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By Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation
There's no doubt that the financial crisis, job insecurity, and fundamental economic worries are the No. 1 issue in Tuesday's vote. But that raises a critical question: If Barack Obama is elected, will he have an antiwar mandate?
The answer isn't clear.
In 2006, when Democrats reconquered the House and Senate, the election was widely seen as a referendum on the failing war in Iraq. Many Democrats, including those who had previously been supporters of the war, felt tremendous pressure from that public expression of antiwar sentiment, even if the Democratic majority in Congress was either unable either to block the so-called surge or to pass legislation halting the war. Their inability to do so was largely the result of President Bush's veto powers and the Senate minority's ability to filibuster defense spending bills and other measures.
The Roman historian Tacitus famously put the following lines in the mouth of a British chieftain opposed to imperial Rome: "They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger… they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor… They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace."
Or, in the case of the Bush administration, post-surge "success." Today, however, success in Iraq seems as elusive as ever for the President. The Iraqi cabinet is now refusing, without further amendment, to pass on to Parliament the status of forces agreement for stationing U.S. troops in the country that it's taken so many months for American and Iraqi negotiators to sort out. Key objections, as Juan Cole points out at his Informed Comment blog, have come from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which is [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki's chief political partner, the support of which he would need to get the draft through parliament." That party, Cole adds tellingly, "is close to Tehran, which objects to the agreement." The Iranian veto? Hmmm…
Amidst Iraq's violence, a radio station gives people hope
By Corinne Reilly | McClatchy Newspapers
Inside a spacious studio with purple and yellow walls, Hana Abdulkadhim, a well-known Iraqi radio host, is preparing to take her first call of the day. A few minutes into Good Afternoon with Hana, the switchboard is already flooded with listeners eager to chime in on the day's topic.
"This afternoon we're talking about circumstances in your life that caused you to lose something or someone you love," Hana says. "Were you able to overcome the situation, or were you defeated?"
A woman named Samma is on the line. "I lost my closest friend when she left our neighborhood," Samma says.
Hana asks if her friend was forced to flee.
U.S. official urges hydrocarbon law passage
BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Deputy U.S. Commerce Secretary John J. Sullivan on Saturday expressed his country's yearning for an Iraqi oil and gas law that he said will expand U.S. investments in post-war Iraq.
The remark was made during a speech he gave at a U.S.-Iraqi economic conference that opened earlier today and was attended by Aswat al-Iraq.
Sullivan expressed his hope that the passage of the controversial law will provide security and stability needed for investment activities in the country.
Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said that Iraq cannot establish a strong economy on its own, urging the entire world to help the war-torn country.
Earlier this morning, a U.S.-Iraqi economic conference opened in the capital Baghdad with the participation of high-ranking officials from both sides.
Iraq has earmarked some $15 billion — nearly 25 percent of its 2009 draft budget — to help rebuild the country's crumbling infrastructure, energy and oil facilities, the finance minister said Saturday.
But Bayan Jabr stressed those funds fall far short of the hundreds of billions of dollars Iraq needs to put its shattered economy back on its feet and appealed to foreign investors to help bridge the gap.
Speaking at a U.S-Iraqi investment conference in Baghdad, Jabr said a government study determined Iraq needs some $400 billion to upgrade its existing infrastructure and build new facilities.
A delay in agreeing a security pact with the United States could make investors wary of Iraq even though security is improving there, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt said on Saturday.
"What business people are telling us is that they're watching that set of negotiations as they factor in the public policy component of their investment decision," Kimmitt said on the sidelines of a Baghdad investment conference.
"They are looking at the lack of agreement thus far on the new security arrangements -- as an indication of what security might be like in the future and as an indication of what it will be like when they are in negotiations with the Iraqi government."
Iraq's prime minister is pushing the idea that the U.S. departure is in sight in a bid to sell the security deal with Washington to Iran.
To reinforce the message, the Iraqis are asking for changes to the deal that would effectively rule out extending the U.S. military presence beyond 2011.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies are also describing the agreement not as a formula for long-term U.S.-Iraqi security cooperation — the original goal when the talks began earlier this year — but as a way to manage the U.S. withdrawal.
It's unclear whether this will be enough to win over the Iranians and Iraqi critics — or whether the U.S. will go along with the demands submitted by the Iraqi Cabinet this week.
One of the main things lost to Iraq over the years of conflict has been its human assets — doctors, engineers and skilled administrators.
The drain on the country's health system has been especially severe, as thousands of doctors left the country in the face of kidnappings, extortion and murder.
Iraq's Health Ministry is now trying to lure those doctors back with promises of high pay and protection, but for many who have now settled in safer places, there's little incentive to return.
More than five years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraqis are still paying the price for their "freedom." This puts the United States in a position where it is unwelcome in other countries and its claims of defending human rights and democracy are resisted.
The international order was redefined the day the United States entered Baghdad, leaving Washington in a position of weakness, the Sunni al-Mashriq newspaper said Wednesday.
Iraqis question the gains from five years of the occupation
If given another chance to wage war in Iraq, Washington again would use the opportunity to intimidate the world with obscene and merciless domination, despite the need to employ a financial bailout to fund such a measure.
And, therefore, Bush will never sign it.
By Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Geneva
The Red Cross is warning that despite some improvements in security in Iraq, the condition of the country's infrastructure remains dire.
In a statement issued from their headquarters in Geneva, the Red Cross said it was particularly concerned about poor water supplies.
It estimates that over 40% of Iraq's civilian population still has no access to clean mains water.
The organisation says that the health of millions Iraqis is at risk.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) describes the condition of Iraq's health, water and sanitation services as dire - failing to meet the needs of a large part of the population.
Following this summer's outbreak of cholera, Beatrice Megevand Roggo, Red Cross Head of Operations for the Middle East, said she was especially concerned about the lack of clean water supplies.
Just the bold part is enough.
Iraq outlines changes it wants in pact with US
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, AP
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq wants a security agreement with the U.S. to include a clear ban on U.S. troops using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq's neighbors, the government spokesman said Wednesday, three days after a dramatic U.S. raid on Syria.
Also Wednesday, the country's most influential Shiite cleric expressed concerned that Iraqi sovereignty be protected in the pact. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wields vast influence among the Shiite majority and his explicit opposition could scuttle the deal.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the ban was among four proposed amendments to the draft agreement approved by the Cabinet this week and forwarded to the U.S.
President Bush said Wednesday that the U.S. had received and negotiators were analyzing the Iraqis' proposed amendments to the so-called Status of Forces Agreement.
By Gareth Porter, IPS
The threat by the George W. Bush administration last week to withdraw all economic and military support from the Iraqi government if it does not accept the U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement has raised the stakes in the political-diplomatic struggle over the issue.
However, most Iraqi politicians are now so averse to any formal legitimisation of the U.S. military presence -- and particularly of extraterritorial legal rights over U.S. troops in the country -- that even that threat is unlikely to save the pact.
Iraqi MPs ask government to investigate child-trafficking
BAGHDAD- An Iraqi MP stirred controversy during a Parliament session last week when he asked Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki to investigate the illegal activities of an international organization operating in Iraq which is said to be selling Iraqi children to Israelis to be used as laborers.
Although the government-owned television censored the parliament member’s remarks, the issue was shocking to all parties, the government, the parliament and ordinary people.
As clock ticks, U.S. letting thousands of Iraqi prisoners go
By Corinne Reilly | McClatchy Newspapers
In recent months, the American military has begun freeing many of the Iraqi prisoners it's been holding without charges and aims to release all of them by December 2009, according to U.S. military data and interviews with military officials.
In the five and a half years since the Iraq war began, U.S. troops have arrested and detained roughly 100,000 Iraqis, almost all of them without formal criminal charges. A year ago, 26,000 Iraqis were in American military detention, more than at any other point since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. About 17,000 remain imprisoned, but that number is dropping fast.
U.S. threatens to halt services to Iraq without troop accord
By Roy Gutman and Leila Fadel | McClatchy Newspapers
The U.S. military has warned Iraq that it will shut down military operations and other vital services throughout the country on Jan. 1 if the Iraqi government doesn't agree to a new agreement on the status of U.S. forces or a renewed United Nations mandate for the American mission in Iraq.
Many Iraqi politicians view the move as akin to political blackmail, a top Iraqi official told McClatchy Sunday.
In addition to halting all military actions, U.S. forces would cease activities that support Iraq’s economy, educational sector and other areas _ "everything" _ said Tariq al Hashimi, the country’s Sunni Muslim vice president. "I didn’t know the Americans are rendering such wide-scale services."
Long before I discovered the mysterious mix of pain and relief that writing from the heart brings, I was pursuing a Masters in English Literature at Central Washington University in the small town of Ellensburg, Washington.
I was broke, like most grad students, and supported myself by working for two individuals confined to assisted living situations. One of them, Larry, was completely paralyzed. He was unable to speak, and could only blink his eyes. He had been in prison when the ill effects of an operation he undertook there had gone wrong, and were then compounded by an error by the anesthesiologist. His sustenance came from gulping small spoonfuls of food blended with milk. Never in his life would he ever again "enjoy" a meal. He would never be experiencing the simple actions of walking, singing, dancing, swimming, driving, fishing, wandering ...
By Ahmed Rasheed, Reuters
BAGHDAD, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Iraq's long-awaited hydrocarbons law failed to win the backing of parliament's Oil and Gas Committee on Sunday, with Kurdish members insisting the bill has not been properly approved by the cabinet, lawmakers said.
The hydrocarbons law would create a framework for investing in the OPEC member state, which has the world's third largest petroleum reserves, but it has been held up for years by quarrels over how to distribute the wealth.
The government submitted a new draft version of the bill to parliament's Oil and Gas Committee earlier this month.
Committee head Ali Hussain Balou said members had decided after a meeting with parliamentary speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani on Sunday that they could not endorse it because it had not been endorsed by the whole cabinet.
Deal on American presence in Iraq close to collapse
By Marie Colvin | TimesOnLine
Senior Iraqi politicians have warned that a crucial deal between Baghdad and Washington governing the presence of American troops in the country is doomed to failure after eight months of talks.
“The Sofa [Status of Forces Agreement] is dead in the water,” said one Iraqi politician close to the talks.
He added that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, believed that signing it would be “political suicide”.
BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq's long-stalled oil and gas law has finally been sent by the Cabinet to parliament for discussion, a lawmaker said on Sunday.
The move sets the stage for a new public debate over how to manage the country's vast oil wealth, which Iraq needs to finance the reconstruction of the country, even as world oil prices have been falling.
Abdul-Hadi al-Hassani, the deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on oil, gas and natural resources, said the panel is reviewing the bill to prepare it for the full legislature.
«We started working on it today,» al-Hassani told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday. He did not say when it will be put to the floor.
Iraq's Cabinet endorsed the bill in February 2007 but disputes later emerged between the Kurds and central government, mainly over who has the final say in managing oil and gas fields.
Since then, the measure has gone through four versions.
By Roy Gutman, McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD — Fearing political division in the parliament and in his country, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki won't sign the just-completed agreement on the status of U.S. forces in Iraq, a leading lawmaker said Friday.
The new accord's demise would be a major setback for the Bush administration, which has been seeking to establish a legal basis for the extended presence of the 151,000 U.S. troops in this country, and for Iraq, which won notable concessions in the draft accord reached a week ago.
"No, he will not" submit the agreement to the parliament, Sheikh Jalal al Din al Sagheer, the deputy head of the Shiite Muslim Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, told McClatchy. "For this matter, we need national consensus."
Gates Says U.S. reluctant to alter Iraq troop draft
By David Morgan | Yahoo!News.com | Submitted by Michael Munk
Washington does not want to alter a draft security pact with Iraq, despite demands for change from Baghdad where the document failed to win support from Iraqi political leaders, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.
After months of painstaking talks that ended last week, Iraq effectively called for reopening negotiations to address objections to the status of forces agreement (SOFA) draft that would require U.S. forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
By David Swanson
Barack Obama would like to bring Colin Powell into his new administration. But Americans consider Powell only marginally more credible than how the rest of the world views him, and the rest of the world thinks he lies like a rug. Powell either wholeheartedly backed the biggest crime thus far this century, or he secretly opposed it but worked to make it happen anyway. I'm not sure which is worse, but either disqualifies him for future office.
Can you imagine having an opportunity to address the United Nations Security Council about a matter of great global importance, with all the world's media watching, and using it to… well, to make shit up -- to lie with a straight face, and with a CIA director propped up behind you, I mean to spew one world-class, for-the-record-books stream of bull, to utter nary a breath without a couple of whoppers in it, and to look like you really mean it all? What gall. What an insult to the entire world that would be.
The Bush administration has launched a top-level lobbying campaign to persuade skeptical U.S. lawmakers and disapproving Iraqi politicians to support a security agreement governing the continued presence of American troops in Iraq.
Although congressional approval is not legally required, U.S. lawmakers' support is considered crucial for an agreement to go forward. In Iraq, where the deal must pass through several complex layers of approval, the going is considered even tougher.
An interview with Michael Schwartz:
THE MAINSTREAM media report that if Barack Obama is elected president, the U.S. occupation of Iraq will essentially come to an end because of Obama's opposition to it. Do you think that this captures what's going on?
Thousands of people marched in central Baghdad on Saturday to protest a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that would extend the presence of U.S. troops in the country after the end of the year.
The political party of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for the rally. At one point, several speakers at a podium addressed the mass of people, urging the Iraqi government to reject the proposal.
"End the U.S. occupation of Iraq!" one speaker shouted in English.
Hazem al-Araji, a senior al-Sadr aide, told protesters their voices would be heard in America.
"Thanks to you, to these voices and the millions of voices, George Bush will hear these millions of calls in his 'Black House' -- in which you shouted out, 'No, no, America!'" he said.
This talk and these words are that of the leader, Muqtada al-Sadr: Baghdad is free, free! America, get out. This voice does not reach the Green Zone. We want to hear everyone who is occupied in that area saying Baghdad is free, free, America get out!" al-Araji exclaimed.
Protesters clogged several streets in the capital, waving Iraqi flags and kicking up dust. The demonstration, the largest in Baghdad in several months, was largely peaceful.
Blood Money: The Human-Capital Equation of the U.S. Occupation of Iraq
by Stephen "Flint" Arthur | NEFAC.net
When a state is determined to pursue war, and all forms of indirect symbolic protest actions have failed to sway politicians to halt their imperialist aggression, the only remaining option is direct action by the working class. One option is a general strike by workers that can effect the production and transportation of military capital, that is the materials essential for the war machine. The other is to deprive the military of the labor it needs to fight the war. The slogan from the Vietnam War protests deliberately speaks to this, "What if they had a war, and no one came?" The U.S. military is overwhelmingly recruited from the working class, and convincing our class as a whole to refuse to work for this blood money may be our best chance for both ending the war in Iraq and limiting the imperialist ambitions of the U.S. for future decades.
"Endless development of armed force. Every day we hear of fresh inventions for the more effectual destruction of our fellow-men, fresh expenditure, fresh loans, fresh taxation. Clamorous patriotism, reckless jingoism; the stirring up of international jealousy have become the most lucrative line in politics and journalism. Childhood itself has not been spared; schoolboys are swept into the ranks, to be trained up in hatred... drilled in blind obedience to the government of the moment, whatever the colour of its flag, and when they come to the years of manhood to be laden like pack-horses with cartridges, provisions and the rest of it; to have a rifle thrust into their hands and be taught to charge at the bugle call and slaughter one another right and left like wild beasts, without asking themselves why or for what purpose. Whether they have before them starvelings... or their own brothers roused to revolt by famine-the bugle sounds, the killing must commence."~~Peter Kropotkin - War!
Osama Bin Laden, Barack Obama and the Good Reverend Wright
by John S. Phillips | WhiteBuffaloProductions.com
As the winds of change blow across the United States, the American public slowly awakens from their half century of slumber. As the panic grows and it will, the people will finally demand answers to how we choose a primrose path that led to our financial meltdown. If we want to solve our problems, and start our journey to recovery we must first understand how we ended up where we are today. Chinese philosophers were famous for saying that if you start a thousand mile journey and your first step is in the wrong direction, you are in for a long and painful journey. In what direction shall we step in our search for answers?
Iraqi government in biggest ever sale of oil assets
The Iraqi government is to sell the rights to recover 40 billion barrels of oil in the biggest ever sale of reserves.
Submitted by Michael Munk via www.legitgov.org | Telegraph.co.UK
The ministry will give the companies a six-month timetable from the receipt of data and other details to submit bids for a 20-year contract.
BP, Shell and ExxonMobil are all expected to attend a meeting at the Park Lane Hotel in Mayfair with the Iraqi oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani for the first round of bidding for new contracts.