the soft skills of reliability and folks who will do what they're told. Is it crazy to think that maybe there might be some way to structure something that's almost like an apprenticeship system where employers would sort of finance an acquiring of those skills and they'd be working in the meantime while they're trying to complete those programs?
Emily DeRocco: Very insightful. A couple of points, we actually are beginning with [Oakland's] Laney College, a college in the Bay Area of Calfironia with the integration of these education pathways that are competency-based pathways to jobs in manufacturing because of the high concentration of small machine companies in that area which will offer extraordinary jobs. We spend about $18 billion a year in this country on workforce investment, workforce development, another $800 billion in public education. What we are doing is actually just directing a very small percentage of those funds to building the educational patheways in high schools and community college, the result is credentials which have value in the workplace labor market. So to date there's never been a question about money available to have the educational pathways in place. All federal aid programs cover any cost associated with the individual credentials and in every instance, employers are driving the educational reform by being full partners as facutly, curriculum development advisors, paid internships, mentors and even the equipment and requirements for the educational pathway to be successful. So, yes, we are encouraging much stronger business edcucation partnerships. Actually, it's the only we're going to change education in this country .
US House Rep Linda Sanchez: Great. Thank you and I thank the Chariman.
Daywalt worded an early statement in such a way that it might have appeared to some he was saying that "most" employers offer child care. That's not true (nor is it what he was saying). For statistics you can refer to [PDF format warning] this Sloan Work and Family Research Network list.
After the hearing, a friend on the House Veterans Committee -- but not on the Subcommittee -- asked me what I thought of the hearings and reminded me that I called out Jeff Miller here this time last year over the light and slow to plan hearing schedule. I did do that, I'd forgotten. In that judgment, I also attempted to note that Miller was new to the post. Control of the House flipped in the 2010 mid-term elections. Prior to that, from January 2007 to January 2011, US House Rep Bob Filner was the Chair. Few can match Filner as a Chair. He's dedicated and that dedication included showing up for a scheduled hearing when nearly all of Congress -- House and Senate -- was attempting to get out of DC. So that's a high mark set by the now Ranking Member of the Committee. Too high for Miller to have matched in this short period of time; however, Miller adapted and grew in his role throughout 2011 and seems on top of the issues and the scheduling in 2012. Stutzman would do well to study the way Miller runs his hearings.
Dropping back to the January 20th snapshot:
Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) reports that Nouri's forces arrested Ghabdan al-Khazraji, the Deputy Governor of Investments Diyala Province, and attempted to arrest the Deputy Governor of Administrative Affairs Talal al-Juburi.but he's now in the Kurdsitan Regional Government. The two are Sunni and they are also members of Iraqiya. The arrest follows Wednesday's arrest. Margaret Griffis ( explained, "Baghdad Provincial Council Vice President Riyadh al-Adhadh was arrested on terrorism charges and stands accused of financing a terrorist group in Abu Ghraib. Adhadh is a Sunni doctor who founded a free clinic in Adhamiya and is the focus of an English-language documentary on Iraq. The Iraqi Islamic Party condemned the action and called it an "unprecedented escalation" in the political arena."
This is part of the targeting of Iraqiya by Nouri al-Maliki. Riyadh al-Adhadh is in the news. Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) who explains the medical doctor Riyadh al-Adhadh is the latest victim in Nouri's power grab and how she met the doctor over eight years ago through US Col Joe Rice:
Could Rice imagine the doctor helping terrorists? I asked him this week, by phone. "No, I cannot," came back the firm reply. "He was in there dissuading them, telling them there was another way. He was part of the solution, not part of the problem."
So why has the Maliki government arrested a doctor who risked his life to work within the system? This question brings us to the heart of the matter - Iraq as a budding police state.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq upended decades of rule by the Sunni minority. Yet for the democratic process to work in Iraq, the Shiite majority must accept a political role for Sunnis, so long as they play by constitutional rules.
Yet, as U.S. troops were leaving Iraq, the Shiite-led Maliki government, fearful of a Sunni resurgence, began arresting Sunni parliamentarians; they also rounded up many Sunnis who had abandoned militancy and fought with American forces. Moreover, the government still refuses to honor a pledge to share power with the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya party, which won a narrow majority of seats in the last elections.
Trudy Rubin rightly notes that the White House should be calling for the doctor's release and that is has leverage with all the weapons its selling to Iraq. We're arming the thug (that's me, not Rubin). Human Rights Watch issues an alert last week about Iraq moving towards a police state and that doesn't slow down the deals or stop the White House from backing Nouri. Every time this administration talks about human rights, they are lying because they did nothing while Nouri's thugs targeted Iraq's LGBT community (even with some members of Congress demanding actions, the White House did nothing); they are lying because while they were calling for an Arab Spring in some countries, Nouri was unleashing his forces on peaceful demonstrators and journalists, having them kidnapped and tortured. And still the White House backed him. During the Bush era, Nouris' secret prisons were well established. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) continued to expose those prisons after Obama became president. Nouri running secret prison meant nothing to the White House. They have backed him over and over.
Nouri has refused to follow the Constitution and that didn't matter to the White House either.
Dar Addustour's reported Monday on Iraq's Supreme Court. Prime Minister and Thug of the Occupation Nouri al-Maliki took a simmering political crisis and brought it to a boil in mid-December by targeting Iraqiya politicians. He demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his title. He demanded that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for terrorism. I the time since, there have been multiple airings of 'confessions' on Nouri's favorite TV station. But this week the Supreme Court issued a statement making clear that they were not responsible for the airing of the confessions. Nouri then insisted publicly that this wasn't his decision, he'd spoken with the judiciary and they approved. Their statement makes very clear that they did not grant approval, their statements makes very clear that "innocent until proven guilty" is a judicial principle the court must follow and that they pin the blame on "the executive branch" -- Nouri.
If the Iraqi officials do not hold him accountable, they can go ahead and scrap the Constitution because it will be meaningless. All Iraqis are bound by the Constitution. It makes no oath to serve Nouri but Nouri had to make an oath to uphold it.

Tuesday, Marco Werman (PRI's The World -- link is audio and text) spoke with Jane Arraf about the political crisis.

Jane Arraf: This is being seen as the biggest political crisis since Saddam Hussein was toppled. And the reason that the Kurds are involved is that we ended up here with a coalition government -- engineered by the United States in part -- because no one could really agree on who should form the government. Now the coalition includes the Kurds, it includes the Sunnis and it includes Prime Minister Maliki's mostly Shi'ite parties. And the Kurds have been the king makers. They're being looked at here again as the people who could possibly solve this but there are so many missing pieces in this puzzle that no one's entirely sure it actually can be solved.

Marco Werman: Well just a few examples of the political crisis in Baghdad and then I want to ask you how the Kurds might solve it. I mean we've heard about the Vice President's arrest, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki trying to fire his deputy for calling him a dictator, no Interior or Defense Minister for almost two years. So what exactly can the Kurds do?

Jane Arraf: Well the politicians who are supposed to be leading this country cannot sit down in the same room and have a conversation. I spoke with Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi who's in exile here in northern Iraq and he said the last time he really spoke to the prime minister was a year ago. They've been communicating through text messages and things like that. And also, of course, through arrest warrants. So what the Kurds want to do is convene a conference that would bring together the Kurdish president, the prime minister, the head of the Sunni-backed party, possibly Moqtada al-Sadr and actually have them hammer out beforehand how they're going to solve this.

Jane Arraf states in the interview that al-Hashemi is a guest of KRG President Massoud Barzani. Tony Barrett (Time magazine) writes about the crisis and notes that Time investigated charges of al-Hashemi running a death squad some time ago:

Regularly accused by the Shia of running Sunni death squads, we had to do our due diligence and investigate whether or not he was really doing that or not. Turns out nothing in our battle space, which included large parts of the Sunni Triangle, indicated he was -- and that's where it would've come from. Also turns out he may be smarter than anyone guessed.
Hashimi has been in Irbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, ever since Maliki issued an arrest warrant for him in December. While we might expect "Dog the Bounty Hunter" to go get him, the reality is that Hashimi has played his cards brilliantly. There's no way Maliki can send either Iraqi Army or Police to get him -- the Kurds have experienced relatively little of the last decade of war in Iraq and there's not a chance in Babylon that Maliki will risk starting a Kurdish secession over Hashimi -- and the Sunni know it.

So Rubin explains the doctor's innocent and Barrett explains Time magazine long ago investigated claims against al-Hashemi and found no truth to them. And still the White House backs Nouri. Justin Raimondo ( explains the realities of Iraq today:
We got a veritable dictatorship that routinely suppresses dissent, murders journalists, and is so infused with corruption that Iraqis routinely argue which government agency is the most venal.
Well, then, what about the good will of the Iraqi people,who must surely be grateful for their "liberation" at our hands? Well, no -- instead, anti-Americanism is a force that all Iraqi politicians play to, and one can't help thinking the sentiment is fully justified. After all, if some foreign army had killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, and left our country in ruins, what other sort of response would anyone have a right to expect?
The costs of the war range in the $1 - 3 trillion range. We are left with tens of thousands of horribly wounded veterans, many fatherless and motherless children, and what do we have to show for it?
Iraq today is a crippled nation, which doesn't even have the capacity to supply electricity to its citizens: it is a nation on the brink of yet another civil war, so divided by tribe, clan, religion, and politics that it threatens to come apart at the seams every few months or so. In short, we have a country that really no longer exists in any meaningful sense. To which the architects of this war can add: "Mission accomplished!"
Meanwhile, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Iraqi President Jalal Talabani discussed with Iraqiya bloc leader Iyad Alawi the current political situation in the country, calling to solve pending questions through the constitution and national partnership, according to a Presidential statement." Al Mada offers a look at various blocs and it's a political class in disarray. (As Jane notes in her interview.) It's a hundred different demands and counter-demands -- and the article's largely
Reuters notes an al-Zab sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 North Oil Company worker, a Tuz Khurmato sticky bombing which left a police officer injured and, dropping back to last night, Iraqi forces shot dead three suspects in Baghdad.
Finally in the US, the first ever Burn Pit Symposium takes place next month.

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by
Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University

Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5
Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
Medical Center

This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


* Register with your credit card online at:

* Download the registration form from:
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman
Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph
Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant
Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt
King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in
Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of
Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White
River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)

Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues
and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.
(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Libyan War, Glen Ford

Hump Day, Hump Day. What do I know today? Not much. I know Congress is back in session because C.I.'s reporting on a House Veterans Affairs hearing in today's snapshot.

Did you catch all the theme posts:

Betty offered "Lenore Kandel and others," Trina offered "Cornelius Eady," Ann offered "5 men," Rebecca discussed "a trip uptown," Ruth offered "Nancy Boutilier," Kat provided a critique via "8 Major Young Poets?," Marcia suffered through "take hold!" (bland poetry, if you haven't read her post yet), Stan attempted to give "Damon Runyon" a fair break, Elaine sampled "Baby Toes" while Mike explored poetry in verse and in song with "Robert Duncan, Graffiti6" while Wally & Cedric continued the theme by offering the Florida primary results in poetic verse "THIS JUST IN! RHYME AND REASON!" & "The poetic primary."

That was fun. We hadn't done that in a while. Hopefully we'll do another one before May.

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) tells us how that illegal Libyan War's working out:

Multiple reports of widespread torture in the detention centers run by the new imperialist-backed Libyan regime and NATO’s “rebels” give the lie to all those who justified last year’s war in the name of human rights and “liberation.”

It is just over 100 days since the lynch-mob murder of Libya’s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, a grisly act that marked the culmination of the eight-month US-NATO war. At the time, President Barack Obama took to the White House Rose Garden to hail the assassination as the advent of “a new and democratic Libya.”

The evidence and testimony provided by aid groups and human rights organizations over the past week paint a very different picture. A criminal imperialist war that ended with a brutal murder has, unsurprisingly, yielded a regime of terror, torture and repression.

According to a report released by Amnesty International (AI), “torture is being carried out by officially recognized military and security entities as well as by a multitude of armed militias operating outside of any legal framework.”

The organization reported numerous cases of detainees having been tortured to death. It also reported meeting with others who bore “visible marks indicating torture in recent days and weeks.” AI continued: “Their injuries included open wounds on the head, limbs, back and other parts of the body.”

Glen Ford. Last week he had a commentary which included:

Last Thursday’s demonstration, in New York's Harlem, against President Obama’s foreign and domestic policies was a great success, with about 400 protesters massed across the street from an Obama fundraiser at the Apollo Theater. But, you would not know that from reading the Daily Kos or In These Times, or from watching Democracy Now! That’s because these outfits represent the left flank of Obama’s apologists and protectors, whose self-assigned job is to perpetuate the fantasy that the First Black President is not a servant of Wall Street and the Pentagon. These publications and programs are also in thrall to another fantasy: that they have some kind of entree or influence with the Obama administration, when in fact, this White House is an annex of finance capital.

Nellie Bailey, the veteran Harlem organizer and member of Occupy Harlem, has already set the record straight: that this was a Black-led demonstration called for by Occupy Harlem, which enlisted the support of the larger Occupy Movement, Stop Stop-and-Frisk, MoveOn, the Black Is Back Coalition, and other progressive organizations. The turnout was larger than even the organizers had hoped, and heavily Black and Latino. But Democracy Now!, whose politics has undergone a palpable turn to the right during Obama’s time in office, told its audience that only about 100 people protested, when in reality, the MoveOn section of the demonstration alone approached that number. In this sense, Democracy Now! is worse than the police at reporting demonstrations it doesn’t support.

At Third, there were two pieces that addressed this awful behavior.

Ava and C.I. worked it into their TV commentary and the piece I told you about Friday was the second one listed above. We even made a new cover for Goody.

1 exception

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, Iraq executes 17 people, the VA plays Abbot & Costello while testifying to -- or babbling before -- Congress, and more.

"Time and time again," declared Michael Michaud this morning, "VA comes up here and testifies that it has wonderful policies in place. Unfortunately no one ever seems to follow these policies and procedures and they seem to be no consequences for the failure to follow these procedures."

He was speaking at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing which Chair Jeff Miller explained in his opening remarks, "I want to thank everybody for coming to hearing today entitled 'Examining VA's Pharmaceutical Prime Vendor Contract.' We started investigating PPVs and the contract well before the story on this hit the press and we found enough that questions were raised to warrant the hearing that we're going to hold today and possibly subsequent hearings in the future. Now a PPV contract, when written and executed correctly, is intended to ensure VA receive the needed medical pharmaceuticals at a competitive price and in a timely fashion. Medical facilities throughout the nation rely on this system to ensure that the patients get the best care. That the veterans get the best care that they need. they deserve and they've earned. The Committee's investigation began when discrepancies appeared in how VA ordering officials had been handling open market purchases of items not available on the PPV contract. These purchases go back much further than just the last year or two. In fact, they span multiple administrations showing many within VA chose to ignore whether than fix a problem they knew about."

Appearing before the Committee on the first panel was the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W. Scott Gould (accompanied by the VA's John R. Gingrich, Glenn D. Haggstrom, Jan R. Frye, Philip Matkovsky, Steven A. Thomas and Michael Valentino), on the second panel the Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations Office of Inspector General's Linda Halliday (with Mark Myer sand Michael Grivnovics) and on the third panel McKesson Corporations' Vice President on Health Systems' Sharon Longwell.

This was a hearing where first panel witnesses tossed around terms and words that were unfamiliar -- US House Rep and Dr. Phil Roe would stop a witness at one point and tell him no one understood what he was saying. And the issues could get complicated. So what you need to remember on this is that there are guidelines the VA must follow on ordering. Those guidelines exist for many reasons. The three primary reasons are (1) safety of the veterans, (2) ensuring that the government gets the best price possible, and (3) ensuring that cronyism or kickbacks are not taking place as the VA invents its own rules (or disregards those in place).
US House Rep Bob Filner is the Ranking Member of this Committee. He was not present at the hearing and Michaud served as the Ranking Member. He declared in his opening statements, "The VA admits that it did not follow all applicable laws and regulations for approximately 1.2 billion dollars in what was called Open Market Drug Purchases since 2004. VA assures us that changes have been implemented to fix deficiencies at hand. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, we've heard this before."

There was a lot of justifying and minimizing by the VA and, as Michaud noted, the claim that Congress need not worry, that the VA had already fixed everything on its own. Gould insisted that what took place "was not criminal and at no time were our veterans at risk." Miller asked him, "Is this a violation of the law?" Gould replied, "Yes."

Chair Jeff Miller: [. . .] When did senior leadership first learn of the unlawful purchasing? And I'd like to ask each individual at the table independently to let me know when you first heard about it and what you specifically did when you heard about it?

W. Scott Gould: Sir, to be responsive on that question, then each of us you will answer that. What you will see is a range of dates as the problem escalated through the system. To answer personally for the senior management team, I first knew about this issue in September of last year, September of 2011.

Chair Jeff Miller: And we'll start down here, Mr. Valentino?

Michael Valentino: I became aware of the issue with Open Market Purchases in December of 2010 when the clause was removed from the draft solicitation.

Philip Matkovsky: I became aware in September of 2011.

John Gingrich: I became aware in September of 2011.

Glenn D. Haggstrom: With respect to the improper use of the Open Market Clause, I became aware of it in March 2011.

Chair Jeff Miller: When did you hear about the illegal use?

Glenn D. Haggstrom: March of 2011.

Jan R. Frye: I became aware in March 2011, March 29th, to be exact.

Steven A. Thomas: And I became aware in January of '09 when a Logistics Manager from the CMA* identified this as an issue. At that point, I worked with general counsel, acquisition review, IG, other at the NAC [National Acquisition Center], VHA including PBM and the CMA to try to correct the issue for the CMA which we became responsible for at the National Acquisition Center in December of '08. I tried to add items to the federal supply schedule as much as possible to cover that gap. I tried to have additional things put on requirements, types of contracts, that we had limited success on. But the main thing I did was, I corrected the issue for the CMA. So the CMA follows appropriate procedures at that point. And that was the area of responsibility that I had.

W. Scott Gould: So, Mr. Chairman, today you've gone down the list to see what people knew, when they knew. The people at the table today collectively identified the problem, took action and we are collectively responsible for-for that fact.

Chair Jeff Miller: Mr. Thomas, you took great pains a second ago to talk about all the things that you tried to do. Can you explain why you were unable to do some of the things you wanted to do? Could you turn your mic on too, please?

Steven A. Thomas: Apologize. Yes, sir. I think what we have in this case is a changing industry to a certain degree. There are -- as you probably are aware, there's a lot of drug shortages that are currently going on right now. Uhm, there's the Trade Agreements Act that we have to be responsible for to make sure that products are coming from responsible countries and a lot of the manufacturing for drug -- for drugs right now are going overseas to India and China and those two countries are not trade agreement countries. So there's a number of issues going through there when we put our requirements contracts out for some of the generic products, we are able to award about a third of them as they came through. It didn't stop our efforts in that but it made us try to figure out how we could get more products on contract.

Thomas never shuts up. [*And I have no idea if he was saying CMA or what. He pronounced the term various ways throughout the hearing. I don't know it.] He offers a lot of blather about what he did for someone who broke the law. Miller wanted to know "how much was spent illegally after the 8th of November" 2011. Gould gave a response about how they didn't want the veterans to suffer. So Gould is arguing not only that the law was broken but that it was knowingly broken by the leadership composing the first panel. He went on for over two minutes and then swapped to Matkovsky and neither ever answered Miller's question as to how much was spent from November 8, 2011 through the end of the year?

Chair Jeff Miller: I apologize Mr. Secretary if I didn't hear you, but did you give me a number for what money was spent?

Philip Matkovsky: Two numbers. The first number for the month of December which we are still analyzing is roughly 1.4 million [dollars]. The total number of transactions which we are reviewing for ratification is 5,733 transactions.

Miller pointed out that this wasn't just about drugs, the spending. Gould admitted this was true.

Michaud asked if they had waivers for "the 1.2 billion in open market purchases dollars dating back to 2004" which led Gould to insist he needed to consult with the witnesses at the table followed by Frye stating, "Sir, I'm not familiar with your question. Waiver for what again?" Michaud attempted to jog their memories, "Waiver request for Open Market Purchases, that's required under the handbook." Still the panel was baffled by what he was talking about. Michaud then had to cite the rule specifically ("That's 7408.1") at which point it was immediately agreed that Michaud knew what he was talking about. But the waivers? Haggstron stated, "I'm not aware of any waivers."

The dummy up and pass the issue around was used repeatedly. So much that you might think they were trying to run out the clock on Michaud's questioning time.

US House Rep Phil Roe would ask a basic question, one that the witnesses should have known the answer to before they arrived at the hearing, "My second question is are there any penalties -- I know this is civil, not criminal -- but are there any penalties for the people who knowingly broke this law?"

The witnesses were unable to answer the second question and an attorney for the VA stood up and declared that "there are no penalties attached or sanctions attached." Had the VA fixed the problem -- as they claim -- and had they addressed it, then surely these seven VA leaders would have discussed whether or not criminal charges needed to be brought. The fact that they didn't know the answer indicates they never asked that question which would lead many to believe that they were only focused on damage control and not addressin the issues involved.

They played idiots very well. At one point, Chair Miller would ask them if they were aware, as they offered some interesting statements, that the Committee would have the documents in their possession and that a subpoena had been issued?

That would seem a rather basic question. But Gould especially (though not only) wanted to insist that there was no subpoena. He said there were Freedom of Information requests but no subpoena and wanted to argue this with the Chair.

Even after the Chair stated that US House Rep Darrell Issa issued the subpoena on January 19th (his Committee,on Oversight and Reform), they wanted to insist there was no subpoena. Then they wanted to add, maybe there was one, but it had not yet been received. After this ridiculous scene seemed in danger of never ending, "Counsel appears to be nodding to us that a subpoena has been issued." So, yes, there was a subpoena and that, yes, it had been received.

Again, the seven leaders at the table should have known that. Appearing before Congress to testify about records that the Congress is subpoenaing should be known. This group of leaders appeared completely disinterested in the topic being explored and not at all concerned about meeting oversight obligations.
"We need to fix this," Thomas said was the response in 2009 when the issue was first known (at least first known among the witnesses). "And we didn't fix it until recently?" Chair Miller asked. He received nothing resembling an answer.

Gould insisted that the 7 at the table (including himself) had identified the problem and "we addressed it in six weeks."

Chair Jeff Miller: Is it your testimony that the time frame between January of '09 and today is six weeks?

W. Scott Gould: No, Mr. Chairman, as I said a moment ago when you went down the list of folks here, when did senior management know? And I have testified that I knew in September. And by November 8th, the problem was solved.

Chair Jeff Miller: Does it bother you that you have somebody sitting at the table that knew of the issue in January '09 and you -- or somebody at that table -- did not know?

W. Scott Gould:Sir, of course it does and as I have testified that is a problem for which we are collectively responsible and accountable. I am very unhappy with this risk up the chain of command. All I'm saying is, that it did not happen and when it did it was absolutely solved by this team. We got together and resolved the issues and came up with a clear course of action to fix the problem.

But as Miller pointed out, the problem was known by at least Thomas in 2009. So, no, the issue was not dealt with in six weeks. As for taking accountability, a resignation or two would indicate that accountability was being taken. Instead, they want to pretend that the violation of the law doesn't matter because it's not criminal. And they want to pretend that taking nearly three years to address the situation after leadership first learned of the problem can be passed off as six weeks. There's no accountability, there's not even any honesty.

In Iraq, the political crisis continues and this crisis was created by the White House when they overruled the will of the Iraqi people who voiced their preference in the March 2010 elections. The Constitution was quite clear on what happened next. But the White House was equally clear and much louder on the fact that they wanted Nouri -- whose political slate came in second to Iraqiya -- to remain prime minister. With the White House backing, Nouri was able to bring the government to a standstill for 8 months (Political Stalemate I). Without White House support, the Constitution would have been followed and Nouri would not be prime minister. In November 2010, the White House had polical parties meet in the KRG and hammer out an agreement that put into writing a great deal of the White House's promises. They'd long asked Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) to step aside and allow Nouri to be prime minister. They promised him that, in doing what was 'best' for Iraq, Iraqiya would also head a newly created and independent national security council. The Kurds were also promised many things. The main thing for Nouri was he got to remain prime minister. All parties signed off on this agreement. The next day, Parliament met and President Jalal Talabani named Nouri prime minister (unofficially -- he'd name him prime minister 'officially' later in the month to give him over 30 days to form a Cabinet -- the Constitution requires you do it in 30 days or the president names a new prime minister-designate). Nouri loved the Erbil Agreement. Loved it. Until he was named prime minister-designate. Then he was no longer interested in it.

He blew it off. This is the current Political Stalemate II. The crisis begins in the dying days of summer when the Kurds have had enough and begin demanding that the Erbil Agreement be followed. Their patience exhausted, they begin floating various scenarios. Among other things, the Kurds want the issue of Kirkuk resolved. That's not an unreasonable request. Not only were they promised in the Erbil Agreement that it would be resolved, but when the Constitution was written in 2005, Article 140 demanded that the prime minister hold a referendum to resolve the issue of Kirkuk by the end of 2007. The first prime minister after the Constitution was written was Nouri al-Maliki. He became prime minister in April 2006. He refused to follow the Constitution. He forever had an excuse and it wasn't the right time or it will be addressed in the near future. He's now been prime minister since 2006, the Constitution compells him to resolve the issue of Kirkuk (and states how, take a census, take a vote) and to do so by 2007. He has repeatedly refused. He is forever in violation of the Constitution.

And yet every time the White House backs Thug Nouri who runs torture chambers and secret prisons, whose forces physically attack journalists and demonstrators, this is who the White House -- under Bush before, under Barack now -- has backed.

The Brookings Institution's Kenneth M. Pollack provides an analysis at The Atlantic which includes:

It is important to understand what actually happened this week. Iraqiya ended its parliamentary boycott but not its boycott of meetings of the Council of Ministers. The parliament is due to consider Iraq's annual budget, and the Iraqi leadership felt it would be disastrous for their party and the communities they represent if they were not present to ensure that they received their fair share of Iraq's governmental pie. Iraqiya has not ended its ministerial boycott of Council of Ministers meetings, with the result that its ministers are still under suspension by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and it has threatened to withdraw from the parliament again if the prime minister does not end his attacks on them.
It was Maliki who provoked the current crisis with his assault on Iraqiya, in several instances employing unsavory and even unconstitutional acts to do so. If he is willing to make some concessions to Iraqiya, it might be possible not just to defuse the current crisis but also to begin a larger process of compromise and national reconciliation that could start addressing the problems in Iraqi politics that gave rise to this crisis.
Unfortunately, the prime minister appears to see Iraqiya's decision as a victory--he outlasted them, broke them, forced them rejoin the government without getting anything that they wanted. Indeed, Maliki has shown no sign of relenting, although he and his allies did tone down their rhetoric in recent weeks. But the prime minister has continued to fire and arrest senior Iraqiya leaders, insist that the Kurds hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi for trial--despite charges that the warrant for his arrest was based on confessions induced by torture--and steadfastly refused to agree to a national conference to resolve the current impasse as proposed by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and accepted by the Iraqiya leadership. Although the Kurds have their own differences with Iraqiya and the Sunnis (and their own reasons for wanting to reconcile with Maliki), they see the prime minister's actions as "final proof" that he is determined to make himself a new dictator, and so they have refused to hand over Hashimi.
What's truly stunning is that multiple reports have surfaced to indicate that the United States has decided that the real long-term problem is Iraqiya and that Washington's solution is to try to split the party and convince the part they see as more "progressive"--along with the Kurdish parties--to join Maliki in a new, majoritarian government that would be somewhat smaller and nimbler than the ridiculously unwieldy national-unity government that the administration foolishly insisted on back in 2010.

There is more to his analysis including running various potential outcomes of the crisis. It does not include any thoughts on influence from other countries (other than the US). But
Hossam Accomok (Al Mada) notes Iraqiya leader Ayada allawi reportedly met with Iran's Ambassador to Iraq (Hassan Danaii) and was accompanied by Ahmed Chalabi. Iraqiya is saying nothing at present about the alleged three hour meeting which may also have included Saleh al-Mutlaq and others. The meeting reportedly covered issues that have resulted in the political crisis. If the meeting did take place, the US government better be paying attention. They've strung Ayad Allawi for so long, promising him that they would mediate and not offered any real mediation, begged him to set aside his claim to prime minister for the good of the country, etc. Iraqiya has spent most of last week and this week denying that there would be any meet-up with Iran (mainly that Allawi was headed to or already in Tehran) but if they are entering into a dialogue, good for them. Maybe they'll get something from Tehran or it will wake up the White House to the fact that they can't string everyone along forever in their rush to protect Nouri.

In another report, Al Mada notes unnamed officials are stating that there is strong polarization in the leadership of Iraiqya -- Allawi, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. These rumors have floated for some time but have, thus far, not resulted in any huge split. In fact, there were angry words exchanged in November 2010 between Allawi and al-Nuajaifi -- when Iraqiya walked out of the Parliament over Nouri's refusal to address the security council and the clearing of the names of Iraqiya members -- over al-Nujaifi's decision to continue the session. That was put aside after its airing. If anyone gets ditched quickly, my guess would be that it would be Saleh al-Mutlaq who could find himself out of a position and would then be quickly whisked out of the country. (If he loses his position, he loses his immunity and Nouri would sue him.) Tareq al-Hashemi might be the more obvious choice were it not for the fact that he has Kurdish support. In fact, Talabani is al-Hashemi's weakest support in that the protection Talabani's offered has come as a result of the demands of other Kurdish officials. Al Rafidayn has a report asserting al-Mutlaq met with Dawa leaders (highest ranking thus far, Dawa's Secretary-General Hashim al-Musawi) about resolving the issues between himself and Nouri. Pollack, in his analysis, feels that Iraqiya's leaders are unlikely to be divided against one another.

Dar Addustour reports that Aiham Alsammarae, former Minister of Electricity and Constitutional expert, is calling for Nouri to step down as prime minister. Alsammarae served as Minister of Electricity from 2003 to 2005 and was the only Minister of Electricity to manage to increase the output of electricity to Iraqis. After he resigned, the output fell and has still not reached the levels of production under his leadership. Dar Addustour doesn't state whether he made the call from Iraq or not. (His family was living in Chicago. I thought they still were -- including him.) Al Mada notes KRG President Massoud Barzani has called the current political crisis the biggest one Iraq has faced since the 2003 invasion. He is calling for the partnership to be honored and stated that the Kurds had attempted to play mediator with no success due to a lack of commitment from other players.

Nouri's actions are said to be harming Iraq's chances on the national stage. In a lenghty examination of Iraq's oil industry, Ben Van Heuvelen (Foreign Policy) offers:

Production has rebounded from just over 1 million barrels per day after the invasion to nearly 3 million today. Baghdad's 11 international oil contracts promise to deliver a total of more than 13 million barrels per day within seven years -- a figure that would make Iraq the largest oil producer, ever.
There are good reasons to doubt these projections. For one thing, the current political crisis has underscored Iraq's failure to build the kinds of institutions -- a credible judiciary, non-politicized security forces -- that support a stable, functioning, democratic state. Even if Iraq weren't plagued by daily bombings and political dysfunction, it would be hard-pressed to achieve what would be the most rapid oil expansion in world history.

Steve Hargreaves (CNNMoney) sees similar problems as well:

For some, it's the increasingly dire political situation that's more problematic than the violence. "The government is slowly fracturing," said Andreas Carleton-Smith, managing director of Middle East operations for Control Risks, a consultancy. "The political risks are far more serious than the security risks." Of course, political risk could lead to serious security risks, especially in a worst-case civil war-type scenario. But political risk can also manifest itself in a crushing bureaucracy, or simply the inability to get something done because the government office that's supposed to approve something no longer exists. This type of situation has also become more common in Iraq. "It's becoming more difficult to work here," said Carleton-Smith.

Still on the issue of oil, Grant Smith (Bloomberg News) reports, "Iraq's legislation doesn't prevent oil companies from signing deals with the central government and with semi-autonomous authorities in the North, as in the case of Exxon Mobil Corp., said Adnan al-Janabi, chairman of the nation's Oil and Energy Committee." Back in October, ExxonMobil signed a deal with the KRG and you may remember Nouri's outrage and his Deputy Prime Minister for Energy's outrage (that's Hussein al-Shahristani) as they insisted that Iraq would consider sanctions, that the contract was illegal and more. And the Minister of Oil Abdul-Kareem Luaibi was insisting that they had demanded a response (repeatedly) from ExxonMobil which had refused to respond. It's not at all surprising that all the bluster, the deal goes through. A puppet like Nouri is installed for a reason, after all.

In other news, Manila's Sun Star reports, "Crisis alert level 3 has been raised Wednesday in Iraq due to 'higher-than-expected' surge in terrorist and sectarian violence in the Western Asia nation, foreign affairs officials said. Under alert level 3, which covers all regions of Iraq except the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, Filipinos who wish to leave Iraq are offered voluntary repatriation at government expense." Gulf News adds, "All of Iraq, except Kurdistan, an autonomous region in the north, near Turkey, was assessed under a high alert level of disorder, said Manila's foreign ministry statement." Despite massive unemployment in Iraq, the country continues to bring in foreign workers for jobs that Iraqi could easily be doing. These are not security contract jobs. They're construction jobs and hospitality industry jobs largely. GMA News notes the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs Sectrary Albert del Rosario:

While nearly 4,000 Filipinos were secured by the US military, the US troop pullout has significantly reduced the number of Filipinos in Iraq and has also resulted in a diminution of their security, the DFA noted.

"In addition, we further believe that there may be undocumented Filipinos working as household service workers and we are, therefore, fully committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all our countrymen in Iraq," Del Rosario said.

On the topic of violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which left six people injured, MP Qais al-Shathir was targeted with a roadside bombing which injured five people (including two of his bodyguards), 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Muqdadiya and, last night, 1 grocer was shot in Buhriz. Reuters tells you that the Iraqi ministries state 350 people were killed last month. They provide no figure to check it with, just parrot what the ministries say. We covered this in yesterday's snapshot and noted nearly 500 were killed in the month of January. Iraq Body Count's total for January is 458. As we noted yesterday, January 2012's count is significantly higher than January 2011's count.

In other news, AFP notes that the Minister of Justice declared Iraq executed 17 people yesterday bringing the total number executed in Iraq this year to 51. 51 so far this year. In a country with a population of less than 28 million.

Last night, there was a community theme: Poetry. Betty offered "Lenore Kandel and others," Trina offered "Cornelius Eady," Ann offered "5 men," Rebecca discussed "a trip uptown," Ruth offered "Nancy Boutilier," Kat provided a critique via "8 Major Young Poets?," Marcia suffered through "take hold!" (bland poetry, if you haven't read her post yet), Stan attempted to give "Damon Runyon" a fair break, Elaine sampled "Baby Toes" while Mike explored poetry in verse and in song with "Robert Duncan, Graffiti6" while Wally & Cedric continued the theme by offering the Florida primary results in poetic verse "THIS JUST IN! RHYME AND REASON!" & "The poetic primary."