Sunday, June 12, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

Did Barack spay and neuter the American press or did they do it to themselves? It's really past time to ask that question. Last Monday 5 US soldiers were killed in a rocket attack in Iraq. Now the national news has reported that (except ABC World News Tonight, of course). Regional US news and international news outlets have noted soldiers wounded. The figure has been as low as five and as high as fifteen (the latter coming from a soldier belonging to the same unit as the five killed). Five to fifteen wounded, you might think the press would be asking, "What the hell is going on here and why isn't the military being honest about it?"

We're still waiting for that day to arrive, aren't we?

Five died Monday. One died Wednesday. Here's DoD on Matthew England's death:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn.
Pfc. Matthew J. England, 22, of Gainesville, Mo., died June 8, in An Najaf province, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.
For more information the media may call the Fort Hood public affairs office at 254-287-9993, 254-287-0106 or go to

Reuters and AP (and a few others) reported that death. Isn't it past time that the press started asking why we're not being told about the wounded?

How many were wounded in the attack Monday? The press has made no effort to get to the bottom of that?

Was anyone wounded in the Wednesday attack?

Reuters? AP? New York Times? Anybody want to take that one?

Guess not.

Well at least one person was wounded in that attack. And we know that not from the national press and not from the military. We know that from Ryan E. Little's reporting for the Ledger which tells us that Spc Charles Lemon has arrived back in the US early after surviving a bombing ("improvised explosive device in An Najaf") last Wednesday. Lemon has "lost both legs and suffered other injuries including burns to his body" according to his sister Kimberly Lemon. The article notes: "[Charles' cousin Brianna] Towns is holding an event called 'Clicks for Charlie,' in which she is offering 45-minute photography sessions for $30 in downtown Winter Haven on June 18." It's amazing that a war the press fought so hard for is now swept under the rug, it's appalling that they refuse to do their jobs, they refuse to ask the tough questions. Why isn't the US military being honest about what's going on?

That's the first question that should be asked. The first observation? Under Bush, the US military was more open about US deaths and injuries in Iraq. What the hell is going on? It appears an order's been issued -- by the White House -- to say as little as possible. I hate the Iraq War, I believe it's an illegal war. That doesn't mean that I cheer or ignore the deaths or the wounded. I'm an American citizen and this is a war my country has continued. The very least I can do is recognize the dead and wounded and it's a damn shame I can grasp that, stupid me, but the US national press can't. Last week I pointed out that the regional print press was putting the national press to shame. It appears that will continue to be the pattern this week as well. Good for the regional press, but shame on the national -- certainly Charles Lemon deserves better after what he's been through.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4457. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD still lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4463.

Reuters notes
today's violence include 2 Baghdad roadside bombings which claimed 3 lives and left fourteen injured, 1 Sahwa and his wife shot dead in Hilla, a Mosul roadside bombing left two people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing left three police officers injured and, dropping back to Saturday for the last two, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured an army officer and a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured.

Chelsea J. Carter and Mohammed Lazim (CNN) report on the expulsion from Iraq of the US Congressional delegation led by US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:

Embassy spokesman David Ranz issued a statement Saturday saying "congressional visitors do not necessarily express the views of the U.S. administration or even a majority of Congress. The visitors this weekend made that clear in their remarks."
In widely reported statements after a meeting Friday with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the California Republican said he informed the Iraqi leader that his House committee is investigating the killing of Iranian exiles by Iraqi forces.

As they should be. Senator John Kerry has rightly called it a massacre. April 14th, this was released:

Washington, DC – Last Friday, Iraqi Security Forces forcefully entered Camp Ashraf in Eastern Iraq. Members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK are housed at the camp. Earlier today, United Nations officials confirmed that the incursion by Iraqi Security Forces had resulted in scores of dead and injured MEK members. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) issued the following statement:
"United Nations confirmation of the scope of last week's tragedy at Camp Ashraf is deeply disturbing and the Iraqi military action is simply unacceptable. Corrective action is imperative. First, the Iraqis must stop the bleeding and refrain from any further military action against Camp Ashraf. Second, the Iraqi government has announced a full investigation into the massacre and it must be thorough and serious. The investigation must hold accountable the responsible parties and ensure that there will be no sequel to these horrific events. Third, the current situation at the camp is untenable. The United States must redouble efforts with all the relevant parties – including the Iraqi government, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Mujahedin-e Khalq itself – to seek a peaceful and durable solution, and to find permanent homes for the residents of Camp Ashraf."

As with the previous slaughter in 2009, the US government's done nothing. It's so bad that British MPs -- of Labour and Conservative Party -- are not only calling out the US, they're noting that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq both times and theorizing that Gates gave approval to the attacks. Is that correct? I have no idea. But we'll never know when all we get are the candy ass interviews with Gates by the likes of Diane Sawyer who did nothing but fawn over him.

If a massacre took place, you need to investigate it. The executive branch of the government has, no surprise, been pathetic in their response. The same way they were pathetic in their response to the assaults on Iraq's LGBT community. Good for Congress if they're going to press on this issue. (For those late to the party, the US military disarmed the residents of Camp Ashraf and did so with the promise that the US military would protect the residents. Somehow when the White House switched hands, Camp Ashraf became a non-priority and promises made no longer mattered.)

All this administration appears to care about is how quickly they can lap at Nouri's crotch. They want the US military in Iraq beyond 2011 and Nouri was their best bet for that (he gave his word, no one's supposed to talk about that but it is reality -- another reality is that Nouri's word is meaningless and he rarely keeps it). So everything they do is to get Nouri to extend the SOFA. Yang Lina (Xinhua) reports a meeting to address whether or not to extend will take place "very soon" (Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh) and that it will be chaired by Jalal Talabani (President of Iraq). Meanwhile tensions continue to fester between the political blocs. Lebanon's Daily Star reports:

Two rival Iraqi lawmakers came to blows Sunday at a time of rising tension between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite bloc and a Sunni-backed alliance, according to a parliamentary source.
The increasingly frayed ties between the two camps, which finished neck-and-neck in March 2010 elections and are now part of a national unity government, have sparked concern over major issues left unresolved.
The fight started after Kamal Saadi from Maliki’s State of Law alliance beat the Sunni-backed Iraqiya party’s Haidar al-Mulla with his walking stick inside the parliamentary cafe, the source said.

Meanwhile Al Mada reports that Iraqiya (Ayad Allawi's political slate, the slate that won the most votes in the 2010 elections) has made an announcement. A member of Iraqiya who did not want to be named told the paper that Iraqiya was no longer entering any negotiations with State of Law and, Friday, filed a lawsuit against Dawa Party and Nouri al-Maliki (Dawa is Nouri's political party, State of Law is his political slate). The unnamed source cites the failure to follow agreements as among the reasons and that refers to the Erbil Agreement, made in November 2010 and allowing the Parliament to move forward and Nouri to be named prime-minister designate. But when Nouri got what he wanted, he quickly began double crossing everyone. Iraqiya did not see the creation of a new commission headed by Allawi, the Kurds did not get the vote on Kirkuk, Ahmed Chalibi did not get the promised ministry (he was eyeing Interior), etc. In addition, Iraqiya's spokesperson Maysoon Damaluji states that the lawsuit is necessary after "what took place Friday against peaceful demonstrators" -- Nouri's "use of thugs" to maintain his position of power is an abuse and a threat to the survival and existence of Iraq. Aswat al-Iraq notes a tiny portion of the events (and states that Iraqiya is considering filing a lawsuit -- Maysoon Damaluji states it was filed on Friday but maybe they're speaking of two different lawsuits) and includes this statement from Iraqiya: "For all these reasons, and in solidarity with the Iraqi people and popular demonstrations, we announce our withdrawal from today's (12 June,2011) session and will refer the matter to the Iraqi court to investigate the criminal acts which have resulted in thousands of victims." Alsumaria TV reports:

Islamic Daawa Party led by Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki announced on Saturday that it will file a lawsuit against Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi for pointing out falsified accusations to the party leaders and members.
A statement by Al Daawa Party which Alsumarianews got a copy of reads the following: “Daawa Party leadership will file a lawsuit on Saturday against Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi for pointing out falsified accusations to the party leaders and members”.
Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi rebuked Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki on Friday which he believes is supported by Iran. Allawi warned against the new policy of repression and dictatorship.
Iraqiya stated on Friday that holding the photo of its leader next to a photo of a terrorist at Tahrir Square protest is meant to politically harm Allawi.

The remarks Ayad Allawi made? Those were the ones noted in Friday's snapshot. Refer to that for more on what Allawi said.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes Patrick Ward's "Refugees from Libya left to die by Nato ships speak out" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

by Patrick Ward on the Tunisia-Libya border

Hundreds of refugees from Libya were left to drown by Nato ships, survivors told Socialist Worker.

They say that their sinking vessel appealed for help from passing Nato and Italian ships, but none would stop.

The United Nations (UN) says that more than 150 people died when a boat overloaded with 850 refugees fleeing Libya’s capital Tripoli sank in the Mediterranean last Friday.

The refugees were mostly mirgrants who had been working in Libya.

Nato claims it had to “intervene” in Libya to save civilian lives. But it has callously refused to help those forced to flee its bombing.

Some of those who lived through the ordeal spoke to Socialist Worker in a refugee camp in Tunisia at Ras Ajdir.

Samuel Michael, a Nigerian, explained, “We were in the middle of the war in Tripoli, so we tried to leave for Europe.

“But we were stranded on the boat at sea for six days. We ran out of food and water after just two.” The boat then capsized after running onto a sandbank.

Samuel said, “Italian and Nato boats saw us, but they ignored us.”

Eventually fishermen found the refugees—but their boats were too small to take passengers, so they alerted the Tunisian authorities.

The survivors say the authorities rescued just two or three refugees at a time—and then only because there was one Tunisian woman on board.

Several survivors accused the UN of lying, saying the disaster was far worse than UN reports have suggested.

Nigerian refugee Sunshine survived the wreck with her young son Mike. But she said, “I lost the father of my son on that boat.”

A Bangladeshi survivor added, “We paid money to get to Libya for work, but were kicked out. We got on the boat to Europe but it sank.”

Another said, “There was bombing all night in Tripoli. Very heavy bombing. We could not stay there.”

A group of Bangladeshis said many died in desperate attempts to escape the sinking ship—jumping to their death.

The conditions at the refugee camp are making their nightmare even worse.

Mothers and their children are often separated into different camps, not knowing if the other is even alive.

One man died after becoming so mad with hunger he ate his own shit.

And allegations of mistreatment by the Tunisian military were rife. Many feared talking to journalists while near the camp. Several complained of beatings.


George Moussa was one of a group of Nigerians trying to find family and friends from the wrecked ship. He pleaded with a senior military official, “I want to see my people, my brother and my wife.”

“Your brother is in the camp or in the sea,” said the smug soldier. “He died, don’t mind. There is no problem, baby.”

George pulled up his shirt to show bruising. “Why did you beat us?” he demanded of the officer.

“Five days at sea, now they don’t feed us,” George told Socialist Worker. “We’ve been drinking salt water. They treat us wrong. We are humans.”

The camp only has salty water on offer to drink—unless refugees pay for bottled.

The group also said they had their passports taken. They were then left outside the camp without food or water.

Survivors include nationals from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, Egypt and Morocco. Most have nowhere to go.

People are dying here while European states like Italy and France bicker about how to prevent migration into Europe.

The camp currently interviews only three people a week for refugee status.

The head of the camp, Colonel Chedi, says that 1,000 refugees are crossing the border every day, making 100,000 since the war began. But the European Union has only accepted 100.

Many refugees are starting to return to Libya out of sheer desperation.

Recently refugees protested at the camp’s UN base, calling for more assistance. Hundreds blocked the road—but they were met by thugs with hammers and handguns.

When refugees grabbed rocks to resist, the military moved in. Several bodies were later found in the desert with gunshot wounds.

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