Sunday, November 21, 2010


Jim: This will be a political and Iraq roundtable and, time permitting, we may work in some e-mail topics. Our e-mail address is Participating in this roundtable are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, 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. Ty and Jess are with their families this weekend. They'll be back next weekend.


Jim (Con't): Let's start with the SOFA. As I wrote in last week's "A note to our readers," about "Editorial: Robert Gates speaks," "We hope to roundtable the SOFA next week, FYI." So let's start there. The SOFA is the Status Of Forces Agreement which is a treaty that bypassed the Senate despite Constitutional requirements. The Bush White House pushed it. It was voted on by the Iraqi Parliament November 27, 2008. The SOFA dictated that the US leave at the end of 2011 -- didn't it? No, it didn't. If you've been reading us for long, you know that. You also know that C.I. staked this terrain out while everyone wanted to pretend. Mike, how about I start with you?

Mike: Sure. Okay, the Status Of Forces is a three-year agreement on US troops being on the ground in Iraq. The SOFA replaced the UN mandate. The UN mandate signed off on in December 2006, for example, allowed the US military to be on the ground in Iraq for one year. And when it was close to expiring, December 2007, a new one-year agreement was pushed through again. So the SOFA does not end a war. It only serves to allow the US troops to be on the ground for three years. It can be the end of it. At the end of 2011, that can be it and all US troops can leave. As C.I.'s repeatedly pointed out, that is a possibility. But it's a contract. It can expire, it can be renewed or it can be replaced.

Jim: Marcia, you were sharing a story with me last week. Would you like to share it here?

Marcia: Sure. And it wasn't unique to me. But when the SOFA passed, I was already blogging. I believe we all were except for Isaiah, Ann and Stan. And when C.I. was explaining the realities of the SOFA, I would get an occasional e-mail insisting C.I. was wrong and sometimes stronger. But six months after, when C.I. was getting really ticked about the lying on the SOFA and the attacks on her for telling the truth, she began hitting on the SOFA regularly in the snapshots -- which we all repost at our sites to keep Iraq on the radar -- and I ended up with sixty e-mails one day, most identifying as being from a certain 'peace' group. There were angry, hostile e-mails. They were attack e-mails. I read about five -- they all came in one day -- and stopped reading that day because I didn't need the attacks. But that wasn't particular to me. Anyone who was blogging at that time got those same kind of e-mails.

Cedric: They were just really, really angry, attacking e-mails. For Wally and I, we include a portion of the snapshot in our joint-posts, it just made us determined that anytime C.I. wrote about the SOFA, we were going to include it because we don't back down in the face of threats or bullying.

Rebecca: Can I jump in? I don't know how much I'll be able to offer on this topic. But one thing I can offer, for those late to the party, is why we're discussing this. Earlier this year, [US Vice President] Joe Biden noted that the US military might stay longer in Iraq, in October, a US State Department spokesperson [Philip J. Crowley] publicly declared the same thing and then this month [US Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates also stated that could happen. Point, if the SOFA meant that US forces had to leave by the end of 2011 -- as so many interprteted and insisted it did -- then all these people wouldn't be floating these remarks. You had a ton of lefty voices, a ton of leaders, telling you what the SOFA meant and how it was the end of the illegal war. You had all of them on one side. On the other, you only had C.I. C.I. was obviously right and yet where are the apologies? After all the attacks, where are the apologies?

Dona: I agree 100%. Some of the nasties e-mails to this site have been over the interpretation, C.I.'s interpretation, of the SOFA. Where are the apologies? I mean, where the hell is Raed Jarrar? Little Jar-Jar Blinks can scream and hiss but now that it turns out he was wrong -- as I explained to him some time ago -- where's his apology?

Rebecca: They were all experts -- except they weren't. I think C.I. said it best in 2009 when, tackling this subject again, she wrote something to the effect of 'When you've broken a multi-million dollar contract with a corporation and walked away without liability, come talk to me about contracts. Until then, sit your ass down and listen.' They really should have. They really, really should have.

Elaine: I have a few points that I'd like to make. First, Jim and Mike both noted that the SOFA could be followed with nothing replacing it -- that's something C.I.'s stressed as well. We're not psychics, we can't see the future. The press has repeatedly stated that the war ends in 2011 because of the SOFA. And C.I.'s rightly noted that they need to watch that wording. But the point we're making here is that the White House would not be making the statements it's making if the SOFA meant the war had to end. It might. It might not. That's what C.I. warned everyone about. Jim, I'm probably go long, cut me off if you need to. There are two main points I want to make here. The first is, C.I. and the rest of us explained that you can't break up the peace movement before the troops come home. Leslie Cagan must have been on a crack pipe or something. For about five years now, I'd guess. Cagan damn well knew during Vietnam that claims of an end of war were not an end of war. But she and the pathetic UPFJ distracted America, turned a peace movement into a get-out-the-vote effort for the Democratic Party and then, having helped elect Barack, declared "victory" and went home. This is exactly why C.I. was raising the SOFA issue repeatedly. Jim, is it okay for me to continue?

Jim: Take all the time you need. I know you're not planning to speak when we drop back to the mid-term elections.

Elaine: Thank you. Second point, C.I. was one voice, she was a lonely voice, telling the truth. Where was Howard Zinn? He wasn't dead yet? Where was the US Socialist Worker, The Nation magazine, The Progressive, ISR, etc? They all remained silent and they all whored. Now, in 2010, we can look back at February and March 2003 and marvel that any Americans would support the illegal war that the country was so obviously lied into. But, key point, people don't want to believe that they're lied to. The person who stands up and tells the truth is often unpopular. Sometimes for a brief period, sometimes for a long time. But truth telling doesn't mean popularity. Part of the silence was a result of that reality. Equally true, a lot of Americans who believed the lie about the SOFA. This wasn't because they were stupid or bad people. It did have to do with the fact that a lot of us want to believe what we are told. It is human nature. It also has to do with the fact that while the lies were being told all over, the truth was being told in small corners. But going along with whatever is always easier than taking a stand and we saw just how easy the alleged 'peace' types were to go along with the popular narrative, with Bush and Barack's spin, as opposed to taking a stand.

Jim: Thanks, Elaine. Those are some important points. C.I., you have covered this for two years solid this month, what the SOFA does do and doesn't do. I know you don't want to get into this topic too deeply, but can you share something here?

C.I.: Sure. First, as you, Mike and Elaine have noted, the SOFA can be followed to the letter and not replaced with anything. That is a possibility. To share, I did get hate mail as well for the coverage. It was interesting how many 'names' felt comfortable attacking me in e-mails. I also know there were e-mails from people who didn't get it at first or in whatever they read I had left out a key point so they were confused when they first encountered the realities of a contract. So I'd get that feedback and the next time we'd tackle it a little better. Whether in e-mails or at speaking engagments, if you can provide the walk through, people will understnad what you're talking about. They may or may not agree, but they will understand. It's also much easier to make this argument today. Whoever may not like it but when Gates, Joe and the State Department are publicly talking about the US military staying in Iraq past 2011, they look rather silly screaming at me that I don't know what I'm talking about.

Jim: If I can, an e-mail. Pamela e-mailed asking, of you C.I., "Are you glad you were right?"

C.I.: No. I'd be glad if the war was over. I'd be glad to have my own life back. I'd be glad not to have to spend another day tlaking about Iraq or hearing about Iraqi gay men and men suspected of being gay being tortured or Christians being murdered in Iraq. I'd be glad of any number of things. Glad that I was right? Is that question supposed to mean I'm saying, "Yea! History backed me up!" I always knew I was right. I know contract law. This wasn't a prediction on my part. This was reading over the contract and grasping what it actually said. I'm appalled that so many who should have known refused to take a stand. In the Bush years, we marched and rallied with "Out of Iraq now!" Not a year from now, not two. And look at all the time wasted under Barack Obama. Our chants today would have to be "Out of Iraq sometime . . . if you want it, Mr. President . . . if not . . . well okay."

Jim: Ava, Wally and Kat are on the road with C.I. every week speaking out against the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War as well. What's your sense on the SOFA and where people stand?

Wally: I'll start. Back in 2009, at the start of it, I would usually grab the SOFA. That's because people just didn't want to hear about it. You had Hopium addicts. They didn't want to know anything but Barack pisses rainbows and solid gold comes out of his ass. Now it didn't bother C.I. if groups were hostile to what she was talking about and she'd make her points and do so very well. But, as I saw this, I thought, "Okay, this is something we need to double up on." So I'd use my time on that as well. By August of 2009, that really wasn't needed. And I think a lot of that has to do with people beginning to realize the huge gulf between the press hype of Barack Obama and the reality of Barack Obama. Kat and I used to joke, in early 2009, that we felt like the town crier or Paul Revere or something.

Kat: There were times in early 2009 when I'd call Elaine and ask, "How did C.I. do this?" She started speaking out against the war in February 2003. Bush was still hugely popular, beyond popular. The same sort of zeal that existed towards Barack in 2009? Bush had that sort of following back then. It was over three years later when I started joining her and the mood in the country had shifted. So at the start of 2009, I was just thinking, "Oh, this is going to be very interesting." And I'd call Elaine about it and ask her for advice and reassurance. And she's say it will turn, the sentiment will turn, and she'd talk about how important this work was and how we needed a space on the left to criticize Barack from. So that kept me going. But if I had any real guts, I would've followed Wally's lead and used my speaking time back then on the SOFA as well.

Ava: Kat had plenty of guts. There were times, in 2009, when it felt like various groups were going to turn on us -- and I mean beyond booing. It wasn't easy to talk about the wars when the whole country appeared to have enlisted in the Cult of St. Barack. But we weren't the only ones, that's a point that needs to be made. Until recently, Aimee Allison worked for KPFA. And she wasn't silent. She stepped forward with praise for Barack's use of drones in Pakistan. That's really important to remember. How quickly so called lefties, so called antiwar types, started marching with war instead of opposing it. CODEPINK did how many mailings in 2009 which would congratulate Barack on ending the Iraq War and call for him to rethink the Afghanistan War? I can write a book, I remember all the whoring, on everyone who should have been standing up but instead were staying silent. And Elaine's point and C.I.'s and Kat's earlier? So true. So damn true. Where would be right now -- in terms of the wars -- if we hadn't spent nearly two years lying that the wars were ending? Really, where would be?

Wally: The Iraq War didn't end when Barack was sworn in. And all this time later, there is still no demand on Barack on this issue. It's disgusting.

Jim: It is disgusting. We're going to switch over to the political side, the mid-terms, now. And Ava and C.I. take notes for this transcript piece. I don't know how much Matt Taibbi will be discussed in this but during that discussion, C.I.'s not speaking at all. As with child actors, she doesn't weigh in on Taibbi.

Ann: Actually, Jim, I want to stay on Iraq a bit. We haven't done anything here on Iraqi Christians. At our own sites, Mike, Ruth, Betty and I have covered it -- I'm sorry if I forgot anyone -- and certainly C.I.'s done all the heavy lifting daily. At my church it is an issue we're following, I'm sure that's true of other churches in the US as well.

Jim: That's fine. Let's do this topic then. C.I., can you give us an overview?

C.I.: In Iraq, the question sometimes seems: Who isn't persecuted? Everyone's at risk for the most part unless they're an exile the US-installed or someone working for the exiles. Iraqi Christians have been targeted since the start of the illegal war. The latest wave started on October 31st when assailants attacked Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and at least 70 people died with at least another seventy wounded. Iraqis covered in the press -- in the foreign press, little coverage on this comes from the domestic press -- would state in that immediate aftermath that they were thinking of moving to Mosul but a relative or friend warned them that it wasn't safe there. Mosul was the focus of a 2008 wave of assaults on Iraqi Christians and, since the siege of the Church in Baghdad, Mosul's again become a place where Iraqi Christians are targeted.

Jim: Ann, what's the biggest issue on this in your church?

Ann: Honestly, the lack of coverage. People are using the links C.I.'s been providing in the snapshots whether it's to the BBC, AFP, Vatican Radio or what have you -- Asia News is another big one in terms of coverage. Those are all foreign sources. In the US? It's really difficult to find this story in our mainstream press. NPR, for example, has done two stories on it. That's it? That's coverage? Do you realize how many times they bored with handicapping the mid-terms and all they can give us is two stories? It's embarrassing, it's shameful.

Betty: And it really says a lot more than people may realize. For example, this is a story Amy Goodman doesn't give a damn about judging by her own 'coverage' which has been AWOL. And then they wonder why they -- people on the left -- have trouble with people of faith? Seriously. When Iraqi Christians are targeted, it does register with American Christians. Not because we think, "Oh, those are Iraqi Christians! So they're important! Only them!" It registers because we have a common bond with them and can easily put ourselves in their shoes. We realize how fortunate we are to live in a country where we're not targeted for our religion. We start to notice all the silences on this subject and suddenly start recalling all the hand wrining for this Muslim issue or that Muslim issue. And we start to wonder does Beggar Media actually give a damn about the misfortunate who are targeted or do they just run with a spit-on-Christians message? I'm very serious here.

Stan: And I agree with you. And it's very telling how silent Barack's been on this issue. Supposedly he'd a Christian. Supposedly he's shocked that people don't believe that. But Mr. I Can't Stop Yammering About The Muslim World can't say a damn word about the persecution of Christians in Iraq?

Trina: Can't and won't. And what happened? You saw it if you paid attention. We had a little repeat of 2008 take place. When Barack can't do something, attack Hillary. And that's how we got the idiotic and stupid column last Sunday where Hillary was attacked -- and it was all over the internet -- for not speaking out. But Barack's the one who was and is silent. And it was an attack on Hillary to distract from the fact that Barack, who is president, can't speak to the issue and won't speak to the issue.

Isaiah: That's a good point. I hadn't seen it that way until Trina made it. I was thinking, "Oh, look, they're attacking Hillary to avoid calling out Barack." But I wasn't thinking, "Yeah, just like all the way through 2008." It's for those reasons that I wish she'd turned down Secretary of State. She often seems to exist in the administration to deflect criticism from Barack. But she did address the subject and I've yet to read any supposed lefty call out Barack's silence. It is a silence and it is offensive. A church was assaulted, people shot dead, bombs went off. If that had been a mosque, you know Barack would have called it out. But he can't muster a word about this? That's exactly why people doubt that he's a Christian.

Ruth: Who was it that said -- I think on NPR -- that they wished Barack would make a show of going to church? I cannot remember. But it was a supporter of his and they were saying this is an issue he could deal with so easily and they just cannot understand why he will not. It is a mystery. It is estimated that there are 8 Jews left in Baghdad or in Iraq depending upon what news outlet you are being informed by. How many more waves of attacks on Iraqi Christians before they dwindle in the numbers that Iraqi Jews have?

Cedric: And then there is the issue of what do you do? I think C.I. has called it correctly -- we've discussed this at length in our church, Ann and I -- which is, "This is their choice." If Iraqi Christians want to stay in Iraq, great for them. Let those of us not in Iraq raise our voices and get some global attention to this issue. But if Iraqi Christians want to leave, we need to be pressuring our governments to admit them. It is the decision of each Iraqi and they alone can make it.

Stan: And it is offensive -- and I'm glad C.I.'s called this out -- when an Iraqi who found asylum in the US starts insisting that Iraqi Christians have to stay in Iraq. If you're worried about Christians vanishing from Iraq and you are an Iraqi Christian in America, why don't you hop on a plane and go home? What the heck is that? Why would anyone leave Iraq due to the violence and then turn around and demand that other Iraqis stay and endure the violence? Talk about hypocrisy.

Marcia: I had not thought of it -- until Ruth just made her point -- in terms of the Iraqi Jews. The Jewish community was targeted in Baghdad. And they disappeared. That could easily be how it turns out for Iraqi Christians. And I find Barack Obama's continued silence both disgusting and disturbing. Last week, a six-year-old, little girl was killed with her father.

Mike: And remember George W. Bush and Tony Blair: Self-proclaimed Christians. Same with the men who replaced them and continued the wars: Barack and Gordon Brown. I don't know what David Cameron is -- England's new prime minister -- so I'll leave him out of it. But that's four people who started and continued the illegal war on Iraq and all claimed to be Christian and it is Iraq's Christian community that has been among the hardest hit by the Iraq War.

Jim: Ann and Cedric were talking about what a big issue it is in their church. Mike or Trina, is that the case, the same case, with you?

Mike: Not trying to be in a competition here but I think it may be a bigger issue in my Church just because our leader is the Pope and the Pope has spoken out against this wave of assaults, the various Catholic news sources have covered it widely and regularly. Again, I'm not trying to turn it into a competition, I am, however, noting the importance of the Pope and his statements to my religion.

Ann: And I think Mike's right. We're not Catholic -- Cedric and I -- and I do think the Catholic Church -- judging by C.I.'s snapshots -- has been on this issue from the start and has not faltered in calling it out. It's isn't a competition but Mike is absolutely correct that the Catholic faithful in the US are probably better informed on this issue than other faiths.

Jim: Okay we're closing on that note because we have run out of time. This is a rush transcript.
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