Monday, May 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, April was the deadliest month for US troops since 2009, Iranian media says they have news of an upcoming attack, some members of the Iraqi Parliament accuse the military of doing home invasions around Baghdad, and more.
Starting with rumors. Press TV reports that a "prominent Iraqi cleric [in] Muqtada al-Sadr's group" states he saw "Israeli jet fighters" drilling on a US base in Iraq for the last week at night. The source states the base was al-Asad Airbase. That base is in Al Anbar Province and before the start of the Iraq War was Qadisiyah Airbase. Global Security notes, "Qadisiyah Airbase is named after the great battle of May 636 at Al Qadisiyah, a village south of Baghdad on the Euphrates. The Iranians, who outnumbered the Arabs six to one, were decisively beaten. From Al Qadisiyah the Arabs pushed on to the Sassanid capital at Ctesiphon, enabling Islam under Caliph Umar to spread to the East. During the 1980s, Baathists publicly regularly called the Iran-Iraq War a modern day 'Qadisiyah' exploiting the age-old enmity in its propaganda and publicizing the war as part of the ancient struggle between the Arab and Persian empires." During the first Gulf War in the 90s, the CIA says, housed alcohol bombs and HD bombs. Since the start of the ongoing Iraq War, the base has been used (first) by the Australians and (now) by the US. Global Security notes it is Iraq's "second largest airbase." In 2008, Eric Talmadge (AP) reported the base was "big enough to support 20,000 troops), was also called "Camp Cupcake" and housed "a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, and round-the-clock Internet access." The Jerusalem Post picks up on the story and adds, "Officials in Iraq were not notified of the military drill, which was reportedly conducted in coordination with US armed forces." Reuters notes the Israeli military's denial of the story and also notes, "Washington's ally Israel accuses Tehran of using its declared civilian nuclear reactor programme to conceal a plan to develop atomic bombs that would threaten the Jewish state. Israeli leaders have not ruled out military action against Iran."
Turning to deaths. The Dept of Defense issued the following on Thursday, "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Spc. Andrew E. Lara, 25, of Albany, Ore., died April 27, of a noncombat related incident, in Babil province, Iraq. He was assigned to F Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion, attached to the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment. For more information, please contact the Oregon National Guard public affairs office at 503-584-3885." Friday another US soldier died in Iraq. AFP notes he was killed in southern Iraq, according to the US military, and that this "made April the deadliest month for US forces in Iraq since 2009, according to figures compiled by AFP." Sunday the Defense Dept issued the following, " The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Pfc. Robert M. Friese, 21, of Chesterfield, Mich., died April 29 in Al Qadisiyah province, Iraq, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with a rocket propelled grenade. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. For more information, the media may contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at 254-287-9993 or 254-449-4023." The 11 dead for the month of April include 25-year-old Pfc Antonio G. Stiggins who was killed in an attack which also claimed 25-year-old Lt Omar J. Vazquez April 22nd. Steve Ramirez (Las Cruces Sun-News) notes, "Funeral services for Stiggins, a cavalry scout with the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who was killed in Iraq on April 22, will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Christ's Church, 2200 N. Sycamore St., in Roswell. Stiggins will be laid to rest at South Park Cemetery, 3101 S. Main St., in Roswell." The day before, Wednesday, there will be a public viewing at the Anderson-Bethany Funeral Home from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. Amanda Goodman (KRQE, link has text and video) reports his body arrived in Roswell Saturday and a military procession followed to the funeral home. His survivors include his parents Angel Mayes and Luke Stiggins and Angel Mayes states, "There wasn't anything couldn't throw at that kid he wouldn't take on. With a sense of humor, I must add." US House Rep Steve Pearce notes the passing, "I offer my deepest sympathy and condolences for the family of Pfc. Antonio Stiggins. Our nation is profoundly thankful for the sacrifices made every day by the members of our armed forces and their families. Pfc. Stiggins will always be remembered for what he gave in defense of our freedoms. His family will be in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."
April ended Saturday and it's time to do the monthly count of Iraqis killed in the ongoing war. April 1st 5 people were reported dead and 55 injured. April 2nd 8 were reported dead and 12 injured. April 3rd 3 were counted dead and 29 injured. April 4th 17 were reported dead and 23 injured. April 5th 8 were counted dead and 14 injured. April 6th 19 were reported dead with 28 injured (we're not including the 8 dead from the collapsed brick plant). April 7th 1 person was reported dead and 1 wounded. April 8th 9 were reported dead and 9 injured. April 9th 3 were reported dead and 4 injured. April 10th 5 were reported dead and twelve injured. April 11th 23 were reported dead and 45 injured. April 12th 12 were reported dead and 15 were reported injured. April 13th 2 were reported dead and 21 injured. April 14th 38 were reported dead and 19 wounded (34 dead at Camp Ashraf on April 8th are included in this day's count because April 14th is when the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths). April 15th 9 people were reported injured. April 16th 2 were reported dead and 7 injured. April 17th 10 were reported dead and 52 injured. April 18th 9 were reported dead and 35 injured. April 19th 8 were reported dead and 17 injured. April 20th 4 were reported dead and 6 wounded. April 21st 7 were reported dead and 8 injured. April 22nd 5 were reported dead 3 injured. April 24th 1 person was reported dead and 13 injured. April 25th 3 were reported dead and 15 injured. April 26th 4 dead 36 injured. April 27th 1 was reported dead and 12 injured. April 28th 19 were reported dead and 49 injured. April 29th 15 were reported dead and 31 injured. April 30th 22 were reported dead and 27 injured. That's 262 deaths and 598 injured (as always, check my math).
Salman Faraj (AFP) notes that the Iraqi "ministries of health, interior and defence and released on Sunday showed that a total of 211 Iraqis -- 120 civilians, 56 policemen and 35 soldiers" -- died as a result of attacks in April" that's a total of 211 and they state 377 were wounded. Now let's move over to Girlie In The Green Zone, to read her bad reporting for Reuters is to always be uninformed. Serenes tells you that the number of wounded has decreased because only "190 civilians were wounded in April." Does Girlie just make up her figures? Or do her handlers give her them? She credits the Ministry of Health. Who knows. She's worthless. The reality is that every outlet that reports deaths on a daily basis should be doing their own count. Iraqi Body Count does their own and counts 283 civilians killed in the month of April. AFP mixed the count with an actual report on another topic. Reuters just tossed out a partial figure. No one offered any analysis. April 24th, Ammar Karim (AFP) noted an emerging trend: "In recent days, however, three top officials have been shot dead with silenced guns in the Iraqi capital, leading to tighter security at checkpoints, with officers checking pistols to see if they can be fitted with silencers." Silencers have been used in many attacks throughout the month but the big trend has been the targeting of officials -- with guns or, as with Baghdad provincial council member Jasim Mohammed, with bombings. Jasim Mohammed survived the bombing with injuries. Some targeted officials were lucky enough to survive without even injuries (though in at least one case, four body guards were injured) and of course some (like Judge Tuma Jabar Lafta) were killed in the bombings (also killed was Lafta's wife and their two daughters). Academics were targeted through out the month (school and college). And another common theme was home invasions tended to be carried out by people wearing Iraqi military uniforms. Today New Sabah notes a Parliamentary Committee has lodged an accusation that the Iraqi military is "responsible for the security violations in areas they control" surrounding the capital. The committee notes that repeatedly reports find the assailants are wearing Iraqi military uniforms and that the assailants are able to move freely throughout the areas, through checkpoints, and without arousing suspicion.
When not possibly raiding homes, the Iraqi military can be found attacking peaceful protesters. Yesterday in Mosul, the Great Iraqi Revolution reports, the military used live ammo on the protesters. The military also attacked the protesters on Friday. Dar Addustour reports "hundreds" turned out in Tahrir Square (Liberation Square) in Baghdad Friday to protest and demand reforms and the end to the occupation. The demonstration, the paper notes, is a continuation of the protests which began February 15th. The protesters carried banners which they unfurled in Tahrir Square. The banners called for imporved services, the release of detainnees and more. The paper also reports that people turned out in Ramadi, including tribal elders, demanding that the US occupation end and that Iranian interference in internal affairs be blocked, detainees be released and expressing solidarity with the protesters in Mosul. The Great Iraqi Revolution adds that the call in Ramadi was for an end to "the occupation and demand its immediate departure as well as the immediate departure of Maliki and his gang and the immediate release of all the detainees." Al Sabaah also reports on the Baghdad and Ramadi protests Friday. They note the Baghdad protest also included a cry for investigations into the many Iraqis who have gone missing in the last years while also stressing Ramadi's solidarity with Nineveh Province residents. In Mosul, the Iraqi military has been dispatched by Nouri al-Maliki to attack the protesters. While protests take place calling for an end to the US occupation of Iraq, Al Sabaah reports that Kurdish leaders of Diayla Province and Kirkuk are calling for the US to remain in those regions due to disputes over who has rights to the areas.
Turning to news of the government out of Baghdad, Dar Addustour reported over the weekend that Iraqiya is floating the idea of dissolving the government stating that there can be no more delays in resolving the security ministries. If delays continue, the coalition is threatening to move for a vote of no-confidence. November 10th, the power-sharing deal was announced with great fan fair and Nouri was named prime minister designate (Jalal Talabani would fudge it by not declaring it official until weeks later in order to give Nouri more than 30 days to put together a Cabinet). Despite that taking place long, long ago, Nouri has still not found a Minister of National Security, a Minister of Defense or a Minister of the Interior. Now elections were held March 10, 2010. And this was all supposed to have been resolved quickly. But it wasn't and, over a year after the elections, the security ministries still have no heads -- at a time when violence steadily increases in Iraq. Al Mada reported on this as well and also noted that women's rights activist Yanar Mohammed took part in the announcement and she is calling for the anti-terrorims law to be dissolved because it is "a tool of the government" which is being used to intimidate citizens and, specifically, has been used to raid the meetings of the youth organizers of the Baghdad protests, and along with the raids, it's also been used to justify the detention and abuse of activists.
Nouri's Iraq can't even pull off an Arab Summit in Baghdad. It was supposed to take place in March. Had to postpone it until May. Now it's been shelved. Habib Toumi (Gulf News) reported that Iraq may nominate a candidate to head the Arab League. That doesn't necessarily mean that any summit could ever be held in Baghdad. And that 'Baghdad' summit? Al Mada noted it's looking like it will be scheduled for some time in 2012. In other political news, Al Mada reported Faleh Sari of the National Alliance is calling out plans to cut the ration card stating it would be harmful to at least one hundred thousand families.
Today New Sabah reports Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi is in Erbil and is stating that Iraq is in a "political crisis" due to the fact that the Erbil agreement has not been implemented. The Erbil Agreement led to the November 10th Parliament meeting at which Osama al-Nujaifi was named Speaker of Parliament and Nouri al-Maliki was named prime minister-designate (but not by Jalal Talabani so that the date could be fudged to give Nouri even more time). As part of the agreement, a national security committee was supposed to be created and Allawi was supposed to head it. That never came to pass. And, in fact, only a few hours after the session began, many members of Iraqiya walked out. State of Law MP Abbas al-Bayati says that the "threat" is no cause for alarm and accuses Iraqiya of talking "vote of no-confidence" at one point and (as Allawi did today) "new elections" at another point. Allawi notes that all primary participants signed of on the Erbil Agreement.
Parliament is debating a law regarding journalism. Suad Rashid (Al Rafidayn) reports there is disagreement as to what the proposed law would actually do and then presents a variety of voices (journalists) explaining why they support or oppose the proposed legislation. Today, Al Sabaah notes, the Parliament will hear testimony from the Electoral Commission. Reportedly, State of Law has called for the questioning. This appears to be part of the ongoing attempt by Nouri al-Maliki to co-opt and control the independent Electoral Commission. Dar Addustour adds that the director of the commission, Faraj al-Haidari, states that they have turned over to the Palriament a list of things they need to do their job.
In news of violence today, Reuters reports a Hilla sticky bombing left four people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 3 lives and left fourteen people injured and a Baghdad roadside bombing injured thre people "near a cafe". Aswat al-Iraq adds that 1 person was shot dead in Kut.
Reported on Iraq. For a 'hot topic,' suddenly two papers who can't be bothered with the Iraq War on any given day suddenly wants to hear from troops who have served there? They need to check their damn priorities. They're a joke, not because I'm mocking them, but because they've made themselves a joke. You have at least 47,000 US troops on the ground in Iraq and the only damn time you want to speak to them for a story is when you're hoping they'll weigh in on your 'hot topic'? How disgusting. Here's a topic for you ask them about: What's it like to be stationed in Iraq in the midst of a war that the bulk of your country's media ignores?
While it's treated like a sports event by the US media, Aswat al-Iraq reports the Iraqi Parliament warned today that a wave of vendetta attacks may be forthcoming as a result of the killing of bin Laden.
A better press would've noted what a contradiction the presidential address was. After all, it was only last week that Barack was addressing the nation about his birth and, at the top of that televised event, he declared, "I was just back there listening to Chuck -- he was saying, it's amazing that he's not going to be talking about national security. I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it." So what was tonight? Was bin Laden's death about national security or not? And if bin Laden was the reason the US went to war with Afghanistan (that has always been the stated reason), does bin Laden's death mean US forces finally (and immediately) leave Afghanistan? A functioning press would have a ton of questions. Instead, ABC served up Spring Break DC! very MTV style.
If Barack were going to be talking about national security, he said Wednesday, "I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it." No, he did not have the assassination of Osama bin Laden at the front of his mind when he spoke Wednesday, Michael Shear, you stupid, stupid, little boy. Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner is with March Forward. He tells Ari Bloomekatz (Los Angles Times), "Bin Laden's death is being touted in a symbolic way, but the reality is our friends and family are dying in two wars that have nothing to do with protecting ourselves from Al Qaeda. It's great that people are heartened by the death of Bin Laden, but what about the deaths of the American soldiers and Iraqi civilians that's going to continue after he's dead?"
The Iraq War has not ended. Oil & Gas Journal today can barely keep the drool from spilling out of its collective mouth: "If Iraqi output shifts the long-term price of oil from any number of base-case forecasts by $20/bbl -- e.g., from $100/bbl to $80/bbl -- it would yield a present value savings in import costs to the US economy of over $1 trillion. Accompnaying this saving would be substantial improvement in growth and expansion of the US economy." Wisam al-Bayati (Press TV) files a report entitled "US forces not to leave Iraq as agreed." Over the weekend, Jeff Winkinson (South Carolina's State) reported a helicopter battalion from the state's National Guard would leave for Fort Hood and then deploy to Iraq but "are expected to return home in about one year." In about one year. One year. Supposedly ALL Us forces leave Iraq at the end of December. That's seven months from now. But this battalion is supposed "to return home in about one year." Sunday, Jennifer Bellamy (WLTX in Columbia, South Carolina -- link has text and video) reported on the send-off ceremony for those members of South Carolina's National Guard who are leaving for Fort Hood (Texas) for additional training and then deploying to Iraq. Friends and family said their goodbyes to soldiers like Sgt Steven Hughes who stated, "I've been out here for a year and a half so I think I'll be all right, but leaving the family and everything's gonna be the hardest thing." Bellamy notes, "Once in there, they'll work to support US operations for about a year through Operation New Dawn." Like Winkinson, she notes "about a year." Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) observes:
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is shifting command of the CIA and military in the government's scramble to "win" in Afghanistan, and maintain the empire's domination of the MIddle East. General David Petraeus will be head of the CIA.
This means that the military will be more blended into the covert and secret war in Pakistan, attacks on Yemen and Libya. Leon Panetta, who now heads the CIA will become Defense Secretary.
None of this indicates the U.S. "winning" nor the wars ending. In fact, it seems increasingly likely that U.S. troops will be kept in Iraq beyond the end of this year, to continue enforcing the occupation directly.
In other news, following the US invasion, the US made these MEK 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 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California. The assault hasn't really registered in the US. By comparison, several British MPs have expressed their outrage. MP Brian Binley writes at The Hill today:
On 8th April Iraqi forces entered Camp Ashraf and carried out a massacre, leaving 35 residents killed and over 350 wounded. Young men and women were shot in the back of the head, in the spine, in the neck and in the lungs and heart in a clear shoot-to-kill policy. A policy supported by weaponry which one would only expect to see in armed conflict against an enemy force, not a camp of unarmed refugees. The massacre was in fact the culmination of two years of deliberate harassment which the Camp Ashraf residents have endured since the U.S. military handed over control of the camp to the Iraqi authorities. British members of Parliament and U.S. politicians have described the murder of 35 unarmed civilians by Iraqi forces as a "Gestapo-style massacre" and a crime against humanity for which the perpetrators must be punished. Nuri Al-Maliki has the blood of 35 murdered Camp Ashraf residents on his hands and he must be brought to justice to answer for the crimes he has committed. More deeply worrying is the thought that Robert Gates was in Iraq at the time of the attack, as he was in 2009 when a similar massacre was carried out, leaving many believing that he had full knowledge of the pending attack and in essence provided the Iraqi authorities with the go ahead to carry out the massacre thanks to his silence. Since the attack the U.S. has granted medical treatment to just 7 of the wounded, some 2% of those who require treatment. With Iraq denying the wounded the necessary medical attention more could die and that shames Robert Gates personally.
From the soon-to-be departing Secretary of Defense to the proposed Chair of the Joint Cheifs of Staff James Cartwright, Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) reports that Gen Cartwright has many honors but no experience in war: "That poses a dilemma for the Obama administration: At a time of two long wars and intervention elsewhere, should the nation's top military officer be a general who hasn't fought in any conflict?"