Friday, December 18, 2009

Trojans, worms, KHS

Friday!!!! Weekend at last.

Warning: Don't go to CounterCurrents on your computer tonight or on the weekend. There's a worm or something. I was just there and I said, "Hey, it wants to download some protection." C.I. said, "STOP!" and rushed over. She said, "This isn't CounterCurrents" -- it wasn't. It was their address. It's been hijacked. And this 'protection'? C.I. says that's a worm or something that gets on your computer and eats through your memory and destroys everything.

I like CounterCurrents and will visit it again. But right now, stay away from it. They'll probably catch it Monday. If they don't and you visit, the hijacker will immediately try to download something to your computer. Ignore the message. If you click yes or no, it's going to load on your computer. Try clicking the "BACK" key in the left hand top corner. If you have to get rid of that message to get off the page, click on the "x" in the right hand corner of the message. If you say no or agree, it will automatically download the worm.

I was going to link to Danny Schechter but I see he is dogging on Keith Harmon Snow. Not going to play that game, Danny. It was really rude and I don't think Danny has any idea who Keith Harmon Snow is or that KHS has been covering the Congo for some time. This is from his "Belgian Paratroopers to Crush Rising Congo Rebellion?" from earlier this month:

Sources in Kinshasa report that in mid-November President Joseph Kabila secretly airlifted a battalion of Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) across Congo to put down the small rebellion. The operation involved multiple flights in November and was supported by the United Nations Observes Mission in Congo (MONUC) and the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). The RDF forces, moved to Congo from Rwanda exclusively for the operation, were uniformed as FARDC troops.1

Pitched battles involving RDF occurred in past weeks on November 22-24 and November 26-28 in the Dongo region. Along with RDF regulars, MONUC troops from the supposed international ‘peacekeeping’ mission have been fighting alongside Tutsi Rwandan soldiers infiltrated by Rwanda, with the Kabila government’s support, into the national army, the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC).

Equateur Province achieved a relative peace by 2004 and the majority of United Nations Observers Mission to Congo (MONUC) troops pulled out by 2005. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), the humanitarian organization that had worked in Equateur Province from 1992, disregarded their own reports about the state of the health emergency and mortality in Equateur and abandoned the population in 2006.2

On December 2, 2009 the remote strategic airport town of Libenge, near the Central African Republic, fell to the new rebellion, which is expanding and spreading with foreign backing. Towns in Equateur Province have been falling one by one to the rebellion, sending Kinshasa’s elites into a scramble on December 3 and President Kabila into a security panic.

Reading Danny's slam on KHS, I couldn't help but think it had something to do with C.I. who linked to a Congo article by Danny and made clear that he did not agree with someone Danny was slobbering over -- a CIA funded person, most likely. I know C.I. and Elaine pretty well by now (Elaine's my girlfriend) and they have their own language. And what C.I. wrote this week about that asshole that KHS has taken on? Perfectly consistent with the way C.I. or Elaine refer to CIA backed people. It doesn't surprise me that Danny would run with that asshole while sliming KHS. And it should be noted that the asshole Danny was praising is someone that's been called out by more than KHS or C.I. He's been called out repeatedly -- especially in the British press.

But I'll link to KHS. He earns the links because he doesn't rush to tag along. He always tries to cover what no one else will.

And here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, December 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iran may have invaded Iraq and taken over an oil field, or it may not have, opinions continue to come in on the Iraq Inquiry, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, it's a bad week for Tom Hayden who finds little to clip and paste into his scrapbook, and more.

Today on NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show -- after the unplanned bluegrass moment (for approximatly five minutes of the show "Some Morning Soon" is playing over the guests during today's show) -- Iraq was noted by Diane and her guests Youchi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and Farah Stockman (Boston Globe)..

Diane Rehm: Youchi Dreazen of the Wall St. Journal and you're listening to
The Diane Rehm Show and, Youchi, tell us about this software breach involving US drones in Iraq.

Youchi Dreazen: Yeah, what it is is that that the video feeds from the drones that are used and, frankly, from other aircraft as well but particularly the drones, the video feeds are not encrypted. Which means that if you're an insurgent nearby and you have a laptop and you have -- one of the programs you can use is called
SkyGrabber which costs about $26 and you can download it off the web, you could then watch in real time and download and store the feeds of any Predator nearby which is significant for two reasons. One, the US often uses Predators over its own forces so that if there's a US operation, they have Predators overhead, so somebody who's watching that feed could be able to see our personnel. It's also significant because it shows somebody watching what we're looking for -- so Predators would be over a given highway, a given series of buildings, a lot of them are used along the Iraq-Iran border to try to cut down on weapon smuggling from Iran and this would show somebody watching those feeds theoretically what's being watched, when we're watching it, etc. What's somehow more surprising is that this has been known about for so long. It's been talked about in the Pentagon for so long and no one's done anything about it. This was an issue in Bosnia. And we reported today that in 2004 there was a concern about -- in 2004, it wasn't insurgents intercepting it, it was what if Russia and China basically use a James Cameron-style special effect so that somebody's watching a drone feed, they don't see anything and suddenly there's a tank? Or they do see something, but it's not actually there? So this has been known about, it's been discussed but no action's been taken --

Diane Rehm: Tom?

Youchi Dreazen: -- at least until now.

Tom Gjelten: Well, Diane, this is a really important story and we should point out that
Youchi and his Wall St. Journal colleagues [Sibohan Gorman and August Cole] broke this story this week so, you know, credit where it's due. I think one of the complicating factors here is that ground troops, soldiers and marines are increasingly make use of use from drones and other-other aircraft. Now a lot of the time the troops on the ground don't have as high technology available to them, you know, as the drone operators do. So you have more simplified technology on the ground trying to make use of these feeds and the feeds are providing extremely important information to them to help chart their ground operations but the technology has to be to oversimplify it, it has to be simplified for the ground troops to make use of it. They may not have the decryption technology that is necessary so you can't have really highly encrypted signals coming from above if the soldiers and marines on the ground don't have the technology to decode it. That's one of the issues that complicates the solution of this problem.

Diane Rehm: So somebody got hold of this. What use was made of the information?

Youchi Dreazen: That's the open question. I mean, the way that this was discovered was a sort of interesting, cloak and dagger kind of case where US troops arrested a Shi'ite militant, took his laptop and started going through it and on the laptop found video files. Then, in July, arrested other militants elsewhere in Iraq, actually from another group as it turned out, went through their laptops and found an even wider array of drone video files so this is kind of interesting sort of spy versus spy, this power was discovered.The military continues to insist that no missions were compromised, nobody was hurt. In fairness, it's a hard thing to prove, one way or another, but that has been -- the military has been adament from the beginning till now that, yes, these were intercepted, yes, they could be used but they didn't see any evidence so far that they had been used.

Diane Rehm: How embarrassing is this, Tom?

Tom Gjelten: Well it is embarrassing and it's all the more embarrassing because it's coming at a time when this administration is really proposing a much broader uh use of these drone aircraft, the Predators in particular. I mean, yesterday -- between yesterday and today, there were ten drone strikes in Pakistan. Now I think that's the most in any two day period in a long, long time. And this fits into the broader counter-terrorism strategy that this administration is proposing for Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, you know, to-to-to highlight the vulnerability of this approach at the very time when you're really proposing an expansion of this approach is, as you say, embarrassing.

Diane Rehm: Farah?

Farah Stockman: It also just shows that these insurgents are a lot more technology savy than anybody ever imagined they would be and I think that's the -- that's the new world we're living in.

NPR sidebar: Today on NPR's Fresh Air
Nellie McKay was a guest. Fresh Air is played on various NPR stations during the day and some NPR stations repeat that day's broadcast also at night and, in addition, the segment can be streamed online. Her new album is Normal As Blueberry Pie and this is a plug for Nellie because she stood up to all kinds of pressure in 2008 when she supported Ralph Nader. It took guts and, along with huge artistic talents, she has tremendous strength. Much more so than Ralph's 2000 'friends' who showed what cowards they really were. Excuse me, cowards and bullies since so many of them not only refused to stand with Ralph but actively tore down others who did. I voted for Ralph or Cynthia McKinney (I'm not saying which -- now or ever -- nor is Ava saying which she voted for). Either was a strong vote. This community endorsed Ralph. When Oklahoma members discovered they only had the choice of voting for War Hawk Barack or War Hawk John McCain, they went with with McCain because they knew there would be a strong push back on each of McCain's War Crimes as opposed to the limp response offerd by so much of the 'left' for Barack's. John R. MacArthur (Harper's magazine) notes the limp response from Frank Rich (a bad 'drama' 'critic' trying to masquerade as a 'thinker'), Hendrick Hertzberg, and others. We'll note his section on Tom-Tom Hayden:

Then there's Tom Hayden, the former radical and author of the Students for A Democratic Society's Port Huron Statement, who was a belligerent booster of Obama during last year's campaign. Hayden, too, is upset about Afghanistan, but not enough to cast aside his self-delusion about Obama. Claiming to speak for "the antiwar movement," he laments that the "costs in human lives and tax dollars are simply unsustainable" and, worse, that "Obama is squandering any hope for his progressive domestic agenda by this tragic escalation of the war."
Unsustainable? Tragic? There's no evidence that Obama and his chief of staff see any limit to their ability to print dollars, sell Treasury bonds and send working-class kids to die in distant lands. And what "progressive" agenda is Hayden talking about? So far, Obama's big domestic goals have been compulsory, government-subsidized insurance policies that will further enrich the private health-care business, huge increases in Pentagon spending and purely symbolic regulation of Wall Street.
While Obama was speaking to the unfortunate cadets, I couldn't help thinking of Richard Nixon and his "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War, a plan that entailed a long and pointless continuation of the fighting. Most liberals would agree that Nixon was a terrible president. Yet, for all his vicious mendacity, I think the sage of San Clemente had a bad conscience about the harm he did, about all he caused to die and be crippled.
Instead of shoring up Obama's image of goodness, liberals really should be asking, "Does the president have a conscience?" Because if he does, he's really no better than Nixon.

I always knew Tom-Tom would spend his faded years as Tricky Dick's mistress. Also noting Tom-Tom, is
Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report -- link has text and audio) who explains Tommy and Bill Fletcher's organization "Progressives For Barack" has -- like Blackwater -- became an embarrassment so -- like Blackwater -- Tommy and Billy are trying for a clean slate by changing the organization's name to "Progressives For America":

The left-wing Obamites were the nastiest of all. They viciously libeled anyone that advanced a Left critique of their hero, calling them enemies of a new "people's movement," when in fact it was they who were shutting the movement down in favor of a fan club and cheering section for Obama. Amiri Baraka spit poison at all who failed to pledge allegiance to the Great Obama, calling us infantile ultra-leftists and just plain "rascals." Bill Fletcher and Tom Hayden stuck with Obama like little sorcerer's apprentices as the president methodically savaged virtually every item on the progressive agenda. What else could they do? To break with Obama would amount to an admission that they were wrong about the progressive "potential" of their candidate; that he had always been a thoroughly corporate politician who would lurch to the Right as soon as he took office; and that, by failing to criticize Obama early in the campaign, they were guaranteeing that he would disrespect and ignore Blacks and progressives, once in office.
Tom Hayden now declares it's finally "time to strip the Obama sticker" off his car. Well, whoopee. Back in the day, Hayden would have been expected to engage in some serious self-criticism for misleading so many people about Obama. The same goes for Bill Fletcher, who appeared on a
Pacifica radio show last week sounding like he'd never been an Obama fan. Fletcher said it was inappropriate for the Nobel committee to award Obama the Peace Prize when the president had done nothing to cause a "fundamental shift" in U.S. foreign policy. You can't influence a president of the United States to do the right thing, Fletcher said, by giving him awards in hopes that he will earn them. But that's exactly what Fletcher and his fellow Obama fanatics tried to pull off when they endorsed candidate Obama on a wish and a prayer when there was no reason to believe he would undertake any "fundamental shift" in U.S. foreign or domestic policy. As a result, the Left played no role whatsoever in the 2008 election. They just blew kisses at Obama, hoping he'd kiss them back after the inauguration.

Actually, it was worse than that. Throughout 2008, Barack repeatedly HIT the left and the response was to get starry-eyed and sing, "He hit me and it felt like a kiss." Especially true of Tom Hayden who was repeatedly used by Barack as a public punching bag (not limited to but including the sneer at "
Tom Hayden Democrats"). As we noted January 1, 2009: "That sort of behavior is a sickness. 2008 saw that sickness over and over as Barack repeatedly tossed population segments under the bus, repeatedly caved and sold out and was never, ever held accountable. But, hey!, he might have a liaison to the 'progressive' community! [. . .] Likewise, the Barack groupies will have to grow up at some point. Whether they do so in 2009 or after he's on his way out of office will determine whether the people force the change they need or spend the next years cheerleading blindly out of fear that they might hurt their Dream Lover. "

People need to get real. That includes grasping that a "draw-down" is what's promised in 2010, not a "withdrawal" from Iraq. Admiral Mike Mullens spoke of the "draw-down" today and yet notice all the sloppy so-called journalists calling it a "withdrawal." There is no talk of an Iraq withdrawal in 2010. The White House has been very clear that they plan a draw-down for 2010. Whether that will come to be, the world will have to wait and see. But a draw-down is not a withdrawal -- unless you're an ignorant fool.

A real demand for withdrawal -- not draw-down -- is in the news. Iraq's requesting that Iran withdraw.
Caroline Alexander and Margot Habiby (Bloomberg News) report, "Iraq's National Security Council said today that Iran violated their shared border and Iraq's 'territorial integrity' and called on the Islamic republic to withdraw its forces from the region." Timothy Williams and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) add, "The Iraqi government said Friday that Iranian troops had crossed the border and occupied a portion of an oil field situated on disputed land between the two countries, but Iranian officials immediately and vehemently disputed the account." Dow Jones Newswires states they were told that by a Missan Oil Compnay official that "Iranian forces took hold of an Iraqi well in a disputed section of the border after opening fire against Iraqi oil workers"; however, the official tells Dow Jones this action took place "two weeks ago." Suadad al-Salhy, Missy Ryan and Ralph Boulton (Reuters) quote Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji, Deputy Interior Minister, stating, "At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian [soldiers] infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there until this moment." Gulf Daily News adds, "Officials have summoned Tehran's envoy in Iraq to discuss the matter, he said. Iraqi officials said the soldiers crossed into Iraqi territory yesterday and raised the Iranian flag at Fakka." Mosab Jasim (Al Jazeera) states, "The Iraqi president called for an emergency session to discuss what they describe as a violation from Iran, but nothing came out of the meeting and whatever actions they are going to take are still not clear." The President of Iraq is Jalal Talabani. However, the report indicates Jasim was referring to Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) offers this context, "Reports of the incident aggravated long-standing tensions between the countries, which fought a 1980-88 war that claimed as many as a million lives. Although Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government and Shiite Iran have grown closer since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ousted Iraq's Sunni Muslim dictator, Saddam Hussein, border issues remain thorny, with sporadic posturing from both sides." If it's been seized, what's been seized? Alice Fordham (Times of London) explains, "The well is one of several in the Fakka oil field, which was part of a group offered to foreign investors in June, but no contract was awarded." She also notes that Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani went on state television to insist, "Iraq will not give up its oil wealth" today. Adam Arnold (Sky News) offers US military reaction: "A spokesman for the US military confirmed the soldiers had taken control of the oil well but added it was in 'disputed territory' near the border and happened fairly frequently. 'There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran,' he said." While that source is unnamed US Col Peter Newell is on the record offering Arnold context. What really happened? Who knows? It will slowly emerge over the weekend, most likely. What is known is that the talk/rumors/incident had one result. Nick Godt (MarketWatch) reports that the rumors led to an initial rise in the price of oil per barrel today.

On the subject of oil, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding US interests. We'll leave out the partisans on the right (to avoid mocking anyone) and instead note that the same talking point
Jim Jubak (MoneyShow) which is boiled down to: The US is shut out of Iraq oil money. (A number of right-wingers are expanding and stating, "See the war wasn't about oil." Oil was part of it, oil wasn't the only thing.) Jubak laments America's lack of success in winning Iraq oil fields and points to "Royal Dutch Shell" and its success. Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean? "Royal Dutch Shell"? We think the Dutch are the only ones raking it in at Shell? Check their board of directors. 14 members of the board, 5 are British, 1 is American (Lawrence Ricciardi). 'Foreign company'? In this day and age are we that stupid? It's not "nationals," it's multi-nationals today. Jubank also notes Total's success. Total bills itself as "the fifth largest publicly-traded integrated international oil and gas company in the world" -- international. And we're not even looking at major shareholders in these companies. Again, these are "multi-nationals." That's the key word and this silly nonsense that some on the right are offering is nonsense. WQhat is British Petroleum (another winning bid)? Those not in the know would think, "State owned company in the United Kingdom." Uh, no, kids. BP was privatized sometime ago. And it absorged Standard Oil and Amoco. US companies. It's an international congolomerate, a multi-national at this point. George David sits on BP's board. George David is an American citizen. I'm not sure whether the right-wingers are that stupid or if they think we are but this idea that the US is shut out from the oil fields demonstrates (at best) a highly simplistic view of today's economic playing field and (at worst) a desire to knowingly deceive the public.

In Iraqi political news,
UPI reports that Ammar al-Hakim (head of the political party the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council) was in Damascus today meeting with Syrian President Bashar Asaad with al-Hakim expressin "his appreciation for Syria's support for Iraq as it emerges from years of war." The trip might be to make Ammar al-Hakim look more like a stately world player ahead of the elections and it may be to draw a line between himself and Nouri al-Maliki. It may be any number of things but it is hard not to read as al-Hakim thumbing his nose at Nouri since Nouri has repeatedly blamed Syria for the bi-monthly Baghdad bombings beginning in August. Iraqi elections may take place in March. US Staff Sgt Natalie Hedrick writes at the US Army website that, "With the Iraqi national elections approaching, U.S. Soldiers are preparing to support the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police while remaining in the background."

Turning to violence.
Tuesday two Christian churches were targeted with bombs in Mosul. Asia News reports that since then Zeid Majid Youssef has been murdered in a Mosul drive-by and that 1 of the men who murdered him "got out of the car to make sure he was dead". They note, "Speaking with AsiaNews Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, had slammed what was happening as the national government and the local governatorate proved unable to stop events, and the city's various ethnic groups, Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen, with possible foreign involvement, blamed each other." Alice Fordham (Times of London) also reports on the recent cases of Iraqi Christians again being targeted:

Last week 100 Christian leaders and politicians of all religions held an emergency meeting just before fresh violence broke out in the northern city of Mosul, with attacks on churches and Christian schools. On Tuesday a baby was killed and 40 people, including schoolchildren, were injured in three simultaneous bombings. Two days ago a Christian man was shot dead as he travelled to work.
"It is terrible," said Fadi, 26, an electricity worker from Mosul who asked that his real name not be used. "Most of the Christians are staying at home, or when they go out they watch their backs." In late 2008, killings of Christians in Mosul by insurgent groups left 40 dead and 12,000 fleeing their homes. Fadi reeled off a string of recent, smaller-scale attacks against Christians, fearful that the same level of violence would return.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) drops back to yesterday afternoon and night to report a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four people injured, a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left ten people wounded and a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three police officers wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports water department employee Mohammed Abdullah was shot dead in Sulaimaniyah today.

In London yesterday, the
Iraq Inquiry concluded their public hearings for this year. They will resume public hearings next month. A number of commentators are weighing in on the Inquiry but before we get to that, we'll first note a section of yesterday's hearing. The committee, chaired by John Chilcot, heard from Jim Drummond, Martin Dinham and Stephen Pickford (link has video and transcript options).

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: I would like to turn to the question of funding and, of course, the United States was investing huge sums in the reconstruction of Iraq. The scale of the task as it appeared to you, it appeared to the UK, involved an attempt to drum up support from other donors, and this was led or went through the Madrid donors conference in October 2003. Can you explain to us -- both Mr Pickford and Mr Drummond really -- what were the obstacles to securing greater donor support for Iraq, and as a corollary to that, what impact did the then deteroiorating situation have on the attempt to obtain greater funds, greater support?

Jim Drummond: I think it had always been assumed that the World Bank and the UN would play a big role in the reconstruction of Iraq, and the UN and the World Bank did a joint needs assessment from July/August/September, so that a report was ready for the Madrid donors conference. It had a price tag on it of $55 billion, which is --

Stephen Pickford: I think the UN/World Bank one was 36 and then there was an extra 20 from the CPA, was my understanding.

Jim Drummond: All right. Anyway, a very large sum -- which they presented to the donors in Madrid. DFID and Hilary Benn in particular played a big role in trying to drum up support from the others. I think the fact that the World Bank and the UN had done this made it easier. This wasn't just a US/UK number coming up. It made it easier to get extra support. We were worried initially that we wouldn't be successful. In the end the pledges, I think, on the day added up to about $32 billion, and there were a few more that followed after that. So in terms of money put on the table, that was successful. The UK pledge was getting on for $1 billion, the US pledge was I think $18 billion. So that sort of gives you an idea of the scale of relative contribution. The security situation did play a very big part in how fast people could disperse. We ended up with relatively few donors with a presence in Iraq. As Stephen said, the World Bank and the UN -- the UN had local staff who were -- remained active, but the World Bank and the IMF essentially pulled out. There were relatively few donor experts from other countries and so the main contribution was -- in terms of expertise was certainly the US and the UK. That's quite a constraint actually, if you have got large numbers of countries pledging money but then not having any expertise on the ground to spend it. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to establish this trust fund mechanism managed by the World Bank and the UN. Just while I'm talking about that, I think yesterday you were told -- the day before -- by General Rollo that the UK contributed $300 million to a UN trust fund. The UN -- the UK contributed 30 million pounds to the UN trust fund and 40 million pounds to the World Bank trust fund.

Chair John Chilcot: Thank you for the correction.

So that's one section of the hearing yesterday. Reflecting on the Inquiry?
Peter Biles (BBC) feels, "This will be remembered as the week when the Iraq Inquiry went 'private' for the first time since the public hearings began in November." He's referring to this week when the decision was made to redact Jeremy Greenstock's testimony. He states, "The committee chairman, Sir John Chilcot, had taken advantage of the one minute delay on the broadcast to prevent some of Sir Jeremy's words being revealed. Three lines on page 68 of the Iraq Inquiry's official transcript were subsequently blacked out." (We covered that in Tuesday's snapshot, FYI.) Meanwhile, Chilcot's lengthy self-note (see yesterday's snapshot) is the focus for Chris Ames (Guardian):

inquiry's press chief doesn't want yesterday's statement by Chilcot, given at the end of the first batch of hearings, to be seen as a fightback against the very strong criticism it has endured. Fightbacks are seen as giving hostages to fortune and destined to backfire. But there has been a spin campaign this week, based on the line that the inquiry will be tougher when the big decision-makers appear in the second week of the New Year.
Chilcot made clear that Blair will appear in a public session, although he didn't rule out that the former prime minister would also have a secret session. But will the questioning be more rooted in documentary evidence, as Chilcot has promised? Can we expect, for example, to see Blair questioned about the
memo written by his foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning, which allegedly records that in January 2003 he and George Bush had made up their minds to invade Iraq whatever the intelligence and whatever happened at the UN?

Trina hit on similar points last night noting "that John Chilcot feels challenged, feels his integrity (as well as that of the committee's) is being questioned." The New Statesman has a folder here for all their Iraq Inquiry coverage. [And John Lennon fans and friends (who isn't one?) click here for an excerpt of a 1968 interview.] Michael Savage (Belfast Telegraph) offers this evaluation of the public hearings held thus far by the Inquiry:One theme has emerged above all others. "This time, in contrast to previous inquiries, where it becomes essential, they are prepared to leave Blair in the firing line," said Brian Jones, a former Ministry of Defence intelligence analyst. It is not just disgruntled civil servants or under-resourced military chiefs hitting back, either. Even former advisers have left the inquiry ensuring that Mr Blair has more awkward questions to answer. While the former head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, told the committee that Mr Blair had been made aware of last-minute intelligence that Saddam Hussein's weapons had been dismantled, his personal adviser also weighed in this week. Sir John Sawers, foreign affairs adviser to the former Prime Minister, said he did not share Mr Blair's confidence that invading had been the right decision. "Frankly, had we known the scale of the violence, it might well have led to second thoughts about the entire project," he said. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who served as a special representative in Baghdad, added that Mr Blair had told him to make improving the media image of the situation in Iraq a priority, and accused him of giving him an unrealistic target for training Iraqi police.
Frances Gibb (Times of London) notes concerns that the lack of lawyers on the committee could prevent a truthful picture from emerging in the Inquiry and quotes Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve stating, "Having waited so long for an inquiry into Iraq, it is vital that we learn the whole truth. It is surprising that the inquiry is not benefiting from the probing questioning that an experienced lawyer would provide, particularly when it comes to taking evidence from the witnesses and experts involved"

Book notes.
Yesterday, I noted: "Last month, AK Press released The Battle of the Story of The Battle Of Seattle by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. We did a book discussion about it at Third. It's a strong book and an important one. A good holiday present if you're looking for ideas. With Aimee Allison, David Solnit authored the must read and community favorite Army Of None. His sister Rebecca Solnit is known for her own numerous writings as well as for her work with Courage to Resist." December 8th, Ann noted the book and I should have included that. My apologies to Ann (who will say it's no big deal but I think it is).

TV notes. Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings),
NOW on PBS asks: "Can a breakthrough health care innovation in Rwanda work in the U.S.?"In rural Rwanda, the simple and time-tested idea of medical house callsis not only improving the health of the community, but stimulating itseconomy as well. On Friday, December 18 at 8:30 pm (check locallistings), NOW travels to the village of Rwinkwavu to meet the Rwandandoctors, nurses and villagers who are teaming up with Boston-basedPartners in Health and the Rwandan government to deliver medicine andmedical counseling door-to-door. Would such an innovation work inAmerica? In the capital of Kigali, NOW's David Brancaccio sits down with RwandanPresident Paul Kagame to talk about international aid and Kagame'sultimate vision for a healthy, financially-independent Rwanda.
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Charles Babington (AP), Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), John Dickerson (Slate) and Greg Ip (Economist). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Nicole Kurokawa, Patricia Sosa, Genevieve Wood and controversial stand-up comic Kim Gandy (new book: It's Okay To Fail Women -- And Liberating Too! -- They're Just Icky Girls With Cooties) to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Long RecessionScott Pelley returns to Wilmington, Ohio, to see how residents are coping a year after thousands of them lost their jobs when the town's largest employer shut down.
The PatriarchEcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the 300 million-member Orthodox Christian Church, feels "crucified" living in Turkey under a government he says would like to see his nearly 2,000-year-old Patriarchate die out. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video
Alec BaldwinMorley Safer profiles the versatile actor, who talks candidly about his career and his personal life - including his very public divorce and custody battle
60 Minutes, Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

We'll close with this from "
Elaine Brower to Army Recruiters: 'We Will be Your Worst Nightmare'" (World Can't Wait): I was sitting there in the back office, and then stated "I would like you to know that I am a member of a national organization called 'Military Families Speak Out' and it has about 4,000 members who all have loved ones who are serving or served in Iraq and Afghanistan. We oppose the wars vehemently and are doing everything in our power to stop them." I thought they would choke on their food at that point. Then I proceeded to say, "Since I work right here, I, along with hundreds of my activist friends, will be your worst nightmare!" As you could hear a pin drop and confusion spread all over their faces, I continued. "I am so against what you are doing. You strategically placed this recruiting center so that kids who are either coming out of high school with nowhere to go, or those who graduate college in lots of debt and no jobs because of the economy are enticed to join the military." "You are taking full advantage of the bad economy and sending more of our youth off to die and kill for illegal, immoral and illegitimate wars. You should be ashamed of yourselves and I don't know how you sleep at night." I stood up, took a button off my handbag that I received while protesting at West Point. I said, "This button is for you." I slammed it on the desk. "I got it when I was protesting at West Point when Obama was giving his "escalation speech." It demands all troops home now, you can keep it as a reminder."

nprthe diane rehm show
the wall st. journalsibohan gormanyochi j. dreazenaugust cole
john r. macarthur
glen fordblack agenda report
caroline alexanderbloomberg news
the new york timestimothy williamseric schmitt
mcclatchy newspapershannah allam
sahar issa
alice fordham
chris ames
the belfast telegraphmichael savagethe new statesmanthe times of londonfrances gibb
60 minutescbs newspbsnow on pbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
david solnitaimee allisoncourage to resist

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The political jokes (Edwards and 'health reform')

Thursday! One day until the weekend! Hang in there and we'll make it.

Unless you're John Edwards. Radar has the child support court filings. Edwards should have gotten honest along time ago and certainly by the time he was speaking in public about his affair, he should have admitted the child was his. And I saw the Radar story because Ben Smith noted it at Politico.

Now for more political humor, Kenneth P. Vogel (Politico) reports:

The foot soldiers of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, organized to go into action when key elements of his agenda are at stake, aren’t universally enthusiastic about fighting for the health care compromise now before the Senate.
On Wednesday morning,
Organizing for America, as Obama’s reconstituted campaign organization is now known, emailed its list of 13 million Obama supporters asking them to “call your senators now and help us ‘ring in reform.’”
The campaign yielded 150,000 calls – less than half the number of a similar effort in October – and it prompted a backlash among online and local activists who had logged countless volunteer supporting Obama’s campaign and legislative agenda, but who felt betrayed by
recent Democratic concessions in the healthcare reform fight.

Ha! Ha! And it's more than 13 million. Barack's been recruiting for phone numbers for the last three weeks. So it's over 13 million.

And they didn't respond to his call for help.

Because his plan doesn't help the people. It helps the drug companies and the insurance companies. It just screws over everyone else.

And it's a non-starter.

The only thing -- I'm in college -- that would have inspired young people is universal, single-payer health care. This nonsense that Barack's proposed? Even his supporters on campus think it's s**t.

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry decides it's all about them, the US House prepares to give even more money to the Pentagon,

Starting with War Hawk Tony Blair, former prime minister of England and lapdog to George W. Bush.
Neil Clark (First Post via Information Clearing House) notes that the Blair War Crimes Foundation has "an online petition addressed to the President of the UN General Assembly and the UK Attorney General, which lists 14 specific complaints relating to the Iraq war, including 'deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war' and violations of the Geneva Conventions by the occupying powers." Tony Blair is set to testify next year to the Iraq Inquiry in London. Today at the Iraq Inquiry, Chair John Chilcot declared will be in public. At the end of the hearing, he declared:

Evidence will only be heard in private in the narrow circumstances we have set out in the published protocols on our website. But I would like to be absolutely clear about this: eveidence sessions with key decision makers, including the former Prime Minister, will be in public. They will be openly questioned about the big issues that they were involved in.

Will come back to today's hearing in a minute. Of the remarks made by Tony Blair over the weekend that he would have found another rationale for the Iraq War if WMD hadn't been handy,
Mick Hume (Spiked) offers the opinion that people are missing the point:

Today the obsession with the tired arguments about Iraq's imaginary nuclear arsenal is also distracting attention from the bigger political questions about the war. Yes, we all know now there were no WMD, it seems the authorities knew it before they invaded Iraq, and many of us had firm suspicions about all that for years beforehand. So, why did Blair and New Labour take Britain to war?
There are two bigger issues here that should be examined, which have little or nothing to do with WMD, or indeed with events in Iraq. The first is about old-fashioned great power realpolitik -- the importance of the US-UK alliance to the British state. The second concerns a more contemporary problem: the domestic crisis of authority facing the British elite.
The role that Britain's relationship with America played in drawing the UK into the invasion has been raised around the Iraq inquiry, but only in terms of what one former official described as Blair's 'sycophancy' towards President George W Bush's administration. The New Labour leader may well have loved the limelight on the White House lawn. But the fact is that any UK prime minister from any establishment party would have found it hard not to sign up for the Iraq War.
Standing alongside America in such conflicts is about more than being Washington's 'poodle'. It is the one chance Whitehall still has of looking like a British bulldog on the world stage. Being a nuclear power with the military force to play a part in great power politics is what still gives the British government a place at the top table of world affairs. That is why, for all the talk of how Gordon Brown would pursue a very different policy towards America from the 'sycophant' Blair, Brown is now the main European cheerleader and lieutenant for President Obama's Afghan adventure. It will take a more courageous political class than this to face up to the truth about Britain's place in the world.

Another opinion is expressed by Aijaz Zaka Syed (Arab News): "Blair and Bush told us this war had been absolutely critical to the security and stability of the "civilized world." Just like the morally bankrupt politicians before them did, they told us the war was necessary for peace! Even when the whole world stood up against the war, from Americas to Asia, the coalition stuck to its guns, insisting the war on Iraq -- already on the brink after two major wars and years of devastating Western sanctions -- was essential to rid the world of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction! And now Blair turns around to tell us WMD or no WMD, the Coalition of the Willing would have invaded Iraq anyway. Ironically though, in doing so, the man who has turned the old-fashioned deceit and lying into a refined art, may be telling the truth for a change! In a now infamous interview with BBC's Fern Britton, Blair gloated: 'I would still have thought it right to remove him (Saddam). I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat'." Sian Ruddick (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reminds, "It is against international law to attack a country on the basis of regime change."

Binoy Kampmark (CounterPunch) focuses on the Inquiry members themselves, "The body reeks of musty establishment. [Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken] Macdonald is quite right to note the less than taxing nature of the proceedings so far. Questioning has been 'unchallenging' and the chair, Sir John Chilcot, has done nothing to suggest that things might change in 2010." Media Lens (via Dissident Voice) has a similar conclusion, "In short, Brown's selection of the Chilcot inquiry committee was one more establishment insult to the British people and to our victims attempting to survive in the wreckage of Iraq. It was one more gesture of contempt for compassion, truth and democracy." Of what the Inquiry has seen during public testimony, Adrian Hamilton (Independent of London) offers: "Senior officials from the Foreign Office turned up before Chilcot to whine about how they were kept out of the loop of Blair's planning, with the implication that somehow it might all have been different if they had been brought in. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our representative to the UN before the invasion and in Baghdad after, even declared that he was prepared to resign if another UN resolution went against us. Prepared to resign? Anyone who has ever worked in an organisation knows that the threat of future resignation isn't worth the paper it isn't written on." Chris Ames (at Iraq Inquiry Digest) looks at some of the press on the inquiry:To get the headline issues out of the way first, the Daily Mail and others focus on witnesses' doubts about whether the human cost of the war was justified by the outcome, the Independent and Mirror look at Sir John Sawers' admission that Britain had some advance knowledge of problems at Abu Ghraib and the BBC covers both issues, as well as pointing out that:"Panel member Sir Roderic remarked that [Lt Gen Sir Robert Fry] was the first witness to suggest that the UK's contribution was 'critical' to winning the war."The BBC's Peter Biles also says that:"With the steady accumulation of evidence over the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable and welcome change of tone at the inquiry."Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman) offers this take on Sawers, "So, according to the head of MI6 - who also happens to be a former foreign-affairs adviser to Tony Blair - it was not 'reasonable' to assume the violence should have been foreseen and that only President Mubarak of Egypt predicted the manner in which the invasion of Iraq would exacerbate the threat of al-Qaeda-related terrorism, inside and outside Iraq. Is he lying, suffering from amnesia or just plain ignorant? It must be one of the three because I can assure Sir John that countless intelligence reports, terrorism experts, diplomats, politicians and pundits, at home and abroad, warned that invading Iraq wouldn't be the 'cakewalk' predicted by the neocons and that it would only radicalise Muslims across the globe, destabilise the country and the region and provide new opportunities for jihadists to attack western troops on a Muslim battlefield." Sawers' testimony isn't the only one being loudly questioned. From yesterday's snapshot:In addition to Sawers possible problems noted earlier by Sparrow and Ames, the Belfast Telegraph states that another witness, also with M16 at one point (Sawers is the current head of M16) has problems: John Scarlett. They note his claim that the assertion of Iraq being able to attack England "within 45 minutes" was both "reliable and authoritative" is refuted by Brian Jones ("senior WMD analyst"): "Dr Jones, who was head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff in the run-up to the invasion, said that it was 'absolutely clear' the intelligence the Government relied upon was coming from untried sources. The 45-minute claim was one of the key assertions that convinced MPs to take Britian to war."Today Michael Savage (Independent of London) reports:The Iraq inquiry committee has come under pressure to recall Britain's former spy chief to give further public evidence after allegations that he misled them over Saddam Hussein's ability to use weapons of mass destruction. Sir John Scarlett, who oversaw the drafting of the government's controversial 2002 dossier outlining the case for invading Iraq, had claimed that intelligence indicating that Iraq could launch missiles within 45 minutes was "reliable and authoritative". But Dr Brian Jones, the most senior WMD analyst who saw the original intelligence, told The Independent that it was vague, inconclusive and unreliable.

And those sort of opinions -- which are held by a great many -- may be why today's hearing seemed to be less about the witnesses and more about the Inquiry itself.
Jim Drummond, Martin Dinham and Stephen Pickford appeared before the committee (link goes to transcript and video options -- unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the transcript). Today Chilcot announced that the hearing would draw to a close . . . and then went on to speak and speak in a defensive manner (including the already quoted section about Blair testifying in public). On and on he spoke. "With that I will draw this session to a close" appears at the bottom of page 113. And then launches into a defensive ramble that finally ends at the bottom of page 118. "We have . . ." "We expect . . ." "We will . . ." Criticism appears to be getting to Chilcot (that's a good thing). Let's hear a bit of the defensive posturing:

Chair John Chilcot: In the hearings so far, a huge amount of valuable and illuminating evidence has been uncovered, and that's why we approach the opening phase of hearings in the way we did. We have not been trying to ambush witnesses or score points. This is a serious Inquiry and we are not hear to provide public sport or entertainment. The whole point of our approach has been to get to the facts. We have been asking fair questions and have been expecting, and getting, full and truthful answers. That is the essence of a formal public inquiry and witness[es] have responded to this approach by being commendably open and candida, highlighting a number of issues which we shall examine much more closely as the Inquiry continues. Our model of questioning and our selection of witnesses in the hearing up until 11 January is designed to help to establish the narrative. We took a conscious decision to do this through the oral hearings rather than through the publication of a mass of documentary material because we believe that this is the most helpful way to provide the necessary context. We have, therefore, not yet made any requests to government to declassify documents to allow them to be published. As we move into the next phase of evidence taking, where we will hear from ministers and the most senior civil servants and military officers, the Inquiry will increasingly wish and need to draw on government documents and records which are currently classified, in some cases highly classified, in its questioning.

Chilcot's salutation, or 'ring off,' came as the Iraq Inquiry rested for the rest of the year. They will next reconvene January 5th in the new year. When that happens, they might try pursuing a list of questions
Michael Evans (Times of London) has proposed including: "Why was no action taken when intelligence arrived in March 2003 -- just before the invasion -- that Saddam's chemical weapons had been disassembled?" We may go over today's hearing in tomorrow's snapshot but the big point today was Chilcott's need to offer a lengthy defense of the inquiry he is chairing.

In other news,
Andy Sullivan (Reuters) reports that yesterday in the United States, the House of Representatives signed off on a $636 billion military spending bill (395 members voted for it, 34 against it). The huge figure only covers operations through the end of the 2010 fiscal year (September 30, 2010) and doesn't include the monies US President Barack Obama will need for his Afghanistan 'surge.' Today the Center For Arms Control and Non-Proliferation breaks down the bill that $497.7 billion of that is just Dept of Defense "base" spending and not to fund the "military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan." The analysis by Christopher Hellman shows that weapons and gadgets rank third on the funding (under "Procurement" with $105.2 billion) and they include such big ticket items as F/A-22 "Raptor" Fighter, C-130J Transport Aircraft, Joint Cargo Aircraft and C-17 Trasnport. $1.6 billion is budgeted for EA-18G Jamming Aircraft. Jamming aircraft?

All that money goes to waste if the military doesn't even understand the importance of encrypting.
Mike Mount and Elaine Quijano (CNN -- link has text and video) report an "unamed" US Official has told them that 'insurgents' have been able to monitor the live streaming feeds the Predator drones flying over Iraq have been sending to the US military. The story was first reported this morning by the Wall St. Journal's Sibohan Gorman, Yochi J. Dreazen and August Cole who noted, "Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes' systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber -- available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet -- to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter." Brett Israel (Discover Magazine) blogs, "The Defense Department has responded by saying they discovered the vulnerability a year ago, and are working to encrypt all drone communications links in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. However, there are at least 600 unmanned vehicles and thousands of ground stations to upgrade, so the security improvement will not happen overnight. However, officials say they have made technical adjustments to systems in key threat areas to block the signal interception." Chris Gaylord (Christian Science Monitor) provides the walk through: "The setup requires a PC, satellite dish, satellite modem, and software such as SkyGrabber, which was developed by the Russian firm SkySoftware. Because of Iraq and Afghanistan's rough terrain, military officials cannot assume the Predators will have a clean, line-of-sight connection with the bases that send them orders. To work around the problem, the drones switch to satellite linkups. However, unlike credit card payments and cellphone calls, this military satellite data is not encrypted." Ewen MacAskill (Guardian) offers, "The US air force is responsible for drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the CIA for those in Pakistan. The CIA video feeds are reported to have been encrypted, while some of the air forces ones were not." Take away? Declan McCullagh (CBS News) observes that the "apparent security breach [. . .] had been known in military and intelligence circles to be possible".

Another known is that Iraqi Christians have been repeatedly targeted throughout the Iraq War.
Tuesday two Christian churches were targeted with bombs in Mosul. Meelad Qaseera (Azzaman) reports today that Yonadam Kanna ("the Christian representative in the Iraqi parliament") believes that the targeted is based on "political motives rather than religious beliefs" and "Kanna said it appeared that the government and its troops were incapable of protecting the Christian minority and bringing the perpetrators of violence to justice." Catholic News Agency reports, "Archbishop Francis Chullikat, the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, has demanded the immediate intervention by Iraqi leaders to 'guarantee the necessary safety of the Christian minority,' in the wake of the attacks on two churches in the city of Mosul." Asia News quotes the Archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, stating, "The situation is very tense. Just last week two Christian brothers were killed and two more were abducted. Where was the local government? And the Central government? Where are the representatives of the ruling parties?" Spero News interviews Biship Shlemon Warduni ("the Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad")

[Question:] What is the current situation of the Christian community in Iraq?[Bishop Shlemon Warduni:] Our situation sparks concern and pain. The context is well-known: for years, Iraq has been ravaged by internal and external wars that have robbed the people of peace and basic social services like health and education. The consequences of the last war and military occupation are tragic. The political instability and anarchy has generated misery and destruction. This is why many Christians - along with thousands of other citizens - have had to leave the country. We have lost about a third of our community. It is a tragedy of vast dimensions, which is witnessed by the world.[Question:] Have you noticed improvements in the last year? What do you hope from the new elections?[Bishop Shlemon Warduni:] What has occurred is that the lack of political planning has led to the proliferation of terrorism, which today has its own agenda and destabilizes the country. Legality and security are lacking, the government is weak, and the elections (not yet established with certainty) will have to address these urgent needs, otherwise they will be useless. Meanwhile, attacks on churches and Christians continue: in the last two weeks there have been explosions in three churches in Mosul, not to mention in Baghdad, where three months ago a car bomb outside a church killed two young people and wounded 30, causing great material damage. [For us], tranquility is a small break between two attacks.

Alsumaria reports, "Christians started preparations and shopping for this year's season wishing peace security and happiness for all Iraqis." But AINA offers a different picture for Iraqi Christians in Basra, "Christmas is likely to be a subdued affair for the dwindling Christian population of this once-cosmopolitan city. This year, the holiday falls amid the Shiite festival of Ashoura, when much of the city's population will take to the streets to commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson -- many by ritually cutting themselves and whipping their backs with chains." In other religious minority news, AFP reports a Yazidi Murad Sardar was arrested on Monday and his family has not seen him since. His crime? Apparently selling alcohol in Babylon Province. He is the last known seller of alcohol. "Freedom brought to Iraq by the USA! This message brought to you by the Re-Elect Barack Obama Committee."

In other news of violence . . .


Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing targeting "lawmaker Nadeem al-Jabiri" in which 1 person died and ten people were douned (but al-Jabiri was not present), a Baiji grenade attack which injured police officer Mudher Ahmed, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people, a Kirkuk car bombing which injured a police officer and a Mosul bombing that left one child wounded.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul. Reuters notes 1 "Christian lab assistant . . . shot dead . . . in Mosul," another police officer shot dead in Mosul

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.

In the US,
March Forward! is a new group, one that's "an affiliate of the ANSWER Coalition," composed of veterans and active-duty service members including James Circello and Michael Prysner whom we've noted here before. The group has a "10 Point Program for Struggle:"1) We demand the right to refuse illegal and immoral orders.Service members should no longer be bound to carry out the plans of the Pentagon and Wall Street in violation of U.S. law, international law and people's right to self-determination. Service members deserve the right to resist, without persecution, orders that conflict with internationally recognized laws or that conflict with their own conscience. 2) We demand an immediate end to the criminal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Service members should no longer be sent to fight, kill, die, be seriously wounded and/or psychologically scarred furthering the domination of U.S. corporations over other nations. We have nothing to gain from these wars. The occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan serve only the interests of the rich, not the service personnel who are sent over and over to repress people who have the right to determine their own destiny. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are not our enemies. The more than 800 U.S. bases in 130 countries around the world should be shut down and the troops, fleets and air power brought home. 3) We demand an end to the existing officer corps. The existing class stratification in the military must end. Officers -- who are overwhelmingly from more privileged sectors of society -- enjoy a much higher standard of living. They are paid significantly more, are provided much higher quality housing, and have access to services not available to enlisted personnel. Officers advance their careers on the backs of enlisted personnel, going so far as to send their troops into harm's way for the good of their resumes. The existing officer corps should be dismantled and replaced by enlisted service members who are democratically elected by their units and who are subject to recall at anytime. Officers should no longer enjoy special privileges, including hand salutes. We also demand the right for lower enlisted ranks to unionize and form committees to address grievances with the chain of command, the unit and the military. 4) We demand an end to racism, sexism and homophobia prevalent in the military. These are intentional barriers to rank-and-file unity against the will of the Pentagon, and must be eliminated through comprehensive education and strict disciplinary action. We demand an end to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and all other discriminatory measures against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender individuals. 5) We demand adequate funding for The Department of Veterans Affairs.Veterans should have full access to quality health care. Services should be drastically expanded to meet the real physical and mental health needs of veterans and their families. Independent medical investigations should be initiated to research the effects of potentially harmful experimental drugs and chemical, biological and nuclear agents to which service members have been exposed. Any service member who has served in a combat theater should automatically receive lifetime compensation from the VA for being forced to suffer or inflict physical and/or psychological harm in advancing the interests of U.S. corporations. 6) We demand the right to a job, housing, health care and education for all.Service members are lured into the military with the hopes of escaping economic hardship as a civilian, and to obtain education benefits and job training. Yet thousands of service members must remain in the military, literally trapped due to the lack of opportunities in the civilian world. No service member should have to choose between military service and poverty. Housing, a job, and access to free quality education and job training should be a right for everyone. 7) We demand the immediate end to all military aid to governments in service of US imperialism. U.S. domination is not only exercised through direct military involvement, but also through a myriad of brutal client regimes and comprador governments that are funded, supported and directed by the U.S. government. Service members should not have to serve a military that uses billions of dollars in funds and weapons to prop up governments that are guilty of committing war crimes or repressing their citizens for the interests of the Pentagon and Wall Street. Aid to such countries as Israel, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, South Korea, Uganda and Egypt should be immediately cut off. All remaining funds, military equipment and weapons should be repossessed. Reparations should be paid to the populations that the military aid was used to repress. 8) We demand the immediate dismantling of the permanent military-industrial complex. As long as there is a system in place that allows U.S. corporations to reap massive profits from going to war, there will be war for profit. The domination of the military-industrial complex has caused the death of tens of thousands of service personnel, and millions of innocent people -- all in the name of profit. All private military corporations should be shut down or nationalized. The more than 1 trillion dollars a year that feeds the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex should be used to meet people's needs. 9) We demand that all those involved in pursuing war for profit be indicted.To ensure that service personnel no longer have to fight for the interests of the rich, all those responsible must be held accountable. Politicians, policy makers, lobbyists, CEOs and others involved in pursuing warfare -- both military and economic -- as a means to reap profit should be indicted for war crimes. Media outlets involved in disseminating false information in support of these plans should also be held accountable. 10) We demand full reparations paid, with interest, to all victims of the U.S. military. As service members in the U.S. military, we have been told that our enemy is the poor and oppressed abroad. But they are not our enemies. To begin to undo the injustices in which we have been forced to take part, the U.S. government should pay for the rebuilding of every structure bombed, compensating families for every person killed and providing a lifetime of health care and disability benefits for every individual wounded, including resistance fighters who took up arms against the U.S. military.

Joe Wolverton II (The New American) adds, "In what is sure to be a controversial call to action or inaction, the organization March Forward, a group of patriotic retired and active-duty servicemen, has recommended that soldiers refuse orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq."

Tonight on
Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN):Roy Hallums was kidnapped in 2004. He was rescued in 2005. He endured 311 days as a hostage in Iraq. He was actually buried alive when he was rescued and now we have the exclusive videotape of his rescue. We'll show you how the special forces team did it. Hallum says what might appear hyperbolic with a calm earnestness. "I hoped they wouldn't decide to just cut off my head and videotape the occasion for mass distribution to the international media." Instead, we have the videotape of his rescue. Michael Ware reports Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.

Unrelated to Iraq but US House Rep Jared Polis has a column at CNN ("
No good reason to be in Afghanistan"). Staying with the topic of TV, "Can a breakthrough health care innovation in Rwanda work in the U.S.?" asks NOW on PBS this Friday (on most PBS stations -- check local listings):In rural Rwanda, the simple and time-tested idea of medical house callsis not only improving the health of the community, but stimulating itseconomy as well. On Friday, December 18 at 8:30 pm (check locallistings), NOW travels to the village of Rwinkwavu to meet the Rwandandoctors, nurses and villagers who are teaming up with Boston-basedPartners in Health and the Rwandan government to deliver medicine andmedical counseling door-to-door. Would such an innovation work inAmerica? In the capital of Kigali, NOW's David Brancaccio sits down with RwandanPresident Paul Kagame to talk about international aid and Kagame'sultimate vision for a healthy, financially-independent Rwanda.

We'll close with this from independent journalist
David Bacon's "In Oakland, Hunger Is Multicultural" (East Bay Express):

Everyone knows that Oakland is diverse. Probably more people from more races and nationalities live in the city than anywhere west of New York or north of Los Angeles. But before we celebrate diversity, think of its most diverse places. Some of them are surely the lines of hungry people lining up for food.
Oakland has many food pantries -- programs run primarily by churches on a shoestring. Church elders are often found at the Alameda County Community Food Bank's huge warehouse out by the airport, buying as much food as they can for as little money as possible. They worry that the bags of cans and produce they distribute will run out before everyone in line gets one.
Reverend Lee from the Cornerstone Baptist Church, a food bank stalwart, fills the small storefront off MacArthur Boulevard with white plastic bags of cans, dried goods, and bread. Then the people come. Mostly Chinese-American and African-American families get their food from the African-American activists from his church.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). And I'm going to squeeze in one more thing. Last month, AK Press released The Battle of the Story of The Battle Of Seattle by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. We did a book discussion about it at Third. It's a strong book and an important one. A good holiday present if you're looking for ideas. With Aimee Allison, David Solnit authored the must read and community favorite Army Of None. His sister Rebecca Solnit is known for her own numerous writings as well as for her work with Courage to Resist.

the independent of londonmichael savageadrian hamiltonchris ames
the socialist worker
bbc newsthe times of londonmichael evanssian ruddick
mike mountthe wall street journalyochi j. dreazenaugust cole
mcclatchy newspaperslaith hammoudicnnanderson cooper 360anderson coopermichael ware
pbsnow on pbs
david baconkpfathe morning show
david solnitaimee allisoncourage to resist

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

John Podesta's done enough harm already

Hump Day. Finally got the last of the Christmas presents purchased. Unless I remember some more I forgot. Hopefully, I got them all. :D

Okay, let's talk about Obama's bag stab on 'health care.' If you missed it, Howard Dean says the Senate measure needs to be killed. He's correct. Politico has some great coverage on the whole thing and I'm going to include the links:

Liberals: Why didn't Obama fight?
By CRAIG GORDON 12/16/09 8:56 PM
Liberals can barely hide their sense of betrayal.
John Podesta responds to Dean
Obama: 'Cautiously optimistic'
Dean group attacks mandate
Rockefeller: Dean 'irresponsible'

All are worth reading but what I want to zoom in on most is John Podesta.

What does he say? Who the hell cares.

Read it if you want. He never makes the point that Howard Dean IS A DOCTOR or that Howard's wife JUDY DEAN IS A DOCTOR so HOWARD DEAN MIGHT KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT HEALTH CARE.

But John Podesta's not about the truth.

And when he speaks, people need to boo. They need to throw things.

Do you like George W. Bush?

I can't imagine you'd read this site if you did. I don't like Bush.

I think he should have been impeached.

Do you think so?

Do you know that the Dems in Congress got a presentation on how to impeach him? How doing so could stop the Iraq War before it started?

Do you know they were nodding and agreeing and loving it. Ramsey Clark was one of the people doing the presentation.

And who ran in screaming "NO!"

John Podesta.

Little S**t F**k Podesta.

He said Dems would lose seats. (Dems lost seats anyway.) It was a "loser" position.

Well over a million Iraqis are dead because John Podesta is a two-bit whore and that's reality. He's not a 'progressive,' he's nothing but a party hack. He's never taken a stand for anything other than whoring. He's never met an issue he couldn't sell out.

You don't have to love Howard Dean. I don't worship Howard Dean. But in this match up, Howard Dean's telling the truth and John Podesta's a damn liar.

Podesta's not trying to help you or me. He's just (yet again) worried about an election. F**k John Podesta.

The best thing that could happen would be for the Senate proposal to be killed. Howard Dean's right. We don't need it and it won't help anyone but it will hurt a lot of people by mandating that people must purchase insurance or face fines.

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, one of Iraq's two vice presidents informs that "the government hushed up the results of the investigation," the Iraq Inquiry continues in England with some notice given (by Chair John Chilcott) to the human cost of the Iraq War, some details emerge on the deal the US cut with the KRG, and more.

Starting with Iraqi elections. At the start of this year, Iraq's national elections were supposed to take place in December 2009. There were many reasons for this including (a) the fact that it takes weeks for Iraq to put together a government (the winners of the elections will then decide in Parliament who the prime minister will be) and (b) the fact that the terms expire at the end of January 2010. But Nouri just knew he was able to move mountains and the elections were pushed back to January 2010. But no one worked the issue (including the US -- the scramble is yet another indictment against the US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill). The press kept talking about January elections, kept saying they were taking place. Predicting instead of reporting. Not really understanding their role, their function or their obligation. After an election law suffered a veto from the country's Presidency Council, January went up in smoke. Currently, 'intended' elections may take place in March. That's a possibility due to frantic, last minute deals being made in the hours
before midnight on December 6th allowing the latest election measure to pass. What deals were made?

Fuad Hussein is the Chief of Staff for the KRG President Masoud Barzani and Falah Mustafa Bakir heads the KRG's Dept of Foreign Relations.. Both are in DC for the week with plans to also visit Detroit and the Iraqi community there.
Eli Lake (Washington Times) reports the Kurds got behind the election measure only after the US made a "historic" commitment to the KRG which Hussein states includes promises that the long postponed census would take place, the the issue of Kirkuk being resolved and more. With Lake's article, the Washington Times offers a video clip:

Fuad Hussein: Many people know that we were negotiating with Washington, with Baghdad. In Baghdad, we were negotiating with our group in Baghdad. We had two groups in Baghdad negotiating election law. We were negotiating with the American ambassador, we were negotiating with the other political leaders, Arab political leaders, in Baghdad. So we were about, for two weeks, the whole day and sometimes until one o'clock in the night, negotiating about this. So when we felt that there isn't any alternative as far as distrubtion of these seats but, to be honest, we find that it is not fair to give so little seats to the Kurdistan Region. We were thinking about a linkage and politics you have got that so we were thinking about a linkage between accepting this and getting also somewhere else or reaching somehwere else, another target so then the Americans were ready to discuss other matters with us which are our priorities and which are important and which has been riased and disccused many times at meetings with the American side and then it has been accepted and there was a green light to accept the election law.

Zvi Bar'el (Haaretz) speaks with Barzani and reports the KRG "is making due with an American commitment to preserve the region's autonomy as part of a federal Iraq, but his remarks have caused a shudder in both Iraq and Turkey because an American commitment implies support for Kurdish demands that the Iraqi government opposes." And among the current conflicts between the KRG and Baghdad is oil. UPI notes, "As it is, Baghdad is already at odds with Iraq's Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous enclave in the northeast. In the absence of an oil law, the Kurdish Regional Government is battling the centeral government over Kurdistan's energy resources. The KRG has signed contracts, far more lucrative than those secured by the central government, with some 20 foreign oil companies. The Kurds see this as the economic underpinning of an eventual independent state." (Mike noted and weighed in on Eli Lake's article last night.)

BBC News reports that Nouri's cabinet has a new 'brainstorm' on countering bombings? Offer rewards "for information that prevents bomb attacks." Of course, you need to grasp that if you tip off on a bomb attack, your name probably goes on a list that, in a later bombing, will lead you to be among the many suspects who are beaten into giving confessions and then have your confession aired on Iraqi TV -- it's Nouri's own little reality show, Who Wants To Be Forced To Confess To A Crime You Didn't Commit? And, of course, turning tipsters into later suspects means Nouri won't actually have to pay any reward money. Not that there would ever be any check on it to begin with because it's not as if the tipster will show up on TV announcing, "We were starving but now, thanks to Nouri and my bombing tip, we have a home!" Such an admission would most likely get you killed. In the real world, Hoda al-Jasim (Asharq Alawsat) interviewed Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, this week and he had a number of comments regarding what's being called Iraq's "security crisis."

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Your joy did not last long, as less than 36 hours later the Tuesday bombings took place. What is your explanation of the timing of these attacks? In your opinion, who is responsible for this security crisis? [Tariq al-Hashimi] I have a theory with regards to these operations, as there is more than one party being targeted. I am very saddened by what happened and I feel embarrassed as although I am in a high ranking [governmental] position I am unable to reduce the internal casualties. The problem is that the security file is in the hands of one party, and the Presidency Council is marginalized and excluded from any consultation or participation [in this]. We have not received any information on the Bloody Wednesday attacks [19 August 2009], or the Bloody Sunday attack [25 October 2009] and the Tuesday attack [8 December 2009; all [the information] that we have is the same information that reaches any Iraqi citizen through the media. The Presidency Council does not know what is happening, and we do not have the capabilities that will allow us to find out what is happening or whether the official in charge of the security file had learnt from previous lessons and saved Iraqi lives. I hope that Iraqi Prime Minister and commander-in-chief (Nouri al-Maliki), who is exclusively responsible for this security file, is fair and courageous and shoulders the responsibility and gives justice to all the lives lost and blood shed by saying that the security challenges are greater than his ability, and that he admits default and failure, and hands the security file to professional security experts. When he does this, I will stand strongly beside the Iraqi Prime Minister and support him, when he admits failure in managing the security file, and makes the decision to hand responsibility of this over to someone else.
[. . .]

I am very concerned that the government has kept silent about the outcome of the Bloody Wednesday and Bloody Sunday investigations, as what happened happened because the dark forces had the freedom to pick the time and location [of the attacks], which not only targeted the institutions of the state, but also innocent people. Therefore the time has come to admit defeat and hand over this file to those who possess [security] expertise and skill. We must admit failure and hand over this investigation to specialist committees, the security services should not conduct this investigation as they themselves stand accused, rather this investigation should be handed over to high level committees to study what happened and hold those involved accountable.

Hand over? al-Hashimi responds to a question as to whether or not (as rumored) the Presidency Council is against the execution of 'suspects' by noting that Nouri has kept the Presidency Council completely out of the loop in the investigation and they've seen no evidence of anything: "the government hushed up the results of the investigation." On the investigation into yesterday's Baghdad bombings,
Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report, "The [Iraqi] investigators were heard discussing how two people wearing officers uniforms had parked in the lot and walked away." Suadad al-Salhy, Ahmed Rasheed, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Jon Hemming (Reuters) add, "There is widespread suspicion in Iraq that the police and armed forces have been infiltrated by militants, take bribes to allow insurgents to mount attacks, or may be colluding with militants to undermine Maliki before a March 7 general election."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul in an attack on a military checkpoint and, dropping back to last night, 1 person shot dead in Mosul ("owner of a neighbourhood generator").


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Baghdad roadside bombing targeting Sahwa leader Shiekh Latif which claimed the life of the sheikh and left two other people injured, a Baghdad mini-bus bombing which claimed 2 lives and left five people wounded and, dropping back to last night for all that follows, a Baghdad sticky bombing left Col Abdulrazaq Mohammed injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded one police officer, a Baghdad grenade attack on a "grain storage building" which wounded two guards, a Baghdad car bombing which injured five people, and a Mosul bombing which left two people injured. On the Sahwa assassination, Wang Guanqun (Xinhua) adds the two with him were his bodyguards.

Sahwa is also known as the "Sons of Iraq" and the "Awakening" Councils.
Corey Flintoff (NPR, text only) reports today that Sahwa states "they've fallen on hard times" since the US turned control over (read: "payment for") to Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad government. Flintoff explains how the US toe-hold in Baquba is thought by some to have only been achieved via the Sahwa but now tensions between Iraqi police forces and the Sahwa have them even more doubtful about their future in the country: "One Sahwa leader, who calls himself Haji Khalid, is taking no chances. Recently, he met with a group of reporters in a quiet street at the edge of the city, then drove with them to another house, where he agreed to be interviewed. Khalid says that if anyone from Sahwa shows his face in the city, he will very likely be detained the next day on false charges. He says the problem is partly political, as proved during the run-up to last year's provincial elections. Khalid says that Sahwa leaders who announced they were running for office were promptly arrested, and many remain in prison." He also notes that of the estimated 94,000 Sahwa (some -- including US Gen David Petraeus -- have given a higher estimate), only "about 21,000 have been recruited into the Iraqi security forces". Flintoff's correct about the small number and his text report should be on air if only to refute last week's 'expert' brought on All Things Considered and allowed to pontificate wildly (and wrongly) about Sahwa.

In refugee news,
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports on the visit to Camp Ashraf yesterday, "With loudspeakers mounted on pickup trucks and riot police offering backup, Iraqi troops on Tuesday ordered a group of Iranian dissidents here to vacate their sancturary, which has become an irritant in Iraq's relationship with Iran" and quotes Brig Gen Basel Hamad stating, "We will not allow any foreigners to establish their own laws on Iraqi soil." The residents are Iranian dissidents who have lived in Iraq for decades now. Following the US invasion, the US made them surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Last week, his plans to 'relocate' them was announced. Yesterday Iran's Press TV reported that the residents "defied the Iraqi government's orders to leave" and that, "According to a plan ordered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki the group should first be moved to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and later to a 1950s detention camp in southern Iraq." Today Press TV reports , "A resolution presented by Democratic lawmakers has called on President Barack Obama to stop the relocation". AFP reports that US House Rep Bob Filner is leading the effort and held a press conference yesterday where he declared, "We are here to call on whoever will listen, the Iraqi government, the US government, to halt the forcible relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf." UPI adds, "The National Council of Reistance of Iran, a Paris-based umbrella organization representing Iranian dissident groups, said 2,172 mayor in France signed a declaration in opposition to a decision in Baghdad to expel members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran from their Camp Ashraf enclave."

In London, the
Iraq Inquiry continues hearing public testimony. BBC News reports Lt Gen Robert Fry has testified today that the US invasion into Iraq would have been a failure without the participation of British troops. Lt Gen Robert Fry is one witness giving testimony today. Also appearing before the committee is Nigel Sheinwald, John Sawers and Desmond Bowen (link goes to video and transcript options, unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the transcripts). Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs today's hearing and also tweets them on Twitter. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) live blogged as well and noted this section:
2.02pm: Sir John Sawers starts with a clarification of something he said in last week. The Department for Interntional Development was not substantially involved in policy making in the run up to the war. It was not involved on the ground. But they were involved in some meetings.Sawers is tidying up something he said last week. Chris Ames at the Iraq Inquiry Digest has got more on this
here. Chris Ames writes:During last Thursday's hearing at the Inquiry, committee member Sir Roderick Lyne came close to calling Sir John Sawers a liar – in the nicest possible way. Sawers, former foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair and currently head of MI6, is back before the Inquiry this afternoon with a strong hint that he needs to set the record straight. But will we ever find out the truth of the matter?Lyne put it to Sawers, that Sir Suma Chakrabarti, previously the permanent secretary at the department for international development (DFID), had told the Inquiry that DFID were excluded from the Cabinet Office's 2001 review of Iraq policy, probably for political reasons. Sawers, who was responsible for the review from No 10's point of view, said that he hadn't excluded them. After a bit of waffle, Lyne said:"Given that Sir Suma has introduced this point into evidence here, you might just want to look back at some of the papers and take some advice on this and if there is anything further you want to say about it when we see you next week, I'm sure we would be happy to hear it."Chakrabarti hadn't actually said that No 10 was responsible – in fact he ducked the question. It's difficult to imagine Lyne giving Sawers such a stong hint if he didn't know there was something in the papers that could make him change his answer.

Staying with the afternoon hearing (Sheinwald, Sawers and Bowen), we'll note this section on 2004.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Just lasly on this period, a pretty awful month was Abu Ghraib. Did you have any anticipation of this as an issue, and how did you respond when the revelations came out?

Nigel Sheinwald: I didn't. John?

John Sawers: We knew of difficulties in the conditions for detainees dating back to the June/July of 2003. We knew that the Americans had taken a more direct -- more activist approach to ensuring the facilities were secure and met ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] standards, but we also understood that there were difficulties. The US army reviewed the detainee -- called for a review of the detainee arrangments in January of that year and it reported with a number of recommendations privately. I'm not aware that we saw a copy of that review. But the revelations at Abu Ghraib were definitely a shock to us, as they were to everybody on the American side as well as across the world. They came out -- they were way beyond anything that we had envisaged that might be going wrong. We thought the basic problems were about poor conditions and possibly unnecessary violence, but Abu Ghraib was an extra dimension. I would just say that that spring of 2004, March, April, May, was one of the low points in managing Iraq policy at the London end. We had, as Nigel says, the crises in Falluja first, in March, and then again at the end of April, the beginning of May. We had the crisis in Najaf, we had the Abu Ghraib facilities. I remember visiting Iraq. I used to go regularly; I went three times in 2004. I visited Iraq in early May and it was the gloomiest and most downbeat visit that I paid throughout my four years of working on Iraq policy. And I think it was then that we realised the scale of the task that was ahead of us and the need to really put our heads down and be in it for the longer term, because the insurgency and the violence was clearly not at a peak and it was clearly going to get worse at that stage. And the Abu Ghraib issues just added another nasty twist to the difficulties that we faced.

John Chilcot is the Chair of the Inquiry. He noted the failure "to foresee the situation" -- realities on the ground in Iraq which developed after the start of the war -- "and if we had forseen it, it would have been beyond our compass to deal with it."

John Sawers: I think you are right that we failed to foresee it. The planning for the post-war, as we all know, was inadequate. The level of violence that we faced was not forseen and we didn't have enough in the way of sheer military presence, either we or the Americans, to deal with the scale of the violence that we were facing. But I think we do need to recognise that the reason so many Iraqis lost their lives, the reason it took longer than we would have liked to put Iraq back on a reasonable footing, the reason why the reconstruction effort was so difficult was because of the scale and determination of the insurgents to destroy what we were doing.

Sawers repeatedly hit on the lack of planning.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) quotes him stating, "Frankly, had we known the scale of violence, it might well have led to second thoughts about the entire project. It was not though through." Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger also emphasizes that quote from Sawers, dubs that among the "strong lines buried away today" -- and includes this as well, "Similarly, right at the end of evidence, when Lyne asked Sheinwald whether joining the US had been worth the high cost of lives lost and bodies mutilated. Even now, Sir Nigel said, that's very hard to answer. What has it done for our international reputation, Lyne went on. That's hard to answer too, he replied; it depends to whom you're talking and whether it is in public or private. Even in fluent Mandarinese this was troubling stuff." Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) ended his live blogging today noting what he saw as key moments including when Chair John Chilcott spoke of how "the committee itself is extremely . . . aware of the casualty list, the blood. Treasure you can rebuild. Blood you can't back. I don't know whether at this stage we shall come to the kind of final judgement that these last questions have raised. This may be the first draft of history. But we are conscious throughout of that cost that has been incurred by humankind. I think I'll close with that."
In addition to Sawers possible problems noted earlier by Sparrow and Ames, the
Belfast Telegraph states that another witness, also with M16 at one point (Sawers is the current head of M16) has problems: John Scarlett. They note his claim that the assertion of Iraq being able to attack England "within 45 minutes" was both "reliable and authoritative" is refuted by Brian Jones ("senior WMD analyst"): "Dr Jones, who was head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff in the run-up to the invasion, said that it was 'absolutely clear' the intelligence the Government relied upon was coming from untried sources. The 45-minute claim was one of the key assertions that convinced MPs to take Britian to war."

Turning to the US, last week the
Army again released their suicide data (no, other branches don't appear to have to dislcose) for the month of November which includes: "The Army released suicide data for the month of November today. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides, all of which are pending determination of the manner of death. For October, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, three have been confirmed as suicides, and 13 remain under investigation. There were 147 reported active duty Army suicides from January 2009 through November 2009. Of these, 102 have been confirmed, and 45 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 127 suicides among active-duty soldiers." On this topic, Mark Thompson (Time magazine) reports "Neither the U.S. military nor the American public would tolerate a conflict in which U.S. losses mounted for five straight years. Yet, that's what's happening in the Army's battle with suicides. The recently released figure for November show that 12 soldiers are suspected of taking their own lives, bringing to 147 the total suicides for 2009, the highest since the Army began keeping track in 1980. Last year the Army had 140 suicides. Although Army officials don't blame the spike on repeated deployments to war zones, evidence is mounting to the contrary." Meanwhile veterans face a variety of issues. Female veterans face many issues similar to the one male veterans face but they also face issues specific to gender (not surprising in a misogynist society). This week, AP has been exploring some of them. Kimeberly Hefling (AP) reported on some of those issues and also notes these basics, "More than 230,000 American women have fought in those recent wars and at least 120 have died doing so, yet the public still doesn't completely understand their contributions on the modern battlefield. For some, it's a lonely transition as they struggle to find their place. In another AP story, Hefling reported on the issue of homelessness among female veterans and notes that they tend to be "younger than homeless male veterans and more likely to bring children." Hefling also reports that in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the VA Medical Center "see almost twice as many women [as] it did before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Administrators opened a women's clinic and are trying to take female veterans into consideration when deciding everything from the color of the walls to the size of the prosthetics offered. Waiting areas soon will have kid-friendly tables. On-site day care for veterans with medical appointments is under review." These additions didn't just happen. Congress has had to join veterans in advocating for them. On the US House Veterans Affairs Committee, for example, US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has introduced bills such as the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act (HR 1211) to address issues. In addition to that and other measures, the GAO studies have also illuminated problems as US House Rep Michael Michaud noted at the start of the July 16th Veterans Affairs Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee and the Subcommittee On Health joint-hearing on Eliminating the Gaps: Examining Women Veterans' Issues:

While we have made some progress on the issues facing women veterans, it is clear that more needs to be done. Just earlier this week, there was an article in MSNBC about the VA inadequately serving women veterans. This article described the key findings of a GAO report which reveald that no VA hospital or outpatient clinic is complying fully with federal privacy requirements. In other words, many VA facilities had gynecological tables that faced the door, including one door that opened to a waiting room. Beyond these privacy concers, VA facilities were built to serve male veterans and, therefore, do not accomodate the presence of children. This means that some women veterans have had to resort to changing babies' diapers on the floors of VA hospitals due to the absence of changing tables in the women's bathrooms. In light of these challenges which continue to face women veterans, it is important that we do more to address these issues.

Others covering female veterans issues include
Hugh Lessig (Daily Press) who reported on a female veterans forum Senator Mark Waner held Monday in Alexandria, VA where he heard from veterans about the issues they face such as Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams who, when hanging with those she served with, is assumed to be a girlfriend or Genevieve Chase who is limited when choosing from those she served with to call about combat stress or other issues because her call might be seen by a wife or girlfriend as threatening. WTKR's Bob Matthews (link has text and video) reports on one of the meetings Warner held yesterday:Bob Matthews: Kayla Williams was a member of the 1st Airborne, she was a translator, she was shot at by the enemy. When she came home though, she said she was treated as if she was never there.Kayla Williams: I had people ask me if I was allowed to carry a gun because I'm just a girl? And I had other people ask me if I was in the infantry.Bob Matthews: It's why Senator Mark Warner came to Norfolk. He helped pass a bill that orders the VA to find out if it's giving female soldiers what they need to become civilians. More than 85,000 have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since the war on terror began in 2002 but many, like Kayla Williams, don't feel the government gives them the care they need to go from the frontlines to the homefront. Kayla Williams: I have a friend who was told by a VA doctor that she couldn't have PTSD because women aren't in combat."I'd love to say that it's going to be fixed in a year from now but I don't think it's going to be fixed," Warner tells Matthews. "We've got to keep the pressure on and we've got to keep the pressure on."From Warner's Senate website:

Senator Warner hosted a round table discussion in Norfolk today with a group of military women to discuss the oftentimes difficult transition back to their normal lives after returning home from combat.
Last month, Senator Warner won passage of legislation directing the Veterans Administration to launch a study into the post traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs) that afflict thousands of military women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Kayla Williams, who served as a translator with the 101st Airborne Division and was part of the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, said that friends of hers have been told by VA officials, "You can't have PTSD because you're a woman, and women don't see combat."
However in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "frontlines" of the war are no longer as clear as they used to be, and the stress of war can affect everyone.
Williams said women often return home and assume the caretaker role for spouses and children, and rarely ask, "Do I need care also?"
Senator Warner said the VA study has two goals: to make sure that women veterans are getting adequate treatment -- and that they receive the benefits they have earned.
The group said that treatment at different VA hospitals varies, and that some are better at treating female soldiers than others, especially for those who have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Senator Warner said he would push to make sure these issues are addressed by the VA: "I'd love to say its gonna be fixed in a year from now. I don't think its going to be fixed in a year from now, but we've got to keep the pressure on and we've got to keep the focus on and we've got to make sure that these women veterans who've served so well feel comfortable claiming their rights."

We'll wrap up by making like
Betty and Stan and noting Riverdaughter's "Matt Yglesias tells the rest of us to 'Grow up'" (The Confluence):Here's the thing, Matt: you can't tell people to spend their electoral and emotional capital on candidates who they like and then pull the rug out from under them without consequences. You can't insist on an empty suit for President and promise Change! and transformation and then not deliver for the electorate after you've made them abandon who they really want without some of those people giving up on you. And you can't tell a country that they have no choice and expect them to feel like they are still free. The Democratic party has engaged in a process of teaching their constituents learned helplessness. It has over and over again raised expectations and then dashed them. It has asked for our input as a formality and then ignored it. It has belittled and demeaned and made inconsequential the lives of average voters and their families. Now, those same voters, seeing no reason to expend any more energy on a pointless game they cannot participate in has decided to sit it out.Your buddies are in deep trouble now by their own doing. Don't blame the electorate for not caring whether you stay in power or not. They don't exist for your wish fulfillment. They've got more important things to do with their time, like figuring out how to make a living without your help. Your party, which *used* to be my party, has a leadership vacuum. You quashed the one leader you had and now, who among your ranks has the moral authority to lead us through this mess of a recession? There is no one. The electorate is just responding to the grim reality of the situation you and your childish enthusiasm have created for them.Grow up, Matt. You reap what you sow. In the US, we do not have 100% voting rate. Because we're not the USSR or something similar. In the United States, one of the freedoms we still have left is to vote for who we want or not to vote at all if that is our choice. Don't let anyone bully you into voting for someone or into voting. Your vote, you own it. Use it as you see fit, that's your right, guaranteed in a democracy.

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