Tuesday, November 11, 2008

UN warns elections may bring violence

Suicide blasts in Baghdad that killed at least 25 people yesterday were aimed at spreading fear in Iraq as the country prepares for elections in January, the United Nations said.
[. . .]
The bombings were "repugnant crimes aimed at re-instilling fear, distrust and division among the public just as Iraq prepares itself to resume political normalcy," Staffan de Mistura, the top UN envoy to the country, said in a statement.
The UN says the Jan. 31 ballot is central to the process of national reconciliation in the country as Iraqis elect provincial councils. Violence ebbed in Iraq this year after an increase in U.S. troop numbers and support from Sunni tribesmen against al- Qaeda. The UN says the elections may trigger more attacks.
In a report to the UN Security Council yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the security gains in Iraq "fragile" and said it was essential the elections "be organized in a secure environment."

The above is from Ed Johnson and Bill Varner's "Baghdad Bombings Aim to Spread 'Fear' Before Ballot, UN Warns" (Bloomberg News) and provincial elections are now 'scheduled' for January 31st. Let's note voting requirements outlined by the Independent Higher Electoral Commission on Iraq:

1)Iraqi citizen
2) 18-years-old "before or in the month of the election"
3) "Legally competent"
4) "Registered in the registry of voters in accordance with the instructions issued by the IHEC"

The above four also apply to internal refugees who would like to vote and they must be registered as displaced with both the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Displacement and Migration. That and other voting information can be found at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.

Yesterday Michele Montas handled the United Nations briefing in New York and she stated that Iraqi ministries no longer provide the United Nations with fatality information. She also noted Ban Ki-moon released a report and that he states the provincial elections " represent the most significant events in the coming months, as they can advance political dialogue, establish representative provincial councils and empower community leaders to meet the needs of local citizens in cooperation with the Government of Iraq. At the same time, he warns, there is potential for election-related violence and instability." Take "he warns" out of the previous quote and that's page 14 of the Secretary General's report (item 55). The United Nations report is entitled [PDF format warning] "Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1830 (2008)" and we'll quote this section of the report:

Following intense negotiations, the Council of Representatives adopted the provincial election law on 24 September and the Presidency Council ratified the measure on 7 October. The law was amended on 3 November to include provisions for minority representation in Baghdad, Basra and Ninawa. Provincial council elections are now scheduled to take place in early 2009 in 14 of the 18 governorates in Iraq.
Starting in August, attempts at intimdation aginst Christians in Mosul were reported with a dramatic increase in violence in the first two weeks of October. Over 2,200 families, more than 10,000 individuals, have reportedly fled their homes and most have sought temporary shelter in the Ninawa plains, leading my Special Representative to publicly express concern and strongly condemn the killing of civilians on 12 October. The development comes at a very sensitive time, and against a backdrop of heightened political tensions regarding the unresolved issues of minority representation in the provincial elections and disputed internal boundaries.
[. . .]
On 26 October, United States forces from Iraq launched an attack on a house in the village of Sukkariyah in the Syrian Arab Republic. I expressed my deep regret over the loss of civilian lives and I called for regional cooperation to solve issues of common concern, including border security. The situation in the region is fragile and we therefore must stay focused on initial positive steps towards regional dialogue.

And regarding Kirkuk and minorities, we'll note this from the report:

During the reporting period my Special Representative and his political and electoral teams faciliated the negotiations on the provincial election law between the major political party blocs, the Presidency Council, members of the Council of Representatives and the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Following the passage of the election law, engagement with the parties continued with a view to their reconsidering the issue of minority representation in the provincial councils. An amendment addressing this issue was passed on 3 November. My Special Representative met with key leaders from the Christian, Yezidi, Shebek and Sabean Mandean communities to reassure them of the continued engagement of the United Nations on the issue of minority representation.
The provincial election stipulates special arrangements for Kirkuk Governorate, whereby a committee comprised of seven representatives (two Members of Parliament each from Kirkuk's Arab, Turkmen and Kurdish components and one Christian representative) is to submit a consense report to the Council of Representatives by 31 March 2009 on (a) mechanisms for sharing administrative and security powers and civil service positions in Kirkuk; (b) a review of violations against public and private property within the Governorate of Kirkuk before and after 9 April 2003, with the Government of Iraq guaranteeing the correction of those violations in accordance with the laws applied in Iraq; and (c) an examination of all data and records related to the demographic situation including the voter registry. The committee's findings will be binding recommendations for implementation by the Independent High Electoral Commission. The committee's mandate concerns the issues that lie at the epicentre of what has so far been irreconcilable Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Christian claims on the future administrative status of Kirku. UNAMI is ready, should it be invited, to provide advice and assistance to the committee.

The report is 16 pages and we'll note something on it in today's snapshot.

Meanwhile AFP notes Iraq's cabinet met this morning and was supposed to discuss the treaty masquerading as a SOFA. Fars News Agency reports on Iran's diplomatic meetings with Iraq:

Heshmatollah Falahatpishe, in a meeting with Iraqi ambassador to Tehran, added Iraq must not turn to the strategic territory of the United States and what the agreement must be geared to is paving the way for stabilizing an independent Iraqi state.
If ratified by the Iraqi government, the Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) would also grant US forces in Iraq immunity from prosecution.
It also gives the occupation forces a free rein to stage military operations wherever and whenever they deem necessary, without consulting the Iraqi government.
Mohammad Majeed al-Sheikh, on his part, asserted Iran and Iraq enjoy strategic relations and emphasized on strengthening the ties, the Iranian students news agency reported.

Heshmatollah Falahatpishe is a member of Iran's Parliament. (Actually a very powerful member -- the deputy of Majlis' National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.) Mohammad Majeed al-Sheikh is Iraq's ambassador to Iran.

Meanwhile, "Nothing can quite describe life in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times) is Tina Susman offering some observations from the ground in Baghdad:

The walls and checkpoints improve security but make life difficult. But if the walls and checkpoints go, violence might return.
Couldn't the military take down a couple of chunks of it just outside his business, so people could easily come and go? the shopkeeper asked Pemrick. "There are no bad people here."
The patrol then headed toward the nearest opening in the wall, to an Iraqi security force checkpoint. A man in a crisp suit, maroon shirt and wide, striped tie approached. His forehead was sweating. He was in a rush. On the other side of the barrier, his shiny blue sedan, festooned with lavender flowers, was sitting. The man needed to get through so he could make it to his wedding
In a land where car bombs and bombers come in all shapes and sizes -- a male insurgent was caught trying to flee Baghdad wearing a bridal gown last year -- everything comes under scrutiny. In this case, the U.S. forces urged the Iraqi military to quickly search the man's vehicle. Then, the barrier lifted and the man headed off to get married.
By the time Pemrick made it to the Jamila market in the section of Sadr City where U.S. troops have a presence, most stalls were closing for the evening. This is the area where, in March and April, fierce fighting raged after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki launched an offensive against militiamen loyal to anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr. Over time, the U.S. built a wall separating this part of Sadr City from the majority of the sprawling district that is home to about 2 million people.
The idea was that once people on the other side of the wall saw how well things were going on this side, they would reject militias
It's impossible to say whether that has happened.

And on 'costumes,' Susman's "Iraq suicide bomber a man in woman's garb" back in August reported on the attempted assassination of Raad Tamimi (Diyala Province governor) by a man who "dressed as a woman" to gain closer access.

Patrick Cockburn has an interesting article that we'll pair with a highlight Zach suggested. First, from Cockburn's "The US can quit Iraq, or it can stay. But it can't do both" (Independent of London):

If it ever comes to court it should be one of the more interesting libel cases of the decade. The Iraqi National Intelligence Service is threatening to sue Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician, for asking who pays for it.
"It is somewhat curious," says Mr Chalabi, "that the intelligence service of a country which is sovereign -- that no one really knows who is funding it."
In fact there are very few Iraqis who do not believe they have a very clear idea of who funds Iraq's secret police. Its director is General Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, who once led a failed coup against Saddam Hussein, and was handpicked by the CIA to run the new security organisation soon after the invasion of 2003. He is believed to have been answering to them ever since.
The history of the Iraqi intelligence service is important because it shows the real distribution of power in Iraq rather than the spurious picture presented by President Bush. It explains why so many Iraqis are suspicious of the security accord, or Status of Forces Agreement, that the White House has been pushing the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Malki to sign. It reveals the real political landscape where President-elect Barack Obama will soon have to find his bearings.
For all Mr Bush's pious declarations about respecting Iraqi sovereignty, General Shahwani is reported to work primarily for American intelligence. The intelligence service is "not working for the Iraqi government -- it's working for the CIA," Hadi al-Ameri, a powerful Shia lawmaker, was quoted as saying three years ago. "I prefer to call it the American Intelligence of Iraq, not the Iraqi Intelligence Service."

Zach notes Peter Lee's "Obama's Man in Afghanistan" (CounterPunch):

This sort of verbiage is important.In the United States, there is a powerful compulsion to shoehorn warmaking into the ranks of admirable activities conducted by good people with fine minds. General Petraeus fulfills an important need, especially for the responsible-liberal quadrant of the commentariat and the incoming Obama administration which, I imagine, will be staffed by Ivy League intellectuals and not be chock-a-block with blood and thunder military types.
For the United States to put up with occupations and COIN/pacification operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that may go on for more than a decade, the public needs to believe that the occupation is some kind of combination of FDR's New Deal and the superhero Justice League, using American know-how and values to continually improve the economic and security well-being of the peoples in our care. However, in real life, occupation and counter-insurgency are a nasty, degrading, and bloody business. Commanders in a hostile land far from home, intent on protecting their own forces, aren’t always using a surgical scalpel to extract the tumor of insurgency. Sometimes the meat axe is swung indiscriminately, slaughtering patient and bystanders alike. And the proper description of "targeted kinetic activity" is, perhaps, "death squad".
According to Bob Woodward's most recent book, The War Within, the activities of death squads in Iraq was one of the key factors in the reduction of violence under General Petraeus’s watch as commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq:

Beginning in the late spring of 2007, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies launched a series of top-secret operations that enabled them to locate, target and kill key individuals in groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency and renegade Shia militias, or so-called special groups. The operations incorporated some of the most highly classified techniques and information in the U.S. government. Senior military officers and officials at the White House urged against publishing details or code names associated with the groundbreaking programs, arguing that publication of the names alone might harm the operations that have been so beneficial in Iraq. As a result, specific operational details have been omitted in this report and in "The War Within." But a number of authoritative sources say the covert activities had a far-reaching effect on the violence and were very possibly the biggest factor in reducing it. Several said that 85 to 90 percent of the successful operations and "actionable intelligence" had come from the new sources, methods and operations. Several others said that figure was exaggerated but acknowledged their significance. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) responsible for hunting al-Qaeda in Iraq, employed what he called "collaborative warfare," using every tool available simultaneously, from signal intercepts to human intelligence and other methods, that allowed lightning-quick and sometimes concurrent operations. Asked in an interview about the intelligence breakthroughs in Iraq, President Bush offered a simple answer: "JSOC is awesome."

It would seem to me that "the most highly classified techniques and information in the U.S. government" had been deployed in Iraq to battle the insurgency from the beginning, and the U.S. military have been eavesdropping, bribing, and strongarming the locals in order to improve its tactical position in raids from Day One.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

ADDED: Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) notes:

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov 12th is the first date, when one of the demonstrators, an IVAW member from D.C., Adam Kokesh, will have his day in court. It is Adams' trial. If you are off work, please, please come. It will be difficult to get enough people out here in Long Island on short notice. These veterans and demonstrators are worthy of support. And, it will be important, but difficult, to get a crowd out for all 15 of them, on 15 different days.

Please spread the word:

Subject: Please come to court in Nassau County on Wed, Nov 12th at 8am to support the Hempstead 15 from the Hofstra Demo

Subject: Hempstead 15 plead not guilty while cops defend brutalizing veterans

It was a sad day for Nassau County, but a proud one for veterans and activists nation-wide when the Hempstead 15 plead not guilty Nov. 10 in the Nassau County District Courthouse to charges of disorderly conduct while a crowd of nearly 100 supporters cheered them from in and outside the building.

Video of the court support demo is here:

The charges stemmed from an action planned by IVAW around the final presidential debate at Hofstra University Oct. 15. During the debate, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and supporters peacefully marched into police lines blocking Hofstra’s entrance after having their voices and issues ignored throughout the election cycle by the candidates.

During the demonstration, Nassau County Police used horses to push demonstrators onto a sidewalk before brutalizing them and arresting several, including Nick Morgan, a veteran of Iraq whose face was crushed by a police horse. In total, ten veterans and five of our supporters were arrested, hence the Hempstead 15.

Following an evening of relentless harassment by Nassau County Police, including threats of rape and further brutality, the Hempstead 15 were released to appear in court today where all plead not guilty as the police defended their actions to the press.

“The protesters were trying to gain entry into the debate, and police were not going to let that happen,” said Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone of the NCPD to Newsday. "We used necessary force in order to carry out that goal," he said, before asserting that police have yet to determine whether Nick was actually trampled.

This claim comes in direct contradiction not only to video evidence clearly showing Nick and others being trampled and brutalized on the sidewalk opposite the main gate of Hofstra, but also a statement made by Lt. Kevin Smith of the NCPD’s Public Information Office almost a month ago where he acknowledged, “One of the defendants collided with a police horse,” before adding, “Who do you think is gonna win?”

After refusing to drop charges against the Hempstead fifteen, Nassau County once again snubbed the first amendment and our supporters by setting different court dates for our members, scattering our next appearances from this Wednesday to late January, I suspect in an attempt to complicate further demonstrations.

What these legal gerrymanderers don’t realize is they’ve just given a motivated movement a good reason to celebrate liberty and support our troops 15 more times on their front porch!

So where do we go from here?

We must keep up the pressure on Nassau County to drop all charges against the Hempstead 15. You can do this by calling District Attorney Kathleen Rice at 516-571-2994 or contacting her here: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.nassaucountyny.gov%2Fagencies%2FDA%2Fcontact.html

As well, you can sign the petition demanding that charges be dropped against Nick Morgan and that those officers responsible for the brutality of Oct. 15th be held accountable. http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.ipetitions.com%2Fpetition%2Fjusticefornick%2F%3Fe Additionally, please donate money to help cover Nick’s medical bills at ivaw.org.

Please reach out to president-elect Obama however you can and demand that he condemn the trampling and arrests of Nick and others as well the eroding of our civil liberties as Americans.

Please help us spread word of the tragic events of Oct. 15th by continuing to forward information about the demonstration, Nick Morgan and the Hempstead 15 to your friends, relatives and co-workers. This REALLY makes a difference.

Adam Kokesh will be going to trial this Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. Please come out to the courthouse at 8 a.m. to show your support! 99 Main St., Hempstead, NY. The next court appearance will not take place until December which gives us some time to plan.

I’ll be appearing on Democracy Now tomorrow morning for Veterans Day and to speak about what happened in court this morning. Please tune in or check out the broadcast on the web at democracynow.org.

We’re a long way from finished fighting. And this is a fight we will ultimately win. Simply having people in this country willing to put their bodies on the line in defense of our veterans and the constitution is proof that victory is within our grasps.

I was so moved this morning to see so many supporters gathered so early in the morning in solidarity with us. Thank you to all who turned out to make good on America’s promise to support her troops. And thank you to all who signed the petition, donated to Nick and who’ve helped us get the word out!

Much more is to come from IVAW and the Hempstead 15. Stay in touch to see how we’re going to end the war and ensure our troops get the care and respect they deserve!

Peace and Solidarity,

Matthis Chiroux



The Hempstead 15:
Matthis Chiroux (Army Sergeant)
Kristofer Goldsmith (Army Sergeant)
Adam Kokesh (Marine Sergeant)
Mike Spinato (Marine Sergeant)
Geoff Millard (Army Sergeant)
Marlisa Grogan (Marine Captain)
Nathan Peld (Navy, 1998-2004)
Nick Morgan (Army Sergeant)
James Gilligan (Marine Corps, 6 years)
Jose Vasquez (Army & Army Reserves, 1992-2007)
Ryan Olander
Paul Blasenheim
David M. Disimino
Lianne Gillouly
Megan Day

 the los angeles times
 tina susman