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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."

Speaking of Blanket Pardons

By David Swanson

There's a blanket pardon I want President Bush to issue and one I want him not to. Both would involve preemptively pardoning people before they're charged with any crime, much less convicted, and doing so without naming them. One would be decent, just, and Constitutional; the other would be none of those things. One would please people around the country and the world. The other would please the Washington establishment. Bush may very well issue neither of them, but to logically make any sense, without denying important facts, he would have to issue one or the other.

Feds intend to charge Seattle man for Iraq death

Federal prosecutors intend to charge a former contractor with Blackwater USA in the killing of an Iraqi security guard in 2006, his lawyer said Tuesday.

By GENE JOHNSON, AP

Federal prosecutors intend to charge a former contractor with Blackwater USA in the killing of an Iraqi security guard in 2006, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Attorney Stewart Riley said he received a letter from prosecutors outlining their intent to charge his client, Andrew Moonen, 28, of Seattle. Riley declined to discuss the letter any further or say if it revealed what charge the U.S. attorney's office is contemplating, but he said he has neither received nor made any plea offer on behalf of his client.

Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle, declined to comment Tuesday.

How You Can Help Create the Iraq Memorial to Life

From Molly Gibbs

The Iraq Memorial to Life (IMtL) is being 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 powerfully 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 in your town, and spread outward, community by community, as the display moves across the country. Reactions to both regional and national displays will bring attention to the human suffering caused by the Iraq war.

Tomgram: Body Count Nation

Tomgram: Body Count Nation
The Ponzi Scheme Presidency
Bush's Legacy of Destruction
By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch.com

It wasn't, of course, that no one had been counting. The President, as we know from Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, had long been keeping "'his own personal scorecard for the [global] war [on terror]' in the form of photographs with brief biographies and personality sketches of those judged to be the world's most dangerous terrorists -- each ready to be crossed out by the President as his forces took them down." And the military had been counting bodies as well, but as the possibility of victory disappeared into the charnel houses of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon and the president finally gave in. While this did not stoke an antiwar movement, it represented a tacit admission of policy collapse, a kind of surrender. It was as close as an administration which never owned up to error could come to admitting that two more disastrous wars had been added to a string of military failures in the truncated American Century.

Iraq unions call for international labor conference

By Ron Moore, DC Special Interests Examiner

Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act can take solace in the fact that the U.S. liberation of the Iraqi people did not include the freedom to organize. Since 2003, dozens of union activists trying to build a new labor movement for Iraq have been kidnapped and killed. The most infamous instance was the brutal murder of union leader Hadi Saleh, gunned down in Baghdad in January 2005. He had just returned with other Iraqi labor leaders from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Congress in Miyazaki, Japan, the first time Iraqi unions had ever participated in this gathering of the world’s trade unions. These assassinations and kidnappings are ongoing. No Iraqi labor federation is immune, and no Iraqi workplace is safe.

Now the General Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq is planning to hold an International Labor Conference in Iraq February 13-14, 2009.READ THE REST.

Iraq Opens Nearly 90 Pct of Its Oil Reserves

By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, AP

Iraq, the holder of the world's third-largest oil reserves, has opened nearly 90 percent of its reserves to international oil companies for development in two major bidding rounds this year as the war-plagued country tries to raise money amid falling oil prices.

Iraq, with at least 115 billion barrels in reserves, plans to add 4 million to 4.5 million barrels a day to its current 2.4 million barrels per day capacity over the next four to six years as it tries to rebuild its infrastructure and develop its economy.

On Wednesday, Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani kicked off the country's second postwar bidding round, naming 11 oil and gas fields or groups of fields as eligible for development proposals.

"We kicked off this round in response to the country's need to increase its crude production to increase its hard-currency income in light of sinking world oil prices," al-Shahristani told a news conference.

President-Elect Obama, You Must NOT Be Silent!

by Linda Milazzo

I don't believe in god. I never have. I don't believe in religions. I study them, but I don't practice them. I try to understand them to be sensitive to the beliefs and traditions of others, and to attempt to appreciate the motivations behind religious thought and deed. But they are irrelevant to living my life.

Long ago as a freshman at CUNY's Queens College I was introduced to Taoism. Taoism began in ancient China as a religion, then morphed into a dogma free/deity free philosophy. Since my late teens I've tried hard to apply MY understanding of my Tao to my life. I have the freedom to choose my own path and not judge the paths of others. But since I have freedom of opinion, I fall prey to judge. I try not to. But I do.

Through the Tao, I'm both a peacemaker and a warrior since Taoism couples with the art of self-defense. I understand my right to protect myself when needed, and to protect the defenseless when they need me. Since I'm by nature protective, it suits my sensibilities to aid the weak, where I fancy myself absurdly as inordinately strong.

U.S. Military Takes First Step to Quit Iraqi Cities

By REUTERS

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military took a step toward pulling combat troops from Iraqi cities on Saturday, moving out of a Baghdad base that Iraqi officials said would be dismantled and converted back into a shopping mall.

It was the first U.S. military base to be handed over to Iraq since U.S. forces came under Iraqi authority on January 1 in step with a new bilateral security pact.

The pact, which replaced a U.N. mandate, requires Iraqi authorization for U.S. military operations, gives U.S. forces until mid-2009 to pull combat troops out of Iraq's towns and cities, and until 2011 to withdraw completely.

Brigadier-General Robin Swan, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, said the handover of Forward Operating Base Callahan in northern Baghdad was "tremendously significant."

"By June 30th, combat formations are out of the cities. This was a major forward operating base, with 600 soldiers ... three short weeks ago," he told Reuters.

DECAYED

The Iraq War Is Now [Even More] Illegal

By Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway, The Daily Beast

The Bush administration's infatuation with presidential power has finally pushed the country over a constitutional precipice. As of New Year's Day, ongoing combat in Iraq is illegal under US law.

In authorizing an invasion in 2002, Congress did not give President Bush a blank check. It explicitly limited the use of force to two purposes: to “defend the national security of the US from the threat posed by Iraq” and “enforce all relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

As Clock Strikes 12, U.S. Hands Iraq Control of Green Zone

By Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post

BAGHDAD, Dec. 31 -- The walls of the majestic Republican Palace in Baghdad's Green Zone have been stripped bare. The vaults that secured American cash and classified documents are gone, and the cement blast walls that protected the front entrance were taken down this week. The U.S. military dining facility inside what was once the American Embassy served its last meal New Year's Eve.

"This is the end of the world as we know it," said Sgt. 1st Class Patrick McDonald, 47, who co-authored a guide to historic sites in the Green Zone. "It's not like everyone is shredding documents and fleeing Saigon. But we are stepping away from a building."

Culpability and the Bush Years

By Dennis Loo

Yesterday the NYT's Bob Herbert wrote an Op-Ed ("Add Up the Damage") about Bush in which he called for "a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country."

The column received, by my reckoning, an exceptional response in online comments, about twice the norm for Op-Eds that I have seen, and recommendations for Editor's Selections multiple times greater than the norm.

The most recommended, by 1463 readers, was the following:

Mr. Herbert,

You wrote:

The Bush administration specialized in deceit. How else could you get the public (and a feckless Congress) to go along with an invasion of Iraq as an absolutely essential response to the Sept. 11 attacks, when Iraq had had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks?

Iraqi shoe-thrower trial postponed

From Al Jazeera

Iraq's Central Criminal Court has delayed the trial of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George W Bush during a press conference in Baghdad.

A court spokesman said on Tuesday the postponement was agreed following an appeal by the journalist's lawyers.

The spokesman said a new trial date would be set in due course, pending a higher court ruling on the charges against the journalist.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, a 29-year-old reporter working for the Iraqi Al-Baghdadia television channel, gained international fame after hurling his footwear at Bush during his farewell visit to Iraq on December 14.

Grave insult

As well as throwing his shoes at the US leader - something that is considered to be a grave insult in the Arab world - al-Zaidi shouted: "It is the farewell kiss, you dog."

TV News Winds Down Operations on Iraq War

By Brian Stelter, New York Times

Quietly, as the United States presidential election and its aftermath have dominated the news, America's three broadcast network news divisions have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq.

"The war has gone on longer than a lot of news organizations' ability or appetite to cover it," said Jane Arraf, a former Baghdad bureau chief for CNN who has remained in Iraq as a contract reporter for The Christian Science Monitor.

Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces.

Except, of course, in Afghanistan, where about 30,000 Americans are stationed, and where until recently no American television network, broadcast or cable, maintained a full-time bureau.

Norfolk VA Vigil to Protest the Israeli Siege Tomorrow Downtown, 4:30 - 6:30 PM

There will be a vigil Tues. Dec. 30 from 4:30-6:30 pm to protest the Israeli Siege of Palestinians (over 350 Palestinians have been killed, over 1,000 wounded in 3 days) in Gaza. The local vigil will be at the corner of City Hall Ave and St. Paul's Blvd (where the usual peace vigil is organized by Catholic Workers) in downtown Norfolk.

PLEASE COME. During this season of the Moslem New Year, also Kwanzaa, Hannukah, Christmas, and the New Year Holiday, join us in solidarity for those who struggle this week. Please spread the word and COME!

If you have questions about directions or anything email me at choppe4@gmail.com .

US activists call for release, pardon of Iraq shoe-thrower

By AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US activists on Monday urged Baghdad to release the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush, insisting that his gesture was meant to insult, not harm the US leader.

"This was a form of insult... If he had wanted to hurt George Bush, he would have chosen a different weapon," Medea Benjamin of the Codepink peace activism group told AFP at a rally of about a dozen people outside the Iraqi consulate in Washington.

Zaidi, 29, threw his shoes at Bush during the US president's surprise visit to Iraq on December 14, an action considered a grave insult in the Arab world.

He is due to appear in court in Baghdad on Wednesday on charges of "aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit," an offense which could see him go to jail for up to 15 years.

Will `Tough Guy' Dick Cheney Cop Out as Usual and Take a Pardon?

By Dave Lindorff

Vice President Dick Cheney has cultivated the image of a serious tough guy, with his grim, scowling vissage, his dismissive "So?" comments when things go badly, his unrepentant defense of torture, including waterboarding, and his brash statements confirming that he approved the interrogation measures that clearly violated US criminal statutes and the Geneva Conventions.

But it appears we willl in a few days get to discover whether Cheney really is a tough guy, or whether he is in truth just the same corpulent, self-centered hypocrite and gutless coward that he was back in the 1960s when, despite being a vocal backer of the Vietnam War, he ducked the draft not once but five times by arranging for student and marriage deferments, which he later defended by saying he had "other priorities" than serving his country.

Top Ten Myths about Iraq, 2008

Top Ten Myths about Iraq, 2008
by Juan Cole | Informed Comment

1. Iraqis are safer because of Bush's War. In fact, conditions of insecurity have helped created both an internal and external refugee problem:

' At least 4.2 million Iraqis were displaced. These included 2.2 million who were displaced within Iraq and some 2 million refugees, mostly in Syria (around 1.4 million) and Jordan (around half a million). In the last months of the year both these neighbouring states, struggling to meet the health, education and other needs of the Iraqi refugees already present, introduced visa requirements that impeded the entry of Iraqis seeking refuge. Within Iraq, most governorates barred entry to Iraqis fleeing sectarian violence elsewhere.'

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 70,231

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 70,231
by Michael Munk | MichaelMunk.com

US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered 29 combat casualties in the eight days ending Dec.24 as the official casualty total rose to at least 70,262. The total includes 34,305 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 35,957 dead and medically evacuated (as of Dec. 6, 2008) from "non-hostile" causes.*

The actual total is over 90,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 20,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions--were diagnosed only after they had left Iraq..**

How A Shoe Put the Boot to Bush's Iraq Legacy

How a shoe put the boot to Bush's Iraq legacy
By Olivia Ward | The Star.com

It was the thud heard around the world.

Just hours after Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi tossed his footwear at U.S. President George W. Bush, who was making a farewell appearance in Baghdad, the other shoe dropped.

Thousands of Iraqis poured out their support for the angry gesture, al-Zeidi's backers plunged the parliament into bitter controversy, and Bush's insistence that his "surge" of increased U.S. troops had put the country on the road to peace and progress rang hollow.

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