Sunday, March 06, 2011

Truest statement of the week

The true test of whether Thom Hartmann is on their side isn't just how much he criticizes big corporations. Lou Dobbs criticizes them too. The test is whether he stands for equality and the rights of all workers and their families.

-- David Bacon, "Divide and Deport: On Immigration, Thom Hartmann and Lou Dobbs Have Much in Common" (In These Times).

Truest statement of the week II

Jimmy: How could you be so irresponsible?

Virginia: We're responsible. We're also passionate and spontaneous.

Burt: Those would be our gladiator names if we were on American Gladiator. Which we still might do!

Virginia: Because we're spontaneous.

Jimmy: Okay, first of all, Gladiator sounds awesome. But no babies. One of you has to get fixed or spayed.

Burt: No way.

Virginia: You cannot decide that, Jimmy. That is a personal decision.

Burt: She's right. I think we should take a family vote. All those in favor of everyone keeping their original plumbing?

Virginia and Burt raise their hands.

Virginia: Sorry, Jimmy, you're out voted two to one.

Maw Maw: I vote with Jimmy!

Jimmy: Hold on! Two to two!

Burt: Only if she's lucid! She's only allowed to vote if she's lucid!

Virginia: Maw Maw, we are currently at war with what country?

Maw Maw: Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jimmy: Is she right?

Burt: I think so but I'm not sure.

Maw Maw: It's right, you morons. One more reason why you shouldn't have
another baby.

-- Raising Hope (Fox, Tuesday nights), "Snip, Snip," written by Mike Mariano. Virginia (Martha Plimpton) and Burt (Garret Dillahunt) have a pregnancy scare. When their adult son Jimmy (Lucas Neff) finds out, he holds a family meeting in the living room. Also present is Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman), Virginia's grandmother, who appears off in her own little world as she examined a remote control.

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another long Sunday.

We thank all who participated this week which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what we came up with?
  • David Bacon nailed this one.

  • C.I. highlighted this exchange last week in a snapshot. Ruth and Mike nominated this and backed it hard.

  • How stupid are we supposed to be? We must be pretty damn stupid if the military thinks they can argue that allowing political prisoner Bradley Manning clothing would give him the means to hang or strangle himself. Disposable scrubs -- which do come in paper. Any medical supply store can walk the military through how to purchase them.

  • Ava and C.I. worked on this and were done early. We thought that meant an Iraq piece but that just didn't happen. This is a Saturday Night Live piece and, if you'd missed it last fall, they'd noted they were trying to stay away from entire pieces on this program and from 30 Rock because they were way too easy as targets. An SNL friend lobbied hard to get them to write this piece.

  • The polls are not encouraging. What should be a winning position is barely crossing 50%. So maybe it's time people started working on their communication skills?

  • A short piece. Dona called for them. How did this one come about? Jess was making fun of the Sex in the City reboot near the end of this writing edition and an actress friend of C.I.'s who had dropped by asked if we'd heard the "low blow" Matlin gave Damon? We hadn't. It fit. C.I. and Isaiah had been joking about movies throughout the writing including Disney sequels. The illustration is by Isaiah and is based on the joking he and C.I. did. C.I. had one problem with it: "If it goes up, it goes up first at The Common Ills so Isaiah doesn't have to come up with another comic for today." No problem.

  • Last week we wondered what kind of an Oscar show it would be. We were not prepared.

  • A repost of C.I.'s Friday snapshot to give us an Iraq feature.

  • Sara Flounders providing wise advice again (she was one of the strong voices during the Bush administration saying the US didn't need to invade Sudan).

  • Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.

And that's what we came up with. See you next week.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: Bull F**king S**t

Bradley Manning

Political prisoner Bradley Manning is now being forced to sleep in the nude. Ed Pilkington (Guardian) reports, "The lawyer for Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of having leaked a massive trove of US state secrets to WikiLeaks, has accused his military jailers at the marine base in Quantico, Virginia, of ritually humiliating his client by stripping him naked in his cell every night." Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) quotes the Quantico spokesperson 1st Lt Brian Villiard insisting, "The intention is not to cause any sort of humiliation or embarrassment. The intention is to ensure the safety and security of the detainee and make sure he is able to stand trial." Nakashima adds, "Villiard said he could not explain how Manning might harm himself if he were allowed to keep his underwear, citing rules to protect detainees' privacy."

He can't explain it because there's no way too. But taking the Stupidity Cup was US Senator John Kerry who tells NECN (link has text and video), "There are concerns about what is happening, but a strong argument is being made that they're trying to preserve his safety, they don't want him harming himself, and using his own clothing to hang himself, or do something like that."

Oh, go brush that weird hair, Kerry.

Let's toss out two words: Disposable scrubs.

Now if you're really out of date and never do anything for yourself and are John Kerry's age, you may not be familiar with those terms or with this one: Disposable, paper scrubs.

That's right.

There's no reason for Bradley to be naked.

Except to punish him. Except to make an example of him.

If you're not getting it, think about your last doctor's visit. Did you maybe put on a paper gown for the examination?


And the military could go to any medical supply company and puchase those.

But apparently they're either interested in humiliting Bradley or just need to get their jollies studying up on his wang.

Either way, it's past time that he was dressed. He can wear disposable scrub pants -- without a waist band sewn in (which someone might rip out) -- and roll the tops to keep them up. Or he could wear disposable scrub shorts. Or he could just wear a disposable gown.

But if he's naked? Don't pretend there was no other way. Don't lie to us. Don't insult our intelligence.

Either the military's trying to humilate him or those working the brig need something to masturbate too. We'll assume the latter until we get a credible explanation as to why disposable scrubs aren't being used.

TV: Rebirth or last gasp?

Under pressure from an SNL friend, we watched. We were interested that Fred Armisen would be making an appearance and, honestly, we were curious to see Miley Cyrus host but what really sold us was when we were told of how a number of male critics have trashed every episode this season that a woman hosted. Our awareness of Miley Cyrus consisted of headlines (we never bothered to read any stories on her) and Vanessa Bayer's parody of her in "The Miley Cyrus Show" skits. We weren't expecting a great deal.


So imagine our surprise to learn Cyrus could more than hold her own. Imagine our surprise that she hosted the best episode of the season. In fact, if a man had done what Cyrus did, he'd be on the rotating host schedule. Made us think how strange it was to be sold on checking out the broadcast because of the "woman's issue" (quoting the SNL friend) since only two women have hosted the show five times or more: Drew Barrymore (six) and Candice Bergen (five) and that Bergen hasn't hosted since 1990. (How many men have hosted five times or more? Ten.)

Maybe more women would be able to repeat host if SNL writers could do something more than leering sex jokes? That's actually what made this the best episode of the season, the lack of leering. It wasn't about how to get the host naked, it wasn't about the size of her breasts, it wasn't about any of the crap that they've offered over and over.

Instead the writers wrote skits for Cyrus like they would have a man -- meaning they saw her as something more than a T&A object. From her first moment on the show (doing a Lindsay Lohan impersonation) to her farewell, Cyrus projected strength. She sang, she danced, she joked, she was the perfect host.

The pretty much given was that Cyrus would somehow show up in the latest "The Miley Cyrus Show" skit. The most obvious way to handle it would be to let Bayer do her Miley impersonation and then have Cyrus walk out and comment on that. If you think about it, you should easily be able to think of at least ten times that Saturday Night Live has done exactly that. They went a different way (thankfully) and Cyrus impersonated Justin Bieber. As with her Lohan impersonation, Cyrus nailed Bieber. She and Kenan Thompson nailed it in the Disney Acting School skit. And even in the non-English skit, "Les Jeunes de Paris," she found laughs with Taran Killam.

The show wasn't without its problems. (And we were left indifferent by the parody of The Sound of Music.) As has become the pattern at SNL, after Weekend Update, they are progressively less and less concerned about laughs. If that's an expected, the homophobia wasn't. The show opened with Bill Hader doing a lousy impersonation of Charlie Sheen as "Sheen" hosted a talk show. First guest was John Galliano (played by Killam) and, apparently to telegraph that he was a designer, there was a need to mince and lisp. We've never caught or heard of Galliano doing either. Just because he's despicable, SNL writers thought the way to go was "Queenie!" -- which actually says a great deal more about them and their attitude towards gay people than they probably realize. The homophobia is not only tired it is, for this program, rather obvious.

Another thing that's rather obvious is how, despite Seth's determination not to share the stage, he doesn't have the chops to solo on Weekend Update. If only we all found Seth Meyers as cute as he finds himself, it might not be a problem. But it is a problem and the lack of a female co-anchor, when combined with the never ending male characters who show up, really goes to how little women are being valued. Jason Sudeikis had some nice moments in the broadcast; however, his bit as Satan on Weekend Update wasn't one of them.

Most of all there was the lack of creativity in the writing. In fact, except for the repeated swiping from Will & Grace episodes on this season of 30 Rock, we're hard pressed to think of more limited comedy concepts. For example, how many Charlie Sheen jokes were needed in one broadcast? The episode opened with a parody of a Charlie Sheen talk show and that should have taken care of it. However, Sheen's name was worked into "The Miley Cyrus Show" and into three jokes on Weekend Update. Was there nothing else that happened last week? Or was this just another example (like resorting to homophobia) of how immature and stunted the writers are?


It was the writers immaturity. There actually was another 'news' story they could have covered. Charlie Sheen? That drama's been playing out for weeks now. Last week's celebrity news was James Franco's immense flame out co-hosting the Academy Awards. That's the event that had every wag saying he was this decade's Elliott Gould and comparing his baked burnout to when Warner Brothers had to shut down A Glimpse Of The Tiger in early 1971 due to Gould's questionable behavior (which he insisted wasn't drugs; however, on set behavior including fights with director Anthony Harvey and co-star Kim Darby led the studio to conclude drugs or mental breakdown) and which made Gould -- at that time, one of the hottest actors in the industry -- not insurable for years after. Those not debating Franco's sanity or drug intake were largely left exclaiming that he'd taken a piss on the industry while the whole world watched. But Charlie Sheen's not friendly with Seth and the other bad writers. Franco is. So they bury the biggest celeb 'news' of the week to go with Charlie Sheen who, compared to the global reach of the Academy Awards, might as well have been acting out on IRC.

The worst of the writing wasn't on display mainly because we didn't catch one of Jay Pharoah's impersonations. If he can act, he's yet to demonstrate it. And his impersonations aren't really dead-on. Take the Will Smith impersonation, it's the sort of thing his grandmother might find solid but everyone else is thinking, "Uh, that doesn't sound like Will and it doesn't look like Will." And since there's no real writing of those sketches -- beyond "Look, I'm pretending to be and I'm saying stupid stuff so it's got to be funny!" -- Pharoah brings the show to a standstill -- not a show stopping way, in a paint drying on the wall sort of way. Saturday Night Live's been many kinds of bad over the years; however, it's never been bad because it attempted to ape its less successful impersonators. Yet every time Pharoah's humored and allowed an 'impersonation,' the sketch is so poorly written that it plays like MadTV.

What the Cyrus episode last night did was remind everyone that SNL can be something more than it's been for the last three years. Whether this was a rebirth or a last gasp remains to be seen.

Memo to AFL-CIO, communication is key

If it were 2001, we could understand some confusion as to what century we're living in. But it's 2011 and there's no explanation for it. And there's no excuse for trotting out language that really doesn't speak to today. Especially when you're attempting to court public opinion.

Anti-worker actions have been taking place in Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey. Wisconsin has been the key battle ground and Sharon Black (Workers World) reported Wednesday, "Seasoned trade unionists from the Steel Workers union joined high school and college students. People facing their first-ever arrest came with their children. Hundreds who spent sleepless nights on the cold marble floors had forged bonds of friendship that kept them strong." What makes Wisconsin key is the governor, Scott Walker, attempting to do away with collective bargaining for state workers. Collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining gives workers a seat at the table in decision making. It allows one person to represent the employees in the negotiations with employers. Without collective bargaining, there's no seat at the table, there's no negotiation rights. Which is why Walker's attack on workers, to be successful, has to do away with collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining is one of the powers unions have and, throughout the history of this country, unions have fought for and won many cherished things that we now consider the norm -- for example, a living wage, the "weekend" (or two days off a week, where ever those two days fall for you) and an end to forced labor for children.

You might call the union the people's defender. At least you might if you weren't AFLO-CIO President Richard Trumka. Thursday, Judy Woodruff (PBS' NewsHour) spoke with Trumka about . . . Well who can be sure with Trumka's responses?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me -- I want to pick up on that, because, you know, making that point, are you -- how worried are you that, if Governor Walker wins this argument in Wisconsin, that there could -- that it just builds and makes stronger the argument against unions in these other states? I mean, we already see this.

RICHARD TRUMKA: Look, this isn't an argument about unions. This isn't about unions.

It's not? Then why should we give a ___?

Seriously, that's the best the president of the AFL-CIO can do?

And what's with the other 'leaders' and their soundbytes of "solidarity" and "brothers and sisters" and "comrades"?

Sweet Thursday! What crawled off the Tortilla Flat in search of The Pearl in the midst of The Winter Of Our Discontent?

Do you not get it?

Do we need to go all Grapes of Wrath to make the point?

"The kids. You ought to see them. Little boils, like, comin' out, an' they can't run aroun'. Give 'em some windfall fruit, an' they bloated up. Me, I'll work for a little piece of meat."

John Steinbeck, great writer. Really captured elements of his time. His time. Which has passed.

And you end up looking pretty silly to those not already vested in your cause when you're on TV attempting to rally people to your side with "comrade," "brothers & sisters" and "solidarity" among other terms.

Think language doesn't matter? Pioneer Press reported on public opinion yesterday:

A new Ramussen survey of Wisconsin voters showed that 52 percent oppose the weakening of collective bargaining rights and 39 percent favor it. Nationally, Rasmussen reported a week ago, 47 percent of voters support Walker and 42 percent support the unions.

The Quinnipiac University poll, meanwhile, found 45 percent of American voters saying that, to reduce state deficits, collective bargaining for public employees should be limited, while 42 percent oppose limits on collective bargaining.

Quinnipiac also found that voters -- by the large margin of 63 percent to 31 percent -- say government workers should pay more for benefits and retirement programs.

Those aren't good numbers. When the numbers are that low, either unions are the problem or the way the message is presented is the problem. Our opinion is it's the latter.

You want to move beyond limited support? Work on your messaging.

"WE ARE ONE" reads the AFL-CIO splash screen. If we are one, we need to speak in a common language.


"Solidarity"? Try "shoulder-to-shoulder." "We stand shoulder-to-shoulder." Try "support." And when they made their little splash screen, did the ALF-CIO not grasp how many workers aren't unionized?

"Solidarity" is a term that, in fact, means union. Assuming people do know the various definitions for the term, how is Jo/e Marsh supposed to show "solidarity" with you when s/he works at a non-union job?

The AFL-CIO gives the amount of union members in the US -- for all unions, not just their own: 14.7 million (and their graph notes a downward trend since 1995). That's a tiny number when you realize that the 2010 US Census charts over 300,000,000 people in the US.

In other words, many, many more people are not union members than are. And those who aren't union members but would like to show their support? They're not being reached with faulty language from speakers and splash screens.

What's taking place is not the Bolshevik Revolution. Workers are under attack in the 21st century. You want to help workers, then you need to speak in relatable ways or else you're never going to persuade anyone. When your outdated language makes them laugh at you, you've built a wall between you and them.

And if you sound like a liar, they aren't going to trust you. Richard Trumka, if what's going on has nothing to do with unions, why are you talking about it? Why are unions protesting what's happening?

If you're a leader of a union and you're marking ridiculous claims, you're not just destroying your own credibility, you're destroying the credibility of the unions.


For more on these topics, see Ruth's "Use language to communicate, not to confuse," C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" and Trina's "Iraq snapshot" from last week.

How bad are the movies these days?

How bad are the movies these days? In an attempt to offer some sort of praise, Leonard Maltin hailed Matt Damon's performance in The Adjustment Bureau as "completely credible." Yes, that's what we've come to, an actor wins 'praise' for being credible -- excuse us, completely credible.

No, that wasn't how it always was.

"Did you see Sophie's Choice?" "Oh, yeah! Meryl Streep, completely credible. In fact, whole movie, credible."

Or how about, "Jack Nicholson's breakthrough performance in Easy Rider? Completely credible."

In June 2010, we did a parody which included, "Now let me come up with my pull quote for this review: Sex in the City? Golly, even the original cast of Star Trek got put out to pasture for the reboot!"

And yet they're rebooting. And the front runner to play 30-something Carrie? 23-year-old Blake Lively.

Not to be Jonah in Knocked Up (deleted scene where he's watching Brokeback Mountain) but if the film industry had any real guts right now, they'd be tipping some sacred cows.

For example.

Mary Pops Back


Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Mary Pops Back"

And we did find out

Last week's "And the Oscar should have gone to . . ." concluded with, "Will this year be another 2009 (boo) or 2010 (incredible)? We'll find out tonight."

And we did find out.

Academy Awards

The Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted event was excruciating. Agonizing, awkward and embarrassing.

For just a moment, pretend that Anne Hathaway solo hosted (and for many watching Franco stumble around on stage stoned, she did solo host). Same lines, same delivery, the next day's reviews would have been: "Hathaway A Trouper, Hathaway Shows Spirit." No one would consider her one of the best hosts in Academy history by any means but they would have noted she was a good sport.

James Franco's damn lucky he wasn't hosting solo because, as bad as he was, that would have been even worse. Lacking humor, charisma or even the ability to try, Franco, in the span of a few brief hours, quickly became the worst host in history.

Iraqis continue fighting back

C.I. covered Friday's protest in a snapshot and we're reposting it and calling it our Iraq piece for the week.


Iraq snapshot

Friday, March 4, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests take place across Iraq, Iraqi forces attack journalists in Basra, Mosul demonstrators are threatened with a number forced back into their homes, the US government remains largely silent on the protests, the political situation in Iraq continues to resemble a square dance and more.

KUNA reports, "Thousands of Iraqi demonstrators are flowing to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities in what is called 'Friday of Dignity' in protest against poor services and boringly sluggish efforts against alleged corruption and fraud in Iraq." Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that, today, "a crowd of about 2,000 people had descended Baghdad's Tahrir Square by early afternoon, another 1,000 gathered i the southern city of Nasiriyah and about 300 were in the central city of Hilla." AGI notes, "The protesters mostly arrived on foot because of a ban on the movement of vehicles in the square." Bushra Juhi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) note Bahjat Talib had to stop at eight checkpoints to get from the Sadr City section of Baghdad to Tahrir Square and they quote him stating, "Our country is lost and for the last eight years the government has failed to offer services for people. Thousands of youths are without jobs." In Nineveh Province, the Dar Addustour live screen crawl noted, protesters have again demanded that the release of detainees and the expulsions of US forces from the country. Al Rafidayn adds security forces in Nineveh used water cannons and batons to disperse the crowd. American University Cairo's Firas al-Atraqchi Tweeted this observation about the Iraqi protests:

Thing about today's #Iraq protests is that they happened despite general curfew #Baghdad #karbala #Basra #Mosul #Najaf #Nasiriyah #diwaniya about 2 hours ago via web

The Day of Dignity follows last week's Day of Rage which saw protests across Iraq with demonstrators often attacked by police leaving less than 30 dead and hundreds injured. The attacks were not just on the demonstrators, Iraqi forces also attacked the press. Physically attacked the press. The groundwork for that physical attack was laid by Nouri who ordered forces to bust into news outlets and journalistic organizations in the days prior to last Friday's Day of Rage. In addition, Nouri also outlawed live broadcasts from Baghdad on that Friday. Through his actions, he sent the message that his government did not respect or support a free press and his thugs then acted accordingly -- in one instance, barging into a Baghdad restaurant and physically attacking four journalists who were eating lunch, beating them in the heads with the butts of their rifles and then arresting them. Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reminds, "Witnesses in Baghdad and as far north as Kirkuk described watching last week as security forces in black uniforms, tracksuits and T-shirts roared up in trucks and Humvees, attacked protesters, rounded up others from cafes and homes and hauled them off, blindfolded, to army detention centers. Entire neighborhoods -- primarily Sunni Muslim areas where residnets are generally opposed to Maliki, a Shiite -- were blockaded to prevent residents from joining the demonstrations. Journalists were beaten." In an essay on last Friday's protest, Danial Anas Kaysi (Foreign Policy) observes:

After the March 2010 elections, the Iraqi people waited close to ten months for their political representatives to agree on a framework and form a government (which is yet to be truly completed due to disputes concerning the naming of security ministers). Those were months in which the population continued to live in the shadow of an occupation, in face of high unemployment levels and in deteriorating conditions -- from low levels of electricity and water to mismanaged sewage systems and ration card provisions.
When Maliki was chosen, the Iraqi people continued to patiently await the creation of a national unity government capable of addressing their needs. All along, Maliki led a protracted campaign to retain the premiership, arguing that was Iraq's best choice in guiding it away from its woes at a time of uncertainty. While services were not central to his coalition's campaign, Maliki concentrated on his capability to impose the rule of law and bring back stability and security so that the country might begin to truly rebuild. Security could be quite the convincing argument had terrorist attacks decreased rather than increased, and had the prime minister not been creating police forces outside the regular chain of command, such as the infamous Baghdad Brigades, which is feared by the residents of the city.
The prime minister's image can no longer be built on a mirage of security and stability. Worsening conditions, coupled with clear corruption and an increase in terrorist attacks, have led people to lose trust in their local, provincial, and federal representatives. Two months after government formation, it has become clear to the people that it is one of a starkly political nature, formed through backroom deals and the placating of various factions.

Al Mada notes that yesterday a vehicle ban was placed on Basra in anticipation of the protest (in anticipation of curbing the protest) and those violating the ban will not have their vehicles returned until some time after Friday. Basra is where 23-year-old Salem Garuq al-Dosari died last Friday, killed for the 'crime' of protesting. In reply to a question about violence from McClatchy's Hannah Allam, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted:

HannahAllam We have reports of a cameraman injured in Basra, but its not clear how. No violence reported to us against journos in Baghdad
about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck

Aref Mohammed (Reuters) informs of today's Basra protest, "A Reuters reporter at the scene said some journalists were also beaten by security forces. A vehicle ban was in effect." J. David Goodman (New York Times) also notes the attacks on journalists ("beaten by authorities there"). The Dar Addustour live screen crawl noted Diyala, Kirkuk, Tikrit and Samarra were also placed under curfew. Ammar Karim (AFP) adds, "Nasiriyah, in the south, barred anyone from entering. Complete vehicle bans were also placed on every non-Kurdish province north of the capital, with protesters not even allowed near provincial governorate offices in the city of Mosul, after five demonstrators were killed and one building set ablaze in rallies there a week ago."
While bans were put in place, Al Mada reveaks that the Iraqi Jurists Association announced they would be participating in today's protests and called on the "legitimate" reforms protesters have demanded to be implemented. They also saluted the protesters noting that they have shown strength, that all Iraqis are one people and one destiny. Al Rafidayn reports that the protesters in Baghdad today found Tahrir Square cordoned off by security forces and that blockades were utilized to close down roads and prevent access to areas including the Green Zone and the Sinak Republic Bridge. Osama Mahdi (Kitabat) reports that protesters in Baghdad chanted "Liar Liar Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Liar Liar" and "Peaceful, Peaceful" while carrying flags and banners -- one banner read "Where did the people's money go?" Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) notes that "security was tight as police in riot gear faced the demonstrators, and it was unclear whether crowds would become larger following Friday prayers. Many protesters in the square said they were nervous about staying there considering violence that followed last week's nationwide demonstrations." The crowds did increase despite many obstacles, going from hundreds before ten this morning to, Aref Mohammed (Reuters) estimates, "around 3,000," Tahrir Square is now being called "Iraqi Liberation Square". But not all who wanted to take part in Baghdad were able to. Alice Fordham and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) quote Hansa Hassan who says, "There were many people who wanted to participate but who were prevented; my husband insisted, and he managed to go in, but there were many barriers." NPR's Jonathan Blakley reported from Baghdad:

Most of the participants today were young people, waving Iraqi flags and plastic flowers. Many were college-age students, dressed in red and black caps and gowns, upset because, they say, they couldn't find work after graduation. Some demonstrators had walked for hours to get to Tahrir Square.
One Iraqi [home maker] said the protestors would "expose the thieves" -- referring to government corruption. She said people would march every Friday until their demands are met.

I've changed the term to "home maker." It's 2011 and I'd love to Alicia explain why NPR is using the term I'm not allowing at this site. Was today "Remember Glen Campbell Day"? I don't know. Reporting for Al Jazeera (link goes to Al Jazeera's YouTube page which provides a live feed) from Baghdad, Jane Arraf stood in front of a large crowd gathered in Tahrir Square explaining the thousands "have walked for hours to come to this square," that the government had put up conrecte blocks at the end of Sinak Republic Bridge and walled off the Green Zone and "despite this, thousands of people came to chant that they believe the government they elected are liars and they can do better." Iraqi Streets 4 Change has a photo essay of the Baghdad protest at the top of their web page.

The Dar Addustour live screen crawl noted so reports that Baghdad Operations have been ordered to evacuate the square of journalists and protesters. Al Rafidayn reports that Iraqi state television reported the protest in Baghdad was over and there were no incidents and that, after this was announced by state TV, Baghdad security forces in Tahrir Square dispersed the protesters --- still present, the protest hadn't ended despite the TV claims -- and did so with force and utilizing batons after one p.m. (Baghdad time). On this violence, Iraq Oil Report Tweeted a reply to AFP's Prashant Rao and McClatchy's Hannah Allam:

prashantrao @HannahAllam we've got reports that those in baghdad who defied the 1pm "official" end to the protest were pushed away by ISF
about 2 hours ago via web in reply to prashantrao

Alsumaria TV adds, "In Diwaniya, hundreds of citizens rallied against weak services in their province and called to dismiss the governor and dissolve the provincial council. Demonstrators criticized the government's delay in meeting their demands. Protestors called to dismiss governor Salem Alwan along with head of the provincial council and its members on account of their failure to provide their province with basic services, Alsumaria News reporter said." Dar Addustour live screen crawl noted protesters in Muthanna wants the provincial council and the governor removed. DPA reports Mosul protesters were repeatedly intimidated and quotes Mohamed Saadon stating, "Security forced me to return home though I was planning to join protests. They threatened to shoot me in the leg if [I] did not go back to myhome. They also prevented my three children from leaving home."

Al Rafidayn notes that MP Kamal Saadi has invited the protesters to meet with the Parliament on Saturday and discuss their demands according to Jalal Iipoidica who states that a call for this meet up with go out across Facebook.

In one of the saddest developments, Gilbert Mercier (News Junkie Post) observes, "The US media and most world news outlets (including the BBC) have been strangely silent over the situation in Iraq. Of course it can be explained by the fact that our current news cycle is on steroid. Tracking the Arab revolution's progress is overwhelming even for big news outlets. Libya and the armed revolution to finish off Gaddafi is the big headline, but not for long as it seems that the days of the mad man are counted. Egypt and Tunisia are still in mid-revolution limbo. Both are under military control, but the people are still putting pressure on their respective military to make sure that the revolution doesn't get hijacked by a military junta." Iraqis will most likely be gain ingored by the bulk of US media but with the White House refusing to support the protests, media lackeys will fall in line and declare it 'non-news'. Which is so very true. The outlet that's owned the story domestically would be the Washington Post. (CNN has done some very strong reports -- most of which didn't air on CNN but aired on CNN International.) Kelly McEvers (NPR) did some strong reporting but she left Iraq Tuesday. AP has done strong and consistent work. Monday morning we were noting how the New York Times couldn't be bothered mentioning the assault on Iraqi journalists.

Days later, they still had trouble despite the fact that by Monday evening, The Committee to Protect Journalists had called out the assaults, as had Simone Vecchiator (International Press Institute) and Reporters Without Borders released their open letter to KRG President Massoud Barzani while Nouri al-Maliki had apologized to one reporter, Wissam Ojji (Turkman Eli TV), publicly. Al Rafidayn reported Ojji accepted Nouri's apology. No report on that in the New York Times today. Alsumaria TV reported Tuesday that the White House National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Visor issued a statement which included: "We were also deeply troubled by reports that Iraqi Security Forces detained and beat Iraqi journalists and civil society leaders during Friday's demonstrations." Testifying to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never mentioned it despite offering a media critique (for her appearance before the Committee, see Tuesday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "Is you're Congressional district in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "Pitching the State Dept. budget (Wally)" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Hillary's foreign policy aims (Ava).") US President Barack Obama hasn't said a word. March 1st, Marian Wang (ProPublica) reported:

As the Mideast protests and government crackdowns continue, one country to watch closely is Iraq, with whom the U.S. has a
long-term partnership [1] and where clashes between protesters and government forces recently turned violent. Even as Iraqi security forces detained and abused hundreds of intellectuals and journalists [2], the U.S. government -- in keeping with a pattern of silence on Iraq's abuses -- has withheld criticism of its strategic ally. (Salon noticed this too [3].)
Asked generally about the violence against Iraqi demonstrators [4] on Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said only "the approach we've taken with regard to Iraq is the same that we've taken with regard to the region," which he said was to call on governments to respond to the protests peacefully. Neither the White House [5] nor the State Department seem to have mentioned the matter since. Yesterday's State Department briefing discussed Libya, Egypt, Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, China, Pakistan, Argentina, South Africa and Haiti -- Iraq was never discussed [6].

Wednesday, Sami Ramadani (Guardian) reported on efforts to stop last Friday's protests (more protests are scheduled for this Friday) -- efforts by the US government to stop the protests:

For its part, the world's biggest US embassy -- the power behind the throne -- took the unprecedented step of broadcasting in Arabic, on state TV, a thinly veiled threat to protesters not to go too far in their demands. The US, it stressed, fully backed the "democratically elected" regime, while supporting the right to peaceful protest. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama must be pretty confused as to which dictatorship they should now abandon and which to prop up.

So it's not silence -- bad enough -- it's also actively attempt to scare Iraqis from protests. The US is supposed to be a democracy and shame on any White House that uses tax payer money in another country to encourage people not to utizlize the right to assembly and the right to free speech. Shame on the White House.

From the shameful games of US politics, to the circle game that is Iraqi politics, American University Cairo's Firas al-Atraqchi Tweeted:

An older looking Muqtada Sadr meets with Iyad Allawi - both say they support
#iraq peaceful protests
31 minutes ago via web

EuroNews notes, "Earlier, former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi and Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr held talks to discuss the protests. Last week, al-Sadr asked his supporters to give the government six months to try to address their demands." UPI notes, "Allawi conducted a joint news conference in Najaf with his one-time enemy, Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, calling on his followers to protest in support of the Libyan people and against U.S. intervention. Sadr did not directly call on his followers to join the demonstrations." Relationships may be shifting in Iraq. From yesterday's snapshot:

In political news, the big news may be Ayad Allawi's announcement. Al Rafidayn reports the Iraqiya leader has given a TV interview in which he has declared he will have no part of the National Council on Supreme Policies. He termed his decision "final" and said Iraqiya could nominate or back someone else for that post if they want to. Iraiqy won the most votes in the March 7th elections which should have meant Ayad Allawi had first crack at forming a government but the Constitution wasn't followed. To end the stalemate, the US government increased the pressure on various parties resulting in an agreement largely brokered by the Kurds which gave Nouri the prime minister poster and would make Allawi head of the National Council on Supreme Polcies; however, that body has still not been created. For those who can remember, after the agreement there was much fan fair in Parliament the next day . . . except for Iraqiya walking out as it became obvious that their rewards in the agreement were not priority. Among those who walked away then was Allawi. It probably would have been smart for others in Iraqiya to have taken a stand back then when it might have made a difference. Dar Addustour reports the assertion that the National Council wil lbe formed. When? Iraq still doesn't have a full Cabinet. In related news, New Sabah reports that Iraqiya is stating Nouri is using his '100 days' (a time of review Nouri's given himself) not to reform, but to stall. Arab News reports: "The Chairman of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), Ammar al-Hakin, and the Leader of al-Iraqiya Coalition, Iyad Allawi, have discussed on Wednesday the activiation of the agreements, reached among different Iraqi political parties, to activiate the national partnership to respond to the people's demands, an SIIC statement said on Thursday. In further related news, Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Sadr Front threatened to stop supporting the government of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki if he keeps on his weak performance and failures. The front even hinted about allying with Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi to form a parliamentary majority in case the government fails to provide its people the needed services within the six month deadline set by Sadr's referendum." UPI notes, "The party loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr could rally against the country's prime minister if he doesn't address national woes."

Alice Fordham (Los Angeles Times) reports "In an interview on Iraqi TV, Allawi alleged that he was being watched by intelligence services and said that he would not head the proposed National Council for Strategic Policies. The council, backed by the United States, was conceived as a counterweight to the power of the prime minister to end the months-long deadlock on forming a government." Meanwhile Michael S. Schmidt and Jack Healy (New York Times) note the fact that (Nouri's) Supreme Court gave him the power over the Electoral Commission and other independent bodies at the start of the year, that -- following Ned Parker's secret prisons report for the Los Angeles Times -- Human Rights Watch and Amnesty both released reports on the secret prisons in Iraq under Nouri's command: "And in July, Iraq's high court ruled that members of Parliament no longer had the power to propose legislation. Instead, all new laws would have to be proposed by Mr. Maliki's cabinet or the president and then passed to the Parliament for a veto. Political experts said they knew of no other parliamentary democracy that had such restrictions." Iraqiya's Aliya Nasif tells the reporters, "This is the beginning of dictatorship. We are regressing by centuries."

Regressing? Standing still on the issue of Kirkuk to be sure, the oil rich, disputed territory in Iraq. The central government or 'government' in Baghdad claims it has the right to it while the KRG claims it belongs to them. Both lay claims about this period of time where their own was most discriminated against and forced out. The issue was supposed to have been addressed sometime ago. Supposed? The Constitution mandated that it be addressed. The US White House's 2007 benchmarks -- signed off on by the US Congress and Nouri al-Maliki -- demanded that progress be made on the issue or US funds would be cut off. That didn't happen -- it didn't get addressed and US tax payer dollars continued to flow like honey to Nouri. The issue has been postponed repeatedly. More recently, the Constitutionally mandated census -- long pushed back -- was supposed to finally take place in December. That got 'postponed'. It's an issue that's been kicked down the road repeatedly.

Wednesday's snapshot noted, "Al Rafidayn reports Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani held a press conference yesterday where he said the KRG would weigh reforms while noting that he had ordered the pesh merga into Kirkuk. Dar Addustour reports that Kirkuk's curfew was removed yesterday in part due to the influx of additional pesh merga forces."

Today, Al Rafidayn reports that a source close to Nouri al-Maliki is stating that Nouri is demanding the KRG remove the thousands of pesh merga they've deployed to Kirkuk without his permission. Nidhal al-Laithi (Azzaman) reports KRG President "Massoud Barzani, in comments on his decision to send in his militias, said he wanted to protect the Kurds in the city. However, he did not say from whom. The presence of the Kurdish militia has ignited harsh criticism from both Arab and Turkmen communities in Kirkuk who charge that the Kurds are intent to resort to force to annex the city." Wednesday, Wisam al-Bayati (Press TV -- link has text and video) filed a report noting, "Turkmen lawmakers and officials described the presence of these troops as unconstitutional. They say Iraqi security forces have the capability of dealing with the situation by themselves, and that the Kurds have the ambition to take over the city." The report (video) also notes Mohammed al-Juburi, of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, who asserts "that the US presence in Kirkuk is one of the main obstacles to stability. He claims that the US is creating instability by supporting the Kurds against the Arabs and the Turkemen." He is quoted stating, "An active role has been played by the US troops in the city and allowing US troops to commit violations against the Arabs means that they are supporting these violations." What to do about Kirkuk? This week, American intellectual Noam Chomskey observed, "Look how hard it is just to try to settle the issue of Kirkuk," when speaking with Namo Abdulla (Rudaw):
NA: Talking about the issue of Kirkuk and other disputed regions, some people here believe that as soon as the American forces are withdrawn from Iraq, there could be an Arab-Kurd war over those issues. How possible is that?

CHOMSKY: You know better than I do. I don't think anyone really knows. For another thing, I don't really think that it's very likely that the American forces will be completely withdrawn. It doesn't look like it, but it is a hard problem. I have not seen a sensible proposal about Kirkuk. I am not in a position to make any sensible prediction about it.

Staying in the US, Wednesday's snapshot covered the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the VA's refusal to implement the caregivers law Congress passed. Kat covered it in "Burr promises VA 'one hell of a fight'" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "The VA still can't get it together." Also Wally covered yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at Rebecca's site with "No one gives a damn about your money (Wally)." Kimberly Hefling (AP) reported on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing and noted, "President Obama on May 5 signed a law instructing the VA to provide a monthly stipend, health insurance, mental health help and other aid directly to caregivers to help keep wounded veterans out of nursing homes. But the VA missed a Jan. 31 deadline for implementation. And the Associated Press reported last month that while the VA did announce plans soon after that to help caregivers, aid was available to fewer families than Congress intended." Which is why, see Wednesday's snapshot, Committee Chair Patty Murray wanted VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to explain how that happened.

Chair Patty Murray: I've already discussed the caregiver issue with you, I've talked about it with Jack Woo, I've talked with senior staff at the White House and I have spoken directly with the president of the United States. VA's plan on the caregivers issue was overdue and once submitted it hardly resembled the bill that unanimously cleared this Congress. Three weeks ago, my Committee staff requested information on how that plan was developed and to date no information has been provided. Rather than following the law, the administration set forth some overly stringent rules bureaucratic hurdles that would essentially deny help to caregivers. Sarah and Ted Wade who were staunch advocates and worked hard with us to get this passed were invited by the president to attend the bill signing at the White House, they won't be eligible for the program under the plan that the department submitted. We're also hearing a lot from veterans and caregivers from across the country who fall outside of this new line in the sand the VA has drawn, who have been left in limbo and now don't know if this benefit that they advocated and worked so hard for will support them. Mr. Secretary, it appears your that department is not complying with the law as we have written. Can you please tell this Committee why?

We included Shinseki's non-response in full in Wednesday's snapshot. The short answer is: He doesn't know but he sure used a lot of words to say that. Rob Hotakainen (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, " According to Murray, Congress wanted the law to serve at least 3,500 caregivers, at a cost of $1.7 billion over five years. The VA's plan, which calls for covering only 840 caregivers, "is simply not good enough," she said." Richard Burr is the Ranking Member on the Committee (most senior Republican) and Kat covered his comments to Shinseki which included promising "one hell of a fight" with the Committee if the law they passed was not properly implemented. Rick Maze (Army Times) explained, "The Obama administration's narrow interpretation of a new law granting benefits and support to the caregivers of severely injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has sparked bipartisan outrage in Congress, with a key senator warning of a 'hell of a fight' if the administration moves ahead with its pending regulations." There weren't a lot of strong reports on the national level (and I'm sure I missed some strong local reporting). There wasn't room to note the coverage of Wednesday's hearing in Thursday's snapshot so we're noting it today and we'll close (today) this topic out with this from the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs (also on yesterday's hearing):

(Washington, D.C.)
Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, heard testimony from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and representatives from veterans groups and the American Federation of Government Employees on next year's budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"On balance, and given that other agencies are facing budget cuts, this VA
budget is a very good starting place from which to work," said Senator Murray. "The President has requested an overall increase for VA funding during a very difficult budget year, but we must ensure that the cuts he also proposed do not hurt the veterans who have sacrificed so much for this nation. Going forward, I will work to add funding that is necessary for programs vital to veterans, such as for research and the operation of VA's Inspector General which helps root out fraud and other problems with existing programs."

The President's budget request includes an overall increase of $1.8 billion in discretionary spending over Fiscal Year 2011 levels. It also includes various proposed funding cuts, however, including a reduction in spending for construction and non-recurring maintenance, and a proposed $72 million cut for VA research funding.

Following today's hearing, Members of the Veterans' Affairs Committee will provide the Senate Budget Committee with their views and estimates for VA's budget. Views and estimates are a formal part of the federal budget process, in which Congressional Committees recommend funding levels for programs and activities under their legislative jurisdiction. (For the Veterans' Affairs Committee's jurisdiction, click here.) The House and Senate Budget Committees review these recommendations when formulating the proposed Budget Resolution for the coming fiscal year.

The Chairman's opening statement is available in audio form here. For the full witness list and the witnesses' written testimony, please visit

Meanwhile as protests rocked Iraq today, the question is whether a planned demonstration against the ongoing war will rock the US? A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in this action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

Hard Times Generation
For some children, socializing and learning in school are being cruelly complicated by homelessness, as Scott Pelley reports from Florida, where school buses now stop at budget motels for children who've lost their homes. | Watch Video

Steve Kroft profiles Vanity Fair columnist, author and public intellectual Christopher Hitchens, for whom nothing is off-limits when making his wry and often outrageous observations, including the cancer he is suffering from. |
Watch Video

Spy on the Ice
Bob Simon reports on the latest "spy-cam" techniques used by wildlife filmmakers to show animals - in this case, polar bears - up-close and in a way audiences have never seen them before. |
Watch Video

"60 Minutes," Sunday, March 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

And finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon has a new report for In These Times entitled "Divide and Deport: On Immigration, Thom Hartmann and Lou Dobbs Have Much in Common:"

There has always been a conflict in U.S. labor about immigration. Conservatives historically sought to restrict unions and jobs to the native born, to whites and to men, and saw immigrants as job competitors-the enemy.

This was part of an overall perspective that saw unions as businesses or insurance programs, in which workers paid dues and got benefits in return. Labor's radicals, however, from the IWW through the CIO to those in many unions today, see the labor movement as inclusive, with a responsibility to organize all workers, immigrant and native-born alike. They see unions as part of a broader movement for social change in general.
In 1986, the AFL-CIO supported the Immigration Reform and Control Act, because it contained employer sanctions. This provision said employers could only hire people with legal immigration status. In effect, the law made it a federal crime for an undocumented person to hold a job. Since passage of the law, immigration raids have led to firings and deportations of thousands of people in workplaces across the country. In many cases employers have used the law as a way to intimidate immigrant workers, and rid themselves of those trying to organize unions and protest bad wages and conditions.
Transnational corporations invest in developing countries like Mexico, moving production to wherever wages are lowest. Treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement promote low wages, privatization, the dumping of agricultural products, and other conditions that increase corporate profits. But those measures also impoverish and displace people, forcing them to migrate to survive.

The US already has enough wars

Some are calling for the US to enter into yet another war. Sara Flounders offers some common sense at Workers World.

No U.S. attack on Libya!

Published Mar 2, 2011 4:54 PM

The worst thing that could happen to the people of Libya is U.S. intervention.

The worst thing that could happen to the revolutionary upsurge shaking the Arab world is U.S. intervention in Libya.

The White House is meeting with its allies among the European imperialist NATO countries to discuss imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, jamming all communications of President Moammar Gadhafi inside Libya, and carving military corridors into Libya from Egypt and Tunisia, supposedly to “assist refugees.” (New York Times, Feb. 27)

This means positioning U.S./NATO troops in Egypt and Tunisia close to Libya’s two richest oil fields, in both the east and west. It means the Pentagon coordinating maneuvers with the Egyptian and Tunisian militaries. What could be more dangerous to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions?

Italy, once the colonizer of Libya, has suspended a 2008 treaty with Libya that includes a nonaggression clause, a move that could allow it to take part in future “peacekeeping” operations there and enable the use of its military bases in any possible intervention. Several U.S. and NATO bases in Italy, including the U.S. Sixth Fleet base near Naples, could be staging areas for action against Libya.

President Barack Obama has announced that “the full range of options” is under consideration. This is Washington-speak for military operations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Geneva on Feb. 28 with foreign ministers at the U.N. Human Rights Council to discuss possible multilateral actions.

Meanwhile, adding to the drumbeat for military intervention is the release of a public letter from the Foreign Policy Initiative, a right-wing think tank seen as the successor to the Project for the New American Century, calling for the U.S. and NATO to “immediately” prepare military action to help bring down the Gadhafi regime.

The public appeal’s signers include William Kristol, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith and more than a dozen former senior officials from the Bush administration, plus several prominent liberal Democrats, such as Neil Hicks of Human Rights First and Bill Clinton’s “human rights” chief, John Shattuck.

The letter called for economic sanctions and military action: deploying NATO warplanes and a naval armada to enforce no-fly zones and have the capability to disable Libyan naval vessels.

Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman while in Tel Aviv on Feb. 25 called for Washington to supply Libyan rebels with arms and establish a no-fly zone over the country.

Not to be overlooked are calls for U.N. contingents of medical and humanitarian workers, human rights monitors and investigators from the International Criminal Court to be sent to Libya with an “armed escort.”

Providing humanitarian aid doesn’t have to include the military. Turkey has evacuated 7,000 of its nationals on ferries and chartered flights. Some 29,000 Chinese workers have left via ferries, chartered flights and ground transportation.

However, the way in which the European powers are evacuating their nationals from Libya during the crisis includes a military threat and is part of the imperialist jockeying for position regarding Libya’s future.

Germany sent three warships, carrying 600 troops, and two military planes to bring 200 German employees of the oil exploration company Wintershall out of a desert camp 600 miles southeast of Tripoli. The British sent the HMS Cumberland warship to evacuate 200 British nationals and announced that the destroyer York was on its way from Gibraltar.

The U.S. announced on Feb. 28 that it was sending the huge aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge from the Red Sea to the waters off Libya, where it will join the USS Mount Whitney and other battleships from the Sixth Fleet. U.S. officials called this a “pre-positioning of military assets.”

U.N. vote on sanctions

The U.N. Security Council - under U.S. pressure — on Feb. 26 voted to impose sanctions on Libya. According to studies by the U.N.’s own agencies, more than 1 million Iraqi children died as a result of U.S./U.N.-imposed sanctions on that country that paved the way for an actual U.S. invasion. Sanctions are criminal and confirm that this intervention is not due to humanitarian concern.

The sheer hypocrisy of the resolution on Libya expressing concern for “human rights” is hard to match. Just four days before the vote, the U.S. used its veto to block a mildly worded resolution criticizing Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

The U.S. government blocked the Security Council from taking any action during the 2008 Israeli massacre in Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 Palestinians. These international bodies, as well as the International Criminal Court, have been silent on Israeli massacres, on U.S. drone attacks on defenseless civilians in Pakistan, and on the criminal invasions and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The fact that China went along with the sanctions vote is an unfortunate example of the government in Beijing letting its interest in trade and continued oil shipments take precedence over its past opposition to sanctions that clearly impact civilian populations.

Who leads the opposition?

It is important to look at the opposition movement, especially those being so widely quoted in all the international media. We must assume that people with genuine grievances and wrongs have been caught up in it. But who is actually leading the movement?

A front-page New York Times article of Feb. 25 described just how different Libya is from other struggles breaking out across the Arab world. “Unlike the Facebook enabled youth rebellions, the insurrection here has been led by people who are more mature and who have been actively opposing the regime for some time.” The article describes how arms had been smuggled across the border with Egypt for weeks, allowing the rebellion to “escalate quickly and violently in little more than a week.”

The opposition group most widely quoted is the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. The NFSL, founded in 1981, is known to be a CIA-funded organization, with offices in Washington, D.C. It has maintained a military force, called the Libyan National Army, in Egypt near the Libyan border. A Google search of National Front for the Salvation of Libya and CIA will quickly confirm hundreds of references.

Also widely quoted is the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition. This is a coalition formed by the NFSL that also includes the Libyan Constitutional Union, led by Muhammad as-Senussi, a pretender to the Libyan throne. The web site of the LCU calls upon the Libyan people to reiterate a pledge of allegiance to King Idris El-Senusi as historical leader of the Libyan people. The flag used by the coalition is the flag of the former Kingdom of Libya.

Clearly these CIA-financed forces and old monarchists are politically and socially different from the disenfranchised youth and workers who have marched by the millions against U.S.-backed dictators in Egypt and Tunisia and are today demonstrating in Bahrain, Yemen and Oman.

According to the Times article, the military wing of the NFSL, using smuggled arms, quickly seized police and military posts in the Mediterranean port city of Benghazi and nearby areas that are north of Libya’s richest oil fields and are where most of its oil and gas pipelines, refineries and its liquefied natural gas port are located. The Times and other Western media claim that this area, now under “opposition control,” includes 80 percent of Libya’s oil facilities.

The Libyan opposition, unlike the movements elsewhere in the Arab world, from the beginning appealed for international assistance. And the imperialists quickly responded.

For example, Mohammed Ali Abdallah, deputy secretary general of the NFSL, sent out a desperate appeal: “We are expecting a massacre.” “We are sending an SOS to the international community to step in.” Without international efforts to restrain Gadhafi, “there will be a bloodbath in Libya in the next 48 hours.”

The Wall Street Journal, the voice of big business, in a Feb. 23 editorial wrote that “The U.S. and Europe should help the Libyans overthrow the Gadhafi regime.”

U.S. interests - oil

Why are Washington and the European powers willing and anxious to act on Libya?

When a new development arises it is important to review what we know of the past and to always ask, what are the interests of U.S. corporations in the region?

Libya is an oil-rich country - one of the world’s 10 richest. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, at least 44 billion barrels. It has been producing 1.8 million barrels of oil a day - light crude that is considered top quality and needs less refining than most other oil. Libya also has large deposits of natural gas that is easy to pipe directly to European markets. It is a large country in area with a small population 6.4 million people.

That is how the powerful U.S. oil and military corporations, banks and financial institutions who dominate global markets see Libya.

Oil and gas are today the most valuable commodities and the largest source of profits in the world. Gaining control of oil fields, pipelines, refineries and markets drives a great part of U.S. imperialist policy.

During two decades of U.S. sanctions on Libya, which Washington had calculated would bring down the regime, European corporate interests invested heavily in pipeline and infrastructure development there. Some 85 percent of Libya’s energy exports go to Europe.

European transnationals — in particular BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Eni, BASF, Statoil and Rapsol - have dominated Libya’s oil market. The giant U.S. oil corporations were left out of these lucrative deals. China has been buying a growing amount of oil produced by Libya’s National Oil Corp. and has built a short oil pipeline in Libya.

The huge profits that could be made by controlling Libya’s oil and natural gas are what is behind the drum roll of the U.S. corporate media’s call for “humanitarian intervention to save lives.”

Manlio Dinucci, an Italian journalist writing for Italy’s Il Manifesto, explained on Feb. 25 that “If Gadhafi is overthrown, the U.S. would be able to topple the entire framework of economic relations with Libya, opening the way to U.S.-based multinationals, so far almost entirely excluded from exploitation of energy reserves in Libya. The United States could thus control the tap for energy sources upon which Europe largely depends and which also supply China.”

Libya background

Libya was a colony of Italy from 1911 until Italy’s defeat in World War II. The Western imperialist powers after the war set up regimes across the region that were called independent states but were headed by appointed monarchs with no democratic vote for the people. Libya became a sovereign country in name, but was firmly tied to the U.S. and Britain under a new monarch - King Idris.

In 1969 as a wave of anti-colonial struggles swept the colonized world, revolutionary-minded Pan-Arab nationalist junior military officers overthrew Idris, who was vacationing in Europe. The leader of the coup was 27-year old Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya changed its name from the Kingdom of Libya to the Libyan Arab Republic and later to the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

The young officers ordered the U.S. and British bases in Libya closed, including the Pentagon’s large Wheelus Air Base. They nationalized the oil industry and many commercial interests that had been under U.S. and British imperialist control.

These military officers did not come to power in a revolutionary upheaval of the masses. It was not a socialist revolution. It was still a class society. But Libya was no longer under foreign domination.

Many progressive changes were carried out. New Libya made many economic and social gains. The conditions of life for the masses radically improved. Most basic necessities — food, housing, fuel, health care and education — were either heavily subsidized or became entirely free. Subsidies were used as the best way to redistribute the national wealth.

Conditions for women changed dramatically. Within 20 years Libya had the highest Human Development Index ranking in Africa — a U.N. measurement of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income. Through the 1970s and 1980s, Libya was internationally known for taking strong anti-imperialist positions and supporting other revolutionary struggles, from the African National Congress in South Africa to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Irish Republican Army.

The U.S. carried out numerous assassination and coup attempts against the Gadhafi regime and financed armed opposition groups, such as the NFSL. Some U.S. attacks were blatant and open. For example, without warning 66 U.S. jets bombed the Libyan capital of Tripoli and its second-largest city, Benghazi, on April 15, 1986. Gadhafi’s home was bombed and his infant daughter killed in the attack, along with hundreds of others.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the U.S. succeeded in isolating Libya through severe economic sanctions. Every effort was made to sabotage the economy and to destabilize the government.

Demonization of Gadhafi

It is up to the people of Libya, of Africa and of the Arab World to evaluate the contradictory role of Gadhafi, the chair of Libya’s Revolutionary Command Council. People here, in the center of an empire built on global exploitation, should not join in the racist characterizations, ridicule and demonization of Gadhafi that saturate the corporate media.

Even if Gadhafi were as quiet and austere as a monk and as careful as a diplomat, as president of an oil-rich, previously underdeveloped African country he still would have been hated, ridiculed and demonized by U.S. imperialism if he resisted U.S. corporate domination. That was his real crime and for that he has never been forgiven.

It is important to note that degrading and racist terms are never used against reliable U.S. pawns or dictators, regardless of how corrupt or ruthless they may be to their own people.

U.S. threats forces concessions

It was after the U.S. war crime billed as “shock and awe,” with its massive aerial bombardment of Iraq followed by a ground invasion and occupation, that Libya finally succumbed to U.S. demands. After decades of militant, anti-imperialist solidarity, Libya dramatically changed course. Gadhafi offered to assist the U.S. in its “war on terror.”

Washington’s demands were onerous and humiliating. Libya was forced to accept full responsibility for the downing of the Lockerbie aircraft and pay $2.7 billion in indemnities. That was just the beginning. In order for U.S. sanctions to be lifted, Libya had to open its markets and “restructure” its economy. It was all part of the package.

Regardless of Gadhafi’s many concessions and the subsequent grand receptions for him by European heads of state, U.S. imperialism was planning his complete humiliation and downfall. U.S. think tanks engaged in numerous studies of how to undermine and weaken Gadhafi’s popular support.

IMF strategists descended on Libya with programs. The new economic advisors prescribed the same measures they impose on every developing country. But Libya did not have a foreign debt; it has a positive trade balance of $27 billion a year. The only reason the IMF demanded an end to subsidies of basic necessities was to undercut the social basis of support for the regime.

Libya’s “market liberalization” meant a cut in $5 billion worth of subsidies annually. For decades, the state had been subsidizing 93 percent of the value of several basic commodities, notably fuel. After accepting the IMF program, the government doubled the price of electricity for consumers. There was a sudden 30 percent hike in fuel prices. This touched off price increases in many other goods and services as well.

Libya was told to privatize 360 state-owned companies and enterprises, including steel mills, cement plants, engineering firms, food factories, truck and bus assembly lines and state farms. This left thousands of workers jobless.

Libya had to sell a 60-percent stake in the state-owned oil company Tamoil Group and privatize its General National Company for Flour Mills and Fodder.

The Carnegie Endowment Fund was already charting the impact of economic reforms. A 2005 report titled “Economic Reforms Anger Libyan Citizens” by Eman Wahby said that “Another aspect of structural reform was the end of restrictions on imports. Foreign companies were granted licenses to export to Libya through local agents. As a result, products from all over the world have flooded the previously isolated Libyan market.” This was a disaster for workers in Libya’s factories, which are unequipped to face competition.

More than $4 billion poured into Libya, which became Africa’s top recipient of foreign investment. As the bankers and their think tanks knew so well, this did not benefit the Libyan masses, it impoverished them.

But no matter what Gadhafi did, it was never enough for U.S. corporate power. The bankers and financiers wanted more. There was no trust. Gadhafi had opposed the U.S. for decades and was still considered highly “unreliable.”

The magazine US Banker in May 2005 ran an article titled “Emerging Markets: Is Libya the Next Frontier for U.S. Banks?” It said that “As the nation passes reforms, profits beckon. But chaos abounds.” It interviewed Robert Armao, president of the New York City[-based U.S.-Libya Trade and Economic Council: “All the big Western banks are now exploring opportunities there.” said Armao. “The political situation with [Gadhafi] is still very suspect.” The potential “looks wonderful for banks. Libya is a country untouched and a land of opportunity. It will happen, but it may take a little time.”

Libya has never been a socialist country. There has always been extensive inherited wealth and old privileges. It is a class society with millions of workers, many of them immigrants.

Restructuring the economy to maximize profits for Western bankers destabilized relations, even in the ruling circles. Who gets in on the deals to privatize key industries, which families, which tribes? Who is left out? Old rivalries and competitions surfaced.

Just how carefully the U.S. government was monitoring these imposed changes can be seen in recently released Wikileaks cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, reprinted in the Britain-based Telegraph of Jan. 31. A cable titled “Inflation on the rise in Libya and sent on Jan. 4, 2009, described the impact of “a radical program of privatization and government restructuring.”

“Particular increases were seen,” the cable said, “in prices for foodstuffs — the price of previously subsidized goods such as sugar, rice, and flour increased by 85 percent in the two years since subsidies were lifted. Construction materials have also increased markedly: prices for cement, aggregate, and bricks have increased by 65 percent in the past year. Cement has gone from 5 Libyan dinars for a 50-kilogram bag to 17 dinars in one year; the price of steel bars has increased by a factor of ten.

“The [Libyan government’s] termination of subsidies and price controls as part of a broader program of economic reform and privatization has certainly contributed to inflationary pressures and prompted some grumbling. ...

“The combination of high inflation and diminishing subsidies and price controls is worrying for a Libyan public accustomed to greater government cushioning from market forces.”

These U.S. Embassy cables confirm that while continuing to maintain and finance Libyan opposition groups in Egypt, Washington and London were also constantly taking the temperature of the mass discontent caused by their policies.

Today millions of people in the U.S. and around the world are deeply inspired by the actions of millions of youths in the streets of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen and now Oman. The impact is felt even in the sit-in in Wisconsin.

It is vital for the U.S. political and class-conscious movement to resist the enormous pressure of a U.S.-orchestrated campaign for military intervention in Libya. A new imperialist adventure must be challenged. Solidarity with the peoples’ movements! U.S. hands off!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }