Friday, June 11, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, 2 US service members are killed in Iraq, rumors of a plot to kill Ayad Allawi circulate in Iraq, the US Pentagon is on the hunt for WikiLeaks, and more.
On NPR today, The Diane Rehm Show had plenty of time to trash Helen Thomas (including Yochi Dreazen insisting Helen only ever spoke at the White House press briefings to attack Israel -- and not one guest nor Diane bothered to correct him). They just didn't have time for Iraq. No, two sentences of refusing to shoulder the blame for the illegal war they sold -- two sentences from Yochi Dreazen -- does not count as addressing Iraq (especially when even that only came up due to a caller holding the Gang of Useless accountable). No time for Iraq. Good thing nothing happened in Iraq all damn week, right?
Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) report a Diyala Province bombing which has claimed the lives of 2 US soldiers with six more left injured, 6 Iraqis left dead and twenty-two more left injured. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) adds, "Jalawla lies in the restive Diyala province, a mixed region of Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds that once was one of the most dangerous places in Iraq." The two deaths bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq to 4405. Anthony Shadid (New York Times) provides this context, "The attack was the deadliest on the American military here in more than two months. It was also a grim reminder that while violence has diminished remarkably across Iraq, hundreds of people are still killed each month here. So far this year, 35 American soldiers have died in Iraq in combat or in what the military terms 'non-hostile' incidents." Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) explains there have been three other attacks on US forces this week, "In the first, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. convoy traveled on a highway through predominantly Sunni Anbar province. No casualties were reported, but the blast left a large crater, and a McClatchy reporter at the scene saw a crane lifting a heavily damaged U.S. armored vehicle onto a flatbed truck. American forces cordoned off the area, blocking traffic, and didn't allow even Iraqi security forces near the scene. Later Thursday afternoon, a roadside bomb targeted a U.S. convoy as it headed toward Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. Iraqi authorities said they had no information on casualties because American forces didn't allow their Iraqi counterparts near the scene. At about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, just south of Baghdad in Yusifiya, another roadside bomb exploded near U.S. forces. No casualties were reported." Two US service members killed in a bombing in Iraq? Sorry, Diane and NPR had others to cover, important things, trashing an outstanding journalist, for example. What a proud moment for them.
The attackers of Helen missed the violence in Iraq today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left nine people wounded, a second Baghdad roadside bombing injured five people (two were Iraqi soldiers), a Mosul University bombing claimed the life of 1 military officer and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad suicide car bombing claimed the life of the driver and the lives of 1 Sahwa commander, 1 woman, 1 military officer and 1 other man while wounding ten people. Reuters notes a Thursday Tikrit car bombing which claimed 1 life.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul. Reuters notes 1 woman was shot dead in Kirkuk last night.
Reuters notes 2 corpses were discovered in Kirkuk.
Fang Yang (Xinhua) observes, "Sporadic attacks and waves of violence continue across Iraq three months after the country held its landmark parliamentary election on March 7, which is widely expected to shape the political landscape of the war-torn country." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government. Yesterday Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) reported that the State of Law slate and the Iraqi National Alliance had officially "announced their merger". This morning Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) adds, "It still has to be formally approved by lawmakers when they convene for the first time on June 14." Reuters notes they intend to operate "under a new name, National Alliance, but have yet to resolve differences over their nominee for prime minister". BBC News adds, "The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says that both the Shia and secular-Sunni blocs will now be claiming the right to be asked to form a government. The constitution is unclear on the issue." In other political news, Maad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports, "Senior Arab and Iraqi security officials revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat what it described as an 'elaborate plot' to assassinate the head of the Iraqiya List, Iyad Allawi. The sources said that 'local groups are involved in this plot and it is also backed by a regional party'." Meanwhile how much do Iraqi citizens pay their government officials? Guess what? They aren't supposed to know. So much for 'democracy' in Iraq. At Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy notes Al Alam Newspaper has published possible salaries:
Iraqi president: About 700,000 USD a year
Iraqi Vice presidents: 600,000 USD a year but Iraqi news agencies said that Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi said he receives a One Million USD a month, in total.
Prime Minister office said that Al Maliki receives 360,000 USD a year. But some official sources said that the Prime Minister's salary is equal to the Iraqi President's - so they should receive the same salary.
Head of the Judiciary council makes about 100,000 USD a month (not clear on allocations).
Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." They are, as former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus explained to Congress (repeatedly) in April 2008, Sunni fighters who were put on the US payroll so they wouldn't attack US troops and equipment. Actually, Petreaus claimed they were "Shia as well as Sunni" when appearing before Congress on April 8, 2008 and discussing the "over 91,000" "Awakening." He insisted, "These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts." Nouri was supposed to take over payment of them and bring them into the government. Nouri does very little he promises. Over the weekend, he pulled their right to carry firearms in Diayala Province. Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports, "Leaders of the Sahwas controlling around 10,000 personnel in Diyala warned that they would stop cooperating with government security forces if their weapon permits and special badges were withdrawn. In other provinces, members of the Sahwas warned that they would not obey if they were ordered to disarm." Late 2005 through 2007 (or often reduced to 2006 and 2007) saw Iraqis attacking other Iraqis on a huge scale and is popularly known as the "civil war." This level of violence dropped as it had to when a large number of Iraqis fled the country or fled their homes to other parts of the country. (A large number? One-sixth of the population. Over four million Iraqis became refugees.) In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on April 8, 2008, Joe Biden noted, "Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together. Our military played an important role in the violence. So did three other developments. First, the Sunni Awakening, which preceded the surge. Second, the Sadr cease-fire. Third, sectarian cleansing that left much of Baghdad segregated, with fewer targets to shoot or bomb." Joe Biden was then Chair of the Committee. Today he's the US Vice President. And that's changed. But what about the situation he was describing? If the three developments led to a decrease in the violence, what happens when one of the developments is no longer present? Something to think about as Nouri continues his war on the Sahwa.
And as the Iraq War continues -- long after the promise candidate Barack Obama repeatedly made while campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination -- people begin to ask if it ever ends. Peter Symonds (WSWS) outlines a number of disturbing trends:
In his comments last Friday, General Odierno declared that the "drawdown" was ahead of schedule -- 600,000 containers of gear and 18,000 vehicles moved out; and the number of bases down from 500 last year to 126 and set to decline to 94 by September 1. What is actually underway, however, is not a withdrawal, but a vast consolidation in preparation for the long-term occupation of the country by US forces.
The Stars and Stripes newspaper noted in an article on June 1 that the ratification of the US-Iraq security agreement in November 2008 governing the drawdown was followed by a massive expansion of base construction work. "In all, the military finished $496 million in base construction projects during 2009, the highest annual figure since the war began and nearly a quarter of the $2.1 billion spent on American bases in Iraq since 2004. An additional $323 million worth of projects are set to be completed this year."
While the number of US bases may be declining, the Pentagon is establishing what are known as "enduring presence posts" -- including four major bases: Joint Base Balad in the north, Camp Adder in southern Iraq, Al-Asad Air Base in the west and the Victory Base Complex around Baghdad International Airport. These are sprawling fortified facilities -- Balad alone currently houses more than 20,000 troops. In addition to the 50,000 troops that will remain, there will be up to 65,000 contractors after September 1.
Under the 2008 agreement, the US military handed over internal security functions to Iraqi forces last year, but, under the guise of "training" and "support", retains tighter supervision of the army and police. Moreover the Iraqi government can always "request" US troop assistance in mounting operations. As Odierno explained in a letter to US personnel on June 1, even after all US combat troops leave, "we will continue to conduct partnered counter-terrorism operations and provide combat enablers to help the Iraqi Security Forces maintain pressure on the extremist networks."
The 2008 agreement sets December 31, 2011 as the deadline for all US troops to quit Iraq, but the construction of huge new US bases indicates a long-term US military presence under a Strategic Framework Agreement that is yet to be negotiated.
Another one noticing realities is Pentagon Papers whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg and he shares them with Marc Pitzke (Der Spiegel):
Ellsberg: I think Obama is continuing the worst of the Bush administration in terms of civil liberties, violations of the constitution and the wars in the Middle East.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: For example?
Ellsberg: Take Obama's explicit pledge in his State of the Union speech to remove "all" United States troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. That's a total lie. I believe that's totally false. I believe he knows that's totally false. It won't be done. I expect that the US will have, indefinitely, a residual force of at least 30,000 US troops in Iraq.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What about Afghanistan? Isn't that a justifiable war?
Ellsberg: I think that there's an inexcusable escalation in both countries. Thousands of US officials know that bases and large numbers of troops will remain in Iraq and that troop levels and bases in Afghanistan will rise far above what Obama is now projecting. But Obama counts on them to keep their silence as he deceives the public on these devastating, costly, reckless ventures.
Daniel Ellsberg was Scott Horton's guest for yesterday's Antiwar Radio. They're discussing Bradley Manning. Who? Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reports the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange: "Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast."
Pentagon manhunt for WikiLeaks staff declared: http://bit.ly/cN1Kl8 just say no: http://bit.ly/ctRxAV
Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) notes the real crimes and WikiLeaks:
The Crimes Are Crimes statement has been published in The New York Review of Books, The Nation, and now, will next be placed in The Humanist. You can help spread this message and challenge the conscience of people by signing, donating and printing it out for your community (ask store owners if they will display this poster!).
The more I've shown the 17 minute version of Collateral Murder -- even to seasoned anti-war activists -- the more I see how important it is that people SEE this video.
And the more outrageous it is that a 22 year old Army enlisted man, Bradley Manning, is being charged with leaking the footage to WikiLeaks.org. The war crimes, and criminal acts the whole world can see in this footage are justified and excused by the US government. And a person who they say leaked it is criminally charged?!?
Today the Iraq Inquiry announced that their next set of hearings will "run from 29 June to 30 July 2010, at the QE II conference centre in London" and the following will be witnesses:
*Cathy Adams (Legal Counsellor, Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, 2002 to 2005)
*Geoffrey Adams KCMG (HM Ambassador to Iran, 2006 to 2009)
*Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP (Minister of State for the Armed Forces, 2007 to 2009 Secretary of State for Defence, 2009)
*Andy Bearpack CBE (Director Operations and Infrastructure in the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 to 2004)
*Dr Hanx Blix (1st Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, 2000 to 2003)
*Rt Hon The Lord Boateng (Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2002 to 2005)
*Douglas Brand (OBE) (Chief Police Adviser to the Ministry of Interior, Baghdad, 2003 to 2004)
*Dr Nicola Brewer CMG (Director General Regional Prorammes, Department of International Development, 2002 to 2004)
*Jonathan Cunliffe CB (Managing Director, Financial Regulation & Industry, 2002; Managing Director, Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance, HM Treasury, 2003 to 2007)
*Richard Dalton KCMG (HM Abassadort to Iran, 2003 to 2006)
*General Richard Dannatt GCB CBE ME (Assistant Chief of the General Staff, 2001 to 2002; Commander in Chief Land Command, 2005 to 2006; Chief of the General STaff, 2006 to 2009)
*John Dodds (Team Leader - Defence, Diplomacy and Intelligence; HM Treasury, 2003 to 2005)
*Lt Gen James Dutton CBE (General Officer Commanding Multi National Division - South East - 2005; Deputy Chief of Joint Operations 2007 - 2009)
*Lt Gen Andrew Figgures (Deputy Chief of Defense Staff -- Equipment Capability -- 2006 - 2009)
*Ronnie Flanagan GBE QPM (HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, 2005 - 2008)
*Lt Gen Robert Fulton KBE (Deputy Chief of Defense Staff Equipment Capability 2003 - 2006)
*John Holmes GCVO KBE CMG (HM Ambassador to Paris 2001 - 2007)
*Martin Howard CB (DIrector General Operational Policy MOD 2004- 2007)
*General Mike Jackson GCB CBE DSO DL (Commander in Chief Land Command 2000 - 2003; Chief of the General Staff 2003 - 2006)
*Sally Keeble (Minister of State, Department for International Development 2002 - 2003)
*Paul Kernaghan CBE QPM (International Policing portfolio lead, Association of Chief Police Officers for England, Wales & Northern Ireland, 2001 - 2008)
*Iain Macleod (Legal Counsellor to the United Kingdom's Mission to the United Nations, 2001 - 2004)
*Tom McKane (Director General Resource & Plans, Ministry of Defence, 2002 - 2006)
*Bruce Mann CB (Director General Financial Management, Ministry of Defence 2001 - 2004).
*Manningham Buller DCB (Deputy Director General, Security Service, 2001 - 2002; Director General, Security Service, 2002 - 2007)
*Carolyn Miller (Director Europe, Middle East and Americas, Department for International Development, 2001 - 2004)
*General Kevin O'Donoghue KCB CBE (Deputy Chief of Defence Staff Health, 2002 - 2004; Chief of Defence Logistics 2005 - 2007; Chief of Defence Material 2007 - 2009)
*Rt Hon John Prescott (First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister, to 2007)
*Carne Ross (First Secretary, United Kingdom Mission to New York, 1998 - 2002)
*Maj Gen Andy Salmon CMG OBE (General Officer Commanding Multi National Division South East, 2008 -2009)
*Michael Wareing CMG (Prime Minister's Envoy for Reconstruction in Souther Iraq and Chairman of the Basra Development Commission, 2007 - 2009)
*Stephen White OBE (Directof of Law and Order and Senior Police Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, 2003 - 2004)
*Vice Adm Peter Wilkinson CVO (Deputy Chief of Defense Staff Personnel, 2007 to present)
*Trevor Wooley CB (Director General Resources & Plans, Ministry of Defence, 1998 - 2002; Financial Director, Ministry of Defence, 2003 - 2009)
The Iraq Inquiry is Chaired by John Chilcot and they believe a report will be completed by year's end and that there might also be a round of hearings in the fall. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes, "Hans Blix is the headline name and there are some other witnesses who might not toe the government line." Though Blix should offer some very interesting testimony, he's not the only name of interest on the list. For example, Carne Ross will probably pull in a number of the press when he testifies. A 2008 Time magazine profile by Jumana Farouky opened with:
As Carne Ross talks about how he resigned from the British Foreign Office in 2004 after Britain's decision to go to war in Iraq proved more than he could abide in a frustrating 15-year diplomatic career, the phone rings. "That'll be Kosovo," Ross says. Probably calling to say thanks.
Click here for the BBC video of Carne Ross explaining how the Inquiry should have questioned Tony Blair. Chris Ames has covered the Iraq Inquiry forever and a day -- and on the issues at the heart of the inquiry before Gordon Brown was even agreeing to allow a commission. Iraq Inquiry Digest is Chris Ames' site (his writing appears at the Guardian, The New Statesman and other outlets). At the Guardian today, he takes on Nick Clegg:
In opposition, Nick Clegg had some harsh criticism for the way that Gordon Brown's government restricted the ability of the Iraq inquiry to uncover the truth. Clegg's appointment as deputy prime minister seemed to promise a new attitude of openness and at the weekend he seemed to be promising to put this into practice. In particular, he promised that the inquiry will only be prevented from publishing documents for reasons of national security. But it looks as if nothing is going to change any time soon, if at all.
What Clegg said the Hay festival on Sunday -- as Today programme listeners will have heard this morning -- was true as far as it went, but his language about how to solve the problem is intriguing. He said that the inquiry's openness would be the key to determining its legitimacy and: "The battle that needs to be fought is to make sure in the final Chilcot report the presumption is towards real, meaningful, thorough disclosure." He added that "the challenge is to make sure there is real disclosure when they publish their findings." But Nick, you are the deputy prime minister. It's up to you.
The Guardian's Richard Norton-Taylor has been covering the Inquiry at length as well and he reviews the witness list and emphasizes Eliza Manningham-Buller who "told the Guardian last year that she had warned ministers and officials that an invasion of Iraq would increase the terrorist threat. Amid Anglo-US preparations to invade Iraq, she asked: 'Why now?'"
In the United States, the Arlington National Cemetery scandal continues to garner (deserved) attention. Richard Sisk (New York Daily News) sums it up very well in two sentences, "They didn't arrive at Arlington National Cemetery as unknown soldiers. The Army just treated them that way." Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) offers this overview, "The inspector general, Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, found one case involving personnel killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. In that instance, two grave markers had been switched. Other cases involved areas of the cemetery used to inter personnel from earlier conflicts. [. . .] The extent of the problems at one of the nation's most venerated memorials was not entirely clear. In some cases, grave markers had been knocked over and not properly replaced, the report said. Other reported cases involved poor record-keeping. Whitcomb said there was no indication of mistakes at the point of burial." Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) adds, "The investigators found that these and other blunders were the result of a 'dysfunctional' and chaotic management system at the cemetery, which was poisoned by bitterness among top supervisors and hobbled by antiquated record-keeping." Those looking for a strong audio report on the story should refer to The Takeaway where Salon's Mark Benjamin is one of the guests and Dorothy Nolte (her sister is buried into Arlington Cemetery).
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate), Alexis Simendinger (National Journal) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) join Gwen around the table. This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Jehan Harney, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's online bonus is on drilling for oil. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Could hackers get into the computer systems that run crucial elements of the world's infrastructure, such as the power grids, water works or even a nation's military arsenal, to create havoc? They already have. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video
The Great Explorer
Robert Ballard discovered the Titanic, the Bismarck and the PT 109 and now 60 Minutes cameras are there for his latest discovery, 1,500 feet down in the Aegean Sea off Turkey. Lara Logan reports. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 13, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) by Byron York (Washington Examiner), David Corn (Mother Jones) and Dayo Olopade (Daily Beast). For the second hour (international), she's joined by Yochi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal), Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) and Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera).
the new york daily news
the los angeles times
julian e. barnes
the washington post
michael e. ruane