Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ramadi bombing, Iranians held as hostages, Kirkuk and more

An apparent attack on a police checkpoint in Ramadi, capital of Anbar Province, has resulted in multiple deaths today. BBC News says it was a mini-bus bombing and that the dead number 6 with an additional seventeen injured (dead actually would number seven -- it was a 'suicide' attack). AP adds that the dead include five police officers and notes that a funeral for two other Baghdad police officers -- Hussein Qassim and Jassim Shuwaili who were killed yesterday -- took place today. Reuters notes, "Salah al-Obeidi, a doctor at the Ramadi hospital, said some of the wounded were in grave condition. He said the death toll might rise." As usual the response is 'crackdown' -- closed streets, etc.

Closed streets? Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Iraqi authorities are banning "U.S. forces on the street, except for supply convoys. The failure to trigger the 'Onstar option' suggests that the government of Iraq and its military think that they can deal with the car bombings, homemade bombs and attacks with silencer-equipped handguns that have plagued parts of the country in recent days." Meanwhile Barbara Slavin reports the latest on the Iranian hostages freed last week in "EXCLUSIVE: U.S. held Iranians as 'hostages,' officials say" (Washington Times):

Three members of Iran's elite Quds Force who were seized in Iraq by the United States were held for more than two years even though they had not been involved in anti-U.S. activities and were functioning as diplomats at the time, a former and a currently serving senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
The former official, who served in Iraq and was in a position to know about the issue but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that the three - who were turned over to the Iraqis last week and then to Iran - were in effect "hostages" taken to try to persuade Iran to reduce its support for anti-U.S. violence in Iraq.
The second official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because his account contradicted previous U.S. government statements, said the three were held as "potential leverage" against Iran, which provided financial and weapons support to anti-U.S. Iraqis after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

For any wondering, we're not becoming a Moonie proxie. A) I have no issues with Slavin who has a long history of reporting. B) I know one of Slavin's sources for the article so I'm not sitting here thinking, "Is this Moonie 'truth' or reality?" Which isn't me saying, "It's true!" I am saying, what Slavin's reporting has been whispered at the State Dept since the release took place.

In the previous entry, we noted Tommy The Quack Friedman's put-down of Iraqis and his feeling that they were preoccupied with history (as opposed to living in his Just-Do-It! world). A little history would do the US good right now. When Robert McNamara did the world a favor and died earlier this month, Democracy Now! aired a roundtable. Historian Marilyn Young (author of many books and recently co-editor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam) explained of McNamara:

One of the legacies is that there is none, in a sense. The first clip that you ran, you could have run it now. About Iraq, several years ago, about Afghanistan today. It's as if it doesn't go anywhere. There is knowledge, and then it's erased in between McNamara should be kind of a morality tale. During his tenure as Secretary of Defense, he initially -- he was responsible really -- for the initial escalation. In 1964, he and Bundy gave -- '65, I'm sorry -- gave Johnson what's called "The Fork in the Road Memorandum," in which they said, "Now, we have really thought this over and we have two choices. We could increase military pressure or we could negotiate." And they strongly urged the increase of military pressure and Johnson went along with that. Not that he was, you know, I think he was a little unwilling, but that is another subject.

"One of the legacies," she said, "is that there is none." If you doubt her, you haven't read the morning papers.

Gordon Lubold (Christian Science Monitor) writes that four "Advisory and Assistance Brigades" are being sent to Iraq. These are military troops. But they're "advisory" and "assistance" and not "combat" troops. (As Thomas E. Ricks has noted when fully awake, there is no pacifistic wing of the military.) Lubold is very good at repeating Defense Dept propaganda, but search in vain for any clue that Lubold is educated. Apparently, he's not. Apparently, he's one more glorified general studies major. Maybe it's past time that journalism programs were dropped if this what they produce? A history major reporting the same news today would probably be likely to note that "advisors" in Vietnam just signaled further US involvement. But Lubold's not just unqualified, he's apparently an idiot or a liar. Xinhua reports the detail he leaves out, and it's a pretty big one: "However, they will also conduct coordinated counterterrorism missions." Repeating Marilyn Young on Vietnam and McNamara, "One of the legacies is that there is none."

Iran's Press TV is reporting on rumors of a development regarding the disputed region of Kirkuk:

Analysts interpret the unexpected trip by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to Iraq's northern city of a Kirkuk as a warning to ethnic Kurds.
Adm. Mike Mullen traveled on Monday to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk which Kurds have claimed as the capital of their autonomous region in the north.
They have drawn up a draft constitution claiming extra areas as part of the region's territory, including the ethnically divided Kirkuk province and parts of Nineveh and Diyala provinces in official Kurdish territory.

Yesterday's snapshot noted:

And the river dries up as Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the poverty, "Beggars have become as visible as blast walls and checkpoints in Iraqi cities. Government ministries don't have reliable statistics, partly because those who beg fear official crackdowns on their only livelihood. It's a problem the government has yet to tackle." This happens as the Oil Ministry brags it has "acheived (59.1000) million barrels with (3.378) billion dollars incomes with daily average of (4.400) barrels per day for May and the raise was (686) million dollars. In comparison with April which achieved (54.700) million barrels with (2.692) billion dollars incomes."

On oil monies, Waleed Ibrahim, Tim Cocks, Missy Ryan and David Gregorio (Reuters) report:

Iraq's oil exports have reached an average 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) in July so far, the finance minister said on Tuesday, putting them on track for the biggest month since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Higher revenue from oil plus about $2 billion in fees from mobile phone companies will give the country a supplementary budget of up to $3 billion, Finance Minister Bayan Jabor told journalists in Baghdad.

And still the people suffer without electricity and running water. And the cholera outbreak -- the annual cholera outbreak -- is just around the corner. The monies may not seem high by US standards, but this is a country with no more than 30 million people. The money is huge and where it goes is not something anyone's supposed to address in polite company.

Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report that Iraq celebrated Abdul Kareem Qasim and the 1958 "establishment of the modern Iraqi republic":

Qasim was killed by the Baath party in a coup in 1963, bookending his own power grab five years earlier, which ended with his supporters killing King Faisal II. By 1963, Qasim had been undone by his poor relationship with the West, rivalry with Egypt, a Kurdish rebellion in the north and his own crackdowns against opponents.
But today, state television broadcast a documentary, entitled "Supporter of the Poor," remembering him in a favorable light. The movie showed grainy footage of the tall, lanky army general in uniform, invoking nostalgia for the era before Iraq was plagued by successive wars and upheaval. The timing was interesting given the ongoing debate in Iraqi politics about whether the country needs a strong head of state or whether power should be decentralized and have a series of checks and balances to avoid the emergence of another autocratic ruler like Hussein.

Two highlights and then we're done. First up Jeremy Scahill's "Is Obama Continuing the Bush/Cheney Assassination Program?" (Rebel Reports):

In June, CIA Director Leon Panetta allegedly informed members of the House Intelligence Committee of the existence of a secret Bush era program implemented in the days after 9-11 that, until last month, had been hidden from lawmakers. The concealment of the plan, Panetta alleged, happened at the orders of then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Now, The New York Times is reporting that this secret program that had "been hidden from lawmakers" by Cheney was a plan "to dispatch small teams overseas to kill senior Qaeda terrorists." The Wall Street Journal, which originally reported on the plan, reported that the paramilitary teams were to implement a "2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts."
The plan, the Times says, never was carried out because "Officials at the spy agency over the years ran into myriad logistical, legal and diplomatic obstacles." Instead, the Bush administration "sought an alternative to killing terror suspects with missiles fired from drone aircraft or seizing them overseas and imprisoning them in secret C.I.A. jails."
The House Intelligence Committee is now reportedly preparing an investigation into this program and the Senate may follow suit. "We were kept in the dark. That's something that should never, ever happen again," said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein. Withholding this information from Congress "is a big problem, because the law is very clear."

And this is from Debra Sweet's "The Urgent Need for Decisive and Principled Leadership in the Anti-War Movement" (World Can't Wait):

UNITY in the antiwar movement: SAVE these dates: Monday October 5; Saturday October 17; Friday March 19, 2010
I was among the World Can't Wait supporters attending the National Assembly to End the Occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan this weekend in Pittsburgh. Read the proposal World Can't Wait brought. I'm glad to be able to say that out of the Assembly came a vote and intention to support a two-week period of mass, united actions against the occupations from October 3 - October 17, 2009. Based on support of most of the participants, a demand was added to "end war crimes, including torture."
This action period includes Monday, October 5 as a mass protest and non-violent civil resistance action in Washington, at the US House offices and the White House to mark the US occupation of Afghanistan, which begun that week in 2001. The period culminates with Saturday October 17th regional and local actions against the wars. October 17 is the 40th anniversary of the famous Vietnam Moratorium in 1969 that Daniel Ellsberg referred to as so huge that it forced Richard Nixon to shelve plans to nuke Vietnam.

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