Saturday, September 04, 2010






Today Poynter publishes an internal AP memo written by Tom Kent, the AP's Deputy Managing Editor for Standards and Production,
Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.
To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.
As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."
However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.
In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.
Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.
Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can't predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.
We're opening with that because it is news and it is important. To be clear, not every journalist has jumped on the Iraq War over ball. For every idiot on MSNBC or John Nichols, there have been cautious voices who have refused to play along. Diane Rehm has repeatedly noted that 50,000 troops and the claim of an end make no sense, Michael R. Gordon has offered perspective as well, as has Steve Inskeep, Matthew Rothschild, Chris Floyd, Sonali Kolhatkar, Jane Arraf, Margaret Warner, Scott Horton, Jason Ditz, and Kelley B. Vlahos among others. But they have been the exception. (Scott Horton is the journalist, not the attorney. To be clear on which one, he gets a link.) More commonly, American news consumers have been repeatedly greeted with blind repetition of White House spin and, especially for so-called 'independent' media (Katrina, we're especially talking about The Nation, the magazine you've ruined), a desire not to contradict Blessed Barack.
We wanted an independent media -- in terms of the advertising-backed as well as the donation dependant -- when the build up to the Iraq War was beginning. We attacked and bemoaned corporate media but where has Panhandle Media been the last two years? They've had no independence. Let's not kid that you can be part of Journolist and be independent. Let's not kid that you can be exposed as a part of Journolist -- as the bulk of The Nation writers were -- and get away without issuing a public statement of apology to your readers. It doesn't matter that you're an "opinion writer" -- in fact that's even worse because people reading Katha Pollitt, Chris Hayes, Eric Alterman, Richard Kim and the other Nation writers who were on Journolist thought they were reading independent thinkers, unaware that they joined with other like-minded writers to determine what to cover (Chris Hayes and Spencer Ackerman issued the edict not to cover Jeremiah Wright -- even to object to him -- because it could hurt Barack). Whores. That's who staffs independent media and that's only demonstrated all the more when they refuse to apologize for their backroom dealings, their hidden agreements and instead carp about Tucker Carlson and the outlet (Daily Journal) which exposed them.
The other reason is that Tom Kent notes that the media can't "predict" the future. We've noted that here for nearly two years as outlets have repeatedly insisted that the SOFA means the Iraq War ends at the end of 2011 when it doesn't mean that at all. Tom Kent and AP deserve serious applause for doing what we say we want to see: An independent media that questions, an independent media which doesn't just repeat the spin of government officials.
Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane spoke about Iraq with Youchi Dreazen (National Journal), Adberrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera) and Kevin Whitelaw (Congressional Quarterly).
Diane Rehm: Let's talk about the president's comments on the US combat mission in Iraq officially over. Kevin, what does that mean for the role of the remaining 50,000?
Kevin Whitelaw: Well that's right. The-the combat phase of the war is over according to-to the Pentagon and according to President Obama. That doesn't mean that US troops will not engage in any combat anymore. We still have a-a sizeable portion, ten, fifteen percent of the force, that really is part of a Special Forces component that is stationed in Iraq. Still, remember, 50,000 troops. So you take about ten, fifteen percent of that. These are troops that will still go out on missions here and there to captue and kill --
Diane Rehm: With Iraqis?
Kevin Whitelaw: In most cases. We don't know for sure, keep in mind, whether or not there might still be some unilateral missions but in most cases that's correct, they'll go out with Iraqis to-to do certain targeted missions and they'll also -- in the various training mission, the larger training mission -- there will be US troops that accompany Iraqis on various missions and you can expect that if they find themselves under fire they will certainly defend themselves. So there is still combat capability with this force that is in place. Having said that, what it does mean is that the Iraqis are-are, you know, in the front lines, they're the ones that are expected to do-to do the bulk of the security work and to make the bulk of the security decisions about where to target, where to go, how to defend and how to proceed.
Diane Rehm: What about NATO forces still in Iraq, Abderrahim?
Abderrahim Foukara: Well, I mean, if I may comment on the - the broader issue first of all?
Diane Rehm: Sure.
Adberrahim Foukara: It all harks back to democracy obvivously. In a democracy, when you make a pledge, you have to live up to it. President Obama made the pledge that, you know, he would get the US forces out of Iraq and obviously now that we uh-uh-uh closing up to-to the November election, he has to be seen as living up to his word. Now leaving -- withdrawing 50,000 combat troops and leaving several thousands more in Iraq at this time when there isn't even a government in place in Iraq, when despite all pronouncements to the contrary, security forces -- the Iraqi security forces are still not up to snuff, it is -- It may be a little controversial calling this phase, combat phase, over because, it seems to me that, US forces will remain in Iraq, will continue to be combat forces, in one kind or another, in one situation or another. So I hark back to my opening statement in this show which is that in the same way that it is managing the crisis situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Iraq will remain a crisis and the United States will keep on managing that crisis for a long time to come.
Diane Rehm: Youchi.
Youchi Dreazen: You know the war in Iraq has been a war of semantics from the very beginning. "The Coalition of the Willing" which didn't exist. I mean, there was a coalition of the US and a small number of allies, in some cases absurdly small. The one Icelandic female soldier who I met who was, excuse me, who was Iceland's entire military contingent in Iraq. You had five Dutch. You had a Costa Rican bomb dismanteling team who didn't want to leave any of its bases so, if the bomb was brought to them, they would dismantle it but otherwise they wouldn't go. So you had the "Coalition of the Willing" which of course didn't exist, you had "Shock and Awe" which neither "shocked" nor "awed." Now you have this transition from combat mission over to advise-and-assist mission beginning and the previous points were exactly right. You have 50,000 troops which is a considerable number. They are still having the same equipment they had before. They still have the same armored vehicles. They will still be out on patrol. It's a semantic difference but that's been the case with Iraq from the very beginning. The key difference to my mind is there's no government. The second key difference from what the president said, the president's speech sounded very much like "We are out the door." The feeling within the Pentagon is that this will be renegotiated and that, by the end of next year, there will still be troops there.
Diane Rehm: David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post yesterday that, "One of the mysteries of U.S. policy is why Washington keeps pushing a formula that will allow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep his job (or another top post) at a time when he is rejected by nearly all Iraqi political parties. America's silent ally in this peculiar gambit is Iran. After so much pain, Iraqis deserve better." Youchi?
Youchi Dreazen: There is a very short and simple answer to the first part of the question. It's that American officials have come to like Nouri al-Maliki and to trust him which is remarkable if you remember a memo leaked out a few years ago, which had been written by Stephen Hadley who was then the National Security Advisor for the Bush administration, raising questions about Maliki and making clear that, if you read the memo carefully enough, that he was under some sort of American surveillance because they didn't trust him. Now they do. And the reason why there willing to keep him in power -- even as a caretaker, let alone post as a caretaker -- is that there's a feeling that he's a person you can do business with, a person you can trust and who has some measure of control with the security forces.
Diane Rehm: But how much trust is there, Kevin, that they can finally get a government put together?
Kevin Whitelaw: You know, we've been down this road. Every time there has been one of these elections, there's been a lengthy transition. This one's been even longer than the other ones but all the other ones did result in a government that was able to exercise some amount of control. At this point, it has dragged out even more, it's a sign of how little trust still exists between the parties over there and I think you also have a sense of while, while, there's a lot of Iraqis who are not big fans of Prime Minister Maliki, he's still something of a known entity to them whereas any new member -- any new potential leader , particularly from a different party will be a gamble, a roll of the dice. And so you have a real difficult question there for these Iraqi politicians to decide: Do you go with -- Which guy do you go with? The devil you know? The devil you once knew, which is a former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose party, whose coalition did well in the election? Or do you bring in yet again somebody else? And then, obviously, all of the political jockeying below that level. It's-it's --
Diane Rehm: And considering all of that, how realistic is it that the US will pull out at the end of 2011?
Adberrahim Foukara: I think militarily they will. My sense is the President Obama will be able to live up to his pledge to get all or most of the military out of - out of Iraq and by the end of 2011. Now what will that remain for the role of the United States in Iraq? I think the role of Iraq in the United States will, in different ways, continue to be very strong, for different reasons. One of them is obviously the fear although [US Vice President] Joe Biden actually trashed it but the fear that the Iranians are playing an increasing role and therefore for the United States to handover, if you will, Iraq to the Iranians or to anybody else, for that matter, in the region, it's not going to happen. Having said that, there's nothing that the United States, I think, they current state of play being what it is in Iraq, there's nothing that the United States can do in Iraq to actually increase its influence beyond what the -- beyond the influence that's actually attributed to-to the Iranians. You have to remember that the United States, the Americans have built a huge embassy, it's probably one of the largest embassies in the world in terms of its physical size and in terms of its staffing and that gives you an indication as to the transformation of the role of the United States in Iraq post-2011. But there's no doubt that the United States has lost influence in Iraq.
Diane Rehm: There is also transformation of opinion about the United States as a result of the war in Iraq. Youchi?
Youchi Dreazen: Well that was something that President Obama tried to address in his speech earlier this week. You know the multiple facets of that, obviously, the war began in tremendous, tremendous controversy which has never really gone away. It was a measure of original sin in many ways. It was seen as illegitimate, it was seen as under false pretenses. In Iraq, you've seen opinion on the United States really vary, almost like on a sign [sound?]wave. There was the initial, what Gen [David] Petraeus referred to as "the man on the moon" feeling of "Hey, US, you put a man on the moon. Why can't you restore our electricity? Why can't you restore our water or our sewage?" Then during the civil war, there was the feeling of the US is at least less of an evil than the Shi'ite death squads or the Sunni death squads. Now again, there's a feeling of -- my Iraqi staff are e-mailing from Iraqi daily, my fromer Iraqi staff when I was at the Wall St. Journal, there's still no power, it's a 125 [degrees] and they have three hours of electricity a day. So there's again the feeling of, 'We know you spent all this money, we know that it enriched a lot of corrupt officials, but why can't you fix these very, very basic issues?' One point on the speech that I thought was very interesting, if you think back to how politicized this war has been from the start -- Did Bush lie? Did Bush tell the truth? Was Saddam containable? Etc. I thought it was remarkable that, on the end, in the speech, that basically was our "We're departing" -- President Obama couched the cost of the war primarily as an economic issue. I mean, in his reasoning for why it's good we're getting out, he paid tribute to the troops, he paid tribute to the sacrifice and then said, 'We need to spend that money here at home.' And I just found it very interesting that a war that began with so much high level debate about honesty and lying and torture and deception and all these grand issues, in the end, comes down to 'we can't afford it.'
The conversation continued. We'll stop there. If Adberrahim Foukara crotch nuzzling of Barack got on your nerves, Marcia's addressing that tonight at her site. Again, FYI, Diane has a new book that was just released today Life With Maxie -- Maxie is her chichuahua and the book's being called a must for dog and pet lovers.

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Friday, September 03, 2010






To Margaret Warner last night, Joe Biden denied that 2006 and 2007 were being used as the benchmark (Warner noted how Iraqis told her the use of such a benchmark is offensive) but the reality is that is what they point to in order to declare a 'calmer' Iraq. On All Things Considered (NPR -- link has text and audio) yesterday, Melissa Block spoke with Iraq's one time legal adviser to the United Nations Zaid Al-Ali.
Melissa Block: You spent time traveling all over Iraq, and I'd like to start with you in the south of the country, the largely Shiite south, an area with huge oil reserves. What are conditions and security like there, for example, in the port city of Basra?
Zaid Al-Ali: Well, I mean, today, the conditions are very poor throughout Iraq, the south included. But comparably, if you're comparing it to, for example, 2007 or 2006, they've improved somewhat, especially from a security point of view. You can, you know, go from one place to the other without being certain that you'll be killed on the way or kidnapped. However, regularly, there's demonstrations and riots over poor quality of public services, particularly electricity and the state of hygiene. Basra used to be called the Venice of the south because it's a city that's made up of a large network of canals, and those are now filled with garbage, completely chock-o-block. It's really amazing. You have this sense of a very poor country despite all the wealth of natural resources.
Melissa Block: Right, so the people in the south aren't reaping the rewards of those oil riches that we mentioned?
Zaid Al-Ali: No, they aren't. And that's really the amazing thing is we often hear that Iraq's ruling elite is sectarian in the sense that the Shia only care about the Shia and the Sunnis only care about the Sunnis. Well, it turns out that that's not even true. If that were true, then there would be improvement on the current situation because in fact they don't render any services to anyone.

It's a sovereign Iraq -- or that's what we're told by Barack. South African Press Association reports:
But for Fadel, the supposed sovereignty of Iraq is also contradicted by the "preponderant" US role in the country, particularly on security issues, and UN sanctions which give the New York-based institution considerable power here.
"Baghdad is still under Chapter 7 of the UN charter," he said, which means that 20 years after the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq is still the target of drastic sanctions of the Security Council.
Chief among them is the requirement to pay 5% of oil revenues into a UN special fund which handles war reparations, and to which Iraq has paid $30bn so far.
"Iraq still needs the American umbrella. It is unable to protect itself from external attacks," Fadel added.
Barack's Tuesday night speech included his 'sharing the limelight' with his pal Bully Boy Bush. Marcia refers to it as "Barack goes down on Bush," Cedric and Wally saw it as proof that Barack's got a crush on Bush, Mike argued it was proof positive that Barack was both a fraud and a putz, Elaine fact-checked the little liar on his claim that Bush loved veterans and backed them and dreamed of them and Elaine fact checked him by noting what John Kerry argued in 2004 debates against Bush, and Rebecca went after War Hawk Tony Blair and his claim that "military action was justified" by noting that if it were justified why would it require lying. On Free Speech Radio News yesterday, Norman Solomon shared the following evaluation of Barack's Tuesday night speech, "The speech really wasn't so much about Iraq except as a segueway to glorify a war based on lies, and then by contrast, at least inferentially, declaring the Afghanistan war as even more glorious, ostensibly." Meanwhile Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) reports Barack Tweeted his own speech. Meanwhile the Center for Constitutional Rights' Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond observe:
Another false ending to the Iraq war is being declared. Nearly seven years after George Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Obama has just given a major address to mark the withdrawal of all but 50,000 combat troops from Iraq. But, while thousands of US troops are marching out, thousands of additional private military contractors (PMCs) are marching in. The number of armed security contractors in Iraq will more than double in the coming months.
While the mainstream media is debating whether Iraq can be declared a victory or not there is virtually no discussion regarding this surge in contractors. Meanwhile, serious questions about the accountability of private military contractors remain.
In the past decade the United States has dramatically shifted the way in which it wages war -- fewer soldiers and more contractors.
Last month, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce has 19% more contractors (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the wars in these two countries the most outsourced and privatized in U.S. history.
According to a recent State Department briefing to Congress's Commission on Wartime Contracting, from now on, instead of soldiers, private military contractors will be disposing of improvised explosive devices, recovering killed and wounded personnel, downed aircraft and damaged vehicles, policing Baghdad's International Zone, providing convoy security, and clearing travel routes, among other security-related duties.
The death of trust is what Tim Dunlop (Australia's ABC's The Drum Unleashed) explores, noting the undermining of both trust in the government and in the media as a result of their selling of the illegal war. He also notes how the empire responded to being called out:
Inevitably, the empire(s) fought back. A million articles appeared that sought to brand "bloggers" as know-nothing kids in pyjamas living in their parents' basements. They were ridiculed and lampooned, even as their complaints about false information on WMDs, the role of al Qaida in Iraq, the death toll, were vindicated.
Politicians attacked too. Dissenters were labelled as unpatriotic or useful idiots or whatever other insults could be found to cover their own culpability.
Who could forget
John Howard piously declaring, "If there's a demonstration, it does give some encouragement to the leadership in Iraq," and that "People who demonstrate and who give comfort to Saddam Hussein must understand that and must realise that..."
Governments even attacked public servants they deemed enemies. In the US, CIA undercover agent
Valerie Plame was outed after her husband criticised the Bush administration, while here, the Howard Government dishonestly smeared former intelligence analyst, Andrew Wilkie.
In his Tuesday night speech, Barack lied that the US was 'safer' as a result of the Iraq War. Interviewing War Hawk Tony Blair today on NPR's Morning Edition (link has text and audio), Steve Inskeep pointed out, "A little bit earlier this year, a former head of MI-5, British intelligence service, gave testimony about the war in Iraq in which she said that that war, or perhaps we should say the narrative of that war, radicalized many Muslims inside Britain and outside Britain to turn against the West. Did the decision go to war in Iraq, the inevitable decision to have Westerners killing Muslims, with the inevitable propaganda that would be made of that, turn out to be counterproductive?" Blair's promoting his new book What I Did For Bush: It Takes A Sex Slave. Steve Inskeep is referring to Eliza Manningham-Buller who testified to the Iraq Inquiry July 20. From that day's snapshot:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So you're saying you had evidence that the Iraq conflict, our involvment in the Iraq conflict was a motivation, a trigger, for people who were involved in the attacks in London in July 2005, who were going to Afghanistan to fight. Were there other attacks or planned attacks in which you had evidence that Iraq was a motivating factor?
Eliza Manningham-Buller: Yes. I mean, if you take the video wills that were retrieved on various occasions after various plots, where terrorists who had expected to be dead explained why they had done what they did, it features. It is part of what we call the single narrative, which is the view of some that everything the west was doing was part of a fundamental hostility to the Muslim world and to Islam, of which manifestations were Iraq and Afghanistan, but which pre-dated those because it pre-dated 9/11, but it was enhance by those events.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010






Last night, US President Barack Obama hogged US air waves to spew a bunch of pretty lies, just pretty lies. He hailed Iraq as a success -- somehow forgetting that we have a measure for Iraq success. The White House proposed it at the end of 2006 and Congress signed off on it (and Barack was in the Senate at that time). They're called benchmarks. And Iraq's government or 'government' was supposed to meet those benchmarks to qualify for further funding. Not meet by the end of time, mind you, they were supposed to meet them ALL within 12 months. They never, ever did. Iraq is not a success and all the gas baggery in the world attempting to spin for Barack somehow forgot that the White House proposed a series of benchmarks, the Congress endorsed them and Nouri al-Maliki agreed ot them but they never got met. That would mean: Failure.
Today on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane explored the Iraq War with her guests Phyllis Bennis (IPS), Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post, author of Imperial Life In The Emerald City), and retired Gen James Dubik. And, FYI, Diane has a new book that was just released today Life With Maxie -- Maxie is her chichuahua and the book's being called a must for dog and pet lovers.
Phyllis Bennis: I think the reality is that getting our troops out is only step one. It's not step last of the obligations that we have to the people of Iraq. Most of us that have been against this war since before it was waged believe that getting the troops out now -- whether it was, we've said now seven years ago, we say now today -- is the first step. Before that we can't make good on the obligations of real reparations, real reconstruction. What we're doing instead, I'm afraid, Diane, is we're moving -- the transition is not from US control to Iraqi control but rather from Pentagon control to State Dept control. We're militarizing diplomacy by sending in -- now it would be armored cars or armored personnel carriers, planes, surveillance drones, a 7,000 armed contractor team of what I would consider mercenaries that will not be under the Pentagon's control so they will legally be able to stay even after the official pullout time because they won't be under the control of the Dept of Defense -- the only part that's identified in that agreement. So this is not good enough in terms of the moves that we need towards a real end to our military engagement.
The entire hour was worth listening to and we'll note other parts throughout the snapshot. But last night, Mr. Pretty Lies decided to share more of the same with the American people in a prime time address. With the world? No, Mr. Pretty Lies was happy to talk about 'sacrifice' but somehow the 'sacrifice' never really included the Iraqi people or, for that matter, the battered and bruised US Constitution which was violated by both the Bush administration and the Barack administration to start and continue the ongoing and illegal war on Iraq.
There is no legal recognition of pre-emptive wars of aggression. There never has been and, hopefully, there never will be. One of the most infamous wars is WWII and Adolf Hitler wages a war of aggression. Germany was not attacked. Germany made the decision to go to war. It was an illegal move on the part of Germany. By the same context, the US-led invasion was illegal.
The Iraq Inquiry has yet to issue any findings but testimonies have demonstrated that Tony Blair (then-Prime Minister of England when the war began) had already been advised that the war would be illegal without authorization from the United Nations. The UN resolution that passed was to allow inspectors into Iraq (to search for those mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction) . As one legal adviser serving under Blair after another has testified, that resolution did not 'okay' a war and, to be legal, a second resolution was needed. Blair was repeatedly informed of that. Even while being informed of that, he told Bully Boy Bush that whatever he (Bush) decided, England would go along.
The US did not want a second resolution and, based on British testimony, it appears that they did not want to go back for a second resolution because they feared that they might be hemmed in or constrained by a second resolution -- that conditions and qualifiers might be added. (Appears? The Inquiry's public testimony has largely come from the British -- plus Hans Blix)
The three 'biggies' for starting the illegal war were: US White House occupant Bully Boy Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard -- Howard, of course, is forever treated as the third wheel and forgotten.
The United Nations authorized inspectors to enter Iraq and search for Weapons of Mass Destruction. They found none. As noted during Hans Blix's ridiculous testimony to the Inquiry, Blair, Bush or Howard could claim Blix as the reason for their war of aggression. Blix repeatedly hedged in his reports, repeatedly painted things as more dire than they actually were and should be remembered as one of the War Hawks. But the three can't hide behind Blix because they all lied in their own countries. And, here, we'll do like history and just forget John Howard.
Tony Blair and his Cabinet lied to the citizens of the United Kingdom to sell the illegal war. They falsely asserted that the UK could be attacked by Iraq with WMD within 45 minutes. It was a lie. As has been demonstrated in public testimony to the Inquiry, it was a lie Blair knew to be a lie before it was ever repeated. Bush lied so much that it would be impossible to chart every one of them -- even with a series of Venn diagrams.
He lied by inference -- repeatedly linking 9-11 to Iraq when there was no connection between the two -- and he lied outright. On the latter, there was the "mushroom cloud" nonsense where he would attempt to scare the American public. At one point, he would warn of Iraq attempting to purchase "yellow cake uranium" which was a lie -- a known lie. Former US Ambassador Joe Wilson would be tasked with visiting Niger to determine whether the rumors were true or false. Wilson would report to the government that the rumors were false. As the lie was repeated and repeated by Bush and his administration, Wilson would begin to push back and, after the illegal war had started, pen the New York Times column "What I Didn't Find In Africa." As retaliation for documenting that the illegal war was built on lies, the administration would go after Wilson and target his wife Valerie Plame -- Plame was then an undercover agent for the CIA. Plame's cover would be blown by the administration. Scooter Libby would eventually get to know a federal prison very well as a result of his role in the outing of Plame.
Bush lied and people died. That was one of many slogans throughout the ongoing and illegal war. Bush did lie. He also lied to Congress. Colin Powell lied to the United Nations (Powell would infamously tell Barbara Walters in 2006 that his testimony to the United Nations was a ''blot'' on his record while lying that he didn't realize he was lying -- Powell's handmaiden Lawrence Wilkerson is a professional liar but he's become a MSNBC hero because he lies that Powell is innocent -- the record demonstrates otherwise -- and puts all blame on Bush). Bush lied, Dick Cheney lied, Collie lied (Cheney taunted that Collie needed to get down in the mud with the rest of them and that his approval rating was high enough that he could afford to), they all lied.
In the midst of their lies, in the fall of 2002, the administration forced a vote in Congress. What was being voted for is in dispute for some. What's not in dispute is that the vote was pushed by the administration ahead of the 2002 mid-term elections because -- having falsely linked Iraq and 9-11 and having created the 'terrorism' scare with never ending 'chatter' in the media -- the administration could use a no-vote in an attempt to paint opponents as 'weak on terror.' Elizabeth Edwards has always maintained that then-Senator John Edwards voted for the authorization believing that a second one would be needed. She maintained that, for example, to Ruth Conniff on the pages of The Progressive. (Matthew Rothschild's called out that assertion in his note to the readers in that issue.) Then-Senator Hillary Clinton has also stated that she believed the vote would still require the Bush administration to come back before Congress should the US go to war. Not-in-the-Senate Barack Obama gave a whiny and petulant speech about 'dumb wars' and wars and he wasn't opposed to all wars but he was opposed to this one -- at that time. By the 2004 DNC convention in Boston, he would be telling the New York Times that, had he been in the US Senate in 2002, he would have voted FOR the authorization. Elected to the US Senate in the fall of 2004, he would go on to repeatedly vote FOR the illegal war by repeatedly voting TO fund the war. Somehow that didn't matter to his press whores on the left and 'left' who would help create the fairytale (Bill Clinton called it correctly) that Barack was anti-war and had always opposed the Iraq War.
Lies were needed to sell the war, lies were needed to continue it. Judith Miller was a star reporter for the New York Times before the war began. She'd worked her way up to that post having previously worked for NPR, The Progressive and other outlets. Her pre-war reporting was little more than stenography which helped sell the wars. Miller, however, did not lie. She was a bad reporter. But if she'd lied, she wouldn't have disgraced herself in Iraq as she commandeered a US military unit and basically led them on search missions for WMD. Miller betrayed her profession but there's nothing to indicate that she also lied. (She appears to have foolishly believed every false claim used to sell the Iraq War.) Miller became the poster child of the illegal war (and would lose her job at the New York Times for that and other reasons -- so kicked to the curb was she that Maureen Dowd was allowed to mock Miller on the pages of the paper). But Miller was far from the only propagandist in the press corps who helped sell the illegal war. The others largely kept their heads down -- including the one who co-wrote the October 1, 2001 front-page New York Times article which first falsely linked 9-11 and Iraq and claimed that Saddam Hussein, then leader of Iraq, had terrorist training facilities where hijackers were trained (9-11 is September 11, 2011, when US planes were hijacked and two flown into the World Trade Centers, one crashed into the Pentagon and one crashed in a Pennsylvania field). It helped to have a penis. If you were a man, you didn't get called out.
This was best demonstrated when Miller was no longer a front-pager but the New York Times Go-Go Boyz in The Green Zone were. Their lies continued the Iraq War. But other than Danny Schechter, Molly Bingham, Thomas E. Ricks and the writers for WSWS, few bothered to call out the Dexy Gordons and John Burns. Dexy let the military proof his copy -- which is why it was how many days old when it hit the paper? But type up what the military wants and you too can win awards the way Dexy did. It was their lies that prolonged the illegal war most of all. Things were awful in Iraq but they didn't tell you that. In 2006, on campus speaking engagements, Dexy would suddenly want to share the things they didn't put in during real time and seemed to think that a campus qualified for a confessional and he was somehow absolved. Had they not been creating waves of Operation Happy Talk, the American public might have caught on a lot sooner to just how bad things were. There are the lies that start wars, there are the lies that continue them.
One of the biggest lies Barack conveyed last night was that the Iraq War was over. It is not over. Making that very clear is this from Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times):

(One soldier did ask if the end of combat operations meant the end of extra combat pay. Mr. Gates said that as far as he was concerned, combat pay still applied in Iraq, where troops are still being killed by homemade bombs, sniper fire and mortar attacks.)

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010







Yesterday on Uprising, Sonali Kolhatkar spoke with Hadani Ditmars about the so-called 'end' of the Iraq War. Excerpt:
Hadani Ditmars: Of course, there's still a huge US presence in Iraq. An embassy the size of Vatican City, several desert bases that are going to remain. I think we really shouldn't be focusing so much on the 'withdrawal.' What we should look at are the larger systemic issues. The huge humanitarian catostrophe that Iraq is-is experiencing at the moment where seven years after the invasion, as you can read about in the new issue of New Internationalist which I traveled back to Baghdad in February, March to write and photograph. Seven years later the legacy of this invasion is that 43% of Iraqis live in abject poverty, 70% don't have access to clean drinking water, huge unemployment rate, terrible security situation, drastic decline in the status of women and a secular society that has become Islamicized in a bad way -- I mean, I don't even want to call is Islamicized, just militia rule has become the norm. So I think we have to look at these larger underlying issues. I don't think that the so-called withdrawal is really going to effect those issues one way or another. It could have a shorterm, as it has in the past several weeks. upswing in violent attacks, further deterioration of the security situation. But the underlying issues and the underlying damage that has been done by this disastorous invasion and occupation are still there, still need to be addressed.
Sonali Kolhatkar: What is the so-called advisery role that the US troop will play to the Iraqi army. What dot that mean?
Hadani Ditmars: Well, you know, I don't work for the Pentagon so I can't tell you exactly, but I assume it's going to be a very hands-on approach rather than arms' length. At the same time there is a sense of abandonment. I mean, I'm sure you read the Tariq Aziz interview in the Guardian a few weeks ago where he said that Iraq is not ready and that the Americans by withdrawing are abandoning Iraq to the wolves. Well I would say that Iraq has already been abandoned to the wolves, sadly. So this could just make a bad situation worse. It's not really a full withdrawal. It's not really the end of ocupation. But in terms of an advisory role perhaps there will still be some sort of military advice going on. It's really just kind of window dressing, as I say, for the larger issues. There's still a political power, there's still a huge issue around sectarian violence and the sectarian strife. You know, it's a bit frustrating when you've been covering Iraq for as long as I have -- since 1997 -- that the media in the West is primarily interested in Iraq when there's some news that is really more about America than Iraq, you know? When there's been a bombing, or even the elections which were kind of pseudo democratic I would say, there was a flurry of media interest in Iraq. But it's very difficult to get people interested in the status of women and how it's declined drastically or in the larger issue of how this once secular society has become radicalized and fundamentalist, etc. So, yeah, you know, I think obviously the $53 billion that's been spent on "aid," a lot of that has gone to military hardware in the name of military advisory activity. A lot of that has gone into the pockets of American military contractors. And, of course, to this growing army of mercenaries.
Sonali Kolhatkar: And I want to ask you about that privatizing -- further privatizing of the occupation. But first, what do ordinary Iraqis -- what is the view of most Iraqis? Obviously, it's not going to be homogenius but if you can give us a sense of what most Iraqis think about the security situation in their county it would be helpful
Hadani Ditmars: Well I don't know if you read the issue that I wrote and photographed but there was a sixty-eight-year-old architect, Muwafaq al-Taei, a former Saddam-era town planner and he's quite an interesting fellow because as he was being forced to build these terrible villas for Saddam, he was also a Communist and a Shia so he was being spied on at the same time. So he was almost killed by US troops post-invasion when he was doing a project with the Marsh Arabs. So he's rather philosophical as are many Iraqis. And he says in the issue that Iraqis always sort of make do and anarchy is the mother of invention and we'll get through this. But, you know, there's this incredible sort of resilience that people have which I just find staggering really because the average Iraqi has been through so much. At the time of elections, they were -- they were quite cynical about what was going on -- and rightly so because there was nothing really in the way of campaign finance laws. There were incumbents like Ahmed Chalabi who were simultaneously running for office and at the same time nixing the bids of rival opponents under the auspices of the infamous de-Ba'athification Commission. Government forces were rounding up opponents and jailing them under trumped up terrorism charges. So, you know, some Iraqis -- a lot of Iraqis I met were not voting and they were quite cynical about it. At the same time, when the polling stations were being bombed, this sort of encouraged Iraqis to actually get out and vote -- almost in spite of what was going on. Lately when I've been speaking with Muwafaq in Baghdad, he just says, "Well we're just getting on with it, you know, the country isn't really being run by the politicians, it's being run by the Iraqi people and we're just trying our best to make do." It's almost like they've been set a drift. They have no real functioning state. And this is really a contrast from, of course, the Ba'athist when the state was the great provider, when Iraq had the best public health and education system in the Arab world. Having said that, the state still remains the main employer. So it's -- it's really sad to see what's happened to the country. Going back even for the first time in seven years, I was shocked to see how Baghdad had been so completely broken and colonized and walled off into sectarian neighborhoods. If you look at the fact spread, in the May issue of the New Internationalist, there's some quite damning statistics. But there's also a very telling map of Baghdad -- one from 2003, before the invasion, one from 2008. And I don't know if you had a chance to look at that but you'll see that in 2003 most of the neighborhoods were mixed -- meaning Sunni, Shia, Christian, Muslim, Arab, Kurd. After the invasion, in 2008, the majority of the -- in particular after the sectarian wars of 2006 and 2007, most of Baghdad neighborhoods were sectarian enclaves and the majority Shia. So the whole social fabric of -- not to mention the political landscape has shifted radically. And Iraqis are really, I think, just left reeling from it all and trying to struggle for daily survival.
Marco Werman: Jane Arraf is in Baghdad for the Christian Science Monitor. She says Iraqis have mixed feelings about this transition.
Jane Arraf: Now everybody here wants to see occupation forces gone. That's indisputable. They don't like seeing American soldiers in the street. They don't like seeing any foreign soldiers in the street. It's fairly natural. But having said that, there is a real sense here that this is still a broken country and it was the Americans, pretty much, who broke it. That's the feeling in the streets. And until they fix it, they shouldn't just leave. Now the US will say -- US officials who are here will say they're not just flipping a switch, they're not just leaving, they're going to remain engaged. That doesn't actually mean a lot to people in the street because really what matters to them is, "Are the car bombs going off? Are those rockets being fired?" Is there a sense that someone will protect them? Increasingly that's looking towards the borders.
Jane Arraf (CSM via McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "In Baghdad, all leave for Iraqi soldiers and police was canceled, and new checkpoints were set up across the city, adding another level of frustration to Iraqis struggling to get through 115-degree heat amid power cuts and water shortages - many of them fasting during the holy month of Ramadan." For The NewsHour (PBS -- link has transcript, audio and video), Margaret Warner reported from Iraq last night:
MARGARET WARNER: After nearly two years of steadily declining bloodshed, violence has been on the uptick for the past two months. The Iraqis are in charge of security in the cities and their main line of defense are checkpoints like these.
CAPT. MOHAMMED RADEWI, Iraqi Army (through translator): For the present moment, the situation is unstable, and the army is using these checkpoints to control the situation.
MARGARET WARNER: Iraqi checkpoints themselves are becoming targets, as they were last week in a string of attacks aimed at undermining Iraqis' confidence in their government and security forces. Baghdad resident Janan Jezma was gloomy when asked about the U.S. force drawdown.
JANAN JEZMA, resident of Baghdad: I think we need America here. We need America here. I think so.
MARGARET WARNER: One city that has had its fill of American troops is Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle.
If you'd like to ask Margaret Warner a question about Iraq click here. The NewsHour's Rundown News Blog is collecting question. At the program's blog today, Larisa Epatko features the voices of five Iraqis on how they see the future of their country.
-- after
US House Rep Ron Paul delivered the following (and you can hear the audio at
Amid much fanfare last week, the last supposed "combat" troops left Iraq as the administration touted the beginning of the end of the Iraq War and a change in the role of the United States in that country. Considering the continued public frustration with the war effort and with the growing laundry list of broken promises, this was merely another one of the administration's operations in political maneuvering and semantics in order to convince an increasingly war-weary public that the Iraq War is at last ending. However, military officials confirm that we are committed to intervention in that country for years to come, and our operations have, in fact, changed minimally, if really at all.
After eight long, draining years, I have to wonder if our government even understands what it is to end a war anymore. The end of a war, to most people, means all the troops come home, out of harm's way. It means we stop killing people and getting killed. It means we stop sending troops and armed personnel over and draining our treasury for military operations in that foreign land. But much like the infamous "mission accomplished" moment of the last administration, this "end" of the war also means none of those things.
50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and they are still receiving combat pay. One soldier was killed in Basra just last Sunday, after the supposed end of combat operations, and the same day 5,000 men and women of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood were deployed to Iraq. Their mission will be anything but desk duty. Among other things, they will accompany the Iraqi military on dangerous patrols, continue to be involved in the hunt for terrorists, and provide air support for the Iraqi military. They should be receiving combat pay, because they will be serving a combat role!
Of course, the number of private contractors -- who perform many of the same roles as troops, but for a lot more money -- is expected to double. So this is a funny way of ending combat operations in Iraq. We are still meddling in their affairs, we are still putting our men and women in danger, and we are still spending money we don't have. This looks more like an escalation than a drawdown to me!
The ongoing war in Iraq takes place against a backdrop of economic crisis at home, as fresh numbers indicate that our economic situation is as bad as ever, and getting worse! Our foreign policy is based on an illusion: that we are actually paying for it. What we are doing is borrowing and printing the money to maintain our presence overseas. Americans are seeing the cost of this irresponsible approach as our economic decline continues. Unemployed Americans have been questioning a policy that ships hundreds of billions of dollars overseas while their own communities crumble and their frustration is growing. An end to this type of foreign policy is way overdue.
A return to the traditional American foreign policy of active private engagement and non-interventionism is the only alternative that can restore our moral and fiscal health.
All the liars and whores try desperately to spin today. For example, BBC's Mark Mardell who today wants to scribble about the Iraq War being right. He whored yesterday, he whores today. He wants you to know the illegal war was right because, get this, Richie Armitage told him that. Read in vain for any reminder that Richie is the chatty gossip who helped out Valerie Plame. You won't find out about that. The War Hawk Richie gets to spin and, unlike when he was almost in trouble (and should have been), there's no effort to lie and claim he was ever against the Iraq War. (That was the cover story, if you've forgotten: Why would he intentionally out Plame, he was against the war!) Mark Mardell drools over Richie ("hardman," "massively built," "arms and shoulders muscled") and you just have to wonder what Richie did to get such fawning press.

All the whores are grabbing a street light apparently. For example it's hard to tell which is more disgraceful, Paul Woflowitz for attempting to lie yet again or the New York Times for printing his garabage? Then again, there's something symbolic about the two public menaces who helped sell the illegal war coming together today.

But it's not just the New York Times. US House Rep Howard P. McKeon, a War Hawk from the Republican side of the aisle, gets to whine in the Los Angeles Times that Congress better keep funding Iraq, it just better. Are you starting to notice how nothing has changed?

The Iraq War is not ending. And not a damn thing's been learned. The liars and pushers are invited back by the media and the closest to an 'expanded' point of view the media wants to provide is apparently NPR's Morning Edition bringing on White House plus-size spokesmodel Robert Gibbs to 'talk' Iraq with Steve Inskeep. (Inskeep did ask some needed questions but tubby Gibbs danced around them.) It's left to Peter Bergen (CNN) to point out:
It also bears recalling that almost none of the goals of the war as described by proponents of overthrowing Saddam were achieved:
-- An alliance between Saddam and al Qaeda wasn't interrupted because there wasn't one, according to any number of studies, including one by the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Pentagon's internal think tank. Indeed, it was only after the US-led invasion of Iraq that al Qaeda established itself in the country, rising by 2006 to become an insurgent organization that controlled most of Sunni Iraq.
-- There was no democratic domino effect around the Middle East. Quite the opposite; the authoritarian regimes became more firmly entrenched.
-- Peace did not come to Israel, as the well-known academic Fouad Ajami anticipated before the war in Foreign Affairs. Ajami predicted that the road to Jerusalem went through Baghdad.
-- Nor did the war pay for itself as posited by top Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz, who told Congress in 2003 that oil revenues "could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. We're dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." Quite the reverse: Iraq was a giant money sink for the American economy.
-- The supposed threat to the United States from Saddam wasn't ended because there wasn't one to begin with. And in his place arose a Shia-dominated Arab state, the first in modern history.
With few exceptions, all we're hearing from are the War Hawks and no one's supposed to notice that. No one's supposed to notice that the same whores who sold the illegal war are invited to weigh in again. Where are the voices of peace? Where are the voices of those who were right about the illegal war? Watch, listen and read in vain at most outlets. One who was right, Phyllis Bennis (Foreign Policy In Focus), issues the following statement:

The U.S. occupation of Iraq continues on a somewhat smaller scale, with 50,000 troops. These are combat troops, "re-missioned" by the Pentagon with new tasks, but even Secretary of Defense Gates admits they will have continuing combat capability and will continue counter-terrorism operations. The 4500 Special Forces among them will continue their "capture or kill" raids while building up the Iraqi Special Operations Forces as an El Salvador-style death squad.
The only transition underway is not from U.S. to Iraqi control, but from Pentagon to State Department deployment. Thousands of new military contractors, armored transport, planes, "rapid response" forces and other military resources will all be shifted from Pentagon to State Dept control, thus remaining within the terms of the U.S.-Iraqi Status of forces Agreement that calls for all U.S. troops and Pentagon-controlled mercenaries to leave by the end of 2011.
President Obama's speech will not use any terms remotely close to "mission accomplished" -- because with violence up, sectarianism rampant, the government paralyzed, corruption sky-high and rising, oil contracts creating more violence instead of national wealth, there is no victory to claim.

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Monday, August 30, 2010







On the most recent broadcast of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), guest host Teymoor Nabili spoke with Phyllis Bennis, Hoshyar Zebari and Bradley Blakeman about the Status Of Forces Agreement, the drawdown and other issues. Excerpt:
Teymoor Nabili: Well the Washington p.r. machine has been at pains to portray the remaining US troops as advisers to the soveign Iraqi government and security services. But is that an accurate representation of the situation? I'm joined on today's program by Hoshyar Zebari who is Iraq's Foreign Minister -- he's in Baghdad -- in Washington D.C. Phyllis Bennis is the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and, also in Washington, Bradley Blakeman a former senior advisor to the former US president George Bush and now a professor of politics and public affairs at Georgetown University. Welcome to the program all of you. Thank you for being with us. Phyllis Bennis, I'll begin with you if I might. The phrasing of this drawdown has been very cautious. The last combat brigade has left Iraq, we're told. What exactly does that mean?
Phyllis Bennis: Well it means that we're going to call them something different. These are conventional combat brigades. These are brigades that are being, what the Pentagon used to call, "remissioned" -- what the Washington Post is now calling "rebranded" as something other than what they are which is combat brigades. A new 3,000 brigade from Fort Hood left on Sunday night. This is the 3rd Armored Calvary Division. That is a combat brigade. That's what's left -- 50,000 combat troops with a mission that does not officially include combat but as Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates was careful to say, they are prepared for combat, they are capable of combat, they will be embedded with Iraqi military units that will be engaging in combat and within them are 4,500 Special Ops forces who will continue to be engaged in so-called "counter-terrorism" attacks -- meaning, go after those who we decide are the 'bad guys.' So this is combat --
Teymoor Nabili: Bradley Blakeman, is that how you see it?
Phyllis Bennis: -- on a smaller scale.
Bradley Blakeman: Yeah, I have to agree with Phyllis, this is semantics. Call it what you want, but it's 50,000 combat troops that remain there. Our president is very desperate for any kind of achievement. Foreign policy seems to be the area he's concentrating on now. He needs to focus away from his domestic woes and this is a good way for him to do that.
Teymoor Nabili: Foreign Minister Zebari, the Washington policy it seems is to whitewash the reality. How do you see it?
Hoshyar Zebari: Well I think this is President Obama's campaign pledge fulfillment actually -- pledge. He did pledge to the American public during the election campaign that he will withdraw all combat troops by August 31, 2010. [C.I. note: Zebari is wrong. The 'pledge' or 'promise' was first all combat troops out within 16 months of his being sworn in and then became all out within 10 months. With the exception of a lengthy New York Times article, he did not usually go into "combat troops" semantics and most voters heard his cry of "We want to end the war now!" and took "combat troops" to mean all troops out other than Marines guarding the US Embassy in Baghdad.] And according to the SOFA agreement or the Agreement of Withdrawal of American troops [the latter term is what Nouri sold the SOFA to Iraqis as being] all troops should leave the country by the end of 2011. So I think the process has gone smoothly. There would be forces still -- a sizeable force remaining in the country. 50,000 is not a small number. And in fact there mission and their mandate is to advise-and-assist Iraqi security forces --
Teymoor Nabili: But the point that the other two guests were making, Foreign Minister, pardon me for interrupting, is that however you want to describe this and however you want to interpret the words of the Status Of Forces Agreement, nothing much has changed in Iraq. These are still US combat troops and the situation and their activites will really not be much different, will they?
Hoshyar Zebari: No, it will be different, definitely. This number 50,000, has come down from 170,000 -- 140,000. So it's a a huge difference. Second, the mission has changed. All US troops have left the main cities. They are in their barracks outside the cities and they are embedded with the Iraqi security forces. So there is a major change in the mission, in the operation, in the mood of carrying out the operation and so on --
Teymoor Nabili: Alright.
Hoshyar Zebari: -- in the relations and their presence and Iraqi military authority.
Teymoor Nabili: And, Phyllis Bennis, surely that is the point. That, at the end of the day, you may be right. It may all be a slight semantic distinction but, at the end of the day, there are less troops and they are on the way out.
Phyllis Bennis: And having fewer troops and if they are on the way out, that's a good thing. I think there is a big question here, however. The agreement -- the SOFA agreement that the Foreign Minister speaks of -- was of course negotiated not by President Obama but by George Bush in the last months of his administration in 2008. In that agreement, it does say that all troops will be gone. But there is a huge loophole which is that if the Iraqi government which, in my view, is still dependent on the United States for its survival decides that it needs US troops, wants US troops to stay or if the US decides that it wants to keep troops in Iraq for all the same reasons they were sent there in the first place -- which has to do with oil, which has to do with bases, which has to do with the expansion of US power in the region -- none of those reasons have changed. If the US decides that they want to stay, they certainly are in the position to put pressure on the Iraqi government. If the Iraqi government decides that they want to ask the US to stay, they could certainly take that initiative. So either side is really in a position to say, "We'd like to renegotiate this and talk about keeping troops further in." Even if that doesn't happen, what's already under way is a shift -- not, as we are being told, a transition from US troops to Iraqi troops but from Pentagon troops to State Dept security officials. Thousands of State Dept security people are being sent. There is the anticipation that there will be about 7,000 contractors being sent who will be doing all the things that the military does but they will not be controlled in the same way by the SOFA agreement which only speaks of contractors under the pay of the Defense Dept, of the Pentagon. Those who are under the administration of the State Dept -- which will include planes, drones, armored personnel carriers, all of these things which are all military but they will be officially part of the State Dept rather than the Pentagon, they will be continuing so there is a very severe danger, I think, that this will continue.
From reality to spin, Joe Biden, US Vice President, is doing another layover in Baghdad. Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) quotes Biden riffing on Michael Douglas' speech in Romancing the Stone: "We are going to be just fine. They are going to be just fine." Everything but, "Joan Wilder, inside you always were." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) explains he's schedule includes a photo-op on Wednesday when the illegal war is rechristened Operation New Dawn. Sly and Gordon both note that Biden's traveling with his "national security adviser" (pay attention to those national security types popping up in Iraq) who stated Biden would press on the issue of forming a government. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 23 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted. Yesterday, Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reported that the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, is stating that the political stalemate could cause harm and "I worry about that a little bit." AFP quotes the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim stating, "We have started to reach the end of the tunnel. In the next few days, we are heading toward resolving the issue and accelerating the formation of a new government."
Biden's visit is part of the p.r. rollout -- a p.r. rollout which includes photo ops for Barack Obama as well. The New York Post reports Barack visited Watler Reed Army Medical Center today . . .and that it was only his second visit since being sworn in as President of the United States. 20 months two visits. If he didn't need to use the wounded as props today, it would probably still just be one visit because it's so hard to travel all the way from the White House in DC to Walter Reed . . . also in DC. However, White House plus-size spokesmodel Robert Gibbs informed the country today at the White House press briefing that Barack would be phoning (and texting?) Bully Boy Bush tomorrow before Barack gave his speech. War Hawks bonding. How totally non-surprising unless you're a member of the Cult of St. Barack. The only one more delusional today than Barack or Bush may be William McKenzie who self-decieves so much it's jaw dropping. But remember that the Dallas Morning News issued orders, prior to the invasion, that all opposed to the incoming war must be demonized. Which is how Sheryl Crow -- who can sing, play instruments and write songs -- got demonized as the 'music critics' pushed a pop tart and claimed Sherly stole the pop tart's Grammy nomination (reality, the pop-tart couldn't qualify for that year's nomination due to the release date of her output). From the sports pages to the art pages, from the editorial pages to the so-called 'news' pages, no paper disgraced itself more than the Dallas Morning News and it wasn't an accident which is why so few in the publishing industry bother to take the paper seriously today (and no one mourns their now faded DC desk). Whether attacking Steve Nash on the sports pages or allowing the loser ___ ____ columnist to rip apart peace activists as "treasonous" (and this was before the illegal war broke out), the Dallas Morning News proved that there was a reason the day JFK visited Dallas (and was assassinated) they printed their attack and call to violence on JFK. As an 'advertisement' you understand. (I didn't see it but I understand the loser is now doing 'rape jokes' at the paper's blog. That's the level of 'quality' that Belo and the Dallas Morning News provide. How proud they must all be. How fortunate the lucky ones -- including a personal friend of mine -- got away from those crazies long, long ago.) It certainly got results, didn't it? Ewen MacAskill and Martin Chulov (Guardian) report that while Barack prepares to spin in his big speech tomorrow, Hoshyer Zebari has termed the drawdown and "embarrssment" due to the fact that it happens as Iraq has still not formed a government and the reporters note that violence has again reached a new high in Iraq.
In an attempt to combat the p.r. spin and the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan issued a statement at Peace of the Action:
First of all-this was never a war, this always has been an illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign country and it was obviously for the monetary benefit of a few and millions of people, including my family, have suffered because of it.
The first MAJOR HOAX was that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had WMD and a connection to al Qaeda and if the US didn't invade immediately Iraq would send "mushroom clouds" or "drones with bio-weapons to the US East Coast -- the second MAJOR HOAX was that we ended the war on May 1, 2003 when then US president, George Bush, declared an "end" to "combat operations;' the third MAJOR HOAX is that the US ended a horrible dictatorship only to be replaced with a puppet US regime that almost makes execution a national sport.
Now, with a country in ruins and the US leaving many major construction projects unfinished -- we are again perpetrating a MAJOR HOAX, not just on the people of Iraq, but the people of the US.
With 50,000 troops (the 3rd Armored Calvary is deploying from Ft. Hood, Tx to Iraq as we speak), 18,000 mercenary killers and 82,000 support contractors (staffing an Imperial Embassy the size of 80 football fields), the illegal and immoral US occupation of Iraq is far from over.
As Ret. Lt. General James Dubik said recently: "It is in our (US) interest to have an Iraq that is friendly to the US." What he means is an Iraq that is friendly to US war profiteers.
I want to say this in the most simple and direct way that I can: "If you believe that the war in Iraq is over, and not merely carnage rebranded, then you are deluding yourself and I hope you wake up to the fact that for generations human beings have been used as pawns for the political elite and, don't forget, that this is an election year."
I urge all of you to put on your critical-thinking caps and reject this propaganda and reaffirm your commitment to peace above political party.
Anne Pekneth (The Hill) adds, "Let's face it, the Democrats are in an election cycle and the president will repeat that he has kept his election promise to end the combat mission in Iraq by the end of August 2010 and to pull out U.S. soldiers by the end of next year. But as the respected Iraq analyst Anthony Cordesman has pointed out in a recent post for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 'The Iraq War is not over and it is not 'won'."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot "
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