Sunday, June 22, 2014


Jim: Roundtable time after another week where Iraq continued to make the news. Our e-mail address is  Participating in our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; 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; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't): Last week, Barack declared he was sending more troops into Iraq.  William Deane (Our Missing News) explained, "Step-by-step: 300 combat advisors in route to Iraq, announced by President Obama at a news briefing this Thursday afternoon.   This on top of Monday's 275 troops, announced Monday to protect American Embassy personnel in Baghdad." What stands out media wise in terms of Iraq?

Isaiah: CNN and others being in a tizzy over Sunni rebels executing members of Nouri's military.  We saw the video over and over and heard how shocking it was.  But for six months now, Nouri al-Maliki's been dropping bombs on homes in Falluja's residential neighborhoods and wounding and killing civilians.  For six months.  CNN and the rest haven't felt the need to express horror over those deaths which do include children.

Ty: "Women and children."  We had an e-mail about that from Lance who wrote that at this site and the other community sites, we may emphasize children but we don't do the same with women.  Thoughts?

Trina: "Women and children" is a phrase that some still use.  I don't here because I wouldn't say "men and children" so why would I say "women and children."  All the deaths are tragic but I'm not going to say, "The women's deaths are more tragic."  I will allow that children's deaths are more tragic than adult deaths both because they didn't get any chance to live their lives and can anything be more awful as a parent than seeing your child die?  I think the phrase "women and children" is meant to portray women as in need of protection.  I don't use it and, if it helps anyone reading, were I on a cruise and the ship going down, I'd wait my turn with all the other adults and wouldn't buy into evacuating women first.

Jim: Thank you to Trina.  And Ty's going to try to work in any e-mails he can whenever possible.  But, yes, Isaiah's right, there is something very distasteful and appalling about the US media's desire to ignore civilian deaths over and over -- deaths from War Crimes -- and to suddenly get upset and go into a tizzy because Iraqi soldiers were killed.

Elaine: It's dishonest and dishonest beyond just the War Crimes, it's dishonest also in that it's like hitting the reset button and pretending the killings started with last week's Iraqi soldiers.  It's like saying, "Forget everything that has led up to this moment and let's just make the deaths of these Iraqi soldiers our starting point."  No, that's not the starting point.  I notice, for example, that the media has been reluctant to report on the over-a-year-long protests, peaceful protests, which Nouri either ignored or attempted to attack.  That's completely absent from the discussion.  We covered the protests here -- often in editorials -- and, of course, we all caught C.I.'s regular coverage of them in the snapshots.  But if you watch MSM, you're rarely hearing about those protests, let alone that Nouri was killing people.  Let me note this from a column by Iraq War veteran Ross Caputi that ZNet ran last week:

This movement set up nonviolent protest camps in many cities throughout Iraq for nearly the entire year of 2013. They articulated a set of demands calling for an end to the marginalization of Sunnis within the new Iraqi democracy, reform of an anti-terrorism law that was being used label political dissent as terrorism, abolition of the death penalty, an end to corruption, and they positioned themselves against federalism and sectarianism too.  
Instead of making concessions to the protestors and defusing their rage, Prime Minister Maliki mocked their demands chose to use military force to attack them on numerous occasions. Over the course of a year, the protestors were assaulted, murdered, and their leaders were assassinated, but they remained true to their adopted tactic of nonviolence. That is, until Prime Minister Maliki sent security forces to clear the protest camps in Fallujah and Ramadi in December of 2013. At that point the protestors lost hope in the tactic of nonviolence and turned to armed resistance instead.

Elaine (Con't): This is very much a part of how things arrived where they are today.

Cedric: And I agree with Elaine.  I want to point out that the people she's taking about are also Nouri apologists.  They want to whine that this is all because of Bully Boy Bush.  No, it's not.  Bully Boy Bush imposed Nouri on Iraq in 2006.  But, in 2010, the Iraqi people voted Ayad Allawi and Iraqiya into first place.  Nouri lost.  But Barack Obama had The Erbil Agreement negotiated to give Nouri a second term.  That's on Barack.  Barack also promised this contract would be --

Jim: Cedric, I'm stopping for just one second.  I know the contract, you know the contract, most of our readers know the contract.  But there's a chance someone's reading of The Erbil Agreement for the first time.  So take a second to explain it so we're all on the same page and then go onto how it's on Barack.

Cedric: Good point.  Thank you.  Following the 2010 elections, Nouri refused to step down, for over eight months.  The White House met with the other political leaders and said, "Nouri's brought things to a standstill for 8 months, he could go another 8 months.  Why don't you be the bigger persons and let Nouri have a second term so Iraq can move forward?  And to reward you for being the bigger person, we'll put it in writing -- Nouri gets a second term -- but in exchange for what you want and we'll put what you want in writing too and it will be a legally binding contract, one that has the full backing of the White House."  So they agreed.  Now Barack owns this crisis first of all because he went around the Iraqi voters.  But, secondly, Barack gave him that term by The Erbil Agreement.  That was a power sharing contract and Nouri refused to honor it after being named prime minister.  And the White House suddenly treats Allawi and the Kurds like it borrowed 40 bucks from them and never paid it back, it just blows of the Kurds and Allawi and the others.  So that's the other reason this goes to Barack.

Jim: Thank you, Cedric.  Last week in our roundtable, Betty expressed the opinion that Iraq can't move forward with Nouri.  I'm quoting Betty, "And I'm not sure Iraq can survive if Nouri gets a third term.  Setting aside his crimes against the Iraqi people, you're still left with a basic incompetence that demonstrates his inability to learn on the job.  Two terms and he has no accomplishments to speak of.  He's a complete failure in every sense of the word.  If Nouri gets a third term, it's probably time for Iraqis to split themselves into a confederation because Nouri cannot lead the country.  He lacks the ethics, the talent, the skill and the common sense."  Betty's view appears to be the view of the White House, based on various press reports.  Betty, you get the first word.

Betty: I would love it if Barack pulled all support for Nouri.  If that happened, Nouri would crumble immediately.  Nouri is an ogre and a despot.  Before the elections, C.I. noted at The Common Ills and we did an editorial here on how if Nouri was replaced, it would provide a reset.  Violence would not disappear but it would likely diminish somewhat as people waited to see what the new prime minister would do.  But then the press started declaring Nouri the winner -- how many times has The Washington Post had to run a correction over saying Nouri's party won a majority of votes? -- and acting as though a third term was inevitable.  And that's when the last bits of hope were lost and the violence -- already huge -- increased even further.  Replacing Nouri could still buy a reset.

Dona: I'm stepping in now.  32 e-mails complained Ava and C.I. did not speak in last week's roundtable.  They actually prefer that.  But I said I'd bring C.I. into the discussion by asking a devil's advocate question -- I said that to the last 5 e-mails I replied to.  So here's my question.  C.I., you were opposed to Barack giving Nouri a second term in 2010.  Now you don't want him to have a third term.  And you want the US to interfere again.  How do you reconcile that?

C.I.: First off, I'm opposed to Barack sending in the US troops Jim noted earlier, I'm opposed to airstrikes and drones being used in Iraq.  I believe we all are.  So I want to be clear that I haven't asked for or supported those moves.  In 2010, the voters made their preference known.  Ayad Allawi should have been made prime minister-designate.  I've alluded to this next point but always avoided making it directly.  The White House could have given Nouri the second term without The Erbil Agreement and without trashing the Iraqi Constitution.  Let the process play out, let Iraqi President Jalal Talabani name Allawi prime minister-designate.  Then, in the following 30 days, work overtime to ensure Talabani's unable to put together a Cabinet -- that means getting Parliament to vote in favor of every one of his nominees.  If they oppose some, he has to find ones they vote to support in 30 days.  With the US working against him, Allawi probably won't pull it off.  On the 31st day, Talabani is then able to name a new person prime minister-designate.  At which point, he could have named Nouri.  That would have backed up the Constitution.  It would have interfered with democracy still.  But it would have been less damaging.  I think the US should have only supported the process in 2010.  Today?  I'm not calling for the White House to pick the new prime minister.  Jake Tapper, on The Lead with Jake Tapper (CNN) this week, joked that the White House was going to get behind Ahmed Chalabi.  There was a Press TV report that the White House was backing Chalabi.  I'm not asking the White House to back anyone.  I'm not asking them to pick a new prime minister.  I'm just asking that they stop supporting a tyrant and, as Betty said, when the White House pulls their support for Nouri, he loses his leadership. There are many people in Iraq who could lead.  I'm not asking the US government to figure out which people that should be.  I'm saying pull support from Nouri so he can go under.  And what I'm advocating is actually the law.  Even without the Leahy Amendment, we have treaties and laws in the United States which forbid us backing foreign leaders who torture and kill their country's citizens.  By the Leahy Amendment alone, Nouri shouldn't be getting any advisors let alone possibly airstrikes.   Joe Biden made the point I'm making -- but he made it when he was a US Senator during an April 2008 Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  He noted the scenario we're now at would be requiring the US to choose sides in a civil war. To be really clear, all I have advocated for is that the US government follow the law.  If they did, Nouri would not get support and backing and, as Betty notes, without it, he wouldn't get a third term.  

Wally: Kat, Ava, C.I. and I speak to groups about the wars.  And last week, what we heard repeatedly went like this: The week before last Barack said Nouri was going to have to demonstrate that he was moving to include the other elements of Iraqi society.  Nouri is a Shi'ite.  He's persecuted Sunnis, Kurds and various religious minorities.  So Barack says that and then last week Barack announces help is coming Nouri's way.  But Nouri didn't have to earn it the way Barack had said he would the week prior.  A lot of people we spoke to seemed especially upset that Barack had "red-lined it" -- as two people put it -- by saying Nouri must start including the others in the process.  But after drawing that red line and saying that's what was required for US military assistance, Barack then used his own foot to blur the line he drew and now Nouri's getting US military support without doing a damn thing.

Ava: Okay.  I promised Dona I'd try to jump in so that there weren't complaining e-mails.  I'll jump in here.  The Kurds are very smart.  They're about to sell their second shipment of oil.  The first one had Nouri enraged.  He was threatening legal action and much more.  That was in May.  Now even Nouri doesn't have the time for his tantrum against the Kurds.  And the Kurds are playing it smart by moving to sell a second shipment now when Nouri can't afford to object or put in any real time into this issue.

Ty: Braeden e-mailed asking that if the Kurds popped up could someone explain what the deal is with the Kurds?  Ava?

Ava: There are three main groupings in Iraq: Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurds.  The Shia are the most populous group.  The Kurds, some point out, are Sunni, some disagree.  But since the Gulf War, they've been semi-autonomous in the north.  They remain that today but may move beyond that.  They've declared a third term for Nouri most likely means they break off into full autonomy.  I'm sure there's more -- and C.I. can probably add to that -- but that's some of 'the deal.'

Ty:  C.I.?

C.I.:  The fighting going on has revealed how Nouri cannot protect the country.  The Kurds have sent the Peshmerga into Kirkuk to protect Kirkuk.  It also allows them control of Kirkuk.  Kirkuk is an oil-rich province.  The Kurds claim it as their land.  The central government out of Baghdad also claims it as their own land.  There are historical back and forths on this issue.  The Iraqi Constitution calls for, in Article 140, a census and referendum to be held to determine the fate of Kirkuk.  Nouri has failed to implement that for two terms now.  With the Peshmerga -- elite Kurdish forces -- now controlling the province, many watchers and analysts feel that the issue is as close to being settled as it has ever been.

Jim: Ava and C.I. take notes for these transcript pieces, so we say thank you for that.  But we are glad both participated by speaking in this roundtable.  Marcia, you wrote "David Lindorff tried"" this week.  Could you talk about that post?

Marcia: Sure.  And I almost jumped in during Cedric's speaking earlier because that post of mine did deal with The Erbil Agreement.  So David Lindorff is a journalist.  I'm trying to be nice and be the big person.  He wasn't.  He and the other people who whored for Barack in 2007 and 2008 got what they wanted -- Barack got the nomination and then he got elected -- and yet they were the biggest piss panty babies, crying and just being poor sports, sore winner, if you will.  Barack's pretty much exposed these days -- which means those of us who noted before he was president that he was a Corporatist War Hawk have been proven right.  So I'm right and trying not to be a sore winner.  David Lindorff appears to realize what a danger to the planet Barack is.  He wrote a column for CounterPunch about Iraq.  There were some minor quibbles I had with it.  But the point, and I hope I got this across in my post, that I tried to make was he made a real effort to be honest and to cover the issue and I wanted to support that and wanted to recognize that.  I hope that came across.  I miss having David Lindorff on my side.  I'm serious.  The people who joined the Cult of St. Barack?  That was very sad for me, to lose so many trusted voices.  I enjoy Norman Pollack and am glad Mike's brought him to my attention.  But other than Norman, I don't see that we've gained any strong voices in the last years.  Yet we lost so many to the Cult of St. Barack.

Jim: Among the things I love about your post and your comments right now are they're similar to points Ava and C.I. are making in their TV commentary this week.

Marcia:  They are.  And Jim's in California so I could just leave it there and act like, "How did that happen?"  But Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally usually end the week by being at Trina's on Friday.  They speak to the Iraq Study Group there.  And I'm usually there.  I was there Friday and Ava and C.I. did a joint presentation and noted these were topics they were toying with for the Friday piece.  So my piece was inspired by that talk.

Jim: I think your post is important and that Ava and C.I.'s piece is important.  On Ava and C.I., they're rebuking Rachel Maddow for pimping the notion that if you're wrong about an issue, your opinion is wrong, then you can't speak on an issue anymore.  FAIR was offering similar whining at the end of the week.  I disagree.  Like Ava and C.I. point out, those of us against the war were angry that we were shut out of the media debate in 2002 and 2003, during the lead up.  So why would we ever support shutting anyone out of a discussion.  But, to be the bigger person like Marcia was saying, I was also interested in who do we forgive on our side, on the left, you know?  Marcia makes a case for David Lindorff and I fully support her.  I made a point to read his column because of Marcia's post.  She's right, he's really trying to capture the totality of a complex issue.  It's a column worth applauding and that includes the honesty he's offering. But -- and Kat and Mike, you could jump in but I really want to save you both for the end of the roundtable -- where do we draw the line?  Ruth, let me start with you.

Ruth:  I agree with Marcia and with you regarding Mr. Lindorff's column Friday.  I may be wrong, but I see something similar with Marjorie Cohn's recent work.  I would love an acknowledgement of wrong doing, sorry, that is how I feel.  For example, Ms. Cohn lost the support of many when she parroted the talking point of the Barack Obama campaign that Hillary was threatening to kill Mr. Obama.  That was a talking point, we all saw the e-mail blast from Barack Obama's campaign on that and we all saw the flunkies go into overdrive.  Did Ms. Cohn not get that e-mail?  She could have just been running with the pack.  But that argument -- that Hillary wanted to assassinate Barack Obama -- was just beyond crazy.  Now in a functioning world, Ms. Cohn would admit she was wrong to have done that.  I would love that kind of an acknowledgement.  But I probably will not get it.  So if someone can just come back to fairness, at this point, honestly, that would be enough.  Hold President Obama to the same standards they held Bully Boy Bush to and stop whoring for the Democratic Party and I will try to embrace you and welcome you back.

Stan: I want to go next.  Because I hear a tone in Ruth's voice that speaks to a feeling I have.  Which is, I can do what Ruth's saying but if you piss me off, this isn't ancient history and it isn't forgotten and I will throw it in Majorie Cohn or anyone else's face if they start whoring again.  I think what made -- can we do a link to Marjorie Cohn's piece from last week?

Jim: Sure.

Stan: I think what she and Lindorff were doing stood out especially for a lot of us because they were tackling Barack on the issue of Iraq.  We have seen two weeks of faux left and Democratic Party operatives minimizing what Nouri has done.  So to see Cohn and Lindorff return to the issue of Iraq and do so with bravery and conviction, still expressing the same ethical standard, it did mean something to me.

Ann: I'm fine with being a lone voice.  And I could have been without my husband Cedric or without Ava and C.I. or whatever.  But having everyone here has meant so much.  It's been very hard to be an ethical lefty in the age of Obama -- very hard and often very lonely. But ethics mean too much to me.  I can't pretend to have them only some of the time or else I really don't have ethics and standards.  And, among the reasons I became a Green Party member, I don't compromise my ethics.  I'm sorry, I won't whore.  I remember Janis Ian's great autobiography Society's Child, and there were so many great and illuminating moments.  But for me, she hooked me early on when -- I think in the prologue, it's the prologue right?

Jim: C.I.'s nodding "yes."

Ann: Thanks.  In the prologue she's explaining how she was urged to take race out of her song "Society's Child."  If she'll take Black out -- it's a song about a young interracial couple, a White girl and a Black boy-- if she'll just take Black out of the song, it will be huge, number one even.  And Janis talks about how she's briefly considering -- for a few seconds -- when a friend advises her, "You whore now, you'll whore forever."  And that really is true.  I hope some people who whored can recover.  But they're going to have to do real work to convince me.  And, outside of Lindorff and Cohn, last week didn't reassure me on anyone.  I saw the usual people stay silent on the topic of Iraq.  People who, let's note, would have been furious if Bully Boy Bush was doing what Barack's doing.  And don't get me started on the ridiculous Tom Hayden but do let me note Betty's "The racist Tom Hayden" and say amen to that, Betty.

Betty: Thank you.

Rebecca: Well I'll go where Ann stopped.  Tom Hayden excused away Barack.  Barack, Hayden wanted the world to know, was forced into sending US troops into Iraq.

Cedric: Yeah, he got an atomic wedgie on the playground, they forced him!

Rebecca: Exactly.  That's just whoring.  That's continuing to make Barack your life's goal, protecting Barack.  You know who needs protecting?  The Iraqi people.  And airstrikes and drones aren't going to protect them.  Barack sending some more US troops into Iraq will not help them.  Tom Hayden will sacrifice the Iraqi people if it means he can let Barack escape responsibility for his own actions.  I cannot and will not forgive people like that.  

Ty: We had 53 e-mails complaining about Tom Hayden's nonsense.  People also complained about how Amy Goodman thought she could do a column quoting just Shi'ites but not identifying them as such and no one would notice Amy was taking sides and slanting her coverage.  But the clear winner in most objectionable person was Tom Hayden. 

Jim: Thank you, Rebecca.  I was wondering if Tom Hayden's nonsense was going to come up or not.   Friday saw Mike doing his regular feature in  "Idiot of the week (it might be you!)" but, in addition, Kat offered "Idiot of the week."  Mike chose the MSM and Kat chose Danny Schechter.  Mike, starting with you, your thinking.  What led you to make the choice?

Mike: Sure.  I had a lot of possibilities.  Kat called and asked if I'd mind her grabbing the topic too?  Of course not.  I'd love it if, one Friday, we did a theme post where we all offering a pick for "Idiot of the week."  I hadn't even heard of Danny's nonsense until Kat told me about it on the phone.  But I already had seven serious contenders.  And I went with MSM because they were leaving out so much in their coverage -- like Elaine was saying earlier.  But Barack's insisting the nearly 600 US troops he's planning to send in are not going to be in combat.  And it was left to C.I. to report what happened last time. August 31, 2010 saw Barack announce the end of combat operations in Iraq.  But from September 1, 2010 through November 2011, 66 US troops died in Iraq -- after the end of 'combat operations.'  So it was that sort of thing, seeing C.I. make the real arguments that the MSM ignored or missed, that led to my naming MSM the idiot of the week.

Jim: Very good.  And Kat?

Kat: Mike's grandfather.  Which Mike's hearing right now.  We were in Boston Friday and Mike's grandfather asked me if I'd seen Danny Schechter's nonsense.  I hadn't.  So I pull it up on my phone and look at it and then called Mike.  I didn't say, "Your grandfather mentioned it!"  I didn't want to bring that in just in case he didn't want to share Idiot of the Week because it his regular feature, not mine.  But there was Danny comparing his brief time noting Iraq at his website and doing a documentary about watching Iraq coverage on TV as the same thing as a soldier serving in Iraq and claiming he'd done so much when he really hadn't.  As soon as he was done promoting his film about watching Iraq on TV, he was off to another topic. He's failed to note anything pertinent to Iraq in all the time since.  Include him on Elaine's list of people who ignored the over one year long continuous protests.  Include him on the list of people who looked the other way when Tim Arango reported, September 2012, that Barack has just sent a unit of Special Ops into Iraq. He's done nothing on Iraq and because it's a 'hot topic' he suddenly wants to write about it and pretend like he's done something.  I'm like Janis Ian on this, you whore now, you'll whore forever.  I have no hope for Danny to be anything but a Barack liar.  There's no issue he won't lie on to cover for Barack. He's just a whore and a useless one at that.

Jim: Thank you, Kat, thank you, Mike.  Jess hasn't spoken.  I asked him to think up something to say regarding our position on Iraq and so now we turn to Jess.

Jess:   Nouri bumbled his way through his first term as prime minister.  He got much worse in his second term.  He became a criminal.  He terrorized the Sunni population by arresting their politicians or trying them in absentia -- Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, for example.  He terrorized the protesters even killing some of the Sunni protesters.  He ordered his Ministry of Interior to visit high schools and encourage the murder of gays and lesbians in Iraq.  He's been a danger and a menace.  The Sunnis are fighting back.  This is a civil war.  We don't need to take sides.  We don't need to provide military support for a regime that's committed War Crimes.  We don't need to provide anything.  And, per the law, we shouldn't. be involved in propping up Nouri's government.  The reality was always that the US installed Nouri and that an occupied people will always rebel.  That's what we're seeing take place now.

Jim: Thank you, Jess.  And that's going to wind down our roundtable.  This is a rush transcript -- which means typos and errors.

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