Monday, November 01, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 1, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a church in Baghdad is assaulted, the political stalemate continues, Saudi Arabia suggests a meet-up, WikiLeaks continues to be poorly covered in the US, and more.
Today the Wheeling News-Register's editorial board notes Barack Obama declared the Iraq War "at an end on Aug. 31st" and that, "In fact, US troops continue to be wounded and killed in Iraq. As we have pointed out, Obama may say the war is over, but those being killed are still just as dead." The Iraq War continues and it may continue well beyond 2011.  As noted in last Monday's "Iraq snapshot," at the US State Dept, spokesperson Philip J. Crowley declared: 
"Well, we have a Status of Forces Agreement and a strategic framework. The Status of Forces Agreement expires at the end of next year, and we are working towards complete fulfillment of that Status of Forces Agreement, which would include the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of next year. The nature of our partnership beyond next year will have to be negotiated. On the civilian side, we are committed to Iraq over the long term. We will have civilians there continuing to work with the government on a range of areas – economic development, rule of law, civil society, and so forth. But to the extent that Iraq desires to have an ongoing military-to-military relationship with the United States in the future, that would have to be negotiated. And that would be something that I would expect a new government to consider. [. . .] Should Iraq wish to continue the kind of military partnership that we currently have with Iraq, we're open to have that discussion."

That should have been big news but we don't get news, we get whoring.  Example,
Saturday two corporate monkies -- failed actors who, late in life, lucked into jobs they are now desperate to hold onto, held a rally in DC.  As David Swanson (War Is A Crimes) observed early last month, "Stewart opposes activist messages and their messengers.  The problem seems to be, not so much accuracy as inappropriateness and volume.  You should not shout anything or say 'war criminal,' but you especially should not shout 'war criminal!'" When old comedians -- middle aged ones desparate to be hip -- starting trying to police taste and run the "morality" beat, they not only stop being funny, they stop having any value.  They're now the tired whores who sucked up to Nixon and completely cut off from the people.  At Huffington Post, Will Bunch sees the country's tipping point as when the Iraq War were sold by a media that refused to question or probe the claims (lies) put forward by the Bush administration:
That's why I thought Iraq and its central role in American insanity was in many ways that dog that did not bark in Stewart and Stephen Colbert's big rally on Saturday. Watching it play out on TV, it felt like the two comedians and the 200,000 strong who gathered in their names had drifted so far from the original roots of the "sanity movement" in American politics that the ultimate message -- that the only answers lie in toning things down a notch and in looking for a brand of moderation that finds equal fault with vaguely defined "extremism" on either side -- was a perhaps unintended 180-degree U-turn.
From the stage we saw a tacit endorsement of the dangerous notion of false equivalencies -- the very concept that in a phony quest for journalistic balance caused the news media to give equal weight or greater weight to unsupported spin, not just for the war in Iraq but its cheerleading financial coverage before the 2008 crisis that Stewart demolished on his own show. "The press is our immune system," Stewart said in his closing speech on Saturday. "If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker--and, perhaps, eczema." But that's only part of the puzzle -- on way too many critical issues the last 10 years, neither the press nor the public has reacted enough, particularly to ideas that are lacking in reason. It's stunning that Stewart of all people -- who became a national comedic icon in that 2003-04 era, in large part by calling attention to that "Mess O' Potania" that the mainstream media was largely content to ignore -- would forget where the road to insanity started.
The scary part is that central to Stewart's message on Saturday was what one of best media critics around -- the New York University professor Jay Rosen -- calls "the view from nowhere," the same kind of high-minded pooh-pooing of the messy fray of actual democracy, including passion and commitment that involves fighting in the muck of ideas, that the kind of people who gathered on the National Mall once detested from the likes of the punditocracy's naysayer-in-chief, David Broder.
Bunch declares that it's difficult to criticize Stewart.  No, it's not at all unless you've dressed him up as a god. Stewart is a basic cable fixture.  MTV made him one repeatedly and his ratings at Comedy Centeral really aren't significantly higher than when he was doing his Free Willy parodies on MTV (or, for that matter, when he failed with his late night Fox talk show).  It's just Comedy Central will treat "two million viewers!" as a success when it's failure.  Jon Stewart is a failed actor.  Years ago, he and Parker Posey played roller bladers in Mixed Nuts.  Parker's gone on to deliver many amazing performances.  Stewart knows he's the closest to a success he's ever going to be and he's not going to let anything risk that.  So he's corporate monkey who dances for his bosses.
And Viacom - home of suppression and fear -- attacked Tom Cruise for publicly speaking of love, fired Ed Gernon for comparing Bush to Hitler, kicked the Reagan mini-series over to cable (Showtime) because they are such cowards, If that's who signs your paycheck, if that's who holds your contract, you're not going to such much bravery but you are going to preach rigid conformity -- advocate for a return to the Eisnehower era while distracting from real issues which is what took place Saturday.  It was the sort of event where Lily Tomlin's reactionary character Suzie Sorority would have felt at home.
In other news of self-debasement, Amy Goodman and pleasure slave Denis Moynihan do a column on WikiLeaks with Goody still playing Last Reporter Standing as she castigates Big Media:
Sunday's network talk shows barely raised the issue of the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history. When asked, they say the midterm elections are their main focus. Fine, but war is an election issue. It should be raised in every debate, discussed on every talk show.
I see the media as a huge kitchen table, stretching across the globe, that we all sit around, debating and discussing the most important issues of the day: war and peace, life and death. Anything less than that is a disservice to the servicemen and -women of this country. They can't have these debates on military bases. They rely on us in civilian society to have the discussions that determine whether they live or die, whether they are sent to kill or be killed. Anything less than that is a disservice to a democratic society.

Amy Goodman is a brave truth-teller . . . if you're uneducated and uninformed.  As Ava and I noted  of Goodman on Sunday, surveying Panhandle Media's 'coverage' of WikiLeaks:
What she offered was pure crap. With the hope that she might improve later in the week, a link was offered. But she was never excerpted in the snapshot because her hour long garbage was pure garbage, pure crap that purposely misinformed.

Nir Rosen, Pratap Chatterjee and David Leigh joined her to talk about . . . Iraq and Bush. With the exception of noting that "the Obama administration has lashed out at WikiLeaks," the program couldn't include Barack in the discussion.

It was the same cowardice that
Nicole Colson demonstrated in US Socialist Worker's sole report on WikiLeaks last week. One article on WikiLeaks. They published 23 articles last week. Only one addressed the biggest document release in history. Only one. And even it pulled the punches.

Before last week started, Angus Stickler's "
Obama administration handed over detainees despite reports of torture" (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) was already online, though you'd never know it by the way Beggar Media ignored it:

Human rights organisations have expressed outrage at the revelations. Professor Novak, the UN Rapporteur on Torture told the Bureau: "If the United States forces handed over detainees to Iraqi jurisdiction, despite the fact that they were at
serious risk of being subjected to torture, that is a violation of Article 3C of the Convention Against Torture of which the US is a signatory."
He said there should be a full and thorough investigation to ascertain whether
any of the detainees handed over to the Iraqi authorities by the US have been abused.
"The burden of proof is on the US to prove that they can categorically state that
the detainees they are handing over are not at risk of torture.There should be an investigation to look into the fate of those individuals to see whether they have
been abused."

This was picked up by human rights groups, by politicians outside the US, the details were covered by TV and radio programs and newspapers around the world. It was just the Beggar Media that couldn't inform you of it.

If you're going to lecture other outlets, Amy Goodman, then you better have been upfront on your program, which you weren't, you intentionally and repeatedly avoided the issue of turning prisoners over to Iraqi forces known/suspected of torture (it was known) and that took place under Barack Obama -- a fact you also avoided because you refuse to call him out for his War Crimes.  Human Rights Watch and Amnesty both issue statements on this aspect of the release but Amy Goodman can't find it?
Really?  Well it wasn't all that long ago, now was it, when she was using the inauguration as a fundraiser selling off tickets for over $1,000 to a DC inuagural ball.  Don't forget she whored and she still does.  She's not a trusted source, she's unable to call out the powerful.  She should be used sparingly and not as the go-to reference because her record of whoring is now well known.
Over the weekend, the New York Times' public editor Arthur Brisbane attempted to 'take on' the WikiLeaks coverage.  But a public editor needs to disclose.  So when Brisbane quotes Thomas E. Ricks as a voice against WikiLeaks -- just like the government! -- and identifies him, he needs to offer more than a book Ricks wrote or a magazine he blogs at.  Ricks is in agreement with the government?  Well he belongs to a think-tank and Brisbane 'forgot' to include that fact.
Ricks belongs to the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) -- home to the homegrown terrorists in charge of counter-insurgency. Therefore, Ricks repeating the Pentagon spin isn't at all surprising.  Michele Flournoy does what in the administration? She's the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (and being pushed as one of the leading nominees to replace Robert Gates when he leaves the post of Secretary of Defense). What did Michele start? Oh, that's right, she started CNAS. With Kurt Cambell, you know, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacifica Affairs. CNAS, Thomas Ricks? Those are details a public editor needs to cover.
Friday October 22nd, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to. The Pueblo Chieftain notes, "The documents show a weak, fractured national government in Baghdad despite a dramatic reduction of violence. This points out the need to keep forces there long after the time when President Barack Obama would want all of them removed by Dec. 31, 2011." Fractured government?
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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 seven months and twenty-five days and still counting.

Saturday CNN reported that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is calling for Iraqi politicians to meet up in Saudia Arabia ("after the Hajj pilgrimage in November") to attempt to end the political stalemate. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quoted the king stating, "It is well-known to everyone that you are at a crossroads, a fact that necessitates your uniting the ranks, rising above your wounds, distancing the shadows of differences, and extinguishing the fire of abhorrent sectarianism," said the king, as reported by SPA. Our hands are outstretched to you. Let us work together for the security, integrity and stability of the land and brotherly people of Iraq."  Arab News added, "He said the talks would be held under the auspices of the Arab League in order to seek solutions for all outstanding problems that stand in the way of forming a unity government in Baghdad, adding that it would be a good opportunity for reconciliation to restore Iraq's security, peace and stability."  Today RTT News informs, "Iraq's Shiite alliance has turned down an offer extended by Saudi Arabia to host an all-party talks involving Iraqi political leaders for ending the months-long political deadlock that has prevented formation of a coalition government in that war-ravaged country after the indecisive March elections." Zee News notes a contrasting reaction, King Abdullah's offer "has been hailed across the gulf region". MD Rasooldeen (Arab News) quotes Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, stating, "It showed the king's keenness to preserve the unity of Iraq and to support the Iraqi people to live in an atmosphere of peace and security."
Nawzad Mahmoud and Rawa Abdulla (Rudaw) reports, "One of the major Kurdish political parties broke away from the larger Kurdish alliance on Friday evening, ending and undermining the united political representation of Kurds whose role is decisive to shape Iraq's future government. By taking this decision, Gorran, the greatest and most influential opposition party in the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, deepens its political divergence with the two ruling parties over almost everything here in the most stable region of Iraq." Gorran -- "Change" -- is backed by the US and has received a huge amount of money from the US government. That detail is left out of the report but it is probably the most pertinent detail.  UPI reports that Iraqiya states they're ready for negotiation talks.
Since the March elections, the Parliament has met only once and for approximately 20 minutes.  The Daily Mail reports, "Politicians in Iraq have raked in more than $1,000 a minute for working just TWENTY minutes this year.  They picked up a fee of $90,000 and a monthly salary of $22,500 a month for doing next to nothing and staying free in Baghdad's finest hotel." 
Yesterday in Baghdad, Iraqi forces swarmed Our Lady of Salvation Church where people were being held hostage by assailants.  Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report, "The bulk of the bloodletting happened shortly after 9 p.m. when Iraqi Special Operations troops stormed Our Lady of Salvation church in the upscale Karradah neighborhood to try and free worshipers who had been taken hostage. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy's Miami Herald) reports, "Insurgents seized control of a church in central Baghdad on Sunday, taking hostages during evening mass after attacking a checkpoint at the Baghdad Stock Exchange." Graham Fitzgerald (Sky News) observes, "Apparently no attempt was made to negotiate with them and bring the siege to a peaceful conclusion." John Leland (New York Times) quotes police officer Hussain Nahidh stating, "It's a horrible scene. More than 50 people were killed. The suicide vests were filled with ball bearings to kill as many people as possible. You can see human flesh everywhere. Flesh was stuck to the top roof of the hall. Many people went to hospitals without legs and hands."  Lara Jakes (AP) reports there were 120 hostages in the church.  Ned Parker and Jaber Zeki (Los Angeles Times via Sacremento Bee) add, "The Iraqi police immediately sealed off the surrounding area in the busy Karada commercial district. The American military was called in to help. As U.S. Army helicopters buzzed overheads, American officers accompanied Iraqi commanders and shared satellite imagery, according to Iraqi police and the U.S. military. A caller to the Baghdad satellite channel Baghdadiya, who insisted he was one of the attackers, said the group was demanding the release of al-Qaida prisoners in Egypt and threatened to execute the hostages if the authorities failed to meet their demands."
Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) reports, "The siege began when militants wearing suicide vests and armed with grenades took an entire congregation hostage. Some 120 people were held in the church for at least four hours." Today the Telegraph of London explains (link has text and video) the death toll has risen to 52. BBC News offers a photo essay of the siege.  Lewis Smith (Independent of London) quotes hostage Marzina Matti Yalda, "As we went outside the hall to see what was happening, gunmen stormed the main gates and they started to shoot at us. Many people fell down, including a priest, while some of us
ran inside and took shelter in a locked room as we waited for the security forces to arrive." The Telegraph of London quotes a young male hostage (unnamed) stating of the hostage takers, "They entered the church with their weapons, wearing military uniforms. They came into the prayer hall, and immediately killed the priest." Martin Chulov (Guardian) adds, "The priest they call Father Rafael is believed to have survived, but his colleague, Father Wissam, is believed to have been killed." Jim Muir (BBC News) offers a video
report and an Iraqi female hostage states, "Gunmen entered the church and started to beat people. Some of the people were released but others were wounded and some died and one of the priests was killed." Muir points out that churches in Iraq have been attacked before "but there's never been anything like this."
Jonathan Adams (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "The incident, which began Sunday afternoon, highlights the continued threat to Christians in Iraq, whose number has shrunk from 800,000 to 550,000 since 2003 as members have fled abroad or been killed. Radical groups continue to launch attacks on religious and non-religious sites as political leaders struggle to form a new government some eight months after controversial elections."   Alsumaria TV quotes France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stating, "France firmly condemns this terrorist action, the latest in a deadly campaign of targeted violence which has already led to more than 40 deaths among the Christians of Iraq. France repeats its attachment to the respect of fundamental liberties such as religious freedom and supports the Iraqi authorities in their struggle against terrorism." Vatican Radio quotes Pope Benedict XVI stating, "Last night, in a very serious attack on the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, dozens of people were killed and wounded, including two priests and a group of faithful gathered for Sunday Mass. I pray for the victims of this senseless violence, all the more ferocious as it affected defenceless civilians." Vatican Radio also reports:

"No-where is safe anymore, not even the House of God", says auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad of the Chaldeans, Shlemon Warduni, the day after an unprecedented attack on the Christian community of the Iraqi capital. Together with Patriarch Delly he visited survivors and wounded of the Sunday massacre, in which over 50 hostages and police officers were killed when security forces raided a Baghdad church to free more than 100 Iraqi Catholics held hostage by al Qaeda-linked gunmen. Between 70 and 80 people were seriously wounded, many of them women and children.

Ammon News reports that Jordan's King Abdullah II cabled Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, and "expressed his sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the Iraqi President over the victims of the attack and wished the injured a speedy recovery." The Daily Star notes, "Lebanese Muslim and Christian figures condemned Monday the killing of hostage parishoners at the Karda church in Iraq the previous day. Clerics and political parties slammed the deadly violence during a hostage rescue mission in Karada in Baghad Sundy, when at least 52 people were killed as US and Iraqi forces stormed a Catholic church to free dozens of hostages."
In today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Qaiyara sticky bombing claimed the lives of police Lt Col Khalid Auda and his driver and that 1 suspect was shot dead in Arbil by Kurdish forces.
And back to WikiLeaks, we'll close with Sian Ruddick's "Iraq war logs expose murder, abuse and torture" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Thousands of leaked US military documents have revealed the grisly reality of the murder, torture and abuse of prisoners by US, British and local pro-occupation forces in Iraq.

The Wikileaks website released nearly 400,000 army field reports itemising death and abuse by US military action and the bitter sectarian division the occupation caused.

The reports run from January 2004 to January 2010. They reveal torture carried out by police officers, army personnel, prison staff and border guards.

The majority of victims are young men. But there are also occurrences of abuse towards women—including serious sexual assault—and of attacks on disabled and old people.

The reports show that much of the abuse by Iraqi forces was either witnessed by US soldiers or reported to them.

Batteries with exposed wires and hoses appear often. Prisoners are kicked, beaten, sexually abused and humiliated, burnt with flame and chemicals and put in stress positions.


Despite the widespread evidence of torture, the US government issued order "Frago 242" in June 2004, ordering coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict unless it directly involved members of the US's coalition side.

Where the alleged abuse is committed by an Iraqi towards an Iraqi, "only an initial report will be made… No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ".

One example from the log reports film footage showing: "Ten Iraqi army soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee.

"The detainee had his hands bound. The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him." The logs conclude, "No investigation is necessary."

In reality, things were no different when abuse was carried out by US or British soldiers—the history of the occupation has been one of cover-up and corruption.

The leaks contain the reports of over 100,000 civilian deaths.

But even this is a gross underestimate. Surveys by ORB and the Lancet estimate that well over a million Iraqis have been killed. The war and occupation have displaced millions more.

Some incidents are documented in forensic detail. For instance the "Crazyhorse 18" Apache helicopter gunship crew were following a truck driven by two men they suspected of carrying explosives.

The men got out of their vehicle to surrender.

The Apache crew radioed base and were told by a lawyer that it was not possible to "surrender to an aircraft".

The helicopter unleashed missiles killing both men. More civilians were injured.


Another report states how US interrogators threatened to hand detainees over to the Wolf Brigade if they wouldn't talk.

Iraqi prisoners accused the brigade of torturing prisoners with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects.

It was set up by the US military and directed by Colonel James Steele, who had acted as a US advisor to death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.

These reports confirm again that the invasion was never about liberating the Iraq, only asserting US power.

Stop the War Coalition conference: 30 October, 10am-5pm in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square WC1R 4RL. Speakers include Tony Benn and Joe Glenton
Troops out of Afghanistan, Time to Go demonstration 20 November Assemble 12 noon, Hyde Park

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

Friday October 22nd, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents