Thursday, February 19, 2009

Secretary Clinton's trips to Jakarta and India

Hillary in Jarkata

That is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jarkata. The Assistant Cultural Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Jarkata is Jason P. Rebholz and here is a section of his blog post entitled "Not Your Average Walk Around The Block!:"

I just returned to the office from the last stop on Secretary Clinton's two-day trip to Indonesia -- a visit to a neighborhood called Petojo Utara (North Petojo) in Jakarta. This neighborhood is home to about 3,000 residents and has undergone a dramatic change in the past few years. USAID, in partnership with NGOs and private sector partners, has worked with the residents to help resolve the issues that matter most to them, such as sanitation, clean water, and maternal health.
During her walk around the neighborhood, Secretary Clinton learned how community members utilize used materials, such as plastic bags and bottles, to make handicrafts, such as handbags, wallets, and cell phone holders. The Secretary spoke with the residents who made the bags and they demonstrated for her how they carefully fold the plastic and weave it together. It was really amazing; many of these pieces look like artwork. As one of my colleagues put it -- these bags look like they were inspired by Andy Warhol, with real laundry detergent packages.
In addition to the micro-finance and small business taking place in the community, Secretary Clinton was able to see first-hand how the residents are working together to keep their community safe and clean. She was really impressed by the commitment the community has to the environment. The residents have planted trees and plants and use composting to improve their neighborhood, making it a more comfortable place to live. The residents are committed to living as "green" as possible -- they ensure that waste water is cleaned before it enters the nearby stream and reuse as much waste material as possible, reducing the amount of trash in their community. They even use bio-gas for cooking.

Secretary Clinton was in India on the 12th of this month and I did not know about that or about who was with her on the trip until C.I. mentioned it tonight. Here is some of "The 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Trip to India and Black History Month" and if you use the link, you also have an option of video:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Well, we are so delighted to have you – please be seated – here in the Treaty Room at the State Department for what is an historic occasion, something that means a great deal to this Department and to our country. I am pleased that His Excellency, Ambassador Sen of India is with us today, and I’m also very honored to be joined by a remarkable group of Americans.
We have standing before you some of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement and of our recent history. Certainly, Congressman Lewis needs no introduction. We have with us also Congressman Bachus. They will be leading a congressional delegation to India to retrace the steps of Dr. King and Mrs. King. And of course, the person who – for whom this is a personal journey as well as a historic one, Martin Luther King III.
Now Herbie Hancock is going along as well. (Laughter.) And I think there’ll be a lot of people who recognize him. And he just told me he’s going to be recording, including some Indian artists. And maybe he’ll say a word more about that in a minute. Also joining the CODEL will be a number of other distinguished members of Congress, as well as Ambassador Andy Young and former Senator Harris Wofford. This is the real American dream team. And I don’t think we could find better ambassadors for our country to send to help mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic trip to India.
As we celebrate Black History Month here at home, the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s trip to India is a reminder that the struggle for civil rights and justice has always been and continues to be a global mission; it knows no borders. As Dr. King told us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Now Dr. King was just 30 years old when he traveled to India in 1959, but he had already led the Montgomery bus boycott, and understood the wisdom and power of the nonviolent protest movement pioneered by the great Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. King toured the country for a month, studying Gandhi’s philosophy, meeting with Prime Minister Nehru. He met with other Indian leaders in politics and government, in academia and the professions in business and across the society. And he talked with citizens and young people at every opportunity. He brought the lessons he learned there back to the United States, and renewed his own faith in the unmatched moral force of nonviolent resistance and its ability to achieve meaningful social change.
It’s been my great privilege to have heard Dr. King speak when I was a young girl. It was a few years after he had returned from India. It was a cold January night in Chicago, but I was deeply moved then, as I continue to be, by his timeless call to all of us, his dream for a world that is really worthy of our children. I remain inspired by his undying hope for a better tomorrow.
So I am pleased to honor Dr. King’s historic journey which really represents the journey that our country has been on. And in many ways, as we have celebrated the inauguration of President Obama, a journey that has brought great faith to people who follow the tenets of nonviolence and Dr. King’s philosophy and preaching and who have worked to make the changes here at home that continue to reverberate around the world, it’s fitting that this mission then be undertaken during Black History Month, and just weeks after our President’s historic inauguration. And on behalf of President Obama, I want to express his gratitude for you doing this and for your service as well.
You know, Dr. King’s trip to India stands as a landmark of the Civil Rights Movement and a real testament, ambassador, to the bonds of affection and shared history between our two nations. I want to thank the Government of India for welcoming and supporting our delegation, a reflection that India also understands that the deep and broad partnership our countries are forging is one based on common history and values. And it is because of that that it is destined to grow even stronger in the future. So I wish you Godspeed and a great deal of – oh, shall I say, jealousy that (laughter) – that you are retracing these footsteps.
And now I’d like to introduce some of my friends and those who will be making this journey, starting with Martin Luther King III, followed by Congressman Lewis and Congressman Bachus, if you would also like to say a few words, and ending up with Herbie Hancock.
MR. KING: Thank you so much, Madame Secretary, and thank you, Congressman Lewis, Congressman Bachus, and of course, the great Mr. Herbie Hancock. I must also thank the Government of India and Ambassador Sen, for this is a very special journey for me personally, my wife and I, to retrace the steps that my parents engaged in 50 years ago. On behalf of everyone at Realizing the Dream, an organization I started, I am honored to be making this journey on this 50th anniversary of that incredible visit.
In 1959, at the invitation of the Gandhi National Memorial Foundation, my parents, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, traveled to India to immerse themselves in Gandhi’s nonviolence movement, and to identify with and give support to the people of India who were struggling to overcome the evils of poverty and discrimination.
By working to foster peace through nonviolence, I hope this pilgrimage will inspire others to end the dependence on violence for nominal change, and instead look to reconciliatory power of nonviolence to create sustainable progress and diplomacy.
The impact that Gandhi’s life had on my father was quite profound. And it is in that spirit that I set out on this journey in just a few days. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. LEWIS: Madame Secretary and His Excellency Mr. Ambassador Sen, I would like to thank you, the United States Department of State, and the Government of India for all that you have done to support this delegation. It is with great pleasure and delight that I embark on this journey with Representative Bachus, my friend and my brother and my colleague from Alabama, co-leader of the delegation; other colleagues in the House; Martin Luther King III; Herbie Hancock and their delegation to pay tribute to the abiding link between Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The two men were not politicians or lawmakers. They were not presidents or popes. But they were inspired human beings who believed deeply in the power of nonviolent resistance to injustice as a tool for social change. Because of their courage, commitment, and vision, this nation has witnessed a nonviolent revolution under the rule of law, a revolution of values and ideas that have changed America forever. We are all a beneficiary of this powerful legacy.
It is a great honor to retrace the steps of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in India. Madame Secretary, I don’t where I would be if it had not been for the teaching of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We are looking forward to fulfilling an inspiring journey. Thank you, Madame Secretary, for all your help in making this possible. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.)
MR. BACHUS: I walked into my office this morning and there was music playing, and my staff was just ecstatic that Herbie Hancock – (laughter) – was – I would be traveling with Herbie Hancock, and they knew about Martin Luther King. And I first want to say that thank you for your father. I’m the congressman from Birmingham, Alabama. And Birmingham is a better place today than it was, because of Martin Luther King. As Congressman Lewis, when he called me and asked me to head this delegation, I was overwhelmed, because we in Birmingham, probably more than anywhere else, know about the ills of discrimination and racism.
I buried my father two years ago, and I’m proudest of him for crossing that color line and being the first contractor in Birmingham to hire subcontractors. He had vandalism of worksites, but he had the vast support of the people in Birmingham when he did that. And I want you to know that Birmingham is a better place. And I’m not sure there’s any place more committed to equality than a place which suffered from inequality. And for that, I thank you and I thank your father. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. HANCOCK: Madame Secretary, members of Congress, Mr. Ambassador, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Martin Luther King, Jr. – Martin Luther King III – and honored invited guests, it is a privilege for me to be here today among such esteemed company.
As chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, I am honored to be traveling to India with my fellow musicians, singers Chaka Khan, Dee Dee Bridgewater, pianist George Duke, and young students who are studying with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz performers in New Orleans. We are honored to be partnering with the State Department and to be taking this journey with Martin Luther King III, Congressman John Lewis, and other members of Congress. And we look forward to bringing music and jazz education to the people of India through this historic tour that celebrates the philosophies of Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi, two very inspirational political and spiritual leaders whose teachings have really encouraged me to lead a life of peace, honesty, and filled with love for my fellow man.
And of great importance to me and my fellow artists, their philosophies of cooperation, communication, and harmony are also essential elements of every jazz band. (Laughter.) The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz has partnered with the State Department now for over 15 years, and this is our third trip to India. On the first trip I was humbled meeting Mother Teresa, as I have told you, Madame Secretary, and then filled with joy having several opportunities to contribute to the cultural fabric of the Indian people through performance and jazz education workshops.
We look forward to being a part of the Living Dream concerts in Mumbai and Delhi, and then working with the students who attend the Ravi Shankar Institute of the Performing Arts, where our students are going to be able to exchange valuable lessons with the young Indian musicians and prove again that the language of jazz knows no boundaries.
On behalf of the institute, all the musicians on the tour, and myself, I’d like to say a very, very warm and heartfelt thank you to our good friend and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and to the U.S. Department of State for continuing your support of culture, jazz, and music education throughout the world, and for giving us the opportunity to represent the United States and to be a part of this historic tour. Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you can tell, it’s going to be quite a journey and all of us wish you well. I think it’s important to really underscore the significance of this kind of cultural and historical diplomacy. It’s exactly what the State Department should be doing even more of, reaching out and learning from as well as sharing with people around the world.
And it is also a reminder that nonviolence works. And if more people were able to understand that and remember the teachings of Gandhi and Dr. King, not only would the world, I think, be a more peaceful place, but I honestly believe that the injustice that persists would be far more likely to be remedied.
So it’s a real pleasure during this Black History Month. I want to thank John Robinson and the Office of Civil Rights for what they do during this month, and this is part of that commemoration and celebration. And to all of you, it’s a great reminder from the incomparable Herbie Hancock that jazz is not just about music. I think jazz is a pretty good guide to most things in life, and I can tell you, as Secretary of State, I’m improvising every single day. (Laughter.) Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

Staying with Martin Luterh King III, this is from Rama Lakshmi's "Son Retraces King's '59 India Pilgrimage" (Washington Post):

Fifty years after his parents, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, traveled to India to study Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence, Martin Luther King III is in India to retrace his late father's footsteps.
"It is really a special mountaintop experience to be here," King said. "My parents had often shared with me how moving their experience in India was. My father said he came to many countries as a tourist, but he came to India as a pilgrim."
King Jr. came to India in February 1959, four year after Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and 11 years after Gandhi was assassinated. He drew powerful lessons about the way the bony, bare-chested Gandhi had deployed the weapon of nonviolence in his fight to free India from more than 200 years of British rule. Gandhi's philosophy of peaceful resistance had a lasting impact on how King Jr. shaped the U.S. civil rights movement.
In India, King Jr. and his wife visited sites where Gandhi had lived, struggled and held prayer meetings. King Jr. gave a national address on All India Radio, met freedom fighters and stayed in a room where Gandhi had slept. He was draped with garlands in the traditional Indian style everywhere he went.
King III, his eldest son, now leads a delegation including civil rights leaders Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Andrew Young, as well as the jazz musician Herbie Hancock. King said this tour during Black History Month is more than nostalgia and pilgrimage. "Gandhi's work is not complete. Today, the world needs the message of nonviolence more than ever," King said after visiting New Delhi's Rajghat, a memorial to the Indian nationalist leader.

So what an interesting and riveting trip. I am really happy for and proud of Martin Luther King III in that way that us old people get when a child has a real connection to a parent and works to deepen it even after the parent has passed away. It is the sort of action that has us saying things like, "What a wonderful son." (That is what old people talk about when you are not in the room, Young America.)

And what an amazing journey Secretary Clinton is on. I really did went back and forth on her taking the Secretary of State post. Most of us did. Mike made it clear that he thought it was a mistake but he waited until after she was confirmed to blog that. He thinks she is in a no-win position. Great work she will get no credit for and, if Barack Obama's White House goes down (the stimulus was one sign it might -- he can get serious or be another Herbert Hoover), she will take the fall along with him. I see his fear but most days was thinking how great a job she would do. (And on bad days, I would remember what C.I. said, "It is her decision. If she wants it, that's what has to be. And if you think it's a mistake, do you know how many times she's attempted something and been told it was a mistake? Her success ratio is very good.")

I know it is hard work and I know she is up for it. I also think she presents a much needed face to the world, a welcomed and respected face.

I will probably include some trip details in tomorrow's post. We are figuring out who will be going. In answer to one question popping up in e-mails, I do not plan to go dark here. I do not plan to blog. I have someone who has kindly offered to do a few guest blogs while I am gone (gone to Japan, if you are arriving late). I will talk about that tomorrow but it is late and I am old, old old.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Thursday, February 19, 2009. Chaos and violence continue,election results are released (yes, the results to January 31st elections), Iraq still has no Speaker of Parliament, the Kurds ask for the Constitution to be followed and the "Awakening" Council's cheif cheerleader rushes to tell the world violence is a'coming, Muntadhar al-Zeidi gets a day in court (one) and much more.

Starting with today's Most Needy (the intelligent deficient), little Eric Stoner, come on down. Eric was one of Katrina's coffee fetchers nearly three years ago and that task provides no on the job training. Now he 'works' at Aging Socialite's Cat Litter Box -- in fact, word is he has cleaning duties. Taking his recycled blog post and limited intelligence to the Labour Party's party organ (Guardian -- you can
catch it at ZNet which we will link to), Stoner (was a last name ever more apt) babbles about Blackwater between the muchies. Like the gut over the belly young 'dude' he fancies himself, Stoner knows, just knows, where there are problems, there is a woman causing it all. So the Barack Cult Member whines that mercenaries are still in Iraq:

Hillary Clinton offerred a glimmer of hope when she endorsed this bill during her campaign for the presidency. But as Obama's secretary of state, she has quickly abandoned her commitment to "show these contractors the door."

Oh, that awful Hillary! Cursing her must give Stoner something to focus on while digging the sand and tar out from underneath Arianna's toe nails (or is that hooves?). Reality, Stoner, Hillary's 'glimmer of hope' was a bill she supported as a Senator. And she was
slimed by Jeremy Scahill and others while your poster boy Barry got yet another pass. Did you forget that? Or just ignore it? Samantha Power pulled a charm offensive (yes, that is scary) and purred in Jeremy's ears and he felt so 'included' and couldn't shut up about his 'secret source,' his 'high level source.' It didn't matter that Our Modern Day Carrie Nation Sammy Power was telling him that Barack wouldn't support the bill, what mattered to Jeremy was attacking Hillary. So he hissed at her bill and he invented motives (some fed to him by Sammy) for Hillary. Anything to make Barry look better.

That was a Senate proposal. Barack didn't get on board. It died. Barack is the president. Hillary is the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State does not make policy -- she or he implements it. Is that too complex for you, Stoner? Translation, Barack didn't support Hillary's bill during the Democratic Party primaries and he doesn't support it now that he's president. If you're unhappy with that fact, the blame goes to Barry. Not to Hillary. The blame goes to Barry and all the Cult Members who lied and covered for him and continue to do so -- like you, Eric Stoner.

Feb. 13th, Blackwater made the news for changing its name to Xe -- in an attempt to run from their blood crimes. For those late to the party, Steve Grant (Comic Book Resources) provides this recap: "Remember Blackwater, the third-party army serving as mercena -- whoops, I mean 'civilian contractors' -- in Iraq for the occupation, as well as building private prisons and other interesting activities here in the States (no word on the future of those now that their government contracts are theoretically all dried up)? Blackwater is no more! It has 'rebranded itself' Xe, pronounced Z, apparently to shake off their war-built image as civilian-murdering thugs. As long as they're updating their image, they might want to rethink the busines cards printed with human blood, too..." The Fayetteville Observer makes a prediction, "The company does, after all, have an image problem -- thanks, among other things, to accusations that its employees were rampaging Dirty Harrys in Iraq, gunning down innocent civilians. We doubt that the public will quickly adopt Xe, any more than it has embraced Altria as the new name for Philip Morris." Al Arabiya quotes Blackwater spokesperson Anne Tyrell whining, "We were defined as a security company, we never were a security company. We offer a lot of other services. But Blackwater became synonymous with our security work." Nathan Hodge (Wired) reports the mercenary corporation has just completed another "round of layoffs". Name changes and layoffs don't wipe away the September 16, 2007 slaughter in Baghdad. Del Quentin Wilber (Washington Post) reported US District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina refused the motion to dismiss the charges against five Blackwater employees and notes, "The charges were brought under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which allows U.S. prosecutors to charge American service members, their family members and those employed by the military for illegal acts committed overseas." The Virginian-Pilot notes that the judge also dismissed the motion by the defense to move the trial to Utah.

From the criminal Blackwater to he-should-be-set-free Muntadhar. Muntadhar al-Zeidi garnered international attention for the events of
December 14th. Then Bully Boy of the United States George W. Bush had traveled to Iraq for photo-ops with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki as the two singed the Strategic Framework Agreement and the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Bully Boy was just declaring, "The war is not yet over -- but with the conclusion of these agreements and the courage of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi troops and American troops and civilian personnel, it is decisively on its way to being won" -- just declaring that when . . . it was as though someone cranked up Carly Simon's "De Bat (Fly In Me Face)" as one-shoe, two-shoe was hurled by the journalist who explained, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss you dog" and (with the second shoe) "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Neither shoe hit Bully Boy and, apart from Nouri soiling his pants, neither man suffered physically. Bully Boy, in fact, was laughing, "Okay, everybody calm down for a minute. First of all thank you for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me. And if you want some -- if you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw." Bully Boy and everyone else had a good laugh -- everyone except Muntadhar who was being attacked by Nouri's thugs -- thugs who grabbed the moment to show the world what thugs they were and how the US installed strong man of Baghdad resorts to violence as they beat the journalist down. He was whisked away and only allowed one visit with his family and his attorney before this month -- and that visit only came about after the press covered the fact that he was being denied visits.

Today Muntadhar was in court.
AP's Sinan Salaheddin quotes him declaring, "What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and the murder of innocent people. I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons." Tina Susman and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) explain the hearing lasted 90 minutes, that there were three witnesses and that the trial is adjourned "until March 12". Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link has text and video) reported on the trial noting that Muntadhar declared, "I don't know what acomplishments he [Bush] was talking about. The accomplishments I could see were the more than 1 million martyrs and a sea of blood. There are more than 5 million Iraqi orphans because of the occupation. . . . More than a million widows and more than 3 million displaced because of the occupation."

Jomana Karadsheh: He was very calm and he spoke mainly about what motivated him to throw his shoes at former president Bush. What he said was,he was sitting throughout the press conference -- if you remember the incident happened at a press conference -- right after former president Bush finished speaking. And he said former president Bush was speaking about his accomplishments and victories in Iraq an al Zaidi said the 'accomplishments' for him, in his view, were the one-million widows in Iraq, the orphans, the martyrs and what he called violations committed against the Iraqi people. He referred to president Bush as the commander of the occupying forces here and this is what really, he says, like pushed him. He said "I could see the blood that was spilled in Iraq while he was speaking. He was justifying. He showed no remorse or regret for what was done. On the other hand he was trying to also explain that president Bush to him was not a guest of Iraq. He was saying "they are here, the US forces are in Iraq. They are an occupying force. So he does not see him as a visitor who should be -- who should be diginifed by Iraqis. As he was -- After the session ended -- for technical reasons basically -- the judge decided that they want to get more information from the prime minister's office on whether president Bush was here on an official or non-official visit.

Many of the reports are noting claims of torture taking place while Muntadher was in custody.
Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) gets specific explaining that silly statements (silly on the face) were introduced by the prosecution and Muntadher explained they were "untrue and had been extracted under torture including electric shocks." Register that and grasp that Iraq has a long history of torturing prisoners -- both before and after the start of the war. So when Samira Ahmed Jassim al-Azzawi is arrested by police on January 21st and February 3rd -- 13 days later -- the police suddenly wants to tell the world they arrested her and also offer a 'confession' she's made -- grasp that there's a good chance she made no 'confession' freely. (Late to the party? Feb. 3rd snapshot, Feb. 4th morning entry, Feb. 4th snapshot.) Originally, al-Azzawi allegedly recruited and trained the women. As the lurid details piled on, she was organizing the rapes of the female bombers. It was lurid, it was sleazy, it was unverifiable and it required more suspension of disbelief than any film that provides Clint Eastwood with a love interest under 60. Now why was that? And why was it necessary to paint the female bombers -- who had previously been portrayed as widows by Iraqi MPs -- as rape victims (which is 'shameful' for women in Iraq -- not for the rapists, just for the women)?

Thom Shanker (New York Times) explains the way it works. A young woman came forward -- this is the woman Leila Fadel covered non-stop (in what should have been the left's final clue as to how entwined with US military propaganda McClatchy was becoming) -- who had a story and the US military commanders "convened sessions with Iraqi politicians, activists and journalists" and, much to their surprise, they didn't have to pay for coverage or write it themselves (as they had in the past) because it was "the content" itself that was of interest. Col Darryl Williams explains, "We supplied suggestions, informations. But we had no control over editorial content." No, you were the source and a lot more than that because you had the counter-insurgency 'gurus' advising you -- a fact Shanker either was unaware of or preferred to avoid. Shanker does note that Williams "ran the division's unit that analyzed the effects of combt and noncombat operations" and maybe Shanker believes that passes for using the term "counter-insurgency"? Shanker tells you, "The Iraqi news media leapt on the story" -- well they did and so did Leila. Most outlets filed one story. Leila was writing stories, doing blog posts. She was a one woman Voice of America. Shanker informs that the US military wanted to use the fifteen-year-old girl "to spread the word that Rania and others appeared not to have been willing bombers and that the killing of innocent Iraqis could not be defended as an approved religious act. But they wanted to do so without American fingerprints that might undermine the message." Without American military fingerprints.

Which brings us back to al-Azzawi who was a societal nightmare with all of the allegations hurled at her. When a story seems too good to be true, it probably is. The Iraqis kept piling on lurid details -- a lot like they did when they pimped The Myth of the Great Return in late 2007. That started out with a very small group of Iraqis returning and, much to their surprise, it got press, positive press. From Saturday to Sunday evening, the same group had grown from 2,000 to 20,000 and was still growing the next day. That's your first tip that a story is false. When the 'facts' change that quickly in a matter of days, that's your first clue. Fortunately Damien Cave and Cara Buckley (New York Times) had the guts to report the truth and bury The Myth of the Great Return. And let's note that again: Damien Cave and Cara Buckley. They did so as November ended. For weeks, the myth was pimped and it was pimped by Big Media and Panhandle Media. We saw no bravery in our so-called 'independent' and 'alternative' media. Remember, The Nation didn't fight that myth, Amy Goodman didn't question it -- two reporters for the New York Times did.

Back to Muntadher and Liz Sly who describes the court scene: "Baghdad's Central Criminal Court, located inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, erupted in chants and cheers from Zaidi's relatives when he entered the room. His aunts and sisters ululated, and one of them thrust into Zaidi's hands an Iraqi flag, which he kissed and then draped around his shoulders."
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) explains three judges presided over the case and al-Zaidi's lawyers are attempting to argue (one of many points) that Bush was not on an official visit to Iraq. NPR's Corey Flintoff (All Things Considered -- link has text and will have audio) adds of the attorneys, "Police added extra chairs behind the defense table to accomodate some 20 volunteer lawyers who wanted to be part of the defense team, which is led by the president of the Iraqi Bar Association." Ernesto Londono and Zaid Sabah (Washington Post) describe Muntadhar's court room appearance: "leather shoes, a pressed beige suit and a scarf emblazoned with the Iraq flag". And those who need to pretend there is a justice system in place in Iraq should skip the next part: Muntadar testified "from a wooden cage before a packed courtroom." From a wooden cage.

No justice, no democracy.
Xinhua reports that the 'official' 'results' to the 14 provincial elections on January 31st were released today (Iraq has 18 provinces) by the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (the group that responds to threats of violence by awarding votes to those who make the threats). Dalwat al-Qanun (State of Law -- proving Nouri al-Maliki does have a sense of humor -- who knew?) didn't do wonderful. In Baghdad, they won half the seats (28 of 57). Baghdad's the seat of al-Maliki's power. In Basra, Dalwat won 20 of the 36 seats. Missy Ryan, Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Jon Boyle (Reuters) report,"In the western desert province of Anbar, Sunni tribal chiefs who helped U.S. forces drive out Islamist militants like al Qaeda, and who had threatened to take up arms again if they did not win political power, got the most seats. It was a surprise after the tribal chiefs placed second in preliminary results. The tribal chiefs, with 8 out of 29 council seats, plan to form an alliance with a secular Sunni group." Yes, that was surprising. And completely unbelievable. Nouri al-Maliki was not a candidate in the race (though he did use his office in an unethical manner and did offer bribes for votes) but his party didn't do very well. They will have to form consensus governments with other parties in order to rule. That's not a majority. That's nothing. So Iraq remains lukewarm on al-Maliki. And you can remember that when you read Lyndon LaRouche proteges offering their garbage on the elections and the 'meaning' for Iraq -- 4 provinces haven't voted (and Dalwat is not expected to do well in any of the four) and, even in Baghdad, Dalwat limped along.

Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports signs of a war between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq -- information, no doubt, supplied to her by the "Awakeing" leaders she chums around with. UPI reports today on Nerchirvan Barzani's statements from days ago that the US should address the regional disputes (primarily oil-rich Kirkuk) before withdrawing (the US isn't going anywhere). (See Feb. 17th snapshot, when Prime Minister Barazani made the remarks, for more.) The issue of Kirkuk -- per Iraq's Constitution -- was supposed to have been addressed no later than December 31, 2007. Juan Cole of course cheerleaded the illegal war at various points -- and got snippy with CounterSpin when that cheerleading was pointed out. Always one to jump on a bandwagon (he has no clue what's going on in Iraq -- he's been focused on Palestine and he's not all that bright to begin with), Juan rushes to back up Leila with . . . well nothing. Juan, the news broke Tuesday. Trying to run with it today only yet again reveals how out of it you are. So do statements like, "If the Kurdish-Arab hostility rises further, the US could be drawn right back into Iraq." Uh, Juan, when did the US leave? Huh? We know when you lost interest, but when did US troops -- approximately 145,000 of them -- leave Iraq? (No link to garbage.) And PLEASE GET THIS, the Kurds ask for what is written in the Constitution and notice all the Nervous Nellies reaching for the vapors. Neither Leila nor Juan were at all alarmed when Anbar's Thug Sheik was threatening violence. But the Kurdish Regional Government pointing out that the Constitution needs to be followed is suddenly cause for an alarm. You'd think the KRG's Prime Minister had threatened violence the way Leila and Juan clutch the pearls. They really ought to be ashamed of themselves but neither is capable of shame (which is why they're such wonderful propagandists). Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) hat tips Juan and Leila -- Thomas, you're usually so much smarter. From his blog post:

Salon just carried an insightful
review of my book that triggered a mudslide of nasty letters from the magazine's readers.
"If you enjoyed 'Fiasco,' thrilled to have your prejudices about the clueless Bush administration confirmed, it's your responsibility to read 'The Gamble' to have some prejudices challenged," wrote the reviewer, Joan Walsh, Salon's editor-in-chief. I think she really captured the ambivalence at the heart of the book, the sense that staying in Iraq is far from appealing, but may be the least worst choice available. Her review concludes that, "I still want troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. But reading this well-reported book may have changed even my notion of what that means."

The Gamble is a book worth reading -- the best on Iraq. A reader can learn a tremendous amount from the book and still disagree with some or all of Ricks' personal opinions. It's an important book. I may write about it tonight or in tomorrow's snapshot.

Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami, Missy Ryan, Michael Christie and Victoria Main (Reuters) report that despite the lack of Speaker, they plan to tackle the 2009 budget next week. Yep, the 2009 budget. Yes, most countries have that place before the fiscal year starts let alone the calendar year. But, hey, Nouri's itty-bitty feelings get hurt when anyone points out the reality of how little 'progress' is being made so maybe we're all supposed to look the other way? The reporters inform, "Work on the budget, an important task as Iraq confronts sharply lower oil revenues at a time when it desperately needs funds to rebuild after six years of war, has been held up by parliament's inability to agree on a new speaker."


Reuters notes a Balad Ruz roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers, a Garma roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Mosul roadside bombing that wounded one person, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left eight people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured and a Mosul car bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer with seven people left injured. Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul suicide bomber who took his/her own life as well as the life of 1 police officer with seven more people wounded and a Falluja sticky bombing that claimed 2 lives (a "policeman's father and wife") and left 1 person (police officer) injured.


Reuters notes 1 shop owner shot dead in Mosul, 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul and 1 man shot dead in Mosul (and his car stolen).

Turning to the United States,
Sean Hannley (People's Weekly World Newspaper) reports on a February 15th teach-in at Howard University organized and sponsored by Latim American Solidarity Coalition, the North American Congress on Latin America, SOA Watch, CISPES, the Alliance for Globa Justice and others where Father Roy Bourgeois and others spoke. We'll note this section:

Professor Lesley Gill, the chair of the Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, questioned whether or not we are likely to see much promised "change" from president Obama in Latin American policy. She pointed out that he has already begun hostile rhetoric towards Venezuela and promised to continue the Cuba embargo. She pointed out that the United States has been a destabilizing force in Latin America for decades; however, the Left is on the rise all over Latin America. Latin America has become more economically independent from the US, with the Bank of the South, UNASUR and access to new markets in Europe and China. Argentina has begun to prosecute offenders from the "dirty war" and democratic governments throughout the region have started to deal with issues of inequity. She told the audience that Bush's response to this was aggressive. He responded with more intervention in the region: supporting coups in Haiti and Venezuela, viewing people in Latin America as a security threat, and continuing "Plan Colombia", a program which has the stated purpose to combat drugs, but ends up funneling money to paramilitaries. These paramilitaries make alliances with drug lords, murder civilians and burn through the country side. She told the group how private security forces (such as Blackwater, one of the groups under investigation for crimes in Iraq) have been used in Colombia. These groups have no accountability for murder and human rights violations and have become the "[US] empire's paramilitaries" in the region. She told the crowd how Obama needs to be "pushed from below" in order to address problems such as our "divide and conquer" strategy in the region and to accept the center-left governments which have come to power in the region. She told the audience that US policies, namely agricultural "dumping" (where subsidized US crops destroy a country's agricultural base) create huge unemployment, which forces people to become migrant workers or drug traffickers. She made note that Obama is one of the historical revisionists who claim that US torture began after 9/11 when, in fact, the US has always employed torture. She said his anti-torture policies, while a step in the right direction, do not address the other countries we have trained in torture including Colombia and Israel.
The 'post-racial' 'peace' movement sold its soul and also the lives of people in Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq and Latin America. That's the reality. Leslie Cagan, you're United For Death and Destruction and don't think you can waltz your way out of this one.
iraqdel quentin wilberthe washington post
the los angeles timestina susmanraheem salmanmuntadhar al-zeidisinan salaheddinjomana karadsheh
liz sly
gina chonthe wall street journal
nprall things consideredcorey flintoff
ernesto londonozaid sabahwaleed ibrahimaseel kamimissy ryanmichael christiethe new york timesthom shanker