Monday, December 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Ramadi is slammed with bombings, questions remain about the 'new' and 'future' Iraq Nouri's in charge of, Camp Ashraf residents remain targeted, A.N.S.W.E.R. plans an action for the new year, John and Yoko see their work distorted, and more.
Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) chose Christmas Day to 're-examine' "Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)" -- it's a shame he couldn't examine it to begin with. The song is "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and it is written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono -- click here for sheet music you can look at (and purchase if you want it). That's the writing credit, get it? Is too much for your damn sexist minds? If you need further proof consult this page of Beatles Bible. I'm not in the mood. This is one topic we have to address every year because some man's bound and determined to strip Yoko of her credit -- out of love for John, you understand. They think they loved him more than she did, knew him better than she did, probably feel they would have given him head better than she did. But let's review, Matthew Rothschild: (1) John Lennon AND Yoko Ono wrote the song and (2) it is not titled "So This Is Christmas (War Is Over)," it is titled "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." Got it? If you think the song is important enough to write about, you need to get your facts straight. And it's exactly this sort of erasing of women from the conversation that leads The Progressive to be considered a sexist publication. (As noted before, I know Yoko. I also knew John. That is only one reason this pissed me off. I'm damn sick of women seeing their credits stripped away. I'm also offended when 'the press' wants to cover the arts but thinks because it's the arts that they don't have to get it right. No one asked you to cover it, you decided to. You're supposed to be a journalist, you need to apply some standards to your work. When a famous song that's decades old is one you can't even get the title of right -- after you make the choice to write about it -- that goes to sloppy journalism. There's no excuse for it.)
Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid. To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas. As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country." However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on. In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case. Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.
Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can't predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.
But our so-called independent media can't be bothered with noting the Iraq War continues? You can be a Matthew Rothschild and let the Iraq War 'slip your mind' or you be A.N.S.W.E.R. and call for action:
March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.
The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.
While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.
Actions of civil resistance are spreading.
On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.
Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.
In San Francisco, the theme of the March 19 march and rally will be "No to War & Colonial Occupation – Fund Jobs, Healthcare & Education – Solidarity with SF Hotel Workers!" 12,000 SF hotel workers, members of UNITE-HERE Local 2, have been fighting for a new contract that protects their healthcare, wages and working conditions. The SF action will include a march to boycotted hotels in solidarity with the Lo. 2 workers. The first organizing meeting for the SF March 19 march and rally will be on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 2pm at the Local 2 union hall, 209 Golden Gate Ave.
In Los Angeles, the March 19 rally and march will gather at 12 noon at Hollywood and Vine.
Let us know if you are going to be protesting locally. Events taking place around the country will be listed at www.AnswerCoalition.org.
Fight Back! News reminds, "On Dec. 22, the U.S. House and Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. The bill authorizes $725 billion for next year's Defense Department budget, including nearly $160 billion of what the Pentagon calls 'overseas contingency operations' -- Congress's name for the U.S. wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. All 100 senators, every Republican and every Democrat, voted for the mammoth military spending bill. The House passed it by voice vote without debate or discussion. The $725 billion amount is likely to grow more through separate supplements for the Afghanistan occupation throughout the year. This is the largest military budget since 1945, the last year of World War II."
Wednesday's snapshot included, "John Leland (New York Times) writes about the reactions of Iraqis and we'll note Anbar Province because the State Dept thinks/fears it's the new hot spot in Iraq: [. . .]" Give it up for the State Dept, they got one right. Today Ramadi is slammed with bombings. (Ramadi is in Anbar.) AP reports there are said to have been two suicide bombers -- one in a minibus and one on foot. Citing police sources, RTT News says the bombs were car bombs -- they count 17 dead and over forty injured. Hamid Ahmed (AP) reports that the bombings came one after the other, with people gathering after the minibus bombing to survey the destruction and then the suicide bomber on foot detonating. DPA notes, "The second attack occured when a suicide bomber wearing a belt of explosives approached the scene of the first attack after crowds of policemen, medics, and civilians had gathered. He blew himself up after policemen tried to prevent him from entering the area." Al Sumaria TV estimates there were 15 minutes between the two bombings. Jamal Naji (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes one of the people who rushed to the first bombing site to help right before the second bomb went off, Muhammed Kardoss al Zobai, who states, "I was swept off my feet and came crashing to the ground. I got up and started home without looking back." At this point, UPI explains, "Police evacuated the area, fearing a third attack." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) adds, "The powerful blasts left 12 government and civilian cars charred at the scene, which was cordoned off by the Iraqi security forces for hours, the source added." Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) provides these details, "At the site of Monday's blasts, pools of blood dotted the ground, footage from Reuters Television showed. The stumps of the suicide bomber's severed legs lay at the scene." Al Jazeera reports, "Ramadi hospital's emergency room was reportedly filled with patients wounded in the attack. The hospital was also crowded with people who had responded to an appeal broadcast on mosque loudspeakers to donate blood to help the injured." Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) quotes Alanbar Hospital's Dr. Senan Ala'anee stating, "Many of the wounded have lost some of their body parts and the others were severely burned. We called the imams of the mosques at the city to call upon the citizens to donate their blood to the wounded." BBC World Service noted in their half-hour headlines that the target appeared to be the government compound in Ramadi. Nawaf Jabbar and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) note, "The 17 dead and 40 wounded Monday included women and children lined up to file compensation papers for relatives killed in the earlier bombing, said Mustafa Hitti, a doctor at Ramadi's general hospital." John Leland (New York Times) offers, "Though no one claimed responsibility for the bombing, officials in Anbar said it was likely a response to raids in the last week and a half that rounded up 93 suspected militants. Officials speculated the bombers also intended to scare off foreing investors and developers. The oil ministry recently completed the auction of a gas field in Anbar to a consortium of Kazakh and Korean developers." BBC News reminds, "On 12 December, 11 people were killed when a suicide car bomber targeted the same government office in Ramadi."
Ramadi is predominately (some argue universally) Sunni and the capital of Al Anbar Province which borders Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Aqsim Abid Muhammad Hammadi al-Fahadawi is the governor. He wasn't elected to that post by the citizens, he was handed it by Saleh al-Mutlaq and Ahmed Abu Risha (he'd left the country over two years prior to being named governor). Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) quotes Lt Gen Hussein Kamal (Deputy Interior Minister) stating, "Prime Minister (Nuri al-Maliki) has ordered an investigative committee to be formed due to the repeated taregting of (this) building in Anbar province." Another investigation launched by Nouri. And torture confessions to follow? Jamal Naji (McClatchy Newspapers) points out that this is "the first major attack since Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki assumed temporary control of national security matters. In announcing his new cabinet last week, Maliki left open the sensitive posts of ministers of defense, interior and national security, saying he needed several more weeks to vet candidates."
Those posts would be the ones Nouri (as prime minister) would consult with regarding the US military staying past 2011. Presumably, he will now consult with himself. Some might point to the Parliament but wasn't Nouri's entire first term about rendering the Parliament powerless? Whether it was naming someone to a Cabinet post ('temporarily') and doing so without the required approval of Parliament or swearing that there would be a referendum on the SOFA in July of 2009 and then not holding one, Nouri's repeatedly make a mockery out of rule of law and separation of powers. Joost Hilterman thinks the fractured aspect might prevent such an action from taking place and he may be right. He discusses Iraq with The Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman:
Bernard Gwertzman: The Bush administration signed as one of its last actions an agreement to pull its forces out of Iraq by the end of next year. Is that still on track?
Joost Hiltermann: The withdrawal is definitely on track. The question was always if it can it be delayed through an extension of the current security agreement the Bush administration signed with the Iraqi government. This would require a Status of Forces agreement that would have to be initiated by the new government. Now, the new government is barely functioning, and it's so much a coalition government involving so many different parties and individuals that it's going to find it very difficult to come to any sort of decision. It's going to be operating by default more than anything. We'll have to see whether this government can muster the will to approach the United States and say "yes, we do want to negotiate a follow-up treaty to the security agreement," and then to pull it off within the time period that works. For U.S. forces to fulfill the promise to withdraw before the end of 2011, they would have to set things in motion by June of 2011 at the latest.
His answer seems to rely on the Parliament. If so, the Parliament's had no power over the SOFA under Nouri nor -- pay attention -- did it have any power when the UN mandate was the issue. (The SOFA replaced the UN mandate for the occupation.) The mandate was yearly. As 2006 drew to a close, Nouri signed off on a renewal. Parliament went into an uproar when they found out (after the fact). They said it was a violation of the Constitution (it was) and that they'd pass new legislation if they ahd to. Nouri told them he'd never, ever -- cross his heart -- do it again. Then, as 2007 drew to a close, Nouri yet again renewed the UN mandate without Parliament approval of input. Joost could be right -- and he knows a great deal more than I do about Iraq and many other things -- but his answer appears to rely on the power of Parliament and -- under Nouri -- the Parliament's had no power. If he's relying on the Cabinet to define "government," Nouri's never maintained a full Cabinet. From the beginning, in the spring of 2006, he wasn't able to put together a full Cabinet and his first term was notable only for the many ministers who dropped out. The Cabinet may be approved by Parliament but, after that, no one's yet to demonstrate they had any real power except Nouri. On Nouri and the government, Michael Jansen (Gulf Times) observed over the weekend:
More than nine and a half months after Iraqis went to the polls in a credible parliamentary election, Nouri Al Maliki secured confirmation of an "inclusive" government comprised of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. However, during the over-long period of gestation, the process of forming the government lost credibility. Furthermore, the government itself has little credibility because it is comprised of faction figures nominated just 24 hours before Maliki announced his line-up rather than competent technocrats who could solve Iraq's many urgent problems. Maliki's cabinet has 42 ministries but he could make firm appointments to only 29 posts because of factional bickering. Ten portfolios are temporary while Maliki retains the sensitive ministries of defence, interior and national security until agreement can be made on permanent candidates for these ministries. This means the jockeying for position and power continues while Iraqis suffer from insecurity, unemployment, lack of electricity, and inadequate services.
Global Post adds, "Meantime, seven years after the U.S.-led invasion, the deplorable state of public services, especially electricity, remains a top concern. Severe power rationing remains routine and sparked deadly protests during the summer as temperatures soared above 120 degrees across central and southern Iraq." AKnews reports one effort to address the lack of improvements: The Parliament has a (binding? non-binding?) new set of rules wherein MPs who do not attend sessions will not be paid the US equivalent of $400. Binding or non-binding, it's a joke. Last month, Barbara Surk (AP) reported that the MPs received $90,000 per diem and $22,500 per month. If an MP missed every session and there was at least one session a week? They'd be out $20,000. Less than one month's pay. Some 'action.' Sammy Ketz (AFP) reported, "Female MPs, both religious and secular, have slammed the under-represention of women in Iraqi institutions, especially government, sparking public soul-searching by male parliamentarians." Ketz quotes various MPs including MP Aatab al-Duri who says, "I am astonished at the absence of women in the government."
Meanwhile Bloomberg News notes, "Revenue from Iraq's crude oil exports rose to $4.62 billion (Dh 16.9 billion) in November, the highest level this year, the State Oil Marketing Organisation said." Covering this news, Al Jazeera TV this morning announced, "It is the first time that Iraq haas reached this level of production in twenty years." That apparently passes for news that matters. This despite that fact that the entire hour, Al Jazeera never even noted the Ramadi bombing.
In other violence today, Reuters notes a Dujail roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 "Christian woman and wounded her husband" while a Baghdad attack left two police officers injured.
Following the US invasion, the US made the residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Denis G. Campbell (Truthout) reports today, "Exiled after attempting to overthrow the shah of Iran, the largely secular 3,400 Ashraf residents are involved in a high-stakes power game virtually invisible to most in the West. These refugees have been denied medical treatment, live under physical and emotional threat and daily face the possibility of genocide. Iranian intelligence and Iraqi government tormentors engage daily in around-the-clock psychological torture. They want the camp closed and its residents driven back into Iran - which would mean their certain death." The US Committee For Camp Ashraf Residents notes:
In a letter earlier today to Assistant Secretary of State, Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR) expressed dismay over the State Department's lack of action to halt the continuing atrocities perpetrated against the residents of Ashraf by Iraqi security forces.
The letter came on the heels of a brutal, unprovoked attack Sunday afternoon by Iraqi forces against members of Iran's main opposition, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. Dozens of residents were severely wounded, including Mr. Behrouz Mohajer, who sustained chest injuries and is in critical condition.
USCCAR wrote, "It is now abundantly clear that the continued U.S. inaction vis-a-vis this deteriorating situation has further emboldened the committee in the Prime Minister [Nouri al-Maliki's] Office, tasked with the destroying Ashraf, to step up the suppression of the residents."
The letter stressed that the United States' see-no-evil-hear-no-evil attitude toward Ashraf residents, "Protected Persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is in violation of Article 45 of that convention and a clear disregard for the call made by a bi-partisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives who called "upon the President to take all necessary and appropriate steps to support the commitments of the United States" toward Ashraf residents.
"It is also contrary to the solemn pledges you personally made in a recent Congressional hearing in response to the expression of concern by senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including the outgoing and the incoming chairs of the Committee, over the State Department's ambivalence towards the plight of the residents and the continuing and blatant violation of basic human rights of the residents of Ashraf," the latter added.
USCCAR urged Ambassador Feltman, as the official directly responsible for this portfolio in the State Department "to personally and immediately intervene to bring an end the assaults and the inhuman treatment of the residents of Ashraf, including the round-the-clock deafening barrage of 140 loudspeakers and the persistent deprivation of medical assistance to needy patients at the Camp." USCCAR also called on the United States "to abide by its treaty and international obligations and resume the protection of Camp Ashraf," emphasizing that "urgent action by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is vital for averting another humanitarian catastrophe at Camp Ashraf."
Turning to the topic of Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." On this week's Law and Disorder Radio (began airing this morning on WBAI and around the country thorughout the rest of the week), hosts Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner noted Bradley.
Michael S. Smith: Michael, Bradley Manning the US Army private is alleged to have leaked all kinds of stuff exposing the United States war in Iraq and other places. He's been in solitary confinement now for five months, what's the update for that?
Michael Ratner: He is 22-years-old. He is actually, if you add up his time that he spent overseas -- which was two months of solitary which was in Kuwait -- and now five months at Quantico Virginia, we're talking about leaving someone in a deep, dark hole for seven months. And the most important article was written by Glenn Greenwald in Salon. It's called the "Inhumane Conditions of Bradley Manning's Detention." And I just recommend it because if you think that we turned a leaf, or turned a page, after we took the people at Guantanamo out of the hellhole of punative isolation and detention, you'd be wrong. Bradley Manning is in a situation that is certainly cruel and abusive and that many of us think amounts to torture. Bradley Manning is in sensory deprivation, he's getting sleep deprived. He doesn't even have a sheet or a pillow to sleep on. And what they're doing, they're trying -- I presume -- they're trying to break this guy's will. They're trying to do what we've discussed on this program time and again of the old -- what Al McCoy called the techniques that the US has been using to break people for scores of years including at Guantanamo an it's a form of torture and people ought to object. This is outrageous. Right in Quantico, in this country, Bradley Manning is in a hellhole.
Hosts Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner also addresed what's being done to political prisoner Lynne Stewart and Ruth and/or Mike may note that tonight but we'll note it tomorrow as well in the snapshot.
PFC Manning is currently being held in maximum custody. Since arriving at the Quantico Confinement Facility in July of 2010, he has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch.
His cell is approximately six feet wide and twelve feet in length.
The cell has a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet.
The guards at the confinement facility are professional. At no time have they tried to bully, harass, or embarrass PFC Manning. Given the nature of their job, however, they do not engage in conversation with PFC Manning.
At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up (on weekends, he is allowed to sleep until 7:00 a.m.). Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.
He is allowed to watch television during the day. The television stations are limited to the basic local stations. His access to the television ranges from 1 to 3 hours on weekdays to 3 to 6 hours on weekends.
He cannot see other inmates from his cell. He can occasionally hear other inmates talk. Due to being a pretrial confinement facility, inmates rarely stay at the facility for any length of time. Currently, there are no other inmates near his cell.
From 7:00 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., he is given correspondence time. He is given access to a pen and paper. He is allowed to write letters to family, friends, and his attorneys.
Each night, during his correspondence time, he is allowed to take a 15 to 20 minute shower.
On weekends and holidays, he is allowed to have approved visitors see him from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.
He is allowed to receive letters from those on his approved list and from his legal counsel. If he receives a letter from someone not on his approved list, he must sign a rejection form. The letter is then either returned to the sender or destroyed.
He is allowed to have any combination of up to 15 books or magazines. He must request the book or magazine by name. Once the book or magazine has been reviewed by the literary board at the confinement facility, and approved, he is allowed to have someone on his approved list send it to him. The person sending the book or magazine to him must do so through a publisher or an approved distributor such as Amazon. They are not allowed to mail the book or magazine directly to PFC Manning.
Meanwhile Al Jazeera (via African Online) reports, "The United Nations office for torture issues in Geneva is now investigating a complaint that the U.S.is torturing Bradley Manning. Manning is the detained Army private suspected of giving classified documents to WikiLeaks. He has been held in solitary confinement for seven months despite being an exemplary prisoner. Many experts believe that being held in solitary confinement for an extended period of time does constitute torture. The U.N. said it received a complaint from one of Manning's supporters alleging conditions at the brig amount to torture. According to the U.N., the complaint received alleges that Manning's physical and mental health are deteriorating in the face of continual solitary confinement. The office of Manfred Nowak, special lawyer on torture based in Geneva, confirmed that they are investigating the report. A spokesman for the Marines denied mistreating Manning, telling the AP he is being kept safe, secure and ready for trial."
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