Monday, December 07, 2009

Many children dead in today's latest wave of Iraqi violence

The violence never stops in Iraq. BBC News (link has text and video) reports a Baghdad bombing this morning has claimed 7 lives ("mostly children"). Reuters states the dead are all children and that 42 people are injured in the Sadr City bombing, "It was not clear if the bomb had been set to go off at that time or was inadvertently detonated after a rubbish heap was set on fire, the officer said. The blast made a crater 2 metres (6 feet) deep and 5 metres (16 feet) wide, he added." Reuters also notes 5 Sahwa were shot dead at a Baghdad checkpoint, 2 Sahwa were shot dead at a Kirkuk checkpoint and a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left five people injured.

In England, the Iraq Inquiry continues hearing public testimony today. PA reports Edward Chaplin has testified this morning that the US refused to fund reconstruction in Basra adequately. Chaplin was the British Ambassador to Iraq in 2004 and it's interesting how his finger pointing at the US (I'm not denying the US has done appalling on reconstruction -- even worse, what they've overfunded has been waste; however, I believe we learned some of British's lack of funding for Basra last week). Chaplin's testimony can be seen as a diversion -- it is also far, far from the reasons the Inquiry was supposed to have been created -- why did England take part in the Iraq War?

More pressing news out of England involves two Iraqi males arrested in Iraq by the British military and handed over to the US "who then took them to Afghanistan in 2004," the BBC reports. The British actively took part in partnering with the US for rendition (kidnapping). Robert Verhaik (Independent of London) reports:

In February this year the former Defence Secretary, John Hutton, admitted that UK forces had captured two men in Iraq in February 2004, and handed them to US forces. In subsequent statements to parliament, the government revealed that in March 2004, British officials had become aware of the US intention to transfer the men from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Reprieve says that Mr Hutton’s statement misled Parliament because ministers must have know that neither of the men could have been members of the Sunni extremist group they are accused of working for as both are Shia Muslims.
Mr Hutton also said that the men were taken to Afghanistan so that they could be interviewed using interpreters who spoke their own language. But Reprieve rejects this arguing that it was used as a pretext to rendition and claims that both men spoke Arabic and could have been interviewed in Iraq.
Reprieve has now tracked down the men still held unlawfully in the notorious Bagram prison.

Reprieve is a United Kingdom human rights group and we'll note this from their press release:

Reprieve's investigation reveals the identity of one man, Amanatullah Ali, together with damning evidence that the British government misled parliament and the public on the case.
In February 2008, after years of government denials that the UK had been involved in any rendition operations, then-Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton announced to parliament that UK forces had captured two men in Iraq in February 2004, and handed them to US forces. In subsequent statements to parliament, the government revealed that in March 2004, British officials had become aware of the US intention to transfer the men from Iraq to Afghanistan.
The British government admitted its complicity in a crime (kidnapping, otherwise called rendition), admitted it was wrong, and appeared to apologize. Yet the government will not identify the men, which would be most basic act that the government could do in order to reunite the men with their legal rights.
Indeed, the British government has apparently taken no step over the past five years to ensure that they receive legal assistance.
The day after Mr Hutton's statement to the House, Reprieve wrote to the Defence Secretary, asking him to identify the two men so that Reprieve lawyers – acting pro bono as always – could help make up for the regrettable involvement by the British government in this crime by acting for the men and their families and seek to secure their release.
Despite the clear urgency of the situation, it took the UK government three months to reply. The Ministry of Defence wrote that they would not reveal the prisoners’ names, taking the position that doing so would violate the prisoners's rights under the Data Protection Act.
It is deeply disturbing that the MoD could apologize for our country’s involvement in this wrongdoing, and yet refuse to assist to put matters right. Reprieve therefore embarked on an investigation.

1) Britain's Iraq renditions and the legal consequences
2) How Defence Secretary Hutton misled Parliament
3) How the UK violated the MoU governing transfer of prisoners
4) Why Mr Amanatullah urgently needs a lawyer
5) Why Bagram Internment Facility makes us all less safe
6) Further questions and timeline of events

1) Britain's Iraq renditions and the legal consequences
Our complicated and expensive search for the identity of the men has covered three continents over six months. It now appears that the MoD statement to the House was factually incorrect on key points.
Reprieve has now identified one of the men as Amanatullah Ali, and interviewed his family in a small village in the Pakistani Punjab. In his limited, and censored communications with his family he has told them that he was detained by the British, rather than the Americans; he has asked them to pray for his safe return, and to get him help. Amanatullah Ali is a fluent Arabic speaker.
We have not been able to positively identify the second man, although our interviews with other released Bagram prisoners have gleaned some facts about him. He is apparently known as “Salahuddin”. Significantly, he was brought up in the Gulf states (where the primary language is Arabic). "Salahuddin" has not been able to contact his family or even reassure them that he is alive. Reprieve has been told by multiple sources that as a result of his abuse in UK and US custody, "Salahuddin" is in catastrophic mental and physical shape, and now spends most of his time in the mental health cells at Bagram.
Our claim is that the men must be formally identified, along with any information that could help us find their family members, so that we can seek a next friend authorization. This issue is now moot with respect to one of the men, but not the other.
Furthermore, because the UK has been mixed up in the wrong-doing, our claim is that the UK is legally obliged to help us fight their case. This issue is very much alive for both men.
Because we can already prove that one man (Amanatullah) is a Shia, the notion that he was a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) becomes effectively impossible – as LeT is a Sunni extremist group that would view a Shia as an apostate.

In other news out of England, Simon Walters (Daily Mail) reports, "Shocking new evidence reveals how the Labour Government bullied the Cabinet Minister who told Tony Blair that the Iraq War was illegal. Former Defence Secretary John Reid banned the head of the Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, from taking Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to Baghdad to investigate alleged mistreatment of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers." The Goldsmith revelations are all press revelations -- by that I mean, it is the press that has been unearthing Goldsmith news for the last two weeks, not the Iraq Inquiry. Chris Ames (writing at Index on Censorship) offers an evaluation on the Iraq Inquiry thus far:

The first two weeks of the Iraq Inquiry have seen some very guarded testimony from government witnesses, with the occasional revelation slipping out. But perhaps the most interesting revelation came from Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot, who admitted, implicitly and probably inadvertently, that the earlier Butler review of which he was a member watered down its findings.
The revelation shines a light on the process by which establishment inquiries are conducted. In particular it shows the difficulty they have not in getting to the truth but in disclosing it publicly.
In an early session on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, Chilcot quoted a well-known claim from Tony Blair’s foreword to the September 2002 dossier on Iraq’s WMD: “What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons…” He commented that: “The Butler Committee, I think, came to a view that it was not a statement it was possible to make on the basis of intelligence.” One witness, Tim Dowse, a proliferation expert at the Foreign Office replied: “I think, with hindsight, the Butler Committee made a fair comment.”
The trouble is, the Butler report, published in July 2004, made no such comment. It made no comment on Blair’s claim at all. In fact, it made no comment on Blair’s foreword but merely published it in an appendix and invited readers to “reach their own conclusions.” The report’s main conclusion on the dossier was that while warnings about the limitations of the intelligence underlying its conclusions were not made sufficiently clear, “judgements in the dossier went to (although not beyond) the outer limits of the
intelligence available.” The assessment that it was possible to make the dossier’s claims on the basis of the intelligence available is effectively the opposite of Chilcot’s recent description of the view that the committee came to.

Yesterday, ten minutes before midnight in Baghdad, the Parliament hammered out an election measure that may take (or may not). The KRG is under the pressure that they have a firm promise from the US that a census will (finally) take place next year. Such a census will especially effect Kirkuk -- a disputed territory sought by the central government in Baghdad (who asserts that it is not a predominately Kurdish population in the area) and by the KRG (who asserts that it is historically Kurdish and point out the Kurds were forced out by Saddam Hussein). Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports new construction is ongoing in Kirkuk:

The homes are being built by Kurds who have poured into the northern province of Kirkuk to reassert, they say, their claim to land from which they were expelled by Saddam Hussein in an effort to create an Arab majority.
The oil fires illustrate the main reason the land is so hotly contested: Kirkuk is sitting on an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil and produces a quarter of Iraq's current output. That's enough to sustain an independent state should the Kurds get their way and annex the area to the largely autonomous Kurdistan enclave to the north -- and to bankrupt the state of Iraq should the revenue be lost.
Arabs and ethnic Turkmens, who also live here and want the province to remain under Iraqi control, are dismayed by the size of the Kurdish influx, which they say far exceeds the numbers driven out by Hussein. They suspect that Kurdish outsiders are moving to the area to influence the outcome of a referendum on whether to absorb Kirkuk into Kurdistan.

Friday night Patrick Martin and Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail) published a lengthy, indepth piece on oil in the Kurdistan Region and we'll note this from it:

On Dec. 11, the major oil players will have a key opportunity to place their bets on Iraq's future. Baghdad plans to auction off the right to develop 10 unexplored but highly prospective oil and gas fields, including some near Kirkuk, following a similar auction earlier this year.
Some 40 of the world's biggest oil companies are qualified to bid next week. Their ultimate success hinges on Iraq's ability to forge political compromises that will allow for peaceful development. The crucial test is Kirkuk, where Kurds and Arab Iraqis battle for control of the area, while coveted oil resources offer lasting economic benefits.
"Iraq is a high-risk place, there is no way around it," says Samuel Ciszuk, a Middle East energy analyst with IHS Global Insight. "But the opportunity for reward is also great."
If things go well – an enormous if – Iraq could boost its production from 2.5 million barrels a day to more than seven million by 2016, making it the third-largest producer after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Barack Obama fluttered his War Hawk feathers last week as he announced he was sending more US troops to Afghanistan. Elaine Brower (World Can't Wait) observes:

So President Obama did what he said he was going to do, escalate the war in Afghanistan. Not only last March, when he sent 24,000 troops, but yesterday when he made his slick announcement at West Point Military Academy in New York to send another 30,000 more starting immediately. This month, 9,000 marines are set to deploy to Helmund Province to "root out" the drug lords stronghold, and fight the Taliban "insurgents." Huh? Is this a "War on Terror" or a "War on Drugs" or are we nation building?
I'm confused, aren't you? Just last month we were saving the women in Afghanistan, and the month before that we were bringing democracy by aiding the Afghan people in their democratic election process. What a bunch of bunk. And it is being sold to us by the best “used car salesman” on the planet! A smooth operator, Obama is selling us right down the river, along with 100,000 more troops into Afghanistan, special operations forces, almost equal amount of mercenary contractors hired to kill, and don't forget the constant increase in drone bombings. Our troops are exhausted with more than multiple deployments, suffering from traumatic brain injuries, severe PTSD, and wounds so horrible that years ago a soldier would have died immediately.
But the speech he gave last night at West Point could have made you stop and wonder, if you didn't know better. Most Americans don't. They buy the rhetoric that “the United States does not occupy other countries"” or “the United States has helped suffering nations by rebuilding and sending aid.” Were you scratching your head? Well, I was sitting outside the West Point gate, along with 300 other really angry protesters!

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "It Takes A Starlet" went up last night. The e-mail address for this site is