Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Glenn Thrush (POLITICO) reports:

The House Ethics Committee has voted to look into allegations against Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., although the secretive panel has not decided to move ahead with a full-blown probe into whether the Illinois Democrat improperly tried to get appointed to the Senate seat vacated by now President Barack Obama.

Reps. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), announced the decision to take up the Jackson matter on Tuesday. The Ethics panel had been deferring the Jackson case while the Justice Department prosecuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). Blagojevich was convicted in June on 17 corruption counts, including trying to "sell" Obama's Senate seat for political and personal gain. He has yet to be sentenced in that case.

If you want my opinion, it would be comically fitting if Jackson got in trouble for trying to buy Barack's Senate seat. It was Shakesperian the way he betrayed his own father to pimp Barack. (If you've forgotten, an open mike caught Rev. Jesse Jackson saying that Barack had no balls. When that got out, there was shock an indignation and Jesse Jr. basically disowned his father.)

So I think it would be great if that happened.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, evacuations take place in the northern mountains of Iraq (creating more displaced), a US ally is caught using child soldiers, another US service member dies in the Iraq War, Michael Ratner and Michael S. Smith discuss the assassination of an American citizen by Barack Obama, and more.
Today Kiran Stacey and Elizabeth Rigby (Financial Times of London) report that a United Kingdom delegation of over 70 business people -- including "BP, Petrofac and other oil and gas services companies" -- will visit Iraq next week, specifically Erbil, and work towards increasing trade between England and Iraq. So it was all worth it, right? The lies Tony Blair his Cabinet told to get England into the illegal war, the deaths of Iraqis, the deaths of 'coalition' forces, it was all worth it? Including yet another violation, just reported by Ian Drury (Daily Mail) today?
Drury reports that the UK sent 4 "child soldiers" -- under the age of 18 -- to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. Drury quotes the charity War Child stating, "Using kids as soldiers constitutes one of the most horrendous breaches of those rights and it is simply and unequivocally wrong." And the US got in bed with the UK -- and Bully Boy Bush and Liar Tony did heavens knows what but the world's still paying for the wars they started. In the US, five years after the start of the Iraq War, the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008 was passed. PDF format warning, click here. It calls on "the United States Government should condemn the conscription, forced recruitment, or use of children by governments, paramilitaries, or other organizations" but don't expect a peep when it's England. (And don't be surprised if similar news leaks out about the US military also sending under-age males into combat -- especially those attempting to earn citizenship.)
The greed sends a delegation to Iraq from the UK next week -- well to the 'safe' portion, to the KRG. But even there the ongoing war is felt. Luis Martinez (ABC News) quotes US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stating of negotiations between the US and Iraq to extend the US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011, "At the present time, you know, I'm not discouraged because we're still in negotiations with the Iraqis. At this stage of the game, you know, I think our hope is that the negotiators can ultimately find a way to resolve this issue in terms of what are the Iraqi needs and how can we best meet them, once we've concluded our combat operations." Panetta was in Italy and Robert Burns (AP) adds that he stated that the US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Lloyd Austin were still having "discussions with Iraqi leaders" and that Nouri publicly referred to a "NATO alternative." As noted here repeatedly during the first week of October, NATO is among the many possibilities that the White House has considered for keeping troops in Iraq. And should no deal be made by the end of the year? Barbara Starr, Chris Lawrence, Chelsea J. Carter and Adam Levine (CNN) add, "The United States also could send a limited number of personnel on training missions back into Iraq from Kuwait assuming the immunity issue can be worked out, a senior defense official told CNN on Monday." Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) offers:

Discussions with the Iraqis have focused on the administration's demand that U.S. troops remaining in Iraq have immunity from Iraqi courts. In August, Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie told The Cable that a deal on immunity was in the works and that the Iraqis would formally request an extension of thousands of U.S. troops' presence "in our own sweet time."
But the current U.S.-Iraq bilateral agreements dictate that all U.S. troops must withdraw by the end of the year, and as time runs out, the chances of a deal on immunity are fading fast.
Ramzy Mardini, a scholar at the Institute for the Study of War who traveled to Iraq in July, said that the reason a deal isn't likely is because, though there is a consensus among Iraqi leaders to give U.S. troops immunity, State Department lawyers determined that the immunity would only be ensured if the Iraqi parliament formally endorsed it.

As noted before, State and Defense have been at odds over whether or not immunity had to come through the Parliament. Those under Panetta have been of the opinion that it's a DoD issue so they really didn't see the point in giving credence to State's take. As noted yesterday, the White House is now of the legal opinion that Nouri can grant immunity by himself.
I try not to come down too hard on Think Progress, it's nothing but a partisan cheerleader fully willing to distort facts and lie at any given moment. Ali Gharib demonstrates today just how quickly that will happen. Herman Cain, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, has criticized Barack Obama for, among other things, possibly pulling all troops out of Iraq and Ali Gharib wants the world to know that if that happens, it's Bush's fault!!!!
Before we get to Ali's foolish nonsense, let's get Herman Cain's remarks in here. Cain appeared Sunday on Meet The Press (NBC -- link is transcript and video):
David Gregory: Were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a mistake?
Herman Cain: I don't think the war in Iraq was a mistake because there were a lot of other reasons we needed to go to Iraq, and there have been a lot of benefits that have come out of Iraq. Now, that being said, I don't agree with the president's approach to drawdown 40,000 troops and basically leave that -- leave that country open to attacks by Iran. Iran has already said that they want to wait till American leaves --
David Gregory: So President Cain would want -- even beyond the deadline -- leave American troops there?
Herman Cain: I would want to leave American troops there if that was what the commanders on the ground suggested. And I believe that that's what they are saying.
Now back to Ali Gharib's nonsense. I think the "Think" in "Think Progress" is meant to be hipster ironic. If all US troops were to leave Iraq, would Think Progress really hail Bully Boy Bush for the 2008 SOFA? Really? No, they'd praise Barack and give him all the credit. And, truth be told, if that should happen -- for whatever reason including incompetence -- Barack will deserve credit and will have kept a campaign promise.
But due to Ali Gharib's post, it's going to be really difficult now for Think Progress to take that position. While other Democratic sites congratulate Barack, Think Progress will have to be serving up praise for Bully Boy Bush.
Herman Cain is correct that Barack can continue to keep US service members in Iraq. Barack can do that right now by keeping 5,000 there without any immunity. He can give the order on that. He can keep US troops in by shifting them under the State Dept's umbrella (State has an agreement with the Iraqi government) or by using NATO's agreement. Or he can do it by playing hardball and telling Nouri, "You're getting immunity for the US troops."
Hardball? Iraq needs and wants US dollars. It needs them because their government is full of so many who have and continue to fleece the national treasury. It's very easy for the President of the United States to declare, "If you don't think US troops are worthy of immunity, we don't think, in the midst of an economic crisis, we need to invest billions in your country." Again, Think Progress is going to be a in a sticky position if the US does withdraw all troops because Ali Gharib has put them there via his bad spin. You better believe that if Barack does keep his campaign promise, there are going to be partisan sites on the right who insist that it was Bush's doing. How sad that Think Progress has joined them in that spin.
Ali Gharib clearly does not understand the legal aspects of the Status Of Forces Agreement. There's so much ignorance in that post, it is embarrassing. He could have taken on the Iraq War exchange in other ways. Let's go back to it.
David Gregory: Were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a mistake?
Herman Cain: I don't think the war in Iraq was a mistake because there were a lot of other reasons we needed to go to Iraq, and there have been a lot of benefits that have come out of Iraq. Now, that being said, I don't agree with the president's approach to drawdown 40,000 troops and basically leave that -- leave that country open to attacks by Iran. Iran has already said that they want to wait till American leaves --
Ali could have raised questions around the claim that there were "other reasons we needed to go to Iraq" but he surely should have been able to argue against Cain's assertion that "there have been a lot of benefits that have come out of Iraq." The most obvious thing that has come out of Iraq -- ask Iraq's neighbors -- would be the external refugees. That was a "benefit"? The largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1946. Iran and Iraq are now much closer as a result of the Iraq War. That's a benefit? The infrastructure of the country -- shaky before the start of the illegal war -- is destroyed. That's a benfit? The increase in widows and orphans is a beneift? Aswat al-Iraq reports today, "The Iraqi Press Freedoms Observatory expressed astonishment with the attack on the residence of journalist Khalil al-Alwani without a court warrant, calling to resort to law and the constitution. According to a statement issued by the Observatory, received by Aswat al-Iraq, Alwani said that a military force attacked his house and terrorized his family, while he was in the newspaper he is working with." That's a benefit?
And did it make other countries safer? No.
Dropping back to the July 20, 2010 snapshot:
[Eliza] Manningham-Buller was the witness to watch. BBC News notes that she's testified the Iraq War has "substantially" upped the chance of England being a target for terrorism and that the threat assessment wasn't "substantial enough" to merit going to war: "If you are going to go to war, you need to have a pretty high threshold to decide on that." Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) quotes her stating, "Our involvement in Iraq radicalised, for want of of a better word, a whole generation of young people -- not a wholel generation, a few among a generation -- who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as being an attack on Islam. . . . Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before." Miranda Richardson (Sky News) emphasizes the same quote Rayner did and the link has video of Manningham-Buller testifying.
Eliza Manningham-Buller is the former head of British intelligence, MI5, and she's returned to this topic repeatedly. From the September 6th (this year) snapshot:
Eliza Manningham-Buller: War was declared on a rogue state, an easier target than an elusive terrorist group based mainly at that stage in the difficult terrain of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. And, in my view, whatever the merits of putting an end to Saddam Hussein, the war was also a distraction from the pursuit of al Qaeda. It increased the terror threat by convincing more people that Osama bin Laden's claim that Islam was under attack was correct. It provided an arena for the jihad for which he had called so that many of his supporters including British citizens traveled to Iraq to attack western forces. It also showed very clearly that foreign and domestic policies are intertwined, actions overseas have an impact at home and our involvement in Iraq spurred some young British Muslims to turn to terror.
In addition, October 15, 2007 US National Counterterrorism Center's Adm Scott Redd told Richard Engel (NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams -- link has text and video) that the Iraq War had been a recruiting tool for al Qaeda. Former CIA Middle East expert Bruce Riedel told Engel that the Iraq War has made things worse: "No question, it's made America less safe. By diverting so much money, so much of our intelligence effort and so much of our special forces in the military to fighting a war in Iraq, we have diverted resources from the central battlefield in the war against al Qaeda." Last year the Los Angeles Times editorial board concluded, "The United States was no safer after the war, because there had been no imminent threat before it. Arguably, Americans were more at risk. Al Qaeda exploited Iraqi resentment of U.S. troops, who were viewed as occupiers rather than liberators by much of the Muslim world. Abuses committed by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison fanned anger and anti-Americanism. Though Al Qaeda was not a force in Iraq before the war, it was after. And rather than stabilizing the region, the war shook a strategic balance. Hussein's Sunni regime had servced as a useful if unsavory counterwieght to the Shiite government of Iran."
ABC News Radio notes the US military has announced the death of a US service member in southern Iraq. The Defense Dept will announce the name of the fallen after his or her designated contact has been notified and, once that's done, the death will be counted in the Pentagon's official count.
For years now, Turkish war planes have been bombing northern Iraq. The latest wave of attacks started August 17th. UPI reports today, "Fighting between Turkey's Kurdish separatists and the Ankara government is escalating with Turkish air raids against rebel havens in Iraq's Kurdish enclave, raising fears a new civil war in Turkey is looming in a region already convulsed by turmoil. But there is danger, too, that what has long been a largely internal battle in Turkey could be swept up into wider, more complex regional conflicts in the Middle East and Southweat Asia." AFP notes that shelling started up last night and continued through today. Hurriyet Daily News adds, "The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq has begun the evacuation of villages near Kandil and Hakurk camps of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) today. [. . .] Civilians living in villages in the Kandil, Sidekan, Hakurk, Hinere and Pisdere areas will be relocated to four new camps that the regional government has begun constructing. The new camps, consisting of 624 residences, will have a total cost of $42 million." Today's Zaman notes Abdullah Ocalan, "jailed lear of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) [,] said resuming peace talks depended on Turkey if they 'open the door' after months of attacks and retaliatory Turkish air strikes on PKK bases hidden in northern Iraq."
The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Aaron Hess noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."
The government of Turkey created the PKK and other Kurdish independence groups -- they created these groups by refusing to treat all citizens equally. But grasp that Iraq, a failed state, one of the most corrupt nations in the world with a struggling government, is expected by the government of Turkey to 'eradicate' or 'eliminate' the PKK -- something that the much more established and 'stable' Turkish government has been unable to do for decades.
That's a point Hoshyar Zebari should have made when he was in Turkey last week. He didn't. Al Sabaah reports Iraq's Foreign Minister (Zebari) announced in Cairo yesterday that parties would meet in Baghdad in the middle of next month to discuss plans for holding the Arab League Summit there. In the last 8 or so days, Baghdad has been hit with bombings resulting is multiple fatalities three times. And, for those who've forgotten, this isn't the first time this Arab Summit was supposed to take place in Baghdad. Originally, Zebari and others spent the start of the year insisting that the Arab League Summit would take place March 29, 2011. Then when March finally rolled around, it was agreed it wasn't safe enough so it got kicked back to May 15th. Then that got the axe as well. By that point, the Iraqi government had spent over $450 million on the Arab League Summit that didn't take place.

In other news, Moqtada al-Sadr is reportedly back in Iraq. Al Mada calls it "a surprise visit" to Najaf and that, unlike previous returns from Iran, there were not throngs of supporters at the airport to greet him. Dar Addustour adds it's not clear whether or not this is a temporary return or not. Also of slow burner interest, Al Rafidayn reported yesterday on the opinion of some MPs that Iraq is allowing too many foreign contractors into the country, a fear that this could resort in increased terrorism and a feeling that Iraqis can provide all the security needed by embassies and foreign companies operating in Iraq.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI (didn't air today due to a WBAI pledge drive) and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include Occupy Wall Street with attorney Magaret Ratner Kunstler. Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler are the authors of Hell No, Your Right To Dissent and they discuss the attacks on dissent and your rights with regards to the Occupy Wall Street protests and beyond. We're going to note this section from a discussion on the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki.
Michael Smith: Talk about al-Awlaki, speaking of rule of law. The America who's pledged to defend the Constitution which includes the Fifth Amednment, Due Process, you can't deprive somebody of their life without due process which we've always understood to mean you have to go to court. And nonetheless they've assassinated an American citizen in Yemen, a man named Anwar al-Awlaki. Talk about that.
Michael Ratner: Now, of course, if you were an American citizen fighting on behalf of the Nazis in the Second World War, you know they could just shoot you if you were in a uniform, sitting on the other side shooting. But the distinction which you're making, one because an American citizen is significance, but it also that he wasn't in a war. This guy was sitting in Yemen, in civilian clothes, just sitting there and they launch -- put him on an assassination list and launch a drone against the guy. And so, yes, the American citizen and the Fifth Amendment protects him but he's also protected by fundamental laws of humanitarian law, the Laws of War and human rights.
Michael S. Smith: He's also protected because there's a law against the president of the United States ordering an assassination. That's a recent law. There's also another law: murder is against the law.
Michael Ratner: So that's what you have. I know last time [at the start of the program last week] you read the op-ed that I wrote on al-Awlaki which is in the Guardian, which people can go to our website and get. It was widely read about my opposition and the Center for Constitutional Rights which brought a lawsuit to try and stop the assassination. And now it's again all over the news. And what's interesting, it's getting more attention in a somewhat favorable way than I expected. People are upset by the fact that the administration hasn't really given its reasons for killing him. They've come out with some broad b.s. and there was a press conference the other day with the president's press guy, went four minutes and there was one reporting pressing him, 'What's the evidence? What's you have on him?' And the guy just -- he was befuddled, he didn't know what to say. And they still didn't come out with the evidence. Recently the [New York] Times published part of the memo that the US says would justify his killing from a legal point of view, but only part, so we don't know the whole thing. And low and behold, Michael Smith was about to address this issue, the Times prints an editorial about his murder, al-Awlaki's murder.
Michael S. Smith: If you need further evidence of the hypocrisy of the liberal New York Times, all you gotta do is read the editorial in the October 12th issue of the Times. Office of Legal Counsel, you'll remember, Michael, is the outfit that wrote the famous torture memos. They were asked to justify torture and they wrote these twisted memos concluding what Bush and the others wanted them to conclude: That it's legal to torture people. Well this time, the Times is very happy because again the Office of Legal Counsel which advises the president took three months and wrote a "detailed and cautious memorandum" to justify the decision to assassinate al-Awlaki. So the Times thinks it's good because at least they wrote a detailed memorandum before they killed the man! And they say, here's the conclusion, "Mr. Awlaki was not entitled to full protections [. . .] but as an American, he was entitled to some." Is that the defintion of a liberal trimmer or what?
Michael Ratner: Which ones? The right to a decent burieal? The right to have somebody scrape up his body parts? What are the ones they're talking about? How about the right to life? The one protection that everyone is entitled to.
Michael S. Smith: The Fifth Amendment.
Michael Ratner: Michael, I -- The Fifth Amendment is there. Yes, you need Due Process. But I want to emphasize, I think al-Awlaki should have been protected even if he wasn't a US citizen. I don't like naorrowing the law to a US citizen.
Michael S. Smith: I totally agree with you.
Michael Ratner: For litigation in the US court, yes, I have to use the Constitution to protect al-Awlaki but in fact the only time you're allowed to kill people is in a shooting war and then you have the right to shoot people on the other side who are shooting at you or in a war against you. But, short of that, unless someone is about to toss a bomb at you on the street and you have to use force to stop that, you don't have the right to just shoot people.
Michael S. Smith: Well the United States justifies this based on the Declaration of War in 2001, after 9-11.
Michael Ratner: So the question for you and I is if we sat here spouting the stuff that al-Awlaki spouted and, you know, had some meetings and some stuff like that -- if he did -- would they have the right to drone attack kill me in New York? And the answer?
Michael S. Smith: Well that's exactly the question.
Michael Ratner: The answer, under their theory, is yes.
Michael S. Smith: Yes. That the country where the person had his feet planted when he was blown sky high is irrelevant. The fact is there's a Declaration of War, after 9-11, ten years ago they made a Declaration of War against terrorism -- whatever that means -- they can go out and kill people. That's what they're basing it on. I'd like to see this legal memorandum.
Michael Ratner: So if people are interested in the fact that the US can drop drones on almost anyone -- on anyone -- citizen, non-citizen, where ever they are, Yemen, United States, we want you to go to www.dronedetector.com where you can purchase a drone detector [starts laughing]. Michael and I, we just made that up. But anyway, get your drone detector now.
Michael S. Smith: Well, if you want to learn more about it, go to the Center's website which is, Michael?
Michael Ratner: ccrjustice.org, ccrjustice.org. We brought a case with the ACLU to try and stop the killing of al-Awlaki . We were thrown out of court. The judge considered it serious -- but, of course, that's again typical -- serious but no relief. It's an executive [branch] decision and, of course, the executive made the decision, Obama, basically pushed the big red button, drone, drone, drone.
Michael S. Smith: And this is the guy that was supposed to be an improvement, the pendulum was going to swing back, Obama's going to get elected and Civil Liberties are going to get better. So, instead of torturing people, he's now assassinating them. This is the liberal definition of "better."
law and disorder radio
michael s. smith
heidi boghosian
michael ratner

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