Monday, September 27, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Monday, September 27, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the use of silencers in assassinations on the increase in Iraq, more on the FBI raiding peace activists Friday, the US military sees more deaths, Sahwa gets kicked off the police force in Anbar, and more.
Saturday, Parks & Recreations' Amy Poehler returned to Saturday Night Live as the host and, on Weekend Update, she and Seth Meyers did their "Really" sketch (click here to stream the episode at NBC, click here to stream it at Hulu and click here to stream the Weekend Update clip at Hulu).
Seth Meyers: But you know what else is crazy? Anyone who says we need to attack Iran because we're definitely in two wars already. Yes, two. Because saying combat operations are over in Iraq when they're are still 50,000 troops is like saying, 'Hey, I quit drinking . . . tequila shots!'
Amy Poehler: Really.
Seth Meyers: Really.
US Capt Paul Cluverius describes September 5th (after the end of "combat" operations), "I came out of my office, was walking down the hallway when the VBIED went off. [. . .].  The blast, even as far away as our building is, still threw me against the wall. Soldiers were stumbling trying to find out what was going on.  We immediately went to the roof to try and get eyes on what was going on."  US Sgt Christopher Williams adds, "As long as we're here in this country, personally, as long as they're a threat, then there's combat operations. You tell yourself that, you don't get complacent. We're going to continue to do what we need to do to get home safe."  Those are some of the voices of US service members that the BBC News' Gabriel Gatehouse has been speaking to since the magical August 31st when 'combat operations' ended via Barack casting a verbal spell.   Apparently that incantation didn't take so somebody hand Barack a Book Of Miracles.  In the meantime, Gatehouse was sharing those voices with John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee on The Takeaway (PRI) today.
John Hockenberry: An every man for himself, get home mission? Is that what Operation New Dawn is all about now? You can hear this sense of betrayal in the voice of Sgt. Williams' commander, Capt Cluverius.
Capt Paul Cluverius: We have some soldiers, they were a little angry about it, saying, 'Hey, we're still over here.  My personal standpoint? I thought it was humorous that they're saying combat operations are stopped because, I mean, combat operations are stopped? And what are we still doing here now? But our families, the people who know us, they know what we're doing.  There is no switch that you can throw to say combat operations are stopped. I believe it was more of a media -- It was something built for the media.
[. . .]
Gabriel Gatehouse: These two guys, Paul Cluverius and Sgt Chris Williams were incredibly frank. To be honest, I didn't expect them to be that frank. We asked the US military if we could come on to that base and talk to people about that attack on the 5th of September. I expected them to be a bit more tight-lipped because, obviously, it-it contradicts the narrative about the end of combat operations. This happened only four days after the official handover. But they were very honest and I think that does play into the fact that those who are left behind here do feel that the whole media storm around the 'last combat troops leaving' and the handover was a bit of a media event and that it doesn't really reflect their reality on the ground today.  
That's an excerpt.
Seth Meyers: But you know what else is crazy? Anyone who says we need to attack Iran because we're definitely in two wars already. Yes, two. Because saying combat operations are over in Iraq when they're are still 50,000 troops is like saying, 'Hey, I quit drinking . . . tequila shots!'
On Friday's Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera), former British MP George Galloway stated that sectarianism was incompatible with democracy: "It may be that the last election result shows that Iraqis, at least in their the majority, simple majority, are recognizing that and searching towards some kind of governance that will unite people across these sectarian divides.  That's the meaning, I think, of Allawi -- much as a I despise him -- that's the meaning of his victory in those elections. The people chose his list rather than the other list which was overtly, systematically sectarian in nature. So I'm not saying that Iraq is doomed forever, but it will never rise above this morass until it can consolidate itself on the basis of Iraqi national unity." 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 twenty days with no government formed.
Over the weekend, Iraiqya issued a statement.  Al Jazeera quoted portions of it including: "Iraqiya believes the current type of government headed by Maliki cannot be repeated, so Iraqiya will not take part in any government headed by him."   CNN observed, "The pronouncement highlights a failure to form an Iraqi government, and Iraqi officials fear that insurgents would take advantage of the political vacuum by trying to reignite the Sunni-Shiite sectarian bloodshed that gripped Iraq for years." AFP added, "Iraqiya also said on Saturday it regarded the newly formed National Alliance as 'a desperate attempt to strengthen political sectarianism'."  Xinhua reports that State Of Law has a response to Iraqiya's announcement, dismissing Iraqiya's statement as "representing the opinion of the extremist members in their bloc."
Today, Alsumaria TV reports that Iraqiya met last night to discuss their options while "The National Alliance is pursuing talks after it failed in Sunday's meeting to name the Prime Minister candidate. Iraqi Vice President and Islamic Supreme Council senior official Adel Abdul Mehdi announced that the alliance did not make any progress in five days." And the stalemate effects more than the political slates and parties.  Timothy Williams and Yasi Ghazi (New York Times) observe:
The voters have since watched winter turn to spring, and now summer become fall -- and the people they elected still have no leader. They are waiting for their parties to come to an agreement so they can start work. And while the summer months were marked by a surge in violence and by riots over the lack of electricity, drinking water and other basic services, in Baghdad, members of Parliament have lived out a workers' fantasy: a vacation of more than 200 days (and counting), with full pay and benefits, each free to do his heart's desire.
Meanwhile John Daniszewski and Edith M. Lederer (Associated Press) report on an interview AP did with Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari who is calling for the US to help break the political stalemate, "I personally think strongly that they have a role -- to encourage, to urge, to facilitate the Iraqis leaders to meet, to take the process further."  This is not the first time Zebari has issued that plea.
Violence continues.  Reuters reports a Baiji roadside bombing targeting Sahwa injured three of them and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Sunday Kirkuk sticky bombing targeted the car of a Sahwa leader. Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq," are predominately Sunnis who were put on the US payroll to stop attacking US military equipment and US service members -- according to the testimony of Gen David Petraeus to various Congressional committees in April of 2008. As US senators objected to the payment -- US tax payers footed the bill -- when Petraeus and then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared before Congress, it was decided that the issue of Iraq paying Sahwa themselves would be taken up. They were supposed to take over the payments and absorb Sahwa into jobs -- security and government jobs. That really did not happen.  Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that Anbar is about to get even more tense and possibly more unstable as police officrs there ("hundreds") are about to kicked out because they were Sahwa -- known at the time they were hired, in fact, the reason they were hired. The blame is being laid at the Ministry of Interior whose minister, remember, is appointed by Nouri. Not noted by Fadel is that the Sunni-stronghold could be the location for strong protests should an announcement be made that State Of Law's Nouri will remain in place as prime minister despite his slate coming in second and despite the fact that he is both controversial and unpopular. Fadel quotes Maj Raheem Zain: "We sacrificed our blood and our families. I think they want to take the province back to square one. I'm afraid of what will happen if we leave. Even the citizens are afraid from this."  Staying with violence.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing wounded journalist Alaa Muhsin and a Kirkuk car bombing injured police Chief Ahmed Resheed and three of his guards and three civilians. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which left two Iraqi soldiers injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Kirkuk home invasion in which Dr. Mohammed Adnan was shot dead and, dropping back to Sunday for the rest, a Baghdad attack on Mohammed Ghanim (an employee of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani) which left him and one other man injured, police Capt Haider Zuhair was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 police officer shot dead in Baghdad, and a Mosul home invasion in which 2 brothers were shot dead. Reuters notes a Kirkuk drive-by in which 1 person was shot dead and a 1 person shot dead in Mosul.  Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report that those targeting officials and security forces are increasingly using "silencer pistols or small bombs" and that, according to the Monistor of Constitutional Freedom and Bill of Rights, 686 is the number of people killed thus far in Iraq shootings by guns with silencers. .
Saturday's news noted that Marc Whisenart was killed in Kuwait while on his second tour of duty in the Iraq War.  Middletown Press reports Pfc Gebrah P. Noonan  died Thursday in Falluja and that Governor Jodi Rell has ordered that state flags be lowered on Noonan's behalf. Friday USF announced: "CAMP LIBERTY – Two United States Forces - Iraq service members died of injuries sustained in a non-combat-related incident today. One other service member was injured and evacuated to a military medical facility for treatment."
Sunday BBC News reported that the Iranian government sent their Revolutionary Guard into Iraq's borders where they killed at least 30 Kurds whom the Revolutionary Guard decided were 'militants.' Nasser Karimi (AP) noted that the raid took place on Saturday but Iran announced it today. Yahya Barzanji (AP) reports today that the Kurdish rebels deny that a raid took place.  Meanwhile Burhan Nawprdani (Rudaw) reports, "The Iranian government has been building a wall and setting up several military outposts on its border with Iraqi Kurdistan, an attempt that could lessen trafficking between the Iranian Kurds and Iraqi Kurds. Rudaw has found out that one of the outposts will be located in the Iraqi territory. Iran's pretext for building these military outposts and the wall is the prevention of smuggling of goods and drug trafficking. According to an anonymous source from Kurdistan's Border Police, the Iranian government has already built six military outposts in the Haji Omaran area." Lara Jakes (AP) reports on the Iranian bases here.
On Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq which began airing Friday, Jasim Azawi spoke with former British MP George Galloway and Raanan Gissin, one-time advisor to Ariel Sharon. Excerpt:  
Jasim Azawi: George Galloway, I would like to start with you for obvious reasons.  We don't have time to catalogue the calamities and the pain and the suffering of what Iraq went through during those seven years.  But is there a silver lining among all the horrible events that we witnessed from 2003 until now? 
George Galloway: No, I'm afraid the outlook is as gloomy as the London leaden sky behind me. This was, to paraphrase the French statesman [Charles M. de] Talleyrand,  a crime alright but it was worse than a crime, it was a blunder.  If you're talking -- as you are -- about profit and loss, about a balance sheet, than we have to factor a number of things in.  First of all a million dead Iraqis according to Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet, the journal of the BMA, British Medical Association. Then there's the three million Iraqi exiles -- many of them begging on the streets of neighboring countries.  Then there's the fanatisization -- first inside Iraq itself and across the Muslim world, extremism has cascaded everywhere in the world as a result of this enterprise and none of us is safer as a result.  And the breaking of Arab power in Iraq has, of course, fantasically inflated Iranian power -- both in Iraq and in the region as a whole. And none of that is, I'm sure, the intended consequences of the British Parliamentarians, at least, behind me. But they were duped into this war and I've said from day one -- even before day one -- this war was about oil, it was about Israel but, above all, it was about demonstrating the overwhelming  power of the United States of America to make sure that nobody would dream of contesting the claim that this would be "a new American century." In that last respect, at least, it's been a colossal failure for the United States of America for what has been demonstrated are the limitations of American power rather than the shock and awe they thought they would devastate the world's public opinion with.
Jasim Azawi: Before we go into that catalogue outlined by George Galloway, Raanan Gissin, I would like to give you an opportunity to have a counter-idea.  From your perspective -- whether it's an Israeli perspective or a Middle East expert, do you see it otherwise?
Raanan Gissin: Well there's no good and beautiful scenario in the Middle East anyway you look at it. I think there's a tendency by Mr. Galloway to romanticize a little bit about the period before the war.  I mean, Iraq was not in a state of peace or tranquility at the time. I mean, people forget about the reign of terror of Saddam Hussein, what the casualties and the damage that he caused to the country and what he did in Kuwait before so, I mean, it's not a question between once there was a very beautiful and good Iraq and then the United States stepped in and destroyed everything and brought the calamity to the Iraqi people. Yes, there is great suffering in Iraq but this suffering is not a result of the American invasion, so to speak, in 2003.  Rather, it's the result of the British Empire decision in 1923 to lump three groups together, which were at loggerheads before, and to create the modern day Iraq for the sake of Prince Faisal at the time. So we've got to put things in the proper perspective before we lament about the current condition and try to glorify the previous era that existed in Iraq.
George Galloway: Of course the consequences were easily forseen. It's true that the whole of the million dead in Iraq were not killed by the Untied States.  But they were killed as of a consequence of the British and American invasion, illegal as you described it, of that country. And, of course, we can't go around the world unpicking all the colonial settlements. Otherwise the whole world will look like what Iraq looks like today. But there was no al Qaeda in Iraq before the invasion. Now there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands of al Qaeda in Iraq. And, by the way, al Qaeda has been fantastically enhanced around the globe -- its attractiveness, its world view has become enormously more popular amongst many Muslims, perhaps many tens of millions of Muslims -- including here, in my own country.  Iran was not powerful in Iraq before the invasion but it's certainly very powerful now. And the reality is, of course, Israel knew that Iraq was a threat -- the only Arab country that was economically and militarily any kind of counter-balance to themselves, so they wanted it destroyed. And now they want us to destroy Iran.  The same arguments they had used to encourage people to attack Iraq are now being rehearsed and ready to be rolled out again in another farce in the run-up to a potential attack on Iran.
Friday the FBI began raiding the homes of peace activists. Jacob Wheeler (The UpTake -- link has video) spoke with Mick Kelly whose home was raided.  With Kelly's permission, The UpTake has since [PDF format warning] posted the FBI search warrant which outlines the targeted info of the search:
(1) Documents, files, books, photographs, videos, souvenirs, war relics, notebooks address books, diaries, journals, maps or other evidence, including evidence in electronic form, related to:
1) Kelly's travel to and from and presence and activities in Minnesota, and other foreign countries to which Kelly has traveled as part of his work in FRSO; Kelly's ability to pay for his own travel from the United States to Palestine, Columbia and travel within the United States from 2000 until present, including all materials related to Kelly's personal finances and finances of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization ("FRSO");
c) Kelly's potential co-conspirators, including any address books, lists, notes, photographs, videos, or letters of Kelly's personal contacts in the United States and abroad;
d) the recruitment, indoctrination, and facilitation of other individuals in the United States to join FRSO, including materials related to the identity and location of recruiters, facilitators, and recruits, the means by which the recruits were recruited to join FRSO, the means by which the recruitment was financed and arranged;
e) the recruitment, indoctrination, and facilitation of other individuals in the United States to travel to Colombia, Palestine and any other foreign location in support of FTOs including, but not limited to FARC, PFLP and Hezbollah, including materials related to the identity and location of recruiters, facilitators, and recruits of these FTOs, the means by which individuals were recruited to travel to Colombia, Palestine and other foreign locations in support of FTOs, and the means by which the recruitment was financed and arranged;
f) FARC, PFLP, Hezballah and other FTOs which the FRSO and Kellyl have supported, attempted to support or conspired to support;
g) Kelly's use of the email address and and telephone numbers [I'm deleting] and [ibid] or any other telephone numbers, and Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking websites.
2) Computer equipment, electronic storage devices, and cellular telephones belonging to Kelly and their contents, including files, telephone numbers, photographs and videos, related to the evidentiary items listed in paragraph 1 above, pursuant to the procedures set forth in the accompanying affidavit.
Two things on the above.  First, you didn't miss it, there is no (1) b).  Second, I am not comfortable putting a phone number up (even if it's already up and online) so I have edited out Mick Kelly's two phone numbers listed in the warrant. And repeating a point made here on Friday: 8 searches and ZERO arrests?  There's a problem.  If you're the FBI or police, you try not to do a raid unless you think you're going to get evidence of crimes because, once raided, you've tipped those raided off to the fact that legal authorities are monitoring them.  So how do you have eight raids in one day without any arrests?  Either the raids were a huge bust or the raids weren't supposed to result in arrests, they were supposed to intimidate people into silence.
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters across the country in the face of FBI repression of progressive causes. SDSers, along with members of the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera had their homes searched and documents and electronic devices seized.              
"The government hopes to use a grand jury to frame up activists. The goal of these raids is to harass and try to intimidate the movement against U.S. wars and occupations, and those who oppose U.S. support for repressive regimes," said Colombia solidarity activist Tom Burke, one of those handed a subpoena by the FBI. "They are designed to suppress dissent and free speech, to divide the peace movement, and to pave the way for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and Latin America."          
Grace Kelley, an SDSer from the University of Minnesota, said "SDS at the U of M condemns the terror tactics used by the FBI to silence activists who organize against wars and for peace here in Minneapolis as well as across the nation. Tracy Molm from SDS at U of M was one of the activists whose house was raided. SDSers across the country need to stand up and condemn these raids and say that we will not be scared into silence, that we will continue to stand up and fight for what's right".                   
Several activists in Minnesota and Chicago have had papers, CDs, and cell phones stolen among other items; as well as being issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury. The FBI are apparently looking for evidence linking activists to "material support of terrorism" specifically liberation struggles in Colombia and Palestine. In addition to SDSers being harassed in Minneapolis, two SDSers in Milwaukee were also contacted by the FBI about their anti-war activism.               
The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation. No arrests have been made -- make no mistake, this is a fishing expedition by the FBI.        
We urge all progressive activists to show solidarity with those individuals targeted by the U.S. Government. Activists have the right not to speak with the FBI and are encouraged to politely refuse -- just say "No".             
Show your support! Organize solidarity actions in your city demanding that the FBI halt all searches and seizures against progressive activists who have done nothing wrong. Contact your local media and let them know that we will not tolerate this kind of harassment from the government. And be aware -- if the FBI knocks, you do not have to give out any information or answer any questions.        

For more information, contact:  

Grace Kelley, University of Minnesota SDS: 612.709.3424
Kas Schwerdtfeger, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee SDS: 262.893.2806

Today Justin Raimondo ( explores the raids and their meanings at length and concludes, "In an atmosphere like this, anything is possible: repression, mass raids, and, yes, even dictatorship (in the name of 'preserving democracy,' naturally). We are in for some hard times, and certainly some tumultuous times: if we're going to survive, we must shed any illusions that the State is going to back off, or give us a break, because, after all, 'our' guy is in the White House. The Obama administration is the enemy of freedom at home and the main danger to peace abroad -- and progressive opponents of war and domestic repression need to either acknowledge that, or else give up the fight. The Obama boomerang has hit them squarely upside their heads: now they need to pick themselves up off the ground and face reality."
Remember that  the National Lawyers Guild issued a new report Friday, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." We'll try to note it again this week. (Already noted in Friday's snapshot.)  Amy Goodman explored the subject on Democracy Now! today (link has audio, text and video) by speaking with activists Jess Dunin in Minneapolis and Joe Iosbaker in Chicago about the raids on their homes as well as with former FBI agent Coleen Rowley.  Jess Sundin stated:
Well, as you mentioned, in the Twin Cities we had a meeting the night that the raids happened. There were more than 200 people who gathered, and really every organization in the Twin Cities. But I'd say countless organizations across the country have contacted us to ask us how they can help. There will be, today and tomorrow, as you mentioned earlier, demonstrations in at least twenty cities around the country. We've had word of plans for demonstrations at embassies in other countries, as well, at US embassies.  So, one of the things we're doing is trying to call attention to what's happened and really make it clear to people that we have done nothing wrong. There is no basis to the claim that we've in any way given support to terrorist organizations. But in fact, we are being -- we are being --there is attention on us because of our work in the antiwar movement, and in particular, our perspective of solidarity with people in the countries where the US war and militarism are happening. We, following up on these demonstrations, are going to be pulling together a network of people from many of these organizations that have expressed their concern. Folks who want to get tied into that can find us through the Anti-War Committee website, which is very outdated. We're doing our best to get it up. Of course, as we explained, all of our computers were seized. So we're doing a lot of catch up, trying to get ourselves organized.  And, of course, we're also very concerned with making legal plans to protect ourselves. A number of people have been called before a grand jury in Chicago. And we, you know, don't want to be -- you know, a case to be framed up around us. All of us are quite confident that nothing that was found in our homes will give substantiation to the claims against us. And there's, in fact, no charges against us. But we want to do everything we can to both protect ourselves legally while at the same time working with the movement to call attention to what's happened.