Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Gulf Disaster as Gold Dust

This is from Stephanie Condon's "Navy Blimp Heads to Gulf to Aid Oil Spill Clean Up" (CBS News):

A Navy blimp -- the MZ-3A Airship -- is en route to the Gulf Coast in order to help with the response to the disastrous Gulf oil spill, the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command announced today, releasing a picture of the airship (at left).
The Coast Guard requested the support of the Navy vehicle to help detect oil, direct skimming vessels, and look for wildlife that may be threatened by oil. The airship began its flight to the Gulf Coast last month, departing from Yuma, Arizona, and should soon reach Jack Edwards National Airport in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

There is a Tori Amos song that includes the line "we make it up as we go along." I wish I could remember the title. But that appears to be what BP is doing -- BP and the government.

My granddaughter just told me that the song is "Gold Dust."

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

Tuesday, July 6, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry continues in London with a focus on the family of the deceased, Bradley Manning is charged (though not convicted -- except by some in the press), 6 pilgrims are killed in Baghdad with at least 37 wounded (the pilgrimage continues through the week), Joe Biden visits Iraq over the weekend, and more.

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports Manning has been charged today and that includes "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." These are charges. An Article 32 hearing will be held to determine the strength of the charges. If the case proceeds, it would then move to a court martial. Manning has not spoken to the press. That's an important point and one to remember when the suspect's 'confessions' are bandied about. What crazy ass wipe Adrian Lamo calls truth is certainly open to interpretation and reporters would do well to stop treating what Lamo has supplied them with as fact. Meaning those transcripts of IM-ing may or may not be Manning and when the press -- check out the Guardian's Chris McGreal -- presents those as factual, they are not doing the job of the press. They may be doing the prosecution's job -- which would be the US government's job -- but they are not doing the press' job. Those transcripts may indeed be legitimate. If so, the government will introduce them into evidence and the defense will not dispute them. But a number of reporters are telling you what Manning thought and they don't even know that Manning was the leak. Repeating, Manning hasn't spoken to the press. All they have is a little snitch named Adrian. Sometimes snitches tell the truth, sometimes they don't. In the meantime, Manning's not being 'tried in the media,' he's being 'convicted in the media.' That is not the American justice system. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports on the charges and gets it right. Those confused as to what reporting actually is can refer to his work because he outlines what is known and what isn't. And that's not a slap at Fadel. She also demonstrates how you report. In her case, she ignores the unverified claims and assertions made by Lamo. That's the approach we've taken here. If it is introduced as evidence, we'll deal with it but if Lamo's all we have to go by, we're not wasting our time on it or spitting on the American legal system by using it to mind read. Mannings facing very serious charges (repeating, no guilt has yet been established) and you'd think that people would be very careful about what they claimed Manning has done or has written or has said. Manning has not spoken to the press, Manning has not issued any statement to the press.

There's confusion as to how many charges Manning is facing. The military counts two (as Fadel's article reports) but there are 12 specifications.
Mike Gogulski (Help Bradley Manning) has posted the press release and Mike analyzes the charges here. WikiLeaks has not revealed the identify of the person who passed the information to them. At their Twitter feed they note:

If the charges against Manning are true, he will be the Daniel Ellsberg of our times.
via bitly

In London, the
Iraq Inquiry continue. Yesterday the Inquiry headed by John Chilcot heard from Sally Keeble about civilian efforts in Iraq during the early stages of the Iraq War (link goes to video and text options). The thurst of her testimony is Clare Short's lying. I don't believe Keeble. In 2001, in London, I emerged from the ladies' room to be greeted with, "Are you okay?" My response, "I've been trapped in there with Clare Short for 20 minutes." Everyone at the table, including one Miliband brother, laughed knowingly. I know Clare distantly and it stays distant by choice. I'm not a fan of Clare's (nor she of me). But one thing she is and has always been is straightforward. If she makes mistakes, she'll take her lumps and then some. I don't hate her but our personalities do not mesh and never have. (And never will.) However, if she says something happened, it happened. Keeble's testimony blames Clare for the disorder in Iraq, blames Clare's resignation for forcing her (Keeble) to stay on (lest people think she too was resigning for 'political' reasons) and lists various 'projects' that Clare allegedly erred by not backing. Including a 6 million (apparently pounds and not dollars) port project that, to be honest, I don't think anyone would have backed that early into the war. That's a huge sum of money that lower-level Keeble wanted committed. When all of this was allegedly going on, Keeble did not raise objections. She not only waited until Claire was gone to complain, she waited until she (Keeble) had left the department of International Development herself. If there were huge glaring errors taking place, it was Keeble's job to report them in real time. When she finally did make her assertions, they were looked into by Tony Blair's government. Blair had no reason to protect Clair -- who'd walked out on his cabinet -- but the investigation resulted in a conclusion that the charges were unfounded. I don't know Keeble and have no way of knowing whether she was lying or honestly believes her account for whatever reason. But Clare -- and I'm no fan of Clare's -- is known to take her share of the blame pie and then some. I was hoping Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) would cover Keeble's testimony but he didn't so I'm stating the above and, with that, we're done with Keeble.

Today the Chilcot Inquiry heard from
Andy Bearpark (Director Operations and Infrastructure in the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 to 2004), Martin Howard (Director General Operational Policy, Ministry of Defence, 2004 to 2007), and MP Bob Ainsworth (Minister of State for the Armed Forces, 2007 to 2009, Secretary of State for Defence, 2009) (link goes to transcript and video options). Of the three, we'll zoom in on Bob Ainsworth's testimony. He testified that the issue most presented to him by British troops "was the issues of rest and recuperation" on "the welfare package" -- benefits to the families.

MP Bob Ainsworth: I think you have got to look at the individual instances, because I think that there are some provisions that are absolutely ideal for the provision, you know, through the regimental system, but then there are others where that's not -- I mean, when you have a bereaved family -- I mean, we had to do, I think, considerable work to try to make sure that -- I mean, we simply weren't getting it right, to tell you the truth, and there was a need for, you know, improvement there. Again and again, we were letting people down, I think. [. . . leaping ahead over ten minutes] I saw working with the charities and the agencies as a tour, to help us fill in some of those gaps and fill them in appropriately. So, for instance, in the area of dealing with and helping the bereaved, I don't think that that was some of the improvement that we made we could ever have made on our own, and we certainly couldn't have put in a system that would have helped on our own. So we had to have the help and advice of the Legion, the War Widows' Association. We uwed thos organisations to do analyses of how we actually treated people and get some of the complaints back. We organised a forum. It was somewhere off Pall Mall -- I can't remember exactly where the venue was now -- and we used those organisations to do it, where we brought in people who had been bereaved, who were only to happy to help us because one of the main motivations of bereaved families is often to make sure that you learn lessons from the loss, you know, of their loved ones. But we used them to, you know to, pick up all the challenges that we got and try to improve the service. Now, as a result of that, we then got the British Legion to actually run a service for us, which -- I can't remember the title of it now, but it is like a Citizens' Advice Bureau for -- you know, for bereaved families. Now, we could never do that as MoD [Ministry of Defence]. I don't think we could ever establish the trust with the individuals. You needed that kind of bit of independence, that bit of, you know, arm's length, that getting the British Legion to do it for you gives you. So you know, we then employed them to run some of the improvements that flowed from some of the analyses that we had done of where we were not doing a perfect job.

[. . .]

Committee Member Usha Prashar: I want to look at the question of the MoD dealing with the families because one of the issues that has been raised with us is the MoD's attitude towards families and, in view of the families of the service personnel killed in Iraq, they say that the MoD's attitude is either dismissive or overly defensive. To what extent do you think this criticism is justified and were you aware of that view?

MP Bob Ainsworth: People deal with bereavement in different ways and I have met lots of bereaved families. In some cases, almost no matter what you do, you know, you cannot, you know, make things better; anger is a part of bereavement. You just have to accept that and try not to make the situation worse. But there were areas that we were not getting right.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: Such as?

MP Bob Ainsworth: Well, the way that we communicated with people, sometimes we would appoint a visiting officer to a particular family and that visiting officer would get deployed and then they would wind up with another person, having just got used to the person they were supposed to have as liaison. There are some horror stories when you dig into, you know, how people have actually been, you know, dealt with at an individual level and, I mean, you can never fully mitigate -- in a big organisation, you can never fully mitigate those things, and that is why we organised this event with the War Widows and with the -- the War Widows' Association and with the Royal British Legion to try to pick the brains of those who had had to deal with us, you know, to expose our own failings and then to put systems in place that would, to some degree, pick them up better.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: But what priority did you personally give to dealing with families of those killed in Iraq? What did you personally do? Was that a personal priority?

MP Bob Ainsworth: Improving the system was a personal priority. I had to meet a lot of families, some of them on more than one occasion, and it was important that you did. I know that Des Browne did, and he did it when he was Secretary of State almost systematically. It was important that you didn't just take what you were being told through the system, but you actually got ground truth, and you can't do that all the time and people don't want to do that. There are lots of people who have lost their loved ones who, the last thing they want to do is talk to the Secretary of State for Defence or the armed forces minister. You know, they have got other things, you know that -- in dealing with their bereavement, there are other things that are more important to them, but by doing that from time to time, you did get, you know, a personal handle on, you know, the way some of these systems potentially could be improved.

The answers or 'answers' never got any clearer. From death to life,
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition -- link has text and audio) reports from Hannah Allam's Baghdad baby shower. The McClatchy correspondent joins Deborah Haynes (Times of London) and Nada Bakri (New York Times) in reporting on the Iraq War from Iraq while pregnant. Garcia-Navarro notes, "Since the war started, dozens of women have been sent to cover this conflict. It's been our choice, but for many of us, home and family have had to be parked at the blast wall gates." Leila Fadel (Washington Post), Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) are mentioned in the report (they attended the shower and, of course, cover Iraq). Other women reporting from Iraq for US outlets have included Alissa J. Rubin, Ellen Knickmeyer, Nancy A. Youssef, Deborah Amos (author of Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East), Cara Buckley, Martha Raddatz, Kimberly Dozier, Sabrina Tavernise, Jill Carroll, Anna Badkhen, Gina Chon, Louise Roug, Tina Susman, Alexandra Zavis, Alice Fordham, Kim Gamel, Katarina Kratovac, Rebecca Santana and, of course, the Iraqi women who are part of McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau. Have included. That is not a complete list. (And it's off the top of my head so anyone forgotten was by accident and not a sleight -- except one -- the most famous Iraq 'reporter' whom I'm really not in the mood to include, the former Ms. NYT for those still waking up, helped sell the war.) Everyone listed has their strengths and a unique quality that set their reports aside from others (male and female) reporting from the region. Women have long covered wars. The Iraq War demonstrated that only more so. Lourdes' report aired this morning -- certain fact checkers might want to check their facts before falsely claiming -- as one has -- that the report aired over weekend. The Iraqi women working for McClatchy include correspondent Sahar Issa (who balances work and family in a war zone) and we'll transition on over to violence her country saw today.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two pilgrims, a Baghdad mortar attack which claimed the life of 1 pilgrim and left nine more injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three pilgrims, another which injured five, another which claimed the lives of 2 and left five wounded, another which injured four, another which injured one and two more Baghdad mortar attacks which claimed the lives of 3 pilgrims and left eight wounded. Issa explains the pilgrimage is "to commemorate the martyrdom of Iman Musa al Kathim on July 8." Reuters adds 2 women were shot dead in Mosul and Tikrit was the locale for an assassination attempt on Iraiya member Qutaiba Ibrahim al-Jouburi.

Over the weekend, US Vice President Joe Biden was back in Iraq, for his fourth visit since being sworn in as Vice President.
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported, "Vice President Joe Biden, the White House point man on Iraq policy, arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for meetings with the two front-runners in slow-moving negotiations to lead the Iraqi government as U.S. troops pull out." AP noted a hesitancy among US officials and elected politicians to visit Iraq since the elections and offers that this might signal a change. In Iraq, the political stalemate continues.March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government.

Sunday Biden met with Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki.
Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported of the first visit, "During the 1 1/2 -hour session, Biden emphasized the U.S. commitment to a 'long-term strategic' relationship with Iraq, said Maysoon al-Damluji, a member of the bloc who attended the meeting. Biden was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top military commander in Iraq, as well as other officials from the U.S. Embassy. At the end of the meeting, Allawi and Biden spoke privately for 15 minutes." Counting his trips as a US Senator, Tim Arango (New York Times) noted this is Biden's 17th trip to Iraq since the start of the Iraq War and reports of the second meeting, "Mr. Biden's motorcade then snaked through the Green Zone to the home of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who lives in a neighborhood of waterways known as Little Venice. Afterward, a member of Mr. Maliki's political party, Khalid al-Assadi, said in a statement that the 'process of forming a government is going on quietly'." The Los Angeles Times' Top of the Ticket blog posts the speech Biden gave today. Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered -- link has text and audio) filed from Baghdad on Monday: Vice President JOE BIDEN: The United States is committed we're committed to cement that relationship through economic, political and diplomatic cooperation, not just by the use of arms.
MCEVERS: Analysts here say this may be what the American people want to hear, but not necessarily what the Iraqis want to hear. On one hand, the radical Islamists, both Shiite and Sunni, want the U.S. military all the way out of Iraq. Others say American soldiers should stay, to protect people against the radicals and to ensure that whoever takes power does not become another dictator. Abdulhalek Zengela is a Kurdish member of parliament. He says Biden was his usual frank self with Iraqi leaders and that's the way the Americans should remain.

Lu Hui (Xinhua) reported on Biden's visit with President Jalal Talabani on Monday and Hui notes that both Nouri and Allawi issued statements following their meetings -- statements which sought to make it appear they had the edge and nod from Biden. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes, "In a statement e-mailed from his office in Baghdad today, Talabani described Biden as 'a friend' and said they had discussed ways of 'finding a solution'." Michael Jansen (Irish Times) offers an indepth overview and notes "the post-election political process, as laid down in the constitution, has stalled. parliament, which was convened on June 14th for deputies to take the oath of office and remains in open session because it was unable to elect a speaker on that date. On July 14th, parliament is meant to name a president or three-man presidential council. But these posts cannot be filled until the shape of the new government is decided."

The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, video and audio options) Judy Woodruff spoke with the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf and we'll note this section on the continued stalemate:JUDY WOODRUFF: Are the sticking points related to the sectarian groups, the Shia, the Sunni, the Kurds, or is it more than that?
JANE ARRAF: It is related to that, in a sense. But, more than that, a lot of this, so much of it, in fact, is related to personality, the personality of the prime minister, who has been prime minister for four years and wants to hang on that post, the prime minister of Ayad Allawi, another strong leader, a strong man, as Iraqis see him. A lot of it really is about individuals. It's not so much about issues, which is what Iraqis think it should be. This is a country where it's the beginning of summer, 110, 120 degrees, six hours of electricity a day, no jobs, and people here really feel that politicians should put their own interests aside for a second and just get on with it and form a government and do something.

Alsumaria TV (which correctly notes that Biden was on a three-day visit) explains suggestions were made during the trip: "An official speaking on condition of anonymity pointed out however to two proposals. The first stipulates to divide Premiership term between Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and head of Al Iraqiya List Iyad Allawi, two years each. The second proposal calls to amend Prime Minister's authorities in favor of Iraqi President which recalls the statements of US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill."
Biden's not the only US official who visited Iraq over the weekend, Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham.
Xinhua reports the three senators met with Nouri today and he told them that the pace of the process was being increased. From the article: "Talking about what were achieved by his government in security and other fields, Maliki said the victory is difficult, but maintaining it is much harder." Students of history might want to remember South Vietnam's claims (and economy -- which was semi-functioning at that point) during the US occupation and how, when US forces left, the puppet regime imploded. The same may be in store for Iraq's puppet government if history is an indicator. Biden is due to meet with Nouri and Allawi tomorrow.

In other news,
Timothy Williams (New York Times) reported Saturday that Falluja -- hit twice in 2004 by the US military -- will not be getting the "citywide sewage treatment system" the US government promised and which American tax payers footed the bill for: "Now, after more than six years of work, $104 million spent, and without having connected a single house, American reconstruction officials have decided to leave the system unfinished, though they portray it as a success." Williams goes on to document how that abandoned project is not an isolated occurrence. Hamza Hendawi (AP) reports on the one growth industry of the illegal war: widowhood. Women such as Hameeda Ayed, now the sole provider for herself and her three children who qualifies for approximately $166 a month in assistance from the Baghdad government or 'government' but not only is she not receiving the money, she's no longer trying for it. Because? Because the process exists to stymie and thwart those who might seek assistance. As has become very obvious (me, not AP) in the last years, the 'assistance' is a concept Nouri wants the West to believe he's provided; however, no meaningful assistance is provided for Iraq's over 1 million widows (government figure provided to AP by Nahdah Hameed). Hamza summarizes to AP, "Our life has been turned into misery and desperation. This is what we got from occupation and the dreams of democracy: orphans, widows, homeless, displaced and fugitives." Those still catching up on the weekend's news should refer to Stephen Farrell's post at the New York Times' blog.

On the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), the electricity issue was addressed, how Iraqis suffer without it, how it has not improved through all the years of the Iraq War Iraq's Minister of Planning Ali Baban and joined Jasim Azawi

Jasim Azawi: Ali Baban, I would like to start with you. Before I ask you a question, there is one thing right from the start, right from the outset I would like to make very clear and that is regarding the recently resigned Minister of Electricity [Kareem Waheed], nobody has alleged and nobody has ever proved that corruption -- personal corruption -- has indicted him or has tarnished his reputation. That's from the very beginning. But we take it very seriously, any allegation of people's reputation. And even the number, the $17 billion everybody's throwing around that the minister got in those years. That number is also false according to him and according to figures published that during those four years his ministry received just a little bit over $6 billion -- more than 2 and 1/2 have been spent correctly and the rest is in letter of credit awaiting suppliers to fulfill their committment. Having said that Ali Baban, explain to me in a short manner why, after seven years, Iraqis are still suffering from a lack of electricity.

Ali Baban: Really, I agree with you about your idea and what you mentioned about the minister himself. I think it is very necessary to confirm that the minister is an efficient man and he is a professional man that nobody accuse him of corruption but really the problem is very complicated and it is related to many factors -- political factor, administrative factor, economics factor, the clashes and the antagonism between political group impede our plan to improve the electricity in Iraq. I want to say that. And I want to say to the people that we should face this problem seriously and it is not a challenge for one year or two year, I think we would take time to deal with destroyed -- arranged our network and we should spend a lot of money to solve this problem. Our arranged electricity program really was a subject for destruction because of the wars and siege and the blockage which Iraq was subject for in the last 20 years.

Jasim Azawi: Sami Ramadani, listen to the minister. This is a warning, this is an omen. Those Iraqis who think they are going to get the electricity to pre-1990 or to 1991, they are mistaken according to Ali Baban, it's going to take many many years.

Sami Ramadani: Yes and Maliki confirmed that as well a few days ago after the demonstrations. I think this is an endemic problem. And I myself doubt if the current set-up can supply smoothly electricity to the bulk of the population for many, many years to come. And I think the problems that the Minister alluded to are much deeper than even appearing on the surface. In fact, I think the electricity problem is a very good symbol of the entire political problems of Iraq and the way the sucessive governments since the occupation of Iraq have handled people's essential services. And electricity is one of them. Perhaps one of the most important because it effects people's health, daily lives, schools, education. Electricity, especially in the cities, is one of the backbone infrastructure facilities that the population depend on. And the failure to suppy electricity to the population is symptomatic of the setup that followed the occupation. And I think that one of the reasons -- not every reason, we will come to the other reasons -- one of the reasons is that I think the Iraqi electricity industry -- like much of the services in Iraq -- are being primed for privataziation. This is an agenda that the occupation had at the top of its priorities: Too privatize as much as they could of Iraq's wealth, industries. To open the doors for those who would reap the profits from Iraq and its resources.

And we return to England for the close. Tomorrow there's a demonstration in London:

Tomorrow morning the decision will be announced on
the 'discretion test' case from the Supreme Court.This is otherwise known as the Home Office policy of telling LGBT asylum seekers to 'go home and be discreet'. See our report on UKLGIG's groundbreaking research for more.The policy has been described by some as the Anne Frank principle."It would have been no defence to a claim that Anne Frank faced well-founded fear of persecution in 1942 to say that she was safe in a comfortable attic," Lord Justice Pill agreed in the court of appeal last year. "Refugee status cannot be denied by expecting a person to conceal aspects of identity or suppress behaviour the person should be allowed to express," he added.Movement for Justice - who marched for LGBT asylum at London Pride - will be holding a demonstration tomorrow, Wednesday 7 July at 9am at The Supreme Court (Parliament Square, London SW1P 3BD, opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben).

[. . .]

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the washington postleila fadel
the new york timessteven lee myers
nprmorning editionlourdes garcia-navarro
the los angeles timesned parkerxinhua
tim arango
mu xuequanlu huithe irish timesmichael jansen
alsumaria tv
pbsthe newshourjudy woodruffthe christian science monitorjane arraf
the associated presshamza hendawi
al jazeera
inside iraqjasim azawi