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Threat of Violence Looms Again Over Fallujah

By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service

FALLUJAH — The threat of violence hangs over Fallujah again as leaders of the Awakening Council fight for political power through the elections Jan. 31.

The Awakening Councils were set up and backed by the U.S. military to curb spiralling violence. According to the U.S. military, most of the members recruited were former resistance fighters. Over recent years, they grew to a strength of about 100,000 men, each paid 300 dollars a month.

U.S. aid to the Councils was cut off in October on the understanding that the members would be absorbed into Iraqi government forces. To date, less than a third have been given government jobs.

Iraq unveils statue dedicated to man who threw shoe at President Bush

By DAVE GOLDINER, Daily News

A statue dedicated to the man who threw his shoes at President Bush has been erected in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

Many Iraqis considered it poetic justice when a journalist tossed his shoes at President George W. Bush last month.

Now the bizarre attack has spawned a real life work of art.

A sofa-sized statue of the shoe was unveiled Thursday in Tikrit, the hometown of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad-based artist Laith al-Amari described the fiberglass-and-copper work as a tribute to the pride of the Iraqi people.

The statue is inscribed with a poem honoring Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who stunned the world when he whipped off his loafers and hurled them at Bush during a press conference on Dec. 14.

Iraq to Deny New License To Blackwater Mercenary Firm

U.S. Embassy's Preferred Contractor Accused of Killings
By Ernesto Londoño and Qais Mizher, Washington Post

MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 28 -- The Iraqi government has informed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that it will not issue a new operating license to Blackwater Worldwide, the embassy's primary security company, which has come under scrutiny for allegedly using excessive force while protecting American diplomats, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Iraq's Interior Ministry conveyed its decision to U.S. officials in Baghdad on Friday, in one of the boldest moves the government has made since the Jan. 1 implementation of a security agreement with the United States that sharply curbed American power in Iraq.

Tentative Hope Rises Ahead of Elections

By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service

BAGHDAD — Uncertainty and tension are running high in Baghdad ahead of the provincial election due Jan. 31. But this time fears are also touched by a new hope.

“Iraq is transitioning into something more stable,” former Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi told IPS. “The U.S. is pulling out soon because of the new administration, so Iraqis need to take matters into their own hands,” said Allawi, speaking at the headquarters of the Iraqi National Accord party in Baghdad.

Allawi, who was said to have provided “intelligence” about alleged weapons of mass destruction to the British MI6, is a former exile, and a controversial figure disliked by many in Iraq. Nevertheless, he speaks for many of the leading political figures running in the upcoming elections.

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 70,710

US Iraq casualties rise to 70,710
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

In the first reporting period on Obama's watch, US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered 20 combat casualties in the five days ending Jan. 27, 2009 as the official total rose to at least 70,710. The total includes 34,410 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,300 dead and medically evacuated (as of Jan 3, 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 traumatic brain injury (TBI) from explosions diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**

War? What War?

By Carissa Picard

I am beginning to wonder if the American public thinks former President Bush went ahead and brought home all 140,000 troops from Iraq as an inaugural gift for President Obama (you know, so Obama wouldn't have to trouble himself with it) or if they simply forgot we were still there. Then again, considering the precipitous drop in media coverage of the war in Iraq (the war in Afghanistan was always under-covered in my opinion), who knows what most Americans think is going on in Iraq now.

New Downing Street Minutes Coming Soon

Iraq minutes 'must be released'
By BBC

Ministers have been ordered to release minutes of the cabinet meetings which discussed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Information Tribunal upheld a decision that details of the March 13 and 17 sessions should be disclosed.

The sessions covered whether invasion was allowed under international law. Ministers failed to block the Freedom of Information bid to release minutes.

Downing Street said it was considering its response. The Lib Dems and Tories repeated calls for an Iraq war inquiry.

The Cabinet Office now has 28 days to decide whether to appeal to the High Court against the ruling.

Alternatively, the government could decide to veto the request under Section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act within 20 working days of the tribunal's ruling.

'Public interest'

Worse than an Earthquake: Peace Activist Kathy Kelly on the Destruction in Gaza

By www.democracynow.org

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama has dispatched George Mitchell on his first trip as Middle East envoy. Mitchell is set to begin in Egypt today, followed by Israel, the occupied West Bank, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Speaking at the White House, Obama said Mitchell will be charged with bringing about “genuine progress.”

Obama Wake-Up Call: Afghanistan is No Threat to US

By Dave Lindorff

American foreign policy is moving from the absurd to the ludicrous.

Back in 2002, President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney managed to snooker the people of the United States, or at least a large number of us, into believing that Iraq, a pathetic Third World country ruled by a corrupt tin-pot dictator, was a grave danger to America, akin to Hitler and Nazi Germany in 1940. We learned how absurd that claim was when two hundred thousand American troops backed by the mightiest air force the world has ever seen, slammed into the country in March, 2003, and the Iraqi military simply folded up, and the Saddam regime along with it.

President Obama: Meet Citizen Bob Who Answered Your Call!

by Linda Milazzo

President Barack Obama of the Capitol of Washington, it is my most sincere honor to introduce you to Citizen Bob Alexander of the State of Washington, who by the standards you have set to 'give our all' has valiantly answered your call. In fact, Citizen Bob answered that call long before you were President. He seized his responsibilities gladly, not grudgingly, just as you asked at your inauguration. And now President Obama, Citizen Bob and millions more, would like you to hear THEIR call.

Before I tell you more about Citizen Bob, allow me to remind you of a few of the inspirational words you delivered at your inauguration. Here they are in a 31 second clip:

The Way Forward on Holding the Bush/Cheney Administration Accountable for its Crimes

By Dave Lindorff

As someone who has spent nearly three frustrating years actively advocating the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their many crimes and abuses of power, I have to admit that not only did it not happen, but that the likelihood of their being indicted and brought to trial now that they have left office is exceedingly slim.

MILITARY FAMILIES WATCH INAUGURATION WITH CAUTIOUS HOPE, CALL ON NEW PRESIDENT TO END WAR

Washington, DC – On the morning of the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States , members of Military Families Speak Out are expressing hope that a new President might finally take the actions needed to bring the war in Iraq to an end. But families also have deep concerns about the incoming administration's stated intention of continuing that occupation by leaving tens of thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely.

Larry and Judy Syverson, members of Military Families Speak Out from Richmond, VA will be attending the inauguration. Judy Syverson said:

Iraqi Shoe Thrower to Seek Swiss Asylum

Iraqi shoe thrower to seek Swiss asylum
By Frank Jordans | Detroit News

A Swiss lawyer working on behalf of the Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday his client will seek political asylum in Switzerland.

Geneva-based lawyer Mauro Poggia said Muntadhar al-Zeidi's life is in danger if he stays in Iraq.

Iraqi shoe-hurling journalist visits brother

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi journalist detained after throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush is in good shape and was allowed to meet with his brother on Friday, although he has been denied access to his lawyer, his family said.

The Iraqi journalist detained after throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush is in good shape and was allowed to meet with his brother on Friday, although he has been denied access to his lawyer, his family said.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who gained widespread support in Iraq and other Muslim countries when he hurled both his shoes at Bush during a news conference, met with his brother Maitham for two hours in his cell at a detention center in the Green Zone.

Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush's joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The case's investigating judge has said the journalist was struck about the face and eyes, apparently by security agents who helped wrestle him to the ground.

Obama and Congress Must Act to Restore the Constitution

By Dave Lindorff

The calls for a reckoning for the criminals of the Bush/Cheney administration are growing by the day, as the final few days of the Bush presidency tick down, and as new evidence of their crimes keep pouring out of the deflating gas bag that was the Bush White House.

For years, the Democrats in Congress, with a few notable exceptions, have sat on their hands, allowing the ongoing destruction of the Constitution, of the US military, of the nation’s reputation, and of the rule of law, as well as of the institution of Congress itself, by a cabal of Republicans in the White House, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, who have sought to establish an executive-led government that answered only to itself.

Rep. Barbara Lee Introduces Resolution to Block Bush's 3-Years-of-War Treaty

By David Swanson

Congresswoman Barbara Lee has just reintroduced a resolution opposing the treaty Bush made with his puppet government in Iraq to supposedly legitimize three more years of war. The treaty calls itself an "Agreement on Withdrawal," which is misleading enough, but commentators tend misleadingly to refer to it as a "security agreement" or a "status of forces agreement." The treaty makes war for three years, and its illegitimacy means that the occupation of Iraq is illegal.

The treaty has good elements in it, but top U.S. generals have already declared that they will violate those elements, including the requirement to leave towns and cities by the end of June 2009 and the requirement to leave the nation of Iraq entirely by the end of 2011.

Michele Flournoy Backs Off Residual Force In Iraq

By Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) asked Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy-designate, if she still supports a proposal she published for the Center for a New American Security in mid-2007 that would leave 60,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Flournoy’s answer: No.

California Democratic PartyUrges Return of National Guard from Iraq

By Michael Jay

Lawmakers should note that the California Democratic Party -- the largest state Democratic party -- has passed my resolution urging the return from Iraq of the state's National Guard "at the earliest possible time." See complete resolution, below.

Citizens, meanwhile, should note how much the Party would unilaterally change delegates' resolutions, often without the author's knowledge or agreement (Because of my complaints, regarding several of my resolutions, this practice is now supposed to be curbed.) Read the CDP's final resolution, below, followed by my original version.

(The suggestion for a resolution to bring home California's Guard initially came from Susie Shannon; the final resolution includes good language from Marcy Winograd.)

Cheney Says Deaths in Iraq Worth It

PBS's Jim Lehrer just pretended that 1.2 million dead in Iraq are actually 100,000 and asked Cheney if it had been worth killing them, and Cheney said yes. ThinkProgress has the story.

Canada Orders US Woman War Resister (and new Mother) Deported

By Ann Wright

The Canadian government has ordered the deportation of Kimberly Rivera, the first U.S. woman Iraq war veteran resister to go to Canada, and four other U.S. war resisters. Rivera, her husband and three children, including a newborn daughter only six weeks old, must depart Canada by January 27 or be deported. Rivera now lives in Toronto with her husband Mario, son Christian (6 years), daughter Rebecca (4 years), and newborn Canadian daughter Katie (6 weeks).

Rivera served in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2006, but refused a second tour in Iraq in 2007 and instead took her family to Canada. Her first tour in Iraq convinced Rivera that the war was immoral and that she could not participate in it.

Only Rats Get Fat as Misdirected Bailout and Stimulus Funds go Down the Rat Hole

By Dave Lindorff

Congress should do now what it should have done back in the fall: kill the Wall Street bailout program.

After wasting $350 billion on a program that was misrepresented from the outset, and investing hundreds of billions of dollars in failing financial institutions that it could have bought outright for less than it was investing in them (AIG was worth only a few billion dollars in total at the time that the government bailed the company out with an initial investment of $85 billion and Citicorp today is worth less than the $45 billion the government has invested in that failing firm), the Treasury Department, now acting at the direction not of the Bush administration and outgoing Treasurer Hank Paulson, but the Obama administration, is asking for the other half of the Troubled Assets Relief Fund (TARP).

More on Goldsmith's Death-Bed (for Iraqis) Conversion

New admission over legal advice on Iraq invasion
Government fails to provide proof that the former attorney general was not pressured to change his initial opinion that 2003 invasion could be illegal

Fresh questions over the legality of the Iraq war were raised today after the government admitted it could not substantiate its claim that Lord Goldsmith had changed his mind over the legal basis for the invasion before a highly controversial meeting with two of Tony Blair's closest allies. The Guardian has the story. HT to Digby.

Oxford to Debate: "Bush Has Made the World Safer"

From Ray McGovern:

By some quirk of fate, I've been asked to speak at Oxford Union debate on Jan. 22. The proposed motion is:

'THIS HOUSE BELIEVES GEORGE W. BUSH HAS MADE THE WORLD A SAFER PLACE'

A tough one. Any ideas? (Just kidding)

I am being "hosted in opposition."

Have just learned that Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, and recipient (in 2005) of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, will also take part—I trust also "hosted in opposition."

Iraq Unveils Plan for Middle East Partnership

By Meredith Buel, Iraq Updates

The Iraqi government has unveiled plans for a new regional economic and security partnership it says will help stabilize the Middle East.

In a presentation at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington Iraq's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh says the significant reduction of violence in his country is opening an opportunity for an unprecedented level of regional cooperation.

"The level of threat has been reduced," said Ali al-Dabbagh. "I could say that there is a threat there in Iraq, but that level which everybody worried that Iraq might slip down to a civil war is no more. So I think that the Iraqi government's thinking that the formula of Iraq and its neighbors should be modified in a better way."

Amid 300 Feet of Red Carpet, U.S. Unveils Biggest, Most Expensive Embassy Ever

By Tom A. Peter, Christian Science Monitor

Just inside the gateway of the new United States Embassy in Baghdad, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel acted as the diplomatic equivalent of a Wal-Mart greeter, welcoming guests Monday afternoon to the dedication ceremony for the largest -- and most expensive -- American mission in the world.

But even if visitors missed the significance of such a high-ranking doorman, more than 300 feet of red carpet and several hundred Iraqi, American, and other international guests hammered home just how significant this ribbon-cutting ceremony is to the long-term American vision for Iraq.

The $592 million, 104-acre compound that will house at least 1,200 U.S. government employees from 14 federal agencies is brick-and-mortar proof of the value American politicians place on their relationship with this Middle Eastern nation still in the throes of war.

Get Off Your Sofa, the SOFA Was a Scam

US Says Iraqis May Still Be Held Without Charge
By Peter Graff and Ahmed Rasheed, Reuters

BAGHDAD - Some prisoners held indefinitely without charge by U.S. forces in Iraq may not be freed or given trials, even though U.S. forces lost the authority to hold them at the beginning of this year, a U.S. military spokesman said.

Iraqi legal experts said the plans -- which would apply to prisoners U.S. forces believe are dangerous or of intelligence value but have not been charged with a crime -- might violate Iraqi law by placing detainees beyond the reach of the courts.

U.S. forces are holding 15,000 prisoners, most of whom have been detained without charge under the authority of a U.N. Security Council resolution which expired on December 31.

Under the terms of a bilateral pact which took effect on January 1, Washington agreed that all its prisoners would either be transferred to Iraqi custody under arrest warrants from Iraqi judges, or freed "in a safe and orderly manner."

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