Friday, June 10, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protesters in Baghdad are attacked, Ahmed Chalabi and Nouri al-Maliki are engaged in a curious dance, some Sunni militia groups may be brought into the government, and more.
And it's Friday so protests took place in Iraq. This was Decision and Departure Friday and the first protest Friday since the end of the 100 Days -- a device Nouri al-Maliki utilized in an attempt to defuse and defocus the protest movement. 100 Days, Nouri promised, and the issues raised by the protesters (whom he also called "terrorists" repeatedly) would be addressed. The 100 Days ended Tuesday. The issues were not addressed.RTT explains that Nouri declared the 100 Days as protesters demanded better basic services with him promising to "implement improvements in public services. [. . .] Maliki pledged that his cabinet would meet the demands in 100 days. [. . .] The 100-day dealine passed on Tuesday, and Maliki asked for more patience to solve problems." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "Maliki's strategy appears to be to insist that he achieved all of his goals, and his comments including claims of massive amounts of 'progress' made in the last 100 days. The calls for renewed protests, however, show the opposition isn't buying it."
AFP reports that at least 400 gathered in Tahrir Square in downtown Baghdad. AFP is derailed by another Chalabi sponsored pro-government 'rally' meant to distract from the rally demanding the government provide for the people. What is it with the press? They cover all of the official protests. This one was demanding suspects be executed (we've ignored the 'guilty' and will continue to do so). AFP also misses the biggest news about the difference between the two: Chalabi's protest was not hassled, Tahrir Square? They were harassed and pushed out. AFP does note: "Security forces were out in large numbers at the square, which was closed to vehicle traffic." And that protests also took place in Hilla and Basra (real protests). The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Government Security Forces assault a group of the Great Iraqi Revoution's Youth, beating them and cursing them with filthy language, as well as confiscating their stickers and posters at the Salihiya Checkpoint. Another checkpoint did the same thing at an entrance leading Tahrir, to another of our groups." Alsumaria TV reports, "Hundreds of Baghdad residents rallied in Al Tahrir Square on Friday calling for the dismissal of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki's government and urging constitutional amendments." While Chalabi's protesters weren't hasseled by security forces (naturally), they did manage to harass others (ibid). CNN reports, "Two human rights activists who were among the demonstrations told CNN that at least seven anti-government protesters were beaten with sticks by some pro-Maliki protesters." Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf adds:
Al Mada notes a banner carried in Tahrir Square which read, "Our hearts are stronger than your government" and note that thirty minutes into the Tahrir Square demonstration, a dozen of the pro-government thugs, carrying sticks, invaded the protest and began beating up four activists." Abbas al-Lami is quoted stating the thugs beat up women and the youth activists. Aswat al-Iraq adds, "The eye witness told Aswat al-Iraq that the sheikhs hit the demonstrators with sticks they were carrying, in addition to punching and kicking them." The Los Angeles Times' Ned Parker Tweets:
Tim Craig (Washington Post) quotes women's rights activist Wafa Sheba stating of the thugs, "They dragged me from the fence and beat me. We went to the security forces and tried to complain, but security forces said they were not going to interfere." Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times via Sacramento Bee) report the thugs carried posters with Ayad Allaiw's face on them, Allawi's face covered "with a giant red X slashed across his face" and that there are rumors they were "bused in by al-Maliki's Dawa Party" (they may have been but I'll stick with the Chalabi connection based on an overseas call this morning when I was doing the morning entries -- two members of a foreign embassy in Iraq -- not the US -- was aware that violence would take place before it did and
they made the Chalabi connection -- they were right about the violence, I'll stay with their Chalabi tie-in unless/until it is disproven). Parker and Salman report:
The violence, which echoed street attacks in the years leading to the creation of Saddam Hussein's authoritarian state, bodes ill for Iraq's emergent democracy, which President Barack Obama recently described as a success story. Attacks on peaceful protesters also raise questions on how much freedom of expression will be tolerated by the al-Maliki government after remaining U.S. forces leave Iraq by year's end.
The Post's Tim Craig quotes American journalist Daniel Smith who says, "There were lots of people with sticks. They were saying: 'We're with Maliki. You're Baathists'."
On Nasiriyah, Al Mada reports that over 1,000 activists marched through the streets demanding better basic services, and end to corruption, jobs and a reformed political system. The Youth Movement's Secretary General Muhammad Abdul Ridha states, "The protest is in solidarity with the youth of Iraq and demands the government provides basic services and respects citizens' rights and freedoms." He is among those calling for early elections. Revolution of Iraq notes, "Firing live bullets to disperse demonstrations in Mosul Friday decision and leave the lens of Staff correspondent Obeidi." A photo essay of the Mosul protest can be found here. Video of Mosul's protest can be found here. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports, "Around 500 people gathered in front of the Hilla provincial council carrying banners that read 'The government cannot keep its promises' and 'People want reform'." Aswat al-Iraq reports that Iraqi forces prevented a dmonstration from taking place in Wassit.
Kitabat runs the text of a speech Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) gave today which includes statemens about attempts to smear Iraqiya with false charges and lies including the claims that Iraqiya was attempting to organize a military coup against Nouri. Allawi notes Nouri's denying Iraiqs the answers to the questions which prompted the 100 Days and that now Nouri wants another 100 Days, that Nouri's 'forgotten' he is still the Minister of the Defense, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of National Security. Allawi notes that Nouri retained the post of prime minister as a result of being backed by Iran. He states, "Dear wounded people of Iraq, on the Qur'an I promise in front of God and in front of all of you that we will not let the Youth of Iraq stand alone in oppossing attempts to creat a new dictatorship in Iraq and the Youth of Iraq will find in us and throughout Iraq freedom and liberation and our complete support as they exercise their Constitutional right to speak out and emboyd the hopes, dreams and demands of the Iraqi people. You, the young men and women of Iraq, we all share the hope of putting an end to corruption, an end to injustice and an end to tyranny while we build a prospersous future for all Iraqis."
Back to Ahmed Chalabi, Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri intentionally avoided him and his followers when selecting the new head of the Justice and Accountability Commission. Ahmed's dear friend and fellow thug Ali al-Lami was assassinated last month which, in the puppet government, may be the only thing which actually counts as a resignation. Al Rafidayn states that Mohamed Shia'a has been named (the Iraqi press has been referring to him as "the Sudanese" for days now).
Chalabi and Ali al-Lami used the committee (which Parliament thought they had killed off) to launch witch hunts and drive opponents (Sunnis mainly but also Shi'ites) out of the 2010 election.
Chalabi had hoped that someone from his party (National Congress Party) would receive the post. Raman Brosk (Zawya) reported earlier this week that Chalabi was denying he had been dismissed from commission, "According to JAC secretary Muzaffar al-Battat, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered the dismissal of Shalabi. He said Maliki appointed the Minister for Human Rights, Mohammad Shayya." Brosk goes on to detail two other battle of wills -- both of which Chalabi lost -- in the last week. Last weekend, Nouri stopped an Iraqi government boat that was enroute to Bahrain and whose voyage had been organized by Chalabi and the two men have also locked horns over the position of Director of the Commercial Bank because Chalabi wanted his nephew Hussein al-Azri to retain the position but Nouri replaced al-Azri (who immediately fled to Lebanon) with Hamdiya al-Jaff instead. If the rumors are true that Chalabi organized the pro-government response in Baghdad (the thugs attacking), he might have done so in order to embarrass Nouri. He's already sicked his supporters on Nouri, after all. Shatt al-Arab reported Wednesday that Chalabi's circle was whispering that there appeared to be an organized plot against Chalabi (and they used the term "physical liquidation") and his unnamed supporters insisting of his being pushed out of the Justice and Accountability Commission that this was part of a deliberate war against Chalabi which attempted to exclude and marginalize him. Chalabi has appeared to be tailoring statements for maximum damage to Nouri. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported this week that Chalabi had announced that the US military must leave Iraq at the end of the year. That was a huge turnaround for Chalabi who spent over a decade taking money from the US government as part of the so-called Iraqi National Congress -- a group of cowardly Iraqi exiles who fled their country instead of fighting for it and spent over a decade lobbying and lying to get other countries to go into Iraq. Only after the US military was on the ground in Iraq (and advancing towards Baghdad) did Chalabi feel it was safe to return to the country.
On the issue of the US military, yesterday CIA Director Leon Panetta appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide testimony regarding his nomination to become Secretary of Defense. One key exchange took place near the end of the hearing.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen: I know earlier you were asked about Iraq and whether we would continue to stay in Iraq if asked. And, like others, I have been concerned about increasing violence in Iraq, about the recent casualties. We just lost someone from New Hampshire in the attack over the weekend. And so I wonder if you can talk to what we need to do in order to keep our focus on the efforts in Iraq and, um, assuming that we are not asked to stay, how we will deal with drawing down the remaining troops that are there.
CIA Director Leon Panetta: Well we are at the present time on track to withdrawing our forces at the end of 2011 but I think that, uh, it's clear to me that Iraq is -- is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of presence to remain there. And-and-and it really is dependent on uh the prime minister and on the government of Iraq to present to us, uh, what, uh, you know what is it that they need and over what period of time in order to make sure that the gains we've made in Iraq are sustained. I-I have every confidence that, uh, that, uh, you know, that a request like that, you know, is something that I think will be forthcoming at some point.
When oh when are American progressives going to recover their moxie – the fighting spirit of their predecessors, like Bob La Follete – and stand up against the warmongering and the assault on civil liberties that characterizes the Obama administration? I keep asking myself that question, even as the apparent answer becomes all too clear.
The evidence that the long silence of the progressives will be extended throughout the already-started presidential campaign season was on display in Washington this week, as the confirmation hearings for Leon Panetta as the new Defense Secretary commenced.
[. . .]
Imagine an alternate history in which the Vietnam war continued for another decade or so – and was extended throughout Southeast Asia. Imagine, too, that a Democratic president – say, oh, Hubert Humphrey, since we're in an alternative universe – not only continued LBJ's war policies, but escalated the war, and nominated war-supporter and US Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Boeing) to head up the Department of Defense. Envision Jackson stating in his confirmation hearing that he and his predecessor "pretty much walk hand in hand on these issues" – and then imagine what Senator William Fulbright would make of this pledge of continuity.
Unfortunately, today, there are no Fulbrights to speak truth to power. Instead, we have fake-"progressives" like Barbara Boxer, who, instead of grilling Panetta, chirped:
"'Good luck, and I hope the committee does this quickly,' Ms. Boxer said after describing Mr. Panetta as her mentor and 'very smart, but he also gets it.'" It's Boxer who doesn't "get it": she masquerades, for the benefit of her California progressive constituency, as an opponent of the Afghan war, calling for a drawdown and rapid withdrawal, and yet she gives a free pass to Panetta, who wants to "stay the course." Fulbright's ghost is railing from the netherworld – but, alas, today's progressives are deaf to his pleas.
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes the corpse of 1 cab driver was discovered in Mosul, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings claimed the lives of 4 people with twenty more left injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left four people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people injured and, dropping back to last night, 8 rockets hit the Green Zone.
Meanwhile Mu Zuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Iraq on Thursday held a national reconciliation conference with the attendance of representatives of Sunni Arab insurgent groups who are willing to lay down their arms and join the political process." The groups Hamas al-Iraq, Jaish al-Islami, Jaish al-Mujahdeen, Naqshabandiyah, Jaish al-Fateheen and Jaish al-Murabteen are listed as having particpated. If successful, it would not be the first time a Sunni group of resistance was brought into the government. The Sahwa, Awakenings, "Sons Of Iraq" were a group of Sunni militants. The US government brought them in by paying them a monthly salary. The plan was for the Sahwa to be absorded into the process with Nouri finding jobs for many as police officers or military positions.
Diane Rehm: Now, let's talk first about Iraq because it was really a deadly week for US troops there, Courtney.
Courtney Kube: That's right. On Monday, the US military suffers its worst attack there in about two years. This morning [a] Shi'ite militia claimed responsibility for launching six rockets into a small US - Iraqi outposts in southern Baghdad, killed five soldiers. There was another soldier killed later this week. Six soldiers -- US soldiers -- killed in Iraq in one week is much higher than we've seen recently.
Diane Rehm: And 20 Iraqis killed killed as well in a series of explosions across the country [on Monday]. David Sanger, do Monday's death raise questions about troop withdrawal plans?
David E. Sanger: Well Pentagon has known, Diane, from the beginning that the withdraw is a very vulnerable period because the troops are not in the position of being out to find these kind of sites. They're relying on the Iraqis to go do that and the whole idea has been that the movement of troops back to these bases would pretty well insulate the US against most casualties and, until now, that's worked out. But as the -- As withdraw accelerates and basically all US troops are supposed to be out by the end of the year -- unless there's an agreement with the Iraqis to the contrary -- I'm afraid you could see more of this. It's also got a bigger issue that's lurking behind which is that the same questions will pervade the slow withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan where there are a lot more American troops now. And, of course, that process is supposed to begin next month -- probably very slowly.
Diane Rehm: And, Richard McGregor, the incoming Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, underwent his confirmation hearings yesterday. He says that Iraq will ask the US to stay beyond the end of 2011.
Richard McGregor: Well this is -- has been -- a fascinating process because the US has almost been asking Iraq to make a formal request. But it seems there's a lot of internal opposition in Iraq -- or inability of some leaders to step forward and put that request forward. I think Adm [Mike] Mullen talked about this at least six months ago. Secretary [Robert] Gates talked about it before so the withdrawal time that David was talking about, timetable, is obviously flexible from the US. But so far, I don't think they've received the formal request to stay.
Diane Rehm: And do you agree with David that that could affect the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan as well?
Richard McGregor: Well, I think anything when the -- anytime when the U.S. withdraws after a major conflict, the aftermath is very important. If they leave with honor, to use a phrase, with certain -- not terrific echoes, then I think that's fine. But if they leave in, which looks like a retreat and without their aims met and without a friendly Iraq behind them. After all the aim was to build a model, Middle Eastern democracy and quite apart from the hit on the U.S. bases this week, I think a week or two ago in Iraq the 17 bombs went off in a coordinated attack. So, you know, I think the withdrawal process is very important.
Diane Rehm: Courtney?
Courtney Kube: Yes, I traveled to Iraq with Secretary Gates on his last trip there, about two months ago and he -- I wouldn't say that there is necessarily an appetite for a continuing presence -- for the U.S. to have a continuing presence but there's an understanding, there's an acceptance that that's the need that's going to come up.
Though not yet over, the week is winding down and it's a week in which 6 US soldiers have died in Iraq. 5 died on Monday, 1 died Wednesday. OzarksFirst (link has text and video) reports that Pfc Matthew J. England was the soldier who died Wednesday "when an IED exploded near the military vehicle he was driving" and is survivors included mother Pamela Hengen and father Daniel England. The Ozark County Times runs a photo of Matthew England.
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of five soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn. They died June 6 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with indirect fire. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
Spc. Emilio J. Campo Jr., 20, of Madelia, Minn.;
Spc. Michael B. Cook Jr., 27, of Middletown, Ohio;
Spc. Christopher B. Fishbeck, 24, of Victoville, Calif.;
Spc. Robert P. Hartwick, 20, of Rockbridge, Ohio; and
Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri, 26, Chicago, Ill.
For more information, the media may contact the 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359 or 785-307-0641.
Jim Woods and Randy Ludlow (Columbus Dispatch)report on 20-year-old Robert Hartwick whose survivors include Linda Hartwick (mother) and Robert A. Hartwick (father) and two sisters. He was on his first tour of duty in Iraq. His mother remembers him as someone who loved to fix things starting with a go cart when he was 5-years-old and who didn't "hunt because he could 'never hurt any animal'." The Chillicothe Gazette adds that he "was a combat medic and had joined the Army in June 2009."
Pierce tended to Iraqis in the Iraq war with the same care he gave wounded Americans. But those who knew him well say he never recovered from the experience -- especially the sight of severely injured children -- and returned stateside traumatized, depressed and suicidal. "He was blown up psychologically," said a sister, Amy Bursch of Foley, Minn. Pierce, 52, a retired officer, died May 23 at his home in Goodview, Va. Authorities have not ruled on a cause of death; a medical examiner said it is under investigation. Memorial services will be held Saturday at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Bird Island.
Jim Pierce was a member of the Navy and may or may not have taken his own life but for those who are struggling with that issue, the Army notes these resources:
WLOX reports on Iraq War veteran Gene Dufree who, as part of the Mississippi National Guard's 1556h Charlie Company, deployed to Iraq in 2005. Five soldiers he served with died in Iraq. He remembers, "These were great guys. Husbands, brothers, great outstanding people. It leaves an emptiness in you that you will never overcome. [. . .] Knowing what I had been through, I prayed to God that those guys did not have to endure what we had to go through."