Thursday, August 20, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, yesterday's Baghdad bombings had a death toll of 95 and that toll has risen, surprisingly little broadcast media coverage of the violence, 11 Iraqi security forces are arrested, Cindy Sheehan gears up for demonstrating on Martha's Vineyard and more.
Sinan Saleheddin (AP) notes yesterday's Baghdad bombings resulted in the deaths of "at least 101 people and wounded more than 500." A death toll like that -- even half that -- would generally result in some reporting on your TV screens. That wasn't the case. Commercial broadcast networks? NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, of all the commercial network evening news shows, stood alone in offering a report on the bombings.
Lester Holt: This is one of the bloodiest days in a long time in Iraq. It's certainly the most violent since US forces withdrew from Iraqi cities in June. Multiple bombings killed at least 95 people in Baghdad and wounded more than 500. A major test for Iraq's security forces and for US policy. We get more now from our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Mick, good evening.
Jim Miklaszewski: Good evening, Lester. US officials are already blaming al Qaeda for today's bombings in an effort to stir up sectarian violence but whos ever responsible, today's bloody and blatant bombings raise serious questions about Iraq's ability to take over its own defense. Six powerful bombs rocked Baghdad within minutes in one of the deadliest days of the entire Iraq War. One blast shook up a meeting of tribal leaders. As smoke filled the room, the speaker called it terrorism. The carnage began with a suicide car bombing at Iraq's Finance Ministry at about eleven this morning. Only three minutes later, a massive truck bomb exploded outside the Foreign Ministry. Then over the next ten minutes four separate bombs tore through Baghdad in a highly coordinated attack. The Foreign Ministry took the most devastating hit -- two tons of explosives shredded the front of the building, killing at least 59 Iraqis. The wounded flocked to Baghdad hospitals. This man said one explosion threw his car into the air. The attacks come less than two months after American combat forces withdrew from Baghdad in an agreement with Iraq's government. Iraqi forces were supposed to take over security operations, but after today's bombings, NBC News producer Ghazi Balkiz says the Iraqis admit they failed in their mission.
Ghazi Balkiz: In a surprising statement tonight, the Iraqi Defense Ministry admitted that the attacks were the result of Iraqi forces negligence and said that they should take most of the blame for the security breach.
Jim Miklaszewski: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could ask the US forces to return to the cities but that would be political suicide and it's unlikely American combat forces would step back into the middle of an Iraqi sectarian war.
Ret General Barry McCaffrey : The last time we went in to take Baghdad, we had several thousand killed and wounded. We won't do it again. We shouldn't do it again.
Jim Miklaszewski: And despite today's attacks and a recent spike in overall violence, US military and Pentagon officials say they still intend to withdraw all US combat forces on schedule. According to one senior official, it's time for the Iraqis to step up and take over ready or not. Lester.
Lester Holt: Jim Miklaszewski, tonight at the Pentagon, thank you.
One of the deadliest days of the entire Iraq War and instead of covering that, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric spent nine minutes on the passing of CBS News' Don Hewitt. 'Once upon' a noted passing at a network resulted in the final thirty seconds with a title card showing the date of birth and date of death. Last night, CBS short changed the news and wallowed in an attempt to turn a private tragedy into world news. On non-commercial broadcast TV, PBS, The NewsHour spoke with Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) about the bombings in Baghdad (link has text, audio and video option).
RAY SUAREZ: Jane Arraf, welcome to the program. You were in the part of Baghdad targeted by these attacks. Tell us what you saw.
JANE ARRAF: Well, it was mostly what I heard, first of all. I was going to the U.N., which was commemorating the sixth anniversary of the bombing of U.N. headquarters, when there was a huge explosion, which turned out to be a mortar, landing fairly close to the U.N. building. And then the blast, this huge blast that was part of a wave of explosions that rocked Baghdad in what really is the biggest security challenge, perhaps, to the Iraqi government in some time, and certainly a challenge to Iraqi security forces' ability to secure the city. Now, the biggest one was outside the Foreign Ministry, where a truck packed with an estimated ton of explosives detonated. There was another bomb shortly after near the Finance Ministry that collapsed part of an overpass. Now, these are some of the most heavily defended buildings in Baghdad. Iraqi authorities say that they confiscated a third truck packed with explosives and showed that on television, big, red plastic barrels filled with explosive material. All in all, it's seen as a test, and a test that Iraqi security forces have failed today.
RAY SUAREZ: Who is the Iraqi government blaming for this explosion? Who would have an interest in committing this kind of crime?
JANE ARRAF: Well, that's the problem in Iraq. Pretty much everyone has an interest, but this specifically, the Iraqi government is saying it's Sunni insurgents and former Saddam loyalists, a strange sort of mix. But it does have the hallmarks of al-Qaida. I went to the site later this afternoon to see what the wreckage looked like and talked to some of the survivors, and it was a huge bomb that actually did look quite a bit like -- the remnants did look like that bombing six years ago.
It was a truck that managed to get close enough and packed with enough explosives that it did tremendous damage. The big ones are normally thought to be al-Qaida, the big suicide bombs, sophisticated attacks, coordinated attacks, and that's who's being blamed for this one today, being blamed, as well, on the streets. A lot of Iraqis think this is either al-Qaida or ex-Baathists, although some of them persist in believing it's the Americans.
If the US just had two broadcast networks, it would have been a pretty good night for US news thanks to NBC and PBS. CBS tossed online Sheila MacVicar's report features CBS News' Mohammed Khalil stating, "Just like the days of the war. You could see dead people in cars still burning. Very awful." At one minute and 23 seconds, more time was spent on 'memories' of Don Hewitt than on reporting deadly violence. On 'memories'. That's not counting the lengthy opening report. That' just trotting out Andy Rooney and others to offer their thoughts on Don's passing. Anyone with half a brain knows you do not make the death of one of your own behind the camera people -- natural causes death -- the LEAD story on your evening broadcast. Anyone with half a brain knows that in 22 minutes newscast, you do not spend 9 minutes on the death of one of your own. 1 minute and 23 seconds is how long Sheila MacVicar's report is. They couldn't spare more time because they devoted 9 minutes to Don Hewitt and, please note, the first person to scream the loudest over that would have been Don Hewitt.
***ADDED: The above has been altered at a friend (at CBS's request). A friend at CBS News states Sheila MacVicar's report did air on the East and Central time zone's CBS Evening News. If so, one minute and 23 seconds were spent on Iraq and over nine minutes on Don. Almost everyone I know is on vacation so I'm going by one person and only one person stating the report aired. It is not on the Evening News I Tivo-ed. I don't do corrections in snapshots, the policy is the next day. I'm doing this because "I'm swearing to you, we had that report" is what I was told. Normally, I would want more than one person stating that. It also doesn't explain why one person at CBS gave me the time Sheila MacVicar's report was dumped online but I can't get ahold of him right now. Because "I'm swearing," I'll take the word of one and change the above. **********
101 deaths and over 570 injured from violence versus the natural causes death of one name not known outside the news industry? Which was news? If you picked "B," you're an embarrassment and may have a bright future in TV news -- at least on CBS and ABC.
Ernesto Londono and Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) report a despondent, 54-year-old man sat outside the Foreign Ministry, eyeing, wondering about his two sons whom he couldn't be reach by phone and who "worked at the ministry," his two sons of whom he says, "They've disappeared." That is a story. That is news. News is Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspaper) quoting Um Khatab asking, "Where are the police? I lost a brother, and they are sitting in their cars with air conditioning?" News is Adam Ashton informing, "Her cries of mourning reverberated in the street while teams of police officers sifted through the site, making their way past burnt-out cars and scorched pavement." Jane Arraf (Global Post) reports, "After the active nightmare of the bombing, by evening the street had the feel of a bad dream -- amid the groups of curious young men, a ministry employee wlaked with blood seeping through the bandage on his head. An anguished mother stumbling over her shoes asked everyoen if they'd seen her missing daughter." It shouldn't be difficult to grasp the heartache and loss of over 100 unexpected deaths due to violence. It shouldn't be but apparently at the once upon a time Tiffany network, it is.
But, hey, CBS News just ignored the tragedy. The White House celebrated it. Jake Tapper and Karen Travers (ABC News) report "A Senior Administration official" states "we believe these attacks will energize our Iraqi partners" and Tapper and Travers underline that comment by observing, "Note the spin at the end that this will energize iraqi troops, not scare them off -- not a view held by all observers of the conflict." Apparently the White House believes, when over 100 people die in bombings, squeeze their bones and call it lemonaide? At the White House today, spokesperson Robert Gibbs did not denounce the remarks thereby saying to the world, "That unnamed official was speaking on behalf of the White House." (For potential fall out effects from the remark, click here.)
The New Statesman observes, "The bombs, which went off yesterday, were directed against the main centres of power, including the parliament and cabinet buildings and the ministries of finance, foreign affairs, health, housing, and education." Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation via NPR) uses the bombings as an attempt to grind his axe against the Kurds, "While President Obama and the Pentagon are focused on Afghanistan, the war in Iraq is showing signs of heading south, and fast. It's not unexpected. Iraq's Arabs and Kurds are nearly at war along the long front that separates the Kurdish region from the rest of Iraq, especially in and around Nineveh province, whose capital is Mosul, and over Tamim province, whose capital, Kirkuk, is coveted by the expansionist Kurds." It takes a real hatred to find a way to attack the Kurds in the midst of supposedly addressing the Baghdad bombings. As Dreyfuss damn well knows, Kirkuk is disputed and Saddam Hussein was the one who kicked the Kurds out of the region. Kirkuk is coveted by the expansionist Nouri al-Maliki and the central government of Baghdad as much as it's covered by "the expansionsit Kurds". It's that kind of observing that reminds people Dreyfuss used to work for Lyndon LaRouche. The Guardian points to: "The cocky reaction of Iraqi generals and police chiefs when the Americans began their withdrawal to the sidelines looks pretty overblown in retrospect. Not only could they handle security as well as the Americans, some of these officers implied, they could handle it better with the foreigners out of the way. Now the Iraqi forces are face to face with their own deficiencies." Liz Sly and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) add, "U.S. helicopters were seen buzzing over the blast sites Wednesday, but Maliki did not ask for help." The Financial Times of London counters that violence would always happen (true) and that the problems are the security forces ("little more than rebadged militia") and "Although Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia Islamist prime minister, is trying to reinvent himself as a nationalist, he has failed to pursue the national reconciliation -- above all with a Sunni minority dispossessed of power by the invasion -- for which the 'surge' was meant to create space. Instead, ahead of elections in January, he has vaingloriously taken credit for reduced violence and for the US troop pullback he hails as a 'liberation'." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki and senior officials met late into the night after the attacks to reassess security measures. The government had pledged to remove concrete blast walls from the city's main roads and reopen streets closed to traffic by mid-September, but now residents expect them to stay." Sahar Issa and Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Eleven Iraqi police and military officers are under arrest as part of an investigation into how two trucks loaded with explosives managed to detonate outside government offices Wednesday . . . The detained officials include two army regiment commanders, the commander of a police emergency company and five chiefs of neighborhood police units."
Kirit Radi (ABC News) reports on the Pentagon press conference US Lt Gen Frank Helmick participated in today via videolink from Baghdad where he declared, "What I am personally frustrated with is that, again, we must continue to develop the capabilities inside the Iraqi military. And we are doing that as fast as we can. My frustration is we -- I am not doing it fast enough." Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) adds that the Lt Gen revealed Nouri's people were asking for US "intelligence, surveillance and forensics assistance". She notes that when Nouri was in DC last month, he floated the idea that US troops might remain in Iraq past the end of 2011.
The US military presence on the ground in Iraq needs authorization. Any foreign military being on the ground in Iraq needs authorization. The failure of the British and Iraqi government to reach an agreement (Parliament adjourned before finalizing the agreement) is why the British military had to pull back to Kuwait last month. For the bulk of the illegal war, the invasion was illegal but the occupation had the cover of the United Nations. The UN did not authorize the invasion. It did authorize the occupation and that provided the authority for foreign forces to be on the ground in Iraq. Nouri wasn't supposed to renew the mandate in 2006 but he did. And he did so without the authorization of the Parliament. That's an important detail. Parliament was outraged. He vowed he would get their approval next time but as the mandate was set to expire, he renewed it in 2007. Without their approval. For a vareity of reasons -- including Iraq's debt issues -- Nouri did not want to renew the mandate when it expired December 31, 2008. He and the White House went with a treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. The SOFA replaces the UN mandate. Each year the UN mandate had to be renewed. To bide time, the SOFA allowed US forces to remain in Iraq for three years. (The contract can be cancelled by either side at any time. 12 months after official notification of cancellation, all US forces would have to be out of Iraq.) The SOFA did not end the Iraq War. That is a misreading of the SOFA and of contract law. The SOFA replaces the UN mandate and, instead of being yearly, covers three years. If it's not renewed or if it's cancelled -- and if nothing replaces it -- US forces have to leave. But the SOFA is not "THE END OF THE IRAQ WAR." If it was that, then all hail George W. Bush for ending the Iraq War because the SOFA is George's document. Barack's chosen to follow it but it's George's document.
Nouri is correct that the US could stay on if the prime minister of Iraq and (maybe) their Parliament wanted it. "Maybe" on the Parliament -- as counseled by the US State Dept in 2006 and 2007, Nouri knows his cutting the Parliament out of the UN mandate issue allowed him to seize powers which the prime minister can now maintain is his or her power due to "custom." That has implication in terms of the elections scheduled for January which Nouri is currently stating will include a referendum on the SOFA. By "custom," the vote matters less than the prime minister's say so. The Parliament grumbled in 2006 and 2007 but did not seek to address the issue (renewing the UN mandate) through the court system or pass binding legislation. By "custom," Nouri's established the renewal option as belonging to the office of the prime minister. So Nouri may let the SOFA go to a vote but that vote would only matter if the prime minister (which may or may not be Nouri) decides it matters. That's for January.
In terms of US forces leaving Iraq, the SOFA does not mean that. The SOFA was not created to end the Iraq War. It was created to replace the UN mandate (Nouri didn't want to renew it due to the economic issues among other things; the Bush administration didn't want to renew it due to the obligations the US would have as an occupying power -- obligations never lived up to and that had received very little attention). The SOFA was about finding a way for US forces to remain in Iraq. If it runs the full three years, it can expire at the end of the three years and the US military (except marines guarding the US embassy in Baghdad) could leave. But it can also be renewed or replaced with another agreement. The SOFA does not say: "THERE SHALL BE NO RENEWAL." It's a one year contract with two options for renwal which allow it run three years if neither side objects. Then it done or it's renewed or it's replaced.
As long noted, the Iraqi military will not be ready to patrol their own air space at the end of 2011 (an issue raised in the press conference). That and Nouri's comments and the comments of others in the Iraqi government indicate that 2011 is not necessarily the end of the Iraq War. Asked at the press conference today, Kirit Radia (ABC News) reports, Lt Gen Frank Helmick stated, "The review of any security agreement with the Iraqi government is up to the government of Iraq and the United States. That is a policy decision that will have to be discussed between the two governments." Sahar Issa and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Iraqi politicians, who are vying for January's scheduled parliamentary elections, want to exert their independence from the Americans. At the Pentagon, commanders are looking for ways to shift resources from former President George W. Bush's war toward Afghanistan, which . . ." Sorry Nancy and Sahar, it's Barack's war. He's president now and it hasn't ended. Not only has it not ended, Barack's operating it under George W. Bush's plan. Barack's continued the Iraq War, he owns it now. In August of 2005, Senator Russ Feingold put foward a proposal people appear to have forgotten today: December 2006 as the target date for US troops to withdraw fully (not just 'combat' troops). That's fifteen months. It's do-able. Barack, who promised at first to have "troops" (in his rah-rah speeches, he didn't specify "combat troops") out in sixteen months and then promised they'd be out in ten. Those are do-able as well. Largely forgotten is that, when running for president in 1972, George McGovern had a plan for withdrawing ALL US troops from Vietnam in six weeks. It was do-able -- and the US had many more service members in Vietnam and much, much more equipment so all US forces could be withdrawan today in six weeks. Instead of using any of those options, Barack's elected to continue the illegal war and, apparently tired from all of his photo shoots, didn't have time to come up with his own plan so he's continuing Bully Boy's Bush's. But it's his war now. And that sentence? It's not reporting. It might belong in a column -- which would be opinion -- but "At the Pentagon, commanders are looking for ways to shift resources from former President George W. Bush's war toward Afghanistan" does not belong in reporting. It is inaccurate. A war continuing seven months after Bush left the White House is no longer his war. That's reality and it's that sort of bulls**t that goes to the press love of Barack Obama. That's why they're considered biased and they should be considered biased when they're foolish enough to try to pass that off as reporting.
In Barack Obama's illegal war today, many were reported dead.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad motorcycle bombing which claimed 2 lives and left four people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi solider and left five more wounded and, dropping back to yesterday, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left four more injured. Sami al-Jumaili, Michael Christie and Richard Williams (Reuters) report Babel bombings and possible mortar attacks which claimed 7 lives and left fifty-five people injured based on police reports and they note "there appeared to have been at least three blasts."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Wednesday night attack on a Nineveh checkpoint which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the corpses of 5 "members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan" (Jalal Talabani's political party) were discovered today following their kidnapping this morning.
Monday Human Rights Watch released a report entitled "'They Want Us Exterminated': Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq." For the 67-page report [PDF format warning] click here. At the Guardian, HRW's Scott Long explains:
Across Iraq, a killing campaign has spread since early this year. Armed gangs have kidnapped men and tortured them, leaving castrated and mutilated bodies dumped in the garbage or in front of morgues. In April, during a Human Rights Watch research trip to Iraq, men told us tales of death threats, blackmail, midnight raids by masked men on private homes and abductions from the streets. The targets? Men suspected of being gay, or of not being "masculine" enough in their killers' eyes.
Most survivors pointed to Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, the largest Shia militia in Iraq, as the driving force behind the killings. Sadrist mosques and leaders have warned loudly that homosexuality threatens Iraqi life and culture – though even some Sunni militias may have joined the violence, competing to show their moral credentials. No one can yet give an accurate tally of the victims, but some say the dead may number in the hundreds.
Police and prosecutors ignore the murders. Infiltrated by militias, fearing for their reputations if they defend "effeminate" men, government officials give the killers virtually complete impunity. One 21-year-old even told us how interior ministry forces kidnapped him in February, believing that gay people had access to western money. They tortured him and raped him repeatedly over three weeks, until he managed to raise cash to pay for his freedom. He says he saw the bodies of five other gay men whom the police killed because they could not pay.
Scott Long explained to Deutsche Welle earlier this week, "Iraq's leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate. Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi." Weighing in on the report, Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) observes:
Yes, when you destroy a society by aggressive war, when you kill more than one million innocent people (out of a total population of 25 million: a kill rate of one out of every 25 Iraqis), when you dispossess four million innocent people, when you join with your local puppets in a savage war of ethnic cleansing, when through invasion and prior years of near-genocidal sanctions you eviscerate one of the most secular states in the Middle East, when you empower violent religious extremists to further your own agenda of domination, this is what you get: the eruption of the human mind's most savage instincts and blind fears, set loose in a maelstrom of degradation.
And still, the urbane, educated, civilized, "progressive" president can stand before the world and declare that America's military rapine of Iraq is "an extraordinary achievement." And so it is. And so was the Holocaust, the Inquisition, the Trail of Tears, the liquidation of the "kulaks" and many other epiphanies of human civilization. But to be extraordinarily evil is not usually considered something to brag about. That Obama can do so without batting an eye is a telling indication of moral degradation of our own society.
Yesterday's snapshot noted the attempts in England to deport a gay Iraqi male. Jessica Green (Pink News) reports, "Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Sarah Teather, who has championed the case of her constituent, has said the news means it is more likely he will be killed if he is deported. The man, who has not been named to protect his safety, was due to be deported in February after it was ruled he would be safe in Iraq. His lawyers won a judicial review and the case is currently being considered by Home Office ministers. He originally applied for asylum in 2001." And he'll be safe, the government is maintaining, because he can be "discreet." UK government documents advise that he should be able "to conduct such relationships in private on his return to Iraq." Yes, they really are that damn stupid or uncaring. They really are. Meanwhile Chris Jai Centeno (The Advocate) reports, "Gay Iraqis seeking refugee status in Sweden are being barred by the government amid protests from human rights activists advocating for cessation of deportations of asylum seekers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender."
"There comes a time when silence is betrayal" is one of two quotes by MLK that Cindy Sheehan notes in "We Have the Moral High Ground" (Cindy's Soapbox) and the silence on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community is a betrayal. But she's commenting on another one and that's the left that came down with a severe case of laryngitis:
I remember back in the good ol' days of 2005 and 2006 when being against the wars was not only politically correct, but it was very popular. I remember receiving dozens of awards, uncountable accolades and even was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Those were the halcyon days of the anti-war movement before the Democrats took over the government (off of the backs of the anti-war movement) and it became anathema to be against the wars and I became unpopular on all sides. I guess at that point, I could have gone with the flow and pretended to support the violence so I could remain popular, but I think I have to fiercely hold on to my core values whether I am "liked" or not.
Killing is wrong no matter if it is state-sanction murder or otherwise. Period. Not too much more to say on that subject, except what I quote above from Dr. King.
However, while the so-called left is obsessed over supporting a very crappy Democratic health care plan, people in far away countries are being deprived of their health and very lives by the Obama Regime's continuation of Bush's ruinous foreign policy.
Cindy Sheehan will be demonstrating with others against the never-ending wars on Martha's Vineyard during Barack's vacation next week. She'll be on the Vineyard starting Tuesday.
the christian science monitor
the cbs evening news with katie couric
nbc nightly news
nancy a. youssef
the los angeles times