Saturday, March 15, 2008

Negotiate with al Qaeda!

That straightforward, and already controversial suggestion, is from Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1995-2007

That comment coming from the man recognized as key to establishing the 1997 Northern Ireland accords, was issued as part of an interview fronting his new book, “Great Hatred, Little Room.” Powell simply says: The West needs to start negotiating with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

“There's nothing to say to al-Qaida and they’ve got nothing to say to us at the moment, but at some stage you’re going to have to come to a political solution as well as a security solution. And that means you need the ability to talk.”

The comments came from an interview Powell offered as part of a publicity tour to promote his new book on the Northern Ireland peace process.

Suffice it to say, the book probably won’t be anywhere close to Blair’s nightstand. Not with tidbits like this:
• He did not think Labour had governed boldly enough because it feared losing power.
• Blair had a tendency to change his mind about things and could be “a bit of a flippertygibbet.”
• Blair had failed in 10 years of government to sell Europe to the British.
• Relations between the Blair and Brown camps were so toxic that Gordon Brown did not talk to him for 10 years.

Already, the book is controversial outside of Blair’s house, with the “negotiation” comment. Gordon Brown’s Foreign Office has already weighed in:
“It is inconceivable that (Her Majesty’s Government) would ever seek to reach a mutually acceptable accommodation with a terrorist organisation like al-Qaida.”

Powell is the senior member of Blair’s government to serve his full 12 years. His book, “Great Hatred, Little Room,” will have excerpts serialized in The Guardian starting Monday, March 17.

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Winter Soldier 2008 Overview

Winter Soldier 2008
Unauthorized Trailer

In wars too dangerous for Western reporters, honest accounts are provided by US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, active service members and civilians in the March 2008 "Winter Soldier Hearings". Iraq war veteran Kelly Daugherty is interviewed by Nation Radio Laura Flanders providing an overview of the weekend event. Compelling video footage supports the interview.

For full coverage of Winter Soldier 2008 see:

Originally Posted on GDAEman Blog


Audio: The Nation Radio with Laura Flanders.

Video: Various sources compiled by GDAEman Productions.


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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Anti-Iraq opposition fractured?

A USA Today survey says Iraq War opposition breaks down into four groups.

It describes them as (my quotes where used):
• The “get out now, get all the way out, no preconditions” group, that includes me.
• The “leave after Iraq is secure” group.
• The “I want out but we’re stuck in an Iraq quagmire” set.
• The “I want us out but have tuned out” opposition.

The paper says the first two groups each make up 1 in 5 Americans and the last two each claim 1 in 10 people.

I think “fractured” puts it too strongly. I think Group A people like me have to do a better sales job with Group C that we can get out and with Group D to not tune out so much. (That said, I think I have half a foot in that camp at times myself). All this has to be done while outshouting, if necessary, Group B, especially to the degree Group B folks may have half a foot, or more, in the pro-war camp.

Along that line, the Politico claims support for the war is its highest since 2006.

Of course, the story spoils itself with extensive quoting of Michael O’Hanlon.

Nonetheless, despite Greenwald’s attempt to totally trash the piece, poll numbers are poll numbers. If they’re shifting, that has to be dealt with.

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Good Question on Iraq

Responding to a ridiculous piece in The Politico, Glenn Greenwald asks a very good question about the Iraq War and the media coverage it receives in the context of presidential politics:

What is the point of writing a big feature article claiming that Americans are moving towards support for the Iraq War again and this is dramatically re-shaping the political landscape in McCain's favor while purposely ignoring the mountain of extremely recent empirical data completely negating that claim? One could justify such blatantly dishonest presentations from pro-war propagandists like Bill Kristol and Michael O'Hanlon, but shouldn't a newspaper with pretenses to being a news organization do a better job of pretending?
He answers his own question quite thoroughly. By large margins, Americans want the Iraq War to end. By large margins, Americans favor the Democrats over the Republicans on Iraq policy. But the news media wants, among other things, a close presidential race that generates personality-driven stories, dramatically zig-zagging polls, and large ad purchases by the respective campaigns in "swing states" and beyond.

Yet again -- how many times have we heard this? -- things are improving in Iraq. And we've heard the corollary almost as often -- Republicans stand to gain from their steadfast devotion to endless war in Iraq.

False and false. But we should expect to hear the McCain campaign eagerly embrace these falsehoods and push them as hard and as far as possible through a too-willing news media.

A version of this is cross-posted on my personal blog.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why we count the casualties

Some day soon, the 4,000th American service member will die in Iraq, and antiwar activists will mark that grim milestone with vigils, marches, and other actions.

When similar events marked the 3,000th American death, on New Year's Eve of 2006, the right wing accused us of "celebrating" the death toll.

It is anything but a celebration, of course.

We will mark the 4,000th death because it is an opportunity to remind the American people of the price we are paying for an unjustified war that will soon enter its sixth year. Unfortunately, although they continue to say overwhelmingly that the war was a mistake and should be dended, Americans have become numbed to the casualties, which have long ago slipped from the front page.

The Associated Press reports:

Fewer people know how many U.S. troops have died in the war in Iraq, even as public attention to the conflict has gradually diminished, a poll showed Wednesday.

Only 28 percent correctly said that about 4,000 Americans have died in the war, according to a survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

That's down from last August, when 54 percent gave the accurate casualty figure, which was about 3,500 dead at the time. In previous Pew surveys dating to 2004, about half have correctly given the rough figure for the approximate number of deaths at the time.

In the new poll, around a third said about 3,000 U.S. troops have died while about one in 10 said 2,000 deaths. Fewer overestimated the number of casualties: about a quarter put the figure close to 5,000.
The 4,000 figure, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. To many Americans, some deaths -- those of Americans -- count more than others. And some don't count at all.

The 4,000th coalition death was recorded last August, but went largely unreported. That includes deaths of troops from 20 US allies, most of which have small numbers there.

If you're only concerned about American casualties, nearly 30,000 have been wounded. Many will never heal. Their lives have been permanently destroyed -- physically, emotionally, psychologically, or some combination of the three. They are brain-damaged, missing limbs and other body parts, scarred internally and externally. Those veterans, their families, our society, our country and its taxpayers will bear the costs of their injuries for the next 60 years or more, just as we continue to pay every day for Vietnam.

Every day our troops remain there, it is guaranteed that more of them will be permanently damaged. If you have a strong stomach, a photo essay in the New England Journal of Medicine will give you a taste of what kind of casualties and injuries are being treated. It's not pretty.

How many Iraqis have been killed or wounded? We don't seem to have the foggiest idea. Estimates range from 100,000 to more than a million, including military and civilian fatalities.

Another 4 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes, half having fled the country as refugees and the other have displaced within their own nation.

But none of those Iraqi numbers seem to count. After all, the President says we're there to do them a favor and bring them freedom -- if they live to see it.

As we mark the 4,000th American death in Iraq, the war hawks will no doubt drag these numbers out again, revisiting the arguments from Death Number 3000, and remind us that there were 58,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War, 36,000 in the Korean War, 405,000 in World War II and 116,000 in World War I.

So what's the problem with 4,000? Hardly worth mentioning, right?

That argument baffles me.

If you use use a false premise to launch an unjustified invasion, one death is too many.

Hundreds of thousands on both sides is inexcusable. Some would say criminal.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bring The Troops Home NOW!

Well. Isn't that just ducky? Raw Story tells us that, after reviewing hundreds of thousands of captured Iraqi documents, the Pentagon has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any connection at al with al-Qaeda.

Apparently, the only links between Saddam and any terrorist groups were just like ours. Just as we funded and armed Osama bin Laden to wage Islamic Jihad against the Russians when they invaded Afghanistan in support of Babrak Kamal's government, Saddam Hussein funded and armed groups to attack "Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime."

The study is due to Congress and for general release by midweek.

The article, penned by Warren Strobel of McClatchy's Washington Bureau, states, in part:

[...] the upcoming Pentagon report promises to be a particularly stark and thorough refutation of one of the primary Bush administration arguments for the invasion of Iraq [i.e., that Saddam Hussein was linked to al-Qaeda. Another Bush Misadministration argument, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, has already been thoroughly refuted.] The subsequent war has come at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, nearly 4,000 US troop deaths, and some half a trillion US dollars and counting.
Mr. Strobel's math skills are poor &mdash or perhaps McClatchy prefers to err on the cautious side of the balance ledger. Current wisdom has it that the total cost of Shrubya's Little Misadventure will run to over three trillion dollars. These costs do not address the Iraqis we've maimed and wounded, or the bills that other countries foolish enough to join in the "coalition of the willing" face. Britain, for example, announced today that their estimated cost will total approximately ten billion pounds sterling.

The article adds that the Bush Misadministration continues to lie about Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaeda, despite previously released documents and reports indicating the same findings as the forthcoming extensive review. As recently as last April, Vice President Dick Cheney again asserted a link between the Iraqi dictator and the terror network. So, if you know anyone stupid enough to listen to them and believe, please buy a copy of the review when it is released and use it to beat some sense into them.

The study is entitled "Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents." Although it has been essentially complete since last year, it has been undergoing what one U.S. intelligence official described as a "painful" declassification review.

The article notes, in a painful aside, that "In fact, al Qaida in Iraq didn't emerge until 2004, a year after the invasion." Was that before or after Commander Codpiece was strutting around on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a uniform before a banner that screamed "Mission Accomplished," to the collective spooging of the shameless press corps?

Photo montage from with the request that you spread it around

Meanwhile, we note that almost exactly a month ago, Auntie Beeb published a piece about the "reverse surge" that appears to be grimly prophetic. That article was pointing out the increase in violent incidents, many of which seemed to be targeting the Sunnis that the U.S. has been wooing with large sums of money:
US commanders on the ground [...] have pumped money into local economies by employing tens of thousands of young Sunni men as local auxiliaries - now re-named "Sons of Iraq" after several unhappier titles such as "Concerned Local Citizens" - to act as the eyes and ears of the US and Iraqi troops in the struggle against the militants.

They are also trying to encourage the Baghdad government to be more proactive in providing services and job-creation schemes in areas where the insurgents have been driven out.
But as we, and many others, have pointed out, the war has been going on for five years at this point. It's a bit late to start trying to win "hearts and minds." What's more, as the U.S. military strategy in Vietnam might suggest, the buying over of the "Sons of Iraq" sounds suspiciously like Tricky Dick's "changing the color of the corpses."

Al-Qaeda, and those Iraqis who are fighting the U.S. military will treat as traitors any Iraqis who side with the U.S. military. The U.S. is not going to stay in Iraq forever, John McCain or no John McCain. We simply cannot afford to. Sooner or later, our internal economic straits will be so dire, as a result of siphoning money out of the country to fund a prolonged war, that our economy will collapse. The U.S. is not willing to accept Iraqi refugees in any significant number. Despite the fact that more than 4 million Iraqis are now refugees, either in their own country or in Syria, Jordan, and other neighbouring nations, only approximately 7,000 have been accepted into the U.S. to date, and the original target of 25,000 has been lowered to 7,000.

Besides, the "hearts and minds" that the U.S. military is trying to win are deeply split even among themselves. We've said this repeatedly: Iraq has always been a fractured, heterogenous nation, with many different ethnic and religious groups, divided loyalties, in many ways still adhering to family, clan, tribe and feudal notions of society.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Auntie Beeb once again informed us just yesterday that a woman had detonated her explosive vest when she came calling on another "leader" of the Sons of Iraq. Chances are that, just like the Issawi celebrants mentioned in the previous link, the woman was either a member of the tribe of the slain "Son of Iraq," Thaer Ghadban al-Karkhi.

According to Auntie Beeb, al Karkhi was the head of one of the majority-Sunni Arab Awakening Councils, allied with the US military against al-Qaeda in Iraq. How true that is, we have to wonder, since the same piece identified "Sheikh" Abdul Sattar Abu Risha as the head of the Awakening Council in Anbar, a key US ally who was widely credited with having defeated al-Qaeda in much of western Iraq. Greg Palast can give you the lowdown on the "Sheikh."

We ourselves have blogged about the "Sheikh's" mysterious trips with U.S. money. $75 million worth, fellow-taxpayers.

Meanwhile, to add further credence to Auntie Beeb's prognostications, Raw Story is telling us that forty-two people died in Iraq today as the result of violence. Forty-two. Do you know forty-two people? Add up your family members. You might have to include a few neighbours or colleagues.

Now imagine that these people who you, maybe, love, or like, or just know, were blown to smithereens. An assemblage of body parts, bloody meat, barely recognizable as human. Now imagine that happens to you every day. You probably don't know enough people to sustain that kind of loss every day for a year, probably not even a month. Well, for the Iraqis, this has been going on for five long years. And some days, it's a lot more than forty-two people.

In other news, eight U.S. servicemen were also killed. When are we going to bring our troops home? Because this has gone on too damned long. The troops did the job they were sent there to do. An army's job is to fight. They fought. The other stuff has to be done by non-military qualified and experienced civilian personnel. But Boy George wanted to send his friends and cronies out there to bilk the taxpayer, and because they're the friends and cronies of an incompetent boob, to no one's surprise they too are incompetent boobs. So now we have a failed state, in which people are being killed every day in large numbers. And it's too dangerous to send qualified experienced civilian personnel out there to help to fix the mess we made.

Every day that the soldiers stay there is one more day that they present a target to a people furious that their country has been invaded, their jobs are gone, their economy is faltering, they don't have power or light or working telephones, their streets are unsafe, and their wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters are being raped and beaten and killed, while their sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands are kidnapped, tortured, and killed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, articles like this are just beginning to show up on the radar. The article states that railcars due to ease congestion in Philadelphia will be delayed. See if you can guess why.
New SEPTA Regional Rail cars will be at least four months late, delaying relief for riders on the increasingly crowded rail lines, SEPTA officials said yesterday.

[...] delivery of the rest of the 120-car order will also be pushed back at least four months, Nowakowski said. Final delivery of all the railcars is now scheduled for October 2010.

Rotem [the company building the cars, Ed.] was unable to procure enough of the type of steel specified in the SEPTA contract because the U.S. government has cornered the market; it is using the steel for armoring vehicles bound for Iraq, Nowakowski said.
For the sake of the dying, dead, maimed and wounded, in Iraq and at home; for the sake of the faltering economy, the people losing their homes, the people without health care, or with inadequate care; for the sake of the families that are being fractured by the stresses of this war; for the sake of the nation that is tottering under the accumulation of debt and the loss of its sons and daughters &mdash bring them home. End the war now.

Cross-posted over at La Casa de Los Gatos.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Inside Halliburton On Camera

Ben Carter, a former Halliburton/KBR water purification specialist, discusses discovering Halliburton was providing dangerously contaminated water to troops, and the serious long-term implication:

Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing
“An Oversight Hearing on Whether Halliburton Has Failed to Provide Clean Water to United States Troops in Iraq” [pdf]
Ben Carter, Former Halliburton Employee, January 23, 2006

My name is Ben Carter, and for the last twenty years I have worked as a water purification specialist. I currently reside in Cedar City, Utah. From January 2005 through early April 2005, I worked for Halliburton subsidiary KBR at Camp Ar Ramadi in Iraq, also known as Junction City. Ar Ramadi is home to between 5,000 and 7,000 troops at any given time, served by roughly 70 KBR personnel.
Although I was hired to work as a water treatment specialist, I was not allowed to inspect the Ar Ramadi water delivery systems until more than a month after I arrived at the base... After a month, I was finally allowed to work with the ROWPU unit.
I had been told by the usual ROWPU lead that the water was chlorinated, and knew that such an organism could not survive in chlorinated water. I decided at that point to test the water in the employee’s bathroom for chlorination. The test results indicated zero presence of chlorine. I then tested at several other locations in the KBR section of the base, and discovered no chlorine at those sites either. I then tested the nonpotable water storage tank and, to my shock, realized that the water in the tank tested negative for chlorine; that the access lid of the tank was not in place, let alone secure; and that the air vents to the tank were turned upward and left unscreened, leaving the water supply vulnerable to contamination from dust, insects, rodents, or even enemy attack. I was stunned. No trained water treatment specialist could claim that the water was fit for human use.
When KBR site management learned that I was preparing a report, they insisted on approving its contents before I sent it to Mo. I did, and they offered comments questioning my conclusions. I have brought a copy of that e-mail exchange [pdf] with me today.
I accepted a position with Halliburton with the belief that my particular skills would be of service to the troops in Iraq. But when I tried to notify the troops that they may be exposed to a serious health risk, I was told that the military was none of my concern, and to keep my mouth shut. I don’t know how bad the problem might be — how many troops may have been exposed to untreated water, and how many might have gotten sick as a result. I can’t know, because Halliburton apparently has no records and refuses to acknowledge there might be a problem. I do know that I have been diagnosed with an unidentified organism in my digestive tract, and that I sometimes suffer from gastrointestinal problems that I did not experience before going to Iraq.

Let me conclude by saying that I’m here today because I believe that supporting the troops has to be more than a slogan. Our men and women overseas deserve the best our taxpayer dollars can buy, and it saddens me to report that we’re falling short on something as simple and essential as providing them with clean, safe water.
The Sludge Report - Halliburton moves to Dubai:

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Sunday, March 9, 2008


Then at last the wolves began to devour one another
They ripped into the other’s flesh relentlessly
They said nothing of their brotherhood
Nothing of humanity
They said nothing
Just engraved flesh to bone

And to their loved ones
It was told they had become ill
Or a roadside trap had sunk their haunches
A martyr for the cause
Blossoms of more beautiful death moving over their shoulders
And to the country wolves
The safe
The listless
The counterfeit freedom lovers
To them it all seemed
A natural progression of the ferocious world
Enviously seeking their freedoms
Their riches, their dreams

Soon the blossoms wilted
And a rancid stench drifted over the Sunday service
Until their worship turned outward
And pounced upon its host

© 2007 mrp/thepoetryman

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Retro Garlic - What Waters?

"And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?" Rains asks Bogart.

"My health," Bogart answers. "I came to Casablanca for the waters."

"What waters?" asks Rains. "We're in the desert."

"I was misinformed."

The movie, Casablanca (1942)

Well, flash forward over 60+ years and a lot of soldiers, and the U.S. Military was "misinformed" about the water they were provided with in Iraq - thanks to our Vice President's former company, Halliburton, via their offshoot, KBR.

This, today from the International Herald Tribune;

AP Exclusive: US troops may have become sick in Iraq from contaminated water

Some choice gems;
"Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog says.

The Defense Department's inspector general's report, which could be released as early as Monday, found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations."

Apparently, it wasn't enough for the Bush Grindhouseto hand out no-bid contracts, they had to release these greedheads from basic quality standards as well.

The Retro Part, from The Garlic Tuesday, 15 August, 2006

Breaking News! Report Slams Seeds Of Democracy Currently Used “Worthless”; Stunning IG Reports Cites Use Of Cheap, Mail-Order Seeds Of Democracy For Iraq, Middle East; Spotlight On White House, Rumsfeld For Low-Cost Military Vision; Dirty Halliburton Water Also Cited

God, we can't be done with these thugs soon enough

Bonus Riffs

FILM; You Must Remember This . . .

Breaking News! Analyst: President May Soon Need To Deny He Has Troops In Iraq; White House Plunges Into New Iraq Strategy; Moving From ‘Keystone Cops’ To ‘Marx Brothers’; Denials Of “Stay The Course” Signal Major Shift; Possible Complete Erasing Of Iraq May Come In Time For MidTerms

Breaking News! With DisneyBaghdad, Bush Says “Nobody Wins Hearts and Minds Better Than Disney; Disney, With Secret Contract, Working With White House, Military On Building Baghdad Moats; ‘Pirates of the Caliphate’, Other Attractions To Mask Security Measures; State Dept. Touts “DisneyBaghdad Will Pay For Itself”

Top Ten Cloves: Difficulties DC Comics' Batman May Have Fighting Osama bin Laden

Developing Story - Polar Bears Added To Iraq Options; Bush Administration Wavering On Polar Bears; Considering Employing In Iraq, War Against Terror; Rove Claims He Also Has “The Science”, Says Bears “Will Do Fine In Desert Heat”

This Just In! White House Applying Katrina Strategy To Med Center Neglect; To Gauge Neglect, Problems, President Set To Fly Over Walter Reed, Bldg. 18 Today; Bush Promising Action, "To Press Face Against Window"; Recommends DOD Follow Katrina Strategy

Flutie Sends "Cease-and-Desist" Letter To Media Over 'Hail Mary' References Regarding Surge; Diminutive QB Longtime Copyright Holder; "It Still Feeds My Family"; Says Open To Negotiate On Usage

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Dirty War, Dirty Water

Associated Press reports:

Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using "unmonitored and potentially unsafe" water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, the Pentagon's internal watchdog says.

... and they weren't even drinking it! The AP continues:

A report obtained by The Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

According to Wikipedia, "Cellulitis is an inflammation of the connective tissue underlying the skin, that can be caused by a bacterial infection."

The article closes with,

KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton Co., the oil services conglomerate that Cheney once led.

Note, the Cheney connection is made twice in this article. That wouldn't have happened earlier in the Bush administration, which says something about our fair and balanced corporatized media system.

Another war profiteer story for the growing file.


Associated Press, Water makes US soldiers in Iraq sick, March 9, 2008.

This entry first appeared on GDAEman Blog

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