Monday, June 6, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Tikrit is again slammed with a bombing, 5 US soldiers die in Iraq, the 100 Days end approaches, a feminist calls out Nouri's attack on NGOs, Jay Carney gets asked about Iraq and goes all uh-uh-uh-uh deer in the headlights, and more.
The morning began with AP reporting that 5 US soldiers were killed today in Iraq. Five US soldiers. That's 41 US soldiers killed since August 31st when Barack announced the 'end' of 'combat operations' January 22, 2009 -- 2 days after Barack was sworn in -- the US military death toll in Iraq stood at 4229. Sunday it was 4457. (Note, that is the Defense Dept count. The link goes to the official DoD tally which has not yet been updated to note the 5 deaths today.) Add the 5 today for 4462. It's 29 months since Barack was sworn in as President of the United States and US troops remain in Iraq and the US government pushes for an extension of the SOFA to stay beyond 2011 and plans to slide troops under the State Dept umbrella -- and Strategic Framework Agreement -- if the SOFA isn't extended or a new agreement made.
July 23, 2007, the Democratic Party had their candidates vying for the party's presidential nomination debate in South Carolina (CNN/YouTube debate). From that debate . . .
Senator Barack Obama: We just heard a White House spokesman, Tony Snow, excuse the fact that the Iraqi legislature went on vacation for three weeks because it's hot in Baghdad. Well, let me tell you: It is hot for American troops who are over there with 100 pounds worth of gear. And that kind of irresponsibility is not helpful. So we have to begin a phased withdrawal; have our combat troops out by March 31st of next year; and initiate the kind of diplomatic surge that is necessary in these surrounding regions to make sure that everybody is carrying their weight. And that is what I will do on day one, as president of the United States, if we have not done it in the intervening months.
Of course, my favorite Barack lie on the Iraq War was the one he featured in the campaign commericals of states about to have their primaries. "We want to end the war!" Barack would shout to yelling and applause. "And we want to end it now!"
I have no idea where "day one" or "now!" went but someone forgot to pack the sense of immediacy since it never made it into the White House as evidenced by the fact that US troops remain in Iraq. And US troops continue to die in Iraq. 233 US troops have died in Iraq since Barack Obama was sworn in as president. 233 US troops have died in Iraq since the man swearing he'd end the Iraq War took his presidential oath. 233 and this passes for 'peace'? 233 -- a figure Elizabeth Flock (Washington Post) should have on her list of numbers. Dropping back to Friday's snapshot:
In related news, John R. Parkinson (ABC News) reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner has said Barack Obama needs to "step up and help the American understand why these missions are vital to the nationaal security interest of our country. [. . .] I really do believe that the president needs to speak out, in terms of our mission in Afghanistan, our mission in Iraq, our mission in Libya, and the doubts that our members have frankly reflected they're reflecting what they're heaing from their constituents."
And Boehner appears to have had a point judging by the White House today. "In other words, I was right!" Jay Carney laughed at the White House press briefing as he attempted to handle such important issues as whether Angela Merkel's visit was a "state visit" or a "government visit." It was disgusting for a number of reasons including that the long-in-the-tooth Jay is more than a bit too old to be grabbing this position.
But mainly it was disgusting that it was 21 minutes into the briefing before Jay acknowledge the 5 deaths and then only because he had been asked about US forces remaining in Iraq past 2011. And note how he gets uh-uh-uh so nervous when forced to speak of death.
Jay Carney: I have nothing new for you on that. First of all, I would like to say that we are obviously aware of the fact that we lost US servicemen today and uh and uh and we express condolences to their uh families once notifications have been made and-and uh and uh it's a stark reminder that those who serve uh in Iraq do so uh-uh in a way that continues to place them at risk despite the enormous progress that has been made there uh and uh on your question, I have nothing new to announce. The process, as you know, is simply that we are abiding by the Status Of Forces Agreement that will have us withdrawing the remainder of our troops by the end of this year. I and others have said that we'll entertain requests by the Iraqi government if uh entertain in terms of discuss possible requests for uh-uh some sort of new Status Of Forces Agreement that would be obviously uh-uh quite different from the one we have now. But as of now we fully intend to fulfill our obligation under that SOFA and withdraw all our remaining forces.
The whole day was a big lark until, 21 minutes into the briefing, someone had to bring up Iraq. Uh-uh Carney at having to even address the subject. Many people have no choice but to address it because it's their child or their son or their daughter or their wife or their husband deployed to Iraq. I'd guess the loved ones taking part in the Saturday send-off in St. George, Utah for the 474 members of the state's National Guard who are depolying to Iraq, AP covers it here, don't have the luxury Jay Carney does of acting like Spunky -- the newest Mouskateer. How very fortunate he is to assume the position after Helen Thomas was savaged and expelled, thereby allowing him to ignore the realities of war nearly every work day.
Meredith Vieira: Details are still coming in about what happened in Iraq. We're going to go right to NBC's Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon. Mik, what can you tell us?
Jim Miklaszewski: Good morning, Meredith. This is the single worst if not one of the single worst attacks on US military forces in Iraq since the official end of formal 'combat operations' there in Iraq last August. According to US military and Iraqi officials 5 US service members were killed in a rocket attack on US military base -- one of many in or around Baghdad -- this morning. Now the timing of this attack cannot be dismissed because this comes at a time as the US military is in fact preparing to withdraw all combat forces, all US military forces, from Iraq by the end of the year Meredith.
Meredith Vieira: So does that now call that into question? Whether or not those troops will be removed by the end of the year?
Jim Miklaszewski: Well that's why the timing of this is so important. The Iraqi government itself is struggling with how to ask the US military to stay. There are currently 50,000 US troops there. Again, they're supposed to be out by the end of the year. But it's clear that the Iraqis cannot provide all the kind of defenses that they need and they're preparing to ask the US. So, again, this attack appears aimed at convincing the American people that all American troops should leave Iraq by the end of this year.
Rebecca Santanna (AP) reports, "Five American troops serving as advisers to Iraqi security police in eastern Baghdad were killed Monday when rockets slammed into the compound where they lived. The deaths were the largest single-day loss of life for American forces in two years." Al Jazeera pins the date down, "Monday's attack killed the highest number of US service personnel in a single day since May 11, 2009, when a US soldier opened fire on five of his colleagues on a base just outside Baghdad. That soldier was later arrested and charged with the killings." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on today's 5 deaths and notes that "two Iraqi security officials told CNN Monday that the servicemembers were killed during an early morning mortar attack at a U.S. military base in southeastern Baghdad. Five servicemembers also were wounded in the attack, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information." Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) quotes an unnamed "senior Iraqi security official" stating, "This morning, the American base at Loyalty Camp came under rocket attack. There was a lot of smoke inside and the Americans died in that attack in the Baladiyat area."
Prashant Rao (AFP) floats, "The latest violence raises key questions over the capabilities of Iraqi security forces ahead of a year-end deadline for Washington to pull out, with US officials pressing their counterparts in Baghdad to decide soon whether or not they want an extended American military presence." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) explains, "Both Shiite and Sunni extremist groups are eager to target the Americans and claim they defeated the U.S. troops ahead of their departure. Eastern Baghdad is rife with Shiite militia groups -- radical cleric Muqtada Sadr's elite fighting unit, the Promisde Day Brigade, as well as a splinter group called Asab al Haq or the League of Righteous." Last week, Patricia Haslach, US Ambassador Iraq Transition Coordinator, told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia (link has text and video) that, "The Sadrist trend is taking steps to revive the Jaysh al-Mahdi, which poses a serious threat to Iraq's democratic institutions and future." Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) observe, "As Iraqi politicans tiptoe into that highly charged discussion [asking that US troops stay in Iraq beyond 2011], American military officials say that militants are stepping up attacks against bases and convoys, especially in Iraq's south, hitting them with mortars, rockets and improvised roadside bombs. In Baghdad, the number of mortar and rocket attacks against American and Iraqi targets jumped [. . .] to 37 in May from 17 in April."
KUNA notes, "The attack against the Americans was part of a bloody day across Iraq. A bomb car attack happened in Salahuddin province, leaving several people killed or injured." That Salahuddin Province bombing took place in Tikrit. Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports that at least 11 Iraqi security forces are dead and nineteen people are injured as a result of a suicide car bombing in Tikrit and "The attack took place in the morning when a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into the checkpoint at the entrance of the presidential compound of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussien, and blew it up, the source said." Al Jazeera notes that "Nuri Sabah al-Mashhadani, a senior military intelligence official, was among those killed". BBC News adds, "There was reported to be widespread damage to buildings in the complex, which has been likened to a local version of Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone of government and administrative buildings." Today's Zaman pools reports by AP and Reuters to note, "The blast took place as Iraqi military officers were supervising the handover of checkpoint security from the army to the police." Tim Craig and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report, "In Tikrit, Iraqi security officials say the palace bombing occurred as the Iraqi army, under orders from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's national government, was attempting to take over responsibility for protecting the palace following Friday's explosion." Yes, Friday, Tikrit was also slammed with bombings:
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Seventeen people were killed and 50 others wounded in a blast from a container full of explosives left outside of the Presidential Palaces Mosque in central Tikrit, Iraq, officials told CNN. That was followed in the evening by another explosion when a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest enetered a Tikrit hospital treating the wounded, Iraq interior ministry officials told CNN. Six people died and 10 were wounded at the hospital in the second attack." On the mosque bombing, BBC News notes, "Some reports suggest the bomb was hidden inside a fuel canister at the entrance to the mosque." AP explains, "The mosque was inside a government-controlled compound where many officials live, and most in attendance were security or government employees." Muhanned Saif Aldin and Tim Craig (Washington Post) quote MP Jamal Algilani stating of the government out of Baghdad, "The procedures that they are following don't meet the size of the responsibility that they are in charge of." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) quotes provincial council member Hussein al-Shatub stating, "I don't know how they were able to put these explosives in such a secure area. I was at the main gate of mosque on my way to pray when the explosion occurred. I started evacuating injured people to the hospital. It was a huge explosion." Al Jazeera adds, "Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, quoting government sources, said, 'Significantly, the compound houses the governor, police command and several other security directorates'." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) offers one government response to the bombings, "Friday's explosions came less than 24 hours after four explosions hit another predominantly Sunni Muslim city, Ramadi, on Thursday night, killing five and injuring 27. Residents of Tikrit said that authorities had imposed a curfew until further notice."
And that wasn't the end of the violence in Iraq today. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on attacks in Baghdad including, "According to an Interior Ministry source who spoke on condition of anonymity, the gunmen attacked two checkpoints manned by members of the Awakeing Council milita, which was formed to assist the Iraqi government with security, and one checkpoint manned by Iraqi soldiers. Three of the Awakening Council members were killed and three others were wounded while one Iraqi soldier was killed and another wounded." Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left ten people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing left six injured, a second Baghdad roadside bombing injured four people and a Ramadi home bombing claimed the lives of "a local politician and three members of his family."
Dropping back to yesterday, Dar Addustour reported a feminist activist confronted Nouri publicly at a human rights conference in Baghdad and was expelled. Was she expelled or did she leave on her own? The conference was being broadcast live on Iraqi state television but the feed was cut after the woman, Hana Adwar, made her comments. AFP adds, "Footage of the confrontation, broadcast live on Iraqiya state television, continued for several minutes, and showed Adwar holding up a poster and eventually being led away. She was not immediately available for comment." Aswat al-Iraq spoke with Hana who explains that Nouri had yet again been referring to youth activists as terrorists and, "These accusations are not appropriate and acceptable." She noted that an NGO speaker was supposed to be present but wasn't, "so I went to Premier Maliki and handed him the poster of the four activists detained last Friday [May 27, 2011], as well as a letter from Iraqi Human Rights Ministry expressing its concern for the disappearance of Iraqi citizens arrested by security force, though Iraq abided by international accords". She noted she left the conference after doing so and that, while Nouri's government insists the four were to be released today, they'd also said there would be no visits between the four and their families until June 11th making it clear "that their detention will continue to that date." Guess who else was present at the conference? Ad Melkert. The UN notes:
A major conference tasked with drafting a national action plan to improve human rights in Iraq offers a critical chance for the country's citizens to ensure that their voices are heard, a senior United Nations official said today. Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, told the opening of the three-day conference in Baghdad that it was the first time where representatives of all sectors of society – including the Government, the judiciary, academia and civil society – had gathered to discuss human rights. He noted that millions of Iraqis have experienced human rights abuses in various forms in recent years. "Loss of life, torture and abuse, loss of access to health care, housing and education, destruction of economic opportunity and the means to earn a livelihood are a few of the harsh realities that the Iraqi people have faced," Mr. Melkert said. The Special Representative said the recent demonstrations in Iraq, like those across North Africa and the Middle East this year, were an indication that all Iraqis seek to have their basic rights respected and protected.
But how likely is that with Nouri al-Maliki playing Little Saddam? And with him already declaring there will be no protests Friday in Baghdad's Tahrir Square? It would appear that after a few decades, the US government grew tired of their puppet in Iraq and decided to send many US troops to their deaths in order to take out the puppet and install a new one -- all the while insisting that what was taking place was 'liberation.'
Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor) observed in a Tweet:
In other activists news, Aswat al-Iraq reports Iraqi youth activists met up in Istanbul Saturday with Ayad Al-Zamili, who heads the conference's organizing committee, stating this "is the first of its kind since the outburst of popular protest in Iraq last February." He further stated that the meet-up was not held in Iraq "due to the security deterioration and governmental arrests for a number of activists during the past period, we had to meet in Turkey. We do not have the intention to establish a party of political organization, but only to unify efforts on a road map for their movement, to be added to that of the Iraqi people, after the end of the 100 Days set by Maliki, that ends on 7 of this month to achieve the promised reforms demanded by the Iraqi people." June 7th ends the 100 Days. Dar Addustour quotes al-Zamili stating the conference is about imporving cooperationg between the groups and the youth activists and the media as well addressing oragnization techniques and messaging. He notes that the security conditions in Baghdad have only worsened and that they are hoping to develop a road map for future actions via the conference.
At the meet-up, Aswat al-Iraq also reports, the activists explored "Suing Premier Nouri al-Maliki's government at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for violating human rights, freedom of expression, peaceful demonstrations and the Geneva Convention." David Ali (Al Mada) notes that the activists are considering filing a complaint with the ICC specifically about the arrest of four activists in Baghdad two Fridays ago and calling for their release. The activists state that charges against them (fake i.d.s) are fraudulent and that the activists should be immediately freed. Meanwhile Nouri has issued an order that there will be no protests next Friday in Baghdad's Tahrir Square.
This Friday? Why's he worried about this Friday? With the 100 Days coming to an end June 7th, Nouri doesn't want the world to see just what a failure he is and just how unpopular he is. Fortunately, so very much of the foreign press in Iraq (that includes the US) have been happy to ignore the ongoing months of protest in order to assist Nouri -- the US Embassy prevails over a free press apparently.
100 Days was the plan Nouri came up with to try to derail the protests. As protesters gathered to decry the lack of basic services (electricity, potable water, etc.), the lack of jobs, the detainees disappeared into the Iraqi 'justice' system and more, Nouri insisted all would be settled in 100 Days. Moqtada al-Sadr backed him up. Moqtada said people should stop protesting (except for his own staged protests, of course) and wait for the end of the 100 Days. The 100 Days ends June 7th. There's been no improvement. Al Sabaah reports that the government's evaluation process has begun. Going again to a Tweet from Jane Arraf:
So the ministers in his Cabinet, ministers he nominated, ministers in the Cabinet he heads, are the ones who have to be accountable to the people? Is the prime minister post -- like the president -- supposed to be strictly ceremonial? Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) reports that Nouri "has pulled back from a threat of major changes if ministers did not shape up" and that "Protests have already been planned for Friday, with a group set up on social networking website Facebook called 'Great Iraqi Revolution' drawing 35,000 members and urging supporters to take to the streets." Tim Craig (Washington Post) adds:
Mohammed Fenjan, a protest organizer, said in an interview Monday that "nothing has been accomplished" during the past three months so he expects students, "the unemployed and poor people" to swarm to Tahrir Square this Friday to renew their calls for more reform.
"It's our place, we will not give up. We will do it out of Tahrir Square," Fenjan said. "We will not stop our protests unless the government responds to our demands, and if they try to prevent us from having the protests or demonstrations there, we will face them."
Fakhri Karim (Al Mada) observes that the 100 Days have been a failure and that Nouri's hold on "the security services and devices" has increased to the point that there is fear as people see "the same methods which were practiced under the previous regime: kidnapping, assault, torture and framing people with false charges." Karim notes the four men who were protesting in Baghdad May 27th and were arrested. Karim asks why, if the government is telling the truth about the four faking IDs, there has been no trial and notes that the four are "students, activists in the protest movement against corruption poor conditions and the assault on civil liberties."
And, for the record, tomorrow I'm not being nice. Today? I've let this and that report slide as reporters put the 100 Days into their own words. It's one thing for Nouri's spokesperson to lie. It's something else for news outlets to do so. (And not in attributing the claims to Nouri's spokesperson, but presenting the claims as their own rememberance of the 100 Days.) If you get it wrong in a report published after this snapshot goes up, I'm not being nice about it. A lot of you didn't pay attention to what was going on when it was going on. Some of you may just like being Nouri's water boy or girl. But Nouri made promises and those promises are part of the record. If you're unfamiliar with the public record, you need to refresh your memory before you write about what Nouri said would happen after 100 Days. A lot of you -- A LOT -- need to refresh your memories. (Do I need to? Oh, you don't know me if you have to ask. Even if I'm right, I always suspect, reading someone else assertion, "Gosh, I must be remembering wrong." But I wasn't remembering wrong and I have brushed up on reports from that time period and what Nouri promised.) And to be really clear, I'm not talking about Iraqi journalists. They remember, they don't need brushing up and their reporting has been consistent on what was supposed to be accomplished in the 100 Days. I am talking about journalists for foreign (non-Iraqi) publications.
As all this goes on, Mayada Al Askari (Gulf News) interviews Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya, who tells some truths about how Nouri got to remain prime minister (Allawi's telling the truth and we've covered what he's saying here in real time as it went down):
Gulf News: As sponsors of the political process in Iraq, did the US convince the political blocs to give [Prime Minister] Nouri Al Maliki another chance? What is their opinion today regarding what is happening in Iraq?
Eyad Allawi: In my opinion, the US was keen to not give the Al Iraqiya bloc its constitutional rights, despite the fact that their security agreements in Iraq clearly stated that they will protect democracy in the country. However, we did not hear one word from the international community in support of the election results. Instead, everyone was in accord with the Iranian vision and will. I believe Iran is the strongest; however, it has committed miscalculations. Iraqis will never accept interference, although they are keen to set up positive relations with countries around the world that are built upon mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of others. The Al Iraqiya coalition, all national forces, and myself, are opposed to wars waged against countries and peoples, including all neighbouring countries. We call for building and protecting mutual interests. I believe it is in the interest of Iran to re-evaluate its position. As for the US with which we have to maintain our friendship because of our many joint interests, I believe they also have to re-evaluate their stand regarding the Middle East as a whole in a way that will guarantee the people's will, freedom and choice.
Now we'll note another hearing this week (I didn't attend this hearing) via press coverage. Jane Cowan reports on PM (Australia's ABC -- link includes text and audio) about the Wednesday House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing.
JANE COWAN: In a report to Congress in the middle of last year the Pentagon said Iraq's security forces would continue to rely on US support to meet and maintain minimum standards. In March this year the US Senate heard there would be "loose ends" unless the Iraqis asked America to stay on. This is how the Democratic congressman Gary Ackerman puts it:
GARY ACKERMAN: Iraq seems to have been a marriage of convenience. Everybody seems to agree that there should be some kind of a divorce but when? And everybody thought that we were waiting for the final papers to come through and now we seem to have some remorse about that. Maybe we're sticking around for the sake of the children, and now they're all saying we should leave, although they really mean we should stay but we ain't staying unless they ask us it seems like a mess. I don't know how you explain that to the civilian population that's going to be asked to pay for child support.
JANE COWAN: The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been saying for months he'll stand by the deal but recently did a turnaround, saying he'd support keeping some troops beyond the deadline if he can get most of the country's politicians to agree.
Did you catch what's missing? This link. My apologies. It also included this on All Things Considered (NPR):
That actually should have had a link (and it will in a second). An angry e-mail informs that Daniel Schorr was "a whistle blower, a testament to bravery and a gift to journalism and men." I wasn't aware of any relations with men Schorr had, but whatever. What I am aware of is that there was no bravery in Daniel Schorr. Ava and I tackled him here. That's the link I should have included. And this is from memory and many, many moons ago, but I believe it was Nora Ephron -- then a media critic for Esquire -- who rightly called out Schorr's attempt to get Lesley Stahl fired by CBS by insisting it must have been her who leaked to the Village Voice (it was Schorr who leaked it -- that's called "lying," not "bravery"). And, again, that's many, many moons ago but I do believe the piece was considered "too hot" for Nora's outlet and she had to publish it in the journalism review MORE.
This morning's "5 US soldiers dead in Iraq -- what will the whores focus on instead?" noted how the MSM and the left media were both awash in trivia while ignoring the things that really matter. A number of you wanted portions of that entry included in this. There's not room. But I will note what hit me after that went up this morning. It's not just awash in trivia, it's bitchy. That's what they're trying to be. (How sad to fail at everything else and then also fail at bitchy.) It's not journalism, it's not reporting, it's just bitchy. The point of the entry was to note the silence on Iraq. "So last week while Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were both issuing important statements on Iraq, while US House Rep Gary Ackerman was speaking in the House about it being time to tell the American people that not only was the Iraq War not over but it would be continuing past 2011, while Nouri al-Maliki continued his crackdown on protesters and declared that this Friday no protests would be allowed in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, while various officials were assassinated (yesterday, the latest became the bodyguard for the Speaker of Parliament), while the 100 Days loomed to a close with no improvements, while all of this and so much more was going on," but instead of getting any of that, we got them playing bitchy with an unimportant remark Sarah Palin made. It was unimportant, it didn't matter one bit, it put food on no worker's table. But they all obsessed over it (and, according to Andrew Malcolm -- Los Angeles Times -- they got it wrong) and wasted everyone's time with their attepts at bitchy while Iraq went unnoticed. This morning, 5 US soldiers dead in Iraq was reported by AP. And what would they do today to avoid reporting or just gas bagging on that or anything to do with Iraq? The entry noted, "Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor) didn't write about Iraq but did find time to ridicule Palin -- again Malcolm states she's right."
Not a damn word. Not one word about 5 US soldiers dying in one day in Iraq. Not a word about Iraq period. Like I said, we don't have room. Tomorrow, we'll note Adam Kokesh's Thomas Jefferson Memorial Dance Party success over the weekend.