Monday, July 11, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 11, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Moqtada has his own big announcement, the Iraqi Air Force may be bringing back former employees, Leon Panetta has a gaffe filled visit to Iraq, and more.
Starting with the Libyan War, on the latest episode of Law and Disorder Radio -- which aired this morning on WBAI this morning and around the country throughout the week -- attorneys and hosts Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) discussed a number of issues including impeachment.  Excerpt.
Michael Smith:  Michael, the actions that the Obama administration took against Libya is really a perversion of the law.  Explain what they did in order to justify not going to Congress.
Michael Ratner: Well the use of military force by the president has to be authorized by Congress under the United States Constitution.  That's very clear.  And it's not just war, it's use of -- it's hostilities, it's really any military action anywhere in the world other than in self-defense.  So we start from the premise that military actions, whether in Libya, killing people in Somolia or Yemen, etc., has to be authorized by Congress. In some cases the president claimed that the authorization to use military force passed in 2001 -- after 9/11 -- gave him authority.  But in other cases, he's just asserting raw, naked power.  He's claiming that because these don't amount to large wars that the Constitution doesn't apply and he doesn't have to go to Congress.  Now then what happened because this is a common claim of presidents whether it's in Libya or Somolia, Congress after Vietnam built in a safety trigger.  They said, "Lookit, you still need our consent to go to war, or to go into hostilities or bomb people, etc. But we're going to put in a safety trigger.  If you do that, if you engage in hostilities and you don't come to us first like you're required to do under the Constitution, then you have sixty days to come back to us and get authority or within sixty days all troops have to be automatically withdrawn." So it's a safety figure because they knew the president would do exactly what Obama is doing, violate the Constitution. They put in a safety trigger that said you have sixty days to get authority, if you don't have authority then you then have 30 more days to get all the troops out, a total of 90 days. So in the case of Libya, of course, the 90 days have passed and the War Powers Resolution had required that all those troops be brought out.  So we had a sort of double system.  Is that clear, Michael?
Michael Smith: Well as a practical matter, the political will in this country is lacking to do anything.  Technically what he did is a crime and he can be impeached for it and tried and gotten out of office but I don't think that's going to happen.
Michael Ratner: It's a high crime or misdemeanor.  It's true violation of the Constitution, it's a violation of Congressional statute, you could impeach him. But good luck.  We've never -- we've never successfully impeached anybody.  I mean, we had, you know, Andrew Johnson after the Civil War was at least tried and acquitted eventually but I think that was the case.  Nixon, rather than be impeached, resigned. Clinton made it through.  Bush made it through. So what do you say, Michael?  It looks like it's not a really good lever.
At Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton speaks with attorney Bruce Fein about Fein's recent Huffington Post column entitled "President Obama's Political Sepulcher."  Excerpt.
Scott Horton: That's his tomb, correct?
Bruce Fein: That is correct, his tombstone.
Scott Horton: And the point being there, the war in Libya, this is the straw that broke the camel's back, you think?
Bruce Fein: Well it's a combination.  The war in Libya is the, I think, crossing of the rubicon into unlimited, unilateral, presidential war that has brought all empire's to ruination.  It's just the symbol of the inclination of empires to go to war for no reason whatsoever other than to dominate for the sake of domination sort of the juvenile thrill of being the bully on the playground.  It's combined with his persistence of our troops in Afghanistan.  I'm highly doubtful that our troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year because the country is on the precipice of civil war and sectarian fracturing and  it appears that all of our hundreds of billions [dollars] and thousands of soldiers who've died have done so for nothing. I suppose if you want to count success as anything an improvement Saddam Hussein, that's sort of about the lowest threshold  of success you could establish.  But it's not much above that.  And moreover our obligation as a country isn't to make other countries free and democratic, that's for their own people to establish. But as I say, the Libya is a situation where we really have now a president who even to some degree more than Bush and Cheney has engaged in this Orwellian discourse where war is peace and peace is war, words don't mean anything.  And [. . .] its high water mark when the president, through his State Dept legal counselor Harold Koh insisted we have no hostilities against Libya and we don't have any troops on the ground and our pilots are not in immenent danger which I have pointed out, Scott, means that if in lieu of those predator drones we launched ICBMs with nuclear warhead from the United States to incenerate every living thing in Libya, it wouldn't be hostilities under President Obama and Harold Koh's definition of what constitutes hostilities for purpose of the War Power [Resolution].  
Turning to the never-ending Iraq War which claimed another US life over the weekend.  Reuters reports 1 US soldier was killed in southern Iraq Sunday.   Press TV notes that today's death brings to 3 the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq so far this month.
In some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed at a Mousl checkpoint, 1 more was killed at another Mosul checkpoint (and two were left injured), a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing left eleven people injured, at least six rockets hit the Green Zone, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured one Sahwa and  "the bodies of a Sunni cleric and his brother who were kidnapped ten days ago" were discovered in Rutba.  They would appear to be referring to the Iman and his brother that Al Sabbah reported were kidnapped in Anbar July 1st.
Hossam Acommok and Ines Tariq (Al Mada) report that there is a confidential memo on the "semi-agreement" between the White House and Nouri al-Maliki that would keep US forces present in Iraq until 2016. The memo outlines many things including that the US will paying 1,000 dinars for every consulate, embassy, base, etc it has in Iraq. The memo notes certain things -- such as land use -- end December 31, 2016 but -- pay attention all you bad 'reporters' in November 2008 -- it can be extended with the approval of both parties. Just like the SOFA could. Yesterday Al Mada reported on Jalal Talabani's Saturday statements that the government of Iraq would have an answer in two weeks about where they stood on withdrawal. However, AFP spoke with Ali Mussawi (Nouri's "media advisor") yesterday and he stated, "I believe that political leaders will not reach an agreement during the two-week deadline." Alsumaria TV notes, "Ahrar Bloc MP Rafea Abdul Jabbar expects on the other hand from the Iraqi government to sign understanding memorandums with the United States in order to extend the term of US Forces in Iraq without referring to the Parliament, he said."
And what does Moqtada al-Sadr and his bloc say?
That is actually probably the biggest news of the week in Iraq, Al Mada reported Moqtada al-Sadr posted a statement to his website announcing that he will not be reactivating the Mahdi militia even should the US extend its occupation beyond 2011. Why?

Well he calls it "growing evil within the ranks." Apparently, there's a cancer on his thuggery. He claims, in his statement, "grief, pain and sorrow" over the current make up of the Mahdi and people claiming to be in. Goodness, if you left Iraq in 2007 and the Mehdi continued without you, if you set up house in Iran all that time and the Medhi lived without you, you ever think maybe that they could get along just fine without your 'leadership'?

That may be the lesson Moqtada's learned. A lot of people pinned their hopes on Moqtada. Consider them the kind-of-against-the-Iraq-War Nation magazine writers. (They know who they are.) They didn't need to challenge Barack because Moqtada was going to ensure the SOFA was followed. So they could just stay silent as the cry of "End the war now!" became "End the war in three years." They and so many like them hid behind A Thug Named Moqtada. And they whored for him. They stayed silent as his thugs carried out an assualt on Iraq's LGBT community. They propped him up like he was a saint. Because as long as Moqtada said no-to-continued-war, they didn't have to.

Oh, those little cowards.

And they're not just cowards, they're stupid cowards. Moqtada's announcement isn't a shocker.  This is a pattern with Moqtada. We've gone over this before, let's do so again by dropping back to when the Status Of Forces Agreement was being discussed in Iraq.  From Mary Beth Sheridan's "Sadr Followers Rally Against U.S. Accord" (Washington Post):
Thousands of followers of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrated Friday against an agreement that would extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq, shouting "America out!" and burning an effigy of President Bush.
The rally was held in Baghdad's Firdaus Square, where U.S. soldiers toppled a statue of President Saddam Hussein in an iconic moment of the 2003 invasion. Friday's demonstration followed two days of boisterous protests by Sadr's loyalists in parliament, which is scheduled to vote next week on the agreement.
The Sadrists do not appear to have the strength to derail the bilateral accord, which would allow American troops to stay in Iraq for three more years. The group has only 30 seats in the 275-seat parliament. Friday's protest drew thousands of people but was smaller than a massive demonstration held by Sadr loyalists in the same central Baghdad plaza in 2005.

And this is from Stephen Farrell's "Protests in Baghdad on U.S. Pact" (New York Times):

In Firdos Square, protesters sat in rows of 50 stretching back more than half a mile. They filled Sadoun Street, beside the Palestine Hotel and in front of the colonnaded traffic circle where five years ago American troops pulled down the dictator's statue in scenes televised around the world.
While the rally was billed as a cross-community effort, to be attended by Shiite and Sunni clerics, the vast majority of those in attendance were Sadrists. Many had come from Mr. Sadr's stronghold of Sadr City, and the chants the crowd took up were "Moktada, Moktada," "No, no to America," and "No, no to the agreement."
Sadrist officials said they opposed the security agreement because they did not believe assurances that the Americans would ever leave. They depicted the pact as a successor to colonial-era treaties with Western powers in the last century that, they said, had "sold the Arab and the Muslim lands into occupation."
And what happened? Despite the protests, days later the SOFA would pass Parliament. If Moqtada had the power so many are convinced he had, the SOFA never would have gone through.  And, in 2008, Moqtada was a lot more influential.  Moqtada loves to boast.

This year, while the MSM was pimping his power, we have regularly and repeatedly noted that Moqtada's 'power' has been drastically weakened. We noted that was the conclusion of US, French, British and two neighboring (neighboring Iraq) countries. We noted that he wasn't able to turn out millions or even 10% of the Baghdad population in a protest. This is the April 23rd protest. 2.5 million supporters in the Sadr City section of Baghdad alone and the turn out for that Baghdad protest?  "Hundreds."
He followed that with a 'protest' that was a march through Sadr City by his militia -- May 26th, 2011. What were they? 15,000? That's generous. Very generous. The press was even more generous. As the march went through Sadr City, many inhabitans stepped out of the front doors of their homes to take a look and the press was oh-so-very-happy to count those observers as participants.  The press counted those alleged 70,000 observers as "participants."  They weren't.  And even in Sadr City -- home of 2.5 million -- not many were interested in what was marching through their own neighborhood.

Though the press was out-to-lunch, Moqtada wasn't. That's why he organized the march to begin with, to prolong the illusion that he still had a firm grip on power. It would appear he needs to regroup.

CNN files a report they headline "Radical Iraqi cleric threatens to revive brigade to attack U.S. troops" and spend two paragraphs on a maybe as opposed to what's definite in the statement Moqtada posted. Here are paragraphs three and four from Mohammed Tawfeeq's report:

On Sunday, in a statement posted on his official website, al-Sadr said he would not reactivate his Mehdi Army in full, even if U.S. forces remained in the Middle Eastern nation into 2012. He cited a spike in corruption and crimes perpetrated recently by people claiming to be members of his movement for this decision.
But the Shiite cleric, who is based in Najaf, about 100 kilometers south of Baghdad, did not rule out calling again on members of the so-called Promised Day Brigade, a small group of hand-picked fighters dedicated to attacking U.S. and coalition troops.

A "small group." Small groups being all that Moqtada can count on these days. He didn't rule it out in his statement. Nor did he say he would. He did say, flat out, that the Mahdi militia would not be re-activated but somehow that's not the lede for CNN.
Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf sees the announcement differently.
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I have no idea why she does.  But we will note her Tweet because she knows a great deal about Iraq (including far, far more than I ever could).  The article she links to, Ammar Karim of AFP, doesn't sound off any alarms either.  A smaller group may be used -- may.  Read his statement.  Or may not.  But a smaller group.  Than what he threatened.  If I'm missing something, it wouldn't be the first time but I was on the phone with two friends in the British Parliament to ask "What am I missing?" repeatedly and they didn't see it any differently.

For months and months, Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened that if the US military remains in Iraq beyond 2011, he would reactivate his Mahdi militia. He announces that will not be happening. Now Moqtada's not known for his word so he could change his mind tomorrow. But having made this announcement, it's now harder for him with his alleged 'followers.'

Moqtada bluffed and bluffed. And then he caved.  It would appear that the only serious objection to Nouri and the US government coming to an agreement to extend the Iraq War just dropped out of the equation.  (A friend in France's diplomatic corps advises Jalal Talabani may have strongly impacted Moqtada's decision as a result of Saturday's house party.)
In other news, Al Rafidayn and Al Sabaah both report that the Ministy of Defense has announced that they are looking for former Iraqi Air Force officers with certain skills who want to return to work for the Iraqi military. One of the biggest holes in Iraq's security right now -- besides no heads for the 3 security ministries -- is the lack of a functioning air force. However, considering the witch hunts that were part of the 2010 elections -- where Ali al-Lami and others tarred opponents as Ba'athists, some former officers may fear this offer is actually an attempt at a round up and not respond.
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh Tweeted today:
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Dar Addustour noted US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta arrived in Iraq Sunday on an unannounced visit. David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) adds Panetta made remarks emphasizing his belief that Iranian elements are supplying weapons being used against US soldiers in Iraq: "U.S. officials said 15 U.S. troops were killed in June, the most in any month in two years. More than half of the deaths were caused by rockets, known as improvised rocket-assisted mortars, that U.S. officials say are provided to Shiite Muslim militant groups by Iran." Craig Whitlock and Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) report, "Unlike some senior Obama administration officials, who have made clear that they would like the Iraqi government to invite thousands of U.S. troops to stay in the country, Panetta demurred when asked if he favored the idea but said he would press Iraqi leaders to make up their minds."
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Adam Entous (Wall St. Journal) states the "Dammit" quote was "delivered . . . to the Iraqi government".
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The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe also noted the false remark.
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Rageh Tweeted at length on his remarks.
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In Friday's snapshot, we noted (and called out) the verdict in the Jamie Leigh Jones case.  Dakinikat (Sky Dancing) ties the verdict in with other cases and notes of Jamie Leigh Jones' case, "A Houston jury just decided her sexual assault was 'consensual'.  The verdict appears mostly based on Jones' credibility due to a history of depression and her past experiences while her accused rapist's criminal history of violence against women was suppressed."  Jessica P. (care2com) also has an important piece on the verdict and we'll quote from her conclusion:
Make no mistake about it, Jones was punished in Texas.  She was punished for being a woman in the rough-and-tumble world of private defense contracting where consent to sex can happen while passed out and where employers have no duty to provide a safe work environment free from assault.  She was punished for being a woman who had the audacity to speak out against her treatment to Congress, to demand an investigation into private security contracting and to step forward as an example for other women.
You see, according to the folks in Houston, Jones had it coming.
Back in January, Katha Pollitt (The Nation) notes a fact that is missing in the coverage -- a great deal of which is nothing but attacks on Jamie Leigh, "In the US, only about 13 percent of reported rapes result in a conviction; in the UK, it's about 6 percent."