Tuesday, June 8, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, England (and others) gear up for forced returns of Iraqi refugees to Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament will allegedly meet shortly, help lie the US into illegal war and get promoted by Barack, and more.
March 7, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. CNN reports Iraqi President Jalal Talabani stated today that the Parliament will hold its first meeting June 14th -- which would be three months and seven days after the election. AFP adds, "Once parliament is opened, Iraq's constitution states that MPs must first select a speaker for the Council of Representatives, and then choose a new president. The president will then call on the leader of the biggest parliamentary bloc to form a government, who will be given 30 days to do so."
Meanwhile the Iraq War created the largest refugee crisis in the world with over 4 million internal and external refugees. External refugees left Iraq due to the violence -- often violence that claimed the life of one of their family members, often due to threats of death if they didn't leave. As a group, they have no desire to return. There is nothing to go back to for many (their abandoned homes were long since occupied) and the violence, which has never ceased, could return to the 2005, 2006 and 2007 levels (popularly known as the "civil war") were refugees -- especially Sunni ones -- to return in large numbers. It is not safe for returns. Last Thursday's snapshot included the following:
Meanwhile in England, Owen Bowcott (Guardian) reports on what would be England's second known deportation of Iraqis -- forcible deportation. The last one, you may remember, resulted in a British plane landing in Iraq and Iraqi guards refusing to allow everyone to disembark so the plane returned to England. Bowcott notes that approximately 70 Iraqis will be forcibly deported Wednesday, June 9th: "The operation, deporting them via the central provinces of Iraq, is in direct contravention of United Nations guidelines. The UN high commissioner for refugees opposes forced returns to the area because of continuing suicide bombings and violence. The UN guidance was explicitly restated last autumn after the UK attempted to deport 44 men to Baghdad. That abortive operation resulted in Iraqi airport officials refusing to admit all but 10 of the men. The rest were told to reboard the plane and flown back to the UK."
That deportation is thought to take place tomorrow. Today Amnesty International issued the following:
Reacting to reports that a charter flight carrying Iraqi nationals is scheduled to leave the UK for Baghdad via Halmstad, Sweden in the early hours of 9 June, Amnesty International stressed that removals to Baghdad are not safe and should not take place.
Amnesty International opposes any forcible returns to Iraq in the current situation of ongoing insecurity and instability. Amnesty International believes that Iraqis from the five provinces of Iraq considered to be particularly dangerous, namely Ninewa (Mosul), Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Baghdad, should be granted refugee status or a form of subsidiary protection, and that in the case of asylum-seekers from other provinces of Iraq an individual assessment should be made to assess whether they also qualify for refugee or subsidiary protection.
Amnesty International UK refugee programme director Jan Shaw said:
"It's unfathomable that the UK can consider Baghdad a safe place to return people. Our report in April documented scores of civilian killings, some of whom were tortured and their bodies mutilated before they were dumped in the street. Bombings continue to take scores of lives.
"As far as we are concerned, removing someone to Iraq should only take place when the security situation in the whole country has stabilised.
"Until the situation improves and it is safe to return to Iraq, these people should be offered some form of protection in the UK."
Despite the ongoing violence in Iraq, several European governments have forcibly returned rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Iraq. In 2009, the authorities in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK forcibly returned Iraqis to unsafe parts of Iraq, such as central Iraq, in breach of UNHCR guidelines.
On 15 October 2009 UK authorities forcibly deported 44 rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Baghdad; the Iraqi authorities allowed only ten of them to enter and the remainder were flown back to the UK. The Norwegian authorities forcibly returned 30 Iraqis to Baghdad in December 2009 and 13 in January 2010.
For its report "Iraq: Civilians under fire" published in April 2010, Amnesty International spoke to several Iraqis who were forcibly returned by the Netherlands government on 30 March 2010. Among the 35 refugees was a 22-year-old Shi'a Turkoman man from Tal Afar, a city north of Mosul, where hundreds of civilians have been killed in sectarian or other politically motivated violence in recent years, and where the violence continues unabated. As of mid-April, he remained stranded in Baghdad.
Reuters notes that England's not the only country planning a forced deportation of Iraqi refugees this week -- Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands are also conspiring -- and that UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson Melissa Fleming states they are opposed to the deportations and, "Despite these people having had their applications for asylum rejected, we fear for their futures and their own physical protection if they were to be returned." UNHCR has repeatedly noted that it is not safe for governments to force returns. In a Geneva briefing today, Melissa Fleming explained:
UNHCR understands that four governments -- the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK -- are arranging an enforced removal of Iraqi citizens to Baghdad, Iraq later this week. We have not received confirmed information of the number and profile of those individuals and whether some have requested protection.
Our position and advice to governments is that Iraqi asylum applicants originating from Iraq's governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa and Salah-al-Din, as well as from Kirkuk province, should continue to benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or another form of protection depending on the circumstances of the case. Our position reflects the volatile security situation and the still high level of prevailing violence, security incidents, and human rights violations taking place in these parts of Iraq. UNHCR considers that serious -- including indiscriminate -- threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from violence or events seriously disturbing public order are valid reasons for international protection.
UNHCR appreciates that the international protection needs of Iraqis are assessed by asylum authorities in Europe and elsewhere on an individual basis. We urge those authorities to ensure that the situation in Iraq as a whole, including the important level of lawlessness, is factored into their assessments. While some have proposed that returned Iraqis could reside in other parts of the country from where they originate, UNHCR's position is that no internal flight alternative exists in Iraq because of the on-going levels of violence in Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-Din, and in view of access and residency restrictions in various governorates as well as the hardship faced by returnees in ensuring even survival in areas of relocation.
The continued insurgency in Iraq and on-going violence there has led to large scale internal and external displacement of the Iraqi population, with most refugees living in Syria and Jordan. UNHCR is concerned about the signal that forced returns from Europe could give to other host countries, particularly those neighbouring Iraq.
Saturday, Iraqi LGBT issued a statement decrying the deportations:
London, 4 June 2010 - The Iraqi LGBT group has today expressed its 'deep concern' about reports that the British Home Office is planning to return 100 Iraqi refugees to Baghdad Wednesday 9 June - despite a recent UK report saying this was not safe.
"This group will certainly contain deeply closeted gay people and they will be at extreme risk of torture and murder in Baghdad," said Group leader Ali Hili.
Iraqi LGBT say that the Iraqi government provide no security for gays - infact the opposite as its members have reported the involvement of both police and Interior Ministry forces in handing over gay people to militias with either their tortured bodies being subsequently discovered or them disappearing.
The group has just released new testimony about Iraqi government complicity on YouTube, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ts3PedvPrs
Said Hili, "the Western media is not reporting the level of violence continuing in Baghdad. Bombings and assassinations continue to happen almost daily - this is why the United Nations said it is unsafe to remove refugees to that city. The lack of reporting means that the Home Office think they can get away with this inhuman action."
Amnesty International said in April that there was evidence that members of the security forces and other authorities were encouraging the targeting of people suspected to be gay.
The report added that killers of gay men could find protection under the law, as it offers lenient sentences for those committing crimes with an "honourable motive".
"We condemn the proposed removals by the British government and the Iraqi government's complicity. Many of these people are opponents of the regime and if returned will end up being killed."
It has been reported by the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) that the 100 refugees have been screened by UK Border Agency 'ambassadors' pretending to be Iraqi embassy representatives at a detention centre. Refugees have reported being threatened by those 'interviewing' them.
"We are very familiar with such threats," said Ali. "I and other members of our group in exile have faced this, as have our family members. Many of our members have been murdered in Iraq and we have had safe houses invaded and people massacred. If these people are removed many of them will also be murdered."
Iraqi LGBT has cataloged 738 murders in the past five years.
The group has backed the call by the IFIR for the British government to end what IFIR calls "this inhuman policy" of refugee removals to Iraq.
Notes for editors
1. Iraqi LGBT is a human rights organisation with members inside Iraq and in exile. It provides safe houses for gays, lesbians and transgender people and has helped people escape into exile.
2. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees campaigns for the rights of Iraqi refugees and against forcible deportations and detention. The Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq campaigns against the forcible deportation and detention of Iraqi refugees.
3. The flight will be the first to Iraq since the 14th October, when ten people were deported to Baghdad and the thirty-three others on the plane were sent back by the Iraqi authorities.
See www.csdiraq.com for more information
4. At least four million Iraqis have been forced to flee either to another part of Iraq or abroad since the war began in 2003
5. According to Home Office figures, 632 people were forcibly deported to the KRG region in the north between 2005 and 2008. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees estimates that the figure, with the monthly charter flights deporting 50 people at a time since the beginning of 2009, currently stands at approximately 900.
6. Iraqi LGBT has worked with and supported the work of IFIR for several years.
Alan Travis and Owen Bowcott (Guardian) report that attorneys with the UK's Treasury Solicitor's Department are calling on judges not to offer any stays or delays to the planned deportations.
From foreign countries forcing Iraqis to return to a foreign country carving out a presence in Iraq. Yesterday's snapshot included, "The right-wing World Tribune carries an unsigned report which maintains, citing Jabar Yawar, the Deputy Kurdish Interior Minister, that not only did the Iranian military enter Iraqi space but that they 'established a base in the Kurdish village of Predunaz on June 3' and remain there." Today Asso Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) reports that "About 35 Iranians remained behind, in an area near the Perdunaz border crossing, and have since been observed building a fortified structure high on a mountain, said the Kurdish regional government's defense spokesman, Jaber Yawer. From a nearby Kurdish observation post, two bulldozers, alongside a small tank, can be seen digging fortifications."
In November of last year, Rod Nordland (New York Times) explained the 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board' -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wantd as nothing more than an explosive divining rod." They are the ADE 651s with a ticket price of between $16,500 and $60,000 and Iraq had bought over 1,500. More news came with arrests on January 22: "Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight -- link has text and video) reports that England has placed an export ban on the ADE-651 'bomb detector' -- a device that's cleaned Iraq's coffers of $85 million so far. Steven Morris (Guardian) follows up noting that, 'The managing director [Jim McCormick] of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today'." From the January 25th snapshot:
Riyad Mohammed and Rod Norldand (New York Times) reported on Saturday that the reaction in Iraq was outrage from officials and they quote MP Ammar Tuma stating, "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device." Despite the turn of events, the machines continue to be used in Iraq but 'now' an investigation into them will take place orded by Nouri. As opposed to months ago when they were first called into question. Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) adds that members of Parliament were calling for an end to use of the machines on Saturday. Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the US military has long -- and publicly -- decried the use of the machines, "The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials."
Today the BBC reports police raids took place at "Global Tech, of Kent, Grosvenor Scientific, in Devon, and Scandec, of Nottingham. Cash and hundreds of the devices have been seized, and a number of people are due to be interviewed under caution on suspicion of fraud." Michael Peel and Sylvia Pfeifer (Financial Times of London) add, "Colin Cowan, head of City police's overseas anti-corruption unit, said investigators were seeking further information from the public about the manufacture, sale and distribution of the devices. Det Supt Cowan said: 'We are concerned that these items present a real physical threat to anyone who may rely on such a device for protection'."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the lfie of 1 Ministry of Interiror employee, 2 Mosul roadside bombings which left an Iraqi soldier, two women and a girl injured, and, dropping back to yesterday, 1 Christian shot dead in Kirkuk. Alsumaria TV reports 1 "young guy" was
In the US, President Barack Obama has nominated James Clapper for the post of "intelligence czar" (US Director of National Intelligence). Muriel Kane (Raw Story) reports, "A more serious issue, however, may prove to be Clapper's support in 2003 for the idea that Iraqi WMD had been smuggled into Syria just before the US invasion as part of an attempt to destroy evidence. According to the New York Times, Clapper, who was then head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 'said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraqi into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material "unquestionably" had been moved out of Iraq.' Clapper made his remarks to reporters on October 28, 2003, one week after the publication of Seymour Hersh's article, 'The Stovepipe,' which examined 'the disparity between the Bush Administration's prewar assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and what has actually been divorced'." Barack Obama is nominating someone for "intelligence czar" who failed the most important test. Remember that? Samantha Power and others of the Cult of St. Barack used that 'test' in 2008 over and over. Hillary "failed it" and Barack allegedly "passed it." (Barack gave a sparsely attended 2002 speech against war with Iraq. He did nothing in 2003 in the lead up to the war. After the Iraq War started, he noted he supported it in numerous interviews -- both while running for US Senator and after.) So that alleged "test" is a test for Barack and his cronies . . . except when it comes to an intelligence post. Where information will be studied, analyzed, et al. And we're going to put the freak who either knowingly lied or was too damn stupid to surf the web and be able to immediately refute the claims the Bush administration repeatedly made. That's how Barack 'takes care' of America? What was James Clapper's job that he failed at? He was over the satellite photos, among other things. Remember those grainy photos Colin Powell trotted out before the UN -- the ones that showed nothing despite Collie The Blot Powell lying as he's done in so much of his public life? Clapper fixed him with those. Grasp that (a) not only has Barack not kept his promise on ending the Iraq War, (b) not only has he (and the Democratic Party) refused to hold the Bush administration accountable for lying the country into an illegal war but (c) he's now promoting the liars to higher positions of power.
Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) notes that Clapper sent members of a Senate Committee a memo advocating for DNI to be weakened -- he identifies it as the Senate Armed Services Committee but then goes on to identify Dianne Feinstein as the Chair, she's not. Carl Levin chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee. He either means that Clapper e-mailed everyone on the Senate Intelligence Committee (which Feinstein chairs) or he's moving on to a different thought when he writes, "Committee leaders Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, and Christopher 'Kit' Bond, R-MO, expressed serious reservations about the Clapper nomination even before it was decided, arguing that the Pentagon already has too much control over the intelligence community and expressing doubt that he would have the clout to wrangle all 16 intelligence agencies to do what he wants. Those senators have also been pushing for a new intelligence authorization bill that would strengthen the DNI position in line with a Senate proposal that was watered down by the House some years back." The Institute for Public Accuracy has two experts who can weigh in on the topic:
MELVIN A. GOODMAN
Goodman just wrote the piece "Pentagon Tightens Grip on the Obama Administration and the Intelligence Community."
Now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, Goodman was with the CIA for 41 years, serving as a senior analyst and a division chief. He is author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.
Obama stated on Saturday when announcing the nomination of Clapper: "He possesses a quality that I value in all my advisers: a willingness to tell leaders what we need to know even if it's not what we want to hear."
McGovern wrote a few weeks ago: "According to press reports, the leading candidate to succeed Dennis Blair is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, whose record does not inspire confidence. Clapper has a well-deserved reputation for giving consumers of intelligence what they want to hear."
McGovern said today: "He [Clapper] now serves as undersecretary of intelligence at the Defense Department, working for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who holds a 'PhD' from Georgetown in Politicization of Intelligence under his mentor, 'Professor' William J. Casey [CIA director from 1981 to 1987].
"Casey was convinced that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union would never relinquish power; so Gates pedaled that line and missed the big one. The quickest way to politicize intelligence is to put fellow sycophants and careerists in management positions, which Gates was a master at doing.
"The direct result is that when Cheney and Bush told the CIA to come [up] with the intelligence necessary to 'justify' attacking Iraq, two decades-worth of malleable managers were on hand to do Bush's bidding. James Clapper, head of imagery analysis from 2001 to 2006, played by the same script. Clapper made sure that no one found out that imagery intelligence on WMD was actually 'non-existent' -- a term used by Sen. Jay Rockefeller after an exhaustive study by the Senate Intelligence Committee."
McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a CIA analyst from 1963 to 1990, serving under seven presidents and nine CIA directors. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
Background: "The director of a top American spy agency said Tuesday that he believed that material from Iraq's illicit weapons program had been transported into Syria ... 'unquestionably ... I think people below the Saddam Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse,' General Clapper [then head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency] said ..." -- New York Times, October 29, 2003
"Another possibility is that some weapons may have been dispersed to other countries, such as Syria, before the war. That was the assessment of General James R. Clapper, Jr. ..." -- Karl Rove, "Courage and Consequences," p. 339
For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
Meanwhile ProPublica's T. Christian Miller and NPR's Daniel Zwerdling team up to explore brain injuries among service members and discover the military is failing to diagnose a large number of brain injuries. That's a text report. You can click here for another at ProPublica. This morning, they discuss the issue with Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition, click here for audio. Excerpt:
INSKEEP: This is not a psychological problem, it's a physical problem of the brain.
ZWERDLING: That's right. And researchers still don't fully understand what happens. But Victor Medina came back - he was in a blast last summer, almost exactly a year ago - and he today he's a different man. When he came back to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, he went to see the top brain neurologist. And here is the neurologist's diagnosis. That's the medical record.
INSKEEP: He's handing me this memorandum here. It's rather long, but let's just read a couple of quotes. The doctor says that Victor Medina has symptoms that are likely due to chronic anxiety, chronic headaches, and he goes on to say I am concerned that he may be slipping into a cycle of playing the sick role. So, the doctor doesn't think Medina's very sick. What did you find?
ZWERDLING: Listen to a clip of Victor - and this is Victor reacting to that diagnosis, seems to be playing the sick role.
Mr. VICTOR MEDINA: When the d-doctor t-tells me I'm p-playing s-s-s-sick, you know that the d-d-doctor came across m-m-m-my...am I g-going crazy? It's just like I have to s-s-s-s-struggle to, you know, t-to get it tre-tre-treated.
ZWERDLING: And he never stuttered before the blast.
INSKEEP: And just to be clear: we're not doctors. He eventually was found to have traumatic brain injury, correct?
ZWERDLING: That's right. By a neuropsychologist outside of the military. And incidentally, we've talked to many soldiers who have, at the same base - Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas - some who have gone to the same doctor. And when you look at their medical records, over and over again, the doctor says the main cause of their cognitive problems, like Victor's, are headaches and anxiety, not the blast.
NPR has created a folder with a number of stories and a timeline here.
David Bacon is an independent journalist who covers the labor and immigration beat and this is from "Pics: Out of Work, Sleeping in the Fields" (Political Affairs Magazine):
The People of the Central Valley - 4The People of the Central Valley - 4: A photodocumentary project on the reality of life today in California's Central Valley
Near Reedley, on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, three men live in a camp they've built under the trees of an abandoned orchard. A blue tarp and the cardboard from an unfolded carton make up the roof. The mattresses for their beds sit on shipping pallets, or nearby under a bush. One of the men made a doll of straw, which sits in the branch of a dead tree overlooking the camp.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).