Thursday, July 09, 2009

Iraq snapshot

July 9, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, Nouri al-Maliki launches a verbal attack on the KRG (while setting himself up as a law-abiding-martyr), 5 Iranians are finally freed, Thomas E. Ricks pimps 'miracle cures' and more.
Yesterday violence made a strong impression in Iraq even if the press wasn't paying attention.  (See Timothy Williams' article in today's New York Times which reduces the deaths to an aside saved for the final paragraph of the article and note that Williams was one of the few reporting on Iraq that you could find in a US paper today.)  If the ongoing, never-ending illegal war has demonstrated anything over the last six years and counting, it's that reality always crashes into the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk.  Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) counts 50 dead in Iraq today from bombings in northern Iraq and Baghdad.  Ned Parker and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) report on two suicide bombers in Tal Afar where one bomber detonated outside the home of a police officer causing a crowd to gather, at which point, the second bomber detonated. Nada Bakri (Washington Post) adds that the police chief states the bombers wore police uniforms and, "The first suicide bomber managed to sneak inside the house of a counter-terrorism officer and blew himself up, causing the home to collapse. The attack took place in a neighborhood called al-Qala, inhabited by mostly Shiites. When neighbors gathered to help the family trapped inside, a second suicide bomber struck, increasing the bloodshed." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) explains, "Tal Afar, a mostly Turkmen town about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Mosul, has been targeted by militans before.  In March 2007, it was hit by one of the deadliest single attacks since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 when a suicide truck bomb killed more than 150 people." Jomana Karadsheh and CNN count 35 dead and sixty-five injured from the two bombings.  The two Tal Afar bombings were not the only reported violence today . . .
Laith Hammoudi and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad market bombing which claimed 7 lives and left twenty injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people, a Baghdad bicycle bombing which left four people injured, two Baghdad bombings which claimed 9 lives and left thirty-five people wounded and a Ramadi car bombing which claimed the life of the bomber and left four police officers wounded.  Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which injured one person and a Kirkuk roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three injured.

Reuters notes one woman and one man were wounded in a Mosul attack by unknown assailants and 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Kirkuk.
Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died July 8 after being found unresponsive at a Coalition forces facility. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of deceased service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at . The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident and cause of death are currently under investigation." It's the first US service member announced death in Iraq for the month and it brings the total number of US service members killed in the illegal war to 4322.
"I don't know the exact percentage but I'm sure it's well over 70% that want the US out as soon as possible," explains Mike Tharp in a video posted at McClatchy.  He's speaking with Paul Jay for The Real News Network (click here for the clip at TRNN).  Tharp states, "They've seen the last six years as an occupation, not as a liberation, not as bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq but instead the loss of tens of thousands of Iraqi lives as well as over 4300 American troop losses, a trillion dollars spent by the US, I don't know what estimates are put on the damage done to the Iraqi society and economy but it's incalcuable."  On the topic of the physical damage done to Iraq . . .
Today the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has issued [PDF format warning] "FINAL REPORT on Damage Assessment in Babylon."  The twenty page report prepared by the International Coordination Committee for the Saveguarding of the Cultural Heritage of Iraq explores the damage done by the US' decision to install a military base on an archaeological site in Babylon after the issue was raised by Iraq's Minister of Culture.  The report explains the historical context:
Babylon is unquestionably one of the most important archaelogical sites in the world.  It was the capital city of two of the most famous kings of antiquity, Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) who introduced one of the world's first law codes, and Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 BC) who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Alexander the Great chose Babylon as his new capital but died before he could implement this plan.  The existence of Babylon is first mentioned in cuneiform texts of the Akkadian period (2371-2230 BC), but the city did not become significant until the time of Hammurabi.  It was substantially enlarged in the Neo-Babylonian period (626-539 BC) when it became the largest city of the contemporary world.  Although its location was forgotten for centuries the fame of Babylon survived through a number of historical and religious texts.  In view of the historical and archaelogical significance of Babylon, recent allegations of damage to the site during its occupation as a military camp are particularly serious.
Since 1935, Bablyon has been listed as an archaeological site. In 2003, the US invaded and the Iraq War started, the Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar museums were looted ("Fortunately, the objects in the two museums were plaster replicas rather than the origianls").  April 21, 2003, the US military created Camp Alpha -- a US base that continued through December 22, 2004 during which time the US military and contractors such as KBR "directly caused major damage to the city by digging, cutting, scraping, and leveling." Nine trenches and two pits were dug including on areas that had not been excavated. This was true of cuts, scrapings and leveling efforts by the US military and contractors as well. In addition the report notes:
The Ishtar Gate serves as a ritual gate leading into the northern part of the inner city.  The damage to the gate includes smashed bricks on nine of the bodies of the animals adorning the gate.  These animals depcit the legendary dragon-snake, the symbol of Marduk, the god of the city of Babylon.  [. . .] Major damage can be observed in the southern part of the Proecessional Way, which was rediscovered during the Babylon Revival Project excavations in 1979.  Starting from the Nabu-sha-Hare Temple, the effects of heavy vehicle wheels are clear, breaking the paving of the street.  Three rows of 2-ton concrete blocks were placed in the middle of the Processional Way on top the paving by heavy vehicles, which is itself an encroachment.  These blocks were removed by helicopter on November 29, 2004 to prevent further damage to the Processional Way.  In addition, a row of HESCO containers with soil taken from the eastern wall of the sacred precinct were placed on the way, and barbed wire was attached by steel stakes to the wall itself and in the middle of Processional Way.  There is also a cut in the wall itself with a length of 2.5 m, a depth of 50 cm, and a height of 1.5 m.
UNESCO's director of the Office for Iraq Moahmed Djelid states, "In view of Babylong's historical and archaeological significance, recent allegations of damage to the site during its military use were particularly serious.  The report is key because it establishes a description of damages on which there is international agreement.  Without pointing fingers, we now have a clear picture of the situation.  It provides the starting-point for the major challenge of restoration and conservation."
In related news, CBC reports nearly seventy stolen Iraqi artificats were recovered and returned by the Dutch government.  Mike Corder (AP) adds, "Dutch Education, Culture and Science Minister Ronald Plasterk said the ancient artifacts were surrendered by Dutch art traders after police informed them they were stolen. U.S. customs authorities and Interpol had alerted Dutch officials that the items were being sold here." 
In other diplomatic news, five Iranian diplomats were rounded up by US forces in Iraq in January of 2007 and have been held ever since in indefinite detention/imprisonment. BBC News reports they have been released.  Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) goes with the number four (four diplomats) and reports they were not released to Tehran but to Iraqi officials and then they met with Nouri al-Maliki. Philippe Naughton (Times of London) quotes Hassan Ghashghavi, spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Ministry, stating, "They called their families from there.  They are in good health. They will be handed over to our embassy within hours.  They were innocent and arrested against all international regulations under the Vienna convention."  They are: Mohsen Bagheri, Majid Dagheri, Mahmoud Farhadi, Majid Ghami and Abbas Jami.  Liz Sly and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) quote Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister of Iraq, stating the five are "happy and safe."  At the US State Dept today, spokesperon Ian Kelly continued the pattern of the Bush administration by insisting they were not diplomats, stating they were connected to Iranian paramilitary forces (Iranian Revolutionary Guard) and declaring that, along with turning the five over to the Iraqi government, they passed on "our concerns".  Kelly stated the hand-off took place after Iraq requested it and that it went "to our obligations under the US - Iraq Security Agreement."
Yesterday's snapshot included: " Alsumaria reports that despite claims that a vote on Kirkuk might be able to take place before the elections now scheduled for January, no suche elections will be happening.  AP adds, 'On Wednesday, Iraqi officials said the Kurdish-run north of the country could not vote this month on a draft constitution, a document perceived by Iraqi Arabs as an effort to expand Kurdish authority at the expense of the central government'."  The most recent [PDF format warning] US State Dept status report on Iraq (July 1st) explained that the constitution passed the Kurdish Parliament June 24th with 96 members voting for it and that the members of the Iraqi Parliament immediately objected to the planned July 25th vote (same time the KRG holds their elections) and to the Constitution itself.  Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) interviews Nouri al-Maliki and quotes him stating the KRG is guilty of "provocations" and then declaring, "I am struggling for the unity of Iraq, and Iraq cannot be divided into two."  Chon doesn't note it, but that is a "provocation" from Nouri because the KRG already considers itself independent of the central government in Baghdad.  Chon reveals that US forces are currently sending drones all over Kurdistan in an attempt to spy (she doesn't use the word "spy") on the region and how Iraqi and Kurdish forces interact.  Chon quotes al-Maliki on the non-progress between the KRG and the central government in Baghdad stating, "We are upset, but we are not worried because there is a constitution and we can tell (the KRG) they are violating it."  Again, that's a "provocation."  The KRG does not feel they are violating it with regards to land disputes or anything else.  In terms of the oil rich Kirkuk, the KRG isn't violating anything because the Constitution said that an election was to take place to determine Kirkuk's fate.  That's 2005.  It's now 2009.  The election has never taken place and al-Maliki just this week refused to allow it again.  Who is violating the Constitution of Iraq?
And who's played the Quiet Game?  As noted last week, former US House Rep and 2008 US presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney was imprisoned by the Israeli government.  Margaret Kimberly (Black Agenda Report) notes what some focused on while ignoring McKinney:
While Cynthia McKinney languished in an Israeli jail, black leaders mobilized to say and do absolutely nothing. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were busy advising Michael Jackson's family, too busy apparently to deal with any other issues. Perhaps that explains their silence on the subject of McKinney and Maguire. McKinney's former colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus must have also been similarly occupied. They too went out of their way to say and do nothing about the illegal and immoral treatment of someone they should have defended very publicly.           
The silence from the corporate media is, sadly, not at all surprising. The complete surrender of black American leadership is also sad and also not surprising, but is nonetheless disgraceful, and should not pass without comment. Cynthia McKinney was one of the first victims of the corporate takeover of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was targeted for defeat in 2002 by Zionists and other powerful forces determined to get rid of one of the few truly progressive members of congress.          
The silence from the corporate media is, sadly, not at all surprising. The complete surrender of black American leadership is also sad and also not surprising, but is nonetheless disgraceful, and should not pass without comment. Cynthia McKinney was one of the first victims of the corporate takeover of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was targeted for defeat in 2002 by Zionists and other powerful forces determined to get rid of one of the few truly progressive members of congress.                
The black caucus could have responded in any number of ways to prevent falling prey to McKinney's fate. They might have insured electoral success by mobilizing their supporters, resurrecting movement politics and exposing the forces who would seek to undermine popular will. Instead they chose to capitulate, to go along to get along. They decided not to put up a fight for themselves or for their constituents, who were left without the representation they thought they were getting when they made their choices on Election Day.                     
As always, the result of capitulation is more capitulation, and it now spreads beyond the hallowed halls of Congress. The only national action requested by the president of the National Action Network, was a demand for a Michael Jackson postage stamp and a national day of mourning. 
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, clearly, we just had a visit to Gaza by President Carter, Former President Carter. Basically, he acknowledged that with the complete and utter devastation that the people of Gaza experienced at the hands of weapons that were supplied to Israel by the United States, he said that unfortunately the Palestinians are treated worse than human beings. I challenge the Israelis to respond to what President Carter had to say.
AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, tell us about the jail. Were you able to reach the Obama administration while you were there?
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, the jail was very interesting. In fact, the first most interesting thing I witnessed was the seemingly endless stream of people of color who are being processed as we were being processed. And on my cell block, there were women from Africa and Asia who thought they were going to Israel because Israel was the Holy Land. And many of them, not all of them, but many of them had United Nations refugee status. They have been certified by UNHCR as refugees, but what they were told as they faced the threats and intimidation from the police is that the United Nations is not in Israel.
[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: Former Congress member McKinney, we only have ten seconds. But, you've just been deported. What are your plans right now?
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, I would like to see the children of Gaza have the coloring books and crayons that we had on board with us. I would like to see the houses that have been destroyed rebuilt. I would like to see the lives rebuilt for the people of Gaza and I would like to see the people of Palestine have, and enjoy their human rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think president Obama is headed in that direction?
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I think you can probably answer that as well as we can, because while we were in detention, the Foreign Ministry of Ireland made protests and asked the government of Israel to release its nationals, several Members of Parliament --
AMY GOODMAN: We have 5 seconds.
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: from the United Kingdom --
AMY GOODMAN:  -- 5 seconds --
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: -- also wanted to censure Israel. Nothing from the United States.
Turning to the world of JUNK SCIENCE. Thomas E. Ricks is a journalist.  He forgets that a lot lately.  He forgets it in blog posts where he writes about "we" when referring to the US military, for example.  He forgets it today with one of the dumbest and most disgusting things he could do -- and, yes, I am aware of his highly unprofessional tendency to post cheesecake photos which is surely the middle aged male blogger equivalent of purchasing a sports car.  Thomas E. Ricks is a journalist.  He's not a doctor.  He's not trained in helping anyone.  His training is supposed to be in ferreting out information and attempting to determine whether information is reliable or not.  If so, he's supposed to promote it.  Today he promotes some unnamed marine's anger passed off as 'medical counseling.'  Unlike "Doctor" Thomas E. Ricks, I showed the crap he posted to medical professionals who work with veterans.  The consensus?  The unnamed marine has a problem with what he sees as 'weakness' (any illness) and Thomas E. Ricks didn't even grasp that or what he posted.  After including the lay 'diagnosis,' Tom's babbling about this and that but the guy's already argued -- telling Tom to ask Nate Flick -- that "it should mean he's cured, not that it's always just around the corner".  There's not a cure.  If Thomas E. Ricks had offered the same nonsense on the topic of alcoholism, he'd be the joke of the net today but because there's such a strong desire in this culture to deny sickness, crap like this will be embraced.  PTSD is a diagnosis.  Neither Thomas E. Ricks nor his unnamed marine are experts on science or even the diagnosis they claim to be weighing in on.  Sometimes people just makes asses out of themselves and today it's Thomas Ricks and his unnamed friend.  And shame on him, at a time when veterans' health care is so woefullly underfunded, for promoting the notion that an illness that can be treated but not cured is 'curable' and apparently the fault of the person with PTSD.  And question for Thomas E. Ricks, should the marine kill himself or someone else while Ricks is alive, how much blame will Tom grab?  He should have a huge portion of it because he's encouraged the marine's delusion that he's 'cured'.  Lastly, what kind of an ass prints a medical 'diagnosis' that calls the mind a "bone"?  What kind of a journalist endorses that?  Tom, I know you can't do math for s**t but are you telling me you failed science as well?  The brain's an organ.  Not a bone.  If I recorded a workout video tomorrow, I'd have to include a heads up at the start that people should check with their doctors first but Tom is so sure of himself and he's buddy that he fails to do even that.  It's irresponsible.  Ethically and journalistically.  We may return to this topic tonight.  I've still got calls coming in from people who work with PTSD patients and it's not pretty.  Again, it was irresponsible for Thomas E. Ricks to pimp that Quack Science -- ethically irresponsible and journalistically irresponsible.  As dumb decisions go, it ranks alongside the refusal to allow Dr. David Orgen to testify at Trevor Loope's mental assessment hearing at Fort Drum.  Next up for Thomas E. Ricks: Restoring missing limbs via leeches.
Finally, in snapshot yesterday we noted the Voices of Honor press conference.  The press conference didn't receive the attention it deserved so we'll note US House Rep Patrick Murphy's remarks again and some of the press it did receive.

US House Rep Patrick Murphy: My name is Patrick Murphy, I'm a Democrat from the eighth district of Pennsylvania which is Bucks County and far north east Philadelphia. I am now a United States Congressman in my second term but prior to that I was in the military since 1993. I rose up to through the ranks to become a professor at West Point. And then when 9-11 happened, I served on two deployments. My first one with General [David] Petraeus and my second one as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004. That's why every day I wear the 82nd Airborne pin on my lapel, I don't wear the Congressional pin because 19 of my fellow paratroopers never made it home. I am proud to be the lead sponsor today of the Military Enhancement Readiness Act -- a bill that will finally repeal the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Our troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and are stretched dangerously thin. These men and women in our military understand what it takes to serve our country and the values that our military and our nation hold dear. They take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, yet the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy when it took effect in 1993 has discharged over 13,000 troops -- honorable men and women. That is the equivalent of three and a half combat brigades. They have been discharged not for any type of sexual misconduct but because of their sexual orientation. The policy is not working for armed services and it hurts national security. Attitudes on Don't Ask, Don't Tell have changed -- have changed in our military and have changed in the public at large. Up to 75% of Americans support repeal and the number is even higher in the age bracket of those we are recruiting from 18 years of age to 29. Former senior military leaders agree that it is time to re-evaluate and to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Opponents of lifting the ban arguing that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will be detremental to unit cohesion and morale. As a former Army officers and West Point professor, that is an insult to me and to all the troops serving in uniform. In Iraq, my men did not care what race, color, creed or sexual orientation their fellow paratroopers were. They cared, whether they could get the job done. We cared about serving with honor and coming home alive. Over 20 nations, include our two strongest allies, Great Britain and Israel, allow gays and lesbians to serve openly without any determental impact on unit cohesion or morale. Believe me, our heroes serving in the US military are the best fighting forces in the entire world. We are second to none. And we are just as good as those who serve in Great Britain and Israel. Our president, President Barack Obama, has stated that if Congress will get a bill to his desk repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he will sign it into law. It is now our job, and my job specifically, to quarterback this through the Congress of the United States to do just that. I cannot tell you today how long it is going to take. All I can tell you is that paratroopers don't quit and paratroopers get the job done. To remove honorable, talented and committed Americans from serving in our military is contrary to the values that our military life holds dear. My time in Iraq and at West Point teaching the next generation of military leaders taught me that our military deserves and expects the best and the brightest that are willing to serve. I stand here today with these honorable and noble veterans. Together we will continue the fight to make our nation and our military stronger.
The Voices of Honor website has posted videos from the press conference. Those who are better served by or prefer audio can refer to Free Speech Radio News yesterday (click here for the segment reported by Matt Pearson). Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports, "The event was a kickoff to the 'Voices Of Honor' national tour sponsored by gay rights groups the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United that features members of the military who oppose the Clinton-era compromise that allows gays to serve only if they keep their sexuality a secret. Murphy's office also helped set up a Web site called" Elida S. Perez (Scripps Howard News Service) notes several speakers at the event and we'll excerpt this section:

Alex Nicholson, a former U.S. Army human intelligence collector and founder of Servicemembers United was discharged from the military six months after Sept. 11, 2001 when his commanders found out he was gay.
"This is the cost of maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell: a multilingual human intelligence collector who speaks Arabic and has an advanced degree," Nicholson said, adding that despite everything, he would go back into the military if the law was repealed.

Josh Drobnyk covers the conference here for The Morning CallAmanda Ruggeri (US News & World Reports) covered it,  Kat covers it at her site and the other NPC event we attended yesterday -- Mullen's speech, Bob Roehr (Windy City Times) covers the issue and Kilian Melloy covers it for Boston's Edge and notes:
One officer, Lt. Dan Choi, who recently was subjected to a recommendation of discharge for publicly declaring his homosexuality, told readers in an email circulated by The Courage Campaign, "At West Point, I recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday.    
"It taught me to 'choose the harder right over the easier wrong' and to 'never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.'"
Stan noted Dan Choi's e-mail July 2nd and we'll include it in full:
Dear friend --             
I've got some bad news. After 10 years of service to our country--including leading combat patrols, rebuilding schools and translating Arabic in Iraq for 15 months--the Federal Recognition Board issued its recommendation on Tuesday that I be discharged from the Army for "moral and professional dereliction" under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The board's decision to fire me is not the end.         

Now that this panel of four officers has recommended my discharge, it still must be approved by senior officials in the Army, a process that could take a few weeks to a year. Unless something unexpected happens, it may be just a matter of time before the Army officially fires me. I will not give up, no matter the odds. Because I know that the only way we will win this fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is by facing it head on. And I need your help again to keep up the fight. I've made my case to President Obama--supported by more than 140,000 of your signatures. I've made my case to the Army--supported by more than 160,000 of your signatures. And I will continue to make my case until they fire me for good.
Now we need to make our case to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Will you join me in asking Speaker Pelosi to strongly support legislation currently in Congress that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?                

Please sign on to our letter before July 4th and I'll personally deliver your signatures to the Speaker ASAP.At West Point, I recited the Cadet Prayer every Sunday. It taught me to "choose the harder right over the easier wrong" and to "never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won." The Cadet Honor Code demanded truthfulness and honesty. It imposed a zero-tolerance policy against deception, or hiding behind comfort.         
That's why I can't give up now. I've got to keep fighting. My fellow    servicemembers--and the 70 fellow West Point graduates who have also come out of the closet to join Knights Out, the organization I co-founded to push for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"--would expect nothing less.           
The only way we can win this fight for the truth is if the political cost of discrimination eventually becomes too great for the system to operate successfully. We need to raise the political cost in Congress so that Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands that, as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once said, "justice too long delayed is justice denied."         
Speaker Pelosi needs to make "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" a priority now and come out strongly in support of legislative action to repeal this discriminatory law. Will you stand by my side now and sign our letter to the Speaker before July 4th? You have my word that I will deliver your signatures to Speaker Pelosi personally.    
As I said a few days ago, national security means many things, but the thing that makes us secure in our nation and homes is love. What makes me a better soldier, leader, Christian and human being is love. And I'm not going to hide my love. Love is worth it.      
Thank you for your support.                    
Daniel W. Choi 1LT, IN                      
New York Army National Guard                           
P.S. You can also help by joining the Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell Cause and inviting your friends.