Wednesday, December 30, 2009








Peter Moore is alive. England's Foreign Secretrary David Miliband declared today, "Peter was set free by his captors this morning in Baghdad and delivered to the Iraqi authorities. He is now in the care of the British Embassy in Baghdad." December 19th Andy Bloxham (Telegraph of London) reported on the plea from Moore's family and the family of Alan McMenemy. Moore was kidnapped in Iraq along with four other British citizens with the League of Righteous claiming credit for that May 29, 2007 action in which they utilized official uniforms and official vehicles to kidnap Moore, Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell, Alan McMenemy and Jason Swindelhurst from the Ministry of Finance in Baghdad. Today Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reminds, "The lead kidnapper, dressed as an Iraqi police major, shouted 'Where are the foreigners?' as he led a team of gunmen, also in uniform, into the Finance Ministry building in Baghdad." For a little background on the League of Righteous, from the June 9th snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

Since the release, and the League of Righteous face time with Nouri and with Nouri's spokesperson, three of the British hostages were released, or rather, their bodies were. The three were Alec Maclachlan (body handed over in September), Jason Crewswell (body handed over in June) and Jason Swindelhurst (body handed over in June). The British government announced over the summer (with no explanation why) that they considered Alan McMenemy deceased. His family has continued to hope that he is alive. The British government had announced at the same time that they believed Peter Moore was alive.

ITN is calling Peter Moore's release "a late Christmas present" for his family. Last month Leicester Mercury reported the current prime minister of England, Gordon Brown, was refusing to meet with the father of Peter Moore. Today, with public support continuing to crater for Gordon Brown, he declared:

I am hugely relieved by the wonderful news that Peter has been freed, and will be reunited with his family as quickly as possible. They have faced a terrible ordeal and I know that the whole nation will share their joy that he is coming home. I pay tribute to all those who helped in the protracted effort to secure the release. At this moment of celebration, we also remember the families of British hostages who have been killed in Iraq and elsewhere. And we pledge to continue to do everything we can to bring British hostages back to their loved ones, including the remaining hostage of the group in Iraq, Alan McMenemy. I demanded that the hostage takers return him to us.

Diane Moy (New York Daily News) quotes Peter's father Graeme stating, "We are so relieved and we just want to get him home, back now to his family and friends. I'm breaking down, I'm just so overjoyed for the lad. It's been such a long haul." The most confusing part of the press reports is the family. Graeme Moore is Peter's father. His mother re-married and now has the last name of Sweeney. Some credit Pauline Sweeney as his mother and Frank Sweeney as his father. Pauline Sweeney is not his biological mother. Avril Sweeney is Peter Moore's biological mother. The Times of London and the Telegraph of London have long covered this story and their correspondents reporting today, such as Deborah Haynes, have been on the story since it began in 2007. So before anyone e-mails to say, for example, "Emma Alberici of Australia's ABC says 'Mr Moore's father and stepmother, Pauline and Frank Sweeney . . .'" -- Graeme Moore is Peter's biological father and Avril Sweeney is Peter's biological mother. Stephen Adams (Telegraph of London) sketches this out, "Mr Moore, 36, is the son of Graeme Moore, now 60, a delivery driver from Wigston, Leicestershire, and Avril Sweeney, 54, from Blackburn, Lancs. Mr Moore, 36, is the son of Graeme Moore, now 60, a delivery driver from Wigston, Leicestershire, and Avril Sweeney, 54, from Blackburn, Lancs. His parents split when he was six months old and soon divorced. His mother remarried but that relationship also ended and she moved out when he was 12. He chose to stay and live with his stepfather, Patrick Sweeney, and later Mr Sweeney's second wife, Pauline." It is a blended family and it's surprising that so many in the press don't grasp that since Gordon Brown was insisting he didn't have to meet with Graeme Moore for a variety of reasons. Call all family members but unless you're going into the walk through (as Stephen Adams did), Graeme Moore and Avril Sweeney are his legal parents. Frank Sweeny is his step-father. All are overjoyed and all deserve to be but when the prime minister has refused to meet with Graeme Moore mere weeks ago, you better believe this is a sore issue and you better take care to get the facts right. And if you're not getting what a source of pain this is, Graeme Moore told CNN (link has text and video) he learned the "news on the television" and that he called Miliband's claims of Brown's administration keeping the family updated a lie: "They don't talk to Peter's family. They never have."

Sam Jones (Guardian) notes other skepticism about Miliband's statement (disclosure I've known David Miliband for years). Miliband declared, "The British government does not make substantive concessions to hostage takers, anywhere and any place, and there was no such substantive concession in this case." And some are zooming in on "substantive concession" and saying it's worded that way to leave leg room or "cover [for] the deal predicted to lead to the imminent release of one of the leaders of Righteous League, a hardline Islamic group." Alberici observes, "T'he kidnappers from Asaib-Al-Haq, which translated means 'the league of righteousness", a Shia splinter group, are believed to have been told by the Iraqi Government that if they handed over Mr Moore and the body of Mr McMenemy, they would be given the right to run in the Iraqi elections next year." CNN adds, "Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said government officials were not involved in the talks that led to Moore's release, but said the decision to free him 'is part of the national reconciliation program' aimed at convincing Iraq's remaining armed factions to lay down their arms." Ned Parker and Janet Stobart (Los Angeles Times) report, "The U.S. military blamed the abduction and killing of five soldiers in Karbala in January 2007 on Asab al Haq and later captured its leaders, Qais and Laith Khazali. Laith was freed in June; Qais was transferred to the Iraqis today, said a spokeswoman from the British Foreign Office." John Leland and Jack Healy (New York Times) remind, "Earlier this year, Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said the group might have targeted the five men because of the work Mr. Moore was doing to help combat theft and corruption in the Finance Ministry." Jim Muir (BBC News) also notes the questions being raised and offers, "Although the security situation has improved hugely over the past two years, Iraqis -- including schoolchildren -- continue to be kidnapped for ransom, a practice that was extremely widespread during the worst of the violence and lawlessness that prevailed during 2006-7. "

George Pitcher (Telegraph of London) observes, "There has been a protracted media and communications shut-down on the circumstances of these kidnaps. There may be very good intelligence reasons for that approach. But high-profile coverage over the years assisted with the release of hostages such as Alan Johnston and John McCarthy. The latest discreet strategy has yielded just one safe from five. I hope we learn more of the reasons for this approach soon. The families of those who were not as lucky as Mr Moore deserve no less." And he's correct. Silence on kidnappings is good for governments, not for individuals. (Along with governments, the New York Times regularly blacks out the kidnappings of their journalists.) The British government's FAILURES on kidnappings in Iraq go far beyond the four kidnapped with Moore and also include Margret Hassan. December 7th, the Iraq Inquiry explored the issue of kidnappings when questioning the British Ambassador to Iraq in 2004, Edward Chaplin.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Part of this, perhaps particularly relevant for British opinion was the start of hostage taking. So we had in this period the Kenneth Bigley and Margaret Hassan cases. How aware were you of the danger to British nationals in Baghdad?

Edward Chaplin: Very aware. And, indeed, I think if you looked at the travel advice at the time, it would be "don't come anywhere near this place". They were terrible incidents. I mean, terrible obviously for the families, but terrible for the embassy in the sense that we were very helpless. Kidnapping was widespread at the time. This was often criminals rather than political. Of course, as we have seen elsewhere, often criminal gangs will carry out kidnappings of what they think are valuable people, valuable in the sense that they can be sold on to some political group. And I don't think we know even now exactly who was behind either kidnapping. I would have to refresh my memory. I mean, they were different in the sense that Ken Bigley, we didn't even now. He hadn't even registered with the embassy, we didn't know he was there. He was working with these two Americans for a Gulf company. The first thing we knew of his existence was when the news of the kidnap came through. Margaret Hassan was different. In fact, I had met her before when I was Ambassador in Jordan because she worked for CARE Australia, a very effective NGO, one of the few working inside Iraq before and after the invasion. So I admired the work that she was doing and the embassy kept in touch. So that was, if you like, an even greater blow. But just to explain -- I don't know if you want to go into detail about this, but I probably cannot because what happens when a kidnapping of a British citizen takes place is you have set up a really discrete team because this needs 24-hours-a-day attention. So that team was led my deputy and we had a lot of support particularly coming out from London, experience negotiators and so on. So after the initial phase, my job was really to keep it in the minds of Iraqi ministers who we thought would could help, the army and the police and so on, and do whatever else I could do to help.

Commitee Member Lawrence Freedman: What sort of response did you get from --

Edward Chaplin: Very positive and, of course, this was raised all the way to Allawi himself and it was raised by ministers, but they didn't have the capacity to help very much, I don't think. And, of course, they were dealing at any one time with lots of other kidnappings.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: We had no evidence oursevles of who was holding her?

Edward Chaplin: I think the assumption early on was it was a criminal gang of some sort, but we never got very far in pinning down exactly who was behind it and -- let alone having contacts that might lead to some progress.

Commitee Member Lawrence Freedman: And in the aftermath of her murder, we still seemed to have been in the dark as to what had happened and, indeed, where her body was.

Edward Chaplin: Some time later some of her clothes and possessions were found. We knew her husband as well, who stayed on in Baghdad. So we would see him from time to time. I don't know what the investigation -- continued investigation showed.

His comments were and are outrageous and indicative of how useless the British government made itself during kidnappings -- do-nothing, hope someone else does something or finds out something. David Brown (Times of London) reported that both of Margaret Hassan's sisters were present at the inquiry and hoped to hear some details about their sister. He quotes Deidre Fitzsimons explaining, "We have been waiting years for the chance to hear what happened to my sister but she was worth so little that she received just three minutes. We came to find out the truth even though we were skeptical, because we were told this would not be a cover-up. We have been betrayed. The authorities did not do one thing to help her when she was kidnapped and they are now doing nothing to find out why. As for Ken Bigley, it was almost as if he didn't matter at all [by Chaplin's testimony]. He was an innocent man who was murdered for no reason." Reuters offers a timeline for British citizens kidnapped in Iraq.

Earlier this month (December 17th) on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, Michael Ware reported on the September 2005 rescue of US citizen Roy Hallums. From the transcript:

WARE: Three months after Roy Hallums disappeared in Baghdad in 2004, this proof of life video appeared.

ROY HALLUMS, KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: My name is Roy Hallums, I'm an American national.

WARE: Hallums was an American contractor, building mess halls and providing food to the U.S. military, and his kidnappers were demanding $12 million for his release.

HALLUMS: You're just basically in shock. And you're moving and you're walking but it's almost like an out of body experience. You can see what's going on, but you don't believe it.

WARE: Before it was over, Hallums would be held nearly a full year by Iraqi insurgents -- 311 days, something I know a little about having been taken by Al Qaeda myself.

WARE (on camera): When I was grabbed by Al Qaeda and pulled from my car, I mean, they were just going to cut my head off. But it was like it was someone else. At that moment, it felt to me like it was happening to someone else even though I was completely or even hyper- aware of the moment.

HALLUMS: You're right. It's like it's almost third person, that I can sit there and tell the story. I can answer any question anybody has. It doesn't bother me, and what's for lunch, you know?

WARE (voice-over): This is Hallums at the end of his ordeal. He lost 40 pounds but says he never lost hope. For most of the time, his kidnappers kept him in a secret and cramped underground cell, the entrance sealed shut.

HALLUMS: You could hear them trawling this concrete over the door, and then they would shove a freezer over the top of that to hide where the door was. You're buried in there, and if they decide, well, it's just too dangerous to go back to the house and they never come back, then you're in your tomb.

WARE (on camera): Dead men tell no tales.

WARE (voice-over): Eight months after his proof of life video had appeared, U.S. special forces received a crucial tip on his whereabouts. Worried Hallums would be moved, they instantly launched a daylight rescue, four helicopters sweeping into a village south of Baghdad.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009







Starting with oil. James Kanter (New York Times) reports that Lukoil and Statoil have signed a joint-contract with the government out of Baghdad "to develop the vast West Qurna 2 oil field". Kanter identifies Lukoil as "of Russia" which is meaningless or are we all supposed to be stupid and ignorant of the 90s tag sale on Russia's public sector? The same sort of privatization that's happening in Iraq -- but slower than the US wanted. Lukoil brags about being "the second largest private oil Company worldwide". And of course, they're not a "Russia" private company. A private Russian company doesn't have US citizen Donald Evert Wallette Jr. on their board (he is also President of ConocoPhillips Russia/Caspian Region -- somewhere Averell Harriman is offering a lusty groan of despair). Statoil is also a public company (headquarters in Norway) and a multi-national company with a multi-national board (such as British citizen Roy Franklin). Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Lukoil president Vagit Alekperov told a Russian television service this week that Lukoil aims to invest $4.5 billion in the West Qurna Phase 2 project in the next three to five years. He said he believed that the project would be profitable and would have a rate of return of 15%. Iraq awarded this year 10 oil fields contracts to international oil companies in two postwar licensing auctions. If these contracts were implemented, they would quadruple Iraq's crude oil production to nearly 11 million barrels a day, which could match or even exceeds that of the world's largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia." Xinhua adds, "Lukoil owns 85 percent of the venture, while Statoil, 15 percent." But Kanter notes Statoil asserts they redid the contract so that their share "will eventually" increase to 18.75. Grab that three percent, Statoil!

Look for the above to start off another frenzy of misinformed (in fairness, some were not misinformed, they were LIARS) chatter that the US is suffering!!!! Such suffering!!! These are multi-national companies. These are publicly traded companies. Meanwhile? You could have been more than a name on the door on the 1400 suite in the air more than a credit card swimming pool in the backyard. That's Joni Mitchell's "The Arrangement" (first appears on her Ladies of the Canyon album). Only she says "33rd floor." I say 1400 suite because that's your clue to who's getting ready for the big score. The US oil company that's not only set its sites on oil fields -- in the north, in the KRG -- but has the White House pledge to push through the deal. The deal that seemed a no-go shortly after it was announced in the fall of 2007. That's what everyone's talking about (but no one's writiing about it for the public). Nouri's agreed to now go along with the agreement -- as part of the arrangment to push through the elections law. The KRG wants the money. The White House promised it would happen (this is part of Barack's ten minute personal phone call) and the KRG told the US based company (also a multinational) that the deal is 'done' . Nouri could still balk (though he said he wouldn't). But not only are multi-nationals signing but a US based multi-national is gearing up for, as they say on Wheel of Fortune, "Big money!" And since information on this deal is now available for pay (I didn't pay and I heard about the Monday after the Parliament passed the election law), we'll go ahead and note it here. Since it is available for pay and since a number of 'business' reporters now know about it, the only real question is why they aren't talking about. (Repeating: The deal could fall through. Anyone who ever trusts Nouri's word is an idiot. Equally true, Nouri could be out as prime minister which would mean new trading with the next prime minister. But right now, the KRG, the White House and the company on the 19th floor think it's a go. If you go sleuthing and identify 19th floor and sink your money in there and the deal falls through, that's on you. You shouldn't be trying to make blood money anyway.)

That's a KRG contract. Back to those wacky Baghdad contracts? Not so rock solid. Mohammed Abbas and Christian Wissner (Reuters) report this afternoon, "Ali al-Dabbagh said ministers had decided that proposed long-term service contracts for the oilfields, which were offered in two bidding rounds this year, needed "technical and legal" changes even after initial agreements for most of the fields had been signed." Not surprising and apparently not legal. Earlier this month on Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) Jasim al-Azzawi discussed the issue of Iraqi oil with Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani and the country's previous Oil Minister Issam al-Chalabi.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Issam, how dangerous is it for Iraq to sign these contracts and Memorandum of Understanding with no oil law in place.

Issam al-Chalabi: With all due respect, Dr. al-Shahristani seems to be moving on a shaky ground. I think he had fallen in his answers to your question, had fallen in the conflict between the Constitution and the existing laws. The Constitution says that, the two Articles about the oil and gas ought to be explained and there will be separate law to be issued. Until then, in a very clear, separate Article, it says that all existing oils will remain valid. Hence Law 97 of 1967 is valid as he mentioned and he ought to abide by it. That means, yes, the Minister of Oil is authorized provided they go and seek endorsement from the existing legislative body which is the Parliament for each case.

Jasim al-Azzawi: So far they haven't done that. Is that a reflection on the lack of oversight by Iraqi Parliament about this huge and overreaching contracts?

Issam al-Chalabi: No, the Oil & Gas Committee and many Parliamentarians have sought that and they have asked him, they have subpeoned him, that they should look into the matter. In fact, one particular member had gone to the federal court. And you asked about the dangers of these new contracts, I do say that it is very possible that in the future these contracts could very well be under questioning and somebody could question the legitimacy of these contracts and maybe they would be required to be amended or maybe anulled.

More excerpts from that broadcast can be found in the December 21st snapshot.
Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that Iraq's Ministry of Oil is calling on OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] "to grant Iraqi its natural right in exporting crude oil" because "it owns huge oil reserves." Carol Sonenklar (HeatingOil) observes, "OPEC members have said they are content with oil prices in the range of $70–80 per barrel and maintained their production targets at their recent annual meeting. But Iraq might not adhere to OPEC's production quotas. The cash-poor country recently auctioned off some of its largest oil fields, with Russian and Chinese companies winning the most lucrative contracts. According to analysts, the auction could boost Iraqi oil production from 2.5 million barrels per day to as much as 12 million by 2016, which would quadruple its capacity and make it a rival to Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer. Such a drastic increase in oil production could threaten to undermine OPEC's influence on oil prices, which currently stand at an amount that the Saudi Arabian oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, believes keep producers and consumers happy."

Still with oil, maybe Iran invaded Iraq and seized an oil well maybe they didn't. It's still a mess of accusations and heated denials. Alsumaria TV reports today, "Iraqi Vice President Tarek Al Hashemi affirmed that Iran has transgressed the border and violated Iraq's sovereignty on 96 different occasions. Iraq's Parliamentary defense and security committee MP Abbas Al Bayati confirmed that Iranian troops have withdrawn from oil well no.4 in Al Fakka oil field." Iranian government officials have maintained no such violation of Iraq's territorial sovereignty took place and Iran's Press TV reported that Iran and Iraq are just fine, thank you very much. Iranian government officials have also stated that the whole story is an attempt by 'foreigners' to inflame tensions between Iran and Iraq. Certainly the two appear to still be prepping to enter into a national gas deal in the new year. Khayoon Saleh (Azzaman) reported Iraq and Iran are drawing close to an agreement on the importation of natural gas from Iran: "The statement said the delegation would seek striking a long-term contract to supply gas-driven power plants with fuel particularly in southern and central Iraq." Fatima Kamal (Azzaman) reports:Iraq has set up a committee which is to draw up a road map on how to develop oil fields the country shares with neighboring Iran, Oil Ministry Undersecretary Abdulkarim al-Aibi said. Aibi said the committee will soon travel to Tehran to meet with Iranian officials.The committee's formation comes following border tension between the countries over Iran army's occupation of a producing oil field inside Iraqi territory.Aibi made no comment on the Fakka oil field which Iran currently controls.Fakka is not a joint field as it is situated within Iraqi territory. Zawya notes, "Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mihman-Parast said on Tuesday that implementation of the 1975 accord signed by Iran and Iraq is the best way to remove any possible misunderstandings between the two neighboring states. Talking to reporters during his weekly press briefing, he added that the accord is an international one which can settle any possible border disputes between Iran and Iraq." Alsumaria TV also reports that Nouri al-Maliki is insisting that Iraq gives up no land to its neighbors but that he "denied that Al Fakka oil well crisis will affect oil and investment licenses rounds. Iranian violation should not have occurred because the oil well is suspended since 1979, Al Maliki said stressing the necessity to return back to the past situation."

Turning to the topic of Sahwa. Sahwa are also known as "Sons Of Iraq" and "Awakenings" and they are Sunnis the US military put on the (US tax payer) payroll (at an estimated $300 a month per Sahwa -- Sahwa leaders made more) in order to . . . Well let's drop back to April 2008 when the then-top US commander in Iraq David Petraeus and the then-US Abassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker were giving their joint-testimonies to the House and Senate. April 8, 2008 they started the day before the US Senate Armed Services Committee. From that day's snapshot: "The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up. In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the 'Awakening' Council (aka 'Sons of Iraq,' et al) that it was a good thing 'there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads. These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts.' Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up." Pride and Joy, as Marvin Gaye once sang. Nouri al-Maliki, stashing away billions in oil revenues at the time, was supposed to pay for all the Sahwa . . . in the fall of 2008. And? In November 2008 there was a bunch of hot air from the press (and no one ever retracted their 'reports') but the US was still paying. Feburary another round of panting but the US was still paying. As late as June, the US was still paying significant amounts. Arab media has been reporting that next month Nouri intends to stop payments. Over the weekend Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reported that the US military is expressing concerns over Nouri's plans for the Sahwa ("Awakenings" or "Sons Of Iraq") and that 212 of them have been killed in the last two years. Paul McLeary (Aviation Week) reports on a new study by the US Marine Corps, "Al-Anbar Awakeing: Iraqi Perspectives From Insurgency to Counterinsurgency in Iraq," on the Sahwa which "mkes some blunt assessments of the insurgnecy, including who caused it and what fixed it. According to the USMC report: 'In Iraq to a very large degree, we -- the U.S. military and civilians -- were the source of the insurgency. Honest men and women can argue the whys, what-ifs, and what-might-have-beens, but ultimately, it was mostly about unfulfilled promises and the heavy-handed military approach taken by some over the summer of 2003 that caused events to spiral out of control'." McLearly notes that the report can "be interpreted as the Corps' pushback against the celebrity of Army Gen. David Petraeus and the counter-insurgency field manuel he championed" and goes on to quote from the report, "No single personality was the key in Anbar, no shiny new field manual the reason why, and no 'surge' or single unit made it happen. It was a combination of many factors, not the least of which -- perhaps the most important -- was the consistent command philosophy that drove operations in Anbar from March 2004 forward." Also weighing in on the Sahwa is Jeff Huber (Antiwar):Petraeus' personal stenographer, former journalist Thomas E. Ricks, admits that Petraeus misled Congress and the public into thinking he was trying to end the war when he was in fact laying "the groundwork for a much more prolonged engagement in Iraq." Three years after the surge began, violence shows no signs of disappearing. Holiday attacks were especially brutal. Mosul Mayor Zuhair Muhsen al-Aaraji escaped an assassination attempt on Christmas Eve. (Mosul is the town Petraeus supposedly "tamed" during his first tour in Iraq. Within weeks after he left and the graft well ran dry, Mosul went up for grabs and has been a trouble spot ever since.) Also on Dec. 24, as the Shi'ite religious festival of Ashura approached, five attacks killed at least 19 people and wounded over 100. The Iraqi government was quick to blame al-Qaeda in Iraq, but I'll bet you a shiny new Ohio quarter that the Sunni-based Awakening movement that Petraeus armed and funded had more than a little something to do with the attacks.

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Monday, December 28, 2009








For the second weekend in a row, James Cameron's Avatar was the number one film at the box office. Bob Strauss (San Jose Mercury News) reports it took an estimated $75 million in ticket sales (North America) over the weekend and BBC notes it's total box office take (in North America only) so far is $212 million "and could be on its way to grossing more than $1 b[illion] (625.6 million pounds) worldwide." Cameron's last film was Titanic which grossed more than $1.8 billion at the box office. I know James and he more than deserves a plug but we open with that because it is Iraq related. David Price is with Network of Concerned Anthropologists. Last week, he observed:

Fans of Avatar are understandably being moved by the story's romantic anthropological message favoring the rights of people to not have their culture weaponized against them by would be foreign conquerors, occupiers and betrayers. It is worth noting some of the obvious the parallels between these elements in this virtual film world, and those found in our world of real bullets and anthropologists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since 2007, the occupying U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan have deployed Human Terrain Teams (HTT), complete with HTT "social scientists" using anthropological-ish methods and theories to ease the conquest and occupation of these lands. HTT has no avatared-humans; just supposed "social scientists" who embed with battalions working to reduce friction so that the military can get on with its mission without interference from local populations. For most anthropologists these HTT programs are an outrageous abuse of anthropology, and earlier this month a lengthy report by a commission of the American Anthropological Association (of which I was a member and report co-author) concluded that the Human Terrain program crossed all sorts of ethical, political and methodological lines, finding that:
"when ethnographic investigation is determined by military missions, not subject to external review, where data collection occurs in the context of war, integrated into the goals of counterinsurgency, and in a potentially coercive environment -- all characteristic factors of the HTT concept and its application -- it can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology." The American Anthropological Association's executive board found Human Terrain to be a "mistaken form of anthropology". But even with these harsh findings, the Obama administration's call for increased counterinsurgency will increase demands for such non-anthropological uses of ethnography for pacification.

Dropping back to the December 3rd snapshot:

The American Anthropological Association's annual meeting started yesterday in Philadelphia and continues through Sunday. Today the association's Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities issued their [PDF format] "Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program." The 74-page report is a blow to War Criminals and their cheerleaders who have long thought that the social science could be abused or that the social sciences were pseudo sciences.

Only a small number of outlets have covered the AAA's findings. First up were Patricia Cohen (New York Times), Dan Vergano (USA Today), Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (Science Magazine) and Steve Kolowich (Inside HigherEd). Another wave followed which included Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) reporting, "Today the program enjoys a core of supporters, but it's done little to address the concerns of anthropologists and, now, rising military complaints that the program has slowed the growth of the military's ability to train culturally sensitive warriors." Christopher Shay (Time magazine) added:

Two years ago, the AAA condemned the HTS program, but this month's 72-page report goes into much greater detail about the potential for the military to misuse information that social scientists gather; some anthropologists involved in the report say it's already happening. David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martins University in Washington and one of the co-authors of the AAA report, says the army appears to be using the anthropological information to better target the enemy, which, if true, would be a gross violation of the anthropological code. One Human Terrain anthropologist told the Dallas Morning News that she wasn't worried if the information she provided was used to kill or capture an insurgent. "The reality is there are people out there who are looking for bad guys to kill," she said. "I'd rather they did not operate in a vacuum." Price and other critics see this as proof that the anthropologists don't have full control over the information they gather and that commanders can use it to kill. "The real fault with Human Terrain is that it doesn't even try to protect the people being studied," says Price. "I don't think it's accidental that [the Pentagon] didn't come up with ethical guidelines."

Back to Price:

Anthropologically informed counterinsurgency efforts like the Human Terrain program are fundamentally flawed for several reasons. One measure of the extent that these programs come to understand and empathize with the culture and motivations of the people they study might be the occurrence of militarized ethnographers "going native" in ways parallel to the plot of Avatar. If Human Terrain Teams employed anthropologists who came to live with and freely interact with and empathize with occupied populations, I suppose you would eventually find some rogue anthropologists standing up to their masters in the field. But so far mostly what we find with the Human Terrain "social scientists" is a revolving cadre of well paid misfits with marginal training in the social sciences who do not understand or reject normative anthropological notions of research ethics, who rotate out and come home with misgivings about the program and what they accomplished.

Now you might think National Public Radio, so fond of being seeing erudite (they wish), would be all over the study from a leading organization of social scientists. You would be wrong. It's not that counter-insurgency isn't discussed NPR, it is, it's just that they only do so to promote it. (Ava and I wrote about that earlier this month.) Similarly, the foundation grant heavy (bloated?) Democracy Now! has never taken on counter-insurgency. It's refused to do so. We've been covering it repeatedly in this community while Goody's been all over psychologists and blah blah. But never alarmed by this. You need to grasp that.

There's a lot of money being made in and off counter-insurgency. And there are a lot of people who will not speak the truth. You need to grasp that it's a bastardization of a science and you need to grasp that when such a thing happens, when science is used to attack a native people and a society is silent, you have the next Nazi Germany. That's not hyperbole. This has been going on throughout the decade and who will call it out. Tom Hayden will do so as an aside approximately every 15 months or so. That's still more than any of his peers. Davy D of KPFA can't cover it because his hero Samantha Power is a counter-insurgency pusher. She blurbed the manual with praise. And what you're seeing is a left incapable of standing up to the war pushers, a left incapable of calling out the disgusting Sarah Sewall -- who may very well be the modern day Josef Mengele -- and a foundation backed attack on native people. You've got the idiot Thomas E. Ricks -- an expert on nothing -- who can't stop going ga-ga over counter-insurgency (make he's sure he's called out the War Crimes trials, in fact make sure he's tried). So much so that 'reporter' Thomas E. Ricks attacks the Vice President of the United States today. Dumb ass Thomas E. Ricks wants to take on Joe Biden and wants to start false rumors (no, Joe Biden has not fallen asleep in meetings -- Thomas E. Ricks is LYING) because Joe Biden won't sign on 100% to Tommy Ricks' beloved war crimes.

These aren't just 'fact-finding' missions (for the military), these are experiments carried out in the field. And these expermients can result in death. No social scientist should be in bed with the military. Anyone who thinks otherwise is completely stupid (Thomas E. Ricks) or completely unethical (Monty McFate). And we started covering it, honestly, because I know the liar Monty McFate and she was shooting off her mouth (with lies as always) to the idiot George Packer (who never learned to fact check). That's why it landed on our radar December 20, 2006. We have now been covering it for over three years. And where's our 'brave' 'independent' media?

Two years ago, David Price was part of a panel (with pro-counter-insurgency advocates Monty McFate, Col John Agoglia and Lt. Col. Edward Villacres -- a three-to-one imbalance) on The Diane Rehm Show (see the October 11, 2007 snapshot for a transcript of some of the exchanges). Search in vain for serious explorations of this issue. Now everyone can bore you to death demonizing Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann -- and no one's ever supposed to notice that the same sexism Barack unleashed among 'progressives' in 2008 continues to run wild and trample on equality -- but you can't deal with the things that really matter. If it were you or your child being 'studied' by the occupiers so that they could enslave you, it damn well would matter to you. But it happens 'over there' and as long as 'over there' doesn't show up on your TV screens, it appears everyone's not wanting to rock the boat or risk offending Harvard or, yes, the "the Kennedy School of Government". And while America's salivates over another round of "Bash the Bitch" (it's amazing how often that game is played), don't for one damn minute think anyone's being informed.

Amy Goodman won't call it out, she's too wrapped up in War Hawk Sammy Power. Remember? Remember her interview with Sammy? Best if you caught it on WBAI because WBAI was in fundraising mode and there was Amy raving over her while trying to get people to call in and 'support independent media.' Amy was raving that Samantha Power "'might be the next Secretary of State" and, growing more excited in her pitch, qualifiers fell away and you were left thinking not only would Power be Secretary of State, if Barack won the general election, but Samantha Power was right up there with Mother Teresa, maybe even ahead of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, to hear Amy rave on air. You can't take those moments back and those moments -- and Goodman's silence on counter-insurgency -- are very telling.

This refusal to question the counter-insurgency movement is a undemocratic refusal and it's completely against the norms of an open society. But that's what's taking place in the United State right now. Few will question it. Few will even bother to report on it. The findings of the American Anthropological Association are perfectly in keeping with the tenets of social science. There's nothing controversial about the study the organization issued. There's something very controversial about the group-think that refuses to question counter-insurgency. And when you grasp that Amy Goodman couldn't stop caterwauling about "we never see where the bombs drop" and yet refuses to devote even one damn segment in all these years to counter-insurgency, you realize how pathetic she and 'independent' media are. Now, in fairness, she will talk counter-insurgency . . . in past decades. But as she herself whined, if we can't talk about the war before it starts or while it's going on, when can we talk about it? After it's over!!!!! When it's too late!!! Amy Goodman needs her words tossed back in her face.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009






Okay so Odierno steps up to the plate, what about the US Congress? We have to ask that question because yesterday Kimberly Hefling (AP) broke the story that the GI Bill payments due at the start of the fall semester? Some still haven't received them. "Thousands" still wait. For the checks that should have been cut no later than the first day of the fall semester last August or September (depending on when the semester started which differed for some campuses). It is now the end of December. It is now Christmas in fact. And veterans are still waiting. The year will end with them still waiting. Now let's be really clear, the rent doesn't wait, the food doesn't wait, the bills don't wait. Veterans have to take care of all of those things. While waiting for the VA to get off it's happy and bloated ass and do what it should have done months ago.

October 14th, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki appeared before the US House Committee on Veterans Affairs. At that point, veterans across the country were struggling as they waited for the VA to make good on the payments they were led to believe would start with the fall semester. And the Committee should have focused on that but they didn't. They fretted that Shinseki kept his "light under a bushel" (that's a direct quote from a member of Congress) and that he needed to hire a PR person so that everyone would know what a wonderful job he was doing. What wonderful job? The scandal had broken, the press was all over it and the committee was kissing Shinseki's ass instead of holding him accountable. They all played dumb when he volunteered that the VA always, ALWAYS, knew this would happen, that a huge number of veterans would wait and wait and wait for checks. The Committee should have exploded with righteous indignation over the fact that (a) this was done to veterans and (b) the VA failed to inform Congress of what they knew.

Of course, they didn't. They weren't holding him accountable. It was embarrassing in real time and it's only more embarrassing today as we now know the problem that Shinseki said was fixed has not, HAS NOT, been fixed. Here's the money quote from Shinseki, here's what he told Congress:

I'm looking at the certificates of eligibility uh being processed on 1 May and enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August. A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consultant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment. 'Unless you do some big things here, this is not possible.' To the credit of the folks, the good folks in VBA, they took it on and they went at it hard. We hired 530 people to do this and had to train them. We had a manual system that was computer assisted. Not very helpful but that's what they inherited. And we realized in about May that the 530 were probably a little short so we went and hired 230 more people. So in excess of 700 people were trained to use the tools that were coming together even as certificates were being executed. Uhm, we were short on the assumption of how many people it would take.

He knew. He knew when he came into office. He was told it and he confirmed it with an outside consultant. But he never told Congress. No one ever told Congress and no one told the veterans waiting for the checks. "Thousands" of whom are still waiting all this time later.

The October 16th snapshot covers the October 15th appearance of the VA's Keith Wilson appearing before the Subcommittee that US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin chairs. We'll note one exchange from that hearing:

US House Rep Harry Mitchell: Mr. Wilson, this is not your first appearance before this subcommittee. You have appeared before it several times since the GI Bill was signed into law to keep the committee members apprised of the VA's efforts to implement the GI Bill. And you offered assurances that the VA would be ready by August 1st. You even brought in a detailed timeline to show us how the VA would be ready by August 1st. In February, [John] Adler of this Committee asked if the VA needed more tools to accomplish the goal of program implementation and you responded by stating, "This legislation itself came with funding. This funding at this point has adequately provided us with what we need for implementing payments on August 1, 2009." If this legislation provided you with what you needed then why did you go to the VA -- or then where did you and the VA go wrong in meeting the implementation goal? So I'd like to ask two questions. How are we supposed to believe the assurances you're offering today? And, two, knowing how interested Congress is in implementing the GI Bill, once you knew you were running into problems, why didn't you let us know? Why did we have to first hear about it from veterans and read about it in the Army Times?

Keith Wilson: You rightly call us out in terms of not providing timely service to all veterans. We acknowledge that and uh are working as hard as humanly possible uh to make sure that we are meeting those goals. Uh the timeline that we provided to the subcommittee uh I believe was largely met uh in terms of our ability to generate payments on the date that we were required to deliver the first checks -- first payments did go out August 3rd. Uh there were a couple of significant challenges uh that we had not anticipated. One was uh the volume of work created by the increase in applications for eligibility determinations that did not translate into student population dropping off other programs. But we had significantly more work in our existing programs than we would have expected to have to maintain going into the fall enrollment. One of the other primary challenges that we have responded to is uh when we began our ability to use the tools that were developed uh to implement the program in the short term. Uh May 1st is when we began using those tools and it was very clear to us from the get-go that even accounting for our understanding that they weren't perfect, we underestimated the complexity and the labor-intensive nature of what needed to be done. We responded by hiring 230 additional people to account for that.

US House Rep Harry Mitchell: And I read all of that in your testimony. My point is, once you knew you were running into problems, why didn't you come back to us? We heard it first by veterans and through the Army Times that you were having problems.

Keith Wilson: [Heavy, audible sigh] It has been our desire from the get-go to make sure that the subcommittee has been informed all along. If we did not meet those expectations, then we need to be held accountable for that. We provided information that we had at each of the hearings and we have had a long standing mechanism by which we have provided updates to staff on a regular basis. Uh we did notify the Subcommittee at the time of the hiring of the 230 additional people.

In that hearing, Stephanie Herseth repeatedly asked if he needed additional staff at the call center for educational benefits. She also underscored that "we need to be made aware of the problems immediately if there's any complications that arise" and "if you start anticipating problems or start experiencing problems" then let the Committee know. She wasn't alone in stating that. US House Rep John Adler also touched on this repeatedly such as asking Wilson "are there any other tools you need from Congress" and reminding him that "we would like to hear from you as needs arise, before the crisis arise" and "tell us what you need from us." Congress hasn't been informed of these problems and if the checks still aren't out, then obviously the VA needed additional staff. Obviously. Another VA witness lies to Congress (or doesn't know the status) and veterans are again waiting. And when does Congress intend to take the VA to task? This is nonsense. No veteran who enrolled for the fall 09 semester should still be waiting for the monies owed to them from the new GI Bill. That is ridiculous, that is insulting and until Congress gets ready to hold the VA accountable, there won't be any improvement.

The next hearing on this issue should get to when a problem was known and why Congress was not immediately notified. The next hearing should probe whether a decision was made to keep Congress out of the loop. Congress is supposed to offer supervision and thus far the VA has thwarted that by repeatedly providing the Congress with false information -- and a good portion of the false information was provided intentionally.

It is outrageous that as so many use tomorrow to celebrate with families or reflect, veterans continue waiting for fall '09 checks. It is outrageous that the New Year will begin with these veterans still waiting. If the Congress doesn't pursue this and do so strongly, then their behavior will be outragoues. Right now, it's just sad.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009








Michael Prysner and Iraq War veteran James Circello were on Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton and Charles Goyette discussing their group March Forward! "an affiliate of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition" composed of veterans and active-duty service members. (For those who can't stream or who are not able to listen to streams, there's an excerpt of the interview in yesterday's snapshot.) Information Clearing House has a video of Michael Prysner speaking:

And I tried hard to be proud of my service, but all I could feel was shame. Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I've since been plagued by guilt. Any time I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn't walk that we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to go take him away. I feel guilt any time I see a mother with her children like the one who cried hysterically and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt any time I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street. We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me and the real terrorism is this occupation. Racism in the military has long been a tool to justify the occupation and destruction of another country. It's long been used to justify the killing, subjugation and torture of another people.
Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell or a bunker buster or a Tomahawk Missile. While those weapons are created and owned by this government, they're harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round. They do not have to fight the war, they merely have to sell the war. They need a public who's willing to send their soldiers into harm's way. They need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it.
They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight and the ruling class, the billionaires -- who profit from suffering, care only about expanding their wealth, controlling the world's economy -- understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince that war, oppression and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airman have nothing to gain from this occupation. The vast majority of the people in the US have nothing to gain from this occupation. In fact, not only do we have nothing to gain but we suffer more from it. We lose limbs, endure trauma and lose our lives. Our families have to watch flag draped coffins lowered into the earth.
Millions in this country without health care, jobs or access to education have watched this government squander over $450 million dollars a day on this occupation.
Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country to make the rich richer. And without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war.
I threw families onto the street in Iraq only to come home and find families thrown onto the street in this country in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis.
We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land, they're not people whose names we don't know and cultures we don't understand. The enemy is people we know very well and can identify. The enemy is the system that wages war when it is profitable. The enemy is the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when it is profitable. It's the insurance companies who deny us health care when it's profitable. It's the banks who take away our homes when it's profitable.
Our enemy is not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home. If we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers, we can stop this war, we can stop this government and we can create a better world.

Labor has been a significant force in the push to end the Iraq War and they don't often get the credit for their contributions. On KPFA's The Morning Show today, independent journalist David Bacon brought on US Labor Against the War's co-coordinators Kathy Black and Gene Bruskin and the USLAW's national organizer Michael Eisenscher.

David Bacon: So we wanted to take a look at what's going to happen with the war in Afghanistan and the [US President Barack] Obama administration. But in order to understand that, I thought it might be useful if, Eugene or you, Kathy, wanted to talk about what the change was in relation to the -- in terms of union's relation to the war in Iraq, the change from the way in which US labor has essentially supported, or sometimes with a great deal of conflict but nevertheless supported, most of the other military interventions by the US from WWII on through Vietnam and Central America. So why don't you start us off, Gene, by ta,king about what the historical position of US unions has been in relation to US intervention and what the change was with Iraq here?

Gene Bruskin: Well we have a, I think, the labor movement has, in some ways, not a proud history in how we've judged foreign policy cause we've pretty much accepted whatever the existing government and power structure wanted going back to the Philippines and I mean both the World Wars, of course, and Korea and Vietnam and El Salvador. There was some actually splits in the labor movement but in general what foreign policy was for many years including, you know, in all the post-WW period, is whatever policy we had to oppose the Soviet Union, for example, even if it meant supporting dictatorship supported unions in places like the Philippines and helping with the coups in places like Chile, the labor movement followed suit. So it was a huge break when US Labor Against the War was formed and the scope and the influence of that break is unprecedented.

David Bacon: What, uhm, Kathy, what do you attribute the change to? Aside from -- we're going to talk quite a bit her about US Labor Against the War itself as an organization, but are their changes that have taken place in unions and in our labor movement in terms of, for instance, the rejection of the policies of the Cold War or changes in terms of demographics which provided an opportunity I guess you would say for developing opposition to the war in Iraq which didn't exist earlier in terms of Vietnam, Central America, going all the way back to Korea?

Kathy Black: Yeah, of course all those things are factors. I think there are so many Vietnam war veterans in the labor movement and, in retrospect, people look back on that war -- even those that may have been strong supporters -- and see it in a different light. historically. You know, problems with veterans' illness and just a reflection on the policy has evolved. But I think, frankly, the single biggest factor if you can pick one that helped USLAW organize and galvanize support, it was George W. Bush. You know, I think that certainly there have been historical changes but people in the labor movement were so predisposed to be skeptical of anything he did and suspicious and automatically oppositional that that was probably the single biggest factor that helped us organize and convince people to look at the war from a different perspective.

Philip Maldari: And again, "USLAW" is US Labor Against the War, the acronym. Kathy, uh, one thing that certainly has changed is that there's no longer a Soviet Union. During the Cold War, was the labor -- official labor movement so scared of being red-baited that they uh-uh were backing every anti-communist intervention around the world for fear of being --
David Bacon: Well some actually expelled people, actually expelled whole unions.

Philip Maldari: Oh, expelled unions that had alleged Communists in their ranks, uh-uh, so was it, when the Cold War ended, did that give the labor movement a chance to get out under this fear of being red-baited?

Kathy Black: Uh, they pretty much purged the labor movement of the, you know, of Communist influences well before that so I don't know if I see it as fear but there was enormous complicity in the labor movement as Gene already spoke about.

Gene Bruskin: The most important part of it was that the labor movement had really bought into the fear of Communism and anti-communism because the criticism within the labor movement had been crushed earlier on and so they just bought the policy whole hook, line and sinker.

Kathy Black: They advocated the policy. Not everybody, but there were certainly prominent leaders in the labor movement who-who trumpeted those positions. Loudly.

Gene Bruskin: And so it did, I think, go out, after the end of the Cold War, there was clearly more openness to see what was actually workers' interest as opposed to what we usually called "national interest" which is generally business interest. But now we have not the issue of anti-communism so much as the whole issue of the fight against terrorism which is essentially the same set of logic has replaced -- you know, the Domino Theory is now the spread of terrorism.

David Bacon: And then, perhaps, I think one other factor -- maybe you could comment on this, Mike -- that played into this was the cost of the war on working people. I remember hearing this argument made at the first assembly of US Labor Against the War. And the fact that our labor movement now has a very, very large sector of public workers in it who are much more directly effected by the cost of the war and that there was a basis for saying to the people that if this war goes on people are going to lose jobs.

Mike Eisenscher: That certainly is true --

Philip Maldari: Wait a second, we've got to get your mike on. Go ahead, Mike.

Mike Eisenscher: Uh, that's certainly true. Another factor related to that is that the composition of the labor movement has changed quite a bit and there are now many, many immigrant workers in the labor movement who bring with them experiences in their own country that give them a different view of the international situation and a much more rounded and critical perspective.

David Bacon: So, Gene, the -- sort of compressing the history here a bit -- from the beginning of the war and the occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the convention at the AFL-CIO where the AFL-CIO officially adopted a position calling for the withdrawal of US troops which I believe took place in the summer of 2005?

Gene Bruskin: Right.

David Bacon: Right. There was obviously a great deal of activity that went on in terms of getting union by union opposition to that war organized. Can you kind of like go through that history pretty quickly for us here?

Gene Bruskin: Well what was, in a way, breath taking to many of us was that after US Labor Against the War was launched in January 2003 and then the war happened. We weren't, unfortunately, able to prevent it. But then rather than have the reaction that happened after the Gulf War when the yellow ribbons went up everywhere, people got even angrier and there was just a-a huge wave that summer and all into the next year through every union virtually of any significance in the labor movement -- on the shop floor, at monthly union meetings, at regional meetings and a meetings of international Unions, resolutions went onto the floor and there were really intense debates where people were just saying, "This is not the role of the labor movement to take these kind of positions. We're supposed to just deal with people's job-related issues." And in many cases what happened is vets or military families stood up and said, "Look, you know, I got a son that is about to go over there and I want the troops home tomorrow cause I don't want my kid to die." That kind of stuff --

Philip Maldari: Well let's talk about exactly who's in the army, who is in the marine corps, who's fighting this war. It seems like more often than not, it's the children of the working class. It's not the children of the upper middle class that are uh-uh troops, you know, boots on the ground in Afghanistan right now.

Gene Bruskin: Right. I mean it was clearly a thing where people said, "It's us that's fighting the war, it's -- we're paying for the war and we don't want it." And it came at the time when our rights were clearly under attack from every corner, from the Bush administration. So it was very clear to see that. And we made the link even to the extent of going to Iraq. David Bacon was a part of that on a couple of occasions. And bringing Iraqi trade unionists here to make the link to workers in both countries that we had more in common with each other than we did with the Bush administration, we should oppose the war.

David Bacon: So Kathy, here we are. First of all, the Iraq War is not over yet. But we have a whole new emphasis on increasing US military intervention in Afghanistan. A very different war, one that essentially was described by Obama during his election campaign as the war we should be fighting as opposed to the Iraq War which was the war that we should not be fighting. And there are a lot of important differences between Afghanistan as a country and Iraq as a country and the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. How do you think US unions are going to relate to the war in Afghanistan and what kind of tactics and strategies were developed at the recent national assembly of US Labor Against the War in relation to developing labor opposition to this war

Kathy Black: Well it's a much more difficult task for us now. Bush is no longer president. The solidarity work that Gene referred to, that you were such an important part of, is a harder thing to establish. Afghanistan doesn't have unions although Pakistan does and we do have connections there. But we're not going to be bringing a tour of Afghani union leaders to this country to put that human face and make those direct connections for union people. And uh, and then of course there's the concern that the labor movement feels that they elected Obama, that he's our president and they're loathe at this point to criticize him for almost anything -- and certainly to come out in opposition to a major policy initiative like this. So it's a tougher lift but, unfortunately, we think that events and the trajectory of this war is on our side to build that opposition. And some of the tools -- probably the most important tool that we came out with was this terrific DVD that Michael Zweig, one of our major activists in New York has developed called Why Are We In Afghanistan? And actually it's already having a very positive effect. It was shown here in Pennsylvania there was a big SEIU state worker council and they immediately passed a resolution opposing the war and there have been some other reports like that around the country.

For more information, visit US Labor Against the War. David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. And there's already a link for Zweig's film; however, to correct something, the most important tool is always the same and no one spoke of it.

One small voice
Speaking out in honesty
Silenced, but not for long
One small voice
Speaking with the values we were taught as children
So you walk away and say,
Isn't he divine?
Don't those clothes look fine on the Emperor?
And as you take your leave, you wonder why you're feeling
So ill-at-ease--don't you know?
Lies take your soul
You can't hide from yourself
Lies take their toll on you
And everyone else
One small voice speaking out in honesty
Silenced, but not for long
One small voice speaking with the values we were taught as children
Tell the truth
You can change the world
But you'd better be strong
-- "One Small Voice," written by Carole King, first appears on her Speeding Time. [Carole begins a world tour with James Taylor in the new year, click here for information.]

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