Sunday, January 03, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

Five British hostages were kidnapped May 29, 2007 in Iraq and, Wednesday, one was released: Peter Moore. Moore, Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell, Alan McMenemy and Jason Swindelhurst were kidnapped by the League of Righteous from the Ministry of Finance and, following the US military releasing League of Righteous members from their prisons in Iraq in June, the bodies of Crewswell, Swindelhurts and Maclachlan were slowly turned over to British authorities. The British government announced in July that they believed Alan McMenemy was dead but his family has continued to hold out hope. John Leland (New York Times) reports, "On Sunday, the Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said that he did not know for sure whether Mr. McMenemy was dead, and that he hoped for 'a handover' in the next few days." Assad Abboud (AFP) quotes an unnamed spokesperson for the British Foreign Office stating, "Our position is unchanged. We have believed for some time that Alan's been killed and his immediate family have been told our views. We continue to urge those holding Alan to return his body immediately. We're in close contact with the Iraqi authorities and we're doing everything we can to try and secure a swift return to the UK." Leland explains that the League of Righteous' Laith al-Khazali had to be released by the Americans back in June before the corpses were retutnred and that his brother, Qais al-Khazali, was released from the US prison "just hours" before Peter Moore was released. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports:

The Shia cleric, Qais al-Khazali, who held the key to Peter Moore's fate was freed from Iraqi custody tonight in a move that is widely expected to prompt the handover of the body of the last of the five kidnapped Britons, Alan McMenemy.
Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman and the Sadr Office in Baghdad confirmed the Iranian-linked cleric was released after a cursory period of three days in Iraqi custody that followed the almost three years he spent in an American detention centre.
Leaders of the Shia resistance group, The Righteous League, which captured the five men in May 2007 have committed to releasing the remains of McMenemy, who is believed to have been killed along with Moore's three other guards. Negotiators who have dealt with the hostage takers tonight reiterated that they were "100% sure" that McMenemy was dead. They joined the Foreign Office in downplaying speculation from Baghdad that he was still alive.

Who are the League of Righteous? A group tight with Nouri al-Maliki. Once followers of Moqtada al-Sadr. From the June 9th snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

The ringleaders of an attack on a US base that killed 5 American troops were in US custody and they were released, traded so that 3 British corpses and 1 British citizen could be released. Kind of hard for Barack to play commander in chief and enstill a fighting spirit or pride within the military when the answer to an attack on a US base that results in multiple deaths is the killers walk. Alice Fordham (Times of London) explains, "The release of Mr McMenemy, or his remains, is being linked to the impending freeing of a Shia cleric and leader of Asaib al-Haq (AAH), League of the Righteous, the group that held the five Britons. Qais al-Khazali, the AAH leader, was transferred from US to Iraqi custody shortly before the release of Mr Moore on December 30."

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4371. Tonight it remains 4372. Turning to some of the violence reported today . . .


Reuters reports a Mosul mortar attack which injured "a shepherd."


Reuters reports 1 security guard was shot by a member of the Iraqi military ("accidentally") leaving him injured and 3 men were shot dead in Mosul (their bodies then set on fire).


Reuters reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul ("strangled").

Meanwhile the decision by Judge Ricardo Urbina (announced Thursday) to toss out the case against Blackwater for the September 2007 massacre as a result of the Justice Department basing much of their case on statements the contractors gave to the US State Dept -- statements given after the men were told anything they said would not be used against them -- has the Baghdad based government or 'government' enraged. CNN interviewed Ali al-Dabbagh, Nouri's spokesperson, today and he insisted that not only did Iraq plan to appeal the dismissal. al-Dabbagh's attempt to pose as shocked might have more power were it not for the fact that he also threatened to expell Black water, "Instructions have been given to check if there is any Blackwater member [in the country]. I advise him to leave Iraq and not to stay in Iraq anymore.' Oh, now? Now you want Blackwater (trying to rebrand as Xe) out? Now? After a judge's decision? But not after the shooting massacre in which 17 Iraqis were killed? Over two years after that, you want to hop the high horse and demand that they leave? These are among the reasons some Iraqi people do not feel the Baghdad government or 'government' represents them.

The Baghdad government or 'government' doesn't represent the Sahwa as evidenced by their refusal to bring them into the Iraqi forces. Sahwa ("Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq") are Sunni militias paid by the US military to stop attacking the US military and its equipment. In 2008, Nouri was supposed to take over the monthly payments (US tax payers were paying approximately 92,000 Sahwas $300 a month) but he couldn't get it together. Still couldn't in Februrary. In the summer he reported finally managed to absorb all the payments (reportedly? there's still no accounting for CERP funds). He's not bringing them in and there are rumors they get kicked off the payroll this month. Michael Gisick (Stars and Stripes) reports attacks on Sahwa are on the rise with the US military estimating an average of ten attacks a week in the last two months:

The killing of several members of the U.S.-allied Sunni militias known as "Sons of Iraq" has underscored the increasing weakness of groups widely credited with helping turn the tide of the Iraq war.
About a dozen members of the groups have been killed in the rural areas south of Baghdad in recent weeks, U.S. military officials say. Similar attacks have occurred elsewhere, including the execution-style killing of five SOI members north of Baghdad on Tuesday.
The attacks come amid growing signs that the Sunni insurgency is seeking to reassert itself ahead of March elections.

In England, the Iraq Inquiry resumes public hearings tomorrow. This as the Press Trust of India is reporting that Prince Charles spoke out against the Iraq War to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. Richard Palmer (Daily Express) reports, "Prince Charles will refuse to give evidence to the Iraq war inquiry amid claims he broke royal tradition by actively campaigning against the invasion."

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes this from Great Britian's Socilaist Worker:

Longstanding revolutionary Frank Henderson has died

Supporters of Socialist Worker will be sad to hear the news that longstanding revolutionary socialist Frank Henderson died on New Year’s Eve.

Those who want to know more about Frank’s life can read his memoir, Life on the Track; Memoirs of a Socialist Worker.

You can read a review of the book » here

You can also read an interview with Frank explaining why he became a socialist » here

Our condolences go to Frank’s family and comrades.

There will be a full obituary in the next issue of Socialist Worker.

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And more honors for Kathryn Bigelow and the masterpiece she directed, The Hurt Locker. Kathryn was picked as Best Director and the film as Best Picture by the National Society of Film Critics Awards. (Disclosure, I know Bigelow and she directed an amazing film.)

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