Monday, June 20, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 20, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, over the weekend the US military announces another US soldier dead in the Iraq War, Jalal Talabani (with help from James Jeffrey) tries to pull back together the November coalition that allowed the stalemate to end, the French embassy staff are targeted in Iraq, Iraq is a failed state says Foreign Policy and Fund For Peace but it's much worse than they let on, a journalist at Friday's Baghdad protest is now missing, and more.
We'll start in the US and open with non-Iraq War news.  The Feminist Majority Foundation issued the following this afternoon:
June 20, 2011
Contact: Francesca Tarant
Phone: 703.522.2214
Supreme Court: Wal-Mart Too Big to Sue
Today's Supreme Court decision in favor of Wal-Mart will make it much more difficult for women to sue large companies for sex discrimination. In a 5-4 vote, the court said workers must show common elements among millions of employment decisions in order to proceed with a large class-action suit.
"First we have the government deciding that certain financial interests are too big to fail. Now we have the majority of the Supreme Court ruling that large employers are too big to sue concerning systematic employment discrimination," said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. "Without the ability to take effective class action lawsuits, women and minorities lose a major pillar in the fight to eliminate employment discrimination."
The court's five Republican-appointed justices ruled in favor of Wal-Mart, while the four justices appointed by Democrats -- including three women -- sided with the employees. More than 20 large corporations supported Wal-Mart in the case, including Intel Corporation, Altria Group Inc., Bank of America Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, and General Electric Corporation. Organizations fighting for women's rights, human rights and civil rights backed the workers.
The initial lawsuit was filed in 2001 by Betty Dukes, a former Wal-Mart employee, and six other women. They allege Wal-Mart systematically paid and promoted women employees less. They were seeking what could have been billions of dollars in punitive damages and back pay for all female employees of the big-box chain since 1998.
Now on to the Iraq War issues.  Over the weekend, the Defense Dept issued the following:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn.
Spc. Marcos A. Cintron, 32, of Orlando, Fla., died June 16 at a medical facility in Boston, Mass., of wounds suffered June 6 at Baghdad, Iraq, when insurgents attacked his unit with indirect fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.
For more information, the media may contact 1st Infantry Division public affairs office at 785-240-6359 or 785-307-0641.
That means the number of US soldiers who died from the June 6th attack is now at six and the number of US soldiers killed in the Iraq War for the month of June stands at 9 thus far. Spc Marcos A. Cintron  Natalie Sherman (Boston Herald) quotes Wilfrido Cintron (father of Spc Marcos A. Cintron), stating, "He wasn't conscious, but I know that he knew that his family were there and that we were struggling for him. The family, we remember him as happy. We remember him as a hero." Along with his father, his survivors include an eleven-year-old daughter and a thirteen-year-old daughter.
Spc Robert Hartwick died in the June 6th attack and his service was Saturday. Mary Beth Lane (Columbus Dispatch) reports: "Mourners filled the pews of the Logan Church of the Nazarene this morning as Hartwick, of Rockbridge in Hocking County, was eulogized as an American hero." Chelby Kosto (ABC 6 -- link has text and video) adds, "Thousands lined the streets near the church with flags. They had their hands over their hearts and they saluted the local hero." Emilo Campo Jr. also died in the June 6th attack and his service was Friday. Dan Linehan (Mankato Free Press) reports:

Friends, family, a two-star general and a priest remembered Campo Friday during his funeral Mass in Madelia as a free spirit, a soldier and a Catholic. He died earlier this month in a rocket attack in Baghdad at the age of 20.

"He was very proud about what he was doing," his mother said. She was proud, too, even when Emilio's 2008 enlistment in the National Guard meant two of her three sons were in the military.

And, pay attention to this if you live in Illinois where the politicians love your votes but betray you, if you click here and go through the photos by Pat Christman of the funderal for Emilio Campo Jr., you'll see a photo of some of the attendees including a photo feature the Minnesota Governor, Mark Dayton, US Senator Al Franken and US House Rep Tim Walz. If you die in a war and you're from Illinois, Dick Durbin, by contrast, seems to feel something he said a year or two ago covered it. Apparently Governor Pat Quinn feels the same. In Minnesota, the politicians care a lot more about the citizens of the state. [If you're late to the party on that, refer to "Respecting and (for some officials) disrespecting the fallen."]

Matthew England is another US soldier who was killed this month while serving in Iraq. Ozarks First reports, "Miles of cars, emergency vehicles and veterans line up to pay tribute to England." And his aunt Susan Vuyovich remembers her nephew, "Matt was just all over the woods and playing in the water. Matthew was just full of life and full of spunk." Mike Landis (KY3 News -- link has text and video) quotes Dorris Sayles who knew Matthew from his job at a grocery store, "He always had a beautiful smile, he was friendly to everybody." Landis notes, "England will be laid to rest Monday in Veteran's Cemetery at Fort Leonard Wood." Missouri's Governor is Jay Nixon. His office issued the following on Friday:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags at state buildings in all 114 counties and the City of St. Louis be flown at half-staff on June 20 to honor the bravery and sacrifice of Private First Class Matthew Joseph England. Private First Class England, age 22, of Gainesville, was a soldier in the United States Army serving in support of Operation New Dawn in Iraq. He died on June 8 of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device in An Najaf Province, Iraq.
In addition, Gov. Nixon has ordered that the U.S. and Missouri flags at all state buildings in Ozark County be flown at half-staff from June 21 to June 26.
"The lowering of the flags will honor Private First Class England and remind Missourians of his bravery and sacrifice," Gov. Nixon said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they mourn for him."
Private First Class England was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge, Combat and Special Skill Badge Basic Marksmanship Qualification Badge (Bar, Weapon: Rifle (Inscription: Rifle), Expert), and the Overseas Service Bar.

On today's Morning Edition (NPR), Tamara Keith reports
on 24-year-old Christopher Fishbeck who died in Iraq June 6th and quotes Christopher's mother, Toni Kay, stating, "He told me that he felt that there was a 90-percent chance that he wouldn't make it out alive. Whether that was based on a premonition that he had or whether it was based on his knowledge of what lied ahead, I don't know but he just felt a very, very strong sense that he wasn't going to make it out." Keith also speaks with Christopher Fishbeck's wife Stephanie Kidder who, three months after her wedding, now finds herself a widow.
Christopher Fishbeck is from my state and it saddens and angers me that neither of our two US senators has issued a statement (Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein). They could, and did, show up to rave over Leon Panetta to a Senate committee but they didn't have time to tell a staffer to write up a quick press release. How very sad. They can take 'comfort' in the fact that, on this topic, they're as lousy as Ed Royce. Royce represents California's 40th Congressional District (which would include Fishbeck's Buena Park) and he's one of the worst members of Congress (judging by? his need to work 'pet issues' that don't have a damn to do with his constituents or, for that matter, with the role of the US Congress). Ed Royce can -- and does -- repeatedly bore the world with his thoughts on what is happening in other countries but a member of his district passes away in a war that the US government sent him or her into and he can't even issue a statement? Remember that the next time he's whining about Turkey or North Korea or doing anything that doesn't have a damn thing to do with his district's needs. Jerry Brown is our governor and his office issued the following last week:

SACRAMENTO -- On behalf of all Californians, Governor Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown honor Spc. Christopher B. Fishbeck, who bravely gave his life in service to our state and nation. The Governor and First Lady extend their deepest condolences to his family and friends at this difficult time.
In memorial, Governor Brown ordered that flags be flown at half-staff over the State Capitol today. Spc. Fishbeck's family will receive a letter of condolence from the Governor.
Spc. Christopher B. Fishbeck, 24, of Victorville, CA, died June 6 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, KS. Fishbeck was supporting Operation New Dawn.

Today Ian Swanson (The Hill) reports on a poll his outlet conducted (margin of error +/- 3%) which found 72% of respondents stated the US military "is fighting in too many places" and, among other results, "Forty percent said the military intervention in Iraq has made on difference when it comes to U.S. safety, compared to 32 percent who said the United States is safer because of it.  Twenty percent said the country is less safe because of action in Iraq." In addition, 49% of respondents "said it is not very likely that troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, and another 10 percent said it is not at all likely." 48% of Republican respondents stated that the Iraq War has made the US "less safe" or "has had no impact" on the US safety (43% believe it made the US safer).  That finding on Republican respondents tracks with what Pew Research Center's most recent survey has found. In 2004, 49% of Republican respondents told Pew that the US should "pay less attention to problems overseas."  In 2011, that segment has risen to 58%.
In his column today, Justin Raimondo ( notes Pew but not The Hill poll (the poll was published after Raimondo's column).  The Hill poll only further backs up his observations about the mood of the Republican Party currently and how the media is sidelining Ron Paul who is running for the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nomination:
Paul's influence on the foreign policy debate in the GOP is hard to deny, even if you're a "reporter." Yet deny it they have: they're not about to give any credit to someone they consider The Enemy. Christiane Amanpour spent the entire hour of her Sunday show giving John McCain a platform to denounce Republican "isolationism" -- and herself sounding the alarm throughout the other segments -- without once mentioning the most prominent "isolationist" of them all, the one who made it okay -- and then cool -- to question America's burden of empire in polite Republican company: Ron Paul.
Surely the War Party is scared to death that the so-called "isolationist" (i.e., anti-meddling) wing of the GOP will take over: what really mortifies them, however, isn't Paul winning straw polls (although they don't like it), but the other candidates echoing Paul's views, albeit in vague and very watered-down terms. That's why McCain, the architect of the GOP's last electoral disaster, and his neoconservative janissaries have taken to the hustings to exorcise the "isolationist" demon.
CNN reports that in Baltimore today at the Annual Conference of US Mayors, a resolution was passed which "urged Congress [. . .] to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redirect money spent to support those conflicts to domestic interests."  Alex Dominguez (AP) quotes Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stating, "How did we get to a deficit and a debt larger than at any time not only in U.S. history but in human history?  We got involved in two wars that, no matter what you think about those wars, we haven't paid for.  That we would build bridges in Baghdad and Kandahar and not Baltimore and Kansas City, absolutely boggles the mind."
That should have read "put forward a resolution" instead of "passed."  It was not voted on. My apologies for my mistake.  AP's article was clear on that.  I wasn't unclear, I was flat-out wrong.  Again, my apologies. Today the resolution passed -- on the last day of the conference.  Kasey Hott (NBC29) reports that Charlottesville Mayor Dave "Norris was the first mayor in the country to sign the anti-war resolution." Frank James (NPR's The Two-Way -- link is text and it has video of the debate on the resolution at the conference) observes, "For the first time since the Vietnam War, U.S. mayors have passed a resolution calling on Congress to wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so the money can be rerouted to domestic priorities."  Sherwood Ross (Veterans Today) explains, "The Conference, which speaks for 1,200 mayors, expresses the pain felt by city officials as urgent domestic needs have been long scuttled so that America's imperial presidents can wage wars in the Middle East to control the region's oil.  President Obama is no exception as he vastly expanded the war in Pakistan and began fighting two other wars in Yemen and Libya illegally without Congressional authority."
And yet the Iraq War continues with neither end nor accomplishment in sight.  Al Jazeera notes, "Foreign Policy magazine issued its annual list of failed states on Monday, with Somalia leading the grim brigade of countries torn by violence and corruption. While African countries make up seven of the top 10, the higher the ranking, the worse the situation.  Iraq (ninth) and Afghanistan (seventh) also made it high up." Iraq remains in the top ten failed states -- eight years after the 'liberation.'  Some will make a big to do about it being further down in the ten.  First, that's nothing to be proud of.  Second, Foreign Policy's reported measurements are seriously flawed and indicate a rosier picture of Iraq than actually exists. If you go to this page and pick Iraq out with your mouse, you'll be taken to the 'facts' used to determine the rank (with an option of clicking to go even further into the data). What should stand out immediately is the literacy rate of 74%.  That is not the literacy rate today.  That was the literacy rate when the CIA published their World Factbook for 2008 (actually, that was 74.1% -- only 64.2% for women).  They've maintained that figure for years now.  There's no way that's accurate (as NGOs are aware).  You cannot have people fleeing the country in the numbers that they have and you cannot have an emerging class of children (a million by some estimates) who are left to scavange and beg each day for work -- they're not going to school and they're not being taught in the home to read -- without that figure changing.  And the change, as anyone familiar with the issue knows, would be an increase in illiteracy.  I spoke with a friend at an NGO attempting to raise the issue of illiteracy on the phone and was told that they have to raise it "tenderly," that they can note is alarming and the highest in the region but that they're constrained to staying within the figures the CIA has 'established.'  I'm not an NGO.  I don't need money from anyone and I don't have to watch my words.  Illiteracy in Iraq has increased as everyone who studies the issue knows.  There is no way in the world that number has stayed the same.
And if you're still not getting what a lie that number is, go check out the CIA World Factbook for 2004 and the 2003 CIA World Factbook.  You want to tell me that the literacy rate in Iraq in was 40.4% (as both volumes stated) and rose during war?
There's no way in hell.  That has never happened in any country where a war was being fought.  It just doesn't happen. Though I'm sure it's part of the 'success' story that the US government -- including the CIA -- likes to pretend Iraq is but, point of fact, had Iraq's literacy rate truly risen to 74.1% from 40.4% in four years, that would be an educational miracle -- one that has never in the world happened before or since. Frontline (PBS) had a slightly higher figure (58%) in 2002.  Even if 58% had been the rate before the war, there is no way with the bombings, with the lack of money put into schools, with parents unable to send their children to school due to violence and relocation and due to Iraq's huge increase in the number of orphans that the literacy rate could rise from 58% to 74.1%.  It's just not feasible and anyone who tells you it is may know about propaganda but they don't know about education. 
India -- which has conflict but is calmer than Iraq -- addressed literacy rates in the last decade so let's use them as an example.  Their literacy rate in 2001 for males was 75.26% and this rose to 82.14 this year while females were 53.67% in 2001 and they rose to 65.46 this year. With an established and somewhat funded educational system and no massive flight within the country or flight to outside the country the way Iraq has experienced in the last decade, with no estimates of over 1.5 million people killed in their country in the last decade, India which is ranked 76th on the Failed State Index (remember, higher the number the better -- that's 76 out of 177 countries -- again, Iraq is number 9) managed to show a roughly 6% increase in male literacy over the decade and a roughly 12% increase in female literacy.  But Iraq managed an increase of (bare minimum) 14.1% when both genders are averaged together?
Rising from 58% to 60% by 2007?  Unlikely but possible.  That's a 2% increase over five years.  (That's also UNESCO's figure for 2007.)  To then see a 14.1% increase in the next five years?  Again, propagandists can 'explain' that, anyone with knowledge of education would be dubious over that figure. And as was explained to me over the phone, the only way to know the literacy rate in Iraq would be a census -- Iraq's not had one of those since 1997.  The Fund For Peace puts out the Index. It's disturbing is how out of date the description Foreign Policy is running of Iraq.  If you go to The Fund For Peace page on the top ten, what they say about Iraq which is very different from the capsule Foreign Policy offers (the magazine's offering talk of "counterinsurgency" and other things from 2008 -- three years ago).  Here's Fund For Peace:
The 2010 parliamentary elections marked the most comprehensive turn out in the country's history.  Shia, Sunni and Kurds turned out in large numbers despite sporadic violence.  The initially positive but inconclusive results however, served to underscore the monumental challenges facing the central government.  While the Kurds remain the king makers for the position of Prime Minster, contentious political battles between Shia and Sunni went on for months following the elections.  Revenue sharing from the oil fields of Kirkut has yet to be resolved. Despite a Constitutional requirement that 1/4 of parliamentary seats be assigned to women, they were allotted only a single vague state ministerial position.  Foreign state influence continues to play a decisive role in political coalition formation inside Iraq. 
Last Friday was Determination Friday in Iraq.  Yesterday The Great Iraqi Revolution explained, "A quote from the latest statement from the Rebellious Youth of the Great Iraqi Revolution: We are approaching the Iraqi People and particularly its conscious youth to prepare for next Friday which we have called PERMANENT AND CONSTANT ROOTS FRIDAY assimilating it to The Tree of Goodness mentioned in the Holy Qura'an that describes it as 'its roots are fixed and permanent and its bracnhes are in the sky', in order that this Friday becomes a true expression of our causes, of our constancy and permanency, like the 'Good Tree' unaffected by fallen leaves."  As they prepare for this Friday's Permanent And Constant Roots demonstrations, they also worry about a missing journalist.  Ghazwan Al Kaissi attended last Friday's demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square (Libertation Square) and took photographs (here for an example). Sunday morning The Great Iraqi Revolution reported, "PRIVATE SOURCES informed the GIR that Iraqi journalist Ghazwan Al Kaissi has disappeared since yesterday after particpating in Friday's demonstrations in Tahrir."  And they added shortly after, "PRIVATE SOURCES to GIR: Journalist Ghazwan Al Kaissi's mobiles have been turned off since Friday and it is expected that he has been kidnapped by government security forces as was the case with all the other activists in Tahrir and were later discovered to be arrested!"
Staying with violence, France's Embassy staff was targeted today.  For the most recent French diplomatic news, we'll pull from AFP's Prashant Rao's Twitter feed:
Prashant Rao
names Denis Gauer, former ambassador to and , ambassador to : (Fr)
Prashant Rao
FWIW, has not had ambassador to since Feb, when Boris Boillon left for Tunis. Denis Gauer named yesterday:
AFP reports, "Seven Iraqis were wounded as an improvised bomb struck a French embassy car in southern Baghdad on Monday, interior ministry and hospital sources said." Reuters adds, "A Reuters witness said one of the cars in the convoy was badly damaged along with two civilian cars." Reuters also notes, "No French diplomatic or security personnel were hurt but one of the convoy's vehicles was badly damaged, an embassy official said."  Fattah Mahmood Fattah (CNN) reports other violence today included two Baghdad roadside bombings which injured two people, a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 1 life and left four people injured, a second Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people and 1 police officer shot dead in Baghdad. And Reuters drops back to yesterday to note a Baquba home invasion in which 1 "local council leader" was killed and 1 opthalmologist in Kirkuk was kidnapped.
Saturday Al Sabaah reported members of Parliament were stating that Jalal Talabani and Moqtada al-Sadr have arranged a meet-up at Talabani's home on Monday. Also scheduled to be present are Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation and prime minister, and the National Alliance's Ibrahim Jaafari. Dar Addustour adds that Ayad Allawi is also scheduled to be present as are Massoud Barzani (KRG President) and Ammar al-Hakim.  Sunday, Aswat al-Iraq reported Ayad Allawi has told Jalal Talabani he won't be attending due to "health problems." (Al Rafidayn notes that Allawi is in London.)  Al Mada noted that Monday's agenda includes discussion of the Erbil Agreement and security ministries.

The security ministries are the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Defense. All are without a permanent head. The Erbil Agreement was the deal various political players (and the US government) made to end the nine month plus political stalemate in Iraq which followed the March 10, 2010 elections. The Erbil Agreement promised many things. A security council was supposed to be created -- an independent body -- and it would be headed by Ayad Allawi whose political slate Iraqiya received the most votes in the March elections. Nouri's slate came in second. But, per the Erbil Agreement, he would be named prime minister-designate and given the 30 days to nominate a cabinet and have it approved by Parliament.

As always, Nouri got what he wanted and then began screwing everyone else over. There is no security council, for example. He also called of the referendum on Kirkuk. He never managed to come up with a full Cabinet -- which means he shouldn't have been moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister (per the Constitution). Nouri named himself 'temporary' head of the three security ministries. (Some saw it as a power grab on Nouri's part.)  Fakhri Karim (Al Mada) reports that the meet up has to deal with several serious issues including:

* Providing the foundation to end monopoly control of the government by Nouri or "whatever person would occupy the post" of prime minister
* Work towards national partnership
* Confirm the words of the Constitution (and reject Nouri's interpretation of it) with regards to the executive branch
* End one party power.
* Review the security appointments which are in violation of the Constitution (Nouri cannot be Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Defense as he's made himself for over six months now).

Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The Chairman of the Independent Elections Commission in Iraq, Faraj al-Haidary, said on Monday that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had not criticized his Commission, but called for its activity to become independent and not bias towards any party." Meanwhile the US government works behind the scenes. Al Mada reports that the US Embassy and US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey have been highly involved in discussions with various parties including State Of Law (Nouri) and Iraqiya (Allawi).

We'll move over to England for another death. Activist Brian Haw is dead. Mark Wallinger (Independent of London) explains:

Brian showed us what a quiescent and supine country we've become. After two million came out to protest against the Iraq war it was as if everybody decided to give up. But Brian never gave up. Then they brought in laws trying to curtail his/our right to protest outside Parliament and very few lifted a finger to do anything about that.
He was a unique and remarkable man. Earlier, I was asked how to describe him and the first words I came up with were tenacity, integrity and dignity. And then Michael Culver, an old colleague of his, said rage, and I think that is absolutely right. That's not to say he wasn't a funny man. He was self-aware and could be ironic or sarcastic. What Brian was saying was never really reported properly, nor was the depth and heroism of his struggle. People who should know better would describe him as a crank and wouldn't bother to hear what he had to say.

Rebecca Camber (Daily Mail) adds, "This month he marked ten years living on the square.
The protester died in Germany on Saturday where he had been receiving treatment. Yesterday his devastated family paid tribute to the father of seven, releasing this statement: 'It is with deepest regret that I inform you that our father, Brian, passed away this morning'." Rachael Brown (Australia's ABC News) reports, "Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has praised Mr Haw for his daily demand for peace and reminder to MPs about the consequences of their decisions." Robin Beste of Stop The War Coalition (link has text and video) explains:
Brian became such a thorn in the side of the establishment that MPs introduced a law excluding protests within one mile of parliament without permission, failing to anticipate that their restriction could not be applied retrospectively to Brian, who carried on his highly visible protest in Parliament Square regardless.
Brian's courage and persistence was an inspiration to peace campaigners across the world, and his highly visible encampment became a focus for vistors to London, wishing to register in person their admiration and support.
In January 2007, artist Mark Wallinger recreated Brian's Parliament Square protest in its entirety as an exhibition at Tate Britain. Titled State Britain, it was a painstaking reconstruction of the display confiscated by the Metropolitan Police in 2006, and included 500 weather-worn banners, photos, peace flags, and messages from well-wishers collected by Brian over the duration of his peace protest.
In December 2007, Mark Wallinger was awarded the prestigious Turner Art Prize for his State Britain commemoration of Brian's iconic presence confronting parliament day and night.