Tuesday, December 7, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Julian Assange is arrested, Naomi Wolf attacks women, WikiLeaks continues releasing documents, nine months since the Iraqi elections and Allawi threatens to walk out on the power-sharing agreements, Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal appears more unlikely according to Robert Gates, the FBI busies itself with 'security' tasks such as sorting through teenagers' shirts, and more.
CNN reports that "Julian Assange was sent to jail Tuesday while a London court decides whether to order his exradition to Sweden." Paul Owen, Caroline Davies and Sam Jones (Guardian) add, "He was asked by the court whether he understood that he could consent to be extradited to Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion, involving two women." Click here for a video report from CBS' The Early Show. Assange is the public face of WikiLeaks -- he is not WikiLeaks. He hasn't been convicted of anything. He may or may not be. Hopefully, he won't be. However, the desire to attack the two women accusing him is beyond unseemly.
Case in point, feminist or 'feminist' Naomi Wolf who knows neither woman, has done no independent investigation of her own but mocks both women at The Huffington Post. I hope the charges proof false but I'll be damned if I mock two women asserting they were raped to score a few political points for 'my side.' Watching her play bitchy and mock two women she doesn't know, about a rape that may or may not have taken place, is seeing just how estranged from feminism Naomi Wolf has become. This is the woman who, let's remember, waited years to accuse _____ of sexual harassment. Then again, as Ava and I pointed out sometime ago:
This is the woman who wanted sympathy and compassion for making public accusations -- but not bringing charges -- against a historian. Naomi wanted the world's sympathy. She just didn't appear to want justice. What she really did was smear someone's name by publicly branding the criminal but refusing to take the matter to court. Of course, in a court of law, Naomi Wolf might not come off so sympathetic or, for that matter, at all believable. This is the woman who stood by while another woman was gang-raped, after all. 'Feminist' Naomi was oh so very happy to garner attention and sympathy at the start of this decade as she accused the historian of having made a pass. The horror. How ever did Big Hair survive? Strangely -- or maybe not so -- while painting herself as the ultimate victim, she never felt the need to talk about her days of gang rape. Here's how Naomi writes it in her tawdry book Promiscuities (page 178):
["]When the woman came to, she fled. The joke, as I recall (and my memory of this episode fades in and out of focus), was that she had escaped so fast that her shoes remained. Someone had put her red high-heeled pumps on the wood mantel of the fireplace, next to the collection of beer cans from around the world. The guys and I were friends. Over breakfast, they did not hide the story from me or from the other girlfriends who stayed the night. ["]
You can read on in vain for the moment where Naomi Wolf turns her prince charmings into the police, where she alerts the authorities or, for that matter, where she shows a damn bit of sympathy for the victim. The incident took place in 1979 and, no surprise with Big Hair, the incident's all about Naomi. To have spoken out (then) would have been to be called a, as she so scholarly puts it, "lesbo." That's the biggest insult in the world to Naomi Wolf and why she is known as the most anti-lesbian feminist poser in the US. Search in vain for any supportive statements Wolf has ever made for feminists who are lesbians. You'll never find sympathy for the gang-rape victim and you'll never find any show of solidarity with lesbians. Big Hair is still, and will always be, the little girl laughing with the boys at the young woman who passed out and was gang-raped. That's Naomi Wolf. Not a feminist, not even pro-woman. Just a cheap, little girl striving for Daddy's love and approval (she didn't get it as child, she'll never get it as an adult).
And if that judgment ever struck anyone as harsh, she proves it accurate yet again by attacking two women she's never met, two women whose stories she's never heard and she does so in an attempt (a) to score political points and (b) to stand with the fellas. Attacking defendants -- especially ones asserting they were raped -- is disgusting and something feminists -- real ones -- regularly call prosecutors out for. The case will (presumably) unfold in public and people will form their own opinions as it does. To attack the defendants at this point is indefensible and Naomi Wolf is no feminist because all that I've gone over is Intro to Feminism 101. I do not claim to be the voice of feminism. I am one voice. At Third, Ava and I present a feminist take. We don't do "the take" and I'm not "the voice" of feminism. But Naomi Wolf has a real issue with victims of rape (as well as with lesbians which is why this woman so concerned with people's legal rights has failed to write one word on Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the last two years) and she has not and is not conducting herself in a manner that is either feminist or even just pro-woman. Somewhere around the time she was referring to a Black pioneer as homely (there was no reason to make a judgment of the woman's looks; however, if you're going to make such a call, the woman was pretty) while glorifying a White woman (Naomi's second book) and her passing off lesbians as 'stunted' females who haven't fully evolved (her third book), a public rebuke should have been in order. Naomi, I rebuke thee.
By the way, Naomi, should the two women turn out to be the pawns you insist they are, who are they the pawns of? You leave that out of your article, don't you? But you're still not able to call out Barack Obama . . . except on dust jacket blurbs. Anti-woman and cowardly, that's Naomi Wolf.
By contrast, Chris Floyd sees the arrest as part of the war on WikiLeaks but doesn't feel the need to drag the two women's name through the mud because, if it is part of the war, the Big Bad is a lot higher: "And the leading role in this persecution of truth-telling is being played by the administration of the great progressive agent of hope and change, the self-proclaimed heir of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama." Barack led people to believe he was going to end the Iraq War and do it quickly. Quickly came and went some time ago. Still waiting for that end of the Iraq War. (Candidate Barack was fond of yelling, "We want to end the war! And we want to end it now!" at the Cult of St. Barack gatherings. "Now" -- whether it's used as a noun, adjective, conjunction or adverb -- is a time sensitive term.) Paul Weber writes the editors of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
During the Thanksgiving holidays, I've seen stories and pictures of our troops in Afghanistan, but not a word about our troops in Iraq. We still have about 50,000 troops in Iraq. My son is one of them. So people, and Mr. President, please do not forget about them. It is still just as dangerous for them as it is for the troops in Afghanistan. May God watch over all of our troops and bring them home safe.
"This is about integrity," Admiral Mullen adamantly stated in his opening statement at the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" hearings. "Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well."
Don't Ask Don't Tell calls for the discharge of anyone in the military who openly acknowledges being gay or lesbian. If Senators do not vote to repeal DADT in the lame duck session, before the newly elected members take office in January, this injustice will continue.
Lesbian women are disproportionately ousted as a result of DADT. In 2009, 48% of those discharged from the Army were women, even though women make up only 14% of the Army. Women were more than half of those discharged from the Air Force, where women make up 20% of the service. In the Marines, women make up just 6% of the force, but were 23% of discharges under the policy. Women comprise 14% of the Navy, but were 27% of the discharges under DADT.
Since Don't Ask Don't Tell was instituted by President Bill Clinton in 1993, over 13,000 military service personnel have been discharged from the military. This number is staggering and we need your help.
A brief paragraph in the mountain of Wikileaks documents shed a sliver of light on what officials claim is a viscious and coldly efficient Iranian campaign of revenge on Iraqi air force pilots who bombed Iran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. "Many former Iraqi fighter pilots who flew sorties against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war were now on Iran's hit list (NOTE: According to [Name removed], Iran had already assassinated 180 Iraqi pilots. END NOTE)," the Dec. 14, 2009 confidential U.S. cable stated.
For example, Maliki only rarely had anything good to say about Iraq's Sunnis or neighboring Sunni countries. His suspicions continuously fell on al-Qaeda, a Sunni organization, and its alleged supporters in Syria, a predominantly Sunni country -- even when his own interior minister and General David Petraeus, the supreme commander of the U.S. troops in Iraq, contradicted him. In a protocol from November 2009, the general conceded to Maliki that al-Qaeda had become stronger, but "he added that foreign fighter flows from Syria were down and more should be done to counter malign Iranian influences." What's more, in early 2010, Maliki tried to purge 36 staff members -- including a conspicuously large number of Sunnis -- from the headquarters of Iraq's intelligence agency for allegedly having ties to Saddam's banned Baath Party. At the same time, he installed 47 members of his own Islamic Dawa Party -- all of whom were Shiites -- in key positions at the intelligence agency. According to one embassy dispatch: "In the hyper-sensitive atmosphere surrounding elections, each of these moves by the prime minister is being looked at with high suspicion across the entire political spectrum." It went on to say that "by drumming out experienced and proficient officers," he had caused "serious harm" to Iraq's intelligence institutions.
Maliki the Impulsive
The authors of the report repeatedly described Maliki as "impulsive." Two dispatches show just how radically he could alter his stances. For example, one from October 2006 discusses how Maliki had complained that, "I do not have enough forces and those I have are weak." Another one, from July 2008, recounts how, during a meeting of Iraq's National Security Council, Maliki ordered "an immediate freeze on the growth of Iraqi security forces." The reason behind Maliki's change of heart could be gleaned from a statement that his defense minister once made: Iraq's military structure is the way it is, he said, to prevent another military putsch. And there's some truth in that: Rulers in modern Iraq have tended to be deposed -- or even executed -- by their own militaries.
British politician Tarsem King (at The Hill) explains, "Iraq under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the past four years has been far from democratic. The hundreds of thousands of Iraq war documents released by WikiLeaks have disclosed countless cases of torture, rape, and murder by Maliki's security forces. The Obama administration had hoped that the gap left by outgoing U.S. forces would be filled by a national unity government - an indigenous counterbalance to regional intruding forces after years of turmoil. The Parliamentary elections earlier this year were won by the secular alternative despite a heavy Iranian-backed campaign. Yet, disregarding the outcome, Maliki impeded the formation of a new government and ignored Iraqi voters' will, all with Tehran's backing." Nouri's operating impulse as was evident over the weekend in Shashank Bengali's "WikiLeaks: Maliki filled Iraqi security services with Shiites" (McClatchy Newspapers) about Nouri's purge of security forces this year to get rid of Sunnis. It's their in Nouri's attacks on the largely Sunni Sahwa. Shashank Bengali (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:
Few in Maliki's government are enthusiastic about the Sahwa, which formed when Sunni tribal leaders and former insurgents rose up in opposition to al Qaida in Iraq's brutal tactics. When the U.S. military began paying some 95,000 of them upwards of $350 a month in 2007 to provide security in their neighborhoods, many Iraqi officials were skeptical, regarding them as "thugs at best and Sunni terrorists at worst," as the International Crisis Group research agency wrote in a recent report. "When America started reaching out to Sahwa in 2006 and 2007, basically they were told, 'You're part of Iraq; we want you in the political order,' " said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group. "For them, this (new government) is the litmus test: Are they in or are they out?" Two years ago, American forces handed over the program to Maliki's government, which pledged to integrate 20 percent of the fighters into the security forces and place the rest in government jobs. Iraqi officials say that nearly 40,000 have been employed, but Sahwa leaders argue that many hundreds of former fighters have walked out of their jobs after going months without salaries or because they found the work demeaning.
Meanwhile Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "The US is warning that it could cut substantial funding to Iraq's Health, Education, and Transport ministries if the anti-American Sadr bloc is given those cabinet posts in a new government being formed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki." The article indicates that US diplomatic staff is at last talking Nouri's language: Cash. They should have been threatening that a long time ago (the 2007 benchmarks were supposed to come with the built-in threat of no more cash if benchmarks weren't met but a for-show Democratic Congress wasn't interested in doing their damn job -- individuals members were interested, leadership wasn't). Had stopping cash flow been threated earlier, Iraq might already have a government.
Related, Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi President Jalal Talabani affirmed that the next government will be formed soon before the end of the constitutional deadline." He "affirmed" that with US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey. Jeffrey is a marked improvement over Chris Hill which really doesn't come across like much of a compliment since a pet rock would have been an improvement over Hill. But Jeffrey's arrival is taking place as the US appears willing to use more tools in its diplomacy shed.
And they're going to need them. Today is the nine month anniversary? Of? The March 7th elections. Still no 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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now nine months and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."
And on the nine month anniversary, AFP reports Ayad Allawi has declared, "Power-sharing is not happening. It is not set to work in a meaningful way. . . . If it does not change, I will not participate." And he's not the only one noticing the foot dragging by Nouri. UPI reports that Iraqiya is stating that Nouri needs to fill remaining posts in his cabinet with "rival parties." Also UPI reports, "Iraq's two main Kurdish parties, which have long sought an independent state in their northern enclave, are building their own army and intelligence apparatus as the country remains gripped by political crisis steaming from inconclusive elections in March. On Oct. 20, amid the political power struggle to form a coalition government, Barham Salih, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, extended his administration's powers to establish his direct control of the enclave's security and intelligence services."
In today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured, a second Baghdad roadside bombing left "three agents of the interior ministry's intelligence department" injured, a third Baghdad roadside bombing injured three police officers, a fourth Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured and Sameer Esmail (municipal employee) was shot dead in Baghdad and his driver was injured in the shooting.
The wife of a British man held without charge in Iraq for a year is calling on the UK government to step up its efforts to secure the release of her husband.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 68-year-old dual Iraqi-UK national who has lived in the UK since 2002, was arrested by security officials in a relative's house in the city of Mosul on 7 December 2009.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, who had travelled to Iraq to try to secure the release of his detained son 'Omar, was first held in total secrecy for nearly four months before being able to phone his wife in London. He has told his wife of how he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags.
Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling for Ramze Shihab Ahmed to be released unless he is charged with a recognisable criminal offence and fairly tried, as well as insisting that the alleged torture is fully investigated. Amnesty supporters have sent some 6,000 messages to the Foreign Secretary William Hague (www.amnesty.org.uk/ramze) asking him to put pressure on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that Ramze Shihab Ahmed is treated in line with international human rights standards and the Iraqi constitution.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed's wife, Rabiha al-Qassab, a 63-year-old former teaching assistant who lives in north-west London, said:
"I can hardly believe that a whole year has gone by with my husband in jail like this. It's disgraceful what they're doing to him. He doesn't even know what he's accused of.
"An Iraqi judge recently visited my husband and assured him that the 'confession' that the interrogators tortured out of him will be disregarded and that they'll re-investigate the case.
"This is better news but I want to see the Iraqis say either we're charging him or - much more likely - we're going to release him.
"The UK ought to be saying this as well. I appreciate the fact that William Hague has raised the case with the Iraqi authorities, but I'd really like to see more being done now that a year has passed.
"Why couldn't Mr Hague insist that he must be either released or properly charged by Christmas?"
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"This shocking case has dragged on for far too long and we need to see the Iraqi authorities resolving it without further delay.
"This man and his family have suffered enough. The torture allegations must be investigated and Ramze should be properly charged or released. The sooner, the better."
After his arrest last December Ramze Shihab Ahmed was held in a secret prison at the old Muthanna airport in Baghdad, before being relocated to Baghdad's al-Rusafa Prison where he is still held. He has been interrogated about alleged links to al-Qa'ida and reportedly forced to make a false confession following torture and while blindfolded.
Last month Iraq ratified the United Nations' convention banning 'disappearances' (the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance), a move welcomed by Amnesty. Ramze Shihab Ahmed's original treatment appears to amount to enforced disappearance and the organisation believes that the Iraqi authorities should treat it as such and thoroughly investigate it.
In September Amnesty published a report showing that an estimated 30,000 detainees were held without trial in Iraq, many of whom had recently been transferred from US custody. There are fears that many, like Ramze Shihab Ahmed, have suffered torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
Thousands of these detainees continue to be detained despite judicial orders issued for their release and a 2008 Iraqi Amnesty Law which provides for the release of uncharged detainees after between six and 12 months.
On the Law and Disorder Radio broadcast that began airing November 22nd, hosts Heidi Boghosian, Michael Ratner (click here for an ISR interview with Michael) and Michael S. Smith noted what to do when questioned by government agents.
Michael S. Smith: Heidi, congratulations, I'm holding in my hand this beautiful red and white and yellow pamphlet "You Have The Right To Remain Silent." Congratulations on getting this out. This National Lawyers Guild pamphlet is going to come in very handy.
Heidi Boghosian: Thanks, Michael, it's actually a Know Your Rights guide for law enforcement encounters and we designed it specifically so that it could fit in the rear pocket of someone's jeans or pants. It has basic know-your-rights information: what to do if the FBI comes to your door, what if you're not a citizen, I think there's something about rights at airports, if you're under 18. It's free of charge [to download] at www.nlg.org/ and if you want to get bulk amounts we will send you fifty free of charge and then we just ask for shipping & handling for orders above that.
Michael Ratner: It's interesting that it fits into your pocket because you know, Michael and I and you -- well you're not as old as us -- but when we used to give advice to people at demonstrations, we used to tell them to sew their pockets up so you couldn't plant -- the cops couldn't plant -- marijuana in their pockets. So you'd go to demonstrations with all your pockets sewn up. But at least -- Maybe they don't do that as much. You can carry this little book with you instead of writing the whole thing on your arm.
Heidi Boghosian: I'm speechless.
Michael S. Smith: She's speechless.
Heidi Boghosian: That's fascinating.
Michael Ratner: And about pockets, that's also interesting, my daughter once had to an assignment about clothes for boys or girls when she was a little girl. And, of course, what you notice is that girl's clothes have no pockets.
Heidi Boghosian: I know. I hate that.
Michael Ratner: It's terrible.
Heidi Boghosian: I only buy things with pockets.
Michael Ratner: And it's a weird sexual discrimination. Boys are supposed to carry all these things but girls --
Heidi Boghosian: I know they have to have a pocket book.
Michael Ratner: But back to the pocketing Guild pamphlet called?
Michael Ratner: Now Michael's going to say something about the substance of it.
Michael S. Smith: If you receive a subpeona call the NLG national office hotline at 888-NLG-ECOL I'll repeat 888-654-3265.
Michael Ratner: Or if the FBI starts to question you, don't answer even the first question. Just say "I don't want to speak to the FBI" or refer them to your lawyer. [laughing] And that's H-e-i-d -- No, no. But in any case, you should refer them to your lawyer or just say you're not talking to the FBI. And it's such a short little pamphlet, it's perfect for taking to demos, it doesn't have our basic position about the FBI which is: Once you start talking to the FBI or Homeland Security or any of these so-called law enforcement or police intelligence there's the potato chip example. Once you start eating potato chips, you can't stop. It's the same for talking. Heidi's waiving her arms.
Heidi Boghosian: Michael, that's a great point. And, in fact, we do have a section called "Standing Up For Free Speech." I just want to quote one sentence or two. "Informed resistance to these tactics and steadfast defense of your and others' rights can bring positive results. Each person who takes a courageous stand makes future resistance to government oppression easier for all." So just to remind listeners, if you'd like a copy or multiple copies, it's called "You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide For Law Enforcement Encounters" and it's available through the National Lawyers Guild, www.nlg.org/.