Monday, May 16, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq continues to have no heads for the security ministries, Parliament gears up for their vacation, the governments in England and Canada reel from Iraq revalations, Nouri plans to shut down Camp Ashraf, and more.
Violence never ends in Iraq and Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) breaks the news, "Shi'ite militias rather than Sunni Islamist al Qaeda are behind a recent wave of assassinations of Iraqi government, police and military officials in Baghdad, security officials said." al-Salhy counts over 38 deaths since the start of this year that Shi'ite militias have been respondible for. The stated reason for the assassinations? Shi'ite militias fear "a return of Saddam's outlawed Baath party" should the US military pull out at the end of 2011. Sunday Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported on a Baghdad home invasion in which "three Shiite family members" were shot dead by assailants in "police uniforms". This has been a repeating incident in and around Baghdad. For a long time, Nouri and company tried to float a story about this mythical uniform making company which did have enough security and kept losing these uniforms. Is the latest allegation by Iraqi officials supposed to explain the attacks by people in police uniforms? There are a lot of questions the story raises. A story blaming Shi'ites -- as opposed to the catch all "al Qaeda in Iraq" -- for the violence and it offers up the motive of 'fear of what happens if the US leaves Iraq and the Baath Party attempts a take over'? It it news or propaganda from officials attempting to frighten Iraq into demanding the US stay?
Nouri al-Maliki wants political blocs to consider the extension of US forces on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011. Zainab Suncor (Al Mada) reported this morning that consideration would most likely take place around June 13th when the Parliament begins its second session. Suncour cites sources "close to the State of Law coalition" wanting US troops to remain in Iraq and the same sources saying this is the wish of most MPs, however, they fear what happens -- Iraqi anger -- if they back the extension they feel is needed. State of Law's Jawad Albz notes talks among the various political blocs and that the US government is applying pressure. Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki called to convene heads of political parties in order to assess their stands over the decision to extend US Forces mandate in Iraq. Al Maliki's call was not well received by Sadr's Front which firmly rejects the extension of US presence in Iraq." David Ali (Al Mada) adds that the Sadrists continue to maintain they will bring back the Mehdi militia and there are rumors that they will be leaving the National Alliance. Over the weekend, Muhammad al-Khaldi (Dar Addustour) reported that State Of Law's Jawad Albz was stating that there are ongoing talks between the US and the political blocs about US troops remaining in Iraq past 2011. Albz insists this is being done in secret and to avoid embarrassment.
In the US, Doug Bandow (Fortune) weighs in, "Washington should close its 86 bases and bring home its 47,000 troops, 63,000 civilian contractors and mountains of military equipment. The Obama administration's attempt to keep U.S. forces in Iraq is further evidence that America has become an empire. Not in the traditional sense of conquering territory. But certainly in the sense of garrisoning foreign lands to extend Washington's influence and creating advanced bases to impose Washington's will." Sunday Faith Abdulsalam (Azzaman) noted how chancy it is that Nouri will remain in power without the US military: "The prime minister understands that the sinking of the ship in the mud that will be left in the aftermath of U.S. troops withdrawal will lead to damages worse than those inflicted on the country by the occupation itself. He now senses that almost everybody is his enemy, even those within his closest circle working for him under the political or factional banner. This is the kind of characteristic that breeds dictators in the course of time." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Maliki is terrified and realizes that he is about to disappear - this can be sensed from the tone of his voice and the expression on his face and the same can be sensed and seen of the of his cronies in the so called government. After his departure there will be no more lies!" An editorial in the Pensacola News Journal declared, "New reports say Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is 'open' to the possibility that U.S. combat troops will remain in Iraq beyond the scheduled Dec. 31 departure date. Big surprise. If he can get U.S. taxpayers to keep shelling out billions of dollars to support his efforts to consolidate power, I'm sure he'll count it as a feather in his hat."
While US forces right now are supposed to be leaving Iraq December 31, 2011, a number of them are being deployed on year long and "about a year" tours of duty in Iraq. For example, Scott Wasserman (Twin Cities Fox 9 -- link has text and video) reports, "It's the second largest deployment of Minnesota Guard members since World War II. Over 2,400 men and women are preparing to leave home so they can serve in Iraq." He notes that they will be deployed in Iraq for "about a year." ABC Newspapers note, "A total of 460 soldiers will be leaving Minnesota May 22 for training before departing for the Middle East." Last Thursday, Corey Dickstein (Savannah Morning News) reported, "Fort Stewart officials announced Thursday that the 3rd Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion will be deployed to Iraq in late fall to support Operation New Dawn." Lot of people headed to Iraq for "about 12" months . . . when there are less than seven months left in the year.
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left eight people injured (three are bodyguards of the Baghdad Provincial Council's Kamel al-Zaidi), another Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people, a third injured five, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, a coprse was discovered in Kirkuk, a Mosul sticky bomb on a judge's car was successfully dismantled, and, dropping back to Sunday for the rest, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Interior Ministry worker, 1 person was shot dead in Baghdad by assailants on motorcycles, 1 soldier was shot dead in Mosul and a child left injured and "the son of a civilian contractor" was shot dead in a separate Mosul shooting. Aswat al-Iraq reports a bombing at the Fadhila Party Headquarters "north of Hilla" which left 2 people dead, a 1 "young man" was shot dead in Mosul and 4 children -- ages eight to twelve -- died in Diwaniya today while playing in a military camp with "unexploded shells." And in Kirkuk, Ashur Jacob's corpse was found, the "head chopped off," approximately a week after the Iraqi Christian was kidnapped and his family told they needed to raise a $100,000 ransom. AFP reports that Ashur Issa Yaqub was 29-years-old and that they were asking $100,000 in a country where the "average daily wage for a construction worker averages to around 25,000 Iraqi dinars ($21)." On the issue of corpses, the Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "It has just been announced that a new Mass Grave has been discovered in Fallujah in the Al Ma'adheedi - 20 bodies defaced by acid! What a mess and what a democracy and liberation! what hell for their families and for the Iraqi People. Dear God I pray vengeance is wroght upon all who wrecked this havoc on Iraq." And the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "2 days ago I heard from someone quite close to the powers that be that daily there are at least 50 bodies that are found in the streets - this is what is known, but I wonder what the real figure is - where are the legally responsible occupation forces???? Do they think that they will get away with all of this? They brought us scum who are not Iraqis - just in case they did not know - where is the UN? Where are Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch???? When are the Americans going to allow them to speak up?????"
Turning to legislative news, Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that the Parliament wants their summer vacation and is refusing to cancel it. MP Mohamed Khaldi explains that he and some of his peers are tired -- especially of the ongoing demonstrations. And Alsumaria TV notes that there is little chance of Parliament holding a special session during their vacation to decide the security ministers issues. Though Nouri named a Cabinet in December, it wasn't a complete Cabinet. It did, apparently, have some very interesting characters as evidenced by this from the Great Iraqi Revolution, "14 officers from Maliki's inner security circle are accused of taking bribes and smuggling terrorists to Iran. Abu Ali Al Basri is a member of the Da'awa Party! So is his brother and so is Haliki's nephew. They are all murderers and assassins. What lovely company! One of them is his Haliki's step-brother, by the way, Qati'i al rikabi who is Maliki's messenger for smuggling money! This man's son was released from jail in Australia on a state visit there! He was sentenced to jail for smuggling drugs into Australia - lovely family tree!" The Minister of the Interior, the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Defence are three posts that still, all this time later, remain empty. These are the security ministries and despite continue violence, there's been little movement on this issue. Nouri finally made nominations but ignored needed input. Aswat al-Iraq reports that the Iraqiya bloc is objecting to the nominees: Saadoun al-Dulaimi (for Minister of Defense), Riyadh Ghareeb (Minister of National Security) and Tawfeeq al-Yassiri (Minister of the Interior). The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "The Alliance of Industries has announced that 95% of all projects are at a standstill because of the lack of security in the country as well as the lack of electricity."
And if a lack of minister for the security ministries isn't bad enough, Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reported Saturday that Sahwa has stepped aside. The "Awakening" Councils, Sahwa and Sons Of Iraq are three names for a group of largely Sunni fighters the American military gave tax payer money to if they would stop attacking US forces and US property. Gen David Petreaus credited the 'movement' with turning the tide in Iraq. Sahwa is no more and that's largely because Nouri was too greedy to pay them. Now, in al-Anbar Province, the al-Dulaimi tribe is saying Sahwa is over and advising that the government considered Sahwa to be puppets all along. As a result, al-Dulaimi states that the fight between the government and 'terrorists' is between the two and that Sahwa should not attempt to step in or eliminate the conflict. al-Dulaimi is over 10,000 families and, counting those in Syria as well as those in Iraq, is an estimated three million people. In addition to there vast numbers, there is also the fact that they are highly influential when it comes to other Sunnis.
In addition, tensions may rise over a weekend arrest. Saturday Dar Addustour reported MP Yassin Obeidi, of the Iraqiya slate, states US forces -- accompanied by the Iraqi military -- raided his home and he is calling for an investigation into the raid. Also Alsumaria TV noted that the US military arrested an Iraqi military officer in Kut Friday night and that Waset Provincial Council head Mahmoud Abdul Rida "Talal believes the arrest violates the regulations of the US-Iraq security agreement calling on Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki to interfere and set him free, a source told Alsumaria."
The Tehran Times is trumpeting that Camp Ashraf is soon to be no more. Background, Camp Ashraf is an enclosed area that houses Iranian dissidents who have been present in Iraq since before the start of the Iraq War and, following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- these 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 the way it has in Europe. AFP reports, "Urgent international action is needed to avert 'a Srbrenica-style massacre' at the Iraqi Ashraf camp housing thousands of exiled Iranian opponents, a European parliament delegation said Tuesday after returning from Iraq." CBS and AP note US Senator John Kerry has termed the April 8th assault a "massacre." Today Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reveals, "U.S. troops were at Camp Ashraf up until the eve of the attack. According to Mohammad Mohaddessin, a senior official in the Paris-based political umbrella group, 40 to 50 uniformed U.S. troops arrived at Ashraf on April 2 and departed on the afternoon of April 7. Iraqi forces struck shortly before 5 a.m. the next morning. A U.S. military spokesman said the U.S. units were not aware of any impending Iraqi oeration at the camp."
This morning the Tehran Times reported that the camp is to be shut down citing Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, as the source. The US State Dept has been attempting to work out a deal whereby the camp would be relocated to another area of Iraq, one not so close to Iran. This does not appear to be what Zebari is indicating will happen because he and Ibrahim Jafari are noted for stating that other countries will need to accept the residents and the term "expulsion" is used. Wisam al-Bayati (Press TV -- link has text and video) reports that the expulsion was decided by the US proposal to relocate the camp, "The Iraqi lawmakers from Sadr Movement have condemned US intervention in their country's internal affairs. They believe the US is trying to keep these terrorists in Iraq to use them against neighboring countries." Meanwhile Reza Haftbaradaran writes at the Telegraph of London about his daughter:
My daughter Saba's life ended at 5:30 in the morning on 9 April 2011 at the age of 29. The story leading to the worst day of my life is one which must be heard by the families of British and US troops, whose many loved ones gave their lives on Iraqi soil. Saba was born in 1981 in an Iranian prison. As a child she spent many days in prison alongside her mother and I who had been jailed for demanding freedom. She would sleep and wake to the sound of screams from the political prisoners being tortured. When we finally escaped Iran we set up home at Camp Ashraf, a refugee camp in Iraq, home to 3,400 Iranian dissidents, members of the PMOI, forced from their homes for opposing the Iranian regime. Saba who had been born in prison and left prison at the age of two was some years later sent abroad to Germany where she and her sister could live and study. However, the sound of torture from Saba's childhood never left her and at the age of 19 she decided to come to Ashraf to struggle with us for freedom and democracy in Iran. On 8 April 2011, in the middle of the night, 2,500 Iraqi soldiers forced entry to Ashraf and began shooting at its unarmed residents, as well as driving at them in Humvees. As I saw the slaughter of my friends and colleagues happening before me, my thoughts immediately turned to finding Saba. As I searched amongst the hundreds of wounded, I was told by a doctor that she had been shot and taken to hospital. Only when I arrived there did I realize the extent of her injuries. She had been shot in the thigh, breaking the bone and tearing her main artery. She was, though, awake and could speak to me and I knew immediately that with the necessary treatment her life could easily be saved. It soon became clear that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, who had ordered the massacre, had no intention of allowing victims to live.
Alistair Campbell said to the Inquiry that the purpose of the Dossier was not "to make a case for war". I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used. The previous paper, drafted in February and March, known to us then also as the Dossier, was rejected because it did not make a strong enough case. From then until September we were under pressure to find intelligence that could reinforce the case. [Redacted passage.] I recall Joe French frequently enquiring whether we were missing something; he was under pressure. We could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to WMD, generally concluding that they must have been dismantled, buried or taken abroad. There has probably never been a greater detailed scrutiny of every piece of ground in any country.
During the drafting of the final Dossier, every fact was managed to make it as strong as possible, the final statements reaching beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts. It was clear to me that there was direction and pressure being applied on the JIC and its drafters.
In summary, we knew at the time that the purpose of the Dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care.
When Gordon Brown asked Sir John Chilcot to head a commission to enquire into the Iraq war, few expected it to come up with anything earthshaking. Chilcot was widely seen as a "safe pair of hands", and a pro-establishment mandarin who was not known to rock the boat. And so it has proved to be: in a series of interviews with the principal actors in the run-up to the bloody but unnecessary war, no great revelations have emerged. The effect of being grilled by Chilcot has been likened to "being mauled by a toothless sheep". Tony Blair was allowed to drone on for hours, expanding on all the reasons why he thought the war was a good idea. His misuse of intelligence was not seriously questioned by the commission, and he was permitted to leave scot free, with his loathsome grin in place. Blair's powerful spin doctor Alastair Campbell was similarly let off the hook. This despite widespread charges in the media that he had been a key player who had used his proximity to Blair to bully the British intelligence community into sexing up the dodgy intelligence dossier that was used by Blair into persuading Parliament to authorise him to attack Iraq. But now, after Chilcot had interviewed all the witnesses in the drama, a senior intelligence officer has claimed that Campbell lied in his testimony. Major General Michael Laurie, director general of the Defence Intelligence Staff, responsible for collating and analysing raw intelligence data before the Iraq war, has delivered a bombshell that has produced a gaping hole in the Blair-Campbell narrative.
The Laurie revelations remind many of BBC News' 2003 reporting (first on the Today show, the reporting that the intel was "sexed up") by Andrew Gilligan which were slammed by Tony Blair's supporters and led to heads rolling at the BBC. Ian Burrell (Independent of London) pursues that angle and notes:
John Kampfner, who was a political correspondent on Today but left before the 2003 controversy, said the BBC should have done more to stand up to the New Labour government. "There was absolutely no willingness on behalf of the governors to do anything but raise the white flag," he said. "It was a wholesale capitulation instead of what should have been a partial expression of regret for certain procedures of oversight with an agreement to disagree on the substance and [an expression of] support for courageous journalism." What was already a cautious news organisation took on a culture of being fearful of "sticking your neck out", he said.
Both Labour and the Tories, remember, voted for a war that many thought was Bush's folly. We were repeatedly told that they had access to knowledge that we didn't, and the Labour machine spun itself dizzy trying to frighten us with the prospect of Saddam about to launch a missile attack at any second. Some Ministers have vaguely apologised but many still maintain they thought they were doing the right thing, believing what many suspected at the time to be flawed intelligence. Blair has God as his judge and Alastair Campbell is forever on TV, sometimes as an expert in mental health, sometimes on politics. He often features on the BBC, the organisation he sought to bring to its knees. Greg Dyke may have lost his job and David Kelly taken his life, but Campbell's views are still sought after. Thousands of Iraqis are dead, military families are still lost in grief but those who pushed for this war appear to have lost little. Sure, there have been the inquiries – Butler, Hutton, Chilcot – where they have been cleared of wrongdoing. But evidence is still coming in to Chilcot.
The British government is hardly the only one being made uncomfortable as a result of Iraq news. Yesterday Greg Weston (CBC) reported:
On March 17, 2003, two days before U.S. warplanes launched their attack on Baghdad, prime minister Jean Chretien told the House of Commons that Canadian forces would not be joining what the administration of then U.S. president George W. Bush dubbed the "coalition of the willing." Chretien's apparent refusal to back the Bush administration's invasion, purportedly launched to seize weapons of mass destruction possessed by Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein (which were never found), was hugely popular in Canada, widely hailed as nothing less than a defining moment of national sovereignty. But even as Chretien told the Commons that Canada wouldn't participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Canadian diplomats were secretly telling their U.S. counterparts something entirely different.
The We Are Not Your Soldiers Tour made its' debut trip to Philadelphia this past week. In four presentations between two urban schools approximately 90 high-school students saw the Collateral Murder video with commentary from Ethan McCord. Anti-war veteran and war resister Matthis Chiroux and World Can't Wait Steering Committee member Samantha Goldman discussed with these young adults what these wars are really about along with giving students a sense of how they can resist. At both schools, word about the tour (along with orange We Are Not Your Soldiers bandanas) spread throughout the student body, inciting one teacher to bring her small class to join the presentation. Students who were not getting the tour in their class came in to say hi, to get a bandana or a shirt and to say f**k the recruiters, expressing disappointment that their class was not getting to hear the anti-war vet.
Before this tour, the students (primarily low-income minority youth) did not have access to this anti-war message. Many of them have people in their lives who are in or were in the military. The We Are Not Your Soldiers Tour was brought to the youth because their teachers, both social studies educators, were exploring concepts relating to war in their class and had learned about the tour at a radical teacher gathering a couple weeks prior. The teachers also were worried that some of their students had expressed interest in enlisting. With the exception of a few, none of the students knew what Wikileaks was and none (except one) had seen the film Collateral Murder. Each class began with an introduction in which questions were posed such as, "how many of you have been approached by a recruiter (or have seen ads, etc):", "how many of you have a family member in the military," "how many of you have thought or are thinking about joining," and "how many of you have been told in the ads or by the recruiters what they are being recruited for?" Then Collateral Murder was introduced and shown. This was followed by discussion in which Matthis shared his personal experience. The presentations ended with discussion around resistance to recruiters.