Monday, August 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri blows kisses and holds hands with a group reportedly responsible for the deaths of 5 US soldiers and 4 British citizens, last week's bank robbery pulled by Iraqi government employees (working for the Shi'ite vice president), violence today and yesterday claims at least 24 lives and leaves sixty injured, propaganda to sell the illegal war has a sad ending, and more.
Michael Scott Speicher is dead. Ron Mott filed a report for NBC's Today Show this morning (right now, click here for video) noting Speicer's plane was shot down the first night of the Gulf War. All these years later his remains have been found. Mott noted one time POW and now Senator John McCain's Facebook page commnet: "The long ordeal for Capt Scott Speicher's family is over -- god bless and American hero." Mott had time to troll the web, he just apparently didn't have time to report. He's far from the only one 'missing' details. Thom Shanker (New York Times) does note, "After the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government, a joint team from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency sifted through recorded documents, interrogated prisoners of war and searched possible crash sites to try to determine Captain Speicher's fate." But, Thom, why was their a search for him in 2003?
Maybe because the then US Bully Boy George W. Bush was ginning up tales of Speicher the same way he did of WMDs? Bush even mentioned Speicher (not by name) in a 2002 United Nations speech attempting to convince the world that Saddam Hussein was more evil than . . . well more evil than George W. Bush. Of course, Speicher was used by Bush for more than just selling his illegal war. If only Saddam had useful tools like Amy Waters Yarsinskey. If you recognize the name, it's more likely due to a press conference then her own failed writing. Scott McClellan was asked about her in a May 15, 2003 White House press briefing where a friendly plant raised her and went into a riff on how Yarsinskey blamed Bill Clinton for 'abandoing' Speicher (Speicher crashed during the presidency of George H.W. Bush). Yeah, the pilot could be used for partisan nonsense as well by the administration. In 2002, Yarsinske was gushing to the BBC, "I'm so glad President Bush mentioned Scott in his UN speech about Iraq. He said an American pilot 'is' among the personnel held by Saddam. He didn't say 'if' or 'was' -- Bush knows Scott is alive. He's priority in Bush's planning." While she was a two-bit liar or dumb as a doornail (take your pick), "Antony, UK, England" left a very telling comment: "I hope that President Bush is not cynically using this tragedy as another pretext to attack Iraq, causing countless civilians casualties." Antony nailed it perfectly. January 11, 2001, Christopher Marquis (New York Times) was reporting on the decision by the Navy to change Speicher's status from "killed in action" to "missing in action" -- allegedly based on evidence. Based on lies. In March of 2002, Iraq would issue a denial that they were holding Speicher and offer to address the issue only to be dismissed by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Click here for BBC story of the offer from Iraq.)
Also that month, March 14, 2002, the New York Times was explaining how Bush had declared Speicher could be alive and a hostage in Iraq. August 15, 2002 came news from the Times that Gordon England, Secretary of the Navy, was considering another change in status for Speicher from MIA to "M.I.A.-captured". By the way, had Barack Obama's administration not trashed the White House website -- several violations in and of itself -- a picture of just how ruthlessly the previous administration used Speicher's memory near daily could be witnessed by all Americans.
The illegal war breaks out in March of 2003. Weeks before it's launch, Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) were reporting (Jan. 31, 2003) on then president of vice Dick Cheney ("the administration's chief schmoozer and enforcer") meeting two months prior with US Senators Pat Roberts and Bill Nelson regarding the fate of Speicher and the senators considering a trip to Iraq to search for details. Roberts explains to the Times, "The vice president weighed in and said now was not the time to go." Of course not. Couldn't have two US senators declare in November 2002 that there was no evidence Speicher was alive when the administration was repeatedly using that as a selling point for the illegal war. Selling point. January 10, 2003 Barbara Starr (CNN) reported, "The United States in recent months has received another intelligence report suggesting U.S. Navy Capt. Scott Speicher is alive in Iraq, but intelligence sources emphasize they have not corroborted the information and have nothing to indicate it is accurate."
March 15, 2004, Jonathan S. Landay and Tish Wells (now McClatchy, then Knight Ridder -- yes, Tish is a woman -- no Bill Moyers didn't include her in his "Boys of McClatchy" report on the debut of Bill Moyers Journal and why would anyone be surprised that Moyers would render a woman invisible?) reported that the Iraqi exiles who were feeding false information -- know by US intelligence to be false -- to the White House ahead of the Iraq War were also feeding the same false info to the press: "A June 26, 2002, letter from the Iraqi National Congress to the Senate Appropriations Committee listed 108 articles based on information provided by the INC's Information Collection Program, a U.S.-funded effort to collect intelligence in Iraq." The article continues:
The assertions in the articles reinforced President Bush's claims that Saddam Hussein should be ousted because he was in league with Osama bin Laden, was developing nuclear weapons and was hiding biological and chemical weapons.
Feeding the information to the news media, as well as to selected administration officials and members of Congress, helped foster an impression that there were multiple sources of intelligence on Iraq's illicit weapons programs and links to bin Laden.
It then notes the 'information' pushed by the exiles which includes: "Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, missing since the 1991 Gulf war, was seen alive in Baghdad in 1998. The case remains unresolved, but the Navy last week said there was no evidence that Speicher was ever held in captivity." The next paragrah?
According to the letter, publications in which the articles appeared included The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly, The Times of London, The Sunday Times of London, The Sunday Age of Melbourne, Australia, and two Knight Ridder newspapers, The Kansas City Star and The Philadelphia Daily News. The Associated Press and others also wrote stories based on INC-provided materials.
Michael Scott Speicher's family now knows his fate and, with the pain, hopefully there is some peace for them in knowing. But the tragedy was turned into a mockery by an administration determined to go to war and by a rag-tag band of cowards -- Iraqis who didn't have the guts to fight Saddam themselves. The same cowards who came to power after the US invasion. The same cowards who could suddenly return to Iraq. The same cowards like Nouri al-Maliki who put down the US service members while speaking in Iraq then dash through Arlington Cemetary to toss a wreath and expect Americans to forget every verbal attack he's launched on US service members?
By the way, though Wells was disappeared by Moyers, she and Landay won the Award of Distinction from the Medill School of Journalism for the 2004 story quoted above. (That's not the only reporting award Wells has won this decade.)
Two months after Landay and Wells broke that news, Mikey Its-a-cough and Mark Hosenball (Newsweek) showed up to announce the Pentagon was cutting off funding for the exiles of the Iraqi National Congress and they rewrote history:
Another top priority for the INC's intelligence-gathering apparatus was the collection of information on the "fate/whereabouts of U.S. POW Capt Michael Scott Speicher," a Navy pilot who was shot down over Iraq during the first gulf war. Though the INC and other exile groups stoked prewar rumors among U.S. conservatives that Speicher was alive and being held by Saddam's regime in a secret Iraqi prison cell, most U.S. intelligence officials, including senior DIA officials, believe that Speicher probably died years ago. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials say that the DIA concluded shortly after major combat operations ended in Iraq last year that Speicher almost certainly was dead and that prewar reports from exiles and defectors that he was still alive probably were hoaxes.
Among US conservatives? The New York Times, Vanity Fair, AP and other outlets are suddenly "US conservatives"? No, but Its-a-cough has never really been one to tell the truth, now has he? And no one really wants to explore do they? Amy Goodman's off spending the hour on food today. Instead of addressing how the previous administration and Iraqi exiles worked together to use the death of US service member to help sell an illegal war. And the New York Times files a story that leaves out all the details -- despite their long, long history of publishing articles on Speicher.
Turning to Iraq where three Americans apparently were hiking and apparently wandered over the border into Iran and have been detained by Iranian authorities. This afternoon Sam Dagher and Sharon Otterman (New York Times) breathlessly announce the names of the three Shane Michael Bauer, Joshua Felix Fattal and Sarah Emily Shourd. That was news . . . Saturday when Nandini Sukumar (Bloomberg News) noted that three Americans --Shane Bower, Sara Short and Joshua Steel -- supposedly ended up in Iran, supposedly accidentally -- while visiting Iraq. So Steel's name is really Fattal? Or he's changed it to Fattal? Or, since his father's an Iraqi, he's using Fattal in Iraq and using Steel in the US? Look for The Nation to develop a sudden and serious (and temporary) renewed interest in Iraq.
But don't look for them to call out thug-meister Nouri. The puppet's been holding meetings galore but it's his meeting today that is of 'interest'. AFP reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met members of the radical Shiite group believed to have kidnapped five Britons in Iraq two years ago after it said it had renounced violence, a government spokesman said on Monday." AFP calls the group the League of Righteous and states that Nouri's bag boy declared on Iraqi television yesterday that the League of Righteous had just announced that it "renounces violence and supports the political process and efforts to achieve national unity." Wait one damn minute, Nouri's attacking Sunnis, having them arrested for alleged actions three and four and five years ago but the League of the Righteous declares Sunday that they're renouncing violence and Nouri's meeting with them today?
That Righteous League, is responsible for the deaths of Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst. The British government also considers Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy dead. The family of the two continue to hold out hope. (The July 29th snapshot covers the families press conference.) They and Peter Moore were kidnapped in Baghdad May 2, 2007. Moore is not considered by the British government to be dead. Friday's snapshot noted the latest news on the kidnapping -- news which is all the more damning as Nouri rushes off to hold hands and skip down the lane with the League of Rightous. The Telegraph of London reported:
An unnamed senior Iraqi intelligence source told The Guardian the highly-organised kidnapping was "one only a government can do".
Mr Moore had been installing a computer system to track billions of pounds in foreign aid and oil revenue through the finance ministry.
The intelligence source told the paper: "Many people don't want a high level of corruption to be revealed.
"Remember this is the information technology centre, this is the place where all the money to do with Iraq and all Iraq's financial matters are housed."
Paul Wood, a former British Army officer who investigated the abduction for the four bodyguards' employers, GardaWorld, said it was "too perfect".
"It would make sense to think that there was someone on the inside telling the kidnappers when to come, what to expect and how to deal with any security issues they were going to face," he told the paper.
Meena Muhammed, Maggie O'Kane and Guy Grandjean (Guardian) added:
Unknown to the kidnappers, two intelligence officers were parked opposite the centre, outside an outpatients' clinic. Through an intermediary -- a former high-level intelligence source -- one of the officers described the operation to the Guardian:
"The cars started coming down the street and surrounding the ministry. The cars were marked 'ministry of the interior' – they are Toyota Land Cruisers, they belong to the ministry of the interior ... The operation was well planned and they were carrying Kalashnikovs. One group came out with two of the hostages. They put them in the first car. They weren't hooded or handcuffed. Then they brought the other three men out. Then they brought out the men's belongings, their briefcases and rucksacks. They put those things in a separate car.
"People started gathering around. It was near the al-Rafidain Bank on Palestine Street. The people were gathering around and the kidnappers were shouting: 'Go home now, this is nothing do with anyone. Do not look, this has nothing to do with you.'"
Repeating, Friday fingers point at Nouri's government. This weekend the League of Righteous suddenly denounce violence. Today Nouri meets with them. It's offensive. It's outrageous. And that's just for the British. What about for the US? Dropping back to the June 9th snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
They freed them and Nouri made nice with them today. And if British reports are true, Nouri's been making nice with them for some time. Nouri's apparently saved his rage for the residents of Camp Ashraf. Over the weekend, Christopher Booker (Telegraph of London) observed, "Last week Iraqi government forces stormed the camp, bulldozing buildings, shooting and beating the inhabitants with nailed clubs and axes, leaving at least 12 dead and 400 injured. Despite outcries from the European Parliament and an all-party group of MPs and peers at Westminster, not a squeak of protest has been heard from the British Foreign Office, Brussels or Washington at this flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention." Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) notes how little press coverage the assault has received and declared, "The American-installed government in Iraq has shown its true colours. By fighting its way into an Iraqi camp of Iranian dissidents, possibly killing 11 people in the process, it has earned brownie points in Iran. America disapproved, but its diplomatic intervention was limited to medical assistance." The MEK has been told by Nouri & thugs that they have one month to leave Iraq. Or? Or is left unexplained. In addition, Nouri's 're-branded' Camp Ashraf following the assault which started on Tuesday. He now wants the press to call it the "Camp of New Iraq." The Iranian press is running with it and, probably a good idea, when you've committed a War Crime to change the name of the scene of your crime -- it helps confuse the issue. Today Chris Hughes (Daily Mirror) observes, "A few days ago a camp of dissident Iranians living near Baghdad was raided by Iraqi police and soldiers who proceeded to shoot seven dead and injure 300. It's one way to handle the local traveller problem but it might surprise some of the US forces who trained these Iraqi police and soldiers on how to behave."
Saturday Nouri's government insisted 22 residents of Camp Ashraf want to leave but the National Council of Resistance of Iran states that is propaganda and that "Ashraf residents declared that the claim is an absolute lie and no one among them since the violent assault by the Iraqi forces has either left Ashraf or requested to do so." NCRI also issued the following statement:
This morning, in a bid to carry out a stage managed theatrics meant to cover up the inhumane crimes in Camp Ashraf, Iraqi forces allowed journalists from some news organizations, such as Reuters, AFP, Associated Press, and al-Arabiya, al-Sharqiya and al-Hurra TV stations as well as the al-Sabah daily to visit Ashraf. The Iraqi forces had planned to concentrate the media on themselves and claim that there is nothing wrong in Ashraf and calm prevails all over the camp.
The reporters, who picked up on the orchestrated attempt, requested to meet with Ashraf residents themselves and see those injured and dead firsthand. However, the Iraqi forces, who are immensely fearful of the media witnessing their crimes, vigorously opposed the request, and while hurling insults and profanities at reporters, confiscated their pictures and videos and forced them out of the camp.
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
August 1, 2009
Iran's Fars News Agency reports today that Iraqi MP Hossein Ali states that MEK needs to be expelled. Suadad al-Salhy, Tim Cocks and Patrick Graham (Reuters) report that 36 residents have been arrested and removed from the camp -- apparently picked at random -- and they note, "Some human rights groups and PMOI sympathisers in the West, who have been highly critical of the way Iraq has handled Ashraf, say closing the camp and driving residents out against their will would violate international human rights law." Mark Mazzetti and Mark Landler (New York Times) tracked the scrambles in the US government after the assault began last week:
But a senior State Department official said there was some skepticism that the Iraqis were taking these concerns seriously.
"The Iraqis will tell you what you want to hear," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. "That's why we're going to continue to watch the situation very closely."
Nouri al-Maliki, a thug and a war criminal. And thug things run fast in Iraq. Tuesday a bank was robbed in Baghdad. As is always the case, the government spokespeople (so often Shi'ite) blamed the Sunnis. Not so fast. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports last week's bank robbery in which 8 guards were killed and $4.8 million was stolen was not the work of Sunnis -- Nouri's favorite blame target. No, they were Shi'ites and, not just any Shi'ites, they "were in fact Iraqi army officers attached to the elite unit guarding Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi." Oliver August (Times of London) adds: "They killed eight bank staff last week and used dynamite to blast open the vault of the Rafidain Bank in the wealthy district of Karrada, making off with £4.3 million. On the run, the men passed through five official checkpoints and defied a night-time curfew in southern Baghdad without being challenged. No wonder -- their day job was to protect the Vice-President, Adel Abdul Mehdi, the highest-ranking Shia official in the country after the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. No street cop dared to stop them. The men later stashed their loot in offices belonging to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the second-largest Shia party, ISCI, and a close ally of the Vice-President." Turns out that before they could arrest the bank robbers, they had to get Nouri's permission. Thug Justice: Nouri Style. Apparently not everything was given clearance. Sam Dagher (New York Times) explains, "One of Iraq's two vice presidents, Adel Abdul Mahdi, admonished the Interior Ministry on Sunday for revealing that the robbery last Tuesday had been masterminded by two senior officers of the guard assigned to protect him."
Yesterday, Waleed Ibrahim, Tim Cocks and Yara Bayoumy (Reuters) reported that Tariq Aziz has been sentenced to seven years in prison. This isn't his first sentencing in post-war Iraq and whether he's guilty of what he's been found guilty of I'll leave for others to decide because we don't promote the myth here that Iraq has justice or a functioning judicial system. (It is strange how three weeks ago their press had to meet with the judiciary to devise ways to protect press freedom and how none of the reporters for US outlets were interested in covering that story.) So Tariq Aziz was found guilty and maybe he is and maybe he isn't. But the charge itself, the crime that took place (whomever was responsible)? It was "the forced displacement of Kurds from oil-prosperous northeastern Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule." And the boundaries are unclear why? Because of the forced displacement. That's not hard to follow. Stars and Stripes' Leo Shane III is able to follow it. He can lay it out as it is. The same can't be said for all outlets. Sunday Nouri al-Maliki visited the KRG and met with their leaders. Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) observes, "Maliki's talks with Kurdish leaders came amid U.S. pressure on the central government and the Kurdish authorities to compromise the deep differences between Arabs and Kurds before the U.S. troops complete withdrawal from Iraq in 2011." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reports,"The dispute between the two sides includes a disagreement over a hydrocarbon law to share oil revenue and manage oil reserves, some of the world's largest; demarcation of the border between the country's Kurdish and the Arab regions; and the fate of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city with mixed Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen ethnicities." Larry Kaplow (Newsweek) interviews KRG President Massoud Barzani who makes statements similar to what he has stated before, "In fact, my position has been the same from day one. I did not ask for anything else for my people beyond what the Constitution entitles us to. I have always stated that I will defend the rights of our people, and the only weapon in my hand will be the Constitution." The Iraqi Constitution guarantees that a census and vote will take place in Kirkuk to determine its fate. The census and the referendum were supposed to have taken place no later than 2007.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing that injured two people, a Baghdad minibus bombing which also injured two, a Falluja car suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the driver and 2 bystanders (seven more injured), a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, a second Mosul roadside bombing which also claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two others injured, an Eskendariyah car bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people injured, a Hilla car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left nineteen injured and another Hilla car bombing which wounded eight people.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 suspect shot dead by police in Mosul.
That was today's violence. Dropping back to Sunday, Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured a police officer, 1 Iraqi soldier was injured in a Mosul shooting, another was wounded in another Mosul shooting, 7 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and a Haditha car bombing claimed 6 lives and left twenty-one people injured. Alsumaria explains 8 people died in the Haditha car bombing with dozens wounded and adds, "A citizen was killed and 3 were wounded in a separate bomb blast placed in a pile of rubble near Abu Hanifah Mosque in Al-Azamiyah neighborhood, police reported."
Finally, independent journalist David Bacon continues to report on labor issues and, at AfterDowningStreet, he reports on Tosha Alberty's fight to keep her Oakland home as the First Franklin Mortgage Service attempts to shut down and the Community springs into action. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST) and his latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. And, one more thing actually, "Brand Obama has allocated nearly one trillion dollars in defense related spending and the continuation of our doomed imperial projects in Iraq where military planners now estimate that 70,000 troops will remain for the next fifteen to twenty years." That's Chris Hedges from KPFA last Tuesday. Maggie asked Kat to pass it to me for the snapshot and Kat did but with Congressional hearings last week a lot got cut. I meant to note it already, my apologies. Also "Kat's Korner: Elvis almost made a great album" went up Saturday night, a review of Elvis Costello's new album, and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Full On Federline." Bonnie reminded me to note Isaiah this morning and I did but I forgot to note Kat so I'm noting both in the snapshot.