Thursday, August 6, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Anthony Zinni explains how he was almost the US Ambassador to Iraq, the US State Dept and White House are criticized for no visible efforts regarding the victims of Camp Ashraf, Iraqi Christians and Sahwa are targeted in violence, and more.
US Gen Anthony Zinni is now retired from the military. He is now promoting a new book he's written with Tony Koltz entitled Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom. He was supposed to be serving in the current administration. On NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today, Diane raised that issue.
Diane Rehm: General Zinni, you almost went to work for the Obama administration. I'd like to hear from you --
Anthony Zinni: Right.
Diane Rehm: -- what happened.
Anthony Zinni: Well, uh, I was called right before the inauguration and asked if I would be willing to serve as, uh, to serve in the administration in a couple of possibilities. And then --
Diane Rehm: By whom?
Anthony Zinni: By General [James L.] Jones, the National Security Advisor. And I said I would given the-the positions he mentioned,. And right after the inauguration, he called and asked if I would serve as the ambassador to, uh, Iraq. And I said I would. And, uh, received a call from the vice president thanking me that I would take that on --
Diane Rehm: Vice President [Joe] Biden.
Anthony Zinni: Vice President Biden. And, uh, I met with Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton and, uh, deputy -- two deputies. Spent a long time with her in the office. She was asking me what I understood about Iraq, my assessment. I had just gotten back not long before that doing an assessment out there. And then I left that meeting, you know, understanding fully, you know, I was going to be the nominee. I mean I was told to prepare for it, we would move the process forward very quickly because of the outgoing Ambassador Ryan Crocker was coming out very quickly.
Diane Rehm: You shook hands on it?
Anthony Zinni: Yes, we did. I mean, there was no way I left and didn't think this was going to happen. And actually thought I had a very short period of time to get my affairs in order. I mean, obviously, there are a number of things you have to do in your own financial family and all that sort of thing. And for -- a week went by and I was told to stay in touch, be prepared, quote: "Move the paperwork forward." That we were going to move up the confirmation hearings. And nothing was happening. And I tried to contact people and I couldn't get any answers. And finally late -- about a week later -- I finally got a hold of General Jones and he informed me I was not the choice and I was kind of shocked and surprised by it. And then the next morning in the Washington Post, I read that it's Chris Hill and I thought: "Had I not gotten ahold of General Jones, that's how I would found out." To be honest with you, I-I don't, I can understand people changing their minds and I don't object to that. You know that's a fact of life. I-I was just put back by not being called or told by anyone and, to this day, I haven't had anybody explain to me what happened so. But I moved on. Clearly, you know, you have to understand Washington and the way things work and I've moved on from there.
Diane Rehm: What's your best guess as to why you were not chosen?
Anthony Zinni: Honestly, Diane, I don't know. Uh, one of the reasons -- I-I started getting calls that very day from the media, from the press and, uh, people saying, "These are the rumors we're hearing." And they were attributed to senior government officials so that was disturbing. And many of the-the reasons given, I clearly knew were not right because --
Diane Rehm: Such as?
Anthony Zinni: Such as, "Well the Pentagon didn't want you." Or, "A certain general didn't want you." All-all of whom I knew personally and it's just the opposite and matter of fact were calling me upset that-that it hadn't gone through. So I began to be bothered by some of the rumors that obviously were coming out of the -- supposedly attributed by the media to senior government officials.
Diane Rehm: What kinds of rumors?
Anthony Zinni: Well, it was this particular lobby that worked against you, it was this particular individual that-that stopped it or this person. And-and to me that -- you know, to me, many of them I knew weren't true, many of them I thought were only based on rumor and so I thought it important since they were asking me what happened I tried to not engage them but then I finally said, "Well look, let me just tell you the course of events that went by. So there's no misunderstanding that I didn't know or understand that I was be the nominee. And what happened." And-and to this day, nobody's told me what happened. Not that I'm interested anymore. But [laughing] I haven't been told.
Diane Rehm: So even speaking with General Jones, he did not give you a reason?
Anthony Zinni: He did not. Our last conversation, right after that was "Well I'll get back to you as I find out." And, you know, that was in January and then I have not heard anything about it. Not that I'm, again, I'm not interested anymore in what happened.
Diane Rehm: Of course you're not interested anymore since it's over and done with. On the other hand, as a human being, if I had been in your position, I would have felt really stung.
Anthony Zinni: Yeah -- well, yes. I guess the best way to describe my feelings, was I was disappointed because there were many friends and people I respected tremendously in this process and, uh, so that-that created a disappointment and confusion on my part as to what exactly happened.
We'll come back to another section of The Diane Rehm Show in a bit. As Michael Crowley (New Republic) pointed out this week, Chris Hill has no experience with Iraq, doesn't speak Arabic "and has a background in Eastern Europe and Asia." Chris Hill demonstrated in his confirmation hearings that he didn't grasp the issues at stake around disputed Kirkuk. Hill doesn't appear to grasp the issue of the MEK or how the lack of visible efforts to stop the targeting of the MEK by Nouri al-Maliki's forces is causing global outrage. James Morrison (Washington Times) reports Democrats and Republicans in the US House of Representatives have called out the inaction in a letter to the US State Dept -- 21 Democrats, 11 Republicans including Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Brad Sherman, Diane Watson, John Boozman, Bob Inglis, Ted Poe, Dana Rohrabacher, Carolyn B. Maloney and Edolphus Towns. The representatives note, "A community of protected persons has been set upon by security forces of the state to which we relinquished their protection. We believe there is cause to fear the forced expulsion of the Ashraf residents by Iraqi forces." The legislators urge Hillary to instruct Chris Hill to address with Nouri's government "international law and with the assurances Iraq gave the U.S. regarding Ashraf residents." Last Tuesday, Nouri al-Maliki ordered the assault on Camp Ashraf, home to the MEK. The MEK has been in Iraq for decades. They are Iranian exiles welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein. They are currently considered "terrorists" by the US. They were formerly considered such by the European Union and England; however, both re-evaluated and took them off the terrorist watch list. The US military protected the residents of Camp Ashraf during the first six years of the Iraq War. UPI explains, "Iraqi police in July stormed the Camp Ashraf base of the People's Mujahedin of Iran using tear gas and water cannons, promising to expel the 3,500 members of the group." Today The Economist notes, "After the Americans took over in 2003, the PMOI people at Camp Ashraf, as the place is known, were disarmed. More recently the Iraqis decided to take over the camp, doubtless with the ecnouragement of their ruling fellow Shias in Tehran. Ignoring American protests, the Iraqi forces killed at least 11 inmates. If such crude methods are used elsewhere -- for instance, in handling insurgents wanting to come onside -- natioanl reconciliation is unlikely to be achieved." The National Council of Resistance of Iran released the following statement today:
At 9:45 local time this morning, two Iraqi helicopters armed with heavy machine guns flew at low altitude over Camp Ashraf in a bid to intimidate the residents and patrol the area. The helicopters also dropped propaganda flyers. In light of last weeks' massacre of defenseless residents of Ashraf by Iraqi suppressive forces and the US forces' inaction in this respect, and in view of the US forces' role in Iraq's aerial control, particularly in Diyala province;
1- The Iranian Resistance expresses its strongest protest to the American forces for allowing Iraqi helicopters to fly over Ashraf and demands aerial security guarantees from the US forces for Ashraf and prevention of a war crime by violation of Ashraf air space. Considering widespread influence of the terrorist Qods force in Iraq, which has been emphasized by US commanders in Iraq on a number of occasions, and with regards to Iranian regime's plots to annihilate the residents of Ashraf, opening of Ashraf air space to such flights would no doubt be misused by the Iranian regime to commit further crimes.
2- According to our information, the clerical regime's ambassador to Baghdad, Revolutionary Guard Kazemi Qomi who is one of the commanders of terrorist Qods force, had provided the content of the propaganda flyers to the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister on Tuesday, August 4, to be dropped on Ashraf.
3- There is no doubt that all these measures have been dictated by the Iranian regime's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the government of Iraq in the midst of Iranian people's escalating uprising. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi Prime Minister, has now turned into a tool in the hands of the Iranian regime to be used against mullahs' main opposition.
Ashraf's defenseless residents who stood empty handed against barrage of bullets in one of the most barbaric criminal attacks last week by the Iraqi forces do not give any credit to Khamenei and Maliki aerial shows, thus they tore up the documents produced by Khamenei's Revolutionary Guards in Qom and Baghdad before the eyes of Iraqi forces and set fire to them.
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
August 6, 2009
Former US House Rep Tom Tancredo pens a column about the MEK for the Washington Times and he states:
Human Rights Watch has called for an impartial investigation into the Iraqi police action. Videos of the July 28 attacks show police wielding not only batons and water canons but iron bars in their assault on unarmed residents. Military Humvees ran over injured protesters. Residents also claim that at least two people were killed by sniper fire. Iraqi security forces have prevented journalists from entering the camp to interview residents.
Independent observers know that the action on July 28 is hardly an isolated incident, as it came on the heels of repeated Iraqi government statements that it intends to disband the camp and evict its residents. Such statements are contrary to the agreement signed with the United States guaranteeing the safety of the refugees.
Iraq is also a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which forbids the forcible return of political refugees who face torture or cruel punishments. But where can they go if the United States continues to label them terrorists?
Iraq's Alsumaria reports that Shirwan Waeli, Minister of State, declared they will not grant asylum to the refugees. Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) reports that Nouri's bag boy Ali al-Dabbagh issued denials that water, medical supplies and food were being blocked from arriving at Camp Ashraf and notes that the claims of the blockage comes from human rights activists as well as Camp Ashraf residents.
The betrayal of the residents of Camp Ashraf should alarm some in England. Today US Maj Gen Richard Nash briefed reporters at the Pentagon. Nash was appearing via satellite from Basra and he was explaining how, in sourthern Iraq, Iraqis are showing leadership. The British turned Basra over to the US and the US is now eager to pass it on to Iraqis. Nash declared, "The Iraqis have stepped up to the challenge and have faced threates head on." How does this apply to England? As the British troops left, they left behind a dog and a cat and asked the Americans to take care of them. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports the dog is Sandbag and has 32,000 Facebook friends and 6,000 people who petitioned the British government to allow Sandbag to come to England. Instead, Downing Street released this statement: "Our US colleagues have assured us that both Sandbag and Hesco will be well cared for. Both are currently fit and healthy." Hesco is the Iraqi cat the British soldiers adopted. Of course, the residents of Camp Ashraf were assured by Americans that they would be protected. And, seeing how that turned out, maybe the world should worry Nouri will next launch an assault on Sandbag and Hesco? If so, apparently the White House will remain mute as it has throughout the Camp Ashraf assault.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people injured, a Baghdad bombing which claimed 1 life and a Mosul bombing which claimed 2 lives and left one person injured. Reuters notes a Kirkuk car bombing which claimed 4 lives and left thirty injured, and a Mosul home bombing which injured two Christian females.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 money exchange office owner shot dead in Baquba and an attack on a Sahwa checkpoint in Baquba which claimed the life of 1 Sahwa. Reuters notes 1 woman shot dead in Mosul by a drive-by and 1 man shot dead in a Mosul home invasion.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.
At the end of last month, Ruth noted that three journalism students, Jennifer Canfield, Tom Hewitt and Jessica Hoffman, with the University of Alaska were headed to Iraq. They are in Iraq and they are reporting at Short Timers. Tom Hewitt offers an overview of events so far including:
While on our way to get our credentials at the Combined Press Information Center in the Green Zone, our convoy came within a few minutes of being hit by an IED, which made the situation getting into the Green Zone a bit tricky due to fears of another attack. We eventually made it into the CPIC, however, and got credentialed.
On the subject of journalists in Iraq, Shon Meckfessel (The Nation) states, "I'm writing this statement to help people understand what happened to my three friends, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal, who went missing by the Iran/Iraq border. I have been close friends with Shane and Sarah for years, and recently met Josh, a longtime friend of Shane. Shane is a language student and freelance journalist; Sarah is an English teacher, and Josh arranges student exchange trips. All of us have done some writing about our travels, and all of us share a deep appreciation for Middle Eastern cultures." His statement continues. The three were said to have been hiking. They were in northern Iraq, Kurdistan, and allegedly ended up on Iranian soil. (Anyone paying attention to Iraq in the last years knows the external border disputes especially with regards to Iran though it generally gets more attention when the external border dispute has to do with fishermen allegedly entering Iranian waters.) The three are currently held and jailed by the Iranian government. For more on them, see Meckfessel's statement.
Now returning to The Diane Rehm Show where Diane spoke with retired Gen Anthony Zinni today. She raised the issue of Col Timothy Reese's memo.
Diane Rehm: General, there's talk that the administration may declare victory and leave Iraq sooner than planned. What are your thoughts?
Anthony Zinni: Well I-I think first of all in terms of combat troops, I-I think the schedule we're on is the right one. Uh, we've done about all we can do in terms of our troops -- coalition troops -- patrolling the streets and in the cities. We have worked hard enough and long enough with the Iraqi security forces that they have the capability to stand up to the challenge. Now they will have problems, they're not perfect. I do think as we go forward, we'll have to continue security assistance programs helping them with the right equipment training education of their leaders and officers. And that's not just military, that's police and-and other security elements that they have there. But I think that's on track. And I think -- I think an ongoing program of that kind of support is necessary to maintain. It's now up to the Iraqi government. I mean, I think we have put him in a position to succeed. It's going to be an issue of their capability and competence to administer, to allocate funds to build programs. I spent some time over there, late last year, at the request of Ambassador Crocker and General [Ray] Odierno, part of an assessment team looking around and I came away -- especially when I was with some of the ministers and some of the ministries in the Iraqi government -- you know, realizing that they're learning something that they have no experience in and that's how to govern, how to build a bureaucracy, how to make policy. They have some inherent friction points. Obviously it isn't like there's one party in office so you can be consistent. They have a Sunni, a Kurd, a Shia. And you have differences that they have to come to grips with internally. They're beginning to learn the -- how bureaucracies function and how governments need to-to do the nitty gritty of getting things done. And in walking some of the streets and talking to some of the people, trying to assess what some of their expectations are, it came out clear to me that it will succeed if they feel their government is responsive to their needs. They want security. They want their essential services met. They want that electricity on 24-7 and garbage picked up.
Diane Rehm: But suppose all that breaks down. Then what happens to the US and its military?
Anthony Zinni: Well -- it -- I feel, you know, of course, I opposed going into Iraq when we did. Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. And you know that's -- people have come down on different sides of that but the reason I did is we could not afford a deep stabilized disconnected Iraq -- especially since we had other requirements around the world particularly Afghanistan, Pakistan and the entire Taliban and al Qaeda. It-it -- a fragmented destabilized Iraq, right in the heart of the Middle East, I don't think will be for the international community, will be, uh, uh, able to cope with that or able to deal with that by ignoring it. That was my concern: Once you're in, you're in all the way. And I don't think you're going to see a total collapse but I do think my worry would be and-and I don't think this will happen but you could get a fragmentation and see a Kurdish area, a Sunni area, a Shia area split up and, you know, the violence that may go with that. Because at the points where they meet and the fault lines of course there's-there's great danger. Uh, that is going to be difficult for the region. And that's going to wash over and create more problems that we have and-and I would hate to say this but I think we're going to be in a position where we can't let that happen and we need to redefine that "we" is not only the United States. And we need to build more support for ensuring it doesn't happen to begin with or be prepared to take the right actions to react to it.
Diane Rehm: But isn't there very little support internationally?
Anthony Zinni: There is very little support internationally. As a matter of fact, one of my worries about Afghanistan, we're beginning to see waning support and I know you want to talk about that but Iraq of course because the initial entry into Iraq was not received favorably, you know, in the international community with some exceptions. And so the stomach for reengagement obviously isn't there. But I want to say I left there -- and I went there as a skeptic of course and-and-and -- but I admired what General Petraeus did, what Ryan Crocker did, General Odierno because I think they turned it around and gave it a chance. I would -- I would say right now, I do think it will have bumps along the road but it can succeed and I would give you some things to watch. There are three elections in this year. We've already had one, it went very well. If the other two go well, and what I mean by well, the people come out to vote, it's secure, there's no fraud or-or excess influence that shouldn't be -- inappropriate influence, those are going to be good signs. If you begin to see essential services, they're being met. You see the electricity going up, I think then it's going to be on its way to reasonable stability -- at least in the near term and maybe in the long term even more sustainable stability.
What three elections this year is he talking about? The one that's taken place, that he's describing, sounds like the Kurdistan elections last month. But he means the January elections (14 provinces voted). If he's including national elections, they're supposed to take place next January (though they could be postponed again). He does say "him" (apparently meaning Nouri) in the above remarks. It's a prettied-up-view of Iraq. But let's stick with elections. We'll drop back to Friday to rerun this:
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 brackets are to note that's all from the paper (obvious in the origianl entry but both paragraphs above are in bold print). It's obvious. And something else is obvious, Patrick Cockburn isn't the worst reporter in indymedia. The worst reporter is the one who stole the New York Times article and has sentences in 'their' report that are word-for-word from the NYT report by Williams and Mohammed. Just a thought, besides being theft, is it really smart for those allegedly against the Iraq War to steal from the New York Times to begin with? It's really not an "anti-war" paper. But pay attention and see if you can spot the NYT rip-off, it's an article that's popping up at many sites currently.
In Iraq, Alsumaria reports Parliament is outraged by Nouri's latest stunt: Calling treaties memos of understanding so he can bypass Congress. You know, the US might be able to call this out . . . Oh wait, they US Congress (including the now-president of the US, Barack Obama) rolled over after the SOFA was approved by the Iraqi Parliament. And Bully Boy Bush called it a SOFA (it was a treaty) to avoid having to put it through the US Congress for approval. Hmmm. It appears Nouri was watching and did learn something -- though not what Zinni outlines as things needed to pass on. Meanwhile, the Bremer walls are coming down around Baghdad -- at least some of them. Maybe. The ethnic cleansing that took place to purge Baghdad ended some time ago. Baghdad's still targeted with bombs, don't pretend it isn't. But the walls were primarily about -- as so many rightly feared -- corralling and herding the 'undesirables,' the ones targeted. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) kind of notes the walls, but really focuses on the more impostant issues such as: "Iraqi authorities have threatened to seize U.S. vehicles that do not have Iraqi license plates, sending hundreds of American government employees and contractors scrambling to Baghdad's equivalent of the DMV." Sam Dagher (New York Times) notes the claims that "most" of the walls will be removed in 40 days. That claim has been made before, by the way. No one seems aware of that. Dagher notes that the plans do "not cover many of the giant walls put up by the United States military two years ago around Baghdad neighborhoods like Dora, Huriya and Saidiya that experienced the worst of the sectarian bloodshed."
Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell, Alec Maclachlan, Alan McMenemy and Peter Moore, all British citizens, were kidnapped in Baghdad May 29, 2007. Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell were dead when their bodies were turned over to the British authorities after the two leaders of the group bragging about having done the kidnappings were released from US custody. (The same group, and why the brothers had been imprisoned originally by the US, bragged about their actions in assaulting a US base and killing 5 American soldiers.) The British government considers Alec and Alan to be dead (the families remain hopeful) and it is thought (by the British government) that Peter Moore is alive. The group taking credit for the kidnappings and for the deaths of 5 US soldiers is alternately called the Righteous League or the League of Righteous by the press. The press? They got press this week, see Monday's snapshot, because Nouri met with them to bring them back into the government. As noted in the Tuesday snapshot, the press spin that the group has given up violence is false. Their spokesperson says they will not attack Iraqis but that they will continue to go after US service members.
Peter Moore is assumed alive and Alec and Adam may be. And Nouri's welcoming the group back to the 'political' process in Iraq? Nouri's spokespeople refute claims made by Gordon Brown's flacks. They claim he's pressing the group on the British citizens. Nouri's spokesperson dismissed that idea and stated it's not a concern for Nouri. Jason Swindlehurst's sister Lizzette Swindlehurst tells the Skelmersdale Advertiser, "To me he [Gordon Brown] could have done something. At the end of the day he is the one with the power in the country, isn't he? I don't know how my mum and dad feel, but I think a lot more could have been done than they said they were doing. I think they knew more as well." Mark Johnson (Skelmersdale Advertiser) quotes her explaining, "They [doubters] were originally saying he had committed suicide. He would not have taken his own life. He would not have done that. Only people who knew him knew he would not do that. He had too much to live for -- he had a little girl." Steve Orme (Liverpool Echo) covers the funeral yesterday. Orme quotes father Russell Swindlehurst stating, "We may not have agreed with their [the government's] policy on the news blackout, but who is to say if the media was informed of everything that went on, the outcome would have been different?"
Turning to the US, Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) writes about the peace movement and notes four upcoming dates:
Monday October 5, in Washington DC. Protest at the White House against Obama's Wars, on the anniversary of the US attack on Afghanistan, in coalition with National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) and Witness Against Torture, Activist Response Team & Veterans for Peace. We will march from McPherson Square to the White House, and the action will include non violent civil resistance.
Tuesday October 6. We Are Not Your Soldiers! A day of resisting recruitment in high schools, nationwide. In high schools, this means everything from wearing a button or orange armband, to holding film showings & talks, to bringing in anti-war veterans of Iraq & Afghanistan, to sitting in or walking out to protest at recruiting stations. In support of these actions, we urge people to hold war protests on October 6 at recruiting stations, or city centers.
Saturday, Sunday October 10/11: Equality March in Washington DC. World Can't Wait will be present to support the just demand for marriage equality for gay & lesbian partners and for the repeal of the "Defense of Marriage Act." We are not against the repeal of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but we plan to challenge anyone to say why people should go into the military now, when they will contribute to the illegal, unjust, illegitimate, immoral war, and occupations.
Saturday, October 17: Local Protests to End the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars and Occupations.
A majority of people taking the survey said they are ready to organize for October, or want more information. The basic plans are coming together, and we're asking YOU to develop the details as we go forward.