Thursday, February 24, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants no protests tomorrow, Moqtada runs free (despite murder charges) but the shoe-tosser is re-arrested in Baghdad, Ramadi is slammed with a suicide bombing, Julian Assange's attorney is completely unreliable -- and that's a judge's determination, not my own -- and much more.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Ramadi suicide bomber took his own life and that of 12 other people (twenty-four more injured). AP adds that Jasim al-Halbusi, Chair of the Anbar Provincial Council, says the attack was an attempt to assassinate the deputy governor. BBC says Hikmet Khalaf, the deputy governor was injured the bombing. Trend notes, "A journalist with the Iraqi satellite television station al-Ittijah was among those killed in the blast. The reporter's name remains unknown." Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) notes the death toll has risen to 15 and quotes Hikmet Khalaf stating, "We were in the middle of a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of Prophet Mohammad's birthdy when a male suicide bomber carme to the door of the room and said 'God is Greatest' and blew himself up." In addition, DPAreports that a Baquba home invasion has killed 1 man and three of his sons. Tang Danlu (Xinhua) reports a Baquba roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left two people injured, that Lt Col Tha'ir al-Obiedi sruvived a sticky bomb attack in Baquba, a Baquba roadside bombing injured two people, and 2 Baghdad roadside bombings left five people injured.
Meanwhile an Iraqi govenor has declared that a prisoner died of torture. Dar Addustour reports that Nineveh's governor, Ethel Nujaifi, announced yesterday that another prisoner died of torture in Mosul. The man's name was Khalid Walid Sayf al-Din and that he had been born in 1976. An investigation has been announced and a promise made that those responsible will be punished. AK News reports on it here. The treatment of prisoners is among the many things that Iraqis have been protesting against in recent weeks. Human Rights Watch issued a report this week entitled [PDF format warning] "At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the US-led Invasion" which includes a section on torture.
On December 19, 2009, during one of the numerous security sweeps of Mosul, Iraqi soldiers kicked open the front door of Ahmad M.'s family home, arresting the 21-year-old for alleged terrorism.
For months, no one in his family knew where he was taken or if he was still alive. Ahmad said that during the worst days of his ordeal at a secret government detention facility at Muthanna Airport, he wished he wasn't alive.
"During the first eight days they tortured me daily," he told us. "[The interrogators] would put a bag on my head and start to kick my stomach and beat me all over my body. They threatened that if I didn't confess, they would bring my sisters and mother to be raped. I heard him on the cell phone giving orders to rape my sisters and mother."
In one torture session, Ahmed, who was blindfolded and handcuffed, said his tormentors stripped him and ordered him to stroke another detainee's penis. Then they forced him to the floor and forced the other detainee on top of him.
"It hurt when it started to penetrate me. The guards were all laughing and saying, 'He's very tight, let's bring some soap!' When I experienced the pain, I asked them to stop and said that I would confess. Although I confessed to the killings, I mentioned fake names since I never killed anyone. So the torture continued even after I confessed because they suspected my confession was false." He went on to say that one of the guards also forced him to have oral sex.
Ahmad's story echoes that of many Iraqi detainees, who are routinely subjected to torture at facilities across the country. Following on the legacy of the judicial system under previous governments, courts continue to rely mainly on confessions, which interrogators extract with seemingly unlimited brutality. International investigators have repeatedly documented the persistence and widespread nature of torture in Iraq in recent years; little has changed in response to those reports. Human Rights Watch's findings show that as of 2010, the practice remains as entrenched as ever, failing even to draw a critical response when evidence is produced by the Iraqi government itself.
Yesterday four protests took place in Dhi Qar. Al Mada reports that hundreds protested in cities in the province such as Nasiriyah as they demanded improved basic services, the end of corruption in the government and opportunities for the people of Iraq. 5 police officers were injured in the Panthers demonstration. They also note a smaller protest before the provincial council by the University of Dhi Qar employees who are demanding that the university's housing project commence (land has been allocated some time ago but no construction has ever taken place). Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that portests took place in Halabja today "over lack of basic services, corruption and unemployment" and that 1 police officer was killed and three more injured.
An essay on Kitabat's main page explains that Friday is the day Iraqis stand up to leaders who attempted to perpetuate divisions among the people, leaders who abused the Iraqi people's patiences, leaders who ignored the people and now the day of rage calls all Iraqis to Tahrir Square in Baghdad to make Iraq's voice heard. The writer offers a religious prayer asking for protection for the marchers and a peaceful march with no attacks from the government. Friday, the essay announces, will be when Iraq leaves its recent sectarian and ethnic categories and again becomes one nation with "brother having the back of his brother" and the people emerging triumphant over the politicians after too many bleak years. "Tomorrow we are all one and the same and will root out the corruption and the violence and death" that has plauged Iraq.
And yet some are demanding that the long planned, long announced protests not take place. Yes, Moqtada al-Sadr has returned and, with his return, his fawning press base is back. Yesterday's snapshot noted an article by Michael S. Schmidt and Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) that we panned for gold and ignored the very weak parts of. The article had just gone up and I thought it would be redone before going into print (which is often the case). That didn't happen. The article includes these laughable paragraphs:
Mr. Sadr is widely seen as the only one who can rival Mr. Maliki for the support of the Iraqi people. In 2008, Mr. Maliki sent troops into southern Iraq to clear the cities of Mr. Sadr's militias, ultimately leading Mr. Sadr to abandon them.
But Mr. Sadr's partisans did very well in last March's election and later provided key support to Mr. Maliki so he could continue to be prime minister.
We're not a pro-State of Law website and we certainly don't carry Nouri's water for him. But a rival would Ayad Allawi whose political slate actually beat Nouri's State of Law. A rival would not be someone who came in with half the seats of Allawi or Nouri. Sadr's about as popular (or was at election time) as the Kurds -- which it a tiny portion of Iraq. To claim otherwise is to rewrite history. Before Sadr 'abandon'ed those militias, he first attempted to launch an uprising but that was taken down in Basra and in Baghdad.
Did Sadr provide key support for Nouri?
Yes, he did and that's where reporters provide context but no one apparently can either because they don't know recent history or they just don't care. Moqtada al-Sadr resurfaced in Iraq yesterday to issue a call that the protests long planned for tomorrow be called off. What he offered instead was a referendum. The press is obligated to tell the story of Moqtada's most recent referendum -- less than a year ago. But no one wants to remember that today.
Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10% of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left).
The Times reporters are correct, Moqtada did throw his support behind Nouri. After holding a referendum -- one that he said would determine who his bloc would support. Nouri isn't who won the referendum. Nouri didn't even come in second. But Moqtada broke his word and still supported Nouri. He ignored the wishes of the people. And how do you referendum basic services? "Are you for or opposed to water you can drink safely without first boiling? Are you for or opposed to trash pick ups? Are you for or opposed to electricity?"
Now he's showing back up proposing another referendum? A skeptical press would greet his vanity move with laughter. Do we have a skeptical press, a functioning press? Today be thankful for Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) who gathers multiple threads to provide the tapestry and not some isolated segment that reveals nothing. As she notes, "the leadeup to the big day has been marked so far by the more familiar features of Iraq's bare-knuckle style of governing: crackdowns by security forces, political intrigue, sectarian divisions and the threat of violence." And she continues on that path, noting the patterns, reporting the events and she's even speaking to experts. Joost Hiltermann weighs in (and his record, especially of late, has been remarkably high, I'd estimate that in the last 12 months, 92% of the calls he's made -- what he's seeing and where that will end up -- have been correct). (Jane Arraf's reports have been consistently strong. That's this week, that's her entire career of reporting from Iraq. A friend called about the observations made this morning by me that appear only slightly reworked above and asked about "What about Jane?" He worked with her at CNN and has high respect for her. Most people who know her work do. I was not attempting to sleight Jane Arraf. I thought it was a given that we expect strong reporting from her and that she delivers. Over and over. If that wasn't obvious, my apologies for not making it so before.)
Moqtada returned to Iraq yesterday to say "NO!" to the protests. Someone else returned to say "YES!" and "YES!" gets you arrested apparently. He was the shoes heard around the world: Muntazer al-Zaidi. The Iraqi reporter who threw his shoes, one after the other, at George W. Bush. Nicholas Blanford (Time magazine) spoke with him right before he arrived in Iraq and he tells Blanford, "We never used to have sectarianism until the Americans came to Iraq." The Post-Chronicle notes he was arrested today in Baghdad for "inciting people" (endorsing Friday's protest). AFP notes that right before his press conference, Iraqi military showed up and declared they were ordered to arrest him.
The reactionary Nouri made more speechifying today. Michael S. Schmidt and Jack Healy (New York Times) report on his call for no protests tomorrow and quote him declaring, "They are attempting to crack down on everything you have achieved, all the democratic gains, the free elections, the peace exchange of power and freedom." What?
What peaceful exchange of power and freedom? Before the March 7, 2010 elections, Nouri was prime minister, Jalal Talabani was president. Tariq al-Hashimi was a vice president before the 2010 elections and will continue when the Parliament does their voting. Adil Abdul-Mahdi was a vice president before the election and will continue . . . In addition, a third vice president will join them (and Talabani's pushing for a fourth). On this subject, I'd mentioned in a previous snapshot that the White House went with Nouri because he agreed to keep US forces on the ground in Iraq and noted that they ignored the oil lobby and the CIA who each had other candidates. Allawi was and is the choice of the American CIA. Abdul-Mahdi is the choice of big oil.
Nizar Latif (The National) reports that despite the calls from Nouri, al-Sistani and Moqtada, "Thousands of protesters prepared to take to the streets today to call for government reforms and improved public services as the government warned of violence from militants."
Yesterday, we noted that, considering Iraq's not so distant past, it's amazing that Iraqis protest (encouraged to rise up by George H.W. Bush and then slaughtered while the US looked elsewhere). Alan Greenblatt (NPR) covers that period from a more centrist position than does Lance Selfa (I support Lance's historical review) so you can check that out if it is a new topic for you or just one you'd like further reading on.
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:
Moving to legal news out of England, Jessica Grose (Slate) observes, "A few months after famous feminist Naomi Wolf and other leftist journalists dismissed the sexual assault charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as frivolous, British courts are taking the matter quite seriously: They ruled Thursday that Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face accusations of abuse, according to the New York Times. [. . .] Hopefully now that a court is taking these women's stories seriously, Wolf and company will have to eat their condescending words." One would hope so. But don't expect it to happen. And Grose is saying the charges should be taken seriously, she's not saying, "JULIAN ASSANGE IS A RAPIST!!!" Whereas, the other side's loud mouths -- Naomi Wolf, Ray McGovern, et al -- have repeatedly slimed and trashed the women who may have been raped. There's an appeal expected. I've read the findings, there does not appear to be grounds for an appeal.
The nonsense and drama that the legal 'team' (and the loudmouths) brougt in was always a pathetic and embarrassing joke. It made them appear unhinged to claim that the US was behind it with the plan to put Assange in Guantanamo or to execute him. As I've said before, Assange would never go to Guantanamo. Guantanamo has always depended upon the fact that people didn't know the prisoners kept there -- that's how inhumanity like Guantanamo exists with little uproar. Second, there is no crime on the books in the US that would allow Julian Assange to be put to death -- he's not a US citizen, he can't be tried with treason. They overreached and embarrassed themselves.
Disclosure, in one class decades ago, the professor teamed us up. I was with two men. Our case was to argue about school prayer. The men on my team decided we would be in favor of it. (Ask them why. They were the laziest bums I've ever met -- as the story will demonstrate.) One of us would research, one would be in charge of the court paperwork, one would argue the case. Research being the heavy load, neither of the puny men wanted it. Fine. I researched the whole thing and found the citations and judgments we would need to argue their position. Then it was, "You researched it, how about you write it up and I'll type it." Not pleased but fine. I wrote it up. And this is back in the days when typing was done on a type writer. Students didn't have laptops or word processors or whatever. So then Weakling Number 1 types or 'types' up the paper. I keep asking if it's done and keep getting told it's almost done. The day the case is to be argued, Weakling 1 shows up ten or so minutes before moot court begins to tell me (a) he just turned in the paperwork, (b) here's a carbon of it and (c) he's dropping out of the class -- effective now. Weakling 2 has developed sudden shyness and hysterical laryngitis (not a doctor, but I will stand by that diagnosis -- 30 minutes after the moot court hearing, his voice was back). So I've got to argue the case. Fine. I'm looking over the carbons and it is nothing but errors, people's names are wrong, court cases are wrong . . . And to this day, I always look down on people who can't get their filings right. Now that's my pet peeve and why. (If you're wondering, we won the case surprising everyone.) And that may just be me and my feelings because of the experience I've described. However, I do have a number of friends who are judges and they're not really fond of screwed up court paperwork either. I'm talking errors. Not lies. But both will apply in the case Assange's attorneys presented.
The attorneys are currently whining about all the money spent to translate paperwork (from Sweden) into English but, in their own documents submitted to the court, appeared to struggle with English. (I'm referring to repeated typos.) They also appeared to struggle with facts. Including who was president of the United States and when he became president of the United States (Barack Obama is president and became the president when he was sworn in January, 2009). When you have so many errors like that, you're not helping anyone. Why you needed to bring in the President of the United States into your paperwork about a matter between the governments of England and Sweden is beyond me but, having decided to, you need to get your facts right.
Not only did they struggle with facts in their paperwork, they struggled it with facts in their presentation. And they got caught lying. Repeatedly. Bjorn Hurtig has been Julian Assange's attorney for some time and fed the press repeated claims. Any smart person would have realized that Hurtig, a defense attorney, can say anything to the press and it doesn't have to be true. Instead, too many put faith in the claims Hurtig has been making since December. Hurtig bumped up against a judge that wasn't pleased with being lied to.
Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle's ruling can be read [PDF format warning] here in full. The big witnesses were Assange's attorney Hurtig and former judge Brita Sunderg-Weitman. The former judge didn't impress Riddle. After listing the many things Sunderg-Weitman claimed, Riddle notes, "In cross-examination the witness told me she is not an expert in Mutual Legal Assitance. She confirmed she had no direct personal knowledge of what happened in this investigation before Mr Assange left Sweden. Her evidence is based upon the facts supplied to her by the defence lawyers. [In her proof she said Ms Ny had made no effort to interview him before he left with her permission and knowledge on 27th September.] She confirmed that if the defence lawyer had told the prosecutor that he was unable to contact the defendant for interview, then the position would be different." The judge is referring to the fact that before Assange left Sweden, attempts were made to question him. His attorneys have lied about that repeatedly to the press leading idiots like Naomi Wolf to insist that if Sweden was serious, they would have questioned him before he left the country. As the court learned (and as Assange's attorney confessed), there was an attempt to question Assange. Their chief expert offered testimony that she was not qualified to offer. They brought an expert to the witness stand to give hearsay evidence. No, that doesn't impress. Check out the following sentence fragments:
*Overall the witness appeared unclear . . .
*At first she appeared to avoid the question . . .
* Again she had difficulty directly answering the question.
These are just the first set. The witness did not impress the judge for obvious reasons. He was bothered by the fact that she didn't know the facts independently and that she relied (unquestioningly) on the defense to feed her information. This was also an issue with witness Sven-Eric Alhem but the judge noted that, in his written evidence, Alhem had made it clear that he got his information from the defense.
Then there's the part of the judgment recounting when Hurtig had to admit that there was an effort to interview Assange and he'd been contacted September 22nd about it and agreed to it. After agreeing to that what happened? From the judgment:
In summary the lawyer was unable to tell me what attempts he made to contact his client, and whether he definitely left a message. It was put that he had a professional duty to tell his client, and whether he definitely left a message. It was put that he had a professional duty to tell his client of the risk of detention. He did not appear to accept that the risk was substantial or the need to contact his client was urgent.
It only gets worse. The judge notes, "Mr Hurtig was asked why he told Brita Sundberg-Wietman that Ms Nye had made no effort to his client. He denied saying that and said he has never met her." Right there, you've got a huge problem. Their star witness has her facts wrong and states she got them from Hurtig. Hurtig, after being forced to admit the truth, then denies he ever spoke to the star witness. It gets worse. Confronted with what he wrote down and submitted to the court, Hurtig has to admit "that is wrong. He had forgotten [. . .] They must have slipped his mind." Slipped his mind? The judge didn't buy that claim.
Riddle continues, "He also agreed that it is important that what he says is right and important for his client that his evidence is credible." The judge then notes that the witness asserted he had a flight to catch, "The witness was clearly uncomfortable and anxious to leave."
As bad as that is-- and it's bad -- we're not even to the basic findings Judge Riddel offers -- 19 points on pages nine and ten. We'll emphasize two. First, here he is on Julian Assange's attorney Hurtig (the one Ray McGovern and Naomi Wolf have relied on when attacking the women who may have been raped):
10. Mr Hurtig [is] an unreliable witness as to what efforts he made to contaact his client between 21st, 22nd and 29th September (see transcript pages 122-132). He has no record of those attempts. They were by mobile phone, but he has no record. He cannot recall whether he sent texts or simply left answer-phone messages.
And point 15 goes along with that:
15. Mr Hurtig said in his statement that it was astonishing that Ms Nye made no effort to interview his client. In fact this is untrue. He says he realised the mistake the night before giving evidence. He did correct the statement in his evidence in chief (transcript p.83 and p.97). However, this was very low key and not done in a way that I, at least, immediately grasped as significant. It was only in cross-examination that the extent of the mistake became clear. Mr Hurtig must have realised the significance of paragraph 13 of his proof when he sbumitted it. I do not accept that this was a genuine mistake. It cannot have slipped his mind. For over a week he was attempting (he says without success) to contact a very important client about a very important matter. The statement was a deliberate attempt to mislead the court. It did in fact mislead Ms Brita Sunderberg-Weitman and Mr Alhem. Had they been given the true facts then they would have changed their opinion on a key fact in a material way.
When your attorney is ruled "an unreliable witness," you and your case have problems. Now Assange had a respectable lawyer but he wouldn't play the game Hurtig will and that's why Julian Assange dropped him. Now he's got a lawyer who lied repeatedly to the press and who the jugde caught in one lie after another.
On the other side of the bipolar American political divide, something named Nir Rosen -- a journalist and a fellow at New York University -- mocked Logan in a series of tweets as a "warmonger," presumably for her coverage of the Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars, and said he was "rolling my eyes" at the attention she'd be getting.
Let us pass lightly on the specific "thoughts" -- a term used advisedly here -- raised by these individuals, except to note that, contrary to what Hoff and Schlussel imply, Logan did not wander aimlessly into that square. The woman is a reporter and she was doing what reporters do: going places, sometimes dicey, difficult or dangerous places, in order to originate the information that allows the rest of us to opine from the comfort of our chairs.
The suggestion that in doing her job, Logan somehow "deserved" what happened to her is appalling. As is Hoff's political spin, Rosen's mockery and Schlussel's frothing bigotry.
Betty noted Pitts' column last night and contrasted it with various efforts by some lefty males to excuse Rosen or pretend nothing ever happened. That includes Jim Lobe who was silent all last week about Rosen's attack on Logan but, as Betty pointed out, showed up yesterday declaring Rosen had a great article at Al Jazeera. (We'll come back to that.) Under pressure from people leaving comments, Lobe declared today: "hey, all, i hardly know Nir Rosen, but i think daniel already blogged on his inexcusable Lara Logan tweet(s)(http://www.lobelog.com/the-knives-are-out-for-nir-rosen/). The point is that Rosen's reporting has been excellent, and this essay was particularly compelling." Whatever, you sorry excuse, whatever. Everyone knows what you did, kept your head in the sand and waited until you thought it was over.
And I feel the witch in my veins I feel the mother in my shoe I feel the scream in my soul The blood as I sing the ancient blue They burned by the millions I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair The war against women rages on Beware of the fairytale Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter Somebody's jail
-- "Somebody's Jail" written by Holly Near first appears on Holly's Show Up
Tell us another lie, Jim Lobe. And, Lobe, what are you doing linking to Peter Beinart in the same post? The War Hawk leading the charge for illegal war from the 'left'? Clearly all anyone has to do for Lobe to consider worth highlighting is attack Israel. And if you can do so with a level of craziness, all the better. (The government of Israel can be criticized and has certainly done enough to be criticized for. But some of these people are confusing governments with people and it's getting really ugly and really old. As we've noted many times when the wide-eyed crazy surfaces -- and you can find it all over the web, go to Information Clearing House -- one example -- and see the most extreme attacks on the Jewish people in comments left -- not just the Jews in Israel even. Jews all over the world get attacked with this sort of crazy most of us hoped had vanished. It's past time the left learned that wasn't acceptable. And as we've often noted, when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House he may have been the US government but he was not the US people. Do not confuse people with governments.) As for Nir Rosen having an article on Aljazeera? Last week, I avoided calling attention to something but now that Aljazeera is publishing Nir Rosen, we're going to the second hour of last Friday's The Diane Rehm Show -- and this is from the show's official transcript, Diane is speaking with Aljazeera's Abderrahim Foukara:
REHM: Abderrahim, there are a great many people wondering why Aljazeera Arabic did not cover what happened to Laura Logan.
FOUKARA: I just wanna say this. I don't wanna say anything stupid or come across as trying to say anything too smart by half. I don't know the answer to what exactly happened with the story of Laura Logan on Aljazeera. I'd be very happy to come back down the road next week or whenever, once I've had a chance to speak to people and give the details of why that story was covered the way it was covered or was not covered at all on either Aljazeera English or Aljazeera Arabic.
Now it's one thing to wait for an explaination, it's another thing to be waiting for an explanation and as you're waiting discover that Aljazeera is carrying reports by the man who mocked Lara Logan's sexual assault. On the first, it could have just been an accident. But it looks a lot less inoccent when Aljazeera's ignoring the assault and running Nir Rosen's garbage. It may still be innocent and if he offers an update (either tomorrow or another Friday when he's on Diane's show), we'll note it. But it doesn't look good to ignore the Lara Logan story and then to be promoting the man who savaged her online.