Tuesday, December 16, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military makes an announcement regarding female prisoners, al-Maliki's council makes an announcement regarding foreign troops, a journalist apparently faces attempted murder charges, and more.
Oliver August (Times of London) reports Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi's brother, Durgham al-Zaidi, states his brother has serious injuries, "He has got a broken arm and ribs, and cuts to his eye and arm. He is being held by forces under the command of Muwafaq al-Rubaie [Iraq's national security adviser]." The journalist's name is also spelled by the press as: Muntathar al-Zaidi. Muntathar threw both of his shoes at the Bully Boy of the United States. Both shoes missed. Bully Boy joked, "This is what happens in free societies" and it's one of his more obvious jokes as bullies and thugs attacked Muntathar for a shoe-ing, demonstrating that there was no free society in Iraq. Sunday Adam Ashton and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported: "Another Iraqi journalist yanked Zaidi to the ground before bodyguards collapsed on Zaidi and held him there while he yelled 'Killer of Iraqis, killer of children.' From the bottom of the pile, he moaned loudly and said 'my hand, my hand.' Zaidi was hauled to a sepaate room, where his cries remained audible for a few moments." Monday Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported, "Mr. Maliki's security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until 'he was crying like a woman,' said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party". Reuters noted: "The journalist was leapt on by Iraqi security officials and U.S. secret service agents and dragged from the room screaming and struggling." Greg Gordon and Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) report today that the US Secret Service has donned hair shirts over what they see as their own lack of quick action which can also be read as: Any damage to the journalist was done by the thugs Nouri al-Maliki has employed as his palace guards and not by us. The reaction apart from Nouri's thugs has been enthusiastic. Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed (New York Times) report a person in Saudi Arabia has offered $10 million for either of the shoes thrown. Raed Rafei and Khaled Hijabcalls (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) sketch out the Iraqi reaction:
In a barbershop near downtown Beirut on Monday, customers buzzed about the reporter's political gesture.
"It was great," one customer said, beaming with satisfaction.
Another responded by saying that Bush certainly deserved it for inflicting "disaster" on the Iraqi people.
The video of the journalist throwing his shoes at Bush was played over and over again on television stations including the pan-Arab Al Jazeera as well as Iranian state television and even radio.
"Please listen again," said a radio announcer in Tehran. "This is the sound of the shoe hitting the wall and missing President Bush."
The left-leaning Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar featured the news in on its front page under the headline, "The farewell kiss for Bush," calling the reporter a "hero" who stood up to the president.
"This was without a doubt the best farewell as seen by millions of Iraqis who were heartened" by the reporter's action, said the daily, adding that Iraqis were "probably sad when they saw their Prime Minister Nouri Maliki throwing himself in front of his guest to protect him."
At McClatchy's Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent provides reactions from various Iraqis. Ammar Mohammed declares, "Of course he's a hero! He did what no one has been able to do so far: He gave Bush the criminal what he deserves. Insulting aman is more severe than killing him. It was sooooo funny -- and the moron didn't even get it! But I am glad that it was publicized -- it is good -- protection for Mutathar: now they can't make him 'disappear' . . . Or can they?" A mother asks, "How many Iraqis did Bush kill in Iraq? Hundreds of thousands. This shoe is settlement for only one. How many Muntathars do we need to settle our debt with Bush?" AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reported this morning that despite street protests today calling for Muntadhar al-Zeidi's release, he has been "handed over to the Iraqi judiciary" and is expected to face trial for the run-by shoeing. Oliver August noted this was day two of protests calling for Muntadhar's release and that protests took place in Mosul, Nasiriyah and Falluja. Wisam Mohammed (Reuters) reports Muntadhar acknowledged he threw the shoes today in court accodring to "Abdul Satar Birrqadr, spokesman for Iraq's High Judicial Council." And it gets more ridiculous: "The court decided to keep Zaidi in custody, and after the judge completes his investigation of the case may send him for trial under a clause in the Iraqi penal code that punishes anyone who attempts to murder Iraqi or foreign presidents." Attempts to murder? Again, Iraq is not a free society nor a democracy. Attempts to murder? For an attempted murder, Dana Perino is being very light-hearted. The White House spokesperson opened today's briefing with a joke, "Hi, everybody. The shoe check-in policy and checkout policy will begin tomorrow." And the press responded to the joke with laughter. It was not an attempted murder and for the international press not to be calling out this journalist being held is appalling. At the White House briefing, Perino offered this perspective:
Well, it was just a shoe, and the President saw it from his vantage point. He felt fine about it. I think you saw he let the Secret Service know he thought he was okay, and the Secret Service jumped in as quickly as they thought they needed to. And then they were able to back off and let the Prime Minister of a duly -- the duly elected Prime Minister of a sovereign Iraq taking questions from journalists there who never would have been able to do that five years ago. And the President just thinks it was just a -- it was just a shoe.
People express themselves in lots of different ways. Obviously he was very angry. I can't think -- I don't -- I can't tell you exactly what the shoe thrower was thinking, but I can tell what the President thought, was that he was fine. And he said immediately -- you saw his reaction was, don't worry about it; it was okay. So we hold no hard feelings about it, and we've really moved on.
No offense to Dana Perino -- who got hit with a boom mike during the incident (thanks to the Secret Service) -- but when the White House is showing more maturity and perspective than others in the international playground, there is something seriously wrong. CBS adds, "Zeidi, 29, has been working for Al-Baghdadiya since it launched in 2005, reports CBS News' Khaled Wassef in London. Co-workers describe him as a rather quiet and composed. Zeidi has been arrested before, in error, by American forces and was let go, reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer. This time, his family has been told he faces years in jail." For a shoe-ing. For a shoe-ing?
Meanwhile Rachel Layne (Bloomberg News) reports that GE has won a contract "valued at about $3 billion to provide electricity-generating equipment and services to Iraq" and that the purchase means "nearly doubling the country's generating capacity." Since the bulk of Iraq -- including Baghdad -- endures daily power outtages, "doubling" will not solve that problem. The problem is and remains that Nouri al-Maliki sits on billions and refuses to spend them to improve the general welfare of the Iraqi people. Thursday's snapshot noted another buying spree by al-Maliki:
October 31st, AP reported the puppet government in Baghdad's latest boo-hoo: Oil prices had dropped and their budget for 2009 had to be cut by $13 billion. The Guardian of London (via Iraq Directory) was writing that there was talk of raising production due to the drop from the expected $80 billion 2009 budget to the $67 billion budget. In 2008, they couldn't meet their spending targets and sat on a ton of money while infrastructure remained unrepaired and Iraqis suffered without electricity and potable water. This week they're on a spending spree. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency made several announcements yesterday [all links of announcements take you to PDF format]. DSCA announced: "On Dec. 9, the Dfense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 36 AT-6B Texan II Aircraft as well as associated support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $520 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 400 M1126 STRYKER Infantry Carrier Vehicles as well as associated equipment. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.11 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 20 T-6A Texan aircraft, 20 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $210 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (20) 30-35 meter Coastal Patrol Boats and (3) 55-60 meter Offshore Support Vessels as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $1.010 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks modified and upgraded to the M1A1M Abrams configuration, 8 M88A2 Tank Recovery Vehicles, 64 M1151A1B1 Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), 92 M1152 Shelter Carriers, 12 M577A2 Command Post Carriers, 16 M548A1 Tracked Logistics Behicles, 8 M113A2 Armored Ambulances, and 420 AN/VRC-92 Vehicular Receiver Transmitters as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised could be as high as $2.160 billion." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of 26 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters, 26 Rolls Royce 250-C-30 Engines, 26 M280 2.75-inch Launchers, 26 XM296 .50 Cal. Machine Guns with 500 Round Ammunition Box, 26 M299 HELLFIRE Guided Missile Launchers as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $366 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (80,000) M16A4 5.56MM Rifles, (25,000) M4 5.56MM Carbines, (2,550) M203 40MM Grenade Launchers as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $148 million." And they announced: "On Dec. 9, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of (64) Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelters (DRASH), (1,500) 50 watt Very High Frequency (VHF) Base Station Radios, (6,000) VHF Tactical Handheld Radios, (100) VHF Fixed Retransmitters, (200) VHF Vehicular Radios, (30) VHF Maritime 50 watt Base Stations, (150) 150 watt High Frequency (HF) Base Station Radio Systems, (150) 20 watt HF Vehicular Radios, (30) 20 watt HF Manpack Radios, (50) 50 watt Very High Frequency/Ultra High Frequency (VHF/UHF) Ground to Air Radio Systems, (50) 150 watt VHF/UHF Ground to Air Radio Systems, (50) 5 watt Multiband Handheld Radio Systems as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $485 Million." That is over six billion dollars being committed "if all options are exercised" -- which is a little over 10% of their entire budget for 2009. There's always money to spend when it comes to weapons. And human life is always done on the cheap.
Reuters quotes al-Maliki mouth piece Ali al-Dabbagh informing that al-Maliki's cabinet has decided "to reign in its spending plans" today. No information was given on how or on actual dollar amounts. Possibly the cabinet agreed to just say a daily affirmation?
Meanwhile China's Xinhua quotes Iraqi MP Humam Hammodi stating, "The Iraqi cabient approved Tuesday a draft bill that sets timetable for withdrawal of the non-U.S. foreign troops from Iraq by five months for combat troops starting from January and seven months for the rest of the troops." The potential agreement would govern Australia, Romania, Estonia, El Salvador, NATO and the UK presence in Iraq. Ahmeed Rasheed (Reuters) quotes Hammodi but also notes that the "timeframe" "was not immediately clear." Also not immediately clear is which troops would leave -- 'combat' troops? Trainers? Police troops?
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes the continued violence in the Mosul area (which already this week includes an attack that cost the lives of 7 Yazidis) and notes that statements by "American and Iraqi officials" indicate US forces will not be withdrawing from Mosul in June:
Last Saturday Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of American forces in Iraq, said that despite the joint US-Iraqi security pact that calls for US troops to leave Iraqi cities, some battalions could remain in urban centers. "It's important that we maintain enough presence here that we can help them get through this year of transition," he said.
He acknowledged that Mosul is one place where Americans could remain. "There are still some issues in Mosul that we have to work through," said General Odierno.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 3 lives and left thirteen people injured, a Baghdad car bombing left three people injured, a Diyala Province car bombing left four members of the Iraqi military injured, another Diyala Province bombing claimed 2 lives and left seven more injured, a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of the driver and left four members of the Iraqi military injured, and a Kirkuk roadside bombing wounded a police officer. Reuters adds: "The police chief of Rashad town escaped death when a roadside bomb detonated near his convoy and wounded two of his bodyguards, 30 km (20 miles) south of Kirkuk, police said."
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "Awakening" Council member Sattar al Hadidi was shot dead "leaving the mosque on Monday evening" and "A source in the border police said that an Iranian force had chased liquor smugglers inside the Iraqi land in north Sulaimaniyah province and killed and Iraqi man and an Iranian Kurdish man."
Today the US military announced:
Multi-National Force -- Iraq's Task Force 134 -- Detainee Operations, transferred custody of the last of its female detainees to the Government of Iraq, Monday, Dec. 15.
The final 10 female detainees were all transferred from the Coalition theater internment facility at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, to an Iraqi controlled women's prison in Baghdad. These women are all either already convicted or scheduled to stand trial in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.
While these women were in the custody of Coalition forces, they received care well above the standard of the Geneva Convention. They received first-class medical care, visits from family members and education.
Currently, there are about 15,500 detainees in Coalition theater internment facilities; down dramatically from the high of about 26,000 in November 2007. Since the start of 2008, nearly 18,000 detainees have been released to their families and communities throughout Iraq.