Friday, March 05, 2010

Those scandals that never end

Friday! The weekend at last! Just watched this online from CBS News (that's video, here for text) and what the heck?

Charlie Rangel I knew about. David Paterson I knew about. Eric Massa? I didn't know about. Hadn't even heard of him before today.

He posted this at his website:

An open letter from Rep. Massa

Two days ago as I sat reading my new annual CAT scan, having been told that the anomalies in the films may or may not be scar tissue, I decided to finally take the advice that my doctors have repeatedly given me, and that is to take care of my family and myself before my profession. After I decided not to run again I was told, for the first time, that a member of my staff believed I had made statements that made him feel “uncomfortable.” I was told that a report had been filed with the Congressional Ethics Committee. At no point prior to this had any member of the Ethics Committee communicated with me directly - if fact I first read it on the internet.

I own this reality. There is no doubt in my mind that I did in fact, use language in the privacy of my own home and in my inner office that, after 24 years in the Navy, might make a Chief Petty Officer feel uncomfortable. In fact, there is no doubt that this Ethics issue is my fault and mine alone. But in the incredibly toxic atmosphere that is Washington D.C., with the destruction of our elected leaders having become a blood sport, especially in talk radio and on the internet, there is also no doubt that an Ethics investigation would tear my family and my staff apart. Some would say that this is what happens when you stand apart from political parties, which I have done. Others will say that this is what happens to a non politician when they go to Washington DC. I want to make something perfectly clear. My difficulties are of my own making. Period. I am also aware that blogs and radio will have a field day with this in today's destructive and unforgiving political environment. In that investigators would be free to ask anything about me going back to my birth, I simply cannot rise to that level of perfection. God knows that I am a deeply flawed and imperfect person.

During long car rides, in the early hours of the evening, late at night and always in private, I know that my own language failed to meet the standards that I set for all around me and myself. I fell short and I believe now, as I have always believed, that it is not enough to simply talk the talk, but rather I must take action to hold myself accountable.

Therefore, effective at 5 PM on Monday the 8th of March I will resign my position as the Federal Representative of New York's 29th Congressional District in the 111th Congress. I do so with a profound sense of failure and a deep apology to all those whom, for the past year, I tried to represent as our Nation struggles with problems far greater than anyone can possibly imagine. I hope that my family, constituents, and fellow Members of Congress can accept this apology as being both genuine and heartfelt and I wish for them and all Americans only the best. I will take all actions possible to ensure that my personal health is secured in that I know that mine is a far more fragile lifeline than most. For the millions of fellow cancer survivors with whom I share this experience, they, more than anyone else, will understand the honesty and openness in this statement.

I ask that members of the press respect the privacy of my family, my staff, and me at this time.

-Congressman Eric Massa

No offense to Massa intended (I don't think it's an insult to be gay), but I think there's more to the story than what his letter says. If you used bad or vulgar language, I doubt you'd have a complaint filed on you. Unless it was sexual, unless you were propositioning.

If he was, fine. The other guy must be an adult. The other guy said "no" and that's that, everything's cool. But it smells more like a sexual harassment complaint.

But then again, maybe his letter is completely true.

If it's not, if he does have same-sex affairs, he should get honest about them because the press will dig around and his family doesn't need to be trotted out as some sort of a dam against a flow of rivers.

Massa was against the Iraq War. Didn't know it. Good for him. If he's gay or bi, good for him still. If he's gay or bi and comes out of the closet, great for him. Only thing that would change that for me would be if he sexually harassed someone working under him.

Okay, Oscars air on Sunday. My picks?

Best film: The Ugly Truth . . . what? Not nominated! :D I'm joking. My pick is The Hurt Locker.

Best director: Kathryn Bigelow

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges

Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson

Best Supporting Actress: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Best Origianl Screenplay: The Hurt Locker

Best Documentary: The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

And those are the only awards I care about. That's who I want to win. I'm not predicting who will.

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

Friday, March 5, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, campaigning for elections continue, birth defects are on the rise, Gordon Brown appears before the Iraq Inquiry, we are not your sin eaters, and more.

This morning on the second hour of
The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Susan Page (USA Today) guest hosted for Diane and she spoke with the panelists Tom Gjelten (NPR), Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy) and David E. Sanger (New York Times).

Susan Page: Well Iraqis -- most Iraqis who are going to vote, go to the polls on Sunday, the first national election in five years. David Sanger, what seats are up?

David Sanger: Well an amazing number of candidates are up. Uh there are going to be 6127 candidates for 325 seats. So you could see a fair number of people who come in with one, two and even three votes if they, you know, get Moms and spouses to vote for them. You'll also see uh about 50,000 polling places. And I guess they must have all read those books about uh how Lyndon Johnson conducted polls in Texas in the 40s and 50s because not only are they writing this on special paper and numbering the ballots but the ballots then go into clear plastic boxes so that it gets a little bit harder to fiddle with. That said, the ingenuity of Iraqis with fiddling with uh ballots now may be as good as Americans have had at various points in our history. Uh, I think what you need to think about for this election are two things. First is it could be a long time before we see a serious result. When this happened in 2005, it took about five months to put the government together. Here it may not take as long but it could be a few months. And the second big question is: Does anything come up out of this that gets in the way of the American withdrawal strategy? And that is all linked to the divisions of Sunni and Shia, the levels of violence and so forth. For President [Barack] Obama who has already said that he's not out to make a Jeffersonian democracy and either Afghanistan or Iraq the big question is can he just stay on schedule.

Susan Page: Well what do you think, Susan, will he be able to stay on schedule with the withdrawal of US troops over the next two years or do you think that's in some peril?

Susan Glasser: Uh, well, you know, if I had a crystal ball for this one, we-we could all go home. But I do think that the election will be an intersting indicator. And what comes after it, as David mentioned, of just how riven is the political space in Iraq right now. There have certainly been some uh disturbing signs in the weeks leading up to the election that this is a highly polarized, highly sectarian environment going into the elections. Uhm, you know, there are signs of levels of divisions between Sunni and Shia that have probably reached their highest level of the last two years in the context of this campaign. So will renewed violence break out? What does it do to the potential unraveling of political space in Iraq? How much is the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki -- what is he willing to do to hold onto power over the next few weeks and months?

Susan Page: Tom, is there someone the US hopes emerges as the new leader of Iraq?

Tom Gjelten: No, I-I think what the United States hopes is simply stability. Uh, as David said, I think the, you know the prospect of divisions following this election is so unnerving that the United States would basically settle for any candidate that's able to keep the country more or less, uh, uh, on track and stable. I mean there seem to be -- You know, the good news is that all sectors of the Iraqi political spectrum are-are represented in this election. The bad news is that all sectors of the Iraqi political spectrum are represented in this election including some very violent, anti-American militia members. Moqtada al-Sadr who's responsible for a lot of the attacks even though he's currently living in Iraq, we think. His-his party is well represented. We've got an alleged former death squad leader who's represented. We have Sunni religious groups represented, Sunni secular groups, Shia religious groups, Shia secular groups. So everybody is represented but what that also does is it really is a recipe for what Susan and David are talking about, the kind of, the warring factions in the aftermath.

Susan Page: But I wonder if, to look on the bright side maybe, a second democratic election in five years, since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, does it indicate democracy or an Iraqi form of democracy is really taking root? Or do you think that goes too far, David?

David Sanger: It represents an Iraqi form of democracy. We've had other moments in Iraqi history, including in the 1950s, when there were similar forms of democracy and they didn't last. I mean, Iraq is a place that, at various moments, has gravitated towards strong-man leaders and that could well happen again.

Echoing that thought are
Ernesto Londono and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) who explain, "After the ballots are cast and counted, voters will have provided the first conclusive evidence of what kind of democracy is likely to take root in the heart of the Middle East -- if one does at all." Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Iraq's leading candidates made final appeals to voters and an influential anti-U.S. cleric unveiled a unqiue election-day strategy, on the final day of campaigning for Sunday's national polls." Iraqi refugees will vote in the US, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, Iran, Canada, England, Denmark, Australia, Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands. And in Iraq, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) looks at the approximately 3 million young, first-time voters in Iraq who express frustration and note that their lives have been plagued by violence, unemployment and lack of basic services. The Iraq War started in March 2003 and that's seven years ago. 20-year-old Iraqis were 13 when this illegal war started. Arraf reports, "This should be an exciting threshold to a new future for young people. But a broad range of interviews reveal that for this generation, born into a decade of trade sanctions and raised in war, there is an overriding sense of frustration, fears about security, and the struggle to find their place in a country still emerging from conflict." Among the first time voters is Nada Hatem Farhan and Jane Arraf examines what the elections mean to her and her life: Not much at all. She's like to be an attorney or journalist but instead states she must become a teacher which is about it in terms of 'respectability' for women in her area -- but that's if she's able to go college. There is a push for her to get married to her cousin as soon as she finishes high school. At Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers notes that all the candidates are decrying foreign influence and foreign money in the process but that those who serve in Parliament refused to address the situation before the elections. The correspondent observes:

The parties that are ruling Iraqi now are the same, two were established in Iran, and that we can find an explanation because Saddam was hunting the opposition down and killing their beloved ones so they had to find a safe place to live and seek change, but what me and my fellow citizens cannot comprehend is why these parties still receiving money and show allegiance to Iran or other countries and then criticize the foreign support.
And the most important part, these parties didn't mind an invasion and called it a liberation in 2003, later they called it occupation and interference, and they keep forgetting that it is the foreign interference and invasion that brought the democracy to the country, so why Iraqis need to oppose foreign funds, when everything was and still coming from outside.

In other deveopments,
Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) expresses her anger very clearly today over Zeinab Khadum Allwan (we covered her in Wednesday's snapshot) but she's confused George W. Bush with "Western feminists" and we won't play dumb, Layla, just because we respect you. Rage and scream and do so against "Western feminists" if you want but don't expect us to play dumb with you.

First off, there's nothing about a burqa in Zeinab's story as told by the BBC -- nor is she 'modestly' dressed. She's dressed in tennis gear, so why Layla wants to use shame of the human body and how the West has allegedly torn off the 'mystique' of the female form (that would be "the other" for all educated in feminist theory, that which is cloaked, that which is hidden) to try to score points is actually a mystery.

Let me be really clear before I go further, I've noted this before online. I've posed nude. I have no hang ups about being naked and anytime someone wants to play the shame game re: nudity, it's never going to work with me. So call that A and B. C, George W. Bush is not and never was the face of feminism. If the Iraq War was sometimes sold as 'liberation' for Iraqi women, that came from Bush and his supporters in the media. Western feminists, as a group, opposed the Iraq War. We won't be your sin eater on this, Layla. You're angry and you have every right to be. You can lash out at whatever grouping you want including Western feminists. But I'm not of the Chickie-baby-boom-boom 'school' who's confused a push-up bra and a party schedule with feminism nor do I stand still while hit with a two-by-four.

Feminists in the West have got to learn to fight back and that includes saying, "I understand your anger but your facts are wrong." And, Layla, your facts are wrong. No feminist in the US or England or Canada has hailed the Iraq War as a success for female liberation nor would they. What we have repeatedly noted in the West was that Iraq had a more progressive policy regarding women than any other country in the region and that the invasion actually set the rights of women backwards. In fact,
Rebecca was just writing about that last night, before you posted your attack on Western feminists today:

it's women's history month and the recent history for iraqi women isn't a good 1. they were better off before the invasion. they had rights. they were not required to hide themselves away. iraq was a secular state. why is it that women are always the 1s to suffer in any society? it could be us in the united states to lose our rights. it's not as if we have an equal rights amendment in the constitution. even if we did, before the 2003 invasion, iraqis could point to their own constitution and show how women's rights were in it. the true story of women's history appears to be that every day we have to struggle and fight and that's largely just to remain in the same spot. forget getting ahead.

You can be angry, you can lash out any group you want to. But we're not going to play stupid here when you attack feminism and attack it with distortions. As for "you" have to watch? I watched.
I watched and wrote about it on Wednesday. Two days later you show up? Welcome to the party, Layla, food's all gone but pour yourself a drink.

Layla's angry, she has every right to be. Her country's been destroyed. There's no band-aid for it. And while we'll understand that, I do not play the game where we're Western feminists so we turn the other cheek while some one attacks us with lies. (
Ava and I wrote a piece calling out the refusal to fight back in November of last year.) Had second wave leaders stood up in real time, a lot of lies and distortions wouldn't have taken hold in the last decades. Layla's angry. It's a deep anger and it's completely understandable. And she can lash out if she wants at whomever she wants. But if that lashing out includes a distortion of feminism or feminists, I'm not going to play. I'm not your sin eater. You need to grow up and take accountability for your own actions and that includes knowing who your enemies are. I already raised my children, I'm not going to baby any grown up at this late date.

Turning to England where the
Iraq Inquiry today took testimony from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former UK Secretary of State (2007-2009) Douglas Alexander (link goes to transcript and video option). Brown became the current Prime Minister in June 2007, prior to that he served in Tony Blair's Cabinet beginning in 1997. John Chilcot chairs the Inquiry and he kicked things off in today's hearing.

Chair John Chilcot: It has been borne in on this Inquiry from the outset that the coalition's decision to take military action led directly or most often, indirectly to the loss of lives of many people, servicemen and women in our and the Multi-National Forces, the Iraqi security forces, and many civilians, men, women and children, in Iraq. Still more have been affected by those losses and by other consequences of the action. Given all that experience, I should like to ask right at the outset whether you believe the decision to take military action in March 2003 was indeed right.

Gordon Brown: It was the right decision and it was for the right reasons. But I do want, at the outset, to pay my respects to all the soldiers and members of our armed forces who served with great entourage and distinction in Iraq for the loss of life and the sacrifices that they have made, and my thoughts are with their families. Next week, we will dedicate at the national arboretum a memorial to the 179 servicemen and women who died in Iraq and I think the thoughts and prayers of us are with all the families today.

Sentences two and three might have taken some of the sting out of sentence one were it not for the fact that those assembled had already seen Gordon Brown strut into the room, glad handing and beaming as if he was going to a christening,

You walked into the party
Like you were walking onto a yacht
Your had strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed
That they'd be your partner
They'd be your partner and . . .
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I bet you think this song is about you
Don't you, don't you?
-- "You're So Vain" -- words and music by
Carly Simon

And that number one song, which Carly's re-recorded as part of her reimaging classic songs from her canon on Never Been Gone, never had a video. But
Carly Simon and Iris Records are having a contest:

Los Angeles, California. Thirty seven Decembers ago, pop songstress Carly Simon tore up the record charts with her single "You're So Vain." The song captured the number-one slot on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts, and to this day remains one of the most popular classic rock songs of all time. Perhaps more than any other track in pop music, the song's central mystery captivated the public. Ironically, even with all this speculation, the song has never had a music video to accompany it.
To coincide with her critically-acclaimed latest release, NEVER BEEN GONE, fans and filmmakers are invited to submit a music video to accompany the newly recorded version of "You're So Vain." If you'd like to add elements of the original 1972 version of the song feel free, but your video has to incorporate at least some of the 2010 recording, making the most of the new footage that can be downloaded
Carly will screen and judge all of the entries herself. The winning video will be featured on AOL Music's and screened at this years' Tribeca Film Festival in April, where the winner will also have the opportunity meet Carly Simon.
To help fans and filmmakers out, Carly has created a template of optional tools which can be utilized in the creation of the video including recently shot green screen footage, stills, video blogs and more all of which can be found and downloaded
You can submit your video from February 8th 2010 through April 15st 2010.

You don't have to include Gordon Brown in your video; however, if you're Sarah Brown, you certainly should consider doing so.
Ann Treneman (Times of London) offers a textual sketch of Gordo in repose:

The Prime Minister yesterday was particularly stunning and I mean that in the same way that Brazilian tree frogs are stunning. He entered the first session with one of his awful smiles and immediately began to explain the Iraq conflict as a "paradigm" in a "post Cold War world", which occasionally came out as "postcode war world". Members of the public began to fall asleep almost immediately and, after the first coffee break, two people never returned, early victims of Browning.
His strategy was brilliantly simple -- attack early, attack often and never stop talking. He revealed straight away -- and not in response to any question -- that he had never turned down any request for funds from the military for Iraq -- ever. Full stop.

Gordon also quickly became Susan Megur's oil painting "The Two Sides of Ones Self."
Gerald Warner (Telegraph of London) explains that in his first ten minutes, Gordon made it sound like he was in the loop but, after that, he pulled a blank whenever asked about key moments, key decisions and key events. Apparently, when the gang wanted fish & chips, they sent Gordo on a snack run and took care of business before he could get return.
While Gordon testified or testi-lied inside,
Stop The War Coalition was present outside. The Telegraph of London reports the protestors included an activist wearing a Gordon Brown and holding a giant check, stained with blood, indicating 8.5 billion pounds were spent on the Iraq War by England. The organization's John Rees is quoted stating, "Gordon Brown was the paymaster for this most unpopular of wars and was the second most powerful man in the Government. He has cleverly avoided the political stigma Tony Blair attracted but he bears the same responsibility and should be held to account by this inquiry."

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So you and other Cabinet ministers, except, of course, for the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, were not aware that the Attorney General's position had been equivocal only two weeks beforehand in his document of 7 March and had been indeed directly opposed to the position he took in Cabinet up to about 11 February? You were completely unaware of this and you were unaware also that the Foreign Office's legal advisers, specialists in international law, did not agree with the position that the Attorney General presented to Cabinet?

Gordon Brown: I think there had been some press coverage about the Foreign Office. I may be wrong on that, but I think there may have been some press coverage.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: The Foreign Secretary referred to some press coverage.

Gordon Brown: Look, the question that came before us was the advice of the Attorney General that this was lawful or not? The Attorney General gave unequivocal advice to the Cabinet. I think he has been along to the committee to explain the basis on which he gave that advice. I have heard him now give his evidence to the Committee, but he had a straightforward question to answer. It wasn't a simple question, but it was a straightforward question, "Was it lawful or was it not?" and he gave an unequivocal answer.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You don't think the Cabinet needed to know whether this was based on a robust position or a slightly controversial position?

Gordon Brown: I think, in retropsect, people as historians of this matter, will look at it very carefully and look at what happened and what was said between different people at different times and what were the first drafts, the second drafts and the third drafts. But the issue for us was very clear. I mean, we are a Cabinet making a decision. Did the Attorney General, who is our legal officer responsible for giving us legal advice on these matters, have a position on this that was unequivocal, and his position on this was unequivocal. He cited, as I have already done, the United Nations resolutions that led to us believe that Saddam Hussein had failed to comply with international law. He cited 1441 and the importance of the final opportunity for Saddam Hussein. All these things were said and it laid the basis on which we could make a decision, but it wasn't the reason that we made the decisions. He gave us the necessary means to make a decision, but it wasn't sufficient in itself.

The UK
Liberal Democrats issued the following statement today:

"How can we trust a man who still believes that this illegal war and all the horror it has caused was right?" said the Liberal Democrat Leader.
Commenting on Gordon Brown's appearance at the Iraq inquiry, Nick Clegg said:
"This was the day Gorodn Brown finally had to come clean and admit that he believes the Iraq war was right.
"We now know we were betrayed by Gordon Brown and we were betrayed by the Labour Party.
"How can we trust a man who still believes that this illegal war and all the horror it has caused was right?
"When the Liberal Democrats were the only party to oppose this immoral invasion we didn't just speak for us, we spoke for the nation."

At the Guardian, Chris Ames explains that Brown indicated weeks ago that he would be arguing "the convention of collective cabinet responsiblity, which requires cabinet ministers to back policies that they do not agree with" and he concludes that the policy "is not just a licence to lie, but a requirement to do so." It also doesn't speak well to Brown's alleged leadership -- and his leadership is already in question in England just due to the economic disaster. But on top of that, Gordon wants to argue that we must all back policies even if we don't agree with them -- does not show leadership when he served under Blair and doesn't show leadership now that he's prime minister. It shows a disdain for an open process, for differening opinions and for the law itself.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: If you had known that his position had been equivocal only ten days previously in formal advice presented to the Prime Minister, would it have changed your view?

Gordon Brown: I don't think it would have changed my view, because unless he was prepared to say that his unequivocal advice was that this was not lawful, then the otehr arguments that I thought were important played into place, and that was what I have already talked to you about [. . .]

It wouldn't have mattered said Gordon. Strange because before that exchange (page 51 of the transcript), he told Lyne, "No, and I think that -- look, I'm not a lawyer, I'm not an international lawyer." Which he isn't. So it's amazing that he wants to declare that if he'd been told that Peter Goldsmith, Attorney General, had just changed his mind in a matter of days on the legality of the war, it would not have changed his mind or even bothered him. Apparently, it's not just that he's not a lawyer, it's also that he just doesn't care too much. Again, his well rehearsed testimony did not inspire or demonstrate leadership. For Tony Blair, that wouldn't matter. But Blair's not the sitting prime minister, Brown is.

Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) live blogged the testimony. At this Sky News webpage, there are multiple options on Brown's testimony including Glen Oglaza once again live blogging testimony. Chris Ames live blogged at Iraq Inquiry Digest. Channel 4 News Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogged at Twitter. Also live blogging at Twitter was BBC News' Laura Kuenssberg. Alice Tarleton (Channel 4 News) offers a look at how Brown's statements to the Inquiry differ from those made by his predecessor Tony Blair. And Vicki Barker (NPR's All Things Considered) has an audio report here.

Scottish National Party issued the following statement:

Commenting on Gordon Brown's appearance at the Chilcot inquiry, SNP Westminister Leader and Defence Spokesman Angus Robertson MP said:
"Where Blair spun, Brown ducked, but he still confirmed he was part of the inner circle that led the country into the worst foreign policy disaster in modern times.
"The Iraq inuqiry has been massively damaging for Labour. With every evidence session, the UK Government's case for war and the actions of Labour Ministers are further discredited.
"The people won't forget Labour's role in planning and executing this illegal war. The Chilcot inquiry has laid out the eivdence -- it's now up to the voters to cast their verdict at the ballot box.
"It's no wonder Brown wanted the inquiry conducted behind closed doors. He's clearly keeping a great deal hidden.
"Contradicting Sir Kevin Tebbit's claim that the MoD was operating a crisis budget, the Prime Minister insisted every request for funding was met.
"Sadly, for all of those who opposed the Iraq invasion and for the thousands who lost thier lives to it, truth of the Iraq invasion may have been forever lost to the New Labour spin machine."

As his turn before the committee, Brown remembered a note and wanted to insist that the loss of life "leaves us all sad" and "leaves me very sad indeed". He squeezed it in twice in his closing remarks because he threw it out once in his opening remarks in the first half of the day ("any loss of life is something that makes us very sad indeed") but forgot to work it in again and again, as advised, so he could demonstrate some resource.
Sian Ruddick (Great Britian's Socialist Worker) notes how two bodies heard explored war today:

A war criminal and an anti-war soldier both faced questioning this Friday. One will get off with no repercussions -- the other could be sent to prison for two years.
Gordon Brown has tried to keep his distance from the Iraq war, hoping that the legacy of mass murder will be left with Tony Blair. But Brown's hands are far from clean.
He wrote the cheques for the war, funding the destruction that rained down on Iraq.
And in the run up to the war Brown was "absolutely core" in shoring up support amongst backbenchers, insists Sally Morgan, one of Blair's key aides.
Brown says the Iraq war is all over now -- but it isn't. There are still thousands of US and British troops in the country.
And the lasting legacy of devastation and chaos created by the occupation continues to blight the lives of millions of Iraqis.

The legacy includes a country destroyed, lives lost and birth defects among other issues.
John Simpson (BBC News) reports on the birth defects stemming from the illegal war and weapons used in it (some exploded, some still not exploding) which have contaminated the country:We went to a house where three children, all under six, were suffering from birth defects.Two boys were partially paralysed, and their sister clearly had serious brain damage.Like all the other parents we spoke to, their mother had no doubt that the American attacks were responsible.Outside, a man who had heard we were there had brought his four-year-old daughter to show us. She had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot.She was also suffering from a number of other serious health problems. The father told us that the house where they still lived had been hit by an American shell during the fighting in 2004.There may well be a link with drinking-water, especially in al-Julan.After the fighting was over, the rubble from the town was bulldozed into the river bank, and most people in this area get their water from the river. Ben Leach (Telegraph of London) adds, "The level of heart defects among newborn babies in the city is now said to be 13 times higher than in Europe.Some doctors have reported they are seeing as many as two or three cases a day, mainly cardiac defects." Alex Sundby (CBS News) notes the issue here. I believe we last noted the birth defects in the January 4th snapshot when we covered this episode of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera):

Jasim al-Azzawi: Dr. Jawad al-Ali, you are a physician, you are a member of the Iraq Cancer Board and you have seen the astronomical rate in cancers rise as well as defects in children. Explain to me what is going on in Basra?

Dr. Jawad al-Ali: Really, as you know, Iraq is effected by three wars, three destructive wars. The last two -- the 1991 war and the 2003 war -- where depleted uranium is used for the first time in history. The 1991 war, they used depleted uranium at the western part of Basra and also they dropped some of the uranium weapons [. . .] during the withdrawal of the Iraqi army. And also they dropped some of the depleted uranium at the eastern part of Basra where it was the only way to withdraw our army from Kuwait.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Did that cause such an astronomical rise in the cancer rates in 1991 and the 90s? And also in the 2003?

Dr. Jawad al-Ali: After three or four years, that is in 1994, I, myself, I noticed that the hospital receiving many patients with cancer. And we were surprised at that time. And we don't what was the link. But, after two years, that is 1996, one of the intelligent persons, worked with the intelligence and he's escorting one of the delegations, he told me that depleted uranium is used. And he told me this is a secret, please keep it inside your brain.

Jasim al-Azzawi: It is no longer a secret, Dr. al-Ali, let me bring in Christopher Busby. Mr. Busby, you were a witness expert in one of the British trials regarding a soldier who developed cancer immediately after returning from deployment in southern part Iraq.

Christopher Busby: In September of this year, I was asked by the coroner in the West Midlands near Birmingham to attend an inquest as an expert witness. I've become a witness on the health effects of depleted uranium. I sat on a number of government committees including a [UK] Ministry of Defense committee and I've studied the health effects of Uranium for almost 15 years and I've closely followed these arguments about the increase in cancer in Iraq and in other areas where uranium has been used. So I was -- I was asked to give evidence as an expert witness in this case. This man, Stuart Dyson, has worked as an Ordnance Corps support soldier. So basically what he did, he cleaned up the vehicles and, as a result, he became contaminated with depleted uranium which collected on the vehicles which were used in the 2003 Gulf War and he then developed cancer at a very early age, about 38. I mean, it's very, very rare to get that cancer, colon cancer, at that age. The normal rate is about 6 in a million people. Now we know as a result of cancer research that cancer is caused by exposure to something that causes a mutation in cells. So we have to look to something that he was exposed to that caused mutations in cells.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Yes.

Christopher Busby: And really there isn't anything else but depleted uranium.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Dr. Jawad al-Ali, you were also a member of a research team in Iraq, especially in the south, and you have seen the deformities and the defects among newly born babies in Iraq. How bad is that?

Dr. Jawad al-Ali: You know, depleted uranium, it's not only a cancer inducing factor but also it might effect the chromosomes whether in the husband or the mother of a child. And many, many children are born with deformities, with loss of limbs, with a big head, with deformed legs and the rate of this -- these deformities is increasing about seven times since 1991until 2002. And also another phenomena we noticed here that families cluster -- cluster of cancer in families -- a husband and a wife are effected. And many families, I got their pictures with me. The other phenomena is the appearance of double and triple cancers. That is three cancers in one patient or two cancers in the same patient. These phenomena are very strange for us. I haven't seen it before. Because I worked in Basra for about 39 years. And I haven't seen such cases of cancer [before]. The other thing is the change of pattern of cancer as said by Dr. Busby. We have a change in the pattern that is the cancers of elderly people appearing now in a younger age group. And this is surprising. Even the breast cancer which is disease of middle and elderly ladies now appearing at the age of 20.

Back to the US where
A.N.S.W.E.R. and other organizations are sponsoring March 20th marches in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The march is to demand the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan and Peace of the Action will be staging a Camp Out NOW but they have had to push the start-up date back two days:

Due to an unexpected crimp in our permit, Camp OUT NOW will be erected on March 15th instead of the 13th -- but we will still have St. Stephen's to sleep in that weekend.
The reason we're not setting up Camp on the 13th is that the people who are running the St. Patty's Day parade won't allow us to keep Camp up during the parade. So on Sunday during the parade, we will be passing out info and making an anti-war presence --
We will gather in Lafayette Park (across from the White House) at 10am the morning of the parade.
We are still looking for donations, and you can donate here:

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Americans have a longstanding love affair with food -- the modern supermarket has, on average, 47,000 products. But do we really know what goes into making the products we so eagerly consume? On Friday, March 5 at 8:30 PM (check local listings), David Brancaccio talks with Robert Kenner, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc., which takes a hard look at the secretive and surprising journey food takes on the way from processing plants to our dinner tables. The two discuss why contemporary food processing secrets are so closely guarded, their impact on our health, and another surprising fact: how consumers are actually empowered to make a difference.
Staying with TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and John Harwood (CNBC, New York Times). And along with catching the show, you can click here for Gwen's take on two of the current political scandals (text report). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Sam Bennett, Karen Czarnecki, Nicole Kurokawa and Patrice Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. And at the website each week, Bonnie and her guests offer an extra video on a topic not covered on the show. The current web extra is a discussion of retirement proposals to 401(k)s and IRA accounts. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
"60 Minutes Presents: Blood Brothers""60 Minutes" will be pre-empted this week for a special edition of "60 Minutes Presents: Blood Brothers." This hour explores the world of Spanish bullfighting brothers Francisco and Cayetano Rivera-Ordonez, top matadors from one of Spain's most famous bullfighting families. Bob Simon follows the bullfighters outside and in the ring, where the "dance of death" nearly ends the life of Cayetano in a horrifying moment caught on camera.
Watch Video
"60 Minutes Presents: Blood Brothers", Sunday, March 7, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

My Oscar picks

Thursday! One day until the weekend. Charlie Rangel has temporarily given up his gavel. Meaning he's no longer the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee. That happened yesterday. I got six e-mails saying it was strange I was avoiding the topic when I'd blog on how I liked Charlie Rangel earlier this week.

So there's the news on that. And I didn't blog on it because I honestly didn't know. I didn't news surf last night. I had the article on the military launching the attack on The Hurt Locker and that was what I wanted to focus on. I still find it offensive that the military brass was arranging these attacks.

At Vanity Fair, Marcus Johnson (a veteran) weighs in on the topic:

I hate to disappoint Rieckhoff, my fellow veterans, and hopeful moviegoers, but “Hollywood and the media” can never create a representation of war that could accurately depict “ground truth,” even if veterans tell the story themselves. I’m currently at work on my own memoir about my deployment, but I know that my potential audience can only empathize with my experience—they can never fully know it for themselves. My nine months in the Middle East were an emotional roller coaster ride that transcend words, images, and sound. Unfortunately, those are the only tools which Hollywood has. What The Hurt Locker does do well, however, is illuminate the darker side of the American soldier’s spirit—the side that is addicted to the adrenaline rush of combat and feels stifled by rules and protocol. This is a spirit that is possible to capture, because it is a universally human trait. I see Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremey Renner) going rogue in Baghdad, and while I don’t recognize my own military experience in his character arc, I do see Randy Robinson in The Wrestler, Roxie Hart in Chicago, Gregory House in House, and scores of other characters whose addiction to adrenaline, fame, or intellectual superiority surpass rules, common sense, and physical safety. It is in that overarching sense that James’s experience is relevant to all of us, even those of us still fighting in the Middle East.

That's a sample, be sure to read it in full. Michael Hastings also weighs in (at Huffington Post):

The film's true subject is explicit from the opening quote: "The rush of battle is a potent and almost lethal addiction, for war is a drug." That's a line from former war correspondent Chris Hedges book, War Is A Force that Gives Us Meaning. The movie cuts out the last bit of his quote. Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winner, says war is a drug he "ingested for many years." It's no accident that Hedges is a journalist, and that the screenwriter Boal worked as reporter in Iraq: when it comes to being a war junky, journalists and writers have been at the forefront of exploring this destructive, adrenaline fueled, terrain.
I write this as someone who was recently accused, in conversation with a top newspaper editor, of being a war junkie. I denied it. But it's a question I ask myself each time I get my travel documents ready to head off to a deadly conflict, something I've been doing regularly for the past five years. Am doing this for the right reasons? Are there right reasons? Or have I, like Sgt. James in The Hurt Locker, fallen prey to an addiction? Am I about to take another potentially lethal dose?
For me, these questions became painfully acute after I suffered a devastating personal loss in Iraq. The girl I planned to marry, Andi Parhamovich, who was working for an NGO, was killed three years ago in an attempted kidnapping in Baghdad. To deal with the trauma, I did what war journalists are supposed to do. I wrote about the horrors of what I saw and felt, the numbing destruction of Iraq, and the timeless reasons, relearned as each generation loses its innocence, of why war is so terrible. It destroys what we love, people, children, sons and daughters, things, culture, buildings, possessions, morality, emotions, and our own sense of who we are as human beings. There is not much new for me to learn about war.

I don't have a full list of Oscar picks but here's what I have so far.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker

Best Screenplay: Mark Boal

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges

Let me look at the other nominees and I'll weigh in some more tomorrow night.

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, lies continue about Iraq (so we unpack the days when David Corn couldn't stop screaming), only one network made time for the bombings in Iraq yesterday, and more.

Starting with the
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric from yesterday:

Katie Couric: Now turning to Iraq which holds Parliamentary elections on Sunday and insurgents are doing everything they can to disrupt them. Today there were three suicide attacks in Baquba, northeast of the capital. At least 32 people were killed, 55 others injured. From Baghdad tonight, here's Elizabeth Palmer.

Elizabeth Palmer: With three days to go before the Iraqi election, this is the violence everyone was dreading. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosive packed cars outside Baquba's police stations wrecking lives, buildings, cars and water mains. Then authorities say a third bomber rode in an ambulance to the hospital and waited until he was surrounded by the wounded before blowing himself up. Almost 19 million voters are eligible to head to the polls on Sunday to elect a 325 member Parliament but election fever here is tempered by election fear. Everyone remembers the huge truck bombs last fall in the heart of Baghdad that killed more than 150 people. Extremists have promised more violence to disrupt the political process so the government is running TV ads warning that so-called criminals are plotting mass murder and asking people to be hyper-vigilant. And on the street, security forces with extra patrols and check points are working hard to set the stage for an election that if it goes smoothly will reinforce Iraq's indepedence and stability. Not only that, if all goes well and a new Iraqi governemnt takes power in a peaceful transition that will allow 46,000 US combat troops to begin their pull-out almost immediately. Elizabeth Palmer, CBS News, Baghdad.

You can click here to watch the segment. NBC Nightly News had time for "Comic Relief" -- 'reporting' on a web video. A video which they refused to air. They reported on it, refused to air it. It advocates for something (consumer rights), Brian Williams explained. But, having wasted all of our time with the report, he then went on to plug the Nightly News website. Nightly News didn't think they should broadcast it . . . on TV but they were happy to broadcast it online. So Brian Williams used air time to self-promote while Diane Sawyer, over at ABC's World News had time to plug for Dominos. It only takes a second to note Domino's 4th quarter but if you're also doing an advetorial for them, you include plenty of shots of pizza and claims that their new ad campaign was responsive to the people and . . . Well, it doesn't leave you much time for actual news. For more on yesterday's bombings, you can see this article by Marc Santora (New York Times).

Bombings targeted Iraq again today.
BBC News reports two voting centers in Iraq were targeted with suicide bombings. BBC's NewsHour states it is believed that the bombings were attempts at targeting soldiers who were voting today (early voting which means voting began on the 4th and not ont he 5th as I had repeatedly stated -- my error and my apologies). Khalid al-Ansary, Waleed Ibrahim, Fadhel al-Badrani, Mohammed Abbas, Khaled Farhan, Sherko Raouf, Mustafa Mahmoud, Ayla Jean Yackley, Jack Kimball, Aref Mohammed, Alistair Lyon and Andrew Roche (Reuters) note 12 dead in the two bombings and a third explosion with 35 police and soldiers left injured and 22 civilians wounded.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a fourth Baghdad bombing, a sticky bombing, which left one person injured and a Nineveh Province home bombing which injured two women and the home belonged to "Nawaf Saadoun Zaid, head of Unity of Iraq Coaltion in Nineveh (the coalition is headed by incumbent interior minister Bolani)".

This morning on the first hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, USA Today's Susan Page (guest host) spoke with Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Lawrence Korb (Center for American Progress) and former reporter Thomas E. Ricks about Iraq elections.

Susan Page: You know, here's an e-mail we've gotten from Tommy from Raleigh, North Carolina. He writes us, "For all my hope in 2008, I'm becoming disillusioned. Senator Obama campaigned against the war in Iraq. He promised that if he were elected, he would end the war and bring home the troops. More than a year into his presidency, he's failed to keep his promise. Since he hasn't kept even easy promises with easy time frames -- such as closing Gitmo within a year -- why should we believe his currently promised timetable for pulling out of Iraq?" You know, I'm not sure closing Gitmo was such an easy promise but, Tom, you know this message from Tommy is one I expect we would hear from any number of Obama voters.
Thomas E. Ricks: Well, Tommy, I would say you shouldn't believe cause I don't think it's going to happen. I think we're going to have several thousands, several tens of thousands US troops in Iraq on the day President Obama leaves office.

Susan: And --

Lawrence Korb: Let me say something about Obama. He promised to get the combat troops out so I think evidently a lot of people didn't read the platform and he also said he was going to increase the presence in Afghanistan. Those were part of his campaign promises --

Susan: Well he did say combat troops but I don't think that was the message that people heard.

Lawrence Korb: I understand. A lot of people thought "Elect Obama, you're out of Iraq and wind down in Afghanistan, we can get back to dealing with the problems at home." There's no doubt about that. But, again, I think that he did say combat troops.So far --

Thomas E. Ricks: I hate that phrase combat troops. There is no pacifist wing of the Marine Corps or the 101st Airborne. And I think it's effectively a lie to the American people. When they hear "I'll get combat troops out," what they hear is "No more American troops will die" -- and that is blatantly untrue. And I think the sooner the president addresses that, the better for him.

Susan Page: And we had Vice President [Joe] Biden say just the other day that while we're going to withdraw combat troops, the troops that we leave behind are guys who will be able to shoot straight -- in other words, people who could instantly be made into combat troops if the circumstances require that. What do you think about that, Nancy?

Nancy A. Youssef: Well I think it has to -- the broader question becomes: If Iraq does break into some level of violence, what is the role of the 50,000 troops there? Do they sit idly by? Do they let -- do they intervene? Do they put themselves in harm's way? And what can 50,000 troops do? We -- At the peak, there were 172,000 troops to bring down the sectarian violence. What can 50,000 troops, who aren't supposed to be doing combat, really do? It's going to be a difficult predicament at that point if-if in fact some level of violence returns.

Lawrence Korb: I think Vice President Biden was also trying to say that we can protect our own troops because, again, you get back to the question of casulties, yes, we have 50,000 but this not, you know, a group of people who can't do anything so if anything happens and they come after us we can protect ourselves.

We included Korb's crap and that last statement by him above was nothing but crap. He needs to stick to reality and now what he wishes would be said. That's a huge problem for Korb. Asked a direct question by a caller who said she'd take her answer off the air, Korb declared, "I do think the real question she was raising . . ." Her question was basic: Iraq currency. She most likely asked it because of the currency switch prior to the Iraq War. But Korb always knows best and ignored her question. Korb's a damn idiot.

Helene Cooper and Mark Lander (New York Times) are the reporters Biden spoke to:

But administration officials also acknowledged that the bigger worry for the United States was not who would win the elections, but the possibility that the elections -- and their almost certainly messy aftermath -- could ignite violence that would, at the least, complicate the planned withdrawal.
In part for that reason, "we're not leaving behind cooks and quartermasters," Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Wednesday in a telephone interview. The bulk fo the remaining American troops, he said, "will still be guys who can shoot straight and go get the bad guys."
Gen. Ray Odierno [. . .]

Nancy Youssef and Susan Page were interpreting it correctly. Lawrence Korb is the idiot who can't listen. Which is rather telling, isn't it? Freud wrote of the criminal's compulsion to confession and when you combine that with projection, you understand a passage excerpted above that we'll again note:

Lawrence Korb: Let me say something about Obama. He promised to get the combat troops out so I think evidently a lot of people didn't read the platform and he also said he was going to increase the presence in Afghanistan. Those were part of his campaign promises --

Susan: Well he did say combat troops but I don't think that was the message that people heard.

Lawrence Korb: I understand. A lot of people thought "Elect Obama, you're out of Iraq and wind down in Afghanistan, we can get back to dealing with the problems at home." There's no doubt about that. But, again, I think that he did say combat troops.So far --

Lawrence Korb is blaming the American people. They're just too stupid, he politely says, to know what's what. Barack said "combat troops." Did he, Larry? Did he you piece of s**t, Reagan reject?

Ava, Kat and I were speaking on campuses to groups truly opposed to the illegal war and we would have to unpack that lie daily. And we caught him saying it at two events: "We want to end the war now!" At his little praise tent circuses, his little "Oh Come Let Us Adore Me" events, he would say that. And the crowd would go crazy. Men and women would tear up. Barack damn well knew what he was doing and Larry Korb needs to stop lying. I know that's hard for Larry, but he needs to stop.

We're not even at the distinction of "combat troops" right now. We're at the reality. And Larry wanted to 'correct' the listener didn't do much of a 'correction' did he? Did Barack break his campaign promise:All together: "YES HE DID!"

The campaign promise was one brigade a month out of Iraq on his first day in office. That was the promise and that promise was broken. Larry's a damn liar. And I'm damn well not in the mood. In the
Friday, March 7, 2008 snapshot, we noted:

Obama still lacks the leadership to take control of his campaign -- that would have required firing Power. Instead she resigned indicating that he's unable to run a campaign as well as unable to tell the truth. Power -- who also went to work for Obama in 2005 when he was first elected to the US Senate (November 2004) -- also had to deal with
the BBC interview she'd given. Barack Obama has not promised to pull ALL troops out of Iraq in 16 months. He has promised the American people that "combat" troops would be removed. But promises, promises (as Dionne Warwick once sang) . . .

Stephen Sackur: "You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?"

Samantha Power: "You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator."

Which would mean Mr. Pretty Speeches has been lying to the American people. (Add the "AGAIN!")
Her rise was swift, her fall even faster. Our Modern Day Carrie Nations took part in the "Bring the troops home and send them to Darfur" nonsense. [For more on that nutso crowd, see Julie Hollar's "
The Humanitarian Tempatation" (Extra!).] Despite presenting herself recently as against the Iraq War from the start, the public record has never backed that up. But it is true that she wanted wars in Africa and was selling them under "humanitarian" guise. "Stop the killing!" she cried but if she really wanted to stop the killing, she might have tried to speak out against the ongoing genocie in Iraq (which has also produced the largest refugee crisis in the world). She didn't care about that. Probably because it demonstrates that sending armed forces in is not an answer. Again, if Barack Obama had any leadership abilities, he would have announced today that he fired his longterm advisor. He did not, she resigned. (She foolishly doesn't grasp that this is her Alexander Haig moment and there is no comeback.) Power was not a campaigner, she was a high level, longterm foreign policy advisor being groomed to be the next Secretary of State. As Krissah Williams (Washington Post) notes, Senator Clinton's response to Power's BBC interview was to note Power's agreement that Obama's pledge to have "combat" troops out in 16 months was never more than a "best-case scenario". Hillary Clinton: "Senator Obama has made his speech opposing Iraq in 2002 and the war in Iraq the core of his campaign, which makes these comments especially troubling. While Senator Obama campaigns on his [pledge] to end the war, his top advisers tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president. This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another. You saw this with NAFTA as well."

An explosive bit of news in the middle of a campaign. The Washington Post reported on it, the Boston Globe as well. And the rest? Two days later at Third we offered, "
Editorial: The Whores of Indymedia" which noted:

So determined to not only avoid the reality but also smear Hillary Clinton, Air Berman (The Nation) spent Friday digging through Meet The Press transcripts. The allegedly anti-war Nation magazine has yet to tell their online readers of the revelations broadcast on BBC. Truthout, so quick to editorialize that Hillary Clinton should drop out of the race, has no story up about the revelation. BuzzFlash is working overtime to smear Hillary Clinton but has nothing to say about Bambi's Iraq realities. Common Dreams is avoiding the subject as is The Progressive, CounterPunch, Truthdig, go down the list. All have time to smear Hillary, none have time to tell the truth about Bambi's 'pledge.' Where is Tom Hayden! Remember when Americans Against the Escalation (or whatever the name of that faux grassroots 'movement') imploded? There was Tommy, mere second later, writing about it online at The Nation. A call to the magazine got the story pulled but it resurfaced a day later, on Sunday, in a slightly different form with an additional note tacked on. Certainly Bambi's non-pledge is as important as the implosion of a non-peace group.

They ignored it. In fairness to Tom Hayden, July 4, 2008, he suddently discovered the Samantha Power BBC interview and wrote about it for the first time. And then he claimed the media ignored it (Boston Globe and Washington Post covered it) and that Hillary's campaign ignored it. Tom-Tom's a damn liar. Hillary's campaign called it out the day of, they issued press releases the following Monday (BBC aired the interview on a Friday), they talked about in conference calls with the press. Do you know the reaction? Andrea Mitchell laughed. Now maybe she was laughing at David Corn who exploded and started yelling and called it dirty politics for the Hillary campaign to bring it up. There was no doubt in anyone's mind who 'reporter' David Corn was supporting. His tantrums, his attacks, his threats, his non-stop errors made it very, very clear. If Tom-tom wants to blame-blame, he can take it up with David Corn who did more than anyone to kill that story. He shrieked like a banshee. No one was ever more shrill. David Corn turned every press conference into a performance piece and it was appalling.

Why does it matter? It matters because that's how reality got buried by the press -- especially Panhandle Media which Korb's organization is a part of. (Panhandle Media has to beg for money -- Pacifica, for example -- because they can't make it any other way. They're the bums on the street corner.) Don't you dare blame the voters. The voters were never told about Power's interview. Panhandle Media wouldn't allow it. (Amy Goodman, the Queen of Beggar Media, never covered it on Democracy Now!) Those liars, passing themselves off as objective and truth tellers, are the ones who deceived the American people. It's why they ignore the Iraq War now. Because there's lots of blood on their hands.

Don't you dare blame the voters when the press -- All Things Media Big And Small -- worked overtime to give Barack one excuse after another. And when they could join thousands of others in the Cult of St. Barack and hear the Christ child proclaim, "We want to end the war now!" At his revival meetings, he said "NOW!" No, he thundred, "NOW!" Speaking to the New York Times, he said "combat troops" -- and like Ricks, Michael Gordon called that nonsense out and did so to Barack's face. Ricks' finest moment was the section excerpted. Nancy A. Youssef had many fine moments (and we may grab another tomorrow). Lawrence Korb was a non-stop embarrassment including his ridiculous claim on Afghanistan that "they" wanted "us" to invade. Did they? That's not how I remember and I really doubt that's how history will.

Before we move on to the elections, Susan Page noted on air that The Diane Rehm Show had won the Shorty Award for brief news for
their Twitter Account and that Diane thanked all the show's Twitter followers. So congratulations to Diane and her crew on their award.

Voting began today in Iraq. It concludes on Sunday with the official day for elections. In addition to voting in Iraq, 16 other countries will have polling stations due to Iraq's refugee crisis.
Stephen Starr (Asia Times) reports on the voting in Syria (which starts tomorrow) and notes that "candidates see rich pickings both there and in Jordan." Tuesday's snapshot included, "Iraq's Sunni vice president Tarek al-Hashemi is in Syria. For those who have forgotten, al-Hashemi vetoed (as a member of the presidency council) an early election law in late 2009 citing the fact that it did not take into account Iraq's large refugee population. Alsumaria TV reports that he 'thanked Syria for its 'historic' stand of embracing refugees despite bilateral political rows.' Iran's Press TV notes that he 'is also expected to meet with representatives of his country's expatriates' while in Syria." AP notes that this is the first visit by an Iraqi government official (senior) since the August 19th Baghdad bombings (which Nouri and others have blamed on al Qaeda in Iraq, Ba'athists and the Syrian government -- excepting only Wile E. Coyote due to the belief that the Road Runner had him too busy to join that day's coalition of violence).Meanwhile Marc Santora and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) report that Hakim al-Zamili is one of the candidates despite charges that he ran "death squads" and that his campaign "runs the risk that Shiite leaders will be seen as taking steps against only those who persecuted Shiites, not Sunnis." Middle East Online focuses on Sunni voters and candidate Sheikh Ayfan Saadoun al-Ayfan, noting: "The sheikh is part of the Iraqi Unity Alliance (IUA), led by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, a secular Shiite, as well as Sunni tribal leaders who formed militias and turned against Al-Qaeda. This time around, around 800,000 voters are registered to vote in Anbar, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission in Ramadi, the provincial capital." Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) adds of Sunni voters in Iraq, "Many of Iraq's predominantly Sunni parties have accused the Iraqi High Election Commission, which is overseeing the election, of bias. They have accused the government of arresting their candidates, harassment, and using government institutions for campaign purposes." Ian Black (Guardian) observes, "Arab media coverage of the campaign has been intense, with daily special reports on satellite channel al-Jazeera and its Saudi-owned rival, al-Arabiyya. News of bombings, shootings and assassinations is drearily familiar. The novelty is that the election is being treated as a genuine contest between competing parties: that is a rarity in an area ruled by presidents-for-life and token or co-opted opposition groups. The stakes are correspondingly higher than in 2005." The Ahrar Party is vying for votes and they issued the following:

Ayad Jamal Aldin: 'I will amend the Iraqi Constitution'
In a final press conference before Sunday's election, Ayad Jamal Aldin recognised the sacrifice that the Iraqi security forces are making during this important time and thanked them for their efforts on their day of voting.
He went on to discuss disappointment, if not surprise, that Ahrar had had a large number of their billboards vandalized and decimated.
Q and A:
Q: You talked about the sabotage of your billboards being linked to other political parties, who in particular do you think is responsible for this?
A: We received information yesterday that 4WD government cars were driving around Baghdad at midnight and sabotaging the billboards. We couldn't say exactly who these cars belong to; however, the IHEC has an obligation to find out and should disqualify any party that is not conforming to the strict law set out by the IHEC.
Q: One week before the election, a rumor started that the government will arrest Muqtada al-Sadr if he ever comes back to the country, what is your opinion on that matter?
A: Muqtada al-Sadr is a true Iraqi patriot and a religious leader, and it's disgraceful for such rumours to touch this person.
Q: You have mentioned that you would reverse the de-Ba'athication law. How will you justify this to the thousands of people who have been victims in the past of the Ba'ath Party, and how will you guarantee they will not try to take the power back in their hands?
A: We've said before if we won the election and formed the new government, we would form special courts that will only prosecute the Ba'ath party members who committed crimes against the Iraqi people and they will be dealt extremely severely, but that doesn't mean that all Ba'ath Party members are criminals.
Q: Are you against the current constitution?
A: Yes. The Iraqi constitution was written without thought and under the intimidation of foreign influences. We will set about rewriting this immediately.
Q: Voting has already started for the security forces. Have you been made aware of any violations so far?
A: We've been informed that some of the security forces did not have their names on the list of voters in their local polling stations. This has resulted in them not having the chance to exercise their vote.

On Ayad Jamal Aldin,
Alex Kingsbury (US News & World Report) adds:

Sitting on a couch in a penthouse hotel suite just blocks from the White House, Ayad Jamal al-Din lets cigar smoke curl in lazy trails around his head as he considers the fate of his nation. "I am not hopeful that Iraq can yet fly alone," he says. It is a familiar refrain that the 49-year-old cleric, a fiercely secular Shiite, conveys to anyone in Washington who is willing to listen.

At this NYT webpage, on the left is an audio link (4 minutes, 38 seconds) of Stephen Farrell discussing Iraqi elections with Marc Santora yesterday after the Baquba bombings. Here's an excerpt:Stephen Farrell: Marc you've been covering this election for several months now. What's the feel out on the streets? Marc Santora: I think there's the campaign that you see and then the campaign that you feel and hear expressed by ordinary Iraqis. Visibly, you see the campaign everywhere mainly in the banners that now shroud the landscape but under that, if you talk to people, it's really a feeling of both exasperation and fear because with these elections, there's always the undercurrent of violence. Stephen Farrell: We did see some of that today in Baquba. Can you tell us some of what happened there? Marc Santora: It was a series of coordinated attacks aimed both at government buildings and at inflicting the most damage possible -- similar to the kind of attacks we've seen throughout the country, mainly in Baghdad, since August, that have left hundreds of Iraqis dead. Stephen Farrell: There's been much talk of security progress, does it seem evident on the streets to you? Do Iraqis seem to be comfortable at the moment? Marc Santora: Well Iraq is about to go into almost complete lockdown. Around 48 hours around the election, all the-the traffic will start to clear off the streets. And on election day itself, people won't be able to drive at all. And you'll have tens of thousands of security officers blanketing the country and check points set up.

Back to NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show where Susan Page spoke with Kubalt Talabani who is in DC as a Kurdish representative.

Susan Page: So tell us, what is the Kurdish perspective on this election? What do you think Kurdish voters will be doing?

Kubat Talabani: We're expecting a very high turnout as usual in the Kurdistan region and I think the competition nation-wide is-is far more fierce than it has been in previous elections. I think that's a testament to how important these elections are for Iraq and for the Kurdistan Region.
Susan Page: And how's this -- how is this different from the last election five years ago?

Kubat Talabani: Well, uhm, some technical differences in that previously voters voted for just a slate of candidates whereas this time around voters will actually vote for the slate but also the-the individual candidates on those slates so hopefully we'll have a far more accountable Parliament because people will actually be specifically voting for those candidates. And I think, just generally, the 2005 Shi'ite political parties formed one big coalition, the Kurdish political parties came into the election under one big umbrella and we all saw the general boycott from the Sunni Arab community. This time around this is a very different situation. We're expecting a very broad turnout from across the country and there is competition within the Shi'ite parties for the vote, there are competions with the Kurdish parties for the Kurdish vote. So the stakes are very high and the candidates have embraced the art of electioneering and conducted some negative campaigns which has obviously resulted in some tensions boiling over on a few occasions.

Susan Page: What do you mean by negative campaigns?

Kubalt Talabani: Well as we see here in the United States and around the world, people are targeting others credibility, others' reputations, so the negative ad campaigns are going on which is, I think, a sign of the maturity of the Iraqi political process where it's becom -- it's becoming an issues based election rather than just relying on votes based on party patronage.

Not noted, the DC rep Kubalt Talabani is also the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Reporting from the KRG,
Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail) adds, "Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Kurds have progressed even faster. There was little of the fighting that gripped the South, except around the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul that straddle the Kurdish-Arab divide (and remained disputed territory, claimed by both sides). And where once they coped with a meagre income, these days they receive 17 per cent of the revenue Iraq derives from oil. That's enough to fund the fancy new buildings (though much work needs to be done on the basics of life such as education)." The Ahrar Party issued the following:

Ayad Jamal Aldin, leader of Ahrar 374, has urged all Iraqis to vote with their heads, as well as their hearts, in this weekend's election.
He said today: "Right now, the current crop of politicians who have got us into this sectarian-fueled mess are out there trying to bribe the Iraqi people into voting for them. You are being offered free chickens, rice, even sports equipment! I am not able to offer you such gifts, but I am able to offer you something more precious: The future of an Iraq, united, independent and strong.
On March 7, we - the proud Iraqi people - get to make a choice between more of the same, or a change for the better. I urge you not to give in to the corrupt, the weak and the outsiders. Instead, imagine what our country could be. Imagine an Iraq where there are jobs, electricity and water and where we can walk down the street without fearing for our children's safety. That is the future that we can have, but it is up to the Iraqi people to have the strength to choose change. On Sunday, you will vote; and it is only by voting that your voice will be heard.
"The ballot box brings us together as Iraqis, with shared values, beliefs and aspirations. Together, as Iraqis, we can make a postive change for a prosperous, united and secure future. And that is what Ahrar stands for. That is what my party - Ahrar 374 - continues to fight for."
"You should vote for the party that you really believe will make you safe, and bring jobs and electricity. Your vote is secret, so nobody will ever know who you voted for. You have nothing to fear, except fear itself. If you want change, you can make it happen tomorrow. Vote for Ahrar 374."

For further information, contact:

Ahrar Media BureauTel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942

About Ayad Jamal Aldin:

Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

Yesterday the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the US House Veterans Affairs Committee held a meeting, I discussed it with
Marcia last night for her site:

Marcia: So today, was it the full committee? Or was it a subcommittee?C.I.: It was a subcommittee, it was the Military Personnel Subcommittee. "When it comes to repeal, the question is not whether but how and when," Susan Davis declared at the start of the meeting she chaired.Marcia: I was just going to ask you about that. Susan Davis is from California. Is she really a yes vote on repeal?C.I.: Yes, she is. I'm not going to go through everyone, okay? There are some that are on the fence and that people are advocating with and I hope it's successful -- and I'm advocating to two on the House Armed Services Committee, trying to explain why repeal is so important and so important now. But Susan Davis is a firm "yes" on this issue. Marcia: Can I get one more strong yes and then I won't ask again.C.I.: Sure. Loretta Sanchez, also from California, is a firm yes. Her vote is not in question. This is a military service member and readiness issue for her as well as a dignity and rights issue.Marcia: Was she at the hearing? And what did she say?C.I.: She did attend the hearing. Marcia: I know I said I'd just ask once but can I ask one other thing: Are all Republicans opposed to this?C.I.: No. How many will stand by that in a vote, however, I don't know. See, I agree with you completely that if you want to repeal, you do it. You don't need to study a year. But Dems will lose seats in Congress in the elections this year if the normal pattern holds. They may lose control of one of the two houses. They may not but they, historically, will lose seats, historical pattern. So what does that mean? Super-majority has become the Democratic Party's mantra. When they lose seats, a year from now, and this study comes back, what happens? I think we'll hear from some leadership, "We can't do this. We don't have the votes." Now if they lose control of one house, they may very well not have the votes. But that's why you can't wait a year on this. If it's going to be repealed it needs to take place now.
Marcia: Does anyone seem aware of that?C.I.: The Democrats on the subcommittee are very aware of that. Chair Susan Davis asked specifically what was being studied. I'm quoting her asking about this year-long study, "Do you anticipate that focusing on whether or how? Or a combination of both?" General Carter F. Ham responded that they would use "a survey instrument of the force and of their family" as well as "focus groups some of them specifically trageted to specialzied groups and families" in the military and, last one, outreach through social media to people in and out of the Defense Department.Marcia: So that sounds good.C.I.: It does. Too bad it didn't end there.Marcia: Okay.C.I.: Joe Wilson, from South Carolina, is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee. Now we've discussed Susan Davis' question. She hands off to Wilson and he asks if the study can look to see if "current law threatens or undermines readiness in any significant way" and also would it significantly improve the readiness. Marcia: That's not a 'how,' that's a 'should we repeal'?

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Americans have a longstanding love affair with food -- the modern supermarket has, on average, 47,000 products. But do we really know what goes into making the products we so eagerly consume? On Friday, March 5 at 8:30 PM (check local listings), David Brancaccio talks with Robert Kenner, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc., which takes a hard look at the secretive and surprising journey food takes on the way from processing plants to our dinner tables. The two discuss why contemporary food processing secrets are so closely guarded, their impact on our health, and another surprising fact: how consumers are actually empowered to make a difference.

abc world news tonight with diane sawyerdiane sawyercbs evening news with katie courickatie couricnbc nightly news with brian williamsbrian williamsnprthe diane rehm showalsumaria tvpress tvthe asia timesstephen starrthe new york timesmarc santoramichael r. gordonstephen farrellmiddle east onlinebbc news
the wall street journalgina choncharles levinson
the globe and mailpatrick martin
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