Friday, July 02, 2010

Turkey and northern Iraq

The northern border of Iraq continues to be a hot zone of/magnet for violence. Reuters reports that Turkish military aircraft has again bombed northern Iraq with the target being the PKK and that today's bombings follow a clash in which 17 people died. The PKK is a rebel faction which fights (sometimes with similar groups of Kurdish rebels) for a Kurdish movement whose ultimate goal is a Kurdish homeland. The Kurdish issue in Turkey has always been problematic to put it mildly. Not only does the government not wish to turn over sovereignty to a region of Turkey primarily composed of Kurds, they do not wish to see any other country create an autonomous Kurdish region. The KRG in Iraq was thought to be more than the Turkish government would tolerate; however, they learned to. This 'adjustment' has not stopped them from conveying to the US that they would not tolerate a breaking up of Iraq that created a Kurdish country (i.e. made the KRG an independent country and not part of Iraq). Some MidEast observers believe that if and when the Palestinian homeland issue is resolved, the Kurdish question would/will be the driving issue for the region.

The Bush administration made statements that a peace was being brokered, being worked on, blah blah blah. Months would pass, the statements forgotten, then violence would break out again. Suddenly the Bush administration would insist they were planning a new way to address the issue. The Obama adminstration has not done a better job on the issue. The US government shares 'intelligence' with the Turkish government which includes surveillance video of the mountains in northern Iraq (where the PKK has set up base camps). Though bombings from above have gone on for years now, last month saw the Turkish military repeatedly enter Iraq in violation of the country's sovereignty. If Nouri al-Maliki, acting prime minister, gave permission for the invasion, he's been silent on that fact -- no doubt realizing that such an admission would destroy any chance he had at continuing as Iraq's prime minister. Ibon Villelabeitia (Reuters) reports, "Families in the dusty mountain border town of Cukurca have grown used to waking every night to the booming sound of artillery shelling and mortar fire echoing in the surrounding hills as troops and separatist guerrillas trade fire."

Nouri's efforts to remain prime minister coincide with further targeting of various groups in Iraq and that includes Sahwa -- also known as the "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." Yesterday on Morning Edition (NPR), Isra Alubei'i reported (link has text and audio) on the targeting of Sahwa: "Across this Iraqi province, officials, religious leaders and ordinary Iraqis say they are furious over what they say are signs that Iraq's Shiite-led government has been targeting Sunnis. The most recent incident: At least six Sunni detainees died while in custody in Baghdad. The government's version is that they suffocated while being transferred in a poorly ventilated bus. But the families of the victims say the men were clearly subject to torture and abuse. At the wake in Fallujah, Valliv Jamabi(ph) clutches the prisoner ID of his son, Mushtak(ph). Valliv says on the very day he was told his son would be released, a second message arrived informing him that his 35-year-old son, a father of two kids, had died in custody. Valliv says marks on his body clearly showed that the government's contention that he died of suffocation was a lie."

Sunday is July 4th. Sherwood Ross writes of "Cowardice, American Style" (OpEdNews) and here's an excerpt:

Too little has been written about the cowardice of CIA and Pentagon torturers and even less about the stoic courage of their victims. Irrespective of what they might have done, there can be no question that those suffering illegal and criminal tortures are, in fact, more courageous than their tormentors. After all, how much courage does it take to pummel a man tied to a chair or chained to a wall? Answer: a lot less than it takes to withstand the blows you know that are coming.
CIA interrogators don’t have even the “sporting” attitude of the schoolyard bully who attacks a weaker child. That might be called a “fair fight” as the weaker could put up a defense. But those five-man teams that torture the defenseless, by definition, have got to be the most cowardly thugs on the planet. Somehow, this perspective has eluded the “24” fiction writers at Fox television network who extol U.S. torturer Jack Bauer the way Goebbels once extolled the SS. It has also eluded President Barack Obama, a former employee of a CIA-front organization, who lavishly praised the CIA in a speech at its Langley, Va., headquarters last year.

According to one reliable published report, more than 100 prisoners have died in U.S. custody since President Bush launched his “War on Terror,” yet this figure may be a pale shadow of the ugly reality, for there are repeated tales of prisoners dragged from their cells in the dead of night and “disappeared”---men whose murders may not appear in any Pentagon or CIA box score. The actual figure could be in the many hundreds or thousands. Bear in mind, too, that U.S. officials running the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are responsible for the crimes committed by any and all of their hired local hit men as well as for the horrendous conditions in the detention camps.

Put yourself for a moment in the shoes of a civilian suspect arrested in Afghanistan by U.S. or U.K. soldiers’ who is innocent of any wrongdoing, as the vast majority of them have been said to be by impartial observers. Without being allowed to hire a lawyer or to go before a judge, you are imprisoned for months or years and tortured. Wouldn’t being subjected to these criminal acts against the law of nations invest you with a sense of righteousness as well as defiance? As your martyrdom unfolds before your eyes and the frustration of your torturers increases as they try to extract information from you that you do not possess, wouldn’t each thorn unjustly impressed into your brow confer upon you a sense of nobility? Conversely, wouldn’t each cowardly slap by your torturers further demean them? Who is the nobler: the torturer shouting “god damn you!” or the victim crying out “god help me” or perhaps, even as Jesus once uttered, “father, forgive them”? How different is the CIA practice of banging prisoners’ heads into a wall from the acts of the SS men sixty years ago who killed Jewish boys by slamming their heads into walls? It is said the Muslim victims today “only” get concussions, sort of like NFL quarterbacks, but what the CIA agents, like the Gestapo before them, share in common in every case, is cowardice---the powerful thrashing the defenseless.

Caro (MakeThemAccountable) laments how we never learn. The following community sites updated today and we'll be generous with the links and note non-community sites that fell between:

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues addressing a number of issues, check out the DPC's video page, and we'll note this news release on the Gulf Disaster.

On Your Side: Ensuring an Effective Response and Demanding Accountability for the BP Oil Spill

Residents of the Gulf Coast have had their lives and livelihoods upended by the BP oil spill, with damages to the environment potentially lasting for generations. Senate Democrats have taken initial steps to help address this catastrophe and provide immediate relief to Gulf Coast communities and businesses. Moving forward, we are committed to a full recovery in the Gulf and accountability for BP.

In contrast, Republicans continue to protect Big Oil by blocking or watering down legislative initiatives that seek to address the damages from the spill, provide recovery, ensure accountability, and advance critical regulatory reforms. Recent examples of misguided Republican tactics include:

  • Senate Republicans refused to allow passage of the Tax Extenders legislation, which included vital provisions for economic recovery in the Gulf and would have increased the amount of money that oil companies are required to pay into the oil spill trust fund.

  • Senate Republicans blocked repeated attempts to raise the liability cap on economic damages that oil companies enjoy.

  • And shockingly, some in the Republican Party even apologized to BP for efforts to hold them accountable for this preventable disaster.

After years of mismanagement, deregulation, and failed policies, shouldn’t Republicans start looking out for someone other than Big Oil?

This document outlines several of the steps that Senate Democrats have already taken to help the Gulf Coast recover from this unprecedented tragedy as well as ongoing steps that Senate Democrats are advancing to ensure that BP is held fully accountable.

Ensuring BP Pays for Damages

  • Requiring BP to Pay for Its Mistakes. At the urging of Senate Democrats and President Obama, BP agreed to create a $20 billion escrow account to ensure that businesses, property owners and communities are fully compensated for the economic damages they incur from this manmade disaster. This independently monitored fund will help local businesses receive compensation in an expedited manner which is vital because these businesses are already seeing the negative impacts from the spill.

  • Restoring Fairness to Grieving Families. The explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig claimed the lives of 11 individuals, leaving their families with virtually no way of seeking adequate restitution. Unfortunately, current law does not sufficiently cover families of those killed on the high seas. The Senate Judiciary Committee has reported out the Survivors Equality Act (S.3463), which would allow families to recover damages for the loss of care, comfort, and companionship, as well as for recovery for the pain and suffering their loved one experience prior to death.

Strong Response of the Federal Government

Shortly after the spill began in May, Senate Democrats advanced the Supplemental Appropriations Act, H.R. 4899, which includes a number of key provisions that will help key federal agencies respond to the devastating spill. Democrats are committed to finalizing this legislation in order to send it to the President for his signature in the coming weeks.

  • Economic Development Assistance Programs. The bill includes $5 million for the Economic Development Administration’s Economic Adjustment Assistance programs to award grants to state, local, and nonprofit entities in regions affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for strategic planning and technical assistance. Activities to be funded include short- and long-term economic recovery plans and state and local economic recovery coordinators, including assistance to tourism-related businesses in oil impacted areas.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). H.R. 4899 includes $13 million for the Secretary of Commerce to be available if other sources do not sufficiently mitigate the economic impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on fishermen and fishery-dependent businesses. The bill also would provide $7 million for NOAA for activities that support the response to the oil spill but may not qualify as recoverable from the responsible parties of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, including the conduct of scientific pre-sampling and post sampling analysis for the Gulf of Mexico and the study of the short and long term effects of dispersants on the Gulf ecosystem.
  • Inspections and Enforcement at the Department of Interior. H.R. 4899 would provide $29 million for inspections, enforcement, studies and other activities requested by the Secretary related to inspections and investigations for determining the causes and impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
  • Investigations and Enforcement at the Department of Justice. The bill includes $10 million for the Civil Division and the Environment and Natural Resources Division for civil defensive litigation, and civil and criminal enforcement under the Oil Pollution Act, the Federal Torts Claims Act, and the Clean Water Act.

Ensuring a Thorough Investigation

  • Subpoena Power for Commission Investigators. Senate Democrats have brought forward S. 3462, a bill that would provide subpoena power to the National Commission on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico . Residents of the Gulf, and all Americans, deserve to know exactly what went wrong, who was responsible, and how we can prevent spills in the future. The ability to issue subpoenas will help investigators answer these critical questions.

Ensuring that Oil Companies Pay Their Fair Share

  • Expansion of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. To keep taxpayers from having to pay for Big Oil’s mistakes, Senate Democrats passed and President Obama signed S. 3473, a bill that authorizes advances from the Oil Spill Liability Trust fund for the Gulf Coast oil spill. The Oil Spill Liability Trust fund is financed through a per-barrel tax that the oil industry pays on oil produced or imported into the United States .

Strengthening Management of the Outer Continental Shelf

  • Reducing the Chance for Future Disasters. To ensure that catastrophic disasters like the one in the Gulf do not happen again, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has brought forward the Outer Continental Shelf Management Reform Act. This bill would require the development and enforcement of safety and environmental laws for offshore drilling.

DPC Fact Sheet | On Your Side: Ensuring an Effective Response and Demanding Accountability for the BP Oil Spill

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends