Tuesday, June 21, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Diwaniyah slammed by twin bombings, the big meet-up yesterday results in a lot of hot air today, Moqtada wants to use Iraqi forces to take out his rivals, the US gets a new Secretary of Defense, and more.
Xiong Tong (Xinhua), citing a police source, reports 25 dead, thirty-four injured a twin car bombings went off in Diwaniyah, not far from the home of the governor of al-Qadisyah Province. Tim Craig and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) explain, "The explosions happened at compound that includes both the governor's home and the provincial government headquarters, underscoring how even well guarded facilities in Iraq remain vulnerable to attack." Sinan Salaheddin (AP) quotes, the governor, Salim Hussein Alwan, stating, "I was in the garage preparing to leave when the attacker hit the police barrier outside and crashed with their vehicle." Alsumaria TV notes, "Defense Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Mohammad Al Askari told Alsumarianews that the bombings were triggered consecutively by suicide bombers in two car bombs. Security Forces imposed intensified security measures in the incident site, headded." Saad Fakrhildeen and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) focus on placing the attack in context and they note, "The attack follows an assault last week by an insurgent group on the main local government building in the Diyala province in eastern Iraq, and a deadly assault in March on the seat of the northern Salahuddin province's governing body." They also note that the death toll has risen to 27. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) observes of the locale "The explosion is the first of its kind in years in what had been a calm southern city." Hammoudi quotes a lawmaker from the region, Ahmed al-Khurdiri, stating, "It's really a very sad day for Diwaniyah." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) quotes police officer Hussein Mohammed Ali stating, "I was at the checkpoint this morning near the governor's home when the explosion happened. I then felt myself on the ground and blood coming down my body and it hurt very much. Moments later, I heard another blast and I lost consciousness." Aseel Kami and Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters -- link has text and video) quote Maha al-Sagban who lives in the neighborhood, "I heard a loud blast and then another one. I opened the door and I saw three guards dead on the ground." Iman Radhi (AFP) adds that the governor was the target but escaped unharmed and that the dead include police officers. Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) observes, "This was a double suicide car bomb, obviously a very coordinated pre-planned attack. These car bombs exploded just outside the gate. Just beyond there is the governor's house and beyond that the provincial government buildings, so we can consider that this might have been an attack on the governor himself." Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Iraq's Vice-President, Tareq al-Hashimy, has called on Tuesday for the formation of special investigation committees to follow up on the security violations that took place on Tuesday, and not to ignore them, as has happened in the past, according to Hashimy's office." Al Bawaba reminds, "Tuesday's blast came a day after a string of bombings and gun attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, killing at least three people."
And other violence today? Jamal Hashim and Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) report a Garma roadside bombing left one person wounded, an al-Mussyab bombing claimed 3 lives and left seven injured, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings claimed 2 lives and left eight people injured and Baghdad mortar attacks left three people injured. Reuters adds, "A roadside bomb went off after a U.S. military convoy passed by, wounding a civilian, in Samarra".
From violence, let's move over to politics but we'll start in the US. The Never Ending Robert Gates Farewell Tour -- far less entertaining than Cher or Kiss' farewell tours -- has finally ended today as the US Senate confirmed a new Defense Secretary. Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) voted to confirm Leon E. Panetta as the next Secretary of Defense. Panetta was confirmed by a vote of 100-0. Sen. Murray released the following statement following the vote.
"It is more important than ever that we continue to have a qualified, experienced leader at the Pentagon, and I was proud to cast my vote for Leon Panetta as the next Secretary of Defense. He has shown strong leadership during his time as Director of the CIA, and has dedicated much of his life to public service. Secretary Panetta has some big shoes to fill at the Department of Defense, and I want to thank Secretary Gates for his service and wish him well on his retirement back in my home state of Washington.
"I spoke to Leon last week, and I voiced my concerns about the unseen and too often overlooked human costs of our ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I know that the costs don't end when our men and women leave the battlefield. And I am going to keep working with the new Secretary to make sure all of the costs of war, including the rising rate of suicide among servicemembers, the lack of access to much needed mental health care, and the impact of increased number of tours on members of the armed forces and their caregivers, are being taken seriously by the Pentagon and the Administration.
"And as he assumes his new position, I am confident that the new Secretary will keep his own experiences as a 1st Lieutenant in the Army in mind as he makes decisions that impact the brave men and women fighting for our country. I look forward to working with Secretary Panetta on these issues and many others as he works to make sure America remains safe and secure."
As part of The Never Ending Farewell Tour, he appeared Sunday on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley (here for video, here for transcript). At the very end of the lengthy interview, Crowley raised the issue of Iraq.
CROWLEY: We're back with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. A couple wrap-up questions. June 6th was the deadliest day for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years. These are advisers, and these are not combat troops. What are your fears vis-a-vis Iraq, especially when it comes to Iran and its influence when we leave Iraq at the end of the year?
GATES: Well, I think that actually is one of the reasons why the Iraqis and we are talking about some kind of a residual American presence in terms of the helping them with beyond December of 2011.
CROWLEY: What does that mean, residual?
GATES: A small number of troops that would stay behind to train, to participate in counterterrorism, to help them with intelligence and so on.
GATES: The number will depend on what the mission is, and the mission is what we're discussing with them and what they are discussing among themselves. I am worried about Iranian influence. The truth is most of our kids who have been killed recently have been killed by extremist Shia groups, not by Al Qaida in Iraq but by extremist Shia groups and they are clearly getting some fairly sophisticated and powerful weapons from Iran. And so I do worry about that. And frankly I think based on what I have seen in the last few days, I think Prime Minister Maliki is beginning to get worried as well and take serious these extremist Shia groups.
His statments regarding US troops remaining in Iraq (right now the White House is shooting for 22,000 and so that's what the US Embassy in Iraq is pushing for in talks) may surprise some but I wanted to make sure we noted his statements regarding Iranian influence and how Nouri al-Maliki "is beginning to get worried as well". Really?
If there was concern over Iranian influence -- and there clearly has been for years -- then maybe the US government shouldn't have installed an exile or, since it's so difficult for the US government to keep its nose out of everyone's business, installing an exile who wasn't so close to the Iranian government and whose political party wasn't so close to the Iranian government. Not only did Nouri spend many years in Iran, his political party is Dawa. (His political slate -- a coalition for the 2010 election -- was State Of Law -- the slate is not the same as the political party.) And what do we know about Dawa? Back in March 2010 on Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq, journalist and MidEast expert Robert Fisk offered a primer while discussing Iraq's March 10, 2010 elections:
And, for example, Iran wants to see the Americans out of Iraq. The Dawa Party was nurtured in Iran. We forget now that the wonderful Dawa Party to which we bow at the knee of respect and democracy was not that many years ago seizing Western hostages in Beruit, trying to blow up the Emir of Kuwait, attacking the American embassies -- the American and French embassies in Kuwait. And this is a grouping which has direct umbililcal links with Iran. I don't actually think Iran wants to overthrow or create chaos, anarchy in Iraq, but that connection remains there. And as along as the Americans remain, these will be the strings and the issues with which we have to contend with. Sectarianism, sectarianism, sectarianims is already there. That's what the election was about. That's what the election in Afghansitan was about. And then we have to pretend it was fair even though we know it was false.
On the subject of the US military in Iraq beyond 2011, New Sabah reports rumors that there's agreement for that among most Iraqi officials and quotes a State Of Law member stating that, for the US military to stay on Iraqi soil beyond 2011, a new agreement is necessary. Should Nouri agree with that, it would mean that even if the SOFA is basically extended, it would have to go through a longer process than some in the US government have been anticipating. Alsumaria TV notes, "The spokesman for cleric Sayyed Moqtada Al Sadr announced on Monday that Al Sadr received feedback from religious authorities over the extension of US troops term in Iraq beyond 2011. Religious authorities rejected the extension of US Forces term in Iraq, the spokesman said."
The model Iraq, which many Iraqis have been taken in by, is nothing but a fragmented, split, destroyed and backwards Iraq with a group of agents and traitors in charge of running it -- traitors who have defaced Iraqi life in every conceivable way. The model Iraq that the United States wants is one governed and run by a group of moving Zionist puppets who prostrate themselves toward America and worship her just as the puppets who govern the Arab Gulf countries and other Arab countries do. The model Iraq is an occupied Iraq that has lost both its independence and sovereignty, is manipulated by organized crime gangs and has ceaselessly wasted the blood of its people. Its lands are barren and dry, and its water is scarce. Its people are deprived of the most basic natural rights of life, and the fear of an unknown destiny pursues them wherever they go. Its people have left their homeland heading to the four corners of the earth in search of the freedom they have lost, in search of the safety and security they have been deprived of as a result of the oppressive policies of the puppet agents that the American intelligence circles and Mossad brought with them. The Iraqis are displaced even within their own homeland, fleeing from a different penitential organization that delights in the blood of innocents.
The al-Qaida organization was built at the despicable right hand of America in Afghanistan. America: Who but you allowed al-Qaida to enter Iraq? Who but you suppressed the souls of the innocents in Iraq, America? Who but you played on the string of sectarianism, America? Iraq would not know Sunni, Shia, Muslim, Christian, Arab, Kurd, etc. ... Iraq would not know ... contested areas if it wasn't for the vilest constitution the world has ever known and Bremer putting his filthy hands into the mix so that the Iraqis are no longer aware of the entrance to their lives nor of the exit from them. America, you and the devil are two sides of one coin. America, all Iraqis -- except your industries and agents and those who benefit from your being in Iraq -- spit in your grim, black face. All Iraqis, except those you tempted with your devilish methods to enter Iraq as agents of your intelligence agency, are filled with spite, hatred and anger at your presence, and they in no way want you to stay in Iraq. They will deal with you in a new way that will require from Iraq and the Iraqis a high level of intention, a raised head and inviolable dignity; you will bow down to Iraq and to the people, and they will only bow to the victorious one. America, our oil is our own; our resources are our own. Leave our country, America! Because we are determined with the help of Allah to cleanse our pure land of your filthy impurity and for Iraq to return to being a beacon in the region, a repository of peace in the world and a warm embrace for all honorable Iraqis.
Nouri attended the big meet-up at Jalal Talabani's house yesterday. Dar Addustour reports notes Ayad Allawi and Speaker of Parliament Osama Najaifi were among the no-shows at the president's house for yesterday's meeting. The three hour meeting stressed the need to honor the Erbil Agreement reached in November (which allowed for the political stalemate to end) and stressed that another meeting was necessary, one with Allawi present. Though no one's going into details at present, the meeting also addressed US military on Iraqi soil and the state of Iraq's security forces. Al Rafidayn offers that the meeting put an end to squabbles between Allawi and Nouri being played out in the media. That seems doubtful and not just because Allawi's very adept at manipulating the media (Nouri's a clumsy ox but he does have many flunkies he dispatches regularly). How can such an agreement be finalized when one of the two parties in the two party squabble is present? Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) notes a majority present agreed to end to the media campaigns but, again, how can such an agreement honestly be made when one of the two parties engaging in the campaign is not present? Rikabi notes Talabani, Nouri, Ammar al-Hakim and Adel Abdul Mahdi were among those preent while Saleh al-Mutlaq was the most prominent member of Iraqiya present. Jamal Hashim and Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) quote Talabani stating, "The meeting was successful. We discussed the presence of the U.S. troops in details whether to stay or to leave (the country) and whether we need trainers and the number of them."
The reports mention nothing about the security ministries, basic services, jobs or food rations. In what can be seen as a rebuke to the meeting, a man tried to take his life in yesterday, as did a teenage male. Dar Addustour reports he tried to throw himself off the Sinak Bridge and that he was rescued by a patrol boat. In Mosul, a middle school student suffered severe burns after setting himself onfire at his school. The number of reported suicides and attempted suicides has increased in the last months and that is an indictment against a government which refuses to serve the people it supposedly represents.
On the issue of the security ministries, Dar Addustour reports that, according to MP Muhammad al-Khalidi, the Iraqi army is lacking arms and equipment. al-Khalidi states this is worrisome and blames the problems on the fact that there is no Minister of the Defenence. New Sabah adds that negotiations are supposedly going on between political blocs and Nouri "to end the crisis" and name ministers. Nouri was supposed to have named the positions 30 days after being made prime minister-desginate. That was in November.
Violence has gotten worse in Iraq during the months without security ministers. Al Rafidayn notes Moqtada al-Sadr published a letter yesterday calling for former followers to be arrested. One of the many splits in the one-time Sadr 'movement' has been the emergence of another militia led by Ismail al-Lami. Moqtada likes to insist al-Lami was expelled in 2007. No. He left. He left tired of being part of a militia whose leader was a chicken forever hiding out in Iran. Moqtada's deranged followers rush forward to provide 'evidence' against al-Lami (they provide "accusations"). What's really going on? Moqtada's realizing just how splintered his 'movement' is and he wants to use Iraqi forces to neutralize one of his main opponents.
Moving over to England where an inquest has taken place into three deaths in Iraq. Tim Cooper (British Forces News -- link has text and video) explains, the inquest is into the three 2007 deaths: "Alec MacLachlan, 30 from Llanelli, south Wales, Jason Swindlehurst, 38, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and Jason Creswell, 39, originally from Glasgow, were abuducted with 36-year-old computer expert Peter Moore, whom they were guarding, by militants posing as police at the Iraqi fanance ministry in May 2007. The three bodies were passed to British authorities in the country in 2009. Mr Moore was released alive on December 30 the same years, 946 days after he was kidnapped. A fourth bodyguard, Alan McMenemy, 34 from Glasgow, is also believed to have been killed." Steven Morris (Guardian) reports the inquest's chief inspector, Mark Moles, read a statement by Peter Moore, "They were all subjected to mock executions. This saw them placed on their knees, blindfolded, a gun pointed to their heads and a different gun firing off elsewhere in the room. This caused immense trauma. They were always chained by their feet to a rail or bar and blindfolded for long periods." Wales Online notes they were most likely held in Basra becuase (a) Moore gave statements explaining that the three bodyguards believed that based upon "the type of artillery being fired in the area as being British" and (b) "a letter was later found in a building close to Basra from Mr Creswell to his daughter Maddison and former partner Jane." All three were killed in 2008 according to radioactive isotope testing. BBC News quotes from a statement issued by the three bodyguards' loved ones:
The families of Jason Creswell, Alec MacLachlan and Jason Swindlehurst, together with Alan McMenemy's family, have waited for this inquest and its verdict of unlawful killing for many, many months. We are united in our support for each other and have drawn huge strength from this throughout this most tragic period of our lives. Sadly this inquest is not the end for the McMenemy family and as a family group we hope and pray for the return of Alan to his family as soon as possible.
The League of Righteous was responsible for the kidnappings and deaths. The four releases happened only after the US government agreed to a trade with the League. From the June 9, 2009 snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
Sunday, appearing on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, now former-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked by Crowley about the US negotiating with the Taliban and he snapped, "Look, we ended up talking to people in Anbar Province in Iraq who were directly killing -- had directly been involved in killing our troops. That's the way wars end." Not that the Iraq War has ended, of course. But it's that kind of thinking that led to negotiations with the League of Righteous and handing over the leader of the group responsible for the deaths of at least 5 US service members.
I'm a simple man with big dreams. I dream to become an Astronaut and orbit the earth. I dream to run in the olympics. I dream to become an American Hero. I dream to change the world. I dream to impact society. I dare humanity to evolve. I dream people will stop waiting on the world to change ( John Mayer ). I dream of running from San Diego to New York. I dream of traveling alone in the wild for months. I dream that the world will stop over populating itself. I dream for acceptance and cooperation. I dream of a world with common goals. I dream of space. I dream to make the impossible possible.
Christopher Fishbeck is one of 9 US soldiers who have died in the Iraq War this month.
Most notably has been the continued rise of libertarian influence within the Republican Party as the voice of fiscal restraint, here and abroad. While so far the congress has failed to translate this new tone into cutting or even holding the line on the federal defense budget, there has been a new bipartisan alliance against the war, most notably in the recent showing of Republicans on a pair of (failed) votes to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and a fresh bipartisan lawsuit against military operations in Libya, which the president insists is not war, and therefore not subject to the War Powers Act.
Newcomers to the movement like two-term Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and freshman Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who rode the wings of the Tea Party into the House during the last election cycle, are now inhabiting the same space as longtime antiwar Republicans like Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) (who is again running for president) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). Whether the newbies are sincere -- in other words, whether they'll cling to their conviction it's "unconstitutional" when a Republican is elected president and continues to bomb the hell out of third world countries in the name of the national security -- remains unknown, but they are generating welcome headlines for the media-parched antiwar movement in the meantime.
The same goes for the Republican primary candidates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, who have been flirting with what would have been a no-go, pariah-making position in 2008 -- advocating military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Whether we are looking at political expediency or not, the moment seems to be pregnant with possibilities for this nascent left-right experiment. In other words, there might not be a better time than now.