Monday, June 27, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 27, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, Moqtada al-Sadr encourages suicide bombing as a path to greater faith, rumors about an agreement between the US and Iraq cause more rumors. al-Sadr's group publicly snaps at Iran, Gates won't clear that desk, and more.
Sunday, Tim Craig (Washington Post) reported, "Two U.S. service members were killed Sunday in northern Iraq, making June the deadliest month for American combat fatalities in more than two years, officials said." 11 combat fatalities in June 2011 . . . when Barack declared an end to combat on August 31, 2010.  "So tonight," Barack cooed, "I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended."
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies
-- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album Blue
Ben Armbruster (Think Progress) observes, "But depite the fact that Americans are still dying combat related deaths in Iraq, President Obama announced last year that the U.S. ended hostilities in Iraq and said as recently as last week in his speech that America's combt mission there was already over: 'Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.  Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm's way.  We have ended our combat mission in Iraq with 100,000 American troops already out of that country'." Today comes news of another death.  Press TV quotes the US military statement: "A US service member died Sunday in a non-hostile incident in sourthern Iraq."  USF (formerly MNF) has recieved much criticism from me for being unable to do the job they're paid for  (announce deaths) so if you click here you will see that they did issue announcements on the Sunday deaths -- too bad that they can't get their website to actually function (clicking on the June 26th or June 27th announcments currently take you to April announcements). 12 deaths in the month of June -- so far.  11 are combat deaths, 1 is a death that's under investigation.  Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh Tweets:
Rawya Rageh
That would be Moqtada al-Sadr's militia.  Alsumaria TV adds that the Promised Day Brigade is asseting they are behing "ten mortar and Katyusha attacks that targeted US bases in certain Iraqi povinces. While it asserted that a number of Iraqi soldiers were killed and wounded in these operations, it vowed to launch further attacks." 
"Dear Moqtada" became an online feature over the weekend, advice from a tubby tyrant. 
Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) reports on Moqtada al-Sadr's online "exchange between a follower and al-Sadr on his website" in which Moqtada cooed at his 'followers' (it was one person as I read the article) promising that, if called on by Moqtada, they will launch suicide missions against US military targets in Iraq. Carter quotes the misguided (misguided? we'll get to it) typing, "We intended to be martyred, if you intend to lift the freeze of Imam al-Mehdi Army to defend Islam, doctrine and Iraq. Our martyrdom will be restricted only on activities against the infidel occupier without harming the civilians or any public proprieties." And First Lady of Iraq Moqtada al-Sadr coos, "Thank you dears. . . May God preserve you and watch over you." Let's hope it was an exchange between Moqtada and Moqtada.

If not, it's past time for the press to start doing their job and noting that suicides aren't part of Muslim tradition or teaching. It's not. And maybe it's past time that the press stopped slobbering over Moqtada and started pointing out that a 'religious authority' preaching suicide in a faith that opposes suicide, is a 'religious figure' who has lost his way. Moqtada's insane ramblings do more to distort Islam than anything else. Islamic teachings forbid suicide.  The belief is that you committ suicide and you're sentenced to jahannam (an equivalent of hell, not purgatory).  Less 'orthodox' and more 'reform' (I'm using those phrases, they're not the accurate phrases) Islamic teachings and faith tend to take a view of suicide that is more forgiving and registers the various things weighing on a person but those things do not include 'suicide bombing.'  There is no promised heaven to suicide bombers in Islamic teaching (and in the 'orthodox' view, a suicide bomber would be damned to jahannam for all eternity).  Moqtada's desire to bastardize the teachings of the faith may go a long way towards explaining why he is estranged from so many other religious authorities in Iraq.
And it probably should be pointed out that he's more than willing to send his followers in on suicide missions but he won't send his own fat ass on one. In fact, most of his time these days is spent in Iran in order to ensure his safety. If a suicide bombing is so wonderful and promises a rewarding afterlife, why isn't Moqtada heeding the call?

As Dar Addustour reports the story, the online chat wasn't real. A letter was written and the letter was condensed to the 'comment' Moqtada allegedly replied to. As they report it, a group of young followers sought guidance. This is the guidance a religious leader gives? This should be decried. This should be condemned and called out. He is in a position of authority and he's going to mislead young followers. (If you read Arabic, check out Al Rafidayn's quote of his which appears to include a 'shout out' to an online outlet.) Please note that Moqtada gave this 'advice' while pilgrims were commenmorating the death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim.   Moussa al-Kadhim was an Imam as was his father.  He lived from 745 AD to 799 AD.  A leader of the Shia community, Caliph Haruan al-Rashid ordered him thrown into prison in 795 and persecuted and during all of this, Moussa al-Kadhim never took his own life.  He died in 799 when Caliph Haruan al-Rashid ordered him poisoned.  Does no one find it offensive that Moqtada's not only encouraging people in the wrong belief that suicide is noble in the Islamic faith and that he's doing so at a time when Moussa al-Kadhim's memory is being honored?  Is the disrespect not disgusting?
Al Rafidayn reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani noted the Imam today and declared that need to remember Imam Moussa al-Kadhim's memory and how he emerged a victor over injustice, tyranny and imprisonment, how his life was a testament to the values of goodness, justice and reunification. It's a lesson apparently lost on Moqtada al-Sadr who would rather mislead his followers on the issue of suicide than to hnor Imam Moussa al-Kadhim.  That's a very strange way for a 'religious authority' to practice their religion.
(And to be clear, he can preach and encourage attacks on US troops -- or any other segment -- all he wants.  Though that's not necessarily embraced, it's not the forbidden that suicide is in Islamic teaching, and warfare is not going to sentence someone to jahannam.  I have not and would not issue a blanket call on anyone to put aside their rights to defend their country or themselves as they see fit.  I am stating that those who belong to the Islamic faith should not be misled by a 'religious authority' that taking their own life will result in rewards within the faith when it clearly states damnation will be the outcome for those who choose/resort to suicide.)
We're on two topics here, violence and politics.  Let's stay with the political.   Accusations are flying back and forth among the political blocs.
What's going on?  The Status Of Forces Agreement would run out at the end of the year unless extended or replaced with a new agreement.  It is the agreement that allows US forces (under the US Defense Dept umbrella) to be on the ground in Iraq.  For weeks now, rumors have swirled that an agreement has been reached between the US government and the Iraqi government and that Nouri is just not being forthcoming about the agreement. This morning,  Al Mada reported that MP Hassan Sinead, who chairs Parliament's Security and Defense Committee, has been in talks with James Jeffrey, the US Ambassador to Iraq, and that Sinead's concern is not with the number of Iraqi forces but with their level of training. Aswat al-Iraq reported late today that, "Judge Mushriq Naji of Ahrar political bloc called the government to expose the security agreement on public in order to gain confidence, stressing that the Iraqi public opinion rejects the extension for the American forces stay." Ahrar is an affiliate with the Sadrist.  (And you may also remember that throughout February and March 2010, we regularly included press releases Ahrar sent to the public account. Their leading candidate was the Goodwill Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Mufada Mustafa Kamal.)  Meanwhile the al-Sadr bloc itself is publicly slamming Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  Al Mada reports the bloc is stating that whether US forces stay or leave is Iraq's business and not the business of Ayatollah Alli Kahmenei or Iran. The PMOI (also known as the MEK) is brought up as well and we'll get to those developments later.  Over the weekend, Al Sabaah reported Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has declared that there will be no extension of the Status Of Forces Agreement due to the fact that there is "a national consensus" opposed to renewing it. But for those that might throw their hats in the air and exclaim, don't go all Mary Tyler Moore just yet. Instead, al-Hashemi supposedly said, there will be a memorandum of understanding that they will ratify and will allow for US forces to remain to continue to arm and train Iraqi forces.
The alternate plan for the US government, if the SOFA can't be extended or replaced, is to grab US soldiers under the Defense Dept umbrella and put them under the State Dept umbrella allowing their presence to then be covered under the Strategic Framework Agreement (which, like the SOFA, was worked out by the Bush administration in 2008). Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State.  Osama al-Nujaifi is the Speaker of (Iraq's) Parliament.  The two met in DC Friday
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am delighted to welcome the speaker here to the State Department. I had the opportunity and pleasure of meeting with him shortly after he assumed this position late last year, and I have been very impressed by his management and leadership of the COR in Iraq. I know it's not easy, having served in legislative bodies myself. And I'm looking forward to our discussion about a number of issues that are important to Iraq and the United States and also regional and global matters as well.
MR. AL-NUJAIFI: (Via translator) I am very happy for being here at the Department of State and with my meeting with her Excellency the Secretary of State. The partnership between the United States and Iraq is very important for the future of the region, and we must cooperate to bring a stable democracy to Iraq, and it is the hope that this becomes an example for the area. Iraq is now going through a transitional period, and we must cooperate with all our friends in pursuit of stability and progress.
This is a great occasion to meet her Excellency the Secretary of State again. And I am happy for being in the United States. The visit was a great success, and it strengthened the solid relationship between the two countries.
al-Nujaifi was supposed to be raising the issue of the missing funds (billions from the oil-for-food program) with the administration; however, no statements so far from him have indicated whether he did or not.  (He's other meet ups included one with US Vice President Joe Biden.)
Mohamad Bazzi (The National) observes, "Mr Al Maliki is once again exhibiting his tendency to rule as a strongman: six months after his coalition government was sworn in, he still has not appointed a defence or interior minister.  (The prime minister serves as acting defence, interior and national security minister.)  Moreover, the large cabinet that includes over 40 ministers has proven unmanageable, while Iraqi political factions are constantly bickering. Leaders meeting behind closed doors make the most important decisions, with little input from the elected parliament.  Many of these problems are rooted in the political jockeying that granted Mr Al Maliki another term as premier."
Over the weekend, Jalal Talabani got Punk'd and Ashton Kutcher was no where in sight.  Al Mada reported that Iraq's president presided over a terrorism conference. At the conference -- the paper says it's the first calling for a boycott on terrorism in the entire world -- Jalal insisted that, "We in Iraq have suffered the most terorrism." Apparently, Talabani's never heard of Gaza, Pinochet's Chile or assorted other examples. He spoke of the People's Mujahedeen Organization (Iranian dissidents in Iraq at Camp Ashraf) and stupidly claimed they were trying to destabilize Iraq. Even the Iranian government hasn't made that ridiculous claim. But it's part of Talabani's efforts to close the camp. Possibly Talabani's looking for an internal enemy to blame for Iraq's problems in an attempt to divert the Iraqi people? If so, Camp Ashraf is closely guarded and the approximately 3,000 residents are confined to that area.

How seriously a conference on terrorism will be taken around the world is further thrown into doubt when the conference takes place in Iran. It's cute too that the PKK didn't come up in Jala's speech. The PKK is a group that advocates -- with violence -- for a Kurdish state. Some say the Kurds are said to be the only people in the world without their own homeland. (Again, have these people never heard of the Palestinians?) They regularly attack Turkey from the northern mountains of Iraq where they set up bases -- and have allowed many reporters to tour and report on those bases -- from which to launch their attacks. Northern Iraq is the KRG -- Kurdish Regional Government. Jalal Talabani is a Kurd. Possibly calling out a Kurdish group labeled as a "terrorist" group by not just Turkey and the US but also by the Iraqi govenrment is too much? Along with being a hypocrite or a coward (or both), Jalal's been exposed as a liar. Bloomberg News reports:

Talabani's e-mailed statement said the International Committee of the Red Cross was part of a "tripartite committee" with Iran and Iraq that agreed to close the camp. Red Cross spokeswoman Claire Kaplun said her organization Iraq declined to participate in the committee when approached by Iraq.
"We will not take part in this committee," she said by telephone from Baghdad.

Al Sabaah adds that his flowery speech included talk of fighting terrorism "in all its forms: economic, social, political, religious and intellectual." You know the people of Iraq would probably be pleased just to see Jalal and the rulers focus on reducing physical violence.

Far more interesting was Aswat al-Iraq's story about Jalal Talabani's visit to Iran. There was Jalal kissing up like crazy, selling out Camp Ashraf, ignoring the PKK, fawning over the Iranian government and yet they brushed him aside. The paper reports that Talabani was insulted and they quote the National Coalition spokesperson Hakim al-Zamily stating: "The reception of the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, by the Iranian Oil Minister during his recent visit to Tehran, is considered as a rejected matter. Iran should have arranged Talabani's reception by his Iranian Counterpart, not by a Minister only, because Talabani is a respectful personality, and Iran's President must issue a justification for his position."  The Iraqi government is taking serious offense to the reception that Talabani received.

Talabani's such an idiot. Kurds may make up a portion of Iran's population, but not the deciding portion (there are approximately seven times as many Persians in Iran as there are Kurds -- Kurds do, however, outnumber Arabs and Turkomens, among other groups) and the Iranian government sees not just the PKK as enemies but also (another Kurdish group) the PJAK. Only a fool would have thought Talabani (a Kurd) would get the official embrace from the current government in Iran.
And, for the record, I have nothing for or against the PKK. I'm not calling for them to be imprisoned. But if Jalal Talabani wants to stand up at a terrorism conference and accuse less than 3,000 people who are unarmed (the US military disarmed them early on in the war) and confined to Camp Ashraf, surrounded by Iraqi troops, then he's a damn hypocrite if he doesn't mention the PKK which is labeled a terrorist group by the government of the country he is president of. The PKK has bases throughout northern Iraq and they're no secret. In fact, Nouri al-Maliki had a fit when the Times of London was visiting the bases. Not a fit about the bases being there, but a fit about tours being given to the press and photographs taken and publicity of the bases. That's when he issued his decree that no reporters would be allowed in Iraq if they visited the PKK bases. Though Iran and Iraq can't point to one attack that Camp Ashraf residents have been responsible for in the last 8 years, the Turkish government can provide a lenghty list of their dead and fallen who were killed by PKK fighters based in Iraq.
In Iraq, two are vying for the village idiot title (look out, Talabani, you have challengers!).  On the US side, a military spokesperson was a finalist.  On the Iraqi said, Atheel al-Turaihi.  Al Mada reports that the Inspector General of the Interior Ministry, al-Turaihi, has declared that the security ministries are not vacant. No, no one's claimed that they have no staff. The issue has been that they have no head. But IG Turaihi insists that Nouri al-Maliki is directly supervising the ministries. That would explain why they are so inept and why violence is on the rise. In the real world, Nouri refused to nominate a Minister of the Interior, a Minister of Defense and a Minister of National Security back in November and December when he was supposed to. It's all on Nouri no matter how many suck-ups try to rescue him.
Violence didn't stop all weekend.  One of the the more attention-getting attacks was a suicide bombing in Baghdad yesterday.  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the bomber entered a police station in a wheel chair "claiming he needed documents process" but, once inside, "he blew himself up with the wheelchair, which was loaded with explosives and nails."  In addition to his own life, he took 2 others and left seventeen people injured.
Among the individual deaths this week, one that garnered a bit more attention than others:
Iraq Oil Report
Back to the Baghdad stupidity contest .  The two finalists were Aqeel al-Turaihi and Jeffrey Buchanan. UPI reports US military spokesperson Buchanan declared, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that "violence there [Iraq] is down".
John Drake
John Drake
Reuters notes today's violence includes a dismantled Abu Ghraib sticky bombing targeting "the head of Khan Dari city council" (no one was harmed), a Baquba roadside bombing which left three people injured, a Mosul car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left four people injured and 1 Shabak (religious minority) was shot dead in Mosul.
In other news, Aswat al-Iraq reports that Iraqi writers in Karbala are calling for the national and provincial governments to provide treatment to Iraqi poet Mohammed Ali al-Khafajy who is "suffering from kidney failure in both of his kidneys." Mohammed Ali al-Khafajy first found national acclaim as a poet while still a student in 1956 and his poetry has been acclaimed for decades in Iraq and throughout the Arab region. The Iraqi writers issued a statement which includes, "Karbala Writers hope for a response to their demands to treat Khafaji, being a writers symbol for Karbala, Iraq and the Arab Homeland. His treatment at the expense of the Iraqi government shall be a real achievement reflecting its attention and care for writers and cultural symbols of Iraq."
Turning to the US where Leon Panetta is now the US Secretary of Defense.  When the Senate confirms you, you are then the office holder.  Someone might need to break that news to the now former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  Gates refuses to end The Never Ending Farewell Tour.  The press enables him.  In fact, I'd hate to think that all this never ending blitz on Gates -- instead of the suggestion that he do the honorable thing (pack his desk and go home all damn ready) -- this cooing adoration from the press resulted from something other than journalistic training. But the only 'ethics' in a bordello are "get the money upfront."

As we've pointed out before, you will know the whores posing as press by their inability to explore (or in Rachel's case, even mention) Iran-Contra and Gates' involvement in that.

Under his tenure, the DoD is most infamous for an employee refusing to testify about sexual assaults to the Congress. She remains employed by DoD. That's because Gates gave the order for her not to testify. But we're not going to see the press go into that either, are we?

Or the fact that sexual assault increased under Robert Gates, that despite all his many statements, he didn't do a damn thing to ensure the safety of those serving when it came to sexual assault. And we certainly won't hear about how testy he got in Congress when sexual assault was the topic and a Representative or Senator had the nerve to leave "fawning mode" and actually ask him a tough question on that topic.

It's really telling in all these 'reporters'' efforts to offer 'tributes' to Robert Gates, that no one thinks to explore the actual record. The actual record includes the rate of sexual assault.

Let's give him credit for an accomplishment: In 2006, he repeatedly told Congress that stop-loss was being phased out. That year, and in 2007, he implied it was on the verge of ending. This year, just a little while ago, he was finally able to announce that it had ended. Five years after he assured Congress it was being phased out and he didn't expect to see anyone stop-lossed and . . .

How about the rate of suicide within the Army?

Is that the reason the press refused to cover the May suicide statistics? Were they released at an unfortunate time? As the press was rushing to pant and moan over Gates?

The rate of suicide among members of the military has only increased under Robert Gates' 'leadership'.

Find me the article or commentary which notes that fact.

You won't. The press has spent nearly 3 months whoring for Robert Gates. The press that is supposed to the watchdog, the press that is supposed to inform the public. To serve the public in fact. Not to serve up glossy portraits of ugly officials (and Gates is butt ugly and don't get me started on his pores) as though they were film stars. Maybe if the press hadn't been so eager to fawn over Gates throughout his tenure sexual assault and military suicide would have been addressed. In the end, they are as guilty as Gates himself.
Mr. President, I believe the deaths and injuries of our young soldiers that will take place between now and 2014 are simply too much to bear and our suffering and money expenditures will be all for naught. To date, in Afghanistan, we have suffered the deaths of 1,637 soldiers and 11,191 injured. In Iraq, we have suffered the deaths of 4,463 and 32,227 injured. Also, in Afghanistan, we are spending on the war $2 billion a week. The war in Afghanistan has gone on for ten years. The war in Iraq has gone on for eight. Enough.
President Obama in 2011 should be unable, as Ambassador Eikenberry stated referring to the comments of Afghan leaders -- read Karzai -- to "look at these mourning parents, spouses and children in the eye and give them a comforting reply."
Mr. President, why are you waiting? We are going to leave anyway. Bring our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq home. All of them. Now.
In news from England, Brian Haw recently passed away (we noted that last week).  We'll close with Matthew Cookson's "Brian Haw 1949-2011: peace activist and a thorn in the government's side" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Veteran peace activist Brian Haw, whose anti-war camp has been a fixture in Parliament Square for ten years, died last Sunday from lung cancer.

His protest began in June 2001, initially against sanctions on Iraq. The 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan soon followed.

The protest continued as the "war on terror" expanded into Iraq and threatened other states.

He was a thorn in the side of the government, and resisted attempts to remove him. Brian and his supporters' presence embarrassed those in power with the reality of what their slaughter meant for millions.

The Labour government passed legislation in 2005 restricting the right to protest in designated areas within a kilometre of parliament in an effort to remove him. But the High Court ruled that Brian's protest was not covered by this as it began before the law came into effect.

The Court of Appeal later ruled that Brian had to get police permission to continue his camp. This was granted but Brian continued to face attempts to reduce and remove his protest.


Tory Westminster council is launching a court bid later this year to get the camp moved off the pavement.

Brian, a committed Christian, said that the children of Iraq and other countries were "every bit as valuable and worthy of love as my precious wife and children.

"I want to go back to my own kids and look them in the face again, knowing that I've done all I can to try and save the children of Iraq and other countries who are dying because of my government's unjust, amoral, fear -- and money-driven policies."

Many people visited Brian's camp to show their support, while protests outside parliament received a warm welcome from Brian and his supporters.

It inspired artist Mark Wallinger to recreate the entire protest as an exhibition titled State Britain. This won the 2007 Turner Art Prize.

Brian also won the Channel 4 News award for Most Inspiring Political Figure of the Year in 2007, beating Tony Blair. He also spoke many times at Stop the War Coalition events.

His determination and consistent fight against our rulers will be long remembered.

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