Friday, August 05, 2011







Onto Iraq. Yesterday on Free Speech Radio News, Andrew Stelzer discussed with Phyllis Bennis the announced negotiations on extending the US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011 Excerpt.

Andrew Stelzer: First of all, I'm sure many of our listeners are skeptical on the whole premise of this debate. Is there really a possibility that we're going to see a full US withdrawal from Iraq before 2012 begins?

Phyllis Bennis: I don't think so. I think that there are a number of scenarios where include a complete withdrawal. The SOFA as orignally signed requires all US troops and all Pentagon paid contractors to be out of Iraq by the end of this year. But there's another part of the SOFA that's problematic as well and that is that by specifiying that Pentagon paid contractors must be removed it leaves the door open for State Dept paid contractors. And one of the things that I think we're already seeing on a small scale and it may end up being rather small scale but it may be quite big as well is that a number of Pentagon paid contractors will have their contracts be immediately signed on to State Dept contracts. They will do exactly the same work, the same level of non-accountability and probably even the same huge amounts of money but because they will be paid, their check will be cut by the State Dept rather than the Pentagon, they won't officially be required to leave by the end of the year so that's a serious problem as well.

Andrew Stelzer: And so what are the different political factions on the sides of this debate in Iraq?

Phyllis Bennis: It's hard to know. There's no one in Iraq that believes that there's a popular view. In fact, there's new reports today about a so far not released poll that the US took in Iraq, indicating that there's a widespread hope that the US is out entirely according to the conditions of the SOFA**. The real issue is where do people, individuals within the government, powerful people from a number of different parties, where do they stand? The only party that I think from the broad, mass base of it right up to the top leadership that is thoroughly opposed to it, to the US remaining, is probably the Sadrists, the supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militias have played a key role in the fighting but who also play a major role in the Iraqi Parliament. There are various individuals who believe that their particular brand of power certainly including President Maliki [C.I. note Nouri al-Maliki is prime minister], that their own position of power and influence is dependant on US protection, the US remaining in place. But they can't necessarily go and say that publicly because there is such widespread opposition. So how this plays out is going to be very interesting.

**No, Phyllis, that is not the conditions of the SOFA. That was the lie. There's a difference between truth and lie. Phyllis may choose to paper over reality so that some lying assholes can sneak off with their dignity intact, I won't. Iraqis have died because of these lies. Shame on the liars.

The SOFA replaced the UN mandate. The UN mandate legalized the occupation (there was no mandate for the invasion) and provided legal cover for US troops. Without it, as Joe Biden repeatedly noted in the Senate, and without any replacing agreement, US troops would be in danger of legal prosecution. That was the reason for the mandate, that was the US government's concern. Nouri al-Maliki becomes prime minister in the spring of 2006. The UN mandate expires at the end of that year. He renews it without consulting Parliament. Parliament is enraged. 'This can't happen,' they insist, stating that the Constitution gives them a say. Okay, if the Constitution gives you a say (I agree it did), then you don't go pass new legislation. But that's what they did. And Nouri swore it would never happen again.

Let's look at the wording, "Decides to extend until 31 December 2007 the arrangements established in paragraph 20 of resolution 1483 (2003) for the depositing into the Development Fund for Iraq of proceeds from export sales of petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas and the arrangements referred to in paragraph 12 of resolution 1483 (2003) and paragraph 24 of resolution 1546 (2004) for the monitoring of the Development Fund for Iraq by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board;[. . .]" That's the UN mandate. The fact that it only extended to December 31, 2007 meant that all foreign forces (including US) had to leave at the end of 2007 . . . unless the contract was replaced with another one (be it a mandate or a new contract).

Now following the extension at the end of 2006 (Nouri's letter requesting the extension was dated November 11, 2006), 2007 played out something like the "Slipped my mind" skits from Kids in the Hall, 2007 was drawing to a close and the UN mandate was expiring. What did Nouri do? Renewed it without consulting Parliament. And then pretended to be sorry about that. The US knew their puppet couldn't take the heat on this every year. So the SOFA would be a three year agreement, not a one year. Phyllis may want to stretch the truth to give assholes cover, I don't. The SOFA is no different than the UN mandate. In 2006, when the UN mandate was set to expire, no one was going around saying, "That means the US leaves!!!!" Everyone knew it was very likely the mandate would be renewed. People should have grasped that reality about the SOFA. But you had a lot of liars and a lot of people who don't know the first thing about contract law. That we have arrived at this point is not shocking or unexpected. And you can check the archives from November 2008 and see we've been sounding the alarm on this repeatedly while others whored and lied and while Iraqis died. Playing dumb or excusing the lies does not bring back one Iraqi life. And, in fact, it cheapens their deaths if you rush to distort reality (LIE) so that some US gas bags don't have to take accountability for the lies that they repeatedly told, lies that had consequences, lies that resulted in deaths.

Equally true, the myth of "trainers" needs to be called out. It's not hard. Watch Jason Ditz and Scott Horton talk about it truthfully on Antiwar Radio:

Scott Horton: There are so many wars. We don't have enough time to talk about all of them. But could we fit in Iraq and the future of the American occupation?

Jason Ditz: We can certainly try. The latest with Iraq, it seems to be that the Maliki government is looking to just ignore Parliament entirely, to take a page out of the US book and circumvent the Iraqi Congress and try to prove an extension of some sort without such a vote.

Scott Horton: And so what's the reaction in the Parliament to that?

Jason Ditz: Well there hasn't really been a public reaction yet but I would only assume it's going to be a negative one because, of course, the 2008 vote to extend US troops through this year was incredibly difficult in Iraq's Parliament and it only came with the promise of this grand national referendum on the US occupation which never came. And it seems like the vote's only going to have gotten more difficult since then.

Scott Horton: Well you know, I guess I don't really know and people say otherwise, but I kind of get the idea that Maliki doesn't want the occupation to continue. Now maybe his army guys like having American help and that kind of thing, some of his general and all of that. But I kind of getting the feeling that he's playing the same game that he did in 2008 which is, 'Gee, I'm trying to get them to go along with it but they just don't seem to want to' when his heart really isn't in it. Am I wrong? What do you think?

Jason Ditz: It's really hard to say but it seems like a few months ago he was saying "Absolutely not, there's no need for troop extensions." And now he's saying, 'Well it depend what Parliament's saying and, oh, by the way, military personnel that are classified as trainers don't count and we don't reall need to ask Parliament about that.' So it seems like he's buckling under the pressure and is giving a lot ground to the US demand to be asked to stay.

Scott Horton: Well is there a difference between numbers at all? Obviously, they're going to call combat troops whatever they want to. But trainer seems to imply a very limited number, much less than they wanted. They wanted to leave 10,000 [or] 20,000 troops, right?

Jason Ditz: Right and it's not really clear how many trainers we're talking here. But certainly they could use any excuse to claim that these guys are trainers

Scott Horton: Sure.

Why can Scott Horton and Jason Ditz do that but others can't? What could it be? Maybe the answer's in the next excerpt?

Martha Montelongo: I've heard you refer to Cindy Sheehan and how she was -- she was legitimately, authentically opposed to the war and the left loved rallying around her when she was opposing George Bush or President Bush but as soon as Obama comes into office, nobody pays any attention to her. They just completely ignore her. So it makes you wonder how much of a movement is there and where are all the leftists who were so engaged in the anti-war movement during President Bush's tenure?

Angela Keaton: To be fair and to be really precise, we're talking about moderate liberals, we're talking about the mainstream, not the hard left. The hard left, of course, is still against the war and, you know, they've-they've stayed the course. But moderate liberals, particularly those organizing around the Democratic Party abandoned Sheehan immediately of course because they can no longer turn it against -- They -- Partisanship, in this country the partisanship is so strong and people are so attached and they're very identified with their party as well as, in this case, people are terribly identified with Barack Obama. There's a Cult of Presonality. that I couldn't really imagine about a US president, I find them rather odd and creatures on their best days. But this weird cult that coalesced around him, clearly -- one -- there's a couple of things. Obama is a very, very shrewd politician. He knows very well. His PR people did a wonderful job convincing someone that he was anti-war. In fact, all four times [in the Senate] Barack Obama could've voted against the war, he voted for the war spending, all four times. And he only made one anti-war speech. And that was a speech on Iraq in 2007*. Barack Obama was never an anti-war president, never intended to be, and was very, very explicit when he said he would fight the good war in Afghanistan. His words. And go deeper into Pakistan. I guess talking about the secret -- or not so secret war -- in Pakistan. And he has of course now killed more people with drones in Pakistan than George Bush has -- which is something I'm sure he should be proud of. And these are the people that moderate liberals have chosen to identify with. I mean, you notice that MoveOn and Daily Kos and others are absent from the anti-war movement. There were some very good numbers that happened right around the time that Barack Obama looked like he was going to be the [Democratic Party presidential] nominee and you started seeing all the money, resources draining toward the Obama campaign and CODEPINK chapters went from 200 down to about 90. And CODEPINK itself has very much stayed the course as well but people -- it wasn't the priority anymore and the excitement was around Barack Obama and somehow the gay rights movement has convinced themselves of this too. That like Barack Obama was a gay rights president and that's never been the case. The same thing with the anti-war movement, they convince themselves. It's all wishful thinking, it's a bit of projection on this shiny new model-like-actor type who is now in office. I say that because he's like very good looking and people really respond to that. They responded to that more than they'd respond to the fact that for years they've known about things like depleted uranium, for example, and all the deaths of children in Iraq. This is the direction they chose, as my colleague Scott Horton says, "Tall and handsome over justice." So the more that I think about it, now that I've just said it, damn the moderate left for what they've done because really this time more than ever we needed an antiwar movement and one that was serious and consistent and one that couldn't be picked apart by nationalists and conservatives. The nationalists and the conservatives were right. It wasn't an anti-war movement, it was an anti-Bush movement.

That's's Angela Keaton speaking with Martha Montelongo on Gadfly Radio (here for Angela's segment, here for full episode). And those who don't feel the need to lie, disguise or pretty up the truth don't feel that a War Hawk gets a pass for waging wars. As Sherwood Ross (OpEdNews) observed recently about this war insanity, "That's because presidents and Pentagon chiefs start new wars even before they finish fighting the old ones! Who can recall a time in our history when the U.S. initiated aggressive wars against five nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen)?"

Angela was discussing Come Home America which attempts to be an organization that can represent people opposed to war from all ends of the political spectrum. We've noted it before when, for example, John Halle has promoted it. In 2006, we would have noted it much more than we have in the last two years. Why is that?

There are trust issues. Not with Angela Keaton, not with Adam Kokesh, not with Karen or any of the others on the right. They have been consistent. They bring the same vocal outrage today that they brought when Bush ran the wars. The same cannot be said of people on my side -- including people who signed Come Home America's letter.

Jeff Cohen recently wrote a critique of Barack that was as blistering as any of the valentines he once penned to Barack. So I'm not talking about Jeff. But people need to take some accountability and not just because it's good for the soul. The Cult of St. Barack passed an advertising machine off as a movement. One of the advertising tools they used was testimonials. "I thought I was happy with Pepsi until one day I tried new Barack Obama . . ." That same tool, testimonails, can be used to awaken others. If you were taken in, you can share that you were and how reality peeled the scales away from your eyes.

As Kat observed in an Iraq roundtable Feb. 13, 2009:

I dont think anyone's going to disagree with which side is more committed at this point. And it's pathetic because, as we've noted before, if Hillary had been elected, the same left that plays the quiet game currently would be demanding action. A lot of it is people being scared to criticize Barack, a lot of it is them believing the hype, a lot of it is the desire to worship a man. But it's pathetic and it's pathetic that they believed his lies about Iraq and it's pathetic that they played Sophie's Choice with Iraq and Afghanistan -- that knowing that while he was saying he'd pull 'combat' troops from Iraq, he was saying he'd send more to Afghanistan, these same so-called lefties endorsed him and lied for him and covered for him.

Yeah, a lot of people played Sophie's Choice and judged Afghans to be less important than Iraqis. That needs accountability. And if you can come forward and own what you did, you can encourage others with your actions to also consider how they went from "END THE WAR NOW!" to "Whatever Barack wants!" and how they get their souls back?

"Iraq snapshot"
"Withdrawal or not and what's Nouri really up to?"
"MST, veterans suicides"
"The wake up call"
"Day 2 with Cleaver"
"David Walsh breaks it down"
"The continued Great Recession"
"3 men, 2 women"
"4 men, 2 women"
"where is the outrage?"
"gene jones: fake and coward"
"While you looked for your comfort zone . . ."
"The wasteful lies"
"Through the mirror of my mind, time after time . . ."
"Too hot"
"The real racism"
"Message from Michael"
"FSRN earns praise"
"Iraq and the 'crisis'"
"Matthew Rothschild is worthless"
"A rough age for divas"