Thursday, September 6, 2012

Barack Obama has been a lousy president

"Conviction! Resolve!  Barack Obama! That's what saved the automobile industry."

So cried Vice President Joe Biden tonight in North Carolina.

I like Mr. Biden.  But President Barack Obama did not help the auto workers.  He helped the fact cats.  But the workers were screwed, forced to take pay cuts and lose benefits.

If you were running General Motors, Mr. Obama was your friend.  If you were a General Motors worker, that was not the case. 

When we were bailing out the auto industry, we could have put in conditions.  We were the ones providing the money, after all.  We could have put in conditions protecting the workers.

But there was no concern about that.

Just like with TARP (Barack Obama was a Senator, yes, but he got it passed by Congress and he strong-armed the Black Caucus to get them to go along with him), measures could have been put in place.  They were not.

We could have demanded the banks stop foreclosures.

We did not.

Over and over, when our money was given away to save Big Business, Mr. Obama refused to do anything to protect the American people. 

Barack Obama has been a lousy president. 

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

Thursday, September 6, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, who wants credit for the state of Iraq today, could the runaway president Jalal be an answer for Iraq, Barack becomes the Democratic Party's presidential nominee, and more.
 
Tonight in North Carolina, President Barack Obama will formally be crowned the Democratic Party nominee for president.  Will a sitting president speak in a presidential manner or will he echo the strident partisan tone, the ugly us-and-them that has so dominated the DNC?  If he's trying to remind people of what they saw in him in 2008, he'll be presidential and not divisive. 
 
If he's going to be presidential, that will need to include thanking Bully Boy Bush for Iraq and not playing glory hog.  At Never Gives Credit But Loves To Rip Us Off (so we don't link to them), Stephanie Gaskell is yammering away in that idiotic manner that's so popular at the news-lette.  She seems astounded that Republicans might argue Bush deserves credit for ending the Iraq War.
 
This is not difficult, this is not hard.
 
Barack Obama promised the American people troops would be out of Iraq ten months after he was sworn in.  A promise broken.  When did they leave?  At the end of 2011.
 
Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden opposed the Status Of Forces Agreement of the Bush administration.  They dropped their opposition to it, right after Barack was elected president -- going so far to vanish their opposition from the campaign site.  But they both campaigned on opposing the SOFA.  They campaigned on it, Barack show-boated on it and I can quote snapshot after snapshot on Joe's remarks on the SOFA.
 
So what ended the Iraq War?  (It hasn't ended but let's pretend.)
 
The SOFA.  Did Barack negotiate it?
 
Nope.
 
It's the Bush administration.  It's Condi, and Bush and Cheney and Stephen Hadley and others.
 
They're the ones who ended the Iraq War.
 
The only way Barack gets credit is if you believe as Senator John McCain did.  Remember what he believed?  From the November 16th snapshot:
 
 
What McCain stated he was hearing from Iraqis -- including Nouri al-Maliki -- was that the US would not provide a plan.  Graham, Lieberman and McCain all noted repeatedly that they spoke to Nouri, that they spoke to the Kurds, that they spoke to Osama al-Nujaifi (Speaker of Parliament, Iraqiya member and a Sunni).  There was not opposition from these groups, the three stated repeatedly. This was Lindsey Graham's point in his first round of questioning.  He walked it through slowly with Panetta and then noted that he'd gone slowly and done so for a reason, he stated that when you had all of that support (and Panetta agreed on the Sunni issue, the Nouri issue and on the Kurds that they would have -- the Kurds -- gone for as many as 50,000 US troops), how did you fail to make a deal?  McCain felt that the White House didn't want to make a deal and presented that feeling as fact.  Graham agreed with him about the failure and wanted to point out that the whole thing -- Iraq plus Afghanistan -- seemed to be done for votes and that it was interesting that Panetta was willing to talk about and explore the Iraqi political situation but no one wanted to talk about the American one.  From his remarks in the hearing, Lieberman agreed it was a failure but did not form an opinion as to why it failed.
This was their argument, they repeated it over and over.  They never once said, "We can force Iraq to do this!" Or that Iraq should have been forced.  Their argument was that they speak with these politicians (including Nouri) often and that they knew what the Iraqi politicians were open to and that they couldn't believe that with what Iraq was willing to go along with the White House couldn't get a deal.  If they're right about what the Iraqi politicians were willing to go for (I believe them because I've heard similar from the administration), then that was a significant moment and one that history books will review -- as McCain himself noted.  I disagree -- again based on what I've heard from administration friends -- that the White House intended to torpedo the agreement.  But that's my opinion and I could be wrong (and often am). McCain may have hurt his own argument by presenting it so forcefully -- you'll note that the presentation and not the substance is what the 'reporters' focused on.  Had he turned it into a question -- the way Lindsay Graham did -- it might have led to many headlines.  Then again, it's a lazy press.  Most likely they would have just seized upon another trivial moment to run with. (We don't have space for a full transcript.  But some of McCain's remarks on this were included in yesterday's snapshot and Kat's report last night included much more from McCain where he made the argument that the Iraqi leaders wanted US troops but the White House failed when they repeatedly had no plan to present.)
 
 
We're referring to the November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee hearing which heard testimony from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and from General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff.  This hearing was covered in the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," the November 16th "Iraq snapshot," the November 17th "Iraq snapshot," by Ava in "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," by Wally with "The costs (Wally)," by Kat in "Who wanted what?" and, at The Third Estate Sunday Review, in "Editorial: The silences that enable and kill," "Enduring bases, staging platforms, continued war" and "Gen Dempsey talks "10 enduring" US bases in Iraq."  By contrast, with the exception of   Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) and Laurence Vance (LewRockwell.com), the press misreported and trivialized the hearing.
 
Now if you're willing to join with McCain and accuse Barack of deliberately attempting to destroy his own negotiations, then Barack deserves credit. 
 
Otherwise, Bully Boy Bush is responsible so Barack may need to share half that already laughable Nobel Peace Prize with George W. Bush.
 
I have no idea why anyone would want to claim 'credit' for Iraq because Iraq's falling apart. 
 
And people are complaining about the lack of any American influence.   Eli Lake (Daily Beast) interviewed Sheikh Ahmad Abu-Risha about the Sahwa ("Awakenings," Sons Of Iraq) and reports:

Rather, he is most concerned that his relationship with the U.S. military has appeared to halt. He said he was assured by U.S. military leaders that he would receive regular visits from senior figures and diplomats to discuss the relationship that began in Anbar back in 2006 and 2007. "There is no contact right now," he said. "They don't visit at all. Ever since the United States withdrew, we haven't gotten anyone to visit."
Jeffrey, who left his post as ambassador at the end of May, said the meetings have not yet happened because without the U.S. military in Iraq it's difficult for U.S. officials to travel to Anbar. "We have every intention of maintaining contact with the awakening and other people," Jeffrey said. "We had several meetings after the military completed its withdrawal with tribal sheikhs from the greater Baghdad area, but it's been hard to get people out to Anbar because of the security situation." A White House spokesman declined to comment for the story.
 
 
At the right-wing Commentary, Max Boot notes Eli Lake's report and concludes:
 
No surprise, that lack of contact and travel; it was precisely what numerous observers, including me, expected would happen when U.S. troops would pull out. But State Department and administration spokesmen spent years assuring anyone who would listen that even with the troops gone, a mega-embassy relying on some 15,000 contractors could continue to carry on vital missions. Now the falsity of those claims has been starkly revealed: U.S. diplomats, devoid of military support for transportation, find it hard to get out of their own embassy in the old Green Zone, thus leaving the old Awakening leaders to find for themselves even as Prime Minister Maliki's increasingly sectarian security forces increasingly persecute high-profile Sunnis including Vice President Tariq al Hashemi.
 
And of course it's also very difficult to spearhead a diplomatic mission when you have no Ambassador to Iraq.  We are aware of that, right?
 
Not only is Iraq falling apart but Barack's Ambassador to Iraq quit.  I'm sorry, Barack's second ambassador quit (James Jeffrey) as did his first (Chris Hill).  Two in four years.  Iraq needed stability.  Barack wasn't able to provide it. 
 
And people are still risking death to get out of Iraq.  Christopher Torchia and Jonathan Burch (Reuters) notes women and children among the people on a boat that became submerged. Xinhua notes the people who lived through the sinking were "mostly from Iraq and Syria" while the dead includes a large number of Palestinians and Syrians -- "12 men, 18 women, 28 children and 3 babies" died.  Hugh Naylor (The National) reports, "Turkey's Dogan News Agency reported dozens of survivors swimming to shore from the scene of the accident, about 50 metres out to sea, suggesting it occurred shortly after the vessel, a fishing boat, departed. It was unclear when it set sail, but most such attempts occur at night so as to avoid capture by sea patrols."  The ship was part of the underground railroad of migration taking part around the world as people risk everything to try to find a better life. 
 
 
On the subject of Turkey and Iraq,  the Jerusalem Post notes Turkish warplanes and helicopters began another attack on a region of northern Iraq said to be home to the PKK.  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reported yesterday, "The sites targeted were in the mountains, and so far officials have not provided any clue as to how many casualties the air strikes caused. In the past major offensives by Turkish forces the defense ministry has issued a final toll only, and not daily updates." Prensa Latina explains, "The start of the operation had been announced three years ago by provincial governor Vahdettin Ozkan in the wake of clashes between the Turkish army and militants of the separatists Kurdistan Workers' Party that resulted on 10 troops and 20 Kurds killed."  Seyhmus Cakan (Reuters) adds, "Turkey has stepped up air operations on suspected PKK rebels in northern Iraq over the past year after an increase in PKK attacks. The raids have fuelled tension between Ankara and the KRG."  The PKK?   Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."
 
The conflict has been going on for years now and violence breeds violence, vengeance begats vengeance.  There have not been a lot of honest efforts to address the situation.  Hurriyet Daily News examines the issues starting with a look at mistakes made:
 
- One of Turkey's two biggest mistakes was to not take any notice of our Kurdish citizens, to disregard their fundamental rights and to treat them as third class citizens. The second big mistake was to delegate the Kurdish issue and PKK terror to the military from the 1980s to 2003. The military used the only policy it knew: pressurizing, burning villages, banning Kurdish, instigating fear, committing unresolved murders, and bombing. Thousands of Kurds left the country for Europe, to form a very effective anti-Turkish, pro-PKK lobby. The PKK gained sympathy and power both domestically and abroad.

- When it was finally understood that the
PKK had originated from the Kurdish issue and at the basis of the issue were social, cultural and ethnic causes, it was already too late.

-
Ankara never had a realistic and courageous strategy except for armed struggle (between 1980 and 2003).

- The most dramatic mistake was that after Ă–calan was caught in 1998 and made his guerillas leave the country,
Ankara acted as if everything was over. The PKK launched itself into terror again in 2006.

- In 2009, the lack of adequate preparation for the Kurdish initiative resulted in nothing but a show of power. This historic opportunity was wasted.

 
 
Violence continues in Iraq. Trend News Agency notes DPA is reporting an al-Sharqat car bombing has claimed the life of Colonel Ismail al-Jaburi.  Alsumaria adds that the bomb was an IED and that it also left his driver injured.  In addition, the Jerusalem Post notes Turkish warplanes and helicopters began another attack on a region of northern Iraq said to be home to the PKK.  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reported yesterday, "The sites targeted were in the mountains, and so far officials have not provided any clue as to how many casualties the air strikes caused. In the past major offensives by Turkish forces the defense ministry has issued a final toll only, and not daily updates."

Staying with violence, last week Nouri's Baghdad-based government executed at least 26 people bringing the 2012 total to at least 96 so far.   Ipek Yezdani (Turkish Weekly) reports Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has written a formal request  to President Jalal Talabani in which he calls for Jalal "to stop the arbitrary and ever-increasing rate of executions in Iraq."  He notes that Jalal can stop the executions at any point in his role as president.  Alsumaria adds that Minister of Justice Hassan al-Shammari declared today that the use of the death penalty should be blowed down.  Dar Addustour notes a Tikrit prison saw riots this week over the transfer of prisoners to Baghdad -- including some who have been sentenced to death.

Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot for more violence:

In other violence,  Alsumaria reports that armed forces in police uniforms attacked various social clubs in Baghdad yesterday, beating various people and firing guns in the air.  They swarmed clubs and refused to allow anyone to leave but did make time to beat people with the butss of their rifles and pistols, they then destroyed the clubs.  AFP adds, "Special forces units carried out near-simultaneous raids at around 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Tuesday 'at dozens of nightclubs in Karrada and Arasat, and beat up customers with the butts of their guns and batons,' said an interior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'Artists who were performing at the clubs were also beaten,' the official said."  The assaults were ordered by an official who reports only to Nouri al-Maliki. In related news the Great Iraqi Revolution posted video Friday of other attacks on Iraqi civilians by security forces and noted, "Very important :: a leaked video show Iraqi commandos during a raid to Baaj village and the arrest of all the young men in the village .they threatened the ppl of the village they will make them another Fallujah and they do not mind arresting all village's men and leave only women . they kept detainees in a school, and beating them, u can see they burned a car of one of the citizens"
 
 
Alsumaria notes that Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, has called out the assault on the social clubs and states that it is violation of the Constitution as well as basic human rights.  Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoun al-Damalouji called on the security forces to respect the rights of the citizens.  Tamim al-Jubouri (Al Mada) adds that the forces working for Nouri attacked many clubs including Club Orient which was established in 1944 and that the patrons including Chrisitans who were surprised Tuesday night when Nouri's forces entered and began breaking furniture, beat patrons and employees and stole booze, cell phones and clothing.  So they're not only bullies, they're also theives.  Kitabat notes that the people were attacked with batons and gun butts including a number of musicians who were performing live in the club including singer Hussein Basri.  Alsumaria adds that the Baghdad Provincial Council states that they were not informed of the assaults on social clubs.
 
 
The political stalemate continues.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports that some feel the return of Iraq's vagabond president Jalal Talabani may allow for resolution:
 
 
Talabani is widely seen as the prime mover behind calls for a National Conference, during which, it's been proposed, all Iraq's political parties should resolve the impasse that has virtually handicapped the local political system at times. Over the past few months the three main groups involved in Iraqi politics – the two religious sects, the Sunni Muslims and the Shiite Muslims, and the Kurdish ethnic group – have failed to resolve their differences.
Yet the past few days have seen more hope and even some optimism about finding a resolution to these accumulated differences. Over the past week Talabani has been making phone calls from Germany, setting up meetings and preparing mediation. On August 19, the first day of the celebration of the major religious celebration Eid, Talabani gave a speech stressing the importance of a National Conference.
"The last few days have seen a decline in the intensity of the crisis that has troubled the Iraqi skies," Talabani said during the speech, before concluding that any solutions developed at the National Conference must be sustainable and long lasting.
 "Upon his return, President Talabani will call for a meeting that brings together the different political blocs to discuss the political crisis in the country," Kurdish MP, Hassan Jihad, confirmed. "Calls that the President made during his stay outside Iraq have borne fruit."
There are various issues that have meant that almost no significant work has been done by the Iraqi Parliament over the past few months.
One of these involves the so-called Erbil Agreement, a power sharing deal formulated in 2010 in the northern city of Erbil, that broke the political deadlock after elections resulted in two major political blocs with almost equal power. The opposition Iraqiya party, headed by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayed Allawi, says that the conditions for power sharing have not been met by the ruling State of Law bloc; the latter is headed by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
 
Are people really trusting that Jalal will somehow help?
 
He fled to Germany after he killed the no-confidence vote.  Without the threat of a no-confidence vote, why the hell would Nouri do a damn thing?
 
And you're pinning your hopes on a National Conference?  WIth Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi both calling for one, it never happened. 
 
What's changed?  Why would it happen now?
 
The Erbil Agreement, for those who've forgotten, was supposed to do what everyone hopes will happen now.  Does no one remember that?
 
Nouri caused a political stalemate that lasted over eight months.  The only thing that (briefly) ended it was the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  And then Nouri trashed it (after he used it to get a second term as prime minister). 
 
What is it Nouri wants now?  What do they have to offer him?  A third term as prime minister?  Is that what it will take for a few weeks of all the political blocs getting along?
 
It better be something because most Iraq observers have repeatedly been wrong over and over.  By contrast, our observations stand.  We were the first to publicly note Nouri's paranoia and did so in 2006 which means we even beat the US State Dept cables in noting how paranoid Nouri is.  So what does it look like right now?
 
Right now, even the US State Dept is starting to freak.  Right now, everyone's starting to realize that even with the best US effort, there may be nothing here.  Why?  The best term for Nouri is procrastination.  What does he want in the next months?  What doesn't he have? 
 
All he really wants at this point is a third term as prime minister and, if he's given that, Little Saddam al-Maliki loses "Little."  He's a thug.  He's always been a thug.  Fifty years ago, faced with this same situation, the US government would have sent in an assassination team by now.  Now the scramble's on as they figure out how to appease the mini-tyrant that the US government had hoped would be a more compliant puppet. 
 
Bush installed him, Barack gave him a second term when his political slate didn't win the 2010 elections.  Now they fear they're stuck with him, with the man so aptly highlighted earlier this week by Haifa Zangana in  "Why is Iraq now immune from criticism over appalling human rights record?" (Guardian). 
 
 
So what kind of human rights are observed in the "new Iraq"? Hardly any. The list of abuses is long and the tip of the iceberg is waves of arbitrary arrests (over 1,000 monthly), torture and executions. All are barely noticed by the world media and the US and British official silence is rather convenient to cover up the crimes and chaos they created. From time to time, they break their silence but only to justify their act of aggression. Recently, when Archbishop Desmond Tutu pulled out of a seminar in protest over the presence of Tony Blair, a statement was issued by Blair's office to justify the morality of his decision to support the United States' military invasion of Iraq.
The statement reiterated the plight of Iraqis under Saddam's regime with no mention whatsoever of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the war and endemic abuses of human rights since 2003.

The Nouri al-Maliki government in Iraq with its human rights outfits is following the same path. Its human rights concerns remain focused on the crimes of the previous regime. So do most of the intellectuals and politicians involved in the scramble for seats and favours in Baghdad. People who for years before the invasion of 2003 were highlighting human rights abuses as a reason to invoke war as a prelude to democracy and transparency are now either totally silent or actively covering up the current abuses, despite glaring evidence from international human rights organisations.
 
 
That's what they've supported which brings us back to the issue of why anyone would claim credit for the state of Iraq today?
 
 
Finally,  Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for US president.  Her campaign offers "Jorge Rojas on the American dream, Latino voters:"

Just yesterday, ten undocumented No Papers No Fear Riders risked everything by participating in civil disobedience at the Democratic National Convention in order to expose the injustice of police/ICE collaboration. After their arrest,  Jill and Cheri urged people across the country to tell ICE that these people deserve relief, not deportation.  Today we share the story of Jorge Rojas, a Chilean-American student and Green Party supporter, as our first feature in a new series highlighting voices from our community. His story couldn't be more timely.
My name is Jorge Rojas. I am currently earning my Ph.D. in economics at the University of Washington, but originally I am from Chile. I came to the United States imagining it was the land of possibility, but the reality I found was quite different. The American Dream is often unobtainable, and for many, has mutated into a nightmare. This is particularly true for misinformed Latinos seeking a land of endless opportunity and who instead find discrimination. This discrimination is often concealed by the corporate media and ignored by the political machine.

The current American two-party system only remembers these communities during election times - the rest of the year they rant about deporting 'illegal' workers. Yet, many of these 'illegal' workers pay more taxes than America's wealthy. These workers contribute their skills, labor, taxes, and above all their cultures to American society.

The Green Party, and its 2012 presidential candidate, Jill Stein, has a history of standing for neglected and disadvantaged Americans, not just during election time, but whenever a helping hand is needed. Unlike other corporate-sponsored parties, Jill Stein bravely stands for social justice and prosperity for all.

The current two-party system refuses to enact change, yet change has never been more necessary. It is time to take action and build a better, fairer America. The philosopher John Dewey once said, "The ultimate aim of production is not production of goods but the production of free human beings associated with one another on terms of equality." Jill Stein's campaign represents this necessary freedom and equality.

----------
This year, with a potential of 21 million Latino voters, both Mitt Romney and President Obama are focusing large amounts of energy attracting their attention and approval - especially so during their national conventions which feature record numbers of Latino speakers and events. Yet, Republicans are known for their staunch deportation and anti-immigration policies; and, President Obama's time in office has been marked by a record number of deportations (about 1.1 million people) and continuing joblessness for 10.3% of the Latin-American population.

The Green Party, on the other hand, has always stood for every community. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, have historically stood with and for diverse populations regardless of immediate political agendas. (In fact, Jill and Cheri were deeply involved before either of them even were involved in elections). We're grateful for Jorge's support and if elected, Latino interests will always be on the agenda!

Help us Occupy the White House! Please donate today!