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By Jeffrey Klein and Paolo Pontoniere, AlterNet
Evidence suggests a payoff to Italy for supplying the forged documents Bush famously used to justify launching the Iraq war.
"Obama Confronts a Choice on Copters" read this week's New York Times. The President soon "will have to decide whether to proceed with some of the priciest aircraft in the world -- a new fleet of 28 Marine One helicopters that will each cost more than the last Air Force One....The choice confronting Mr. Obama encapsulates the tension between two imperatives of his nascent presidency, the need to meet the continuing threats of an age of terrorism and the demand for austerity in a period of economic hardship."
By Bill Christofferson
This is not exactly a man-bites-dog story, but at least three members of Congress have expressed their support for a campaign to contact members of Congress and urge them to end the occupation of Iraq.
And a fourth has joined protesters at their regular vigil.
Representatives Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and George Miller -- all California Democrats -- have written the Raise Hell for Molly Ivins campaign to encourage it to continue raising hell. Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, joined a vigil in Wyandotte, MI. (He's at left in photo)
The Ivins campaign has been urging people to use the Third Friday of every month -- Iraq Moratorium day -- to contact Congresspeople in their home offices and ask them to get US troops out of Iraq. Friday, Feb. 20, is Iraq Moratorium #18.
By Col. Richard L. Klass (USAF, ret.), Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, ret.) and Brig. Gen. John Johns (USA, ret.)
Barack Obama campaigned on a policy of ending U.S. military involvement in Iraq. There is speculation today about how President Obama’s campaign stance will be transformed into actual policy now that he sits in the Oval Office. Based on recent press reports, there is reason to suspect that there may be an effort underway to revise or soften President Obama’s 16-month timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces.
This paper outlines how the President can responsibly execute his policy of removing U.S. combat forces from Iraq within 16 months. It proposes a workable U.S. redeployment schedule that would result in 100,000 total U.S. troops remaining in Iraq by the end of 2009; 35,000 to 65,000 support troops remaining in Iraq by July 2010, when the President’s 16-month timetable would end if it is initiated in April 2009; and less than 1,000 troops remaining by December 2011, when the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement (commonly known as the status of forces agreement or “SOFA”) mandates that all U.S. forces be out of Iraq.
By Ernesto Londoño and Zaid Sabah, The Washington Post
Baghdad - Wearing leather shoes, a pressed beige suit and a scarf emblazoned with the Iraq flag, the Iraqi journalist who became a folk hero in the Arab world by slinging shoes at President George W. Bush defended his conduct on Thursday in court.
"I did not mean to kill the leader of the occupation forces," Muntadar al-Zaidi said, speaking clearly and forcefully from a wooden cage before a packed courtroom. "I was expressing what's inside of me and what's inside the Iraqi people from north to south and from west to east."
Throwing his shoes, fastball style, at the leader of the free world was not, Zaidi argued, a crime.
By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service
BAGHDAD — “We only want a normal life,” says Um Qasim, sitting in a bombed out building in Baghdad. She and others around have been saying that for years.
Um Qasim lives with 13 family members in a brick shanty on the edge of a former military intelligence building in the Mansoor district of Baghdad.
Five of her children are girls. Homelessness is not easy for anyone, but it is particularly challenging for women and girls.
“Me and my girls have to be extra careful living this way,” Um Qasim told IPS. “We are tired of always being afraid, because any day, any time, strange men walk through our area, and there is no protection for us. Each day brings a new threat to us, and all the women here.”
She rarely leaves her area, she says. Nor do her girls, for fear of being kidnapped or raped.
By Gareth Porter, IPS
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (IPS) - CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus and Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) Commander General Ray Odierno have submitted assessments of Iraq combat troop withdrawal plans to President Barack Obama based on the premise that his 16-month withdrawal plan would pose significantly greater risk to "security gains" than the 23-month plan they favour.
But a senior commander in Iraq appeared to contradict that premise last week by declaring that security gains in the Shi'a provinces of Iraq are "permanent", and a field commander in Iraq says there is no objective basis for any Petraeus-Odierno finding that Obama's plan carries greater risk than their 23-month plan.
Senior US soldiers investigated over missing Iraq reconstruction billions
By Patrick Cockburn in Sulaimaniyah, Northern Iraq, The Independent
In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme.
"I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad," said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.
I've only read a fraction of the books written on the war/occupation of Iraq, and even those are a large pile. It's tough to choose the best one, but one of the most readable and informative has got to be "Red Zone: Five Bloody Years in Baghdad," by Oliver Poole. This is also perhaps the book most likely to engage war supporters and make them think without being didactic and without pulling any punches.
Album: Fallujah, 2009 (Views from inside Fallujah, February 2009.)
Album: Over 1 Million Displaced Persons In Baghdad (As of February 2009, there are over one million displaced people in Baghdad alone.)
Album: Various Photographs of the Occupation (2009) (Various pictures from the occupation in Iraq, February 2009)
Album: Fishermen on the Tigris River (Due to decreased water level, increased pollution, and a disastrous economy, Iraqi fishermen are struggling to survive.)
Album: Awakening Group leaders of Iraq’s Al-Anbar Province (Photos of two key leaders of the U.S.-backed Sunni militia)
There is less water now in the Tigris, and it is less clean. The river has fewer fish, and rising fuel and other costs mean they are more costly to catch. It's not, as Hamza Majit finds, a good time to be a fisher.
“It’s getting worse everyday,” Majit told IPS on board his fishing boat.
“You see the low water level,” Majit said, touching the bottom of the river, just two metres down, with a wooden pole. “We need higher water to hold our nets up. And this is the deepest point in the Tigris in this area. With the water this low, it makes it difficult to catch any fish.”
By Russ Baker, Author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, The Powerful Forces That Put it in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America
George W. Bush has left office and pundits are reviewing “the Bush legacy” -- a legacy sure to be defined by the disastrous Iraq war (with financial meltdown as icing on the cake). In the new book Family of Secrets, a probing history of the Bush dynasty, investigative journalist Russ Baker, shows that George W. Bush was hatching ideas for war on Iraq not only before 9/11, but even before he was elected president.
Already it's begun -- the endless non-departure from Iraq. The Obama plan, restated many times during the presidential campaign, involved a 16-month schedule for withdrawing not all U.S. forces, but only U.S. "combat troops." Now, his (and, of course, George W. Bush's) generals are showing visible evidence of dragging their combat boots in the sand on the subject. We were given fair warning. Over the last two years, numerous military figures have claimed that, as fast as they got into Iraq, it would be hell just getting all the U.S. stuff now embedded there out -- and that's without even taking into account the political situation in that country. Recently, according to military leaks to the media, "U.S. military planners" have come up with two alternate scenarios to Obama's 16-month plan. One is reportedly 19 months long, the other 23 months long, and -- here's a shock -- the two top generals in charge, Centcom commander David Petraeus and U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, favor the 23-month approach.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a review Tuesday of a Pentagon policy banning media from taking pictures of flag-draped coffins of military dead, signaling he was open to overturning the policy to better honor fallen soldiers.
At least two Democratic senators have called on President Barack Obama to let news photographers attend ceremonies at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and other military facilities when military remains are returned to the United States. Obama told reporters Monday he was reviewing the ban.
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-In-Chief Obama suffered 27 combat casualties in the week ending Feb 10, 2009, as the official total rose to jumped sharply to at least 71,119 with monthly "non hostile" casualties posted.
The total includes 34,443 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,676 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 31, 2009) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions (TBI) and PTSD diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
Tomorrow, February 12, the House Armed Services Committee is convening a hearing on 'U.S. Strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan: Balancing Interests and Resources'.
This is a large committee with 60 Representatives from many states around the country. United For Peace and Justice urges you to take a few minutes to help us put pressure on the House Armed Services Committee to use this hearing to raise the hard question, and put on the table the most critical issues about these two wars!
Here are the steps you need to take:
1) Click here for the full list of the members of the House Armed Services Committee.
2) Check that list to see if your Representative serves on the committee. If you find that person's name, click on that and it will take you to their website. From there, you will find the best phone number to use.
The elites who pull the strings behind the curtain must have cringed every time George Dubya opened his mouth. The poor dummy couldn't help blurting out aspects of the actual agenda. "My job is to catapult the propaganda," he said. And, telling a citizen who criticized his policies: "Why should I care what you think?" And his thrice-stated "joking" remark: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just as long as I'm the dictator."
It's like watching someone being sucked down into quicksand. I'm referring to the sad, desperate struggle of the Republican Party to try to resurrect its electoral fortunes by championing the exact same policies that took them to embarrassing defeat in the Obama/Democratic landslide. By their actions, it's plain they got nuthin'.
Nothin' except to flail about in self-destructive obstructionism, basically in temper-tantrum mode. If we can't be victorious, they seem to be telling the Democrats (and, by extension, the country), we'll make sure you go down with us. This kind of schoolboy behavior is rolled out at a time in American history when the country's financial and governmental institutions are close to free-fall catastrophe unless some drastic corrective action is taken.
Now that their nemesis, George W. Bush, has left office, the mainstream media can be unbridled in their optimism about the future of Iraq. After 9/11, they chose to allow themselves to be duped by the Bush administration’s fairly lame reasons for the clearly unrelated U.S. invasion of Iraq and have been bitter about the quagmire ever since.
Given that Barack Obama, whom most media covered favorably during the election campaign, has taken office, their coverage of the recent Iraqi provincial elections indicates that they have flipped and now see a glass half full in Iraq rather than a glass half empty. They have touted the Iraqi elections as a wild success, with purple-thumbed Iraqi citizens depicted as supporting a centralized Iraqi state over autonomy for Iraq’s regions.
Not so fast.
Excuse Me, Mr. President
By Molly Gibbs
The Iraq Memorial to Life (IMtL) is born because your organization—and so many other organizations like yours—have been working hard for peace.
A powerful visual image of gravestones, on the National Mall in DC, will move Americans to end senseless death.
Thousands of memorial markers, carefully arranged, will bring home the full extent of Iraqi deaths to the American public and its legislators. The grieving that has long been a daily part of Iraqi life will be memorialized by small volunteer groups, and spread outward, community by community, as we prepare for the April display on the National Mall in DC. Reactions to both regional and national displays will bring attention to the human suffering caused by the Iraq war.
By Dave Lindorff
The similar calls by Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Judiciary Chair Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the crimes of the Bush/Cheney administration are potentially a terrible idea, but one that could turn out to be an excellent one, if handled correctly.
It would be a terrible idea if a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was just another 9-11-type body. That commission turned out to be worse than nothing, given that it was manipulated by the Bush administration to be toothless and that it ended up covering up more than it uncovered. Aside from the behind the scenes manipulation, the biggest problem with the 9-11 commission, though, was that is was not linked to any attempt to prosecute official wrong-doing.
Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story On Pullout Plans
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (IPS) - The political maneuvering between President Barack Obama and his top field commanders over withdrawal from Iraq has taken a sudden new turn with the leak by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus - and a firm denial by a White House official - of an account of the Jan. 21 White House meeting suggesting that Obama had requested three different combat troop withdrawal plans with their respective associated risks, including one of 23 months.
The Petraeus account, reported by McClatchy newspapers Feb. 5 and then by the Associated Press the following day, appears to indicate that Obama is moving away from the 16-month plan he had vowed during the campaign to implement if elected. But on closer examination, it doesn't necessarily refer to any action by Obama or to anything that happened at the Jan. 21 meeting.
Pressing for a rapid and complete end of the occupation of Iraq remains at the heart of the antiwar
movement's agenda. What Washington does in Iraq will be pivotal in determining whether this
country moves toward an era of peaceful, cooperative engagement with the rest of the world or
stays mired in bloody, fruitless and never-ending wars.
In the context of this new administration, all eyes are focused on the future. But to move decisively
into a new era, we cannot forget:
**For the last six years Bush's propaganda machine has repeatedly termed its Iraq adventure the
"central front" in the fight against terrorism. Yet five years after "Mission Accomplished" U.S.
intelligence agencies agree that every day the occupation continues the threat of terrorism
worldwide increases rather than decreases.
**The invasion and then occupation of Iraq has been - and remains - a human, political and
An untold number have lost their husbands or other male relatives to violence or detention since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, often leaving them alone with children and virtually no safety net or job opportunities....Al-Samarraie warned of the desperate Iraqi women who have become suicide bombers. "Many of them are widows, or homeless or hopeless," she said. "No one opened the door for them."
Iraq's state minister for women's affairs has quit to protest a lack of resources for a daunting task — improving the lives of "a full army of widows" and other women left poor or abandoned by war.
Trial date set for Iraqi 'shoe-thrower'
By Steven Lee Myers, International Herald Tribune
BAGHDAD: The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at the former American president, George Bush, will go on trial on Feb. 19, charged with assaulting a foreign leader, a spokesman for the court and one of the man's lawyer said on Sunday.
Lawyers for the journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, 29, had tried to reduce the charges stemming from the incident, which made him a folk hero in much of the Arab world and beyond, but in setting a trial date a higher court let the most serious charges stand. If convicted, he could face as many as 15 years in prison.
Zaidi hurled his shoes at Bush on Dec. 14 during a joint press conference with Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, narrowly missing the former president. "This is a gift from the Iraqis," he shouted. "This is the farewell kiss, you dog!"
By Dave Lindorff
If the disaster of the so-called "stimulus" bill just passed by the Senate doesn't convince President Obama and his advisers that the strategy of "bipartisanship" that he has been espousing is a political suicide, nothing will.
The Republican Party, with the willing help of conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Democratic turncoats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has forced Obama to agree to a joke of a stimulus package that is nearly half composed of tax breaks which will do nothing to bolster the economy (since most of the money will end up either paying down credit card debt or buying Chinese and Sri Lankan imports) and that is stripped of $40 billion to help struggling state and local governments.
Fresh from its rout in November, the GOP is, in fact, openly trying to sabotage Obama's economic stimulus plan, because the last thing Republicans want to see is an economy on the upturn in 2010 or 2012.
By ROBERT BURNS, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is considering at least two troop withdrawal options as it weighs a new Iraq strategy — one that would preserve President Barack Obama's campaign pledge to get all combat brigades out within 16 months and a second that would stretch it to 23 months, two officials said Friday.
A third, in-between option of 19 months is also being weighed, according to the officials, neither of whom would discuss the sensitive topic without being granted anonymity. One of the officials said the main focus appears to be on the 16-month and 23-month options; 23 months would run to the end of 2010.
By Peggy Gish, CPTnet
The mood was one of celebration. Iraqis in the northern Diyala province city of Khanaqin crowded into polling centers on provincial election day, 31 January 2009. Many dressed in their best Kurdish or Arab traditional clothing or wrapped in flags. "We are happy to express our democracy," several told us after voting, showing their purple tipped fingers.
As international independent election observers, CPT Iraq team members visited three polling sites. At each place, voting procedures seemed efficient, and workers seemed helpful and fair. We saw no threatening behavior on the part of Khanaqin police who guarded the sites and searched people going in. But not everyone walked out happy or with purple fingers.
By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service
BAGHDAD — Amidst the soaring unemployment in Iraq, the gravediggers have been busy. So busy that officials have no record of the number of graves dug; of the real death toll, that is.
“I’ve been working here four years,” a gravedigger who gave his name as Ali told IPS at the largest cemetery in Baghdad, a sprawling expanse in the Abu Ghraib section of the capital city. “In 2006 and some of 2007, we buried 40- 50 people daily. This went on for one-and-a-half years.
“Twenty-five percent of these were from violence, and another 70 percent were killed by the Mehdi Army (the militia of Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr).” Only a few appeared to have died from natural causes.
“Most of the dead were never logged by anyone,” Ali said, “because we didn’t check death certificates, we just tried to get the bodies into the ground as quickly as possible.”
An Iraqi Army checkpoint was set up outside the vast cemetery a year ago.
From Dale Pierce
This is a poem my son wrote after returning from Iraq, before he shot himself for what Bush had him do in Iraq.
Got home almost a year and a half ago
We were so happy
That beer never tasted so good
Iraq was the farthest thing from my mind
That was the best week of my life.It crept up slowly
First just while sleeping
More real and scary than when it happened
After, it's on the mind awake
Never 10 minutes goes by without being reminded
Been home a year and a half physically
Mentally, I will never be home.
- "Still at War" by Noah Pierce, poem inside his funeral folder
PS. Go get him!
MORE POEMS: PDF.