Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Yeah, let's go there

I'll bite:

Portland police re-opening Gore investigation
Washington Post - Nigel Duara - ‎1 hour ago‎
AP PORTLAND, Ore. -- Police say they are reopening an investigation into allegations by a Portland massage therapist that former Vice President Al Gore groped her at a hotel in 2006.
Portland Police Reopen Al Gore Sex Abuse Allegations ABC News
Portland Police to Reopen Sexual Misconduct Case Against Gore FOXNews
New York Daily News - CNN International - Houston Chronicle -
all 328 news articles »

We've really avoided this story community wide and I'll note a few things quickly.

1) Tipper and Al Gore's divorce is news.

We haven't had a vice president (or president) get a divorce after the White House before.

2) It isn't surprising.

Ava and C.I. noted years ago at Third, "TV: Global Boring," remember? On that dreadful concert and Al Gore's 'rockin' speech? From their article:

Now there are other reasons the names stayed away. There is, after all, the Tipper Gore issue. For those too young to remember, power drummer Tipper co-launched the witch hunt of the music industry in the eighties which led to stickering and censorship. You don't come back from that. No matter how hard you try, you don't come back. Which is why, in the early years of Bill Clinton's presidency, the big gossip in the music industry wasn't whom Clinton might be sleeping with but how closely Tipper was watching "E" and making sure "E"'s claim to fame remained picking out a tie for one of Gore's debates. You can't attack an industry and not suffer fall out. And just because your own life goes so pathetic doesn't mean you're forgiven. Not when your wife confesses to severe depression, not when you prove how spineless you are by refusing to fight for a presidency you won and not when your 24-year-old son barrels through the armpit of California, at 100 miles per hour, baked on pot and with enough pharmaceuticals to open a mobile CVS.

I just love that.

So, does the press intend to explore the "E" issue? (I know the woman's name. I've heard this story in full from Ava and C.I.)

Al Gore cheated on Tipper repeatedly.

I'm sorry if that sets Bob Somerby into a tizzy. (His stalking friend threatened Ava and C.I. in an e-mail over the above article.)

But reality's reality.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate may be ending, the Iraq Inquiry releases a number of previously classified documents, the US Congress hears about the ethically challenged Office of General Counsel for the VA, and more.

Iraq Inquiry continued today in London. Today's big news wasn't the witnesses offering testimony before the Inquiry chaired by John Chilcot, it was documents the Inquiry released. Sarah Gordon (Sky News) explains that the Inquiry released "classified documents" which included England's then-Attorney General Peter Goldsmith offering his legal advice with regards to a proposed war with Iraq including, "I remain of the view that the correct legal interpretation of resolution 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council." Paul Waugh (London Evening Standard) adds, "The Cabinet Office published Lord Goldsmith's first draft of his legal advice and confirmed that he had serious doubts about the legality of the conflict without a fresh UN mandate." If it's getting complicated, the Inquiry wanted to release the document, it was classified and they needed approval from the Cabinet Office. Civil Service head Gus O'Donnell, in a June 25th letter to the Inquiry, explained why the papers could be released:

Nonetheless, the Iraq Inquiry was established with the purpose of learning lessons from how decidions were made and which actions were taken in the run-up to conflict, during the conflict and in its aftermath. The question of the legal base for military action and how the advice that led to the Government's view on this developed is consequently a central part of the Inquiry's work. In this light, I have noted the extent to which the form Attorney General covered these issues in detail during this evidence to the Inquiry on 27 January.

Peter Biles (BBC News) explains, "The 27 pages, each one with the words 'secret' or 'confidential' struck out, were distributed without ceremony." These are the previously classified documents which the Inquiry made public today:

30.07.02 Goldsmith advice to Prime Minister re: Iraq
18.10.02 AGO note of the Goldsmith/Straw telecom
18.10.02 FCO note of the Goldsmith/Straw telecom
11.11.02 AGO note of the Goldsmith/Powell telecom
19.12.02 AGO note of meeting at No.10
14.01.03 Attorney General's draft advice to Prime Minister
30.01.03 Goldsmith note to Prime Minister
12.02.03 Goldsmith draft advice
26 March 2003 - Minute from Goldsmith to the PM entitled "Iraq authorisation for an interim administration"

Appearing before the Inquiry
January 27th, Goldsmith agreed that in the days right before the invasion, he flipped his legal advice but he denied that he did so as a result of pressure from Blair and others. His denial may have been the weakest thing to be paraded before the Inquiry since it began. It was in that hearing that Chair John Chilcot publicly expressed "frustration" over the refusal of the government (then led by Gordon Brown) to allow the Inquiry to release documents which were classified. Now that the documents are released and Goldsmith's testimony appears even shakier when examining those documents, that "frustration" may have been a subtle warning to Goldsmith i.e., "Be careful what you say because we have the documents and are currently unable to release them but that may change." Change? Goldsmith based his objection on war without a second resolution on the law. When he flipped days before the invasion, he didn't look to the law. He declared that his decision was based upon a game starting and his need to choose whose side he wanted to be on. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes, "At first sight, the most significant document is a memo from Goldsmith to Blair dated 30 January 2003 making this point. The next day, it has been revealed, Blair told George Bush that Britain was committed to the war." Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) works through the new documents and the old one and focuses mainly on Blair's January 31, 2003 trip to DC where he met with Bush and Bush informed him that there would be no second resolution. Blair raised no objections and did not even mention Goldsmith's legal opinion which was that without a second United Nations resolution, the war would be illegal. He instead, according to documents, "said he was solidly with the president." Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) adds that "Lord Goldsmith was repeatedly told that his formal advice about the legality of an invasion was not welcome" and that " Lord Goldsmith repeatedly made clear that he had concerns about the legality of an invasion." Tony Blair was the Prime Minister of England when the illegal war began. Minutes to a December 2002 meeting were released (the Iraq War begins in March 2003 with the invasion) and they quote Blair's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell. Gordon Brown, Mohammed Abbas and Michael Roddy (Reuters) quote Powell stating, "At the other extreme, the U.S. becomes(s) frustrated with the UN process and decide(s) to take military action regardless, i.e. without UN support. There would be no question of the UK supporting military action in the event of (this) scenario."

Today the Inquiry heard from
Michael Hastings Jay who was the Permanent Under Secretary, the UK's Mission to the UN legal counsellor Ian MacLeod and the Legal Counsellor, Legal Secretariat to the Law offices from 2002 to 2005 Cathy Adams (link goes to transcript and video options -- unless otherwise noted, all quotes come from the transcript).

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You became Permanent Secretary in January 2002 and that was a moment with regard to Iraq where it was becoming clear that the approach of the United States Government to the issue was changing. At the end of January, President Bush gave his Axis of Evil speech, for example, and other indications were coming through different channels that the Americans were beginning to think very seriously about possible actions against Iraq. At this time, when you came in, say around February 2002, what was the impression that you and your colleagues had in the Foreign Office of American policy, the American approach to Iraq?

Michael Hastings Jay: We though that there was clearly serious concern about Iraq. There was clearly, in the United States, a growing sense that there was an opportunity to deal with Iraq and I think those of us in the Foreign Office thinking about these things were concerened that this was going to be a very difficult issues for us to handle. I don't think at that stage we were on the same line really, as the United States were.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: What do you recall as being the reactions of the then Prime Minister [Blair] and the then Foreign Secretary [Jack Straw] to these indications, that Washington was moving Iraq up to the top of the priority list and maybe really seeing Iraq as the target for action?

Michael Hastings Jay: I can speak more of the Foreign Secretary than I can for the Prime Minister. The Foreign Secretary's view as -- I think the Foreign Secretary's reaction to the Axis of Evil speech, which was criticised, as far as I remember, by President Bush, was that this was for domestic political reasons as much as for foreign policy reasons. I don't think at that stage the prospect of a conflict, as it later turned out, was very much at the top of our minds. I should say that, at the beginning of 2002, I was myself getting myself into the job. Iraq was one of a large number of issues I was dealing with. It was not at the top of my own agenda at the beginning of 2002. I was travelling a lot, I was meeting everybody, I was getting to know what the job involved, and Iraq at that stage was a difficult issue but no more difficult than many of the issues that we were dealing with.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: By the middle of that year, after you had been in the job for half a year, where would Iraq have stood on the Foreign Office's list of priority issues?

Michael Hastings Jay: I think it rose up during the first half of 2002. It rose up the agenda, but it would be wrong to think it was always at the top of the agenda.

Asked about Blair and Bush, Michael Hastings Jay declared, "I had the impression that he [Blair] had his own views on how he should deal with his relationship with President Bush. It was not how I would have dealt with President Bush, but I was not Prime Minister and there were things said and things done and maybe commitments half-given which I would not myself has given, but that was a part of his relationhip with President Bush. That was how he felt, as I understood it, he was best able to influence President Bush."

Committee Member Martin Gilbert brought up Jeremy Greenstock who told the Inquiry that he had talked to Michael Hastings Jay about the possibility that England might go to war without any UN resolution at all -- not even 1441 which the UN did pass (and it allowed weapons inspectors back into Iraq). MHJ stated he did not remember such a conversation and that the possibility wasn't being addressed. After the UN Security Council passed 1441, Greenstock told the Committee that there was strong debate as to whether a second resolution might weaken 1441 and whether or not a second resolution should be pursued. Michael Hatings Jay agreed there was debate over whether or not to seek a second resolution. He also stated that talk of a timetable -- particularly by the US -- influenced the decision to go to war.

Michael Hastings Jay: It created a deadline in the sense that we kept hearing that it would get too hot around March/Aprli and tanks wouldn't work and therefore, we had to have a decision on the diplomatic process, whether it would continue or not by then. I never fully understood that argument. It seemed to me that tanks operate in whatever condition in whatever part of the world and that they have done over the years, but it was clearly a view strongly felt and strongly put and did act, without any question at all, as a constraint on the negotiating process.

Shortly after that MHJ would declare that decisions were also made based on the belief or possibility that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons -- and he stopped, noted the look on Committee Member Lawrence Freedman's face, stated "I withdraw that" and corrected himself with "chemical biological weapons." Why the slip? There were no nuclear weapons. (Though Bully Boy Bush did love to refer to "a mushroom cloud.") Why the slip? Did his department sit around fantasizing? This was a key player in the leadup to the Iraq War and it's rather distressing that, had Freedman not had an expression of disbelief ("A little too far," he told MHJ) than MHJ might have continued down that fanciful -- if fact-free -- line.

Committee Member Usha Prashar pursued his statement that his department needed "a clear statement from the Attorney General on the legality of the war" and she wanted to know when that statement was conveyed. Michael Hastings Jay appeared to stumble for an answer and began falling back on meetings -- listing them -- informal that he had already gone over which really had nothing to do with when they got the legal verdict from the AG. His verbal gymanstics ended with, "I could not see how the staff we had in the region could be -- how they could be acting, if they were not doing so on the basis of a legal -- legal advice which said that what they were doing, the support they were giving the troops was in accordance with international law." In other words, though Michael Hastings Jay testified that he and his department needed a statement from the AG, in fact, no statement was conveyed as to the legality of the war and MHJ surmised it was legal by the fact that British staff remained in the region. Pressed on this topic of legality by Committee Member Lynne, MHJ insisted, "I'm not a lawyer. I didn't see it as my job to question the advice that lawyers were giving."

MHJ then went into Drama Queen mode as Committee Member Gilbert turned to the post-war. They wanted to influence, MHJ whined, but "there was a pretty incoherent state of mind in the United States administration at that point." If you dozed off in the midst of the Drama, he returned to the point, "But it was a rather incoherent state in Washington at that time, and it was not -- and we were, of course, in any way the junior partner." It's so rarely any British official's fault. This one today wanted to whine about the "incoherent state" -- seriously? Because if a government is in an incoherent state -- here's the obvious question -- why did you partner up with them for war?

There was nothing more, Michael Hastings Jay wanted the Committee to know, that he and others could have done. Through several rounds, he babbled about that apparently embracing victimhood status as if it were a full length mink, tugging it around his shoulders. Around the point that Committee Member Roderic Lyne was explaining to him that "we" would be the British government and he was replying back that "-- it was not, after all, the United Kingdom that was running the show. It was the Americans basically running it," that you knew he wasn't much for accountability. Like so many, he blamed Paul Bremer. Who knew Paul Bremer was so all powerful? Bremer screwed up -- on his own and on the orders of the White House. We don't defend Bremer here. Except when foreign governments want to act as if they had to take orders from him. The US and the UK were the lead partners in the illegal war. But to hear the UK officials tell it, they'd rather have been painting their nails but the boys drove by in the jalopy and said "Let's go get burgers!" and there wasn't anything else to do, so they just went along.
Andrew Sparrow is live blogged the Inquiry for the Guardian.

Yesterday's witnesses included former British Ambassador to France John Holmes.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports:Tony Blair repeatedly blamed Jacques Chirac, the then French president, for the failure to get a second security council resolution -- something most senior government lawyers, including at first the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, agreed was needed if the invasion was to be lawful. The claim was repeated in evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, notably by Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the invasion. Straw pointed to a television interview Chirac gave on 10 March 2003, less than two weeks before the invasion.Straw claimed Chirac had made it clear France would not back a fresh UN resolution "whatever the circumstances". Straw added: "I don't think there was any ambiguity." Asked what his view was of Chirac's intervention, Sir John Holmes, British ambassador to France at the time, replied: "The words are clearly ambiguous." Holmes and his refuting of previous claims and testimony is the big story for the British media from yesterday's public testimony; however, Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes, "Today's papers have quite limited coverage of yesterday's resumption of public hearings, which is no doubt an indicator that media interest has waned since the election." Chris' report on yesterday's hearing includes this:On the issue of why attorney general Lord Goldsmith could not, as he claimed, have asked the French directly about the history of negotiating UN resolution 1441, Holmes said: "I don't see why he couldn't have done." This direct answer exposes Goldsmith more clearly than ever to the charge that his trip to Washington in early 2003 was not an objective fact finding mission but a one-sided process of having his arm twisted in a particular direction. Holmes made very clear what has always been obvious, that the French were unwilling to sign up to a second UN resolution in early 2003 because it was clear that the US was going to go to war imminently come what may and that they and Britain were simply looking for legal cover. He made clear that if Britain had been able to offer a different timetable, the French could well have supported a new resolution, albeit one that did not authorise war without a further assessment of Iraq's compliance. The other news of yesterday's hearing includes a written statement the Inquiry was given. The Telegraph of London reports, "Paul Kernaghan, Association of Chief Police Officers lead on international affairs from 2000 to 2008, revealed today that he prohibited British police seconded to train their Iraqi counterparts from using the Land Rovers." Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) reports on yesterday's other witness offering oral testimony before the Inquiry, "Douglas Brand, former deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, criticised the lack of support he received, including the Foreign Office's failure to give him bodyguards for his first three weeks in Iraq. He also highlighted a missed opportunity to model Iraqi intelligence on British lines because the UK would not send out an experienced Special Branch manager."

Turning to Iraq,
Zahraa Alkhalisi, Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) report that the State Of Law and Iraqi National Alliance are stating they have decided on a candidate for prime minister . . . they just aren't sharing with anyone who they've selected. Other things not shared are Iraq's history with students. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports the schools and the colleges don't teach about Saddam Hussein and they officially avoid the Iraq War but:When the war is mentioned in class, some teachers change the subject quickly. But others see a need to encourage discussion, even if it is beyond the bounds of what they are told to teach. "Sometimes we need to have a discussion about it," said Wasan Mahmod, a teacher at Al Ahrar, a secondary school for girls in Baghdad. "When I mention the American invasion, I say occupation, not liberation." Hutham Hussein, who teaches modern European history, said, "Where there is a discussion of colonization, I bring up the American invasion." "We speak about French colonization, British colonization," she said. "Why not talk about the American colonization?"

Violence always gets 'shared' (with those not living in the Green Zone).


Reuters reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people injured, a Mosul car bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and injured another and a Mosul roadside bombing which injured a prisoner being transported by the police. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting Tha'ir al Zubaidi ("senior media officer at the Parliament") who was not wounded,


Reuters reports a Baghdad armed clash in which 2 police officers were killed and a third wounded. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed attack on a Falluja medical compound 1 police officer and his two brothers were killed while his wife was injured, one assailant was shot and -- once in the hospital -- he detonated a bomb and wounded four people.

Reuters reports 1 corpse (female, "signs of torture") discovered in Kirkuk. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Sabri Abu Adnan's corpse was discovered in Basra (he was kidnapped Sunday).

Moving over to the United States.

Chair Harry Mitchell: You mentioned at the very beginning, all the great satisfaction reports you've received from your clients. Who are your clients? They're not veterans are they?

Will Gunn: Sir, we do not directly serve veterans, you're correct.

Chair Harry Mitchell: Who are your clients?

Will Gunn: Ultimately my client is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. And so as the department's top lawyer, my job is to make sure that the Secretary is well armed.

How every nice for Gunn. Chair Mitchell had to provide that walk through for clarity and it may have been necessary (my opinion is that it was necessary) because Gunn's opening remarks appeared to portray his work as "service" and "continued service" to veterans when, no, that is not who he serves. Along with confusing that aspect -- apparently deliberately -- Gunn wanted to declare that their "customers" had rated them 4.75 on a scale (with 5.0) being the highest in customer feedback. But those customers, as Chair Mitchell established, were not veterans.

Chair Mitchell was holding a Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing to provide some sort of evaluation of the Office of General Counsel -- of which Gunn is a part. The hearing was made up of two panels. On the first panel was attorney Matthew B. Tully (
Tully Rinckey PPLC) who painted a disturbing picture. Disturbing but at least two Subcommittee members (not the Chair) grabbed onto the safety line of a 'few bad apples.'

Tully allowed that the problems did appear to be from a few bad apples but cautioned that these apples have been in the OGC for some time. Tully outlined how the law was broken (that's my judgment, not his, he was very cautious and calibrated in his testimony). For example, altering the date on an official government document. That is breaking the law -- altering an official government document is breaking the law and that's before you get into the intent which was to 'protect' the VA. Ranking Member David Roe pointed out that in a court case, altering a medical document would automatically get the case kicked out.Tully agreed and pointed out that there was no ethics check, that there was no place within the OGC for people to report problems. He painted a portrait of a legal arm with no oversight and no accountability.

From Tully's opening remarks:

For example, a fellow attorney had witnesses privately badgered by a VA lawyer prior to a hearing. A VA lawyer threatened disciplinary action against VA employee witnesses if their testimony did not conform to the agency's desires. In my firm's dealing with the VA's Office of General Counsel, VA lawyers had utilized numerous litigation tactics that would have been -- or would have made the lawyers for BP, AIG or Enron proud. In one case earlier this year, our client was demoted based on charges of misconduct and our firm appealed to the -- appealed the VA decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board The VA lawyer in this case failed to respond to our discovery request and even our motion to compel discovery. This unprofessional conduct translated into greater financial cost for our client due to the VA's tactics.

Gunn was wrong about who his client was. As Tully would explain on the first panel (possibly Gunn was snoozing or texting?), the OGC serves the tax payers, its responsibility is to fairness and to the tax payers. It's refusal to grasp that is why it gets into so much trouble (this is me not Tully) by taking sides in battles they shouldn't take sides in and changing official records which just cannot do.

Matthew Tully: The VA attorneys have an obligation not to the manager that is involved in the employment dispute but to the tax payers and to the government as a whole. I am a legal mercenary. I go to the highest bidder and I do my best to protect the people that retain me. The VA attorneys do very similar things but that's not their job. Their job is to protect the tax payers. Their job is to make sure justice is done. And routinely in these EEOC cases, in particular, they spend a great deal of time trying to protect the manager that allegedly -- and has often been proven -- to have engaged in unlawful conduct versus doing what was right for the person who was subjected to injustice.

Mitchell asked about financial penalities for this behavior and Tully explained that there was none but if this were a federal court manner -- not an OGC -- he could face fines and disbarment.

Tully was panel one. Panel two was the OGC's General Counsel Will Gunn. If the above didn't disturb you, this might. The discussions? Completely knew to Gunn who told Mitchell he found out about these problems just an hour before the hearing. Apparently, the OGC told him he'd be testifying but forgot to tell him what about? Is that the story he's gong for? If so it makes him look even more out of touch of an out of control agency. For someone who only learned of the problems an hour before the hearing, he must have spent at least 40 minutes writing that opening statement. Or, are we to believe, he just has 'customer feedback scores' and other data memorized? (Why did he need to look at the paper in front of him repeatedly if that is the case?) More importantly, you're not allowed to make an opening statement if you haven't submitted it ahead of time. You can't show up day of the hearing and say, "Here's my prepared remarks.'' You have to submit them to the committee or subcomittee ahead of time. Is no one supposed to notice that either?

We'll note this exchange.

Chair Harry Mitchell: You know there have been times in the past where the VA frequently declines to produce a witness either requested to testify at hearings or brief Subcommittees. And the OGC's guidance often gets cited as the reason for not producing witnesses at either hearings or briefings. Two questions. What role does OGC play in the VA deciding who either testifies or briefs the Subcommittee and does the OGC provide an opinion when the VA refuses to produce certain information as requested by Congress or through the public?

Will Gunn: Sir, with respect to the first issue in terms of, uh, whether or not OGC plays a role in who will testify, I will say "no." We do not see ourselves as having a role with respect to that. In terms of the second issue, we do play a role in terms of providing to requests for documents and our advice is focused on two things. What can we, uh, provide, what is permissable? And secondly, what are we required to provide?

So he opens as the big veteran and big veteran defender, citing military code and how he has to be his best and he's going to make those civilians under him be their best and blah blah blah but it really all comes down to "what are we required to provide?" Not the bluster he was shining on in his opening remarks.

The Republican side of the House Veterans Affairs Committee issued the following this month (it was e-mailed today to the public account, we would have noted it June 15th if we'd had it then):

For more information, contact: Brian Lawrence (202) 2225-3527
Washington, D.C. -- In recognition of his longstanding dedication and commitment to serving veterans, the
Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF) today presented its prestigious George 'Buck' Gillispie Congressional Award to Congressman Steve Buyer.
The Gillispie is awarded to Senators and Representatives who, in the opinion of the BAVF, have made significant contributions toward furthering the foundation's efforts on behalf of sensory disabled American veterans. Buyer, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, received BAVF's award during the foundation's annual Flag Week celebration.
"I am deeply honored and humbled to receive recognition from this esteemed group of veterans who have sacrificed so much in the name of liberty," Buyer said. "It has been my privilege to serve the men and women who have defended our nation and freedom we cherish. For me, there is no higher calling."
In 2006, when he served as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Buyer secured support to direct funds to conduct a series of tests and evaluations on combat helmets to improve protections against blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) associated with IEDs are among the leading cause of impaired vision due to damage to the occipital area of the brain. More than half of all TBI patients treated at Walter Reed Army Hospital and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, California have vision dysfunction.

Buyer, himself a veteran, is a 1980 distinguished military graduate of The Citadel and a career Army Reserve officer who continues to serve with the Judge Advocate General Corps as a colonel. He has received numerous military honors, including the Bronze Star.
Buyer also worked with Congressman John Boozman in the 110th Congress to help pass the Blinded Veterans Paired Organ Act and to authorize $5 million to create military vision centers of excellence.
For more news from House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Republicans, please go to:

Closing with independent journalist
David Bacon whose latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). "Dying for an iPad?" (Political Affairs) is a photo essay:

Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans in San Francisco protest the long hours and bad conditions at the Foxconn factory in southern China, where the Apple iPad is manufactured. They lined up in front of Apple's flagship store in San Francisco, holding signs with the names of workers at the factory who have committed suicide because of the conditions. Those conditions include 80 hours of overtime a month, according to the Chinese media. Chinese law limits overtime to 36 hours per month. No one is allowed to talk on the production line, and workers complain of constant high line speed and speedup. Most workers live in huge dormitories, where often 12 people share a room.

the telegraph of london
rosa prince
bbc newspeter biles
iraq inquiry
the guardianrichard norton-tayloriraq inquiry digestchris ames
sky news
andrew sparrow
david bacon
ruth barnett
bloomberg newscaroline alexander
zahraa alkhalisikadhim ajrash
the new york timestim arango

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dead Zones

Candidates from coast to coast — and many states in between — are redirecting their campaigns in an emotional, frantic effort to turn the oil spill to political advantage.
Democrats and Republicans fighting for Senate seats in the Midwest are portraying oil company contributions as a stain as ugly as the rusty sludge on Southern beaches. Candidates for governor from Massachusetts to Florida now stump for novel ideas to plug the hole (why not air bags?) and to clean up the mess (hair, hay, bacteria?), while in Washington, each party insists that the spill will help it in November.
In the minds of politicians and strategists, the oil has practically become a giant ink blot, a Rorschach test in which each of the opposing sides sees proof of “the larger narrative.”

That is from Damien Cave's "Spill Is Election Issue Far Beyond Gulf" (NYT) and before I get into the Gulf Disaster, Damien Cave is a reporter who made a difference. There's a woman with the paper that did too but I forget her name. But I know Damien Cave's name and that's because C.I. has repeatedly credited Cave for refusing to go with the Myth of the Great Return.

That is when all the outlets were either reporting a mass return of Iraqi refugees or ignoring the story. It was a falsehood. And it was dangersou because if 10,000 people were returning all the sudden, it would say to some refugees, "You can come back. All these people are!"

They were not coming back. Only a few hundred or so, forced out of their host countries, paid to return, fixed up with travel back. Damien Cave reported the truth and it did matter. So when I was looking for Gulf Disaster news and saw his byline on the story above, I wanted to make a point to highlight him.

This is Day 70, by the way. Day 70 of the Gulf Disaster. Which still spews oil into the Gulf. I took part in the roundtable for tomorrow's gina & krista round-robin this evening. C.I. lined up some scientists and some people volunteering in the Gulf. Please make a point to read it, it's really an important roundtable.

I do not feel like an idiot for asking the question I do. I'll go ahead and sneak peak (I don't think mine is in the top 20 of most interesting moments in the roundtable). One of the volunteers is explaining how they're pulling the water and the oil off the surface and then dividing the two and putting the water back (I'm oversimplifying). Why?

That was my question. The spewing's going on. It's not going to help. It's like mopping a spill while your plumbing's flooding the kitchen.

Well I was wrong (and that's fine). They explain how it will be even more work trying to clean it if they wait until after the spewing stops.

I explained that very poorly, but read the roundtable tomorrow morning and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Elizabeth Weise (USA Today) reports this very horrifying news:

The Gulf of Mexico's 'dead zone' may be larger this year than in recent years, as big as the state of New Jersey, scientists are predicting.
This year's dead zone could measure between 6,500 and 7,800 square miles. The dead zone has average approximately 6,000 square miles over the past five years. The largest dead zone on record, in 2002, was 8,484 square miles, according to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which funded the team of scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Louisiana State University, and the University of Michigan.

Okay, that's just too depressing to me. The dead zones are like ticking time bombs. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri and Allawi have a face-to-face or a face-off, the Iraq Inquiry resumes public hearings, the Defense Dept identifies one of the fallen, and more.

In London today, the
Iraq Inquiry resumed public hearings. Or as Alice Tarleton (Channel 4) put it, "And they're back. The Iraq inquiry resumed public hearings today for the first time since the general election." The Inquiry is headed by John Chilcot. Ruth Barnett (Sky News) notes today, "Sir John opened the latest round of hearings by inviting international lawyers to give evidence of the legality of the war." Sam Marsden (PA) adds, "Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and ex-MI5 director general Baroness Manningham-Buller are among the witnesses who will appear before the inquiry over the next month." Iraq Inquiry Digest's Chris Ames shares his thoughts of today's hearing at the Guardian, including, "Watching the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is like watching a car crash in slow motion. Very, very slow motion." Today they heard from the British Ambassador to France (2001 to 2007) John Holmes and the Chief Police Avister to the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad (2003 to 2004) Douglas Brand (link goes to video and transcript options -- as with previous coverage of the Chilcot Inquiry, I'm working from the transcripts and friends in England -- reporters and attorneys -- following the Inquiry).

Under questioning from Committee Member Lawrence Freedman, Holmes stated French popular opinion turned on the US government when Bush gave his Axis of Evil speech, "Certainly after the Axis of Evil speech, there began to be a real French concern expressed in different ways by different people and reflected in the way that the French press were writing about it, that the Americans had decided that another response to 9/11 was to attack Iraq and was to produce regime change by attacking Iraq."

In terms of where the difference was between the French government and the UK government, Holmes declared that ". . . I think the major difference between us was always whether they thought that what the Iraqis had, whatever it might have been -- and, of course, that was the subject of debate -- was either sufficient or sufficiently alarming or sufficiently of an immediate threat to mean that you needed to go to war to stop it. That's where the differences started to arrive rather than exactly what the intelligence assessment [on WMD] was." Chair Chilcot summarized Holmes' response, "In other words, the threat assessment might have differed from the assessment of the stocks and programmes, intention rather than possession." And Holmes agreed with that summary. He further added that France, in 2002, had a different "policy conclusion" than the UK (or the US), "They wanted to do it through the inspectors, rather than through the invasion." Jaques Chirac was president of France when Holmes became Ambassador (Chirac was president from May 1995 through May 2007) and Holmes stated, "He essentially set policy. He saw foreign policy as his pre-eminent domain [. . .] he regarded himself as the elder statesman if you like, of the international community" and Holmes quickly returned to Bush's Axis of Evil speech.

Ambassador John Holmes: I think he [Chirac] was also very much influenced in all this, particularly, again, after the Axis of Evil speech, by the belief that the kind of foreign policy which was being represented and articulated by President Buh was a unilateralist vision of the world which he could not share, though was dangerous and based on a lack of knowledge of the world and that he [Chirac] was therefore returning to counter by setting out an alternative, multipolar vision of the world, which was very much the French vision at the time.
Committee Member Martin Gilbert asked him out UN Security Resolution 1441 which the UN adopted November 8, 2002 by a unanimous vote of the UN's Security Council. Although 15 nations make up the Security Council only five are permanent members and have the right of veto. Those five are the UK, France, China, Russia and the United States.

Ambassador John Holmes: I think the French objectives were, all throughout this, to get the inspectors back in, to make sure that there was going to be no automaticity -- that was the great catchphrase, "no automaticiy" -- from 1441 or, indeed any subsequen resolution, which had to be a subsequent decision by the Security Council, and there should be no hidden triggers in 1441, which would allow the Americans and the British to claim that somehow they had legitimised military action when they hadn't. So that was -- I think those are the essential points they were trying to defend in 1441, and that's why there was such a very long and complicated and tortuous negotiation about exactly what the language was.

With that background, we'll now jump ahead to Committee Member Roderic Lyne's questioning.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Now, in order to try to work out precisely what 1441 meant, the Attorney General, when he was in the process of finalising his advice to the Prime Minister, talked to Sir Jeremy Greenstock about the negotiating history, as he told us in his evidence, and then went to America and talked to lawyers and others in Washington, and in these conversations was exploring what the French, as the main negotiating counterparties on 1441, had really intended, what they had accepted, what they had signed up to in 1441. We asked him whether, apart from relying on the reporting of the United Kingdom and the American representatives at the UN on the French position, it might have been logical for him to go to Paris and ask the French directly what they had meant by it and he said: "You couldn't have had the British Attorney General being seen to go to France to ask them 'What do you think?'" Couldn't he have gone to Paris to actually talk to the French about this?

Ambassador John Holmes: I don't see why he couldn't have done or at least had somebody else ask the question on his behalf. But I think what is true is that the French were, again, very wary about ever saying what their own legal position was. They took a very strong legal position about no automaticity -- I was just describing the need for UN legitimisation of any action -- but they were very careful -- I don't remember them ever actually saying what their own legal position was. I don't remember whether we ever went and talk to the Quai legal advisers. It may be that Chirac took it seriously for a while at least or thought there was something to be gained from that, but it never really developed fully as time went on.

[. . . moving to March 2003 for the following questions]

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: The Foreign Secretary of the time, Jack Straw, told us in evidence that he couldn't for the life of him understand why the French and the Germans were not agreeing to a second resolution, because this was the way to resolve this peacefully. Was that interpretation of the second resolution, that it was still a possible way of getting a peaceful outcome, not one that President Chirac would have shared at this point at all?

Ambassador John Holmes: No, I think, as he was suggesting, the draft in the form it was at that stage, with the kind of timelines and tests which the French thought was impossible to pass, and deliberately impossible to pass for Saddam Hussein, was not a way of actually avoiding a war but was simply a way of legitimising it. That's really why they were so strongly opposed to it. Now the discussion about what the resolution could contain went on even after that statement by President Chirac, with the French continuing to suggest longer timelines, but by that stage, we were so much up against the military deadline, that it became increasingly desperate and irrelevant.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: If the second resolution had contained a longer deadline for Iraqi compliance, do you think that France would have considered supporting it?

Ambassador John Holmes: I think it is possible because that's what essentially they were suggesting. They were suggesting -- they didn't like the six tests or whatever they were called, but they said "If you give -- if you put in a period" -- I think 120 days was the period they wanted -- "for the inspectors to operate, so they can do their job properly without being put against impossible deadlines, then that's something we could contemplate", but of course, they were still wanting to say that-that a second resolution of that kind would also not have any automatic trigger in it. You would still need to come back at the end of that, the Security Council would need to come back at the end of that, and take a view on what the inspectors were saying to them. So you know, at that stage, you were into third resolution territory. So that is a reason why we weren't particularly attracted, perhaps, to that route, but in any case in those timescales it was simply not available.

To recap the main points in the testimony highlighted above, Jeremy Greenstock went to the US to talk about a second resolution, the French's attitude towards it and related topics but Greenstock told the Inquiry that he couldn't ask the French government whether they would get behind a second resolution or not and Jack Straw claimed to the Inquiry that the French position was puzzling. The British Ambassador to France told the Inquiry today that the French position was consistent and not surprising and that he was surprised by the attitude that the French government could not be asked by the British government whether they would veto a second resolution if offered.

Greenstock previously testified to the Inquiry on
November 27th and December 15th of last year. Straw testified January 21st and February 8th of this year. Holmes rejected their claims that (a) the French position was puzzling and (b) that no one could have asked the French government their position on a second resolution. Those are the big items coming out of the hearing today. Related, on January 27th, the Inquiry heard from Peter Goldsmith who'd served as the UK Attorney General.

Peter Goldsmith: The United States, as everyone has said -- Sir Michael said it, I have said throughout, it is apparent on 7 March -- didn't believe they needed an United Nations Resolution at all. They believed they were able themselves to make the determination that Iraq was in material breach, and, therefore, they didn't need -- they didn't need 1441. Mr. Blair had -- and I said, I think to his credit -- had got President Bush to the UN table.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: I think, with respect, that's a separate point. We have gone past that point already.

Peter Goldsmith: With respect, may I make the point? Because it is important, and it is one of the things that came across very clearly in the meetings I had in February with the UN. Because the United States didn't need 1441 -- we did because we took the view that there had to be a determination of material breach. The United States didn't need it. They could have walked away from 1441 and said, "Well, we have been to the United Nations, they haven't given us the resolution we want, we can now take force." The only red line I was told by the State Department, legal adviser, the only red line that the negotiators had was that they must not concede a further decision of the Security Council because they took the view they could move in any event.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.

Peter Goldsmith: Therefore, if they had agreed to a decision which said the Security Council must decide, they would have then lost that freedom.

Self-quoting from January 28th, "Popular narrative: US didn't want a second resolution, wasn't going to fight for one. But what Goldsmith said takes it in another direction. The popular narrative allows the British government to do as they indicated they were doing: Pursue a second resolution. But Goldsmith testified Wednesday that it wasn't just that the US didn't want it. The US government based their legal approach (set aside whether it was legal or not) on the 'legal' opinion that UN Resolution 1441 (granting the power for inspectors to go back into Iraq) was all that was necessary for the start of war on Iraq. In addition, Goldsmith testified that the US didn't want a second resolution, couldn't accept one, because of their legal opinion. Going back to the UN for a second resolution risked hemming in the US legal opinion. If they went and got a resolution with conditions, that could hem the US in. If they went and were shot down (as most believed they would be), then the US government's assertion that a second resolution wasn't needed to start a war would have been exposed as the lie it was. The US didn't just not want a second resolution, they couldn't afford one. If there was one -- one passed or one rejected -- it revealed the legal opinion wasn't sound and opened up a whole set of issues that the Bush administration didn't want to deal with."

Today's testimony by Holmes backed up Goldsmith on that aspect. Holmes on what the French government ssaw, "I think their assumption was that -- and increasingly so as the autumn went on and so on -- and this is the view they had come to -- that the Americans were going to mount a military operation virtually come what may and, therefore, there could be a second mabye, but that could not be something which was going to actually stand in the way of that action." A second resolution could have tied the US government's hands. That's how the French saw it, it's how Goldsmith said the Americans saw it. Did Bush lie when claiming the US would seek resolutions?
According to witnesses at the Inquiry, Bush mispoke due to a teleprompter malfunction.

Jeremy Greenstock: There are two different sorts of second resolution and this my explain why President Bush used the plural when he was ad libbing, when his teleprompter gave him the penultimate American text and not the text he had agreed to, by a mistake of his staff. He ad libbed the words, "And we shall come to the UN for the necessary resolutions" from his memory. It wasn't that the telepromprter broke down, he saw that it was the wrong text on the teleprompter, as I understood the story. There was, as part of the lead-up to the negotiation of 1441, the idea that there should be a pair of resolutions, not a single one in 1441 that should have the inspectors' conditions in one part and in the second resolution the consequences for Iraq on what would happen if they didn't comply with the the first one. There was the possibility of passing those resolutions either together and simultaneously or sequentially in time. As it happened, in 1441 we built those two elements into a single text and it was successfully negotiated and passed unanimously on 8 November as a single text.

Opening the hearing today,
Chair Chilcot issued the following statement this morning:Good morning and welcome to the QEII Conference Centre for the first day of this phase of the Iraq Inquiry's public hearings. At the Inquiry's launch on 30 July last year, we took on the task of establishing a reliable account of the UK's involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009, and to identify lessons for British governments facing similar circumstances. In the last 11 months, we have covered a great deal of ground. One of our first priorities was to meet, and listen to, the families of British citizens and members of the armed forces who died in Iraq. 48 families came to talk to us. We learned much from them. Their sacrifice and concerns remain in our thoughts, and inform our approach. Between 24 November last year and 8 March, we heard from more than 80 witnesses in public sessions. We heard first hand from senior military personnel and officials involved in providing advice on the policy in Iraq or responsible for its implementation; and from senior Ministers, including the then Prime Minister, Mr Brown, and the former Prime Minister, Mr Blair. Our purpose was to establish a broad chronology of what had happened from 2001 to the withdrawal of combat forces in 2009. Those hearings gave us a complementary perspective to the papers which the Government has provided. We have received many thousands of documents and that process is continuing. A number of documents were declassified and published on our website to provide relevant context in the earlier hearings. We will continue to take that approach. Accordingly, further documents are being released to support this morning's hearing. As we made clear at the launch, the Inquiry is independent. We have made a deliberate choice to conduct our work in a way which seeks to remain outside Party politics. That is why we ended the first round of public hearings before the launch of the general election campaign. In May, the Inquiry held private discussions in France and the USA. Details of those visits can be found on our website. We have also held hearings in private with British officials, diplomats and military officers to take evidence on those issues, such as intelligence, which cannot be heard in public. Details about whom we have seen in those hearings will be published in the next week or so. We have also held meetings with less senior service personnel, civil servants and diplomats who have served in Iraq. They too have given us very helpful insights into both their achievements, and the challenges they faced, whilst serving in Iraq between 2003 and 2009. The Inquiry has issued an open invitation to international lawyers to comment on the grounds relied on by the British Government in undertaking military action in Iraq. The Inquiry also continues to receive, and welcomes, submissions from the public on all matters relevant to its terms of reference. These hearings which begin today will cover a range of issues. In some cases, they will be complementing evidence we have already heard. In others, we will be pursuing issues which have only been touched on in earlier evidence. This morning we will be hearing our first witness from the police. Other areas we will be covering in detail for the first time include military equipment and personnel issues. The Inquiry may hold a further round of public hearings in the Autumn. We will take a final decision on that later. As we have said before, we intend to complete our report around the turn of the year. We remain committed to a transparent, open, thorough and fair process and conducting the Inquiry in a cost effective way. We intend to deliver a reliable and authoritative report about the UK's decision to take military action in Iraq and the events that followed; and to identify lessons for the future.

And we move to Iraq. An
Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy reminds that tomorrow was "Sovereignty Day" in Iraq . . . last year. But this year, no one seems to know about it. The reporter calls numerous goverment offices to find out about Sovereignty Day plans for tomorrow. But there are none:

I put down the phone.
Indeed -- What sovereignty? And what government?
This occupation opened the door for powerful winds -- and they entered and are blowing, still.
Iraq has become a plain on which international and regional forces are struggling for supremacy. A tug of war between the Shiites in Iran and the Wahabis in Saudi -- between the Kurds, whether in Iraq, Turkey or Iran, and the Arabs -- between forces that want to keep the country together and forces that want to rip it apart.
And in the midst of all this -- I think the government has actually forgotten Sovereignty Day.
It is as if Sovereignty Day does not exist.

Iraq may not have sovereignty but it continues to have violence.
Timothy Williams (New York Times) looks at today's statistics and sees "a burst of violence across Iraq".


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed Iraqi Brig Gen Ward Mohan's life and wounded Col Talbi Abdullah, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left three more injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three people, a Mosul mortar attack that damaged Bab Sinjar stadium and a Baiji car bombing which claimed 5 lives and left eighteen people injured. Alsumaria TV reports the 5 killed in the Baiji bombing were police officers. Press TV reports, "Militants also blew up the key oil pipeline in Rashidiyeh district northeast of the capital which links Baghdad and its Dora oil refinery and power station with Baiji." DPA notes an Abu Ghraib home bombing in which the police officer, his wife and their three children were injured.

Shootings and knives/beheadings?

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad home invasion in which a 28-year-old woman was beheaded, a Mosul drive-by which claimed the life of 1 man and left his brother wounded, a Mosul home invasion in which 1 woman was killed and two more were injured and al Hasnat attack in which 3 adult men "and their 9 year-old sister" were shot dead. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports 1 oil truck driver shot dead in Beiji.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse (20-year-old male) was discovered in Mosul yesterday ("gun-shot wounds in the head"). Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports the corpse of 1 municipal official ("missing for two days") was discovered.
Today the
US Defense Dept announced: "Pfc. Bryant J. Hayned, 21 of Epps, La., died June 26 in Al Diwaniyah, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over. He was assigned to the 199th Support Batttalion, Louisiana Army National Guard, Alexandria, La." This brings the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4409 since the start of the illegal war.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government.
Alsumaria TV reports today, "All attention is shifted on the meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and Al Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports, "Al-Maliki visited Allawi at his Baghdad office, and the two men shook hands warmly before sitting down to a closed-door meeting. Neither side commented immediately after the session." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) also notes that no statements were issued following the meet-up.

While the political stalemate continues, so does the lack of electricity.
Lourdes-Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition) reported yesterday:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Um Imam(ph) has five children and lives in a mud brick house with a corrugated metal roof. She keeps goats for the local butchers. The animals wander in and out of her home. Her complaints are familiar. We only have electricity from the national grid for a few hours in the morning, when it's still somewhat cool, she says. And the rest of the day it disappears and we have to keep the windows open all day. She's so poor that, this month, she had to borrow $14 to pay for access to the neighborhood generator. That generator gives a few hours of extra power but it's hardly enough.

Iraq's hardly the only country to treat its citizens poorly. As
Rebecca noted yesterday, the US government has decided to risk human lives. Drones used to kill people in Iraq and Afghanistan are being flown by the Texas Air National Guard out of Ellington Airport -- a joint civil-military airport. Rebecca:

if drones are used the airport becomes a fair target in war. it is military. they've just made - GRASP THIS - civilians a target in their never ending war. this is, remember, what bush and others accused saddam hussein of doing. using civilians to hide legitimate targets. that was the accusation. under barack, civilians can now be targeted because he's turned the drone program over to a military AND civilian airport.

Meanwhile, if it has to do with the news, Danny Schechter's done it. Broadcast, print, radio, TV, net. He is also a maker of many documentary films. The News Dissector has put his blog on hold (temporarily, hopefully) to spend more time drawing attention to what he sees as one of the most important issues of our time. At Third "
DVD: Plunder (Ava and C.I.)" was a review of Danny Schechter's latest documentary Plunder. Along with the DVD release of the film, he's also got The Crimes Of Our Times, Danny's companion book to the documentary. He has a new website for the film -- this is about the economic collapse -- and you can click here. And here's Danny explaining the importance of the issue:

After years of a media narrative about Wall Street mistakes, miscalculations, and poor risk models, there is now a push to investigate and prosecute wrong doers largely because of deep public anger. Yet, the financial crisis is still being treated mostly as a business problem when it should also be investigated as a crime story. In 2006, as a well-known independent filmmaker and Emmy Award winning producer, I made the film In Debt We Trust warning of the crisis and exposing subprime lending. I was called an alarmist and doom and gloomer. Unfortunately, I was mostly right. Now I have written a book, The Crime of our Time and made another film, out on DVD, Plunder: The Crime of our Time ( Because of what I've found, and because of what this means to the public at large, I often feel like that hero of a children's story whose warning that the Emperor had no clothes was ignored. Don't you think that with unemployment as high as it is, foreclosures wrecking the lives of l4 million families, and Wall Street bonuses unchecked, this story --- this "crime narrative" --- should at least be explored?

the guardianchris amesiraq inquiry digest
the new york times
timothy williams
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
bloomberg newscaroline alexander
alsumaria tv
nprmorning editionlourdes garcia-navarro
sky newsruth barnettpress associationsam marsden
danny schechter

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Gulf Disaster

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "White House 'stud'"

Above is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "White House 'stud'" from last night. I love it when Isaiah brings in Disney. Seriously, I do. I had all the Disney picture books growing up and wanted so badly to be able to draw like that (but never could -- so I settled for cutting them up and making them into paper dolls).

Now to the Gulf Disaster, this is from Suzanne Ito's "Respecting the Press and Public Access During the BP Oil Spill" (ACLU Blog of Rights):

We've heard countless stories of journalists trying to cover the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico being denied access in one way or another. Whether they're trying to fly over the spill to take photos, gain access to the oil-covered beaches, or take pictures of the dead animals washing ashore, a "media clampdown" continues despite federal government assurances that access is "uninhibited."
One BP representative told a Mother Jones reporter that BP could restrict access to the Elmer's Island Wildlife Refuge because "it's BP's oil." And many reports indicate that local law enforcement has actually been cooperating with BP to restrict journalists' access to the spill.
It's this kind of news that prompted the ACLU of Louisiana to
send a public letter (PDF) to the sheriffs of all Louisiana coastal parishes (or counties, to us non-Louisianans) reminding them of their obligation to respect the First Amendment rights of the media and the public.

That's the sort of issue that a president could resolve with the snap of a finger. So all the little whiney babies insisting Barack's doing all he can, grow the hell up.

The Gulf Disaster continues and it continues because we don't have the facts and we apparently don't have a president.

But BP controls the law, ya'll! Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, June 28, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Kurds flee their homes due to attacks from Iran and Turkey, the political stalemate continues in Baghdad, liars hurt the cause, it's a bad day for representation in the Senate if you were a straight and White male who was born in the US to US born parents (for the rest of us, not such a great loss), and more.

'And that's why we don't trust the political closet cases.' Josh Healey is not a "progressive." Josh Healey is open about what he is in the Bay Area but on the national stage, he hides in a political closet. Closets are for wardrobes, not political secrets. Those choosing to hide in closets do so because they want to trick you, they want to lie to you. For some stupid reason,
The Progressive elected to feature Josh's paen to fellow closet cases. [Apparently The Daily Worker no longer being in print means The Progressive has to hire Healey as "spoken word editor." Spoken word? Honey, it's another White boy who thinks he can rap -- and we all know The Progressive has a s**t poor record on hiring African-Americans so if they're hiring a rapper it would have to be a White boy.] And Josh is there to lie as any closet case must. "Later, I attended an anti-war workshop," Josh pants, "featuring voices from Iraq and Afghanistan, which we rarely hear in the U.S. The Iraqi activist said the U.S. agreement to fully withdraw from Iraq by July 2011 is actually a good one --w e just need to make sure the Obama dminsitration lives up to it. The brother from Afghanistan . . ." I really hate liars.

Let's start with the "brother from Afghanistan" (he tosses around "brother" and "comrade" frequently -- again if The Daily Worker were still in print, he'd be writing for it). The "brother from Afghanistan" is Dr. Zaher Wahab, of Lewis and Clark College. The "Iraqi activist"? Big time liar Raed Jarrar who moved to this country how many years ago? Raed the Jar-Jar Blinks of the faux peace movement. I am so damn sick of this. And I'm so damn sick of the lack of standards. The closet cases need to just sit their asses down and think about what they've done. That includes Democratic Party apologist David Sirota.

'And file it under how you know
Alex Pareene (Salon) is full of s**t.' Sirota's bad column fro Creators ("After 41 Years, A Belated Victory for Butter") is already popping up in papers. When I saw it in one newspaper, I called the publisher to ask why it was printed? He read the column and called me back (we've known each for over thirty years). It was, he thought, a little too frothy over US House Rep David Obey but he didn't see a real problem with the column. Really? I read this section of David Siorta writing from a few years back to him: "Dave Obey represents a pretty conservative district that is not exactly easy for a Democrat to represent (this is why the NRSC can't wait for him to retire). He originally voted against the war, he has been one of the most outspoken critics of the war, and he has repeatedly used his position as Appropriations Chairman to try to get the situation in Iraq under control. These are the facts, and I witnessed it first hand, having worked for him a few years ago." The loud reply came back, "He worked for Obey?" Yeah and there's a thing called disclosure. If Sirota wants to waste everyone's time jacking off in public to his crush David Obey, he can do so, that's freedom of expression. But when Creators is shopping your love-fest for David Obey around to various newspapers? You need to have disclosed your relationship with David Obey. Again, it's called disclosure. I grasp that Sirota stumbles into hack journalism via Congress. If he wants to be a columnist, he needs to play by the rules.

Playing by the rules don't allow the likes of Josh Healey and David Sirota the opportunity to trick you. Playing by the rules don't allow them to operate under cover and play you for a fool. They're like the 'activist' (Tubby, we've named him before) who wants to whine in e-mails that Barack belongs in prison but then rushes off to Daily Kos (he's not Marcos, for those late to the party) where he types how great and groovy Barack is. The reason the left can't get it together is because too many liars think they need to put one over on the public. And that's why the public doesn't trust a lot of the left. They don't like being played. (Being played is at the root of the distrust of all things Beltway for many Americans.) Reality, most Americans don't have a problem with Communism and, in fact, if they knew some actual Communists, the ranks would grow. The same with Socialists. Reality, most Americans are not upset that someone worked for a Congress member. So if David Sirota (a Democrat -- so there's no confusion) were up front that he worked for Obey, the column wouldn't seem like trickery. And reality for Tubby and the others, most Americans do not believe in the Cult of St. Barack. That was stage-managed by elites and the break away of a few elites in recent times has not led to public stonings because, again, the Cult of St. Barack was a media creation stage-managed by elites. As a rule of thumb, the public's on the side of anyone who calls out the powerful. But, and this is the key point, those who resort to trickery? They're displaying contempt for the people and, guess what, the people generally catch on to that rather quickly.

US House Rep Alan Grayson writes at The Huffington Post today, "A recent poll showed that almost twice as many Americans think that we are losing the war in Afghanistan as think that we are winning it. (Whatever 'losing' and 'winning' mean, in this context.) But another recent poll reports that only eight percent of all Americans say that the war will be 'most important to [their] vote for Congress.' Which means that for 92%, it's not so important. The war is like a dead skunk in the crawlspace. If it's there long enough, you just ignore it. But it's still there." And that's why Grayson's national image is so small -- bordering on tiny. The people are not the problem, Grayson, and, point of fact, a politician who thinks the people are the problem doesn't stand a good chance of being re-elected.

The problem is -- we'll focus on Iraq -- the withdrawal. Due to the withdrawal taking place, the public can easily see the Iraq War as over. When January 2009 rolled around, the bulk had withdrawn and they've not gone back. Oh, no, I'm not speaking of US service members, I'm speaking of the press. ABC News farms their 'coverage' out to BBC News. CBS doesn't really have anyone to report full time -- but they send people in with US officials! NBC generally does a sit down on breaking news with Richard Engel and though he and Brian Williams are knowledgable, let's be clear that neither is in Iraq. Where are the American people supposed to be following the Iraq War, Grayson? Certainly not on their TVs. And, as a member of Congress, you can make it very clear to PBS that you are appalled by their lack of Iraq coverage and that could result in them actually stationing someone there. NPR has people stationed in Iraq. PBS hasn't in years. Public broadcasting, Grayson, is something you can influence and it would probably be more productive than bemoaning an allegedly apathetic public.

'If you forget women -- straight and gay -- and gay men and people of color and immigrants, he was a great senator!' Let's stay in the US a bit more. US Senator Robert Byrd has died and, no doubt, the KKK is holding a rememberance for their one-time member. Greg Sargent? Everyone's favorite hack at the Post needs to know two things. First, soak two tea bags in ice water overnight in the fridge, put them over your eyes in the morning for ten minutes, then go running or workout and it will minimize those unsightly bags under your eyes. Second,
Byrd did not show courage on Iraq. He voted against the Iraq War. And? Did he stop it? No. He could have. He could have filibustered anytime funding came up. But he refused to do that, didn't he? Mike Gravel showed courage during Vietnam with his filibusters in an attempt to end the draft. When did Byrd do anything similar? Gravel read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record. When did Byrd do anything similar? Sargent has no strong education or knowledge base -- as is evident by a professional photo sporting bags under the eyes and lacking a close shave. But the word "bravery" need not to be tossed around in such careless manner. For the word to mean anything, it needs to be reserved for real moments of bravery, not media created ones. Byrd didn't believe in the war, he didn't vote for it. I don't believe that's called bravery. I believe that's doing what's required of for someone holding the office. The bare minimum is what Byrd did. That's not bravery. On the Iraq War vote, Byrd did his job. That's about all you can honestly say. And it's a damn shame when our daily newspapers confuse themselves with the hype mill of People magazine, et al and work overtime to inflate reality. Celebrity culture at its worst. And this need to inflate politicians who just do their jobs goes a long, long way to explaining why we're so bad on the left when it comes to holding politicians' feet to the fire and applying pressure. We're so damn grateful that they took a breath of air, so busy applauding that, that we never have time to demand that they do more than the bare minimum their role as public servant requires.

To really feel ill, go to The Nation and read the latest crap from John Nichols -- who hasn't been worth five cents since he LIED on Democracy Now! in 2008 and claimed that it was Hillary, not Barack, having talks with the Canadian government about NAFTA and he had the proof and he was in Canada and he would be reporting on this and . . . Not a damn thing ever happened. John Nichols is certifiably insane and that was obvious in December 2003 when he and Amy Goodman launched into a 101 conspiracy theories -- which they presented as fact -- including that Hillary would show up at the 2004 DNC convention and steal the nomination. Complete loons. And complete LIARS. What did 'big lefty Byrd' do on abortion, John Nichols? Oh, that's right, you were too busy drooling to tell your readers about that. He has a mediocre rating from NARAL (over his abortion rights voting record). He declared same-sex relations to be a "sin." There's a reason he needs to be called out. (
I did this morning.) He was against same-sex marriage. Check 2004 and 1996. For all of Johnny Nichols ravings, the ACLU, HRC and NAACP gave him mixed ratings on civil rights, gay rights and affirmtative-action. He was anti-immigrant. He was very weak on abortion rights. The nonsense being pushed is a bunch of crap. Click here to explore Robert Byrd "On the issues" and then ask yourself why little whores keep pimping him as some sort of 'big lefty.' Byron Dorgan leaving the Senate is a huge, monumental loss. (Dorgan's alive, he's just decided not to run for re-election.) Byrd is no big loss. If I had to guess, it will be the segment that fights against unjust sentences for drug offenses who will push back the hardest on the lie that Byrd is some 'big lefty.' Everyone else will probably continue to pretend FDR himself just died. If it's not them, it will be activists calling for the end of the embargo on Cuba that will be most vocal about what a non-lefty Byrd actually was. But someone explain how John Nichols and The Nation can WHORE themselves at this late date on Robert Byrd who voted in June of 2007 to make English the official language of the US and who repeatedly was anti-immigratn in his votes, repeatedly. John Nichols is a whore and always will be one but as bad as The Nation is, I expect little more from it.

In the real world, the people dying in Iraq -- Iraqis and US service members -- will never get tone poems composed for them and passed off as 'reporting' and 'journalism.' In the real world, the Iraq War continues. In the real world,
Alissa Skelton (Lincoln Journal Star) reports on the Sunday send-off for the Nebraska National Guard's 67th Battelfield Surveillance Brigade which deploys 400 to Iraq this ummer and another 300 to Afghanistan this fall making it, in the words of Col Philip Stemple, "the largest single mobilation of a Nebraska unit since the global war on terror started." So you want to tell me that a 2002 vote counts as something really special in 2010? And what did Byrd do in the 8 years since to end the illegal war he spoke out against? Did he filibuster? No. Did he do a damn thing? No. You want me to pretend that Robert Byrd was an amazing member of Congress? There are a few amazing members, Byrd will never make that list. Bare minimum, that was Robert Byrd.

Iraq Veterans Against the War's James Circello always does more than the bare minimum (though I doubt Greg Sargent will ever make the time to groove on James). Brian Becker interviewed James for Face to Face (Press TV -- here for first video, here for some excerpts in transcript form):

Press TV: You formed an organization called
March Forward with other veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Are you in contact with people who are still in Iraq or Afghanistan? What's the mood of soldiers right now?
James Circello: We are very enthusiastic because we feet like a new resistance is taking shape from US soldiers. We are in contact with some individuals that want to go AWOL and some that have. Tens of thousands of soldiers have gone AWOL so far. That is what helped me justify myself when I left. At the time military was trying to track them down but still I don't believe they have the forces to track them down. So the soldiers aren't really seeing jail time. These individuals are questioning why they are fighting. They are not helping the people, these individuals say. One of them told me that he is not there to help the people; he is just there to make some people rich.
Press TV: Meaning which people?
James Circello: US corporations that have contracts with Afghanistan.
Press TV: A lot of people thought, when the invasion of Afghanistan happened and subsequently the invasion of Iraq, that this is part of a big strategy by the Bush administration to take over or reconfigure the Middle East, the strategic oil region in central Asia. Afghanistan war now is longer than the Vietnam War. It's the longest war in US history. The United States says it is leaving Iraq; they are going to pull combat troops out of there in a certain date, August of the next year. But at the same time they are building a big embassy in downtown Baghdad which won't seem to be very vulnerable. Do you thing US troops are going to stay in Iraq or do you think they will leave?
James Circello: They are going to stay in Iraq. I think it's just a play with words. It is taking advantage of the fact that most people in the United States don't really know what a combat troop is versus a non-combat troop. The fact is the military definition of a combat troop is someone in the military infantry... so I was a combat troop... or someone in the artillery or someone who drives tanks. But women aren't considered combat troop, at the same time they carry rifles, they fire the rifles, they get shot at, but they are not classified as combat troops. All that this administration plans to do is just to not call them combat troops.
Press TV: So do you expect a large number of troops to stay for a long time in Iraq?
James Circello: That is this administration's plan to save as many as 50,000 people in Iraq indefinitely.
Press TV: what about the private contractors?
James Circello: There is no sign if they are ever leaving. They are just constantly expanding. You said about the embassy in Baghdad, it's the largest embassy in the world. So it's going to need a huge force to guard that embassy in Baghdad.

And that's called reality. Reality is that another person who is heroic and gives more than anyone could ever ask is Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan who looks around and wonders "
Where Have all the Peaceniks Gone? by Cindy Sheehan" (Cindy Sheehan's Soap Box):

To some of us, the problem is not so much that Obama has proven to be a dismal failure --because we know that he has been a huge success to the ruling class and corporations -- but that partisan politics always overshadows common sense and true peace. We lost a lot of time giving Obama a "chance," and thousands have lost their lives and their ways of life.I was outraged when, after three days in office, Obama authorized a drone strike into Northern Pakistan that killed dozens of civilians, but I was excoriated for being outraged. I was devastated when he announced an increase in troops (3 times so far) to Afghanistan, and attacked for not caring about Afghan women (the ones our Empire are "protecting" by killing them and their children). I was laughed out of town when I was infuriated that Obama had declared himself "Judge, jury and executioner" of American citizens. People who formerly supported me told me to "shut up and go away, you have had your 15 minutes of fame." I was deeply hurt and lonely when everyone from celebrities to my friends in the peace-trenches abandoned me for someone who did not even have a principled campaign platform. However, I could not abandon my principles to support someone who did not conform to them.

Cindy Sheehan and
Peace Action are gearing up for "Sizzlin Summer: Independence from oil, Free Palestine, Anti-drone & Counter Recruitment Protests, July 4th through July 17th" in DC. For a breakdown of the activities, click here.

In northern Iraq, Iraqis face bombings from the sky via the Turkish military airplanes and from Iran shelling them.
Asso Ahmed and Nadeem Hamid (Los Angeles Times) report that the combined attacks has resulted in many Kurds fleeing their homes: "Aid workers say more than 650 families have fled their villages, and many are now living in primitive conditions without shelter or sufficient food in a humanitarian crisis that has drawn little attention from the authorities in Baghdad." The highest ranking government official -- in Baghdad -- to call out the bombings (and the Turkish military twice this month violating Iraq's sovereignty by sending ground troops into Iraq) is Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. While Nouri al-Maliki -- current prime minister who wants to continue holding onto the post -- has remained silent (way to represent, Nouri!), Zebari has publicly condemned the actions. (Zebari is a Kurd.) And the exodus of Iraqis may continue since AFP is reporting that Turkey is again dropping bombs on northern Iraq which quotes PKK spokesperson Ahmed Denis stating, "The bombing targeted Kurdish nomads in the border area. We don't yet know the extent of the damage or casualties." Patrick Seale (Middle East Online) offers this analysis of the impact the bombings may have on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: "Erdogan's outreach to the Kurds has aroused bitter criticism from diehard Turkish nationalists. He has been accused of pursuing policies which have weakend the struggle against the PKK. Some have called for emergency rule to be re-imposed on Kurdish-inhabited areas. For the opposition, any expression of Kurdish nationalism is anathema, since it carries with it a potential threat to the territorial integrity of Ataturk's Turkish Republic." Delphine Strauss (Financial Times of London) writes from the position that the PKK is to blame for the violence, "Since the snows began melting in its mountain hide-outs across the Iraqi border, it has mounted one of its deadliest offensives in years, killing more than 50 of Turkey's armed forces by raids, rocket attacks and mines. Some attacks recalled tactics from the worst period of conflict in the 1990s." Today's Zaman offers the opinion of Diyarbakir Bar Association head Emin Aktar, "Violence has promoted nationalism and incited hatred among people and makes the Kurdish issue more difficult to solve. Trukey should immediately move away from the environment of clashes in order to truly debate the Kurdish issue and find appropriate solutions to it. The PKK should end its attacks, and [military] operations against terrorists should be ended."

Whether it helps or not, the (if confirmed) new US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, is a former US Ambassador to Turkey and -- unlike Chris Hill -- is familiar with the background on the conflict between Turkey and the PKK. The US has long shared intelligence with Turkey for PKK strikes. (If that's new to you, it's been public since Bush was in the White House.)
Hurriyet Daily News reports that the Turkish government wants more than intelligence from the US when it comes to the PKK and that today at the G-20 summit in Canada, Erdogan intends to press US President Barack Obama on this issue: "The U.S. has been providing Turkey with actionable intelligence since late 2007 and initiated the establishment of what they call the trilateral mechanism -- a broad cooperative measure between Turkey, Iraq and the U.S. intended to restrict the movement of terror agents in the region."Meanwhile current Iraq President Jalal Talabani (who, like Nouri, is trying desperately to hold on to that position) just finished meeting with the King of Jordan. The Jordan Times reports that King Abdullah II and Talabani met to address "bilateral ties and current regional issues" with the King reaffirming "Jordan's support for Iraq's efforts in bringing about stability and security in the eastern neighbour". Abdul Jalil Mustafa (Arab News) reports, "Talabani made a surprise visit to Jordan, which stirred speculation among observers that he sought the monarch's backing to defuse the current political crisis emanating from disagreement to form a new Iraqi government after the March elections." Talabani did not stop his tour in Jordan. Alsumaria TV reports he went on to Libya where he met with Muammar al Gaddafi. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett (Monthly Review) report, "Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah will come to Washington for a meeting with President Obama on Tuesday; there is little doubt that Iran will be a high-priority topic for discussion between the two leaders. Notwithstanding the extraordinary importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, it is striking how relatively few meetings there are between American presidents and Saudi kings. We can also testify, from our own experience in government, how poorly prepared those meetings often are on the American side."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. Over the weekend,
Mayada Al Askari (Gulf News) interviewed Allawi: However, in an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Allawi said no article in the Constitution indicates that such a bloc formed in a post-election merger will be considered the largest bloc. Such a bloc alone will not get the right to decide the formation of the government, he said. No doubt the government's formation will be delayed if other groups resort to the issue of the biggest and smallest blocs, Allawi said and reiterated that his Iraqiya coalition insists on its constitutional right and merit. The merger two months after the elections by the State of Law with the other main Shiite bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance, gave the bloc 159 seats in the 325-seat parliament, only four short of a simple majority. Such numbers would appear to give an edge to Al Maliki or another candidate from his newly expanded bloc to become prime minister.

Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) reports Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is back on the streets in Baghdad (al-Sadr had offered to do that during the huge waves of bombings that struck Baghdad; however, his offer was refused), "The return of the Mahdi Army poses a dilemma for the Obama administration. For now, at least, Washington's goals coincide with those of the militia: Both want to hasten the departure of U.S. troops, and the group's leader, cleric Muqtada Sadr, has publicly urged supporters to avoid taking up arms. But with its ideological fervor intact and bolstered by a powerful 40-member parliamentary bloc, the shadowy organization could take advantage of the country's instability as a political crisis festers and U.S. troops withdraw."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left four more injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left five people injured, a Mosul car bombing wounded one Iraqi soldier and late last night a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an apartment complex invasion in which two men and two women were injured. Reuters notes that the US military announced yesterday that one of their helicopters fired on 3 'suspects' Saturday in Mosul resulting in all three being killed.

On the most recent
Inside Iraq (began airing Friday on Al Jazeera), the assassination of journalist Sardasht Osman was addressed. Jasim Azawi's guests were Institute for War and Peace Reporting's Hiwa Osman and the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq's Houzan Mahmoud. Sardsht's corpse was discovered May 6th. He was a 23-year-old reporter for Ashtiname magazine and a college student. Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, the Kurdish Media and others condemned the attack. Excerpt from Inside Iraq:

Jasim Azawi: Houzan, let us go to the very heart of the issue and let me ask you a very simple question: Who and why Sardasht Osman was killed?

Houzan Mahmoud: Well as you mentioned earlier in the program as well, Sardasht Osman was killed because of his articles that he wrote -- lately criticizing the corrupt rulers in Kurdistan, particularly his sharp political criticism targeted Masoud Barzani [KRG president] and his tribe basically for corruption and for political violence and so on and so forth. And what -- I -- this is the reason really why he was killed: Because of his honesty, because of his bravery and because, traditionally speaking, Barzani family do not allow anybody to criticize them. I mean, I'm not here certainly to accuse Masoud Barzani of carrying this out but the majority of the people who took to the streets and who are protesting to this day and they want justice for Sardasht, that's what they believe, that the KRG, headed by Masoud Barzani, carried out this, you know, assassination and kidnapping. And this kidnapping, the ways in which he was kidnapped and killed --

Jasim Azawi: I shall come to that later on, Houzan, but meanwhile let me engage, Hiwa. He is not the first to be killed but, in comparison with the rest of Iraq where more than two hundred people died and killed for a variety of reasons, Sardasht is the third journalist to be killed in Iraq and we will let us say from the very top, the measure and the space for freedom in Kurdistan far outweighs what is going on in the rest of Iraq. And yet, having said that, having given the benefit to the KRG, explain to me -- as well as answer Houzan -- why do you think Sardasht was killed?

Hiwa Osman: Well we have to first of all wait for the outcome of the investigation. It has taken much longer than it should do. No information has been provided yet as to why and how this guy was killed. The key issue here is not to predict what's happening or base our analysis or our discussion on basically . . . facts -- we may think that they are facts, but we'll be basing our arguments on-on foundations that pre-empt the outcome of any investigation into the murder. It is -- If the case is -- If Sardasht was killed because of what he wrote, and this is the widespread belief, it is a very serious breach from freedom of expression. It is a murder that should definitely go -- not -- not go unpunished without -- and without bringing that person to justice.

Jasim Azawi: Indeed that is the hope of the people not only in Kurdistan but the rest of Iraq, that the murderer of Sardasht, as well as the murderer of other Iraqi journalists will not go unpunished. But you mentioned the reason why and how. Let us just explain to our viewers the "how" because enough information has trickled that this young man in his last year at Salahaddin University was just about to graduate, with perfect English, an excellent writer. He was grabbed at the door of the university with three or four people. He was hauled into a car and then he disappeared for two or three days. His body was found in Mosul with two bullets, according to some of the reports, in his mouth. Perhaps there is a message there? That those who open their mouths, they will be killed? Houzan, I know you are in communication with his family, can you tell us what is the latest? What do they tell you?

Houzan Mahmoud: Well basically the family would want justice for Sardasht basically. And the latest report was published by the Investigation Committee which was formed by the KRG itself. It's proved to be very biased and actually it seems like they haven't done very much. What they try to say is that the bullets were not shot into his mouth. Actually, they say it was only one bullet shot into his head and that he was not tortured, whereas there are clear evidence and his family is very aware being the first people to-to see the body that Sardasht was tortured very badly and that the bullets were shot into his mouth. There is a political message in that. This is not only two bullets shot into somebody's mouth, this is a message -- political message -- that whoever have the courage and the guts to criticize this regime, to critcize the Kurdish rulers, this will be their fate. That is what I believe basically.

Back to the US where
Feminist Wire Daily notes:

This past weekend gay pride marches were held across the country on the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which broke out after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar. In the 1960s, raids on gay bars were common, but the riots resulting from the raid of the Stonewall Inn are considered to have sparked the modern gay rights movement. Thirteen were arrested on the night of the raid and protests continued for an additional three nights. In San Francisco, the celebrations during the cities 40th annual gay pride parade were marred by the murder of 19-year-old Stephen Powell and the shooting injury of two other individuals, reported the
Los Angeles Times. San Francisco Police Officer Phil Gordon told the Advocate. In New York City, St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, has marched in the city's parade for 12 years. However, this year, they marched under a blank banner. The church's priest was concerned that their participation suggested approval of not only gay rights, but also of promiscuity. Many were outraged that the church effectively removed their name from association with the parade. One parishioner, Stephanie Samoy, a self-identified lesbian, told CNN, "For me, the blank banner stands for, 'We've been silenced.'"New York City's parade included a number of notable grand marshals including Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teenager, who fought her school district for the right to attend the school's prom with her girlfriend; Lieutenant Dan Choi, an Iraq army veteran who has worked to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell; and the mother of Matthew Sheppard, who has fought for gay rights since her son was brutally murdered in a 1998 hate crime, reported New York Daily News.

Glenn Zimmerman (NBC NYC) reports Dan was "the first openly gay male in the military to serve as a grand marshal in a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender pride march" and quotes him stating, "I am absolutely proud to violate don't ask don't tell all the way down this street today."

Winding down. We don't have time for
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro's NPR report but will note it tomorrow. (You can use the link and enjoy it now.) Next Monday, July 5th is not a holiday but there will be no Iraq snapshot unless events of the day require one. (For example, Thanksgiving 2008 required a snapshot when the Parliament passed the SOFA.)

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