Friday, February 4, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US State Dept puts more financial burdens on state and local communities, troops continue to deploy to the (ongoing) Iraq War, despite being fired upon yesterday the protesters in Diwaniya continue to take to the streets, the US Congress allows the administration to intimidate them, and more.
Cache Valley Daily reports 33 members of Utah's National Guard are deploying to the ongoing war in Iraq while Ray Arzate (CBS Atlanta) reports on a send-off ceremony for 60 members of Georgia's National Guard yesterday as they prepare to deploy to Iraq. Iraq Veterans Against the War's Geoff Millard is going back to Iraq and hopefully he'll be invited to discuss that on a radio program we can link to. He discusses the demilitarized IVAW Super Bowl with Dave Zirin on Zirin's Edge of Sports radio program (last weekly broadcast for January). I don't care for Zirin but I can link to his show without any self-hatred. The same is not true for a program that IVAW friends asked me to link to. A) I know Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan and I'm offended with any show that attempts to use Michael or his illness to press their own political agenda. I find that grossly offensive. If you have a guess as to how someone catches Parkinson, find a way to discuss it without insulting someone suffering from the disease. 2) I do not call for an end to sexist skin mags. I believe in free speech which does include the right to publish many things offensive. However, I also believe that the left needs to have some standards. If you would not publish in a racist magazine (and no one on the left should), you should not publish in a sexist magazine. (To be clear, we're not referring to Playboy or Penthouse but to the gutter trash that demonizes women's bodies and encourages mutiliation of women's bodies -- and I'm not referring to mutilation via implants.) I'm not in the mood to link to interviews with 'authors' who publish in those magazines or hear their 'jokes' about how, sadly, their articles in those sexist and dehumanizing magazines do not also feature the pictures found in the rest of the magazine. (Yes, I suffered through some of that damn program.) I'm not interested in hearing how a piece of trash is wonderful because he supports the First Amendment. Bob Barr made the last ten years about supporting the First Amenmdent (I'm not calling Barr a piece of trash) and I've yet to hear these same lefty sources take to praising Barr. The host of that program is a frightmare and that's why he's no longer on radio. For those and so many more reasons, and my inability to join in the trashing and dehumanizing of my own gender, I cannot and will not link to or transcribe that interview. (I also didn't hear Geoff's remarks or any of his segment, I gave the broadcast to the count of three -- the host and the first guest -- and then said, "No way.") Geoff's returning to Iraq and that's an important story but I would not link to praise or excuses for racism or praise or excuses for homophobia and I will not link to praise or excuses for sexism. Again, I don't care for Dave Zirin -- to put it mildly -- but can link to his program (Edge of Sports) with no self loathing. I cannot do the same with regards to the other audio program.
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
And I would argue the commentary above does more to do that than would a transcript from the audio program in question. Hart Viges shares his thoughts on the upcoming visit here (it's two paragraphs or we'd excerpt from it). Let's stay on the topic of veterans, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that many veterans who mistakenly put their trust in "special government-backed mortgages," such as DoD's Homeowner's Assistance Program, have seen their homes taken away from them in foreclosures. In related news, Rick Maze (Army Times) reports that the US Labor Department released unemployment figures today and the unemployment "rate for veterans climbed to 9.9 percent, up from 8.3 percent the previous month. For Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans, the unemployment rate for January was 15.2 percent. This is a sharp increase from 9.4 percent in November and 11.7 percent in December, a clear trend of worsening job market for younger veterans, many of them combat veterans."
Don't want the mishaps (read "deaths" and "injuries")? Get the US out of Iraq. It's not that damn difficult. But, as Wally noted, the Iraq War is a bi-partisan hole that both are eager to dig. Bennett tells you that John Kerry (never trust a man who choses his career over a sick wife -- as we should have all learned from the John and Elizabeth Edwards saga) wants to start "a stand-alone funding bill to pay for civilian-led Iraq functions." Really? So off the books again, supplementals. Exactly what John Kerry and others condemned Bush for.
Apparently, for Democrats in Congress, the real problem from 2001 through 2008 with the wars wasn't the wars but that their fellow wasn't the one making the calls. Today they rush to continue the wars -- overtly (hopes of an extension of the SOFA or a new treaty that will allow US forces, under the Defense Dept, to remain on Iraqi soil) or covertly (transferring the forces over to the State Dept -- a word trickery allowed in the agreements). The Iraq War never should have started but Bush knew the minor objection from Democrats in Congress would vanish the minute troops were on the ground and that the bulk of them would refuse to oppose funding his illegal war out of fear that they would be demonized if something went wrong. It's Barack's war now and he too knows the score. He insists US forces are staying, one way or the other, and despite the Great Recession the US is still experiencing, he's confident that Congress will waste billions on continuing the war out of fear that, if they don't, they will be blamed for any attacks. "THE US EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD WAS INVADED TODAY AND UNKNOWN ASSAILANTS -- THOUGHT TO BE LINKED TO AL QAEDA IN MESOPOTAMIA -- QUICKLY SHOT AND BEHEADED EMBASSY STAFF!" The Congress fears that such an attack -- or one on any scale -- would lead to them being blamed because they didn't provide enough tax payer money to the continued war.
The way to avoid such an attack, or any at all, is to demand that the US leaves Iraq. But that requires bravery and you don't find a great deal of that from career politicians. So the State Dept will most likely get every cent that Barack wants it to have barring riots in US streets.
We're spending $2 billion a year now on State Department operations in Iraq alone, and we intend to spend $1 billion a year on construction for some years to come. That's some withdrawal! I know that when Sen. Barack Obama asked to be entrusted with the presidency by repeatedly saying, "I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home," he only said "troops." But I can't believe that the voters who heard him anticipated leaving thousands of Americans and spending billions of dollars in Iraq for many years.
If members of Congress are looking for ways to cut a trillion-dollar deficit, they might look at our construction and employment and nation-building plans in Iraq.
And instead of aiding state and local communities, to continue the Iraq War, the State Dept is looking to rob state and local communities. Because the US tax payer hasn't given enough to the illegal war, the US State Dept now wants to raid local and state police forces. Yesterday, they posted the following:
The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs met last week with local and state law enforcement offices, as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, to discuss opportunities available within the Iraq Police Development Program beginning this fall. The bureau is seeking to recruit both active and retired U.S. law enforcement officers as the U.S. Department of State builds a team of senior level and expert advisors to serve one-year missions in Iraq.
Beginning October 1, 2011, U.S. Department of State, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, will assume full responsibility for the development of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior's police and border forces while continuing strong support of professional development in the corrections and justice sectors. Under Department of State leadership, the Police Development Program will partner with the Government of Iraq in developing management, leadership and technical skills to support the rule of law and maintain Iraq's internal security.
Experienced U.S. police officers have the opportunity to contribute to this large, post-conflict police development mission, partnering with Iraqi ministers, commanders, and police chiefs who will have impact on the future of the Iraqi police service. Through the Police Development Program, the Department of State is contributing to the broader goal of promoting security, stability, and respect for the rule of law in Iraq.
While appearing before Congress currently (via Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey) to ask for the biggest budget in State Dept history, they now also want to poach trained police officers which will add to the costs for states and municipalities who will have to hire and train new officers instead of retaining current ones.
Today in Iraq, a plane went down. Al Rafidayn reports the crash claimed the lives of 7 people and is being blamed by some on "bad weather conditions" -- but they also note that the plan "burst into flames" while still in the air -- according to an unnamed airline source and following its takeoff from Sulaimaniya airport which has led the airport director, Taher Abdullah, to blame the crash on "an outbreak of fire" on the plane. CNN adds that it was a private airplane and Sulaimaniya "is the second largest city in Iraq's Kurdish region." Technical issues and/or including a fire would explain why airport official Hadi Amer tells AFP that the plane "turned back to try to return to the airport" prior to its crash.
Iraq is slammed with bombings again. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes a Ramadi suicide bombing last night in which the death toll has risen to 5 police officers. Tawfeeq has already updated that to note 9 now dead and twenty-three injured. Alsumaria TV counts 3 Ramadi bombings. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) observes of Ramadi's Anbar Province, "The vast desert area has been relatively calm for more than three years after Sunni tribes and anti-U.S. insurgent groups turned to cooperate with the U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces against al-Qaida network in Iraq."
In addition, Reuters notes "an Anbar University professor and cleric who criticised al Qaeda during prayers last week" saw his Falluja home blown up today and two of his children left injured, a Trikirt bombing of a police officer's home injured him and his teenage son and 1 police officer was shot dead in Falluja. In equally disturbing news, Basra has the polio virus. Al Mada reports that two children have polio, confirmed by the Ministry of Health. No word on whether immunizations are being planned or what efforts will be taken to contain the outbreak. There are entire generations that may not get how serious that is. Others will note the migration in and out of Iraq (not just Iraqis and that includes US citizens) and will remember that the polio vaccine stopped being dispensed in many countries when it was assumed the world had conquered it. Any who remember or studied the previous polio outbreak, however, will find the news very disturbing.
Alsumaria TV reports two developments, Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly given Parliament the names to fill three vacant posts in Cabinet (which would leave 7 still needing to be filled for those keeping track). Which three? Minister of Electricity, Trade and the State Ministry for Women Affairs. In addition, Nouri appears to have been check-mated/bluffed by Parliament: "Al Maliki and Parliament Speaker Ousama Al Nujaifi agreed in their meeting on Thursday to have the Supreme Court clarify its ruling to place independent bodies under ministerial and not parliamentary control, the source told Alsumaria News. The clarification should be made through an announcement that confirms the independence of these bodies, the source noted according to Al Maliki and Al Nujaifi." Al Rafidayn reports that clerics used morning prayers today to warn against the instability in Iraq. Iman Soran ABdullah Abdul Rhaman warned that the government must "speed up to serve the people, otherwise the change is coming, revolution." Iman Abdul Sattar al-Janabi warned against "the injustice of the rulers to their poeple". Iman Mohammed al-Juburi delcared that Iraq could see the "spark sweeping other Arab countries as a result of the corrutpion and the political conflict." Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot to note:
In Iraq, Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports, many Iraqis see not the progress Jeffreys spoke of but "a paralysis of government" and more and more and more are taking to the streets to protest "the deterioration of living conditions" which is why leather and textile workers protested in Baghad and Hilla this week and activist Mohammed Salami is quoted stating, "There is daily frustration over the fact that successive political changes have not brought a new [better] level of service." That was earlier this week. Today things were not so peaceful. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that the police began shooting at protesters in Diwaniya today (at least three were injured). Approximatley one thousand were out in the streets calling attention to the "shortages of power, water and other services" and they "set tires ablaze, hurled stones and tried to storm the local police station, witnesses said." But Jeffrey wanted to ride yet another wave of Operation Happy Talk while appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Al Arabiya Net reports that protests continued today in Diwaniya and that the security forces "shot randomly at hundreds of protesters" (at least 1 was killed and four were left wounded). The protesters are calling for "the removal of al-Hamza head official and for the Iraqi government to provide basic services. In addition to demanding employment, the protesters carried lamps and small sacks of sugar to symbolize their demands for food and electricity. The ration card system includes only ncessary items such as wheat, rice, flour, and the government is mulling to cut the ration food supplies into four items only." Mandy Samira (Iraqhurr.org) reports that yesterday Diwaniya's local government was announcing it had things under control and the protests were over. Obviously, the local government was wrong. As for the violence targting the demonstrations, Samira quotes political analyst Hassan Hashem declaring 80% of the police officer are illiterate and have no concept of basic human rights which makes them willing to shoot at those protesting. Lara Jakes (AP) reports "a stunning statement for Nouri al-Maliki" -- that he is declaring he'll give back half his yearly salary. That's nonsense. Jakes notes it follows the clerics speeches this morning. But even more importantly, Nouri doesn't reveal how much he makes. How is anyone going to check that he's returned a dime let alone half of his salary? The records on his pay aren't open to the public. It was more spin from Nouri. Poverty is nothing new in post-invasion, oil-rich Iraq; however, the numbers of Iraqis living in poverty continues to increase. Ahmed al-Zubaidi (Iraqhurr.org) reports that there are estimated to be 100,000 Iraqis in Baghdad -- just in Baghdad -- who depend upon begging to survive with 95% of those being children.
In other news, October 31s, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked (approximately 60 people were killed, approximately 60 were injured) touching off the latest wave in the Iraq War of targeting Iraqi Christians. As the wave of violence has continued in Baghdad and Mosul, many Christians in those areas have left their homes for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq or to go to other countries. UPI notes that Abdullah al-Nawfa has told the press "that the rate of Iraq Christians fleeing the country doubled in November and increased again in December after the attacks." In his opening statements at yesterday US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Chair Carl Levin declared, "Finally, an important issue for the government of Iraq remains the security of Christian and other religious minorities. During our visit we met with leaders of Christian communities, which have suffered from suicide attacks, targeted killings, kidnappings and other intimidation by violent extremist forces. These communities live in fear and large numbers of Christians have either fled the country or uprooted to safer regions in northern Iraq. The leaders we met [on his recent trip to Iraq] explained with pride how Iraq has been home to some of the earliest Christian communities and Iraqi Christians do not want to have to leave their country to feel safe. Iraq has a long tradition of religious tolerance. On our visit we urged the government of Iraq to act with urgency to provide the security necessary to preserve these ancient Christian and other religious minority communities and to protect its religious minorities." There is news of some movement on the issue, Catholic Culture reports that Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil "has announced that the regional government has approved his plans to construct a Catholic university and a 100-bed Catholic hospital." He is quoted stating, "The plans we have been developing over the past few months are symbols of hope for the Christian presence in our country. The people arriving here [northern Iraq] from places of violence are receiving the gifts of relative security. They themselves are willing to offer the gift of their services in a region which cannot cope with the demands of an increasing population." Catholic News Agency adds, "Archbishop Warda said in a Feb. 1 interview that a fundraising campaign was necessary before the building work could begin. He expressed hope that the two institutions would open within the next couple years."
KELLY McEVERS: The latest report by New York-based Human Rights Watch says that a special unit of about 3,000 Iraqi soldiers, known as Brigade 56, or the Baghdad Brigade, is in charge of the secret facility. Human Rights Watch researcher Samer Muscati says this brigade works in partnership with two other brigades. One of which was trained by U.S. Special Forces, and all of which report directly to the prime minister. Muscati says that means they aren't accountable to anyone else.
Mr. SAMER MUSCATI (Researcher, Human Rights Watch): When you have these institutions that are operating outside the rule of law, it creates a situation where there's no transparency, where forces are likely to engage in activity that is reprehensible, and there's no way to rein them in.
McEVERS: After reviewing government documents and conducting interviews with Iraqi officials, Human Rights Watch found that the Baghdad Brigade transferred these detainees to the newest secret facility in November, just as human rights inspectors were planning a visit. Detainees at the original facility told the L.A. Times that conditions were appalling, that detainees were hung upside down, beaten and given electric shocks to their genitals. Officials say these men are hardcore terrorism suspects. But Muscati says that shouldn't deprive them of all their rights.
Mr. MUSCATI: These are fathers, these are sons. These are people who are supposed to be innocent before a court of law.
McEVERS: In previous statements, Maliki's office has denied Human Rights Watch's findings, claiming their reports are the work of his political enemies
The UK publiciation The Week covers the secret prisons today with a rundown of the basics including:
Is there evidence of secret jails in Iraq? Yes, in fact one was disclosed last year, and Maliki promised that the detainees there would be transferred to the Ministry of Justice. Detainees at the original facility -- Camp Honor, in the Green Zone -- told the Los Angeles Times that prisoners there were hung upside down and given electric shocks to their genitals. "The interrogators beat me repeatedly," one former Camp Honor detainee told an investigator, "and told me that they would go to my house and rape my sister if I did not sign a confession, so I did. I did not even know what I was confessing."
Is there hope of progress? The reports of abuse suggest that some Iraqi authorities are "behaving in much the same way" as the disgraced government they replaced, says Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch. "The difference now is there are political forces in Iraq that are not at all happy with this kind of thing," he said. "This has sparked outrage, as it should."
Staying on the topic of imprisonment but moving to the US, picked Steve Kroft to go after and the real question there is why he's yet to defend Bradley Manning from the hatchet job Nancy A. Youssef did on him -- excuse me, the most recent hatchet job she's done on him. Who is 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." He remains imprisoned and the thought of a right to a speedy trial flies out the window. Watler Smolarek (Liberation: Newspaper of the Party of Socialism and Liberation) observes:
Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified materials to Wikileaks, continues to suffer under deplorable conditions at the Quantico military base in Virginia, where he is imprisoned. Although he passed psychiatric evaluations, Manning was recently placed on suicide watch for two days, meaning that he was confined to his cell for 23 hours a day without receiving visitors.
Manning faces this new abuse in retaliation for the critical role he allegedly played in exposing some of the criminal actions of U.S. imperialism. He stands accused of leaking the famous "collateral murder" video of an aerial massacre of civilians and reporters by U.S. forces in Iraq as well as 250,000 state department communications.
Manning has not committed any crime. If he indeed shed light on the secrets of the U.S. government, he has made a major contribution to the struggle of oppressed people around the world and inside the United States. Progressives and revolutionaries should stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and demand his immediate release.
I write to request that I be able to visit Private First Class Bradley Manning at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia.
As you know, I am concerned about reports of his treatment while in custody that describe alarming abuses of his constitutional rights and his physical health. A March 2009 article by surgeon Atul Gawande discusses the effects of solitary confinement on prison inmates and prisoners of war: "Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury." Studies highlighted that such prisoners, months after being released, revealed severe brain abnormalities mirroring those who had endured significant physical head trauma .
Private Manning's guilt or innocence is a question for adjudication and his treatment at Quantico severely undermines the presumption of innocence as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and raises questions as to whether he is truly able to stand trial. His care while in the custody of the Department of Defense is the responsibility of the U.S. Government and as a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform it is my duty to conduct effective oversight.
Thank you for your attention to this request. I look forward to your prompt reply.
AFP reminds, "Amnesty International said late last month that the 23-year-old army private has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in a sparsely furnished cell at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia since July. The group said last month it was worried that the conditions of his detention were "unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment."
Moving over to trial news, Amal Khalaf took the witness stand yesterday in Phoenix. Who? Dropping back to the November 3, 2009 snapshot:
In the US, Noor Faleh Almaleki has died. The 20-year-old Iraqi woman was intentionally run over October 20th (see the October 21st snapshot) while she and Amal Edan Khalaf were running errands (the latter is the mother of Noor's boyfriend and she was left injured in the assault). Police suspected Noor's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, of the assault and stated the probable motive was that he felt Noor had become "too westernized." As noted in the October 30th snapshot, Faleh Hassan Almaleki was finally arrested after going on the lamb -- first to Mexico, then flying to London where British authorities refused him entry and he was sent back to the US and arrested in Atlanta. Karan Olson and CNN note that the judge has set the man's bail at $5 million. Philippe Naughton (Times of London) adds, "Noor died yesterday, having failed to recover consciousness after the attack. The other woman, Amal Khalaf, was also seriously injured but is expected to survive. "
She described how an irate Faleh Almaleki and his wife came by her home one night to try to convince Noor to return to the fold, with Mrs. Almaleki entering the residence through a window. The police were called, but no arrests followed. A few months later, on the morning of October 20, 2009, Khalaf and Noor went to a state Department of Economic Security office. Faleh Almaleki unexpectedly showed up in the lobby, though neither woman said anything to him or vice-versa. Khalaf said she later went outside, told Noor to wait by the front door, walked to her car and drove around the lot looking for Almaleki, whom had left some time earlier. She said she didn't see him, and parked back in the same spot. She got out of the car and went to get Noor, but then realized that she nervously had locked her keys in the vehicle. "[Noor] told me to calm down, 'He's not going to harm us,'" Khalaf testified.
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