Monday, September 20, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad slammed by bombings on Sunday, reporter Michael Ware speaks out about the US military shooting an Iraqi civilian, the political stalemate continues, a wealth of Iraq's resources are discovered . . . in Nouri's storeroom, the lie that the Iraq War is over gets a pushback, rallies take place for Bradley Manning, and more.
We're starting with Michael Ware, in part because a mutal friend asked that we do. Michael Ware has reported from everywhere and, for CNN, he reported from Iraq. He filed many explosive reports and they rarely got the attention they required. This after fighting to get them on the air and then to only be greeted with silence as everyone attempted to look the other way. For example, let's drop back to the December 29, 2008 snapshot:
Michael Ware: Following a nighttime military operation outside of Baghdad two weeks ago, the US army is now investigating allegations an Iraqi man, a suspected al Qaeda member, was executed in cold blood by a secretive American unit. An Iraqi farmhouse after a recent raid by US forces. Items scatted by the soldiers search for weapons. An elderly mother mourns. Hadan, her son shot dead by the Americans in Madain on Baghdad's outskirts. It was Hadan the special forces had come for suspecting he was a bomb maker for al Qaeda. But now troubling questions have arisen from the operation, questions not of Hadan's life as a potential bomber but rather questions into his death at American hands. Questions grave enough that the US army has launched an inquiry probing claims the death was a special forces execution. The military released to CNN a few details of the night's operation, saying the shooting was provoked.
An unidentified voice reads from this December 10th M-NF press release: A man from the building initially complied with Coalition forces' instrucitons, but then returned inside the house. When he returned outside, he attempted to engage the forces with an AK-47. Perceiving hostile intent, the force engaged the armed man, killing him.
Michael Ware: But the dead man's brothers who witnessed the raid say that's a lie. Hadan, they say, was unarmed, his killing an American execution. The truth however is unclear. . . . But the Iraqi version is different. They say all [four] the brothers were stripped to their underwear and forced to lay on the ground, unable to move without the Americans permission, let alone grab a rifle. When Hadan did return inside, they say, it was the Americans who ordered him to do so.
Nurhi Subbi [translated]: The American forces ordered my brother to go back into the house.
Michael Ware: He was told to turn the lights on, says his brother named Nurhi, and the moment he turned on the lights, the soldiers open fired and then dragged him deeper inside the house.
"Hardan al-Jaburi". is the correct spelling. Where's the outcome of that investigation? Jasim Azawi, on this week's Inside Iraq, was noting how the Iraqi government will sometimes note an investigation into abuses or deaths but that no one ever hears of any outcome.
Back to Ware, the Australian reporter stepped away from war reporting as a result of his PTSD. Michael Ware is back in the news. Monday, he stated on Australian TV:
There was just not the one war in Iraq. You had the American war versus the insurgency, who are nationalists fighting to free their country and who were purely politically motivated. Then there's the American war with al Qaida in Iraq. Then there's the Sunni and Shia war amongst the Iraqis themselves. There was the Arab versus Kurdish on again off again little conflict. And then there was the Iranian war versus most of those named above. And for better or for ill, everyone spoke to me. And it took a lot of earning but everyone trusted me and I tried to live up to those trusts. I went out and I found the Iraqis who were on the other side of everything. And first it was for the purpose of stories but they became my friends. Once someone invited you to their house, it's incumbent upon them, at the dire risk of losing their good family name and all public standing, losing face, they must with that invitation of hospitality give you protection. Even if his brother shows up wanting to kill you he must defend you against all threats.
That was from part one of Prisoner Of War (Australia's ABC) -- here for transcript -- and Tuesday (yes, tomorrow, but there's a time difference) -- here for transcript -- he discussed the incident that will draw the most attention to the Prisoner Of War special:
MICHAEL WARE: There was an incident that I filmed back in 2007. It was in a remote Iraqi village, a village that had pretty much been owned by Al Qaeda. A young man who turned out to be 16, 17, maybe 18 years of age, you know like so many Iraqis had a weapon to protect himself, approached the house we were in and the soldiers who were watching our backs, one of them put a bullet right in the back of his head. Unfortunately it didn't kill him. We all spent the next 20 odd minutes listening to his tortured breath as he died. I had this moment that I realised despite what was happening to this man in front of me, I'd been more concerned with the composition of my shot than I was with any attempt to either save him or at the very very least, ease his passing. I indeed had been indifferent as the soldiers around me whose indifference I was attempting to capture. Technically being it a breach of the Geneva Convention at least or arguably a small war crime, if there's such a thing, that film, to this day, it's never seen the light of day.
JOHN MARTINKUS, JOURNALIST: When I went back to Baghdad in 2007. One of the first things he showed me was that tape and he was watching it over and over and over again. Part of him was like 'how could I, how could I just stand by and watch that happen'. It was a really horrible stark moral choice that he faced and he still wrestles with that.
MICHAEL WARE: There came a point where something inside me started to tell me that it was time to leave Iraq. That was a hard thing for me to come to terms with. I was sitting in the garden of the CNN house with one of my great mates Tommy the producer, I said 'Tommy I think I need to leave' and it was with enormous comfort for Tommy to say 'I think so mate'. I hit New York like a meteor plunging into the earth, I mean, those first six months I felt nothing but pain and I suspect I caused nothing but pain.
DAVID BELLAVIA, FMR STAFF SERGEANT, US ARMY: The last time I saw Michael I didn't even recognise him. He'd aged eighty years in his eyes. He just looked tired. He looked exhausted.
MICHAEL WARE: I couldn't walk to the corner store and buy milk. I couldn't go to a dinner party. I couldn't stand in a crowd. I couldn't catch the subway, you know, I couldn't live.
Jasim Azawi: Malcolm Smart, let me start with you, I was struck by a quote you have given and let me just read it to you to make sure that I read it correctly. It says: "Iraq's security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainees' rights and they have been permitted to do so with impunity." Looking at the statement, this is nothing short of a massive indictment of the entire Iraqi judicial system. Basically, you are saying, 'The government is sanctioning this abuse.'
Malcolm Smart: Well I fear that's the case and although we have many public statements to the contrary from the government -- as your previous report has shown -- there have been now a number of incidents where secret detention prisons have been located, the government has said it's carrying out investigations, those investigations have not achieved any outcome that we know of. Officials accused of torture have not been brought to justice as far as there is information to show and, at the same time, we at Amnesty International get reports constantly from families, from detainees of people who are missing, who have been tortured in detention and that's what we're drawing attention to. We recognize that some attempts have been made by the Human Rights Ministry,the Justice Ministry, to bring things under control but there's a long way to go yet and much more needs to be done.
Jasim Azawi: Mr. Alhamdani, immediately upon issuing this report, Iraqi government officials were quick to draw a distinction between numbers. 'No, it's not 30,000 as Amnesty International alleges, it's only about 15,000.' I'm not going to play the number game with you but in the face of overwhelming evidence of major human rights abuse and torture in Iraqi prisons, denial by itself is not going to serve anybody, especially the Iraqi government.
Talib Alhamdani: Yeah, of course it's not going to serve, I mean, to play the numbers is not, my intake into this report. In fact, the [. . .] report, I read the whole of it. In fact, the Council of the Ministers Secretariat are reviewing the report by the legal departments there. And I as the head of the follow up department, I am going to follow the recommendations, what we goiing to do about it. In fact, I contacted many of my colleagues, the Justice Dept in Iraq, the Ministry, and also the Ministry of Human Rights and even the Security Councils here and they going to cooperate. And they say there is no, in fact, coordination between the Amnesty International and them. They would have opened the jails for them to investigate every allegation there is but they say they never heard anything from Amnesty International --
Jasim Azawi : Well let's leave the coordination aspect aside, Are you and the Iraqi government saying that basically there is no abuse, there is no torture in Iraqi prisons? I mean --
Talib Alhamdani: No, of course not.
Jasim Azawi: -- aside from the follow up of we are going to do that and we are going to do this, you are not denying, are you, that torture is endemic in Iraqi prisons?
Talib Alhamdani: In fact, Jasim, I lived in the US for almost 25 years. I used to head one of the organizations monitoring human rights abuses during the previous regime. We used to knock the door on Amnesty International, give them reports of abuses in Iraq. In fact, this report just give us a wake up call that we need to do more. We at administrative arms of the Council of Ministers, we going to follow up all the allegations in this report to the minor details and we encourage Amnesty International to come to Baghdad, to give us a call and --
Jasim Azawi: That's a wonderful notion, Mr. Alhamdani. We shall find out whether such promises -- as have been made in the past -- over the past six, seven years -- will materialize. But let me go to Mr. Pollock and let me do also another thing which is quote something also from the report. It says: "Yet the US authorities, whose own record on detainees' rights has been so poor, has now handed over thousands of people detained by US forces to face this catalogue of illegality, violence and abuse, abdicating any responsibility for their human rights." If there is one entity, Mr. Pollock, quite aware and extenisvely about the human rights abuse, it's the American forces in Iraq. In light of that knowledge, why did they hand over tens of thousands of Iraqis to Iraqi authorities knowing full well some of them, it not a great segment of them, would be tortured?
David Pollock: I think, Jasim, that we have to begin by noting that Iraq is now a sovereign, independent country. And you, of all people, who have argued for so long that the American occupation of Iraq should end., should, I think, recognize that as part of ending that occupation, which we are doing, the transfer of responsibility and full soverignity to Iraq is taking place. And that is something, in my opinion, to be applauded. Even, I hope, by you.
Jasim Azawi: Indeed I would applaud that massively. [Crosstalk] Indeed, I've called for the ending of this occupation. But I'll let you finish before I come back to you.
David Pollock: Thank you. And so as to your point about responsiblity for prisoners and detainees, this is now an Iraqi responsibility and, therefore, I was happy to hear the representative of the new democratic government of Iraq who, as he said --
Pollack's an ass and we're not interested in rehashing Saddam Hussein. These liars who whored it for an illegal war? They can't have spent all of 2002 and 2003 screaming for the Iraq War -- as they did -- and insisting Hussein was somehow akin to Hitler -- as they did -- and now attempt to use Hussein as a baseline by which to grade modern day Iraq. It's not ethical, it's not consistent and I HATE liars.
Jasim Azawi: Shouldn't the American forces have acquired and asked for and demanded guarantees from the Iraqi authorities to prevent torture in Iraqi prisons, Mr. Smart?
Malcolm Smart: Well the American and Iraqi governments made a Status Of Forces Agreement at the end of 2008 which covers the withdrawal and the handover of prisons and prisoners. And there is absolutely no human rights safeguards written into that which is quite astonishing. We raised that at the time and nothing has been done. And we've seen this process of handover, indeed we cite in our report cases of people who've been detained -- some times for years -- by the US forces without any charge or trial, without any independent tribunal they can go to to challenge their detention, who the American forces have recommended for release but actually haven't been released by the Iraqi government but have been handed over to them. So there's a big question about the US role and its failure to uphold the human rights principles that the US has once spoken so highly for.
Excuses popped up from two of the guests (not Smart) that Iraq was a 'newborn' and Jasim rightly pointed out that this was not the case. Nouri al-Maliki, for example, has been prime minister since April 2006. That's more than enough time to address abuses. If you want to. "If you want to" being the key. Or maybe if you're forced to by the world's gaze? September 10th's snapshot noted that antiquities were being returned to Iraq; however, some of the previously returned items were missing. This puzzled the world and, wouldn't you know it, when outlets across the world wondered what could have happened, Nouri and crew 'find' the items. In today's paper, the New York Times reports (no individual reported credited, the byline reads: "BY THE NEW YORK TIMES" -- probably not wanting to suffer the wrath of Nouri) that over 600 of the items which went missing after they were returned to Iraq in 2008 were found . . . "in a storeroom of the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki" and they're now (supposedly) going to be "turned over to Iraq's National Museum". The possession by Nouri shouldn't have been a surprise. Not only is he a thug, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor News Service) reported September 8th, "He [Iraq's Ambassador to the US Samir Sumaidaie] noted, however, that a previous shipment of 632 stolen pieces recovered in the US had gone missing after being delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office last year." Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) quotes the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Qahtan al-Jibouri, declaring, "We found these artificats in one of the storerooms of the prime minister's office along with some kitchen appliances." The news comes after Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues) caught an earlier 'clarification' by the Iraqi government last week.
Again, the valuables, the historically and culturally important items were discovered in Nouri's storeroom. Possibly all Iraq's potable water is in there as well? Four years and counting, and he refuses to step down as prime minister despite his term having expired, Nouri's not provided security, not provided potable water, not provided reliable electricity, he's done nothing but sit on billions and enrich his own pockets. Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) spoke with Ayad Allawi who declared "Maliki must understand ... no one stays in power forever" and "I think that matters will be highly tempestuous within the country, and I expect, god forbid, a reaction against democratic principles and policies. I don't think that the Iraqi people will believe in going to the polls in the future, and this will lead to further divisions on the Iraqi streets.."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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 -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and thirteen days with no government formed.
Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) also spoke with Allawi this weekend and Allawi told him, "Violence is increasing, services are stagnant, the economy is extremely poor, and unemployment is rising. For the last six months the government has been without leaders, and unfortunately we are seeing the problems increase as the US draws down." The weekend was filled with speculation about Iraq forming a government. northsum32 (All Voices) recaps the talk coming out of Iraq: "The deal would involve the Iraqiya group of Allawi that won the most seats the INA which includes Al Sadr and the Kurdistan Allliance. The prime minister would be current vice president Adel Abdulmahdi a member of the Iraq National Alliance and also lead of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. The SIIC lost many seats while supporters of Al Sadr gained and took over leadership of the group. Ayad Allawi would become president. The Kurdistan Alliance would get the chairmanship of the parliament." Asso Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) interviewed KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih:
Q: Regarding forming the government, in one of your previous statements you have stated not forming the government is a disgrace, Why?
A: In fact, it is a shame…. We do not have a government that has emerged as a result of this [March] election. The country is exposed to serious terrorist attacks and crises in the basic services of electricity and water supply to the people. In normal circumstances, governments fall because of these problems and a new government comes. What is happening now is a major failure for the political elites in front of the Iraqi voter who challenged terrorism when he went to the ballot boxes and wanted to establish a new beginning for his country.
Salih also noted the publiic "democrations denoucing the government's performance in the field of services" and felt that the political stalemate continuing would cause "the current political elite to lose its credibility before the people." Today Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports that 24 members of Parliament met yetersday and quotes MP Mahmoud Othman insisting that the people can't be ignored while Myers observes, 'In fact, they can and have, and after the unofficial rum session on Sunday of a body elected more than six months ago but still not functioning, it was clear they might continue to do so for some time to come." Will neighboring countries be able to help ease the statlemate? Press TV reports, "Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey will attend the seventh conference of the Interior Ministers of Iraq's Neighboring Countries" on Tuesday. This month is supposed to be 'big.' Iraq's supposed to be on the verge of forming a government finally! It's allegedly been on the verge of that for over six months now. Nouri has promised that stalemate over or continued, Iraq will finally have a census this month. (This was supposed to have taken place years ago and is required by the country's Constitution.) Nothing, Nouri has maintained, will stop it. However, nothing was supposed to stop this month's gas field auctions either . . . and . . . yet Jijo Jacob (International Business Times) reports that the bidding on three fields has been postponed until October 20th. In other oil and gas news, Todays Zaman reports, "Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız went to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Sunday to attend the signing ceremony of an agreement on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Pipeline." AFP notes, "Baghdad has reached an agreement with Damascus to build two oil pipelines linking Iraq to Mediterranean sea ports via Syria for the export of crude, an Iraqi oil ministry spokesman said Monday." Noting the deals with Turkey and Syria, Ben Lando (Iraq Oil Report) observes that "Iraq has taken essential steps towards its goal of becoming the world's premier oil exporter."
Reuters notes today's violence includes 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul, 1 Sahwa shot dead in Shirqat, a Baghdad car bombing which injured six people and, dropping back to Sunday, a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three injured. That was a Falluja roadside bombing on Sunday, it wasn't the big Falluja bombing already reported.
Yesterday Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Timothy Williams and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) explain, "The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks across Iraq during the past several weeks, coinciding with the country's political crisis. Iraq held parliamentary elections more than six months ago, but political leaders have failed to agree on a coalition government, and insurgents have sought to exploit the power vacuum." Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Twin car bombs exploded within moments of each other around 11 a.m. in Baghdad — one near a facility housing federal police, which killed 19 people, the other a few miles away at a busy intersection in the Mansour neighborhood, killing 10, Iraqi authorities said. More than 110 people were injured. Hours later, a suicide bomber drove into an Iraqi army checkpoint in central Fallujah, a heavily guarded city 40 miles west of Baghdad. Three soldiers and three civilians were killed, and 14 others were injured." Jamal Hashem (Xinhua) reports that Xinhua correspondent Bashar was there when the suicide car bombing "struck an office of a mobile phone company Asiacell, destroying the company building and a building nearby" and quotes him stating, "I am safe, but it was a very huge blast that collapsed the front part of Asiacell building, and I can see several cars either charred or badly damaged." Janine Zacharia and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report, "Traffic snarled in parts of Baghdad as Iraqi police tightened checkpoints after the twin car bombings struck at 10 a.m. in the Mansour and Kathumya neighborhoods, killing 29 people and wounding 111, according to Iraqi security authorities." Barbara Surk (AP) explains, "Most of those killed in Sunday's apparently coordinated attacks in Baghdad were civilians, and residents of the areas bombed directed their anger at a government they feel has left the city vulnerable to repeated attacks despite a network of police and army checkpoints paralyzing traffic." Ned Parker and Jabr Zeki (Los Angeles Times) count 33 dead from the 2 Baghdad bombings and the Falluja one and report, "A man who gave his name only as Majid described in a phone call people walking around in a daze. Some screamed 'God is great!' in grief for the dead while others expressed anger at the country's politicians. 'G** damn the government!' he heard one man shout in anger over what is widely seen as a deteriorating security situation." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "The killings are the clearest reminder yet that despite the Obama Administration's claims that the war is over, Iraq remains a very dangerous place, one in which US troops remain engaged."
The Iraq War is not over. Colin Clark (DoDBuzz) quotes an e-mail from a soldier serving in Iraq on the so-called 'change' and 'end' of 'combat operations':
The reason I'm sending this out is because I have had a few people ask if I left Iraq early because all of the combat troops are out of Iraq and I wanted to let everyone know the real deal.
Take our Brigade for example. We were originally called a HBCT (Heavy Brigade Combat Team). Well, since Obama said he would pull all of the "combat" troops out by Aug, all they did before we left was change our name from a HBCT to an AAB (Advise and Assist Brigade). We have the same personnel/equipment layout as before and are doing the same missions. The ONLY difference is that they changed our name from a HBCT to an AAB and that's how we pulled all of the 'combat' troops out.
There are other Brigades just like ours that are doing the same missions that are still over here. So anyway now you know the REAL story, so that's why I'm not coming back early.
The Iraq War hasn't ended. And COWARDS who can't call it out need to sit their tired asses down. Barack Obama's 'polish,' 'smoothness,' 'historic nature' and all other bulls**t doesn't matter a damn bit to the Iraqis dying and shame on any asshole who can't call out Barack at this late date but feels the needs to offer a tongue bath to Barack's balls before addressing the issues that matter. Yes, this refers to several people specifically who honestly need to find something else to do because they're worthless and they're cowards. They know who they are. Also, they're pathetic.
Turning to groups not afraid to stand up, rallies were held over the weekend for Bradley Manning. For anyone not up to speed, 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 Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. As Daniel Ellsberg reminded from the stage in Oakland Thursday night, "We don't know all the facts." But we know, as Ellsberg pointed out, that the US military is attempting to prosecute Bradley.
Julia Ledoux (Inside Nova) reports demonstrators at Quantico yesterday protested for Bradley to be freed and quotes Pete Perry stating, "We're concerned because specifically we believe there are war crimes being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. When crimes are committed, it helps when there is a whistleblower to report them." The Guardian's Greenslade blog notes the rallies. The Uptake has video of the rally in Minneapolis. Coleen Rowley participated in that rally and she explains in the video:
We're here today to support Bradley Manning, the Private who is being charged with exposing the video known as Collateral Murder showing the Apache helicopter shooting 11 Iraqi civilians, also including two children and two Reuters employees. He is a whistle blower who is blowing the whistle on War Crimes so, therefore, he cannot have done anything wrong.
Nikol Purvis (Associated Content) reports, "In Santa Monica, approximately 75 people showed up in support of Bradley Manning and in hopes to raise awareness to free the 23 year old soldier who allegedly leaked over 90,000 pages of sensitive classified material" and that the rally included ISO gubernatorial candidate Carlos Alverez who expressed his support for Bradley. In addition, Will David (Lower Hudson Journal News) reports that a protest took place in Cortlandt, New York outside a fundraiser for US House Rep John Hall who is running for re-election and that the demonstrators utilized "a mock coffin draped with an American flag and held up signs protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan" and quotes 61-year-old Bennett Weiss stating, "I was an ardent supporter of John Hall. I worked tirelessly to get him elected. He has not lived up to expectations as a true progressive."