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Member since: Sun Aug 17, 2003, 11:39 PM
Number of posts: 53,030
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When the President or Congress fails, they make certain they don't suffer any consequences.
I'm thinking about the unemployment extension that legislators have been promising for months. Time and time again, Congress has taken away the money that legislators have found to fund the extension and time and time again, Congress has found a way to spend that found funding on something else.
Republicans have now taken to claiming that withholding benefits is magically FORCING people to take jobs they might not otherwise. They cynically point to the lower unemployment numbers and claim that withholding benefits is some sort of magic elixir - tough love - and they're doing us a favor by withholding an extension of benefits and forcing workers into one of the part-time sub-poverty-level jobs available, if any actually exist.
A mostly bipartisan group of legislators have committed themselves to finding funding for the extension and have gotten commitments over the past months that the extension will be attached to key funding bills, but each and every one has seen the extension stripped out.
Senator Reid told Sen. Reed and republican Sen. Heller from Nevada (unemployment in his state at 7.7%) that "there's a chance" to add the unemployment benefits extension to the emergency spending bill for the border that Pres. Obama requested. That bill appears doomed, at least before the August recess.
Reed and Heller crafted a new bill that would cost a total of $10 billion and was planned to be paid for by "pension smoothing" and "extending Customs user fees through 2024".
The new highway bill that the republican Congress passed overwhelmingly with Democratic votes, 367 to 55, stripped the bipartisan unemployment extension agreement out and just folded the money that was organized for the UE bill and swallowed it up to pay for the highway legislation.
As Sen. Reed commented afterward, "This is now the second time they've taken offsets intended to help the unemployed and used them to pay for other priorities."
President Obama was so eager to get a highway bill that he almost immediately gave his blessing to the House bill without mentioning the unemployment extension at all. Not one word about it; not one proposal from the WH about where to include the UE legislation he's used in his speeches as an example of republican heartlessness and neglect. In giving his tacit approval to the republican highway bill Pres. Obama effectively condoned their shelving of the jobless worker funding extension.
The President gave the extension lip service in a June speech: "They've said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole," he said.
Thing is, Pres. Obama has refused to threaten to veto ANY bills over the benefits extension or bothered to hold ANY republican priorities hostage to an unemployment extension.
That's what I mean by consequences. There are virtually no consequences for republicans in arrogantly refusing to extend benefits; no consequences for their arrogant expectation that inadequate employment and workers disappearing from the rolls by just giving up represents some sort of solution - out of sight, out of their minds.
As I said, the passage of the highway bill, and the President's acceptance of the republican tactic of robbing the UE funding to make that bill happen begs the question of whether the President will EVER insist on ANY consequences for ignoring and using their twisted logic in refusing this traditionally automatic extension.
When is this WH, when is this President going to hold republicans accountable and make them pay a price for their obstinacy and disregard of hurting workers around the nation who haven't benefited from the recovery other states may be experiencing?
When is he going to hold up what republicans want to force THEM to do THEIR jobs? When is he going to exact a price from the republicans? When is he going to make them pay the consequences of their refusal to do their job?
And, yes, this is personal to me. I'm not going to wear my problems on my sleeve and I'm not discussing my personal needs here at all. Period. But, this is personal to me.
Posted by bigtree | Fri Jul 25, 2014, 01:18 AM (9 replies)
Jack Bohrer @JRBoh · 2h
Martin O'Malley: We Can't 'Send Children Back to Death' http://ti.me/W4Uyi0
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley broke publicly with President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday, calling for a more humane policy toward the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed into the United States.
“It is contrary to everything we stand for to try to summarily send children back to death,” the Democratic lawmaker told reporters. O’Malley also criticized the “kennels” in which those who have been detained are being kept and calling for the children to be placed in “the least restrictive” locations, including foster homes or with family members in the U.S.
“Through all of the great world religions we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity,” O’Malley said. “It is a belief that unites all of us. And I have watched the pictures of young kids who have traveled for thousands of miles. I can only imagine, as a father of four, the heartbreak that those parents must have felt in sending their children across a desert where they can be muled and trafficked or used or killed or tortured. But with the hope, the hope, that they would reach the United States and that their children would be protected from what they were facing at home, which was the likelihood of being recruited into gangs and dying a violent death.”
O’Malley went so far as to call the children “refugees,” a term with legal weight that would allow most of them to remain in the U.S. He called on Congress and the President to avoid modifying the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. That measure requires that children who are not from Canada or Mexico who have crossed the border to be given an opportunity to see an immigration judge to make their case for amnesty. Lawmakers on both sides, as well as the White House, are reviewing ways to amend that law to ease deportations of the tens of thousands of migrant children, who are largely from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
O’Malley said “the whole world is watching” how the U.S. responds to the humanitarian crisis.
“We have to do right not just by these kids but by our kids and protect the children who are here, put them in the least restrictive settings, get them out of these detention centers and these kennels where they are being cooped up, and operate as the good and generous people that we have always been,” he added. “That’s what’s at stake here, as well as the lives of these kids.”
read more: http://time.com/2978026/martin-omalley-minors-immigration/
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks during a general session at the California Democrats State Convention, March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Jae C. Hong—AP
Martin O'Malley @GovernorOMalley 1h
The greatest power we have is power of our principles. We're not a country that should send children away & send them back to certain death
Posted by bigtree | Fri Jul 11, 2014, 09:43 PM (62 replies)
Angry Staff Officer @pptsapper 1h
This was stenciled on a jersey barrier in Kandahar. Someone's got a wicked sense of humor. And too much time.
Posted by bigtree | Wed Jul 2, 2014, 11:18 PM (1 replies)
If you assume, as the Court does, that Hobby Lobby is a corporation - not a sole proprietorship or even a partnership - there isn't any recognized role that religion plays in such a corporate structure as defined by the Court.
The Supreme Court, in 'Citizens United' recognized rights for corporations which are associated with the individuals who form those entities for the purposes of protections of their freedom of press; or to secure their property from unreasonable searches or seizures. The Court recognized the individuals who formed the entities interest in pooling their resources to conduct financial transactions and grow their businesses.
Corporations aren't formed for religious purposes, like churches, they're formed for profit, and only recognized as such under stringent state laws. The only way to get to the religious belief of the owners of Hobby lobby would be to recognize the views of the owners as individuals; not the definition of the corporation, itself, which the Court has already described as a business entity; not a religious institution which is guaranteed those protections of belief and practice.
The corporation can't, itself, hold religious belief - not under the Logic of corporate personhood. The Court is really saying that Hobby Lobby isn't a person, after all - defying all of the logic and reasoning they've used to allow corporations 'free speech' rights to spend as much unaccountable money as they want in campaigns - and has reduced them to what they arguably are; a business made up of people.
But the Court hasn't gone all the way and recognized corporations, themselves as religious entities. As far as anyone can discern from what the Court has said corporations like Hobby Lobby represent, there isn't any religious element that supports that recognition, just rights afforded the individual owners to conduct business. Nowhere in that recognition of corporate personhood by the Court is there any understanding that there is something integral, necessary, or even predominant about religious belief to the operation of these businesses or their ability to conduct business.
That's what the recognition of the Courts of corporations as persons was all about; not a refuge for religious belief. That refuge is already afforded to churches and synagogues. For instance, you can't apply most discrimination laws in the hiring of clergy. That refuge for religiosity isn't incorporated into any understanding the Court has determined as a necessity for conducting business.
Besides, the entire rationale for recognizing corporations was to separate the businesses from the owners. Hobby Lobby and the Courts can't have it both ways. Either they are just an accountable owner and investors, or they are a corporation of interests.
A corporation can't hold or express a religious belief; they're not afforded religious liberty, so there is none to be restrained by complying with the mandate. And, remember, all rights afforded to individuals can't be reasonably applied to corporations . . . Second Amendment, Fifth . . .
Correct me where I'm wrong here, because I'm obviously no expert.
Posted by bigtree | Tue Jul 1, 2014, 01:23 PM (12 replies)
Production for use . . .that's what a gun's for Earl, to shoot, of course! Maybe that's why you used it -- Yes, I think you're right. That's what a gun's for isn't it? Production for use! There's nothing crazy about that is it? - Star reporter Hildy Johnson interviews convict in ' His Girl Friday', 1940
I'm reminded of this surreal scene from Howard Hawk's movie production whenever our government makes reflexive moves toward war - the scene where the newspaper's lead reporter is rationalizing responsibility away from the hapless killer and putting the finger on the gun manufacturer for responsibility for his violence.
I'm looking at the report today that President Obama plans to ask Congress to provide $500 million in direct U.S. military training and equipment to Syrian rebels. Aside from reservations about involving the U.S. materially in any of the fighting there, there's the issue of what responsibility the U.S. would assume, or should at that point, for the blowback and consequence of our government's entreaty to them to violence.
I'll attest to the apparent and relatively new attitude of restraint from the White House following the period where more troops were sacrificed in Afghanistan defending the Karsai regime by Pres. Obama than Bush lost defending 9-11; acknowledge an apparently new attitude of restraint since the height of his use of the often indiscriminate and extra-judicial targeting of weaponized drones (which he still assumes authority to launch).
In Yemen, the Sudan, Libya, and even Syria, the president has demonstrated a new doctrine of sorts which emphasizes diplomatic and international efforts - buttressed by the big stick threat of a declaration, made several times by President Obama, that he holds the power to unilaterally commit military force or forces abroad without initial congressional approval.
Throughout the facedown and resolution of the question of chemical weapons in Syria, the president has maintained that, through his own interpretation of a threat to the U.S. or our interests, he has the authority - notwithstanding his recent reluctance - to unilaterally initiate attacks and deploy troops.
It's a similar argument that he uses in 'leaving his options open' on initiating attacks in Iraq - not withstanding any stated intention of his to refrain from such action - President Obama has insisted that he has all the authority he needs to initiate airstrikes; even introduce troops, if he sees fit.
The retention of that assumed authority is a loaded gun just waiting for an excuse or reason to use it. Production for use.
What happens if our military advisers trigger a deepening or intensifying of the Iraq sectarian conflict? The introduction of that element of violence is a pretext to use it, as well as a trigger to the need for even deeper involvement. It's also a pretext for future presidents to use this commander-in-chief's justifications for war as their own.
However efficient and practical it may seem to provide only a smidge of violence in helping direct attacks in Iraq against Iraqis - however efficient and logical it may seem to give rebels weapons to carry out the political missions Americans certainly aren't willing to sacrifice lives for - there are real and tragic consequences on the ground.
Shoveling more weapons into Syria only gives the U.S. political mercenaries the illusion of clean hands, but we are the merchants of those misdeeds of Congress and the White House. Who are we arming? Who will they be killing? Where does the violence end?
One of the tragedies of 9-11 has been the degree our government's defensiveness has increased with a myriad of justifications to war - maybe not the unbridled military imperialism of the Bush-era, but threatening measures designed to frighten our adversaries away from their own military conquests; their sectarian violence fueled and inflamed by the seemingly deliberate vacuum created out of our own disruptive, self-serving military meddling.
Indeed, Barack Obama, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, actually used that occasion to lay down justifications for war; 'just wars' he called them. The new president wrapped his militarism in a blanket of history in his acceptance speech in Oslo. He spoke with the detachment of a professor lecturing students about a "living testimony" to the "moral force" of the teachings of King and Gandhi who just happened to be commander-in-chief over dual, bloody occupations.
War and peace, in Mr. Obama's presentation, were inseparably intertwined throughout history with America rising above it all - virtuous and correct in the flexing of our military muscle abroad in this age, because of our righteousness in the defining wars we waged with our allies against the Third Reich and Japan. That American virtue, in Mr. Obama's estimation, made evident by our leadership in setting the terms of international patronage, diplomacy, and 'just' war.
Mr. Obama began his speech by attempting to rationalize the obvious contradiction of a wartime president accepting a 'peace' prize. He downplayed the occupation in Iraq he had prolonged, distanced himself from the one he intended to redefine and escalate in Afghanistan, and declared himself responsible for, and "filled with questions" surrounding his sending of 'young Americans' to fight and die abroad.
. . . perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.
The president acknowledged the civil, ethnic, and sectarian conflicts around the world, which he observed are on the rise, without mention of our own nation's part in fueling, funding, and deliberately or clumsily exacerbating many of those into perpetuity.
In Iraq, the war that the president insisted at the time was 'winding down', our nation's invasion and overthrow of the sovereign government was the catalyst to the chaos and civil and sectarian unrest and violence. Our military forces' inability to stifle or eliminate the killings there, despite our "surged-up", lingering occupation was a less than ringing endorsement of some inherent wisdom behind the opportunistic exercise of our dominating, devastating military forces abroad.
The president admitted his own lack of a 'definitive solution' to it all. Absent that solution, the president said we must be prepared to act when we feel that war is 'justified'.
"A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.
It's obvious what the president was alluding to. There aren't many who would question America's pursuit of justice in the wake of the 9-11 plane crashes. Chasing bin-Laden and his cohorts into Afghanistan, and the rout of his Taliban accomplices to Pakistan was a reasonable response to most looking on.
Yet, there's a question of how much of the president's militarism today in Afghanistan, or now, Iraq, can be justified as part and parcel of that original pursuit; or even integral to some defense of our national security as defined in the original authorizations to use military force.
The emerging practice from politicians in Washington is to construct mechanisms of preemptive aggression in the vain hope of keeping war at bay. Is there anything more delusional than fomenting war to prevent war? Production for use.
That 'ambivalence' to military action the president represented as universal to any conflict, is fiction; at least in America. Our nation's citizens didn't start out ambivalent to chasing bin-Laden into Afghanistan. They became ambivalent when that effort was distorted into opportunistic nation-building - all the while with the fugitive terror suspects that were at the heart and soul of the military mission left free to instigate and motivate violent resistance against our nation's strident military presence and activity across sovereign borders, mostly by the virtue of their seemingly deliberate freedom from justice.
The nation became ambivalent when those occupations, in turn, were escalated to advantage the politics behind propped-up regimes. The suspicion of America's military force abroad was born in the 'extraordinary renditions' by our military and intelligence agencies; and in the indefinite imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans without charges or counsel - many held and tortured as in Gitmo - many tortured and disappeared in 'black sites' in compliant nations. Many are just as suspicious of this president's escalation of force in Afghanistan against the Taliban.
We've been told by the administration and the military that there are relatively few individuals thought to be in Afghanistan or Iraq who are al-Qaeda. Yet the U.S. military aggression in defense of regimes we helped ascend to power in corrupt elections is directed against an entirely different 'enemy' who is operating against the U.S. 'interest' in our maintaining ethically-challenged regimes in dominance over the very people we pretend to be defending.
At the end of his address, the president quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarks in his own Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. . .
As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago: "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him . . . We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace . . .
It's understandable that President Obama would want to justify his own duplicity between his stated ideals against 'dumb wars' with a declaration of a pursuit of peace behind his own exercise of military force. Yet, King's answer to the dilemma the president faces was non-violence. His own acceptance speech was a promotion of peace and love, not a litany of excuses for militarism.
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy," King said in 1967. "Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."
And, so it goes.
Posted by bigtree | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 02:19 AM (3 replies)
. . . but it's not a sentiment that I'd extend to judgment of his actions right now.
The reason that he's finding himself in the position of responding with military assistance has everything to do with the way he neglected to repudiate several of the Bushian justifications for remaining militarily engaged in Iraq.
One is his insistence that there's some sort of terror war to defend the U.S. against that threatens to spring out of Iraq and attack the U.S. or our “national security” interests. I'm straining to remember where, in the decade we've been meddling militarily in Iraq, did any Iraqis come to the U.S. and attempt to attack us?
It's a ludicrous excuse for insisting that he has a military prerogative in Iraq, and its ignorant of the fact that our military presence and activity in Iraq actually fuels and fosters terrorists. It's right there in Bush's 2006 National Intelligence Report.
The intelligence estimate, completed in April 2006, was the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by U.S. intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and it represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.
An opening section of the report, "Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.
If you just take Pres. Obama's recent decision to send 300 U.S. military advisers to assist Iraqis in directing attacks against Iraqi targets, you can see the folly rising, yet again, where our military interference is just going to be a recruiting tool for whatever forces are resisting that Potemkin of democracy in Baghdad. The predictable effect will be the U.S. ownership, in Iraqis eyes, of any objectionable assault we had a hand in which kills innocent Iraqis.
The other thing the President has done is put the introduction of the military forces assisting the Iraqi army into operation well before there's even a promise from the Iraqi government we're defending to effect the political reconciliation that Bush first demanded and then completely let go.
The President himself said that no military action would be forthcoming without that political rapprochement, but here we are, advantaging just one side of the political divide with our military advisers and weaponry he deployed pointed right at regions which not only harbor the armed insurgency but is home to Maliki's political opposition - all at the same time he's calling for political reconciliation in the vain hope that Sunnis won't align their own sympathies with the armed rebellion.
The 2002 AUMF hasn't been repealed, so President Obama, by declaring some right under that AUMF to stage air attacks into Iraq if he deems it appropriate is just a U.S. gun pointed at any resisting Iraqi's head; all the while pressing for political concessions standing beside the government that has refused to accommodate that opposition politically.
It's the same type of military imperialism which had Iraqis voting for their leadership with the U.S. guns pointed directly at the Shiite-dominated regime's political opposition.
Anyone who believes that the Iraqi army can precisely target just the bad guys and leave the Iraqi population safe, hasn't been watching the Maliki regime as it prosecutes it military force against rival population centers. This isn't something that our military has any business enabling, and I don't believe the president is being realistic about the dangerous blowback to Iraqis and others that is inevitable from our military interference.
What do we do if political rapprochement fails? If there is some agreement will U.S. forces be sent back to Iraq to 'watch over' the political process again?
Accepting Bush's 'terror' rationale for remaining militarily engaged in Iraq and adopting it is the president's responsibility and he should be held accountable for that, not sympathized with.
Accepting the notion that our military can aid ANY political goal inside Iraq without proving counterproductive and provocative is Pres. Obama's responsibility and he should be held accountable for that, not sympathized with.
Posted by bigtree | Fri Jun 20, 2014, 11:08 AM (13 replies)
. . . this the second and last article I want to post that I wrote in 2007 which covers some of the ground between President Obama's remarks on Iraq today and Bush's own use of our military to bolster and defend Maliki's regime in Iraq.
OpEdNews Op Eds 9/5/2007
Progress and Successes of the Bush and Maliki Regime
By Ron Fullwood
IRAQI Prime Minister Maliki is in deep denial over the state of his reign. Looking out at Iraq from his protected post inside of the ring of security that has cost the U.S. military over 800 soldiers' lives since Bush began his increased deployment of troops to Baghdad, Maliki has concluded that it is his fractured, unpopular government which deserves the bulk of the credit for the decrease in violence he perceives from his sheltered office, not his American defenders. In a familiar refrain which echoes the despicable attempts by the Bush White House to paint dissent of their Iraq policy as an appeasement of terrorists, Maliki told reporters that any suggestion that his regime was not ready to assume their own defenses sent a "signal" to would-be attackers that his beleaguered government was vulnerable to attack.
'Such criticism, Maliki said, sends "signals to terrorists luring them into thinking that the security situation in the country is not good. "U.S. critics," he said, don't appreciate "the big role of the Iraqi government and its achievements, such as stopping the civil and sectarian war."
Maliki must be the only person in Iraq who believes the civil and sectarian armed struggle for power, influence, and territory has stopped. Despite the reported halt of operations of Shiite leader, al-Sadr's militarized forces, the reason for the temporary cessation of violence by the anti-government forces was described by the opposition leader as a re-grouping, rather than an armistice. And, despite the assurances from the U.S. military in Iraq and their commander-in-chief that violence has been quelled in Baghdad, the bombings and assassinations continue unabated almost everywhere else in Iraq that our troops are not deployed in their increased occupation.
Thousands of Iraqis have been killed since Bush increased the protection he had been providing the Maliki regime since he initiated the increased defense of the center of government in Baghdad last year, and even more Iraqis have been killed since the start of his latest escalation this year as a result of the factional violence; and partly as a result of joint offensive operations by our troops and the Iraqi army which have killed hundreds of residents and imprisoned thousands of others who were actively resisting their colonialist advance on their territory.
Moreover, it's not clear exactly who Maliki is referring to when he touts the efforts and effects of his government. There is no functioning government in Iraq, despite Maliki's desperate attempts this month to forge a working coalition which would allow him to advance stalled legislation which the Bush WH claims would enable the warring factions to reconcile their differences and accept the manufactured authority of the new regime.
There are no Sunni members of Maliki's new coalition government which is even more autocratic than the previous, propped-up regime which has operated for most of their tenure under a 'state of emergency' and a suspended constitution. The corruption and presumptive rule of Maliki's regime was underscored by an NPR report which cited a "sensitive but unclassified" document drawn up by State. Dept. investigators at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which concludes that Maliki's government has "withheld resources" from the Iraqi govt's anti-corruption agency. NPR reports that U.S. investigators found that, Maliki's office had "quashed corruption investigations of politicians allied with the government."
NPR Foreign Correspondent Corey Flintoff reported that, "If you believe the report, and you listen to people who work at these ministries, you get the impression that corruption is completely sapping the country's resources. ...Someone who works at the Ministry of Interior -- that's the department that supervises all of Iraq's police forces...told me that it's corrupt from top to bottom -- that officials at the top of the pile are making money from contracts to buy equipment."
Flintoff's report said that, "Some ministries, such as the Interior Ministry, are seen as untouchable because of their political connections to the government. The Ministry of Oil, which is supposed to safeguard the country's major source of wealth, has allegedly manipulated investigations against it. The report says the departments of the government routinely ignore requests for information, and that investigation teams can't go into their offices because they don't have any firepower to protect them."
If Maliki is functioning in his leadership position in Iraq as a protege of Bush, he can be partially excused for assuming that the 'democracy' Bush promised the former 21-year exile he would lord over represented anything close to the democratic process of government we all expect here in America. The example Bush has set for his Iraqi pupil is one of an imperialist warmonger bent on oppression. Iraqis, as well as the American people, are left to pick up the pieces of our own democracy that Bush so willingly hurls around the world out of his dictatorial carpetbag.
The lesson Maliki has apparently taken from his enabled ascendancy to power in Iraq is that any true exercise of democracy is secondary to his own consolidation of power. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office report on Iraq released yesterday concluded that Iraq failed to meet all but two of the nine 'security' benchmarks Congress had set for them as a condition of U.S. military assistance, and had accomplished only one of eight political goals -- safeguarding minority rights in the Iraqi parliament.
Underscoring the fact that 15 of 37 cabinet ministers walked out on Maliki, nearly half of his 37-member Cabinet, including influential Sunni ministers, GAO chief Comptroller General David Walker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, "Overall, key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend the $10 billion in reconstruction funds it has allocated."
Despite all of the criticism, Maliki remains convinced he's correct in every expression of his increasingly autocratic reign because he has the apparent seal of approval from our lame-duck loser in the White House. The "message" Bush sent to the Maliki regime with his surprise visit to al-Anbar yesterday, is that "there is no alternative to this government," Maliki's spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Tuesday.
"The visit of President Bush carried a message of support to the Iraqi government after the progress it made in national reconciliation," Maliki said.
The Iraqi prime minister can be excused for his ignorance if all he has to rely on as an example of democracy in action is the reality of his U.S. benefactor's own defiance of the will of the vast majority of Americans and the majority of legislators in Congress that he end his occupation as he presses forward in defense of his junta over the almost 3800 Americans whose lives and livelihoods have already been sacrificed for Bush's imperialist ambitions for the supposedly sovereign nation.
Despite the criticism of the escalated defense of his enabled reign, Maliki is convinced that Gen. Petraeus' Sept. report on the effects of their 'surge' will reflect "positive developments" in Iraq, "for sure," and that his regime was making 'progress' toward national reconciliation and that both Crocker and Petraeus "are witnessing the progress."
Only blundering idiots (or complicit criminals) would allow Bush to turn their country into his personal fight club. We're the ones who are going to end up defending ourselves (as are Iraqis) as we defend against his blundering interference in so many other nation's affairs. Bush and Maliki's manufactured mandate to conquer Iraq is supported less by the will of their electorate than by their corrupt exercise of the awesome strength of our military and the sacrifices of those who do most of the fighting and the dying.
There is no democracy in Iraq for our troops to defend. There is only the raw struggle for power and influence in which Maliki is being allowed to satiate himself behind the sacrifices of our nation's defenders. Having achieved that position of power, Bush and Maliki are satisfied that the lives they squandered were worth every contrived effort they made to consolidate their positions of power over the rest of Iraq. Yet, in their very actions, they contradict the myth Bush is perpetuating of a White House which has been nothing but a peaceful partner in Iraq's leaderships' quest for democracy.
Maliki and Bush are both in denial over the catastrophe they have overseen in Iraq with their partisan disregard of the very principles of democracy they say they're defending behind their strident militarism. They apparently believe Americans and Iraqis should be grateful for the way they've confronted the resistant elements in Iraq they've fostered and fueled by directing our troops to fight and die on one side of the country's multi-fronted civil war.
However, most Americans are left to wonder, as Bush and Maliki are crowing about their 'successes' and 'progress' in Iraq, whether these lame-duck partners are referring to advantages they've achieved for their citizenry, or if they're just bragging on their own ability to sustain themselves in power and authority over the rest of us at our own deadly expense.
Posted by bigtree | Thu Jun 19, 2014, 03:49 PM (2 replies)
here's an article I wrote in 2007. It covers some of the 'ground' in Iraq between President Obama's remarks at his news conference today and the situation 'on the ground' when Bush was directing the force of our military to advantage the Maliki regime:
OpEdNews Op Eds 8/13/2007
Striking Out at Bush's Phantoms in Iraq
By Ron Fullwood
Maliki's regime on verge of collapse because of Sunnis resisting Shiite rule - so our forces attack Sunnis . . .
Bush has launched a 'major assault' in Iraq today against 'extremists' in, mainly, Sunni communities which, he claims, harbor al-Qaeda. Those assaults, dubbed 'Operation Phantom Strike,' are being conducted by U.S. forces aligned with Sunnis who've been spending part of their time (until very recently) engaged in attacks against the Maliki regime and its U.S. defenders.
The other pretext for the new assaults on Iraqis is the administration's escalated campaign against Iran. Despite their admission that as many as 200,000 U.S. weapons have been 'lost' somewhere in Iraq, the Bush administration has gratuitously accused Iran of supplying and training insurgents who've been staging attacks against our forces and against the new regime. To highlight that alleged Iranian support, Bush has launched assaults on Shiite communities believed to shelter the militias aligned with al-Sadr and who've been denounced by the administration because of their links to Iran.
If it weren't for the actual tragedy of the lives lost and disrupted as a result of these staged assaults on Iraqis, we could laugh off the farce of Bush chasing his tail as he pretends to actually have some useful purpose behind the new offensive beyond the feathering of the 'progress' of his escalation which he and his generals measure by the degree Iraqis have been repressed and cowed by the iron fist of the U.S. military into accepting the assumed rule of the Maliki regime.
At some point Bush has to be held to account for at least one of his shifting justifications for continuing his Iraq occupation. Despite the thorough discrediting of the initial lies about WMD's and al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq that Bush sold to Americans with a straight face and crooked hands as he pressed forward with his illegal invasion, Bush is still being allowed to offer even more rationales for remaining as he shrugs off the demonstrated will of the electorate and unilaterally escalates his occupation.
It should be clear to anyone who has watched this president's aversion to truthfulness throughout his term, that he has no intention of owning up to any development or reality which contradicts the strategic excuses and calculated dodges that his administration presents to the public as national policy. That lowered expectation has been accepted by legislators who've attempted to confront Bush to the degree and effect that our national debate (and their own) now mirrors the tortured, defensive unreality that the lame-duck loser has managed to bind the nation with as he's plundered, squandered, and destroyed everything he's charged with protecting and upholding.
It would more than fair to just conclude that because of the constant and escalating attempts by the administration to spin their Iraq fiasco as a work in progress, that there isn't a wit of sense in trying to extract practical, actionable initiatives from anything they've presented as a policy and use them to try and make a measure of any success or failure of their 'surge.' Why should anyone bother to measure the effect of their fictions? Knocking down the obvious lies should be enough.
Those lies and contradictions are so glaring, however, as to obscure whatever shine the administration is working to apply to the tarnished Iraqi regime they helped install. The most obvious is the extent that the Maliki regime has drawn closer to Iran, even as Bush works to undermine their neighborly relationship which has produced economic agreements as well as pledges to ensure each other's security. The August 8th image of Maliki and the Iranian president emerging from their meeting holding hands is an undeniable refutation of whatever threat Bush claims Iran poses to Iraqis.
There's even less solace for Bush in the normalization of economic ties between the two former enemies this week as Iran and Iraq inked a deal on an oil pipeline which would carry oil from Iraqi oil fields to refineries in Iran. There's likely even more nervousness from the administration carpetbaggers as Iraq's Oil Minister, after declaring that no country would get dibs on Iraq's oil, nonetheless, acknowledged that Russia would be first in line for a piece of the oil pie because of their existing contracts on what's turning out to be one of Iraq's most potentially lucrative oil fields.
Despite the gridlock which has infected the Iraqi government, there may yet be hope that the Maliki regime will play along with the Bush administration's new script and cobble together a compliant legislature, as Maliki ,today, threatened to replace the Sunni bloc who has completely vacated the government, with those Sunni leaders who are aligning right now with our forces in these contrived assaults against the administration's al-Qaeda specter. Convenient, huh?
That realignment will not, by any means, satisfy the Sunni bloc who've walked away from the government. They're still convinced the Shiite-dominated Maliki regime is bent on their destruction. And, that Sunni bloc isn't the only faction in the parliament who walked. Seventeen ministerial posts in his government are empty. That 'crisis' of confidence in his regime prompted Maliki today to call for a conference between key Sunnis and Kurds to take place in the 'next few days.' The invitees include President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a moderate Sunni, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, and Massoud Barzani, the leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
Whatever the intentions of the Maliki regime, it can't serve his efforts at reconciliation to have Bush flailing our forces all around Iraq in defense against whatever nemesis he conjures. Bush needs a defining fight and a vanquished enemy in Iraq to accompany the upcoming report due Congress in September on the effects of his 'surge,' and he's angling our forces to attract deadly brawls whose casualties will facilitate his planned determination to continue his cynical occupation.
A successful repression of resisting Iraqis will serve to represent the 'progress' Bush needs to highlight; a escalation of American deaths will serve his generals' vengeful insistence that Lt. Gen. James Dubik, in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces revealed in his answer to reporters about the sacrifice of lives over defense of Iraqi ground: "It was fought over and died for," he said, "and there's no reason to give it back right now."
Yet, for Iraqis, that ground the Americans have fought and died to defend hasn't been for their benefit at all. That reality for Iraqis isn't obscured by our military forces' latest specter hunt. 'Operation Phantom Strike' is just another defense of bad Bush policy; wrapped around more treasonous lies about threats to the U.S. from Iran, or from some conjured Iraqi commandos following our troops home (as if they didn't already know the way by now). It's another chip placed on our soldiers' shoulders; it's another manifestation of Bush's obsession with "fighting them 'there.'"
To even an inexperienced observer, Bush's new assault on Iraqis looks like a deliberate provocation designed to counter Maliki's reconciliation efforts. To Iraqis, it almost certainly must look like just another attack on them - it can't really make any difference that our bullets, bombs, and oppression were actually intended for Bush's phantoms.
Posted by bigtree | Thu Jun 19, 2014, 03:08 PM (3 replies)
BAGHDAD — Alarmed over the Sunni insurgent mayhem convulsing Iraq, the country’s political leaders are actively jockeying to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, American and Iraqi officials said Thursday.
The political leaders have been encouraged by what they see as newfound American support for replacing Mr. Maliki with someone more acceptable to Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds, as well as to the Shiite majority.
Over the past two days the American ambassador, Robert S. Beecroft, along with Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official on Iraq and Iran, have met with Usama Nujaifi, the leader of the largest Sunni contingent, United For Reform, and with Ahmad Chalabi, one of the several potential Shiite candidates for prime minister, according to people close to each of those factions, as well as other political figures.
read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/world/middleeast/maliki-iraq.html
The fact that our government is comfortably talking to a criminal like Chalabi is the direct result of Congress allowing the Bush administration to walk away scot-free without any real accountability for their crimes in Iraq. Here we have a criminal like Chalabi, who was run out of the office Bush and Cheney gifted him for the bogus information he provided which was used as the initial impetus and justification for the original moves to invade Iraq and overthrow the government, being allowed to pose as some kind of statesman; still getting audiences with U.S. government officials.
It wasn't just that Chalabi had lied to the U.S. about WMDs . . . when they weren't found, Chalabi just brazenly declared that the ends had justified the means.
Chalabi was a wealthy, U.S.-educated banker whose family fled Iraq when the monarchy was overthrown in 1958. Chalabi's CIA contacts led to the formation of the Iraqi National Congress in 1992.
Chalabi's influence in Washington comes from conservatives in and out of the administration who had been advocating for the deposition of Hussein and who were closely associated with the right-wing American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century; conservatives still pushing for intervention in Iraq; like John McCain.
Chalabi had been tried in exile by a Jordanian court and sentenced to 22 years in prison on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft of more than $70 million, misuse of depositor funds and currency speculation.
Here is a family (Chalabi) that has ingratiated themselves with monied influences, in and out of our government. Their administration benefactors spread our tax dollars around the world with abandon, yet treat the most urgent of our basic needs here at home with miserly neglect. Consistent with Ahmed's U.S. military escort back to his homeland, the Chalabis assumed whatever mandate for power, money, or influence that their Pentagon cabal provided.
In 2002, John McCain claimed that a 'success' behind Bush deceitful coup in Iraq was going to be 'easy,' despite his acceptance of the inevitable casualties. “Because I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women,” McCain told CNN in 2002. Days later, he backtracked to make a self-serving assurance that American lives would not be squandered for his manipulations in Iraq.
“We’re not going to get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad," McCain told CNN. "We may have to take out buildings, but we’re not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies.”
By the next year, McCain was cocky enough to predict a 'win' behind the invasion and occupation, telling MSNBC that "we will win this conflict. We will win it easily." That was in 2003. That was in the period where the Bush administration and their cohorts in Congress were frantically organizing separate teams of military investigators to comb Iraq for the weapons of mass destruction they had promised they were defending Americans against. As that cynical effort failed to produce any evidence of any weapons or weapons systems which remotely threatened the U.S. they set themselves to the diverting task of organizing and consolidating the real motive behind their opportunistic invasion; the overthrow of Saddam's hapless regime and the installation of their 'interim' junta.
John McCain's friend and primary instigator, enabler, and author of the lies used to justify the U.S. campaign for 'regime change' in Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi, began his deceptions in exile during the Clinton administration and was gifted with the leadership of the 'authority' which was constructed after the invasion to impose and lord their military dominance over the Iraqis.
Chalabi, who McCain called a "patriot," was finally driven out of the interim Iraqi leadership by predictable charges of the same manipulative corruption which had been his trademark. Even as he was elevated by the Bush administration to lord over Iraqis behind the sacrifices of our troops, Chalabi was under indictment for embezzlement and fraud. Chalabi was paid $335,000 a month as he promoted his lies about WMDs to the administration and their enablers in Congress. It was reported in 2004 that Chalabi's group-in-exile, the 'Iraqi National Congress,' received $39 million in tax dollars over 5 years as they promoted their lies.
When confronted about the complete lack of any proof that what he'd sold his U.S. supporters in the administration and Congress, Chalabi shrugged. "As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful," Chalabi said. "That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."
"We are heroes in error," Chalabi was quoted as saying.
In the fall of 2002 the 'Committee for the Liberation of Iraq' was established in the Washington offices of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. The CLI engaged in educational and advocacy efforts to mobilize U.S. and international support for policies aimed at ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. This advocacy came at the same time that Condoleezza Rice and her then-deputy Stephen Hadley were engaged in a series of briefings with foreign policy groups, Iraq specialists and other opinion makers that was termed as a "new phase," by a White House spokesman, who described the goal as building fresh public support for Bush administration policy vs. Iraq.
Members of the CLI met in November of 2002 with President Bush's national security adviser, Rice, in an effort they described as "education and advocacy efforts to mobilize U.S. and international support freeing the Iraqi people from tyranny." Members of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq included, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, William Kristol, General Barry McCaffrey, and former CIA director James Woolsey. George Shultz, Amb. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, and Elliot Abrams were also involved with the group. Abrams and Bolton were founding members of the CLI.
The CLI lobbied for the installation of the so-called Iraqi National Congress to replace the Hussein dictatorship. This group was the creation of the U.S. Congress which, following testimony from Chalabi, and defense policy executive, Zalmay Khalilzad (later appointed ambassador to Iraq), and the co-sponsoring of Sen. John McCain, passed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, and sanctioned the new U.S. policy of regime change.
Among the other participants in the CLI were, Gary Schmitt (director of the conservative foundation, Project for the New American Century) and Richard Perle, (chairman of Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board, also closely associated with PNAC. Also involved was co-founder, president and executive director of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, Randy Scheunemann who served as a consultant on Iraq to Donald Rumsfeld and now serves as John McCain's top foreign policy aide.
In a scheme to hijack the next-generation of defense dollars, which our soldiers desperately need, and our country can scarcely afford McCain's cohort, Randy Scheunemann, headed a Washington lobbying firm called Orion Strategies, which just happened to share Chalabi's address and the location of his old CLI enterprise. His was just one of the investment groups that sprang to life in the wake of the invasion who sought to benefit from the blood and sacrifice of our soldiers.
In fact, Schennemann was partners in his Iraq lobbying with another facilitator for the former Soviet states, Bruce Jackson, the founder and president of the 'Project on Transitional Democracies', an organization which guided ‘newly independent', former Soviet provinces through the congressional appropriations process to connect the foreign leaders with U.S. tax dollars. Their influence led to the acceptance of many of these countries into NATO compliance and membership. The introduction of these former provinces into the NATO resulted in a boon for weapon's manufacturers as the new republics were required to modernize their military forces to comply with NATO defense requirements.
"There is no doubt Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," Scheunemann had reportedly claimed before the Iraq invasion, promoting the fiction of his fellow nation-builder, Chalabi. It was that self-serving fiction (and others) which he and his nation-building partners used to influence the form, basis, and direction of John McCain's foreign policy.
The McCain/Chalabi collaboration was described in the book by award-winning journalist Aram Roston, "The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi." Roston writes that McCain was "Chalabi's favored candidate in the 2000 election since Chalabi knew that he would be able to free up the $97 million in military aid plus millions pushed through in Congress and earmarked for Chalabi's exile group."
According to one report, McCain had initially pressured the administration to give Chalabi more money, signing a letter with four other Republican senators complaining that Chalabi's INC wasn't being funded.
In 2004, it was reported that Chalabi had leaked intelligence to Iran, informing the Iranians that the U.S. had broken their secret communications code. U.S. officials complained that the disclosures meant that Iran's security agencies would have to redo their codes and that, for, perhaps years, American intelligence wouldn't be able to read the transmissions. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice promised Congress a 'full investigation', at the time, but none materialized from the administration.
Also, in 2004 it was reported that Chalabi was counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars - which had been removed from circulation following the fall of Saddam’s regime . . . Police found the counterfeit money along with old dinars in Chalabi’s house during a raid.
The most important position Chalabi was provided by the Bush administration's hawks on Iraq, was the position he was gifted in the new Iraqi regime as the administration's shill within the Iraqi government for their escalation of force. Chalabi's job was to serve as an intermediary between Baghdad residents and the Iraqi and U.S. security forces as they destroyed homes, lives, and livelihoods in Iraq which found themselves in the way of Bush's swaggering advance.
The WSJ reported that Chalabi job was to "help Iraqis arrange reimbursement for damage to their cars and homes caused by the security sweeps in the hope of maintaining public support for the strategy." It's almost certain that Chalabi had his hands all over the unaccountable multi-million dollar money pile the Pentagon reportedly used to pacify the resisting Iraqi communities to facilitate their 'surge'.
In an amazing defiance of the rationale for the pimping he provided for Bush and Petraeus' escalation of force, Chalabi was reported to have 'sabotaged' reconciliation efforts with the Batthists (Chalabi as head of Iraq’s 'de-Baathification commission'); the enabling of which was the main argument Bush gave for his escalation of force to Iraq. The NYT reported that, "Chalabi and members of his organization had sabotaged the American-backed plan by rallying opposition among Shiite government officials in southern Iraq, then taking their complaints to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric."
Chalabi's disruptive and self-serving efforts mirrored McCain's foreign policy advisor Scheunemann's initial, ill-conceived opposition to leaving any members of Saddam's Baath party in government positions in his 2003 declaration that: "It is very difficult for me to conceive of democratic institutions being established in Iraq with the Baathist power structure mostly intact."
AN article published by Blackanthem Military News reported that the Commanding General in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus, took on himself to rehabilitate the duplicitous opportunist who sold the U.S. the lies about threats from Saddam's regime which led Clinton to legislate regime change for Iraq, and provided cover for the Bush administration's invasion and occupation years afterward.
Chalabi was reportedly treated like a visiting dignitary as Petraeus introduced him to members of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga. stationed in Iraq.
In 2005, Chalabi, an 'elected' member of the Iraqi parliament, temporarily held the post of Iraqi Oil Minister. Chalabi's new 'job' in Iraq had been to get the country's electricity back in order, five years after the 'shock and awe' of the invasion needlessly destroyed the majority of Iraq's infrastructure. Yet, consistent with every other endeavor Chalabi had been allowed to involve himself in by this administration, it was been reported that, despite Chalabi's involvement, Baghdad's power supply remained "intermittent and well below pre-war levels." That September, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq told Congress that, Iraq's power supply is "woefully inadequate."
It's not as if there hadn't been more than enough discrediting evidence for the U.S. to completely shun the formerly exiled con man after he mislead (admittedly obliging) U.S. officials who were looking to make a case against Saddam.
Once again Chalabi is being fetted by the U.S. government as a front man for their faltering Iraqi regime. Even Chalabi's reported ties to the rebel Shiite group, led by al-Sadr, who has rivaled and worked to disrupt the influence and authority of the Maliki regime, hasn't been enough for the Obama administration to cut ties with the opportunistic confidence man.
In exchange for the short-sighted support Chalabi provided Bush's duplicitous administration for their rape and plunder of Iraq, he's been allowed to maintain an influential (and lucrative) niche in Iraq which has allowed the U.S. occupation's initial enabler to continue his confidence game with impunity.
Chalabi has stalled reconciliation several times in the past, and, it looks like he's now being promoted in that effort by the Obama administration to manage the increasing unrest in Iraq. In allowing Chalabi continued VIP treatment in Iraq, it's almost as if the administration isn't concerned that his lies are what led us to the Iraq debacle. Once again, Chalabi is under consideration by the U.S. as leader of their junta in Iraq.
U.S. Turns to Old Frenemies
Striking Out at Bush's Phantoms in Iraq
Progress and Successes of the Bush and Maliki Regime
Posted by bigtree | Thu Jun 19, 2014, 12:33 PM (36 replies)
. . . with all of the pressure to attack something in Iraq and all of the squawk about the response to the threat to the U.S. embassy in Libya, it's understandable and reasonable that the President augmented the State Dept.'s private security forces with a contingent of U.S. troops.
I don't think this is a backdoor to some kind of troop buildup for any on-the-ground combat operation. I do think that trying to secure those embassy folks in the middle of the ongoing conflict there could put those forces at risk. I'm not sure they can just hunker down and maintain their presence there. Using those forces to transport all of them out would seem like the responsible thing to do at this point, military action, or not. Maybe that's the plan.
It's not as if U.S. forces are prepared or likely to play a long-term role in any effort to defend Iraqi territory. Defending that embassy indefinitely seems a waste of resources and an unacceptable risk until the security situation is more certain. Without an operative political and security strategy from Iraqis, risking troops to hold down that building is a losing proposition, whether military force is employed or not.
Close it and bring the Americans home.
Washington Post @washingtonpost 49m
U.S. airstrikes in Iraq would be risky, retired military officers say http://wapo.st/1pCMWzn
Posted by bigtree | Tue Jun 17, 2014, 03:13 AM (5 replies)