Thursday November 4, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the stalemate continues, Allawi states Iranian officials do not want him to be prime minister (of Iraq), Barack mouths on about Don't Ask, Don't Tell but can't speak of Iraqi Christians (and it's been noticed), Julian Assange holds a press conference calling for an investigation into the incidents recorded in the documents WikiLeaks, the body of a fallen US soldier makes it home, a case is filed questioning the legality of the Iraq War, and more.
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. Laura Oliver (Journalism.co.UK) reports on Global Investigative Journalism Network's petition in support of WikiLeaks and quotes from the petition:
We, journalists and journalist organisations from many countries, express our support for Mr Assange and Wikileaks. We believe that Mr Assange has made an outstanding contribution to transparency and accountability on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, subjects where transparency and accountability has been severely restricted by government secrecy and accountability has been severely restricted by government secrecy and media control. He is being attacked for releasing information that should never have been withheld from the public.
We believe Wikileaks had the right to post confidential military documents because it was in the interest of the public to know what was happening. The documents show evidence that the US Government has misled the public about activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and that war crimes may have been committed.
Today in Geneva, Julian Assange spoke to the press. CBS and AP report that he's calling for an investigation into the incidents documented in all the papers WikiLeaks has released on Iraq and Afghanistan. Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters) quotes him stating, "It is time the United States opened up instead of covering up." Assange was in Geneva as the US prepares to face a UN Human Rights Council review tomorrow in Geneva. AFP notes that "human rights campaigners" are making public their disappointment with the White House and the ACLU's Jamal Dakwar is quoted stating of Barack, "We all thought that was a terrific beginning. However, we are now seeing that this administration is becoming an obstacle to achieving accountability in human rights."
The Rutgers School of Law-Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinci today filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court in a case challenging the invasion of Iraq by President Bush in the absence of a Declaration of War by Congress.
The Plaintiffs in the case are New Jersey Peace Action, a 50-year-old anti-war organization; William Joseph Wheeler, an Iraq war veteran; and two morthers whose sons had been deployed in Iraq -- Anna Berlinrut of Nutley, New Jersey and Paula Rogovin of Teaneck, New Jersey.
The case was dismissed by both the Federal District Court in Newark and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on procedural grounds, without reaching the merits of the constitutional claim.
The plaintiffs are represented by Rutgers Professor Frank Askin, Directof or the Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Newark attorney Bennet Zuofsky, and students in the Rutgers Law School clinic, who have worked on the case for the past three years.
Plaintiffs' case is based on the original intent of the Framers of the Constitution to take the power of peace and war out of the hands of a single executive and place it in the hands of Congress. Plaintiffs' arguments rely heavily on the records of the Constitutional Convention on June 1, 1787, and the rulings of the Supreme Court in the first half of the 19th century.
The petition notes that since the end of World War II, U.S. presidents have regularly ignored the intent of the Framers and instituted foreign hostilities without obtaining a Declaration of War from Congress. However, the petition also says that in none of the prior wars did the President take the initiative to invade a sovereign nation without provocation. According to the petition, in the first half of the 19th century, the Supreme Court emphasized that the plain language of the Constitution meant that the President could not launch an all-out war in the absence of a Congressional Declaration.
The petition also notes that no federal court has ever examined the debates at the Constitutional Convention on June 1, 1787, when the decision as to the constitutional allocation of the war powers was decided, and asks the Supreme Court to at last take up the issue. Since World War II, the lower federal courts have dismissed suits challening the President's authority to wage war on technical procedural grounds.
The case raises fundamental issues concerning the intent of the Framers of the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court as the ultimate interpreter of our national charter. The petition reminds the Court of the famous words of Thomas Jefferson that in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution the Framers had provided "an effectual check to the Dog of War by transferring the power of letting it loose from Executive to Legislative body, from those are to spend to those who are to pay."
Dareen Aboughaida: An al Qaeda-linked group called the Islamic State of Iraq claims responsibility for attacking the Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday. Situated close to the Green Zone, the gunmen held more than a hundred people hostage for hours before security forces stormed the church. The kidnappers were demanding the release of al Qaeda prisoners from Iraqi and Egyptian jails. They also threatened the Coptic Church of Egypt for allegedly detaining female Muslims against their will. The attack is being described as the bloodiest against Iraq's dwindling Christian community since the 2003 US-led invasion. Joining us to discuss this, our guests: In Erbil, Aziz Emmanuel Zedari -- he's a member of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council -- that's an NGO seeking to enhance the rights of Christians in Iraq; in London, we have Iraq Affairs Analyst Abdulmunaem Almula; and in Washington DC, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, he's the director for the Center of Terrorist Radicalization at the Foundation For Defence of Democracies. Gentlemen, welcome all to the program, thank you very much for your time on Inside Story. Abdulmunaem Almula, let me begin with you and discuss the actual mechanics of the attacks. Now the assailants first battled security at the stock exchange building then it's reported the men fled to the nearby church where they took those people hostage. So what do you make of this? Was the target the stock exchange or was it the Church to avenge for those al Qaeda members held in prisons in Iraq that we were talking about in the introduction?
Abdulmunaem Almula: Well to be honest with you, if anything this operation will demonstrate -- it will demonstrate the lack of professionalism and the training of the Iraqi security forces. Also it will further demonstrate that the-the-the lack of ability of this Iraqi government to handle such a situation. For me, I can look at the attack as it came from a common -- common murderers, common criminals that were trying to-to attack the-the Iraqi Exchange Centre or one of the Iraqi business centers next to the Salvation Church and then they scaled on the wall of the-the Church and they start to-to shoot the civilians there. For me, I think it is -- whoever the group behind this attack -- either al Qaeda or any other terrorists groups -- it is a terrorist act and the only destination that we can blame is the -- is the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces.
Dareen Aboughaida: Aziz Emmanuel Zedari --
Abdulmunaem Almula: So many
Dareen Aboughaida: Aziz Emmanuel Zedari, let me bring you in right now. How should we read this attack in your opinion? What significance is it that a Church was attacked?
Aziz Emmanuel Zedari: First of all, I would like to express my condolences for the victims of the largest terrorist attack on the Christian community on the Church in Baghdad. Well the reason the attack is the last in a series of regular and well organized attacks on the Christian community in Iraq with an aim to drive the Christian community from Iraq.
Dareen Aboughaida: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Washington, al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for this attack so does the operation carry the hallmarks of al Qaeda in your opinion?
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross: It's difficult to say in this case. There's certain al Qaeda hallmarks that you can attach to well coordinated terrorist attacks. For example, bombings that are near simultaneous in multiple parts of the city. That has the hallmark of al Qaeda. In this case, storming a church? Tactically, strategically, it's something that al Qaeda certainly has done, it's something that they're capable of but one can't tell just by the signature of this attack -- at least not without getting much deeper into tactics, techniques and procedures than has been reported publicly.
We started with the above for a reason. If you believe al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is responsible for the attacks -- I'm not saying you should believe that or shouldn't, make up your own mind -- than you take the statement they issued. You don't get to go 'buffet style' and claim that al Qaeda is responsible but they did it for reasons other than what they listed in their note. A reporter reported on one of the dead priests. We ignored the story. I'm not blasting the reporter for what he filed and am all for reporters filing often and filing completely. But I didn't find it of value and knew how it would be used. Unless you're giving the priest the gift of prophecy -- in which case, start the canonization -- you're giving too much weight to his 'vision' (fear). And a number of articles are being filed claiming that the priest's fear is what happened. Again, if you accept al Qaeda in Iraq as the culprit, they have posted a statement online. They stated their reasons in that posting. If it's not in their posting, there's a reason it's not.
Jim Kouri (NWV) is not being referred to with the above, however, his piece has a headline that the "Christian bloodbath [is] ignored by Obama White House." I'm aware of the NSC making a statement. I'm not aware of the White House -- or Barack himself -- making a statement. And I'm including Kouri's story because this is why there is a perception about Barack. A slaughter took place. Has he commented? If not, then he doesn't need to be surprised when American Christians, so used to him weighing in on Muslim issues, have questions about his devotion or identification to his proclaimed faith.
Barack has no made no comment. November 1st, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs issued the following:
The United States strongly condemns this senseless act of hostage taking and violence by terrorists linked to al Qaeda in Iraq that occurred Sunday in Baghdad killing so many innocent Iraqis. Our hearts go out to the people of Iraq who have suffered so much from these attacks. We offer sincerest condolences to the families of the victims and to all the people of Iraq who are targeted by these cowardly acts of terrorism. We know the overwhelming majority of Iraqis from all its communities reject violence and we stand with them as we work together to combat terrorism and protect the people of our two nations.
The United States strongly condemns the vicious violence witnessed today, November 2, as a result of multiple terrorist attacks in Baghdad that killed scores of innocent Iraqis and wounded hundreds more. We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims' families and to all Iraqis who suffer from terrorism. We have confidence that the people of Iraq will remain steadfast in their rejection of efforts by extremists to spark sectarian tension. These attacks will not stop Iraq's progress. The United States stands with the people of Iraq and remains committeed to our strong and long-term partnership.
And that's it. And notice, I keep saying to pay attention to this, NSC -- you need to pay attention to the national security council types. That's who's controlling Iraq for the US. It's not out of the State Dept -- despite the lies -- it's the NSC and it's been Samantha Power's baby for some time. AFP reports that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, "criticised the Iraqi government on Thursday for failing to protect religious communities" and they quote her stating, "I believe much more could have been done to protect groups which are clearly targets and who are particularly vulnerable. It is imperative that the Iraqi government intervenes decisively and impartially at the first sign of incitement to hostility and violence against any religious groups or minorities. The authorities should ensure that religious sites and other likely targets are adequately protected, and reach out and demonstrate to different communities that their safety is of paramount concern to the government." And yet Barack remains silent. That's fine if that's what he wants to do but he can then turn around and whine that no one believes him about his religion and expect any sympathy beyond the Cult of St. Barack.
Today Reuters notes that there is a movement in Iraq to take newly elected MPs to court in order "to recover salaries and benefits of almost $250,000 paid to politicians who have barely worked since an inconclusive March election that has yet to produce a new government." Inconclusive?
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-eight days and still counting.
Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered) reports some believe the violence may force the parties to sit down and form a government and quotes an Iraqi wondering pointing out that Nouri might remain prime minister and yet he can't even secure Iraq currently. And Nouri's not the only one claiming he won't leave. Rudaw is reporting Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, is stating that he will remain president and not surrender his post to a non-Kurd. This statement would appear to squelch US government hopes that they could slide Allawi into that position -- beefed up or not -- as a consolation prize for Allawi getting more votes but the US government determined to have Nouri remain prime minister. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) interviews Allawi today who tells him Tehran officials/leaders will not allow him to be the leader and who is quoted stating, "It's very sad. I always maintained that the security improvement was only fragile. . . . Unless the political landscape is changed, then all the surges and awakenings are not going to bring sustainable results. That's why we have been witnessing an escalation of violence. . . . What we have seen and what we know is only the tip of the iceberg. We haven't yet seen the whole iceberg. Assassinations are now a flourishing business throughout the country. There are explosions and violence. But now I think it will continue to take a sharper bend toward the worst."
Turning to today's violence . . .
Reuters notes 3 Hit roadside bombings which left six people (four Iraqi soldiers, two police officers) injured, a Mosul bombing which wounded three children, a Shirqtat bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers with six more injured, 2 Hit roadside bombings claimed the lives of the May of Kubaisa, Ziyad Rzayij, and his driver and a Baghdad sticky bombing left two employees of the Ministry of the Interiror injured as well as three bystanders.
Reuters notes an attack on a Falluja police checkpoint which left three police officers wounded and, due to a bombing that went off when the Iraqi military attempted to provide backup, three soldiers were also injured.
Moving to the United States. Yesterday, Barack held forth at the White House. This is part of his exchange with CNN's Ed Henry.
Ed Henry: And just on the policy front, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is something that you promised to end. And when you had 60 votes and 59 votes in the Senate -- it's a tough issue -- you haven't been able to do it. Do you now have to tell your liberal base that with maybe 52 or 53 votes in the Senate, you're just not going to be able to get it done in the next two years?
Barack Obama: Well let me take the second issue first. I've been a strong believer in the notion that if somebody is willing to serve in our military, in uniform, putting their lives on the line for our security, that they should not be prevented from doing so because of their sexual orientation. And since there's been a lot of discussion about polls over the last 48 hours, I think it's worth noting that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel the same way. It's the right thing to do. Now, as commander in chief, I've said that making this change needs to be done in an orderly fashion. I've worked with the Pentagon, worked with Secretary [of Defense Robert] gates, worked with Adm [Mike] Mullen [Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] to make sure that we are looking at this in a systematic way that maintains good order and discipline but that we need to change this policy. There's going to be a review that comes out at the beginning of the month [of December] that will have surveyed attitudes and opinions within the armed forces. I will expect that Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mullen will have something to say about that review. I will look at it very carefully. But that will give us time to act in -- potentially during the lame duck session to change this policy. Keep in mind we've got a bunch of court cases that are out as well. And something that would be very disruptive to good order and discipline and unit cohesion is if we've got this issue bouncing around in teh courts, as it already has over the last several weeks, where the Pentagon and the chain of command doesn't know at any given what rules they're working under.
That's a damn lie. The Pentagon, as a result of Judge Virginia Phillips, stopped discharges under Don't Ask, Don't Tell and had to go through the recruitment proces of those who stated they were gay. There was no confusion, the sun didn't crash into the earth and the whole world didn't turn upside down. The change came from Barack -- oh look it, he actually delivered a change! -- when he made the decision that the administration would fight -- not just appeal, but fight -- Judge Phillip's decision. That's when confusion set in. Didn't he want gays to have the ability to serve openly?
No, not really. He wanted to get Don't Ask, Don't Tell off the law books (hold on) and then leave it up to the military. That's not what he promised. And because he wanted that, what the House passed was basically what had been drafted three previous times but had always included that it was discrimination. Not now. And that was the real problem the White House had with Judge Phillip's decision. It didn't just end Don't Ask, Don't Tell, it ruled it was unconstitutional as well. Again, the plan is just to get Don't Ask, Don't Tell off the Congressional side and then allow the military to decide what to do. And by ignoring the discrimination issue, by refusing to address that, it is just a policy and a policy can be changed. So nothing's addressed or dealt with.
Nancy A. Youssef and David Lightman (McClatchy Newspapers) report someone's notion -- unidentified -- that any repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is now dead in Congress. I'm not disputing that possibility -- we noted that was likely to happen after the midterms back in April of 2009 because we didn't snort or inject the Hopium and believe the whole world had changed (or even the tenor of the White House) following the 2008 elections. I am disputing what appears to be Youssef and Lightman's reasoning:
Among the losers in the House of Representatives were at least 10 Democrats on the Armed Services Committee, including Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri. Two-term Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Iraq war veteran who added an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would have repealed "don't ask, don't tell," also lost. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., 72, a nine-term veteran, is expected to replace Skelton as committee chairman. Wednesday, McKeon called for leaving military spending largely intact. Previously, he said he favored leaving "don't ask, don't tell" on the books.
What's the point? Ike was against repeal, Patrick was for it. I don't see that in the above. Nor do I see any understanding that a lame duck Congress will sit between now and January. I don't doubt the possibility that it's dead -- that's why we were repeatedly warning against all the crap that all the Cult of St. Barack groupies were promoting. That's why we wrote the piece we did at Third on Sunday noting that Barack was not planning on ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He was going to have Congress overturn it but what to do was going to be left to the military. If anything was done, it would be the military and not the Congress (or the courts) and refusal to address this in terms of legalities is how Don't Ask, Don't Tell popped up to begin with and that's why those of us who had some legal knowledge of the history of this issue never fell for Barack's song and dance. I like Patrick Murphy (I consider Ike Skelton's defeat a huge loss for the Congress) but all the obits on him are floating off the earth and not bound by gravity or reality. In part that's due to the fact that a lot of idiots covered DADT. Patrick did not do a great job. He built on the hard work of Ellen Tauscher and gym bunnies wanting to be part of the movement were thrilled because they found Patrick cute and they loathed Ellen. (Apparently just because she was a woman.) Patrick was really good at repeating White House talking points, he just didn't grasp he was being played for a fool. The whole -- quickly dropped when a large number of us began objecting -- "Let's tour the US for months and we'll built support for the repeal!" was nothing but a distraction, a delaying tactic and he realized that far too late. Just like he was out of the loop when he was being told that Ted Kennedy would lead in the Senate (we called that out in real time and noted the reality that no one wanted to speak at that moment, Ted was terminal and was showing up for hearings or doing any Congressional business). I can give 20 times off the top of my head where Patrick Murphy repeated publicly what the White House told him -- repeated it as fact -- when it was an outright lie. He had energy and he had dedication but he lacked perspective and he lacked knowledge.For more on the smoke and mirror games the White House has played on DADT see Third's "Barack, Pelosi and the other damn, dirty liars."
The Bennetts initially were told the death was a suicide, but a family member told the Albany Times Union last week that Theresa Bennett received a copy of a text message from a soldier who worked with Jones in Iraq stating that her nephew was one of five people killed or wounded in a shooting "rampage" on a U.S. military base in Baghdad. [. . .] A full accounting of Jones' death must be provided. The death of a soldier in the service of his country is a tragedy under any circumstance, and it must not be made worse by shrouding it in mystery. The family and the larger community who knew and loved David Jones deserve answers. Albany's CBS 6 (link has text and video) reported the soldier's body is expected to arrive today at Griffiss International Airport and that "police and Patriot Guard riders will escort Jones back to Johnsville." And WNYT reports that the airport arrival and escort back to Johnsville has taken place. Dennis Yusko (Albany Times Union) adds, "Several hundred people from the area braved falling rain and cold temperatures for more than an hour to line the main street in the village to glimpse the white hearse that brought Jones home for the last time. Schools closed and workers and families came from all over to witness the procession." Subrina Dhammi (WNYT) sketches out the details, "The weather Thursday fit the mood of the small, close-knit village of St. Johnsville. Residents braved the cold and steady rain to line the street waiting to welcome home a fallen soldier. School children proudly displayed signs saying 'we will never forget you'." There will be a viewing held tomorrow at St. John's Reformed Church (one to three p.m. and five to seven p.m.) with funeral services to be held Saturday (also at St. John's Reformed Church, starting at 11:00 a.m.). From the young man's obituary:
David enjoyed many activities and sports including soccer, running, and making music with his friends. David loved hanging out with family and friends and watching sports with his loved ones. He was very proud of being in the military and to have the opportunity to serve and honor his country. He will be missed by his family members and many friends. David was extremely close with all of the members of his St. Johnsville High School graduating class of 2008. Family came first in David's life and he leaves his loved ones and friends with countless memories. He was a fun-loving individual and was kind, caring and energetic. Survivors include his beloved family; his mother: Theresa Ann Bennett of St. Johnsville; his father, George Arthur Bennett, Jr., of St. Johnsville ; his fiance: Britany Winton of Gloversville; his biological father, David Richard Jones; brothers: Timothy Bennett, Nick Bennett, Georgie Bennett III, Chris Bennett, Bernie Bennett and Alexander Jones; his grandmother: Alice Jones, and many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. He was predeceased by his paternal grandfather, George Bennett; maternal grandfather: Henry Jones; paternal grandmother: Arthella Bennett and by his uncles: Garry and Arthur Bennett and Timothy Jones.
It's amazing Barack Obama's had time to fly all over the country campaigning but not to demand that the military under him provide the family of David Jones with an answer.