Saturday, October 30, 2010






Earlier this week on Antiwar Radio (Wednesday), Scott Horton interviewed journalist and historian Gareth Porter. We'll note this at the very end of the interview.
Gareth Porter: The one thing that I would underline that I was shakiest on was the belief that the SOFA, the agreement that was reached in November of 2008, was something that could be expected -- could be counted on to stick. I'm no longer confident that that's the case.
Scott Horton: Wow. Well now, talk about opening a can of worms up. What you're saying is that the war will start again because Moqtada al-Sadr isn't backing down on that? You're just saying the Pentagon is going to insist on staying?
Gareth Porter: I'm saying, I'm saying that I'm not at all confident the US troops are going to get out. That's right. I think there's a grave danger that we're going to get stuck there.
Scott Horton: Which means fighting against the government we just spent all this time installing. But you know --
Gareth Porter: Well I don't know. Maybe we're going to be fighting Kurds, maybe we're going to be fighting Turks? You know, who knows? Who knows who we'll be fighting? But I do think -- I have very good reason to believe that this is a serious danger at this point. That the Obama administration is going to try to pull another "Oh yeah, we're pulling all of our combat troops out, see? These are not combat troops. Nothing to see here move on."
Gen George Casey is Chief of Staff of the Army and he gave a speech earlier this week. What's interesting is the way the army elected to write it up. Here's the opening paragraph from the army's press release (that they would call a "news article"):

Soldiers can look forward to increased time at home station when the Army has all but completely pulled out of Iraq, leaving a larger pool of units free to do rotations in Afghanistan. But those rotations will continue for a some time, said the Army's top Soldier.

"Can look forward to" casts this sometime in the near future and, according to the army's press release, at that point the US will not be out of Iraq, it will have "all but completely pulled out of Iraq". It's an interesting word choice. Especially coming on the heels of the US State Dept's acknowledgment that the White House is "open" to extending the SOFA and keeping 50,000 US troops in Iraq beyond 2011. From Monday's snapshot:
Today Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) reports that former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker spoke last week to the National Council on US - Arab Relations and " that when the dust clears in the formation of a new government in Iraq that Baghdad would come to the United States to ask for an extension of the US military presence beyond the end of 2011. By that date, according to the accord signed in 2008 by the Bush administration, all US troops are to leave Iraq. But Crocker said that it is 'quite likely that the Iraqi government is going to ask for an extension of our deployed presence'." (He also expressed that Nouri would remaing prime minister. Why? The US government backed Nouri as the 'continuing' prime minister after Nouri promised he's allow the US military to remain in Iraq past 2011.) Today at the US State Dept, spokesperson Philip J. Crowley was asked about Crocker's remarks. He responded, "Well, we have a Status of Forces Agreement and a strategic framework. The Status of Forces Agreement expires at the end of next year, and we are working towards complete fulfillment of that Status of Forces Agreement, which would include the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of next year. The nature of our partnership beyond next year will have to be negotiated. On the civilian side, we are committed to Iraq over the long term. We will have civilians there continuing to work with the government on a range of areas – economic development, rule of law, civil society, and so forth. But to the extent that Iraq desires to have an ongoing military-to-military relationship with the United States in the future, that would have to be negotiated. And that would be something that I would expect a new government to consider. [. . .] Should Iraq wish to continue the kind of military partnership that we currently have with Iraq, we're open to have that discussion."
During the Antiwar Radio interview, Gareth Porter discussed the WikiLeaks release and the "Report Shows Drones Strikes Based on Scant Evidence" (IPS via Information Clearing House) -- which is his reporting on the leaks. Last Friday, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to.
On the topic of WikiLeaks, a correction for yesterday when I was grossly wrong. A friend was the first to reach me and say, "Was it a joke?" No, I honestly thought ZNet was published (and I thought it had its servers) in Canada. I was wrong, 100% wrong, completely wrong. (See today's snapshot.) My mistake. No one else's. I will be wrong many times again as I was in the snapshot today. I'll include this in tomorrow's snapshot to correct my error. My apologies for my error. We were noting ZNet because they stood alone among independent media in actually covering the WikiLeaks release. They are an American publication (again, I was wrong) and this is some of their WikiLeaks coverage:
There are many ways that the documents can be covered. Ian Alln ( covers the CIA angle and how the US documents can be used to chart the CIA's role in the ongoing war. Sitting down with McClatchy Newspaprs' Sahar Issa, The Real News Network's Paul Jay addressed the civilian death toll.
JAY: So let's talk a little bit about WikiLeaks. There are various pieces of the documents that jumped out, but the one a lot of people have been talking about is the numbers of civilian deaths, over 100,000. How have Iraqis reacted to all of this?
ISSA: Iraqis know this. Iraqis know that they have lost hundreds of thousands.

JAY: So people think the number is low.
ISSA: Iraqis know this. Iraqis know that they have lost hundreds of thousands.

JAY: So people think the number is low.
"To the disgust of many, both Iraq's new leaders and the world as a whole lent a deaf ear to such crimes, shutting their eyes to accounts of atrocities and refusing to investigate reports of intimidation, abuse and killings," Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) observes, noting, as Issa does, what Iraqis knew and what the media and governments didn't want discussed. "However, by giving a fuller picture of the US legacy in Iraq through its leaking of secret American military documents detailing torture, summary execution and war crimes, Wikileaks has both done truth a great service and has proved, once again, that truth is the first casualty of war." Watching America translates an editorial on the topic from Spain's El Pais:
The new leaks from WikiLeaks furnish conclusive proof concerning the cesspool of a war like Iraq, undertaken for motives increasingly seen to have been foolish in the extreme and carried out with a brutality that was in complete contradiction to the propagation of democracy invoked by Bush and his Azorean colleagues* as a justification for war. If the strongest argument against the invasion was that democracy could not be imposed on another country by force of arms, the new leaks from WikiLeaks make it necessary to add a corollary which, until now, might have seemed obvious: even less by means of torture, rape or indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. An end, such as democracy, does not justify such execrable means.
Allan Gerson (Huffington Post) probes another area of the released documents:
For example, the WikiLeaks documents released last week made clear, said the Vice President of the European Parliament, Dr. Alejo Vidal Quadras, that the Obama Administration knew that Iran was rapidly "gaining control of Iraq at many levels" even while it overruled objections not to turn over to Iraqi forces control of Camp Ashraf, an enclave 40km. north of Baghdad where approximately 3500 Iranian dissidents are quartered. Hundreds of parliamentarians in the US, Europe and the Middle East had pointed out that transfer to Iraqi control might lead to mass executions were the Camp Ashraf dissidents forcefully repatriated to Iran by Iraqi leaders anxious to placate Iran.
Nevertheless, the Obama Administration turned Camp Ashraf over to Iraqi forces without ever revealing a material fact: that the rush for "engagement" with Iran was bought at the price of psychological torture of Camp Ashraf's residents, repeated forays, and shooting sprees that killed and maimed hundreds of dissidents. Despite the outrage voiced in many quarters, the intimidation, coercion and atrocities have only been put on hold, in abeyance, ready to be resurrected in full at a more propitious moment. To rectify the situation and avert another tragedy, the US should resume protecting Ashraf or at least ensure that a UN monitoring team is stationed there.
Countless American citizens and their representatives in Congress acquiesced to "engagement" with Iran on false premises. The Obama Administration's readiness to turn a blind eye to the fate of Camp Ashraf's 3500 residents is now public information, in large measure through the release of the WikiLeaks documents. As the price of "engagement" with Iran has been revealed, it is up to the American populace and its representatives in Congress to determine if they are willing to acquiesce in the politics of appeasement -- not least, through the abandonment of Iran's most stalwart opponents.
Steve Fake (Foreign Policy In Focus) dissects the ways in which information that threatens the power-structure is attacked including:
The other tactic employed by opinion shapers, coming to the foreground in light of the extensive redactions of the Iraq documents, is to smear the messenger. The reader of the American press cannot help but be struck by one thought while reading the various reports discussing Assange's reputed authoritarianism and psychological health, the molestation charges he faces, and the factional strife at WikiLeaks: the allegations are of virtually no public policy significance. They amount to scarcely more than gossip fodder.
One attacker has been Miss Susan Hayward of 2010, John F. Burns. And we addressed him at length last night. And while it may seem hard to top a man who co-writes a 2014 word article and then requires 1287 to defend it, the New York Times found some others ready to 'play.' For the record, my kids are out of school (they're adults now) but had they come home with the 'lesson' 'plan' that Shannon Doyne and Holly Epstein Ojalova pen for the New York Times, those two 'teachers' would not be employed at the school anymore. I'd start by noting that neither appears to have majored in education (they're English majors -- English majors -- at last, a group even drama majors can laugh at). Were they emergency certified or did they have a waiver because they're training -- such as it is -- does not qualify them for the subect (the release of government documents) or for preparing a lesson plan or unit. They're not qualified. (Holly has an MA in English lit education. No, it's not the same thing but a friend at the paper insisted that be noted.)
Then there's the crap they churned out. As a parent, I was never bothered if a side of an argument is presented . . . provided more than one side was presented. There's only one side presented in Shannon and Holly's bad lesson: Government right.
These two . . . women would have been out of jobs, I'm not joking. Teachers are expected to be fair and there is nothing fair about what Shannon and Holly designed. Here's there basics:
* have kids brainstorm documents a government might keep on war
* have them focus on the Pentagon, DoD, CIA, etc.
And on it goes. As you scan through, you may wonder when they take the position of human rights attorneys, of peace activists, of a soldier struggling with the issues, etc.? The answer is never. They are asked to think about "What percentage of the documents do you think could pose a threat if they fell into an enemy's hands? What could happen if these documents were made public?" When do they get asked to think about the public's right to know? NEVER. When do they get asked to think about open government and how it is needed in a democracy? NEVER.
The exercises put the students -- intentionally -- into roles at DoD, the CIA and the Pentagon. That's intentional not accidental. I would not tolerate this S**T if my child brought it home. It would offend my politics, yes, but it would offend me most of all for being so damn one-sided and for my children being held hostage to some illegimate and unqualifed teacher's doctrine.
The exercise insists students 'learn' of Julian Assange -- late in the lesson plan -- by reading the hit-job John F. Burns co-wrote. Why? What is the purpose of that? It's not about Julian Assange.
Look at the questions the children will address:
  1. How many secret documents about the war in Iraq did WikiLeaks release? The war in Afghanistan?
  2. Why are some of Mr. Assange's comrades abandoning him?
  3. Who is Daniel Ellsberg, and why does he consider Julian Assange a "kindred spirit"?
  4. Why did Mr. Assange initially go to Sweden, and why did he flee shortly thereafter?
  5. How does Mr. Assange describe the United States in regard to democracy? Do you agree or disagree?
Look at questions two, four and five and explain to me what an American child 'learning' about Julian from the smear piece by Burnsie isn't going to be likely to side against Julian? These questions are chosen to plant the seeds of distrust in and hostility towards Julian. They are the education equivalent of push-polling. They show a motive on the part of the design and that -- along with the lack of educational training -- would ensure that the teachers would be hitting the road and looking for employment in another field (judging by the piece they wrote, they'd probably inquire as to whether there were any openings for torturers at Guantanamo).
And then the point of the lesson:
Is WikiLeaks heroic or villainous for releasing these documents? (Alternatively, you might temper such a stark question by softening the wording slightly, like so: "Is WikiLeaks a force for good or an instigator of trouble?")
Where are the questions about the government? Where are the questions about the actions in the paper themselves? They've created quite a little fact-free world where there are no values and are no ethics there is just an excercise that has them pretend (over and over) that they are the government, briefly 'informs' them of a one Whistleblower via an attack piece, pays a passing nod to Daniel Ellsberg (the lesson plan contains no real unit on Daniel) and then wants to ask for a judgment that will be cast in good or evil.
This isn't teaching, this indoctrination. Should your children's school use it, raise bloody hell. No school should use this crap. It's one-sided and the educational equivalent of smut. The New York Times should be ashamed of themselves. While they regularly pull their stunts on readers, now they want to contaminate the minds of children?

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"WikiLeaks and the ongoing stalemate"
"'When the army has all but completely pulled out of Iraq . . .'"
"I Hate The War"
"The Swinging Values Candidate Newt Gingrich"
"Rice and Bean Salad in the Kitchen"
"Don't leave my car in a ditch for 2 years"
"I'm old (officially)"
"The nightmare could be over"
"Thank you (not you, Terry Gross)"
"Riverdaughter, act like a feminist already"
"grading terry o'neill and now"
"US Super Spies!!!!"
"The Girl Most Likely To . . ."
"Poor fundraising"
"Happy Halloween"
"Chuck, WikiLeaks"
"He lost his what?"