Friday, July 31, 2009

25 dead in Baghdad bombings


The fierce raid this week by Iraqi military and police units on Camp Ashraf, a base for the militant Iranian dissident outfit - Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) or "People's Holy Warriors" - was a game changer in Iran's quest to control the banned organization.
The timing of the intense two-day siege of the camp, which left six people dead and dozens injured, is clearly linked to the progressive transfer of security operations from American to Iraqi troops.

The above is from Sreeram Chaulia's "Iran, US do a 'war on terror' somersault" (Asia Times) on the assault on Camp Ashraf. Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed on Thursday to let a small group of journalists into the camp. Visitors were given access to only the few hundred yards of land along the main road controlled by Iraqi forces." At the Independent of London, non-reporter and human stench Patrick Cockburn is giggling over "the latest episode in the strange history of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq" -- no link to his trash. For the record, when someone's assaulted, their history (or your opinion of it) really isn't an issue. For the record, putting the victims on trial is one of the trashiest things anyone can do. No surprise, Patrick Cockburn does just that. He's not a reporter. AP reports that US "medical professionals" (US military medical staff) were at Camp Ashraf yesterday evening and "evacuated the most seriously wounded to a U.S. military facility for further treatment." The National Council of Resistance of Iran explains that although there is ban on any journalists visiting Camp Ashraf, Nouri al-Maliki has made exceptions . . . for Iranian news outlets. They also alleges that the reporters were actually "a number of agents from the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and terrorist Qods Force". This was noted in yesterday's snapshot but we'll note it again, from the NCRI:

Sonic grenades have been used repeatedly by Iraqi suppressive forces in the past two days against the residents of Camp Ashraf. On the shell of the grenades, the following inscriptions have been seen: The grenade must be used by those who have had training on the use of them to enforce the law.
The environment in which this grenade is thrown must be free of persons.
The grenade must not be thrown against rims, obstacles or flammable oil or material.
The grenade must be used only by those trained in using it. It contains explosive material which can cause severe injuries or death.
Ears and eyes must be protected during use.
The grenade cannot be refilled if it is tactically emptied.
Manufactured by Defense Technology in Casper, Wyoming, USA. Serial No. 754340.

The above points clearly stipulate the deadly nature of these grenades, and can in any independent court of law establish the intentional use of them for killing Ashraf residents.

Not all in Iraq are going along with the assault. The Iraqi National Dialogue Front has issued a statement decrying the assault: "Ashraf residents have been deeply respected during all these years by the Iraqi people and protecting them against the plots, pressures and political quid-pro-quo deals has turned into a matter of national pride for us. However, with the occurrence of yesterday’s crimes, which have left a dark stain on those who ordered and carried it out, Iraq’s political forces and people must only distance themselves from it. We declare that this crime has no relation to the people and country of Iraq and demand the trial of all those involved." In addition, 50 Iraqi Members of Paliarment have signed on to a letter addressed to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decrying the assault, noting the Fourth Geneva Convention is supposed to protect those at Camp Ashraf and calling for the UN to intervene. And NCRI explains:

On Thursday evening at 21:00 local time, the al-Arabiya TV channel reported that Mr. Tariq al-Hashemi, the Iraqi Deputy President, wrote a letter to members of the country’s presidential council and highlighted the need to demand sufficient explanations from Nouri al-Maliki about the military operation carried out recently in Camp Ashraf.
He also demanded to know the reason for performing the operation as well the political objectives to be pursued by the government in the future with regards to dealing with the refugees of the camp.
In his letter, al-Hashemi emphasized that from this point on it would be unacceptable for Iraq’s presidential council to be surprised every time political or security measures are taken without prior consultation with the council.

By the way, Patrick Cockburn was one of the fools insisting in the last weeks that the Iraqis would be able to vote yesterday on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. That didn't happen. That was never going to happen. It was obvious for some time and by June, with no move to organize voting and poll workers, it was obviously not happening. But fools and liars -- like Cockburn -- continued to insist it would. Just like they continue to lie that the White House was forced into the SOFA when the White House got everything they wanted with the SOFA. Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed cover some of yesterday's reported violence in today's New York Times and also explain:

The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has proposed scheduling the referendum for Jan. 15 to coincide with parliamentary elections.
On Thursday, one of the few public mentions of the July 30 deadline was made by Tariq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents.
"This date had been carefully chosen to provide the necessary time to have a tangible result," Mr. Hashemi said in a statement. "Failure to meet the date is a delay that denies the Iraqi people their rights."
In the meantime, various Iraqi governmental entities pointed fingers at one another for failing to convene an election.

The memo by US Col Timothy Reese is in the news. It's posted at various places online. One of the many places you can read the memo in full is here (New York Times) and we're noting this section:

The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis "forward." Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:

1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.

2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki

3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.

4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.

5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.

6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.

7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.

8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.

9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US’s business.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Michael Gordon (New York Times) broke the news on the memo yesterday online. His article appears in today's paper (and link is the story which is longer than his report online Thursday). Clicking here takes you to the Times offering various people weighing in -- some of whom seem not to have actually read the memo. Douglas Macgregor makes the strongest argument. (His isn't the only strong one, it's just the most realistic and informed by the memo and events.) Thomas E. Ricks is the most embarrassing and appears to morph into Thomas Friedman. Someone tell these men that after a certain age, they don't need to offer poster-speak from pep rallies. Translation, speak in English not your idea of current (but really dated) catch phrases. (You come off like Eileen Brennan's Capt Doreen Lewis in Private Benjamin yammering away about Fonzie.) The only thing more embarrassing is those on the 'left' trying to attack Reese (it's not an attack on his position, it's an attack on him) based on the fact that he's apparently Tim "The Echanter" of the conservative Townhall and he's against Barack's health care plan. His thoughts on health care have no bearing on his memo about Iraq. His political ideology isn't the point of the memo. If you want to refute his take, do so. But after everyone ran from MoveOn's Betray-us campaign, it's surprising that the usual hacks (who do nothing to end the illegal war) are out in force attacking someone in the military for his possible political beliefs which have nothing to do with a military memo he prepared. Janine Jackson and others whoring themselves out for Barack's hideous health care 'plan' (no plan) are the ones who should be ashamed. To know the 'plan' wouldn't kick in until 2013 and that it's not single-payer and the public option (if included) is a joke and whore whatever's left of your name (not much for Janine but, remember, she moves up by marrying into FAIR -- not through any real work) is much more embarrassing and shameful than anything Reese could have penned. Calling yourself an 'independent' media 'watchdog' and whoring yourself to promote bad government moves is disgraceful. By the way, as Jim pointed out, laugh as they wonder why the press doesn't invite left 'critics' of Barack's 'plan' to comment? Why? Because they aren't critics. They're cheerleaders who defend the indefensible plan for two minutes for every five seconds of negative criticism they offer. But remember, they're not independent, they're not a watch dog. They lie and spin -- just like the right wing liars and spinners -- and pretend otherwise. What's the biggest problem with US politics today? Frauds and fakes and, no, we're not talking about elected officials. They should be sued and they should certainly be taken off the public airwaves and lose their tax status as 'non-partisan' because they are partisan.

US Labor Against the War highlights James Cogan's "Iraqi prime minister: US forces can stay after 2011" (WSWS):

The most noteworthy aspect of the visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Washington last week was the unscripted remark he made on July 23 while addressing the foreign policy thinktank, the United States Institute for Peace (USIP).
In answer to a question concerning the December 31, 2011 expiry of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) -- the legal basis for American troops being on Iraqi soil -- Maliki made clear the date was open to extension.
He stated: "Pursuant to the agreement, in 2011, the military presence of the Americans will end in Iraq. Nevertheless, if the Iraqi forces required further training and further support, we shall examine this then at that time, based on the needs of Iraq ... the nature of that relationship as well as the functions and the amount of forces will be then discussed and re-examined again."
Maliki's statement was a public admission of what was worked out during the protracted negotiations last year between the Bush White House—with the support of president-elect Obama -- and the various factions that make up the Iraqi government. The so-called "deadline" for the withdrawal of all American forces was not worth the paper it was written on.

Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reports on the violence sweeping Baghdad today as attacks on Shi'ite mosques have claimed 24 lives. Reuters explains the death toll is now 25 and that there have been five bombings.

Meanwhile Elizabeth Byrne (Australia's ABC) reports, "The final 11 soldiers have returned to Australia marking the end of the six-year campaign in Iraq." Max Blenkin and Julian Drape (Sydney Morning Herald) add, "Some 20,000 members of the army, navy and air force have served in Iraq since 2003. The honour of being the last digger to leave the strife-torn country went to Corporal Don Mander. He stepped aboard an RAAF C-130 Hercules transport aircraft at Baghdad International Airport on Tuesday afternoon, the last of 12 Australian personnel embedded within US units operating in Baghdad." Meanwhile, Arwa Damon (CNN) reports that most British troops are supposed to be out of Iraq today, "Now, almost all British troops are being pulled out because an agreement that allows them to remain in Iraq expires Friday, according to the British Ministry of Defence." The Iraqi Parliament refused to approve the treaty with the UK before going on recess.

TV notes, NOW on PBS drops back to May 28, 2008 to air:

Child prostitution is on the rise not just in other countries around the world, but right here in America. The Department of Justice says, on any given day, tens of thousands of children across America are involved in prostitution. But what's being done to stop it?
This week NOW on PBS visits Atlanta, Georgia to see how one American city is handling the tragic phenomenon of child prostitution. It is one of 27 American cities where the problem seems to be spinning out of control.
"It's one of those issues that doesn't get discussed and therefore there's an assumption that perhaps either it doesn't exist at all or the young women and girls who are prostitutes are there by their own free will," Atlanta's Mayor Shirley Franklin tells NOW.

That is a rebroadcast ("This show was originally broadcast on May 30, 2008."), not an update. Bill Moyers Journal feels like a repeat. Are you tired yet of Wendall Potter? Has any been on every bad Pacifica radio show already in the last two weeks? Amy Goodman's had him, even Houston's The Monitor had him -- in all he's been on at least twelve radio programs airing on Pacifica Radio in the last few weeks. Bill's been waiting his turn. Remember, there's no real left, just one dull DULL echo chamber. Washington Week finds Gwen Ifill sitting round the table with Dan Balz (Washington Post), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal) and Charles Babington (AP). Bonnie Erbe sits down with Irene Natividad, Kim Gandy, Tara Setmayer and Margaret Spellings to discuss the week's issues on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all four PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

  • Coming Up On 60 Minutes

    Screening The TSA
    Are the hassles passengers endure at airport security checkpoints really making them safer? The Transportation Security Administration says they are, but a security adviser who has advised them says those measures are "security theater." Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

    Is It Murder?
    With drunken driving fatalities staying constant despite all the campaigns against the crime, some prosecutors are pursuing harsher penalties against perpetrators, including long prison terms for those who caused deaths. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video

    Wyclef Jean emigrated to the U.S. as a baby and grew up to live the American dream as a millionaire rock star. He's now using his extraordinary talents and wealth to help his native Haiti. Scott Pelley reports.

    60 Minutes Sunday, Aug. 2, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

NPR's The Diane Rehm Show begins airing (and streaming online) at 10:00 a.m. EST this morning. Diane's on vacation so USA Today's Susan Page fills in this morning. The first hour is the domestic news roundup and the panel is composed of Tony Blankley (syndicated columnist and McLaughlin Group panelist), David Corn (Mother Jones), Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times -- who may address Swine Flu -- she and her daughter wrote a piece for the science section of the paper this week about her daughter being quarantined in China). The second hour is the international news discussion and the panelists are Anne Gearan (AP, who reported this week on Robert Gates' trip to Iraq), Demetri Sevastopulu (Financial Times' resident sexist -- will he speak of his hormonal desire to see Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni in a "cat fight" again?) and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times).

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