Tuesday, August 11, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death, officials say Iraq's biggest threat to stability is the Kurds, unless officials say Iraq's biggest threat to stability is the PKK, and more.
Today the US Dept of Defense announced a death in Iraq and i.d.ed the fallen, Spc Richard A. Walters Jr. who died in yesterday from "injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident." Currently, the link is not working. If it's still not working when the snapshot goes up, we'll note the passing in tomorrow's snapshot as well. We just said that DoD identified the fallen and that they announced the death. See a problem? MNF is supposed to announce the deaths. DoD is supposed to identify them (after the immediate family has been notified). So what happened? MNF 'forgot' to announce the death. That's the second time in two weeks that they've missed their key function. They're nothing but a press relations crew and one of their duties is to announce deaths. The DoD is only supposed to (later) provide the name. MNF gets away with this because the press has never once protested. The announcement brings to 4331 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.
From Friday through Monday, there were reports of 124 deaths and 624 injured from violence. Natalia Antelava (BBC News) analyzes these developments and postulates that instead of death tolls, "Looking at the nature of the attacks might provide better insight. As the US generals prepared for the June withdrawal of their troops from Iraqi cities, US military officials argued that the attacks had become much less organised and sophisticated. However, less than two months after the pull-out, this seems to be changing. The latest bombings resemble the well co-ordinated, well planned strikes of the earlier years of heightened violence." Antelava is correct and the only thing to add to that is that maybe newspaper headlines which read "Afghanistan bombs more deadly" can also be seen as a taunt in Iraq? How do you even measure that? Considering the differing landscapes and everything else and what is that sort of headline anyway, some war mongering reporting's notion of fantasy football? Equally true is that reporters have rarely grasped the ebb and flow of the Iraq attacks. Or maybe they just didn't care to detect a pattern? When's the next big attack coming? Press reports suggest one was just prevented. BBC News reports Kuwait is claiming that they have stopped a plan to attack a US military base in Iraq and arrested 6 of their own citizens who have "confessed to the crimes after they were arrested."
Whether the arrests and confessions are valid, violence didn't stop in Iraq today.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which left four people wounded, a Baghdad car bombing which left nine people wounded, three Baghdad roadside bombings which claimed 3 lives and left ten injured ("police said that this figure was a preliminary") and a Falluja roadside bombing which left four people wounded. Reuters notes 2 Baghdad car bombings which claimed 8 lives and left thirty people injured.
That's today. In the future? Adam Entous (Reuters) reports on the Pentagon briefing by Geoff Morrell today where he stated, "But we are very nervous, continue to be, about the overall Arab-Kurdish tensions. [. . .] We are going to remain vigilant. A certain number of U.S. forces are required in that country . . . in no small measure to try to assist . . . the Arabs and the Kurds solve some of these problems while we are still there." Kat covered the Kurdish issue last night, "AFP reports today that Maj Gen Jamal Taher Bakr, who is the police chief of Kirkuk, says 'It would be better' when asked if US troops should stay until 2012 or 2013. Remember that Kirkuk is disputed. In the country's constitution (ratified in 2005), it says a referendum will be held following a census and that will determine Kirkuk's fate. It's an oil-rich region and the central government wants it and so does the Kurdistan region. This was supposed to have been decided long, long ago. Instead of deciding, the issue has been a can that everyone's played kick the can with. It's not surprising that the issue alarms the police chief or any resident of Kirkuk and I'm not making fun of them or even saying, 'You're wrong!' I am saying that the longer the issue is put off, the worse it gets." Kirkuk is disputed by the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government in Baghdad, both of which want it to be part of their region. Among those outside players attempting to influence events is the government of Turkey which fears Kurdish power and self-rule due to its own internal issues. Complicating the matter further are the PKK which is a labeled a terrorist organization by the US, England, the European Union, Turkey and many others. These are Kurdish fighters who support Kurdish independence within Turkey. They have set up bases in the mountains of northern Iraq to stage attacks. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Montior) reports that the foreign ministers of Iraq and Turkey -- Hoshyar Zebari and Ahmet Davutoglu -- held a press conference in Baghdad today where they revealed an offer of water for Iraq were it to crack down on the PKK. The water issue is an important one to Iraq. Anthony DiPaloa and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reported last week that the country was set to "have its worst harvest in a decade this year as an extended drought cuts its water supply, forcing the third-biggest OPEC producer to increase grain imports as oil revenue drops."
Will Nouri attack the PKK? Very likely. July 28th, he launched an attack on the residents of Camp Ashraf. With more on that, this is from Amnesty International:
Thirty-six Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq remain at risk of being forcibly returned to Iran where they could face torture or execution. The 36 have been detained since Iraqi security forces stormed the camp, about 60km north of Baghdad, on 28 July.
At least eight Camp Ashraf residents were killed and many more injured during the raid. Most of the 36 are reported to have been beaten and tortured. At least seven are said to need urgent medical care.
Camp Ashraf is home to about 3,500 members of the People's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition group which has been based in Iraq since 1986.
Following the raid, the 36 were taken to a police station inside the camp. They were held there for an hour and are reported to have been tortured and beaten before being transferred to a police station in the town of al-Khalis, about 25 km south of Camp Ashraf.
According to reports, the detainees were told to sign documents written in Arabic by those detaining them, but refused to do so. They have also sought access to lawyers, so far unsuccessfully.
Of the seven reported to need medical treatment, Mehraban Balai sustained a gunshot injury to his leg and a broken arm after being beaten by Iraqi security forces. Habib Ghorab is said to suffer from internal bleeding and Ezat Latifi has serious chest pain. He is thought to have been run over by one of the military vehicles used by Iraqi forces in seizing control of the camp.
The PMOI established itself in Iraq in 1986 (during the Iran-Iraq war, 1980-88), at the invitation of the then President Saddam Hussein.
In 1988, from its base at Camp Ashraf, the PMOI attempted to invade Iran. The Iranian authorities summarily executed hundreds, if not thousands, of PMOI detainees in an event known in Iran as the "prison massacres". For a number of years it was listed as a "terrorist organization" by several Western governments.
Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the PMOI members disarmed and were accorded "protected persons" status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This lapsed in 2009, when the Iraqi government started to exercise control over Iraq's internal affairs in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a security pact agreed by the governments of Iraq and the USA in November 2008 and which entered into force on 1 January this year.
US forces in Iraq provided effective protection for Camp Ashraf until mid-2009, after which they completed their withdrawal to their bases from all Iraqi towns and cities.
After they disarmed, the PMOI announced that they had renounced violence. There is no evidence that the PMOI has continued to engage in armed opposition to the Iranian government, though people associated with the PMOI still face human rights violations in Iran.
Since mid-2008 the Iraqi government has repeatedly indicated that it wants to close Camp Ashraf, and that residents should leave Iraq or face being forcibly expelled from the country.
Amnesty International has urged the authorities not to forcibly return any Camp Ashraf resident or other Iranians to Iran, where they would be at risk of torture and other serious human rights violations.
The organization has called upon the Iraqi authorities to investigate all allegations of torture and beatings, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The organization has also called on the authorities to provide appropriate medical care to the 36 detainees and to release them unless they are to be promptly charged with a recognizable offence and brought to trial according to international standards for fair trial.
Iraq: Concern for detained Camp Ashraf residents (Public statement, 4 August 2009)
Eight reported killed as Iraqi forces attack Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf (News, 29 July 2009)
Iran's Press TV reports today that protestors gathered in Diyalah Province in a 'brave and dangerous' demonstration (that's sarcasm) to support the decision of Nouri al-Maliki to expell the residents of Camp Ashraf. In any country, the most pathetic thing is the lackeys who feel the need to pimp the government line. (As true in Iraq as it is in the US -- whether it comes from Barry O's astroturf friends or Bully Boy Bush's 'freedom rallies'.) Gordon Lubold (Christian Science Monitor) notes the human rights lawyers calling on the US government to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents sent "Documents Show Iraq, U.S. in Breach of Obligations to Protect Camp Ashraf Residents" to the public e-mail account (Betty noted it last night):
"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em.
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They went you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarous thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.
Danny Fitzsimons served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He is in the news for his time in Iraq as a British contractor, or mercenary, accused of being the shooter in a Sunday Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reports today that Fitzsimons' parents, Eric and Beverly, and stepmother, Liz, state their son, now potentially facing the death penalty in Iraq's 'justice' system, has PTSD: "We are seeking funding in order to get a fair trial for Daniel, who served his country in Afghanistan and Iraq and left the Army suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This situation is every parent's worst nightmare. We have been unable to speak directly to Daniel and are currently in contract with the Foreign Office, Fair Trials Abroad and our local MP, Jim Dobbin." Eric and Liz Fitzsimons speak to the BBC (link has video):
Liz Fitzsimons: You see, when he came out of the army because the army had always been his life, it was then at a real crossroads in his life and where some people might be able to cope, unfortunately, Daniel didn't cope well because he did enjoy army life. It was all he ever wanted, he loved it. And you come out and you live Middleton, which is where he ended up, and he couldn't find a path that suited him, he couldn't find a job although he tried very hard. And a testament to Daniel is that he joined a gym and kept himself -- Daniel likes routine. Daniel goes to the gym every day almost, I would suggest, every day, goes jogging he's a very clean young man. You know, he's not sort of gone wayward and just gone to the dogs kind of thing. And he met a girl, like you want your children to do, but then he wanted the normal life and he wanted the money that would go with a normal life. How does he do that when he can't find a job? And unfortunately becoming a security --
Eric Fitzsimons: He went back into doing security.
Liz Fitzimons: -- person in Iraq. [. . .] Oh, awful. Awful. The situation in Iraq isn't good, is it? We all know it's not good. But he would be out in convoys I believe their main job is to escort to --
Eric Fitzsimons: Oil [workers? Second word isn't clear.]
Liz Fitzsimons : Yes but they do escort people to jobs. And they do ride shotgun basically. They ride around --
Eric Fitzsimons: He's told us quite a lot of --
Liz Fitzsimons: Yeah.
Eric Fitsimons: -- tales
Liz Fitzsimons: He saw some awful things. The person in the cab next to him was blown up.
Eric Fitzsimons: Yeah.
Liz Fitzsimons: Next to him. At the same he had a bullet in his foot.
Eric Fitzsimons: Bullet in his foot, yeah, he's seen all sorts of IEDs you know, sorts of explosions at the side of the road. Loads and loads of them. And seen lots and lots of his friends killed.
They're asked about whether or not they attempted to talk Danny out of being a mercenary ("mercenary" is the term Eric Fitzsimons uses) and his father notes that they had conversations with him going back many years but he is a grown up who makes his own decisions. They express their sympathies for the families of the two men who were killed. "We're not saying that Daniel doesn't have to face what he's done," Liz Fitzsimons explains. "He does. He does have to face that. And we know he does. But what we want is for it to be fair and unfortunately where he is now, we don't think it will be."
While Danny Fitzsimons' family is unable to speak to him, Oliver August (Times of London) reports his paper has been able to and that Fitzsimons states the incident was self-defense: "I got into a fight with two colleagues and they had me pinned down. I received a real beating. They beat me and that's when I reached for my weapon. I was drunk and it happened very quickly."
The early morning shooting followed the consumption of alcohol. Oliver August teams with Deborah Haynes to note that "private security guards [in Iraq] always carry weapons, even when drinking" and they note the various bars to be found in the Green Zone including the now closed "CIA Bar" and the "FBI Bar." Fitzsimons worked for ArmorGroup and Haynes gives an overview of the company here. August reports that "the investigators told the judge that they have all the evidence they need to proceed with a trial. The Foreign Office is checking options on how to help Mr Fitzsimons but there appears to be little chance that he could be handed over to British officials or stand trial in UK for the alleged murder of a British and an Australian security guard also on contract with ArmorGroup." Martin Chulov (Guardian) was not present in the Iraqi court yesterday but he quotes Maj Gen Abdul-Kareem Khalaf stating Fitzsimons "made admissions." Take it with a grain of salt and remember all the distortions Iraqi government officials made of what the shoe tosser had supposedly stated. Jamie Walker and Sarah Elks (The Australian) note, "Aged in his 20s, the Briton is set to become the first foreign security contractor to face Iraqi justice; he could receive the death penalty if he is found guilty of gunning down Mr Hoare and Mr McGuigan." The New Statesman explains, "Last night British Embassy staff were trying to secure access to Fitzsimons. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is looking into how it can help but there appears to be little chance that he will stand trial in Britain."
Turning to the US, Camilo Mejia is the author of Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia and he's an Iraq War veteran, a war resister and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (the chair until they announce Jose Vaquez as the new chair). Costa Rica Hoy notes, "Camilo Mejia is the first American soldier that served in Iraq who publicly opposed the war. He was imprisoned for refusing to return. At present, he is in the process of appealing his bad conduct discharge." The Center for Constitutional Rights noted the appeal last week and quoted Camilo stating, "Increasingly I found that I could no longer tolerate my complicity in what I considered immoral occupation. I could not go back to an environment where torture and abuse were destroying the lives of the Iraqis and the soldiers who were ordered to engage in such acts. I knew that if I returned I would have been required to do things that violate the Geneva Conventions."
We're going to stay with this topic for a moment. I was hoping IVAW's recent conference, which ended Sunday, would result in Street Trash leaving the organization. Street Trash's name doesn't appear at this site because Street Trash went public and then had a meltdown when we picked up the news of Street Trash being public from another website. Though it was already over the net, Street Trash was in a panic. We had to remove Street Trash's name from the Iraq snapshot!!!!! Trina and I went into every community site and edited out Street Trash's name and asked, "What the ___ is ____'s problem?" At which point, we were no longer interested in Street Trash. I believe it was 13 sites back then, and we had to go into 13 sites to edit out Street Trash's name because Street Trash had gone highly public and was now worried? Now?
Street Trash has spent the last months threatening to quit IVAW. This follows Street Trash's 'resignation' (from a non-elected IVAW board spot). In that 'resignation,' Street Trash trashed Camilo with rumors and just gutter gossip. It was so awful that Street Trash (karma?) had to go and remove the post from Street Trash's website. What Street Trash wrote, however, is still being said online by Street Trash, ST just does it at right wing sites. ST has already (again) attacked Camilo this week.
I'm not in the mood for that piece of garbage. We wrote about some of this nonsense at Third and Ty started getting crazy e-mails from Street Trash -- who is still in the miltiary and, as an IVAW member pointed out to Ty when I suggest he call him, was writing these while 'serving.' In other words, Street Trash now has an office job and apparently spends all day -- on the tax payer's dime -- leaving comments at websites and writing angry e-mails. The article, by the way, was "Who's duping who?" and Street Trash is not named or even referred to in that article. Mainly because we don't promote gutter trash, we take it to the curb. But that didn't stop Street Trash from lecturing Ty in repeated e-mails (all in one day -- seriously, Street Trash does no work for the military, just stays on the computer for eight hours each 'work' day) about journalism. Stupid ass, Street Trash, Ty has a degree in it. No one needs to interview you first before writing a story. Why would we? Because of your vanity? Because you think you're important? You're nothing but trash.
As outlined in the article, a number of trashy people had left the organization (since Street Trash refuses to leave, we obviously couldn't be referring to ST) and they're whispering and sometimes outright saying (Street Trash is saying it at right wing blogs) that IVAW is a Communist menace and a Communist front and blah, blah, blah. The real problem is that Street Trash and ST's cronies love 'em some Barack. They need to go to the vets group that's a front for the Democratic Party. That's the only way they'll be happy (and even then . . .). IVAW is Republicans, is Democrats, is Socialists, is Communists, is libertarians, is non-believes in any political theory or party. It's a diverse group. But say 'diverse' and Street Trash hears "Communist conspiracy!"
This week alone, Street Trash has repeatedly trashed Camilo and you have to wonder why ST doesn't just leave the group -- like ST promised would happen if ST didn't like the election results. (Considering that Jose publicly corrected ST when ST lied about Camilo, you'd assume ST wouldn't be thrilled with Jose's victory.) Beyond the world of the crazies, Camilo not only has every right to appeal, he should have a strong case. Camilo was not a US citizen. He was serving in Iraq and his contract ended. He was stop-lossed. However, only US citizens could be stop-lossed. This was pointed out to his command which chose to ignore it -- chose to ignore federal law. Camilo's discharge needs to be re-evaluated because he never should have been stop-lossed and once the government made clear they weren't going to respect the law, they stepped onto real weak ground.
Street Trash is screaming Communist menace! We'll come back to it because it's not isolated crazy. But, before we go further, let's talk about something that matter (we're about to talk about people making fools of themselves -- we're taking a musical detour before that) Cass Elliot. Cass, of course, is known for her own strong solo work as well as for her work as a member of one of rock's first super groups: the Mamas and the Papas. Cass is on my thoughts a great deal lately and not just due to a letter I remembered and dug through the journals to re-read. But let's do that sidebar briefly: A woman who claims to be a feminist and claims she never wasn't a feminist and that people have distorted her on that blah blah blah. Reality? The woman was in the US long before she claims and she was trying to be famous even back then which is how she ended up on the daytime talk show with Cass and two other women and, yes, the Greek social climber was perfectly disgusting even then and, yes, Cass observed just how sad (and anti-woman) she was. In addition to being one of the country's finest singers, Cass also did a great deal of TV work. At the end of this month, The Mama Cass Television Program is released for the first time ever on DVD. Her guests on the TV special include Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian and Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul and Mary). Jeffrey Kauffman (DVD Talk) gives the release strong praise noting, "Cass is perfectly at ease (in fact, perhaps a bit too much so -- she fluffs a few lines here and there and isn't really 'formal' in the sense that most television variety show hosts and hostesses were back in the day) and makes a very appealing central figure. . . . I couldn't help but feel a little sad watching this special, and not just because of the weird writing of the skits. Mama Cass was a distinctive, warm hearted performer with a lush voice who left us far, far too early. At least we have her recordings (several of which have been surfacing on Lost), as well as her film and television performances to remind us that, as she states to [Buddy] Hackett at the top of this special, true beauty comes from within." We linked to Joni and, from her website, we'll note this: "For a new boxed set due out this November, Joni would like to invite the community to send in a statement of why they enjoy her music. It can be one sentence or a short paragraph and the best will be chosen for the liner notes for the project. It can be a personal experience with the music or why in general you like it. Joni feels it might be more interesting to hear from the people who truly like the music rather than from a critic or PR person. Submit your liner notes here."
Now back to the crazy. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer embarrassed themselves and the positions they hold by charging US citizens with being "unAmerican." Search in vain for The Progressive or The Nation calling that b.s. out. There are brave voices, however. Once again, Cindy Sheehan steps up to the plate and notes how dangerous it is and how it recalls the House Committee on Un-American Activities which helped lead the witch hunts:
It, apart from Senator Joseph McCarthy, investigated Bolsheviks and communists and many other "subversive" organizations and people. There is nothing in the Constitution, as far as I know, that prevents one from being a Communist, but people's lives were ruined because of this committee, and the committee even went as far as shaping the movie industry, and of course frightened many people into un-American silence.
Today, an op-ed that was "co-written" by Nancy Pelosi (House Speaker) and Steny Hoyer (House Majority Leader), which was more than likely written by an overworked staffer, called anyone who is protesting at the Healthcare Town Hall meetings: "un-American." The person who advised this, should be summarily fired…with all due haste.
I don't agree with a single word that is coming out of the right-winger's mouths. Obama is not a socialist and the Democrats are not socialists, they're fascists, and even though I think the Healthcare reforms are a bad idea for other reasons, I support the right of my fellow Americans to speak as loudly as they want and put forth their message any way they can.
Even though I know that most of the Town Hall disrupters do not or did not support my right to do so---I have been escorted out of many hearings or meetings---but I support any American's right to expression, as long as it doesn't involve hate speech. Hanging a Congressperson in effigy is not hate speech---it's protected free speech---just like when Bush was hanged in effigy many times by the other side.
The Speaker of the House, whomever is in the position, is on dangerous grounds when she or he calls other US citizens "unAmerican." It's not just offensive, it's also historically dangerous. This is the Cliff Note version (Jim's called it for Third and we're also limited on space in this snapshot). Take what Bob Somerby's covering today (very accurate, very sound). Among other things to grasp from his writing today is that, no, people don't listen to you when you call them names -- when you tar and feather and entire group of people, they're not going to listen to you. But also grasp the rage on Nancy Pelosi's side. Not just the people she's raging against, but the rage within her. What she did is appalling. It's shameful. And it is not playing in the Bay Area, she's in hot water again. It's stupid and it's dangerous. And ObamaCare may or may not pass. If it doesn't pass, you need to grasp the anger in people like Nancy already. And you need to grasp that they're also telling left critics of ObamaCare to stop speaking. You need to grasp how angry they are at those people. Then you need to grasp that a large number of those people aren't Democrats but posed as such. There's nothing wrong with being a Socialist or a Communist. It's leagal in this country and, in many cases, it's a strong ethical position to take. But Street Trash is a Democrat and Street Trash is attacking others as Communists. And what history has never really bothered to get right is that the McCarthy era witch hunt couldn't have happened without Democrats. Dems who were tired of the non-Dems posing as Dems, Dems who didn't like Communists to begin with, and many other groupings. When Nancy voices her rage, you better grasp how dangerous the situation is. Not for the right wing. They're her natural opponent. But when her frustration lets her make such a stupid and harmful comment ("un-American"), you need to grasp where it heads next if she can't control her own temper. One way of stopping it is for people to get honest. Matthew Rothschild finally did, after the election, when he finally fessed up to being a Socialist -- why a grown man felt the need to hide in a political closet is a question to ask. He's far from the only one. Take Robert McChesney. And let's get honest about the word "progressive." It doesn't mean a Democrat and it never did. When you lie (I'm referring to spokespeople and gas bags) you create the climate for your own backlash. Nancy's already made clear she's comfortable judging what is American and what is unAmerican. In the last century, that meant people like Matthew Rothschild, Robert McChesney and others would be targeted. So it's about time they started speaking out along with everyone else on the left. I grasp that some Democrats won't because they're pissed off that non-Democrats hijacked the party in 2008. (And some Dems won't speak out for other reasons including hatred for and fear of Communists and Socialists.) But we warned about this, Ava and I, all through 2008 and started sounding the alarm at the end of 2007. The ground is moving and you either call out Nancy or you accept that the Speaker of the House can judge what is and is not American. And you grasp how quickly her rage turns on the left and you grasp that people like Street Trash have already launched efforts to persecute people based on their political beliefs. This isn't the distant past, this is the beginning of a new period of McCarthyism unless people call out Nancy Pelosi. (It would also help if some would hop out of the political closets. A known face is usually a friendly face and personalizes the issue.) That's jumbled and we'll work it out at Third but the basics are: 1) Nancy Pelosi crossed the line and needs to be called out. 2) Her frustration and rage is going to whip over to the left if allowed to go unchecked. 3) People right now would do well to come out of the political closets because a known and friendly face is hard to demonize. 4) History repeats if you don't learn. 5) What needs to be learned from McCarthyism is that it was bi-partisan and you either stop it immediately or you accept and encourage a witch hunt.