Saturday, March 23, 2013





 He even kibitzed on a visit to Yitzhak Rabin's grave Friday, as overheard by reporters in the White House press pool: "Bibi arranged for perfect weather ... Shimon plied me with wine ...  Rabin had a great speaking voice. ... I can sing. They had me on YouTube."
Obama didn't accomplish much of substance: no obvious progress toward talks with the Palestinians, no new ground in deterring Iran's nuclear program or Syria's chemical weapons. 





 Bradley's an Iraq War veteran.  All week long, as Iraq's has gotten bits of attention from the Big Media and even the small, some veterans were ignored.

Lot of talk about being right.  Lot of bragging and back patting.

But what most of us did wasn't all that.  The Dixie Chicks?  Yeah, a sacrifice followed that.  But most of us could speak out without any great suffering.

Iraq War veteran Joshua Key?

Joshua Key served in Iraq.  He returned to the United States and he couldn't go back.  He couldn't return to the illegal war.

Kim  Rivera served in Iraq.  She returned to the United States and she couldn't go back.  She couldn't return to the illegal war.

James Burmeister served in Iraq.  He returned to the United States and he couldn't go back.  He couldn't return to the illegal war.

Kyle Snyder served in Iraq.  He returned to the United States and he couldn't go back.  He couldn't return to the illegal war.

Darrell Anderson served in Iraq.  He returned to the United States and he couldn't go back.  He couldn't return to the illegal war.

Guess what?

Those are only a few of the names.  All of the above went to Canada and sought asylum.  Darrell and James came back to the US.  Kim -- like Robin Long -- was forced out of Canada.  Joshua and Kyle remain in Canada -- along with others including the first Iraq War resister to publicly attempt to be granted asylum in Canada:  Jeremy Hinzman.

Where is the outlet that will say that they were right?

They were right.  And their actions helped awaken the country.  Others who resisted and remained in the US like Kevin Benderman, Camilo Mejia and Stephen Funk were right too.  Where's their pat on the back.

All of these people who showed the courage to say no to an illegal war helped awaken the country.

Lt. Ehren Watada is the only officer who publicly resisted going to the illegal war.  So let's applaud his courage and drop back to the October 2, 2009 snapshot to remember his story:

This afternoon Fort Lewis's Media Relations department announced that Ehren Watada had completed his out processing and was discharged from the US military. We're going to stay with this topic for a bit because (a) it is important and (b) it is historical.  1st Lt Watada was the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  As Ann noted last night, "there are people who have no idea what a brave thing he did."  Ehren Watada was informed he would be deploying to Iraq in June 2005.  He had not given much thought to Iraq.  To prepare for the deployment, his superior advised him to study up on the war so that he could answer any questions that might come up from those serving under him.  He started researching the basics about the country itself, topography and geography and continuing through the history up to the current war.  He came across the Downing Street Memos which exposed that the 'intelligence' for the Iraq War was fixed.  He was now firmly convinced that the Iraq War was illegal and immoral.  From eager to serve in Iraq to realizing he'd be violating his oath to the Constitution, Ehren was now confronted with a decision.  He could keep his mouth shut and just do as he was told.  Or he could take a stand which would risk the wrath of the military as well as a portion of the public.
Ehren's mother, Carolyn Ho, has explained what happened next many times as she's spoken to raise awareness of her son's case.  WBAI's Law and Disorder shared one of her talks on their January 22, 2007 broadcast. Carolyn Ho explained it was the new year, January 2006, and her son called her.  He explained that he had something to tell her, he'd decided decided he wouldn't deploy to Iraq when the time came.  She was very upset and asked him if he understood what might result from his decision?  Ehren told her that he had no choide, he'd taken an oath to the Constitution, this was what he had to do and he was going to inform his superiors. 
Ehren didn't hesitate to inform his superiors.  This was in January 2006.  They at first attempted to change his mind.  He could not be budged.  So they stated they wanted to work something out.  They brainstormed together.  Ehren came up with ideas including, he could deploy to the Afghanistan War instead, he could resign (his service contract expired in December 2006).  His superiors appeared to be eager to consider every possibility; however, they were just attempting to stall.  They appear to have thought that if they put him off and put him off, when the day to deploy came, he'd just shrug his shoulders and deploy.
They did not know Ehren.  June 7, 2006 ("the day before his 28th birthday," Carolyn Ho likes to remind), Ehren went public with his refusal to deploy. Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes Ehren stated to participate in the Iraq War would be participating in war crimes.
In August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held. Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright. These three witnesses addressed the issue of the war, it's legality, and the responsibilities of a service member to disobey any order that they believed was unlawful. The testimony was necessary because Watada's refusing to participate in the illegal war due to the fact that he feels it is (a) illegal and (b) immoral. Many weeks and weeks later, the finding was released: the military would proceed with a court-martial.

On Monday, February 5, 2007, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense. Judge Toilet (John Head) presided and when the prosecution was losing, Toilet decided to flush the lost by declaring a mistrial over defense objection in his attempt to give the prosecution a do-over. Head was insisting then that a court-martial would begin against Watada in a few weeks when no court-martial could begin.

January 4, 2007, Head oversaw a pre-trial hearing. Head also oversaw a stipulation that the prosecution prepared and Watada signed. Head waived the stipulation through. Then the court-martial begins and Ehren's clearly winning. The prosecution's own military witnesses are becoming a problem for the prosecution. It's Wednesday and Watada's finally going to take the stand. Head suddenly starts insisting there's a problem with the stipulation. Watada states he has no problem with it. Well the prosecution has a problem with it and may move to a mistrial, Judge Toilet declares.

The prosecution prepared the stipulation and they're confused by Head's actions but state they're not calling for a mistrial or lodging an objection. That's on the record. Head then keeps pushing for a mistrial and the prosecution finally gets that Head is attempting to give them a do-over, at which point, they call for a mistrial.

The case has already started. Witnesses have been heard from. Double-jeopardy has attached. The defense isn't calling for a mistrial and Head rules a mistrial over defense objection and attempts to immediately schedule a new trial. Bob Chapman (Global Research) observes, "With little fanfare the Army at Fort Lewis, Wash., accepted the resignation of the 1966 Kalari High School graduate, and he will be discharged the first week in October."

He deserves applause.  Ehren became a part of a movement of resistance within the military and let's note the names of others we have covered:  Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia,  Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Brad McCall, Rodney Watson, Chuck Wiley and Kevin Benderman.

War resisters were public and they were underground. Those who went public shared important details of how they came to see the Iraq War as illegal. 

Mark Larabee's "Soldiers still go over the hill even in an all-volunteer Army" (The Oregonian) was the first to tell James Burmeister's story and, in doing so, broke the news of the kill teams (broke the news domestically) July 16, 2007.  Dee Knight's "Army court-martials resister for blowing whistle on 'bait-and-kill'" (Workers World) detailed what Burmeister experienced as well:

Private First Class James Burmeister faces a Special Court Martial at Fort Knox on July 16. The charges are AWOL and desertion. He returned to Fort Knox voluntarily in March, after living 10 months in Canada with his spouse and infant child. He refused redeployment to Iraq while on leave in May 2007.

In most such cases at Fort Knox, the Army has in recent years quietly dismissed the resister with a less than honorable discharge "for the good of the military." This time it's different. The brass "offered" Burmeister a year in military prison and a dishonorable discharge if he agreed to plead guilty.
Burmeister refused the offer. His father, Erich, says the Army is making an example of James for denouncing a secret "bait-and-switch" program he was forced to participate in while in Iraq. In media interviews last year in Canada, James described the program as a war crime he was forced to commit. Shortly afterward, the program's details came out in the Washington Post.
"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy," the Post quoted Capt. Matthew Didier, leader of an elite sniper scout platoon. "We would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual."
The Post reported that "Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said such a baiting program ... raises troubling possibilities, such as what happens when civilians pick up the items. ... 'You might as well ask every Iraqi to walk around with a target on his back,' Fidell said." (Sept. 24, 2007)
James had asked to be classified as a conscientious objector following his training in Germany, but his request was ignored by his commander. Instead, he became a machine gunner. "Our unit’s job seemed to be more about targeting a largely innocent civilian population or deliberately attracting confrontation," he wrote in his deposition seeking asylum in Canada. "These citizens were almost always unarmed. In some cases the Iraqi victims looked to me like they were children." (Eugene Weekly, May 22)
In Iraq, Burmeister had been knocked unconscious and his face filled with shrapnel when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. The shrapnel wounds left him with a traumatic brain injury, and he suffers from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His parents insist that he urgently needs medical and psychological help, not jail time.
His parents have waged an unceasing struggle for the Army to release him. They called on their representative, Peter DeFazio, to launch a congressional inquiry into James’s case, but have so far heard nothing. James' mother, Helen Burmeister, flew to Fort Knox in June, with help from anti-war ex-Colonel Ann Wright. Helen spoke directly to the base commander there, demanding that her son be discharged in lieu of a court martial. She then joined supporters from Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Vets Against the War demonstrating outside.
People who stood up -- publicly like the above or privately -- in the military deserve a round of applause, deserve some praise.  The Iraq War wasn't a "dumb" war, the term is "illegal."

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Friday, March 22, 2013









As Ann noted last night, Sara Flounders (Workers World via Global Research) has a critique of the selling of the war that the US media took part in:

The corporate media in the U.S. play a powerful role in preparation for imperialist war. They play an even more insidious role in rewriting the history of U.S. wars and obstructing the purpose of U.S. wars.
They are totally intertwined with U.S. military, oil and banking corporations. In every war, this enormously powerful institution known as the ‘fourth estate’ attempts, as the public relations arm of corporate dominance, to justify imperialist plunder and overwhelm all dissent.
The corporate media’s reminiscences and evaluations this week of the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, which began March 19, 2003, are a stark reminder of their criminal complicity in the war.
In the many articles there is barely any mention of the hundreds of news stories that totally saturated the media for months leading to the Pentagon onslaught. The news coverage in 2003 was wholly unsubstantiated, with wild fabrications of Iraqi secret ”weapons of mass destruction,” ominous nuclear threats, germ warfare programs, purchases of yellow cake uranium, nerve gas labs and the racist demonization of Saddam Hussein as the greatest threat to humanity. All of this is now glossed over and forgotten.

Another media critique is from Anthony DiMaggio (CounterPunch) who points out:

I won’t fault the New York Times for pointing out the stupefying incompetence of the Bush administration in its post-invasion occupation.  I do take the paper to task, however, for its complete unwillingness to recognize the real reasons why the American public opposed the Iraq war.  Those reasons have to do with moral and substantive rejection of the application of U.S. imperial power abroad.  This reality has scarcely been recognized by academics, journalists, political leaders, or even professional polling organizations (pollsters generally rely on political officials and the media to set the agenda for the types of questions they will ask).
Sadly, I have not seen a single polling question asked in the last ten years that measured whether Americans thought the war in Iraq was imperialist or not.  The question of whether the war was a “well-intentioned mistake” or “fundamentally wrong and immoral” has never appeared once in the national discourse when it comes to public opinion surveys.   Polls that might have questioned whether the U.S. invaded Iraq primarily for its massive oil reserves seldom materialized because the answers would have been too damning to report in a country where the political discussion revolved around whether the war was just and necessary or a noble mistake.

One media critique that I'm not seeing any of the American journalists make is one about Nouri al-Maliki who long ago declared war on the media.  In December alone, he shut down two broadcast outlets (three if you factor in that one of the TV channels also had a radio station).  He's repeatedly used his armed forces to prevent journalists from access to news sites.  In 2006, he was doing that with regards to bombings.  He didn't want photos of the victims emerging because that might underscore how violent things actually were in Iraq.  Today, he resorts to it to keep reporters away from the ongoing protests. 

That may be an improvement from 2011 when he had reporters who covered the protests kidnapped and tortured.  February 28, 2011, Kelley McEvers (NPR's Morning Edition -- link is audio and text) reported on what happened to Hadi al-Mahdi, activist and journalist, after a morning of covering the protests when he stopped to have lunch.

MCEVERS: Hadi al Mahdi runs a popular radio show that's long been critical of the government. He recently encouraged his 6,000 Facebook followers to protest against corruption. A few days ago, he was eating lunch with other journalists when soldiers pulled up, blindfolded them, and whisked them away. Mahdi was beaten in the leg, eyes, and head. A soldier tried to get him to admit he was being paid to topple the regime.
Mr. AL MAHDI: (Through translator) I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed, and the street in your area is unpaved, and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.
MCEVERS: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.
Mr. MAHDI: (Through translator) I started hearing voices of other people. So, for instance, one guy was crying, another was saying, where's my brother? And a third one was saying, for the sake of god, help me.
MCEVERS: Mahdi was shown lists of names and asked to reveal people's addresses. He was forced to sign documents while blindfolded. Eventually he was released.
Mahdi says the experience was worse than the times he was detained under Saddam Hussein. He says the regime that's taken Saddam's place is no improvement on the past. This, he says, should serve as a cautionary tale for other Arab countries trying to oust their dictators.
Mr. MAHDI: (Through translator) They toppled the regime, but they brought the worst - they brought a bunch of thieves, thugs, killers, and corrupt people, stealers.

As I've noted before, I exchanged e-mails with Hadi al-Mahdi.  He wrote to (kindly) correct me on a few things and to steer me to some other resources for a topic.  He doesn't do his radio show anymore.  He was assassinated on September 8, 2011.  From that day's snapshot:

Madhi had filed a complained with the courts against the Iraqi security forces, noting that they had now warrant and that they kidnapped him in broad daylight and that they beat him.  Mohamed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds, "Hadi al-Mehdi was inside his apartment on Abu Nawas street in central Baghdad when gunmen shot him twice with silencer-equipped pistols, said the ministry official, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to media."  Mazin Yahya (AP) notes that in addition to calling for improvements in the basic services (electricity, water and sanitation), on his radio program, Hadi al-Mehdi also used Facebook to get the word out on the Friday protests in Baghdad's Tahrir Square.

Despite international outcry, no effort was made to find his killer/s.  I firmly believe Nouri al-Maliki was behind that attack.  I believe he was behind the hacking of the Iraqi news sites Al Mada and Kitabat and there's no question that he's attempted to use the military to intimidate Al Mada's Chair and editor Fakhri Karim.  That's the reality of what happens to Iraqi journalists in Nouri's Iraq.  Al Mada's Adnan Hussein noted in a February column for England's New Statesman:

Ultimately, al-Maliki and his Dawa Party have managed to create a new kind of dictatorship. This is a curse not only to the Sunnis, or the Kurds, or the swaths of Shias, but to the country as a whole.
As an editor and columnist of al-Mada, a critical, oppositional newspaper in Iraq, I am given considerable editorial freedom, and there is certainly no shortage of subjects to cover. I am, however, concerned about the freedom of the press.
Fortunately, a draft anti-media law has now been reversed, much to the relief of my colleagues and peers. Journalism is a dangerous business, and yet the level of hazards is hardly higher than the tension about the car bombs and assassinations that continue to plague the people of Iraq.


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Thursday, March 21, 2013









Brian M. Downing (World Tribune) notes that the Iraq War has resulted in closer ties between the governments of Iraq and Iran.  Trudy Rubin (Sacramento Bee) also notes that today.  They are not wrong.  Making that observation isn't wrong.  But wrong is assuming that this is an indictment of the war by itself.  For example, Phyllis Bennis, Laura Flanders, Judith LeBlanc, the ridiculous Leslie Cagan, Bill Fletcher and a host of others sign off on an open letter which includes,  "Leaving behind a pro-US, anti-Iranian government in Baghdad. Hardly, Prime Minister al-Maliki is barely on speaking terms with anyone in Washington." Is the italicized sentence (their italics) supposed to be a quote? From who?  Here's a better quote that those signing the letter damn sure should have been familiar with:

"We've understood very clearly that Iraq, especially the Shia population of Iraq, is both a source of danger and opportunity to the Iranians. I think it's more danger than it is opportunity. But the danger itself is incentive for them to try to intervene because the last thing they want to see, which I think is a real possibility, is an independent source of authority for the Shia religion emerging in a country that is democratic and pro-Western."

Who is that?  Paul Wolfowitz.  From the then-Secretary of Defense's interview with Vanity Fair's Sam Tannenhaus.  You may remember that interview.  If you do, you may remember that the White House insisted Wolfowtiz had been misquoted by Vanity Fair on another issue.  So you may be tempted -- I don't see why -- to assume that quote above is incorrect as well.  Problem with that conclusion would be that I'm not quoting from Vanity Fair.  The Defense Dept posted a transcript of the interview in an attempt to combat what they swore were distortions.  I'm quoting from the Defense Dept transcript.  Wolfowitz, in the official DoD transcript, is explaining that the war plan includes linking Iran and Iraq with the hopes that this will cause conflict.  And it does and it is.  Iraqi politicians regularly have to make pilgrimages to Iran to meet with their leaders -- even the Kurds have done that in the last months.  And each visit results in an outcry from the Iraqi people about how they are not a Shi'ite satellite.  In Iran, there are protests against various alleged acts by Turkey or Saudi Arabia in Iraq.  The two countries are linked, forever rushing back and forth attempting to fix some new issue.  And that's before you get to the still not firmly drawn physical border between Iraq and Iran.  The two sides are not in agreement regarding their country's boundaries. 

Yes, Iran and Iraq are closer.  That's a valid observation.  If you're alarmed by this, maybe you should have been paying attention in real time because regardless of what was told to the American people, it was public knowledge that the plan was to hook Iraq and Iran together and friction was part of that plan.  Then-President Jimmy Carter and his administration saw it as a 'good' dragging the USSR into Afghanistan.  This was a similar manipulation but a lower level of conflict. 

Wolfowitz's statements are important because they go to Iraq being a puppet.  This isn't creating an independent state.  This is creating a vacuum that will suck your enemy in.

The Iraq War was never about "liberation" or creating "democracy."  It was about manipulation.  Robert Scheer (Truthdig) points out:

Just weeks ago, a devastating documentary produced by The Guardian newspaper and the BBC provided all the evidence needed for any decent person to demand trials for the perpetrators of an extensive system of Iraqi torture centers, operated and financed by the U.S. government. It was part of a policy of stoking a genocidal war of Shiite extremists against Sunnis that was directed by U.S. government veterans of similar efforts in Latin America and elsewhere. As the lead on The Guardian story put it:

“The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the ‘dirty wars’ in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.”
This effort, conducted with the full knowledge of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. David Petraeus, utilized the most violent Shiite militias including the savage Badr Brigade to wreak vengeance on their Sunni opponents.
The BBC/Guardian investigation exposed our propensity for moral turpitude, with no thanks to the Obama administration, which brazenly closed the door to any serious investigation of the war crimes of the Bush era, and much credit to Pfc. Bradley Manning and his WikiLeaks trove.

He's referring to BBC Arabic and the Guardian's James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq  which you can stream online.  (If you can't stream or if you need closed captioning so the stream will not help you, Ava and I covered the documentary March 10th with "TV: The War Crimes Documentary.")  This week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), the topic of counter-insurgency was addressed with journalist Patrick Farrelly who was part of the  BBC Arabic and the Guardian newspaper investigative team behind the recent documentary entitled James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq

Patrick Farrelly:  So we jump to 2004, the Bush administration needs a force on the ground.

Michael Ratner: The war is about a year old at this point.

Patrick Farrelly:  The war is about a year old. They turn to [David] Petraeus and Petraeus brings in Steele and Col James Coffman and they introduce him to this paramilitary force, special police commandos that's very, very small at the time --

Michael Ratner:  It's Iraqi?

Patrick Farrelly:  It's Iraqi run by a guy who had been involved in a plot to overthrow Saddam so we then end up in a situation where he introduces them to these guys.  Petreaus is really impressed with these people and that's when the spigot is turned on, hundreds of millions of dollars flow into this new force which hits the ground and it is advised by Steele and by Coffman.  It is a re-run of [El] Salvador. And they go from being a few hundred strong into being, you know, a force that grew to 17,000 to 18,000 men -- most of whom would be drawn from the Shia militias like the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Army who were very, very anxious to get revenge on Sunnis.  These people were basically put in uniform, armed and equipped by the US government and essentially let loose.

Michael Smith: A counter-insurgency force, right?

Patrick Farrelly:  A classic counter-insurgency force.

Michael Ratner: And what did they do?  Tell us about what they do because the headlines on these articles are "US Implicated In Iraqi Police Torture" -- Petraeus knew about it, Rumsfeld knew about it and it goes up the chain of command.

Patrick Farrelly: Well with Col James Steele who -- as I said the thing about Salvador, with the US military it's seen as a huge counter-insurgency success so therefore he was the guy on the ground, he's a sort of a legend in that area.  So with him in charge, they put together this force.  This force then sets up a whole chain of interrogation centers throughout northern Iraq, based in mainly Sunni areas because what the United States needs really badly is intelligence.  They need to know who the insurgents are and where they can get them.  And that's Steele's expertise -- having these guys on the ground, they go, they go after them, so they draw in thousands of people, they basically torture them for information.  And it's Steele's job to collate that information so that they can then hand it over to the US military, the US military can then go after the insurgents 'informed' for the first time as to what they were dealing with.  So for the United States, in 2004 and 2005, and Petraeus admits this himself, they were the real cutting edge in terms of going after the insurgents.  They were the first time the United States could actually make an impression on them but thousands of people were tortured in the process.

Heidi Boghosian: Now Steele and Coffman were very close and were actually in the detention centers, right?  So they couldn't say that they didn't know what was going on.

Patrick Farrelly:  Both of them were there.  The thing about it is in terms of chain of command, you've got James Steele who actually has no military standing whatsoever.  He is a retired colonel.  One of the reasons he's retired is because his career came askew in the late 80s when he was involved in the Iran-Contra Affair and was found by a Congressional Committee to have lied.

We'll cover at least one more part of that very important interview in a snapshot this week.  It was never about 'liberation' or 'democracy.'  That's why Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki, that's why Barack Obama had The Erbil Agreement created to give Nouri a second term after the Iraqi voters said no.  What happened then set the stage for all that follows.  Trudy Rubin (Sacremento Bee) observes, "Despite elections, Iraq still has a government that arrests and tortures political opponents and runs a secret police state." And she's correct.  But it can also be worded, "In spite of election results, Iraq still has a government that arrests and tortures political opponents and runs a secret police state."  Because the 2010 election results translated, under the Iraqi Constitution, as someone other than Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law gets first crack at being prime minister-designate and forming a government.  That was supposed to happen weeks after the March 2010 elections.  Instead, second place Nouri refused to allow it to happen, refused to leave the post of prime minister, refused to step down. For eight months and then the White House rescued Nouri by proposing an extra-constitutional contract -- The Erbil Agreement -- that would find the political leaders signing off on Nouri having a second term and Nouri agreeing to various things.  Various things?  They don't matter.  He never followed through.  He used The Erbil Agreement to get the second term, then he trashed the agreement.  And the torture the US taught is still used today, the secret prisons still exist (Human Rights Watch yesterday: "The abuses US officials allegedly authorized in the early years of the war in Iraq, and their tacit or direct complicity in Iraqi abuses throughout the occupation, are all partly responsible for the entrenchment of weak and corrupt institutions in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said." ) and, yes, US forces still go on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency missions with Iraqi troops but let's all pretend not to know that.

Seumas Milne (Guardian) had an important column yesterday that we'll grab this from:

As the Guardian reported this month, US forces led by General Petraeus himself were directly involved not only in overseeing torture centres, but also in sponsoring an El Salvador-style dirty war of sectarian death squads (known as "police commando units") to undermine the resistance.One outcome is the authoritarian Shia elite-dominated state run by Nouri al-Maliki today. His Sunni vice-president until last year, Tariq al-Hashimi – forced to leave the country and sentenced to death in absentia for allegedly ordering killings – was one of those who in his own words "collaborated" with the occupation, encouraging former resistance leaders to join Petraeus's "awakening councils", and now bitterly regrets it. "If I knew the result would be like this, I would never have done it," he told me at the weekend. "I made a grave mistake."

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013







If it was just one person, Bully Boy Bush would have been impeached, would be on trial for War Crimes.  But our desire to reduce it all to one bad guy?  It's not truthful.

Just like it's not truthful to claim -- as some outlets have in the last seven days -- that the Iraq War didn't benefit American companies.  First off, as we've stated many times before (here for an example), they're multi-national.  This isn't the 1940s.  They have no obligations to the United States -- Congress and their boards have seen to that.  It's why they don't care that the jobs go overseas.  It was a natural resource war that opened markets.  Antonia Juhasz (CNN) explains:

Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil.

It has been 10 years since Operation Iraqi Freedom's bombs first landed in Baghdad. And while most of the U.S.-led coalition forces have long since gone, Western oil companies are only getting started.
Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq's domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.

In 2000, the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University put forward "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century:"

For many decades the United States has not had a comprehensive energy policy. Now, the consequences of this complacency have revealed themselves in California. Now, there could be more California-like situations in America’s future. President George W. Bush and his administration need to tell these agonizing truths to the American people and lay the basis for a comprehensive, long-term U.S. energy security policy.
That Americans face long-term situations such as frequent sporadic shortages of energy, energy price volatility, and higher energy prices is not the fault of President Bush. The failure to fashion a workable energy policy rests at the feet of both Democrats and Republicans. Both major political parties allowed energy policy to drift despite its centrality to America’s domestic economy and to national security. Energy policy was permitted to drift even though oil price spikes preceded virtually every American recession since the late 1940s. The American people must know about this situation and be told as well that there are no easy or quick solutions to today’s energy problems. The president has to begin educating the public about this reality and start building a broad base of popular support for the hard policy choices ahead.
This executive summary and the full report address the following questions. What are the potential effects of the critical energy situation for the United States? How did this critical energy situation arise? What are the U.S. policy options to deal with the energy situation? What should the United States do now?

Energy has long been a concern of presidents.  November 25, 1973, Tricky Dick Nixon took a little break from breaking various laws to address the nation about the energy policies:

As we reduce gasoline supplies, we must act to insure that the remaining gasoline available is used wisely and conserved to the fullest possible extent.
Therefore, as a second step, I am asking tonight that all gasoline filling stations close down their pumps between 9 p.m. Saturday night and midnight Sunday every weekend, beginning December 1. We are requesting that this step be taken voluntarily now.
Upon passage of the emergency energy legislation before the Congress, gas stations will be required to close during these hours. This step should not result in any serious hardship for any American family. It will, however, discourage long-distance driving during weekends. It will mean perhaps spending a little more time at home.
This savings alone is only a small part of what we have to conserve to meet the total gasoline shortage. We can achieve substantial additional savings by altering our driving habits. While the voluntary response to my request for reduced driving speeds has been excellent, it is now essential 'that we have mandatory and full compliance with this important step on a nationwide basis.
And therefore, the third step will be the establishment of a maximum speed limit for automobiles of 50 miles per hour nationwide as soon as our emergency energy legislation passes the Congress. We expect that this measure will produce a savings of 200,000 barrels of gasoline per day. Intercity buses and heavy-duty trucks, which operate more efficiently at higher speeds and therefore do not use more gasoline, will be permitted to observe a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit.
The fourth step we are taking involves our jet airliners. There will be a phased reduction of an additional 15 percent in the consumption of jet fuel for passenger flights bringing the total reduction to approximately 25 percent.
These savings will be achieved. by a careful reduction in schedules, combined with an increase in passenger loads. We will not have to stop air travel, but we will have to plan for it more carefully.
The fifth step involves cutting back on outdoor lighting. As soon as the emergency energy legislation passes the Congress, I shall order the curtailment of ornamental outdoor lighting for homes and the elimination of all commercial lighting except that which identifies places of business.
In the meantime, we are already planning right here at the White House to curtail such lighting that we would normally have at Christmastime, and I am asking that all of you act now on a voluntary basis to reduce or eliminate unnecessary lighting in your homes.

The speech, when remembered today, is remembered largely for Nixon telling people to turn their thermostat's down six degrees (it was winter, the issue was the use of energy for heating).  'Wear a sweater' was what Jimmy Carter's February 2, 1977 speech was reduced to.  Sitting in the White House next to a burning fire place, Carter declared:

The extremely cold weather this winter has dangerously depleted our supplies of natural gas and fuel oil and forced hundreds of thousands of workers off the job. I congratulate the Congress for its quick action on the Emergency Natural Gas Act, which was passed today and signed just a few minutes ago. But the real problem—our failure to plan for the future or to take energy conservation seriously—started long before this winter, and it will take much longer to solve.

I realize that many of you have not believed that we really have an energy problem. But this winter has made all of us realize that we have to act.

Now, the Congress has already made many of the preparations for energy legislation. Presidential assistant Dr. James Schlesinger is beginning to direct an effort to develop a national energy policy. Many groups of Americans will be involved. On April 20, we will have completed the planning for our energy program and will immediately then ask the Congress for its help in enacting comprehensive legislation.

Our program will emphasize conservation. The amount of energy being wasted which could be saved is greater than the total energy that we are importing from foreign countries. We will also stress development of our rich coal reserves in an environmentally sound way; we will emphasize research on solar energy and other renewable energy sources; and we will maintain strict safeguards on necessary atomic energy production.

Energy concerns pre-date Bully Boy Bush.   After the Supreme Court installed Bush and Cheney into the White House following a disputed election that, if no recounts were done, should have been decided by the Congress, not the unelected Supreme Court, Dick Cheney started his energy task force -- a task force that met in secret and that he didn't want the public to know about.  Right-wing watchdog Judicial Watch sued -- along with the Sierra Club -- and, due to a court order, the Commerce Dept was forced to turn over some documents from the Cheney Energy Task force which included "a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as 2 charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.  The documents, which are dated March 2001 [. . . .]."  The documents were turned over in July of 2003, after the Iraq War started.  The fact that they prompted no intense media discussions goes to the fact that they weren't really that surprising.  Project Censored did take it seriously and noted:

Documented plans of occupation and exploitation predating September 11 confirm heightened suspicion that U.S. policy is driven by the dictates of the energy industry. According to Judicial Watch President, Tom Fitton, “These documents show the importance of the Energy Task Force and why its operations should be open to the public.”
When first assuming office in early 2001, President Bush’s top foreign policy priority was not to prevent terrorism or to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction-or any of the other goals he espoused later that year following 9-11. Rather, it was to increase the flow of petroleum from suppliers abroad to U.S. markets. In the months before he became president, the United States had experienced severe oil and natural gas shortages in many parts of the country, along with periodic electrical power blackouts in California. In addition, oil imports rose to more than 50% of total consumption for the first time in history, provoking great anxiety about the security of the country’s long-term energy supply. Bush asserted that addressing the nation’s “energy crisis” was his most important task as president.
The energy turmoil of 2000-01 prompted Bush to establish a task force charged with developing a long-range plan to meet U.S. energy requirements. With the advice of his close friend and largest campaign contributor, Enron CEO, Ken Lay, Bush picked Vice President Dick Cheney, former Halliburton CEO, to head this group. In 2001 the Task Force formulated the National Energy Policy (NEP), or Cheney Report, bypassing possibilities for energy independence and reduced oil consumption with a declaration of ambitions to establish new sources of oil.

We could include Wolfowitz here but I think he's better for another topic so let's go to 2007 when Peter Beaumont and Joanna Walters (Observer) report the following:

The man once regarded as the world's most powerful banker has bluntly declared that the Iraq war was 'largely' about oil.Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987 and retired last year after serving four presidents, Alan Greenspan has been the leading Republican economist for a generation and his utterings instantly moved world markets.
In his long-awaited memoir - out tomorrow in the US - Greenspan, 81, who served as chairman of the US Federal Reserve for almost two decades, writes: 'I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.'

After the publication of Greenspan's book, Bob Woodward (Washington Post) interviewed him and reported, "Greenspan said disruption of even 3 to 4 million barrels a day could translate into oil prices as high as $120 a barrel -- far above even the recent highs of $80 set last week -- and the loss of anything more would mean 'chaos' to the global economy."  A year later, as Patrick Martin (WSWS) noted, then GOP presidential candidate John McCain would declare, "My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East.  That will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East."

It was a resource war.  It became part of the national energy policy.  And the reason Bully Boy Bush hasn't been punished is that, for all the fuming, it's not just Republicans.  Many Democrats were on board.  And many outlets were as well.  The people were largely 'shielded' from the truth for various reasons but that's what the Iraq War was about.  Even before the illegal war started, there were people who rightly noted that it would be a war for oil.  But those voices were mocked and silenced.  And a large number of people who heard those voices chose not to believe that 'my country' could do such a thing.

It's that segment that the shielding was necessary for.  Those of us against the war were going to protest regardless.  But 'settling on a reason,' as Paul Wolfowitz put it to Vanity Fair in May 2003, was about selling the Iraq War and building support for it.  There is a chance that they could have built support for it honestly.  They could have tried to fire up the country in a "We will have this oil!" type of manner.  Marauders have existed historically for decades.  The Danish marauders (that would be the Vikings), for example, attacked England beginning in 793.  And maybe there would have been support in the US for the attack on Iraq if the administration had chosen to sell it as, "We'll have the oil we need!"  And maybe in England and Australia as well -- where Tony Blair and John Howard were pulling their armies into the war.  But the danger then would not be domestic.  The danger then would be that the world would not just condemn but declare war on the US, the UK and Australia.  Because without the lie of 'liberation' -- without that noble lie that Plato established the need for in The Republic -- invading Iraq for oil is just a crime. "An illegitimate act of aggression," as Kamrul Idris (New Strait Times) notes the Malaysian government called it in real time.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013





While they addressed reality, others furthered lies.  Take Susan Glazer and Foreign Policy.  They're a little late for an Iraq roundtable, aren't they? 

And I'd say that even if Saturday morning hadn't found this community again doing an Iraq Roundtable:

"Iraq Roundtable," "Iraq roundtable,"  "Talking Iraq roundtable," "The roundtable on Iraq." "a roundtable on iraq," "Iraq," "Roundtable on Iraq,"  "A roundtable on Iraq,"  "The Iraq Roundtable," "The Iraq Roundtable,"  "The Iraq Roundtable," "Iraq Roundtable," "Talking Iraq Roundtable," "Talking Iraq" and "THIS JUST IN! IRAQ!"

To be clear, Foreign Policy's roundtable, that garbage, isn't about Iraq, it's about counter-insurgency.  I find it interesting, for example, that the Washington Post allows Greg Jaffe to participate in that.  Greg's supposed to be a reporter for the Washington Post.  As such he has to report on various things.  I don't see how his embrace of counter-insurgency can be seen as neutral.  The whole thing is an infomercial for counter-insurgency.  That's war on a native population, for those who don't know.  They try to pretty it up and distance it from the blood and bones, but that is what counter-insurgency is.  And with the exception of Eliot Cohen, they're all a bunch of liars.

I'm not a fan of Cohen's and honestly didn't expect honesty from him, but he's the only one who was willing to drop the airy pose and talk about what counter-insurgency really is:

The first thing is just to remind us all, counterinsurgency is a kind of military operation. There's an American style to counterinsurgency; there was a German style to counterinsurgency; there's a Soviet or Russian style to counterinsurgency. It's just a kind of operation that militaries do, and I think particularly in the popular discussion there's this tendency to call counterinsurgency the kind of stuff that's in the manual.
[. . .]
And finally, having played a very modest role in helping get the COIN manual launched, I've got two big reservations about it. Actually three. One is a technical one, which is it underestimated the killing part of counterinsurgency and particularly what Stan McChrystal and his merry men were doing [with special operations]. I think that is a large part of our counterinsurgency success. We killed a lot of the people who needed to be killed, or captured them, and that's not something you want to talk about. You'd rather talk about building power plants and stuff, but the killing part was really important, and I think we have to wrestle with that one because it's obviously problematic.

Cohen doesn't lie, he doesn't try to pretty it up.  He's detailing counter-insurgency.  It's worth remembering the 2007 saw counter-insurgency especially take root in Iraq.  Cohen joins the administration in March 2007 (as Condi's advisor and in April becomes Counselor to the State Department).  Cohen's words are what they're all signing off on -- Greg Jaffe included.  I disagree strongly with Cohen about counter-insurgency being something of value.  But I will give him credit for being honest about what it actually is: "We killed a lot of the people who needed to be killed, or captured them, and that's not something you want to talk about."

Not many do.  In our roundtable, I noted Stan's "What the US government did in Iraq" and asked him if he wanted to talk about it and the response he makes is that he just wants to be on the record as opposed to counter-insurgency because so few people will take a stand.  He is so right.  This week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), the topic of counter-insurgency was addressed with journalist Patrick Farrelly who was part of the  BBC Arabic and the Guardian newspaper investigative team behind the recent documentary entitled James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq

Patrick Farrelly:  I think we have to go back to Iraq in 2004.  The Bush administration -- it was becoming very, very clear to them that the projections they had made about how they'd be welcomed in Iraq were just not true, the insurgency was growing at this extraordinary rate, more and more American soldiers were being killed and it looked like the insurgency was at that point, in the spring of 2004, just getting off the ground. So they really needed something.  They needed a new strategy.  They were stuck in a situation where, while they had a lot of troops on the ground, they really had very few people who actually spoke Arabic and there were very few people who actually knew anything about the insurgency.  So this is where they turned to, initially, actually, General [David] Petraeus because the one thing that we've got to remember about General Petreaus -- I know that in the press and among the think tanks in Washington, he is seen as the scholar warrior, but in essence, David Petraeus' position in the US military is as a guy who is a big, big advocate of counter-insurgency.  It was at this point that Rumsfeld called upon him to go back into Iraq and to organize the training of a pretty massive police force in Iraq.  And he went there and straight away he saw the opportunities in terms of counter-insurgency because he saw this massive force that they could actually use to fight the insurgency.  He hooked up with two people there.  One was a gay -- both Special Forces veterans -- one was a guy called Colonel James Coughman and the other, more importantly, is a guy called Colonel James Steele.  Steele's a fascinating character because he had been involved in the Vietnam War where, of course, counter-insurgency had a major, major outing.  It's reputation in the US military at that stage was not very good in terms of the experience in Vietnam.  He then emerges again in El Salvador in the 1980s as head of the MIll Group.

Michael Ratner: The Mill Group is what?

Patrick Farrelly:  Is a bunch of US military advisers who were essentially training elements of what we might call the Steele Salvadorian security forces to fight the FMLN [Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front] to fight the guerrillas.  I mean, we all know what happened there.  Enormous amounts of people were killed by these people, enormous amounts of people were tortured. But Colonel James Steele was the guy who was in charge of the American advisers who are training these people and also directing these forces.  So while most people would have viewed what happened in El Salvador as a human rights disaster, within the annals of American military history it was seen as a very, very successful counter-insurgency adventure.

In 2004, they begin training Iraqi forces.  In 2006 they want to bring in Sunnis to fight Sunnis.  Though they announce the Sahwa many times, it does not take off immediately.

Once it does, questions are asked about why the US is paying them -- Senator Barbara Boxer argues that if this is for protection then the Iraqi government should be paying for it.  But the US government used taxpayer dollars to take counter-insurgency to a new level in Iraq.  That period is the ethnic cleansing period.

The press likes to call it 'civil war.'  That term implies that Iraq rose up against Iraq and eliminates any outside, foreign actors.

It was ethnic cleansing.

Why didn't the US leave after Saddam Hussein was toppled?  Or after he was executed?

Because that wasn't the end.  The end was installing a government that they deemed friendly (a puppet government) and this gets to the heart of counter-insurgency.  It's not benevolent, it's not anthropology -- though anthropologists have disgraced themselves by taking part in it.  It is choosing sides.  It is saying, "This is the side that we will rise up and this is the side we will demonize."  The US couldn't leave because there was still work to be done.

Kieren Kelly (BRussels Tribune) feels that the documentary left a great deal out and this is from his essay and critique:

Death squads, by nature, are not a military tactic whatever their “counterinsurgency” or “counterterror” pretensions. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, it is a universal trait for death squad programmes to seek to conflate combatant targets with non-combatant. This is not restricted to death squad activity itself, but it part of the belligerent political discourse of the putative counterinsurgent regime. During the Cold War, the enemies were the “communists” and deliberate efforts were made to create the impression that the ideological identification was equivalent to combatant status, at least in as much as legitimising killing. The same applies to the uses of the terms “Islamist” and “militant”. Part of this process is to divide the world up into two camps – as Bush Jr said “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”.
But Bush wasn't stating anything new. Early in the Cold War, in Guatemala the motto was “'For liberation or against it.' From this Manichean vision sprung the paranoid anti-communist taxonomy that added to the list of enemies not only communists, but 'philocommunists,' 'crypto-communists,' 'castro-communists,' 'archi-communists,' 'pro-communists,' and finally the 'useful fools.'”13 In 1962, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff defined “insurgency” as any illegal form of opposition to regime rule, thus including passive resistance, joining banned unions or strikes, or anything else deemed illegal by a given regime. At this time they openly embraced terror tactics, such as those conducted by death squads, as “counterterror”.14 In South Vietnam, before there was any armed insurgency, the Diem regime conducted an horrific terror (seemingly forgotten to history) thought to have cost 75,000 lives.15 Mobile guillotines traveled the countryside to execute those denounced as communists and the campaign came to a head in 1959 with the notorious Decree 10/59 under which all forms of political opposition were made treason and any act of sabotage was punishable by death. Local officials could label anyone they wished “communist” and thus secure summary sentences of death or life imprisonment.16 Then, the US deliberately created the term Viet Cong, to conflate political dissent with combatant status, and then, when their own personnel began to reinterpret VC as referring solely to combatants, the US military then came up with another term – 'Viet Cong infrastructure'. Prados defines them as “a shadowy network of Viet Cong village authorities, informers, tax collectors, propaganda teams, officials of community groups, and the like, who collectively came to be called the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI).” “Sympathizers” were also counted.17 It was the “VCI” that were the main supposed targets of the “Phoenix Programme” - the US run dedicated death squad programme. Those targeted were usually tortured and/or killed,18 so the programme was a war crime in any respect, but when it was expanded throughout South Viet Nam, it was run in such a way that the vast majority of victims were not in any manner involved with the NLF. Instead of using specific intelligence to target people with at least some known connection to the NLF, lists of names were coerced from detainees physically. Cash incentives were also offered for informers, while President Thieu used the programme to kill political rivals.19 “Neutralizations” resulting from the programme were about 20,000 each year. In 1969, out of a US figure of 19,534 “neutralizations” less than 150 were believed to be senior NLF cadres and only 1 (one) had been specifically targeted.20
In Argentina most victims were not guerillas but union leaders, young students, journalists, pacifists, nuns, priests and friends of such people. 21% of victims were students; 10.7% were professionals and 5.7% were teachers or professors. 10% were Jews who were tortured in specific anti-Semitic ways. CIA noted at the time the use of “torture, battlefield 'justice,' a fuzzing of the distinction between active guerilla and civilian supporter...arbitrary arrest... death 'squads'....” Generals increasingly come to understand the threats as being Peronism and unionism. “One Argentine general is quoted as having said that 'in order to save 20 million Argentines from socialism, it may be necessary to sacrifice 50,000 lives.'”21 General Jorge Rafael Videla defined his “enemy” in the following terms: “a terrorist is not only someone with a weapon or a bomb, but anyone who spreads ideas which are contrary to our western and Christian civilization.”22

It's about killing.  It's playing God and deciding who will live and who will die, who will rise and who will fall while pretending that you're letting Iraqis determine their own fate.  Not unlike in 2010, when Iraqis went to the voting centers and made their voice clear only to be overridden by the US White House which insisted that Nouri al-Maliki would have a second term as prime minister even though his State of Law came in second.  To do that, the White House had to find a way around the Constitution.  So they came up with The Erbil Agreement.  Considering all the trouble that's led to, some might argue forcing Iraqis at gunpoint might have been kinder.  Of course, the humane and adult thing to do is to let a people exercise self-determination.  But whether it's a Democrat in the White House or a Republican, they always think they know better than anyone else what should be done.  That's why they are so very wrong, so very often.