Thursday, September 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, another US solder dies in Iraq making it five for the month (according to the Pentagon's count), Kirkuk gets slammed by a bombing, Nouri makes a read-between-my-lines statement, Political Stalemate II continues, and more.
Al Mada reports Nouri al-Maliki appeared on Al-Manar TV today and declared no US troops would remain in Iraq, that, as per the SOFA, they will all leave at the end of this year.
. . . except . . .
Nouri said Iraq would keep "trainers" and "experts" and that this is "normal" and "universally" accepted.
So, to translate that into reality, Nouri al-Maliki declared today that the US military will remain in Iraq beyond 2011 and they will be called "trainers" or "experts."
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is stating that Nouri has kept secret his talks with the United States, kept secret from other Iraqis, and that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi confirms that Parliament has been absent from the negotiations. Al Mada notes that August 2nd, at Jalal Talabani's house and agreed to begin neogtiations.
A Kirkuk bombing leaves destruction in its wake. MSNBC offers a photo essay featuring the work of Marwan Ibrahim (AFP - Getty Images). Images include a woman who works at the bank the bombing took place in front of with blood on her face, a police officer carrying a small boy who has blood flowing from a head wound. AP video shows as many as four huge plumes of smoke, people fleeing and attempts to put out fires. DPA notes, "The car bomb attack was carried out as a group of policemen were queueing up to get their salaries at a bank in central Kirkuk, said the sources." Mustafa Mahmoud, Muhanad Mohammed, Patrick Markey and Karolina Tagaris (Reuters) report it was a suicide bombing, "The bomber drove his car into the bank premises, damaging nearby buildings and setting parked vehicles on fire in the city center, local authorities said." Aswat al-Iraq quotes Dr. Siddiq Omar, Kirkuk Health Department's Director-General, stating, "The final result of the suicide attack that took place close to the 1st June Bank in central Kirkuk on Thursday has reached 3 killed and 79 injured." It's said the dead are 2 women and 1 man. Al Mada states most of the injured are police recruits and notes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi states there needs to be an investigation into the breach of security behind the bombing.
In addition, Reuters notes a Tarmiya mortar attack claimed the life of 1 Iraqi solder and left two more injured, 1 Ministry of the Interior employee was shot dead in Baghdad (his driver was injured), 1 police officer was shot dead and another was left injured and, last night, in an attack on a Baghdad military checkpoint left one Iraqi soldier injured. AP adds that "an employee for Iraq's government-run TV channel died Thursday." (At Antiwar.com, Margaret Griffis counts 14 Iraqis reported dead. And, FYI, Margaret would do well to note "alleged" when presenting charges of kidnapping against someone or some group -- especially a group prone to communicate with the press about various actions. We may pick up on that tomorrow, I'm rushing today.) On the issue of journalists, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The Press Freedoms Observatory in Baghdad has condemned the detention of the Corrsepondent of al-Sharqiya TV Satellite Channel, Minas Gharib, in west Baghdad's Abu-Ghuraib district on Thursday. The Observatory stressed in a statement, copy of which was received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency that 'an Army checkpoint had prevented al-Sharqiya Channel's team to head towards Abu-Ghuraib's Hamdaniya area, detaining its correspondent, Minas Gharib'."
A US soldier died today. AFP states, "The last US soldier to be killed in Iraq died on July 15 in the southern province of Basra, according to independent website www.icasualties.org. Three American soldiers have died since then, but all in 'non-hostile' incidents."
First off, that silly website -- I'm not even going there. Second, today's death makes 5 deaths this month. But let's drop back to July because we don't insult the memories of the fallen by pretending one war death matters more than others. (And AFP is dead wrong when they say that since July 15th, three US soldiers have died?) July 18th military announces a death and July 20th the soldier is identified as Mark A. Cofield. That was the last reported death for July and on July 21st, we noted the count was 4477 US military personnel killed in the Iraq War -- and that's the Pentagon's official count. Unlike AFP, we're aware that every death matters. Unlike AFP, we're aware that Cofield's death left a lot of people mourning. We don't draw the line that the press -- apparently untouched by tragedy -- does.
In August, we are told, no US soldiers died. In September? No announcement's made but September 9th's official Pentagon count increases by one (and we've got the screen snap).
September 15th it increases by one again (and we've got the screen snap). September 22nd it increases by one (and we've got the screen snap) which should be Staff Sgt Estevan Altamirano who died Sept. 18th in Tikrit. A soldier died September 22nd, Andy C. Morales. He's not included until the most recent count (click here -- and we've already screen snapped it and will include it tonight). And don't give me any crap about that being today's death. The Pentagon released that count at ten this morning and they're not supposed to up the county until after they've notified the immediate family. So Andy C. Morales was four. Which means, counting today's death, five have died this month. I'm sorry that was too much work for the press -- work they are paid to do. Do you realize that in other wars -- talk to reporters who covered them -- they were required to keep their own counts? (Today only AP keeps their own count of US troops killed.)
Altamirano's immediate and extended family attended the funeral along with friends, soldiers, teachers and veterans. Altamirano had a daughter, Leandra, and two stepdaughters Kayla and Anaya, with his wife, Pamela. He also had two sons, Justin and Dominic, from his first marriage. Altamirano's stepdaughter Kayla Martinez, 16, presented a slideshow of family photos. "I love him and he was a wonderful man," she said, her voice wavering. "And there is no one who will ever be like him."
In Iraq, Dar Addustour notes Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement denouncing federalism and aimed at the Kurds insistence that Article 140 be followed. Article 140 is Article 140 of the Constitution. It shouldn't require a battle to be followed. But Moqtada and others don't honor or respect the Constitution apparently. Article 140 provides the agreed upon measure for determining what to do with Kirkuk -- oil-rich and disputed -- and a census and referendum were supposed to have taken place no later than the end of 2007. Moqtada al-Sadr and others who disrespect the Constitution are why it has not taken place. Let's quote:
First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.
Second: The resposnibility upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.
And, PDF warning, click here for the Iraqi Constitution at the UN website. That's what the Constitution states. The time to object was before it went into the Constitution. Now it's the law of the land. It was agreed to. It needs to be followed. Nouri should have done that in his first term. His failure to follow the Constitution should have prevented him from being named for a second term as Prime Minister.New Sabah reports Nouri's Cabinet issued a statement declaring that the issue must be resolved and that a group of people including the Ministers of Defense, Interior, Agriculture and Property along with a Kurdish rep should decide the outstanding issue. Right away people should be objecting. There is no Minister of Defense or Minister of Interior. "Acting" positions are not approved by the Parliament, therefore there is no protection the Parliament can offer those persons. They serve at the whim of the prime minister. So you've got one Kurd on the panel, you've got two of Nouri's puppets, Izzedine al-Dawla who is a Sunni (Minister of Agriculture), etc. And the issue being decided is whether Kirkuk goes with the surrounding areas of the KRG or goes with the central government. And only one Kurd's on the panel? Does anyone even want to pretend that Kirkuk would be decided fairly in Nouri's arrangement?
To this proposal and to Moqtad al-Sadr's remarks, New Sabah reports a Kurdish spokesperson has insisted that the only way to resolve this issue is as outlined in Article 140 of the Constitution.
The Iraqi government is seeking to silence critics who accuse it of rampant corruption by removing officials who try to prosecute racketeers and intimidating politicians and journalists who support them. This month alone it has forced the head of its anti-corruption watchdog to resign. And a prominent Iraqi journalist, who had been threatened for leading anti-government protests, was shot dead in his home in Baghdad. There is growing anger that the ruling elite is stealing or embezzling much of the country's $2bn (£1.3bn) a week in oil revenues, depleting funding for electricity, water, health care, housing, education and even rubbish collection.
To the Government of Iraq and to the Council of Representatives:
1. Strengthen the anti-corruption framework to allow for greater and more effective cooperation and coordination between the various state institutions involved in combating corruption, specifically by:
a) allowing all anti-corruption and audit officials to refer criminal matters directly to the courts;
b) guaranteeing the independence of the Inspectors General from government ministers, in particular by providing that ministers and the prime minister play no role in inspectors' recruitment and dismissal;
c) formalising cooperation between oversight agencies by requiring them, notably the Inspectors General, to adopt standard operating procedures;
d) increasing each oversight institution's training budget to develop skills necessary to carry out auditing and investigatory missions independently of other institutions; and
e) passing effective witness protection legislation and ensuring public access to government information.
2. Pass political party legislation requiring parties to display financial transparency and publish detailed annual accounts, including all sources of income and expenditures.
3. Reform the Council of Representatives' bylaws, including by removing administrative matters from the speaker's prerogatives, facilitating the formulation of legislative bills and accelerating the lawmaking process.
4. Streamline the legislative process by:
a) clarifying and strengthening the working relationship between institutions involved in the preparation of new legislation;
b) clarifying each institution's role; and
c) establishing clear lines of communication between these institutions.
5. Reform the Council of Representatives' oversight function to focus on policy implementation through the questioning of senior technocrats and administrative officers rather than politicians.
6. Enact a law that would prevent the head of the Higher Judicial Council from occupying the position of chief justice, and protect the Supreme Court's independence by forbidding any political interference.
Al Rafidayn notes that the same MP insisted that the report harms Iraq's prestige and sovereignty while sending negative signals making it easier for regional neighbors to interfere in Iraq. In other news, New Sabah reports Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi issued a statement yesterday declaring that the national partnership has not been achived and that Nouri's vision of partnership does not include allowing others to take part in decision making. al-Hashemi stressed this isn't about filling vacancies in "the legislative, executive or judicial branch, it is about the administration of state and decisions regarding the future of Iraq -- its independence and its unity. al-Hashemi's remarks indicate that he sees some disrespect of Jalal Talabani by Nouri al-Maliki. Talabani is the president of Iraq. al-Hashemi points out that Article 67 lists the president's powers and that the presidency is the upper part of the executive branch and that the Constitution gives the president the power to name the prime minister. Al Mada speaks with State of Law's MP Hadi Yasiri who is of the belief that the problems between the blocs is temporary and that the problem between Nouri and the Kurds is like a cloud of fog which is just going to vanish over the next few days.
On the issue of the Parliament, New Sabah reports that the 325 member body has had all 325 members in a session only once, for the official certification of the election results. In addition, at least 25% of the Members of Parliament do not know each other, a large percentage do not know the names of their fellow MPs. The paper also reveals attendance fraud. Some MPs sign in but do not attend the actual hearings or debate but instead sign the attendance register and then go to the cafeteria.
Turning to American insanity, Chris Hill. The Pig Pen Ambassador was Barack's first US ambassador to Iraq. He was a disaster. That he would be was obvious at his March 25, 2009 confirmation hearing where he referred to Kirkuk as an old fashioned land dispute. He failed to grasp the issues, he also failed to grasp that there was more than Sunni and Shia in Iraq (the Kurds being only one of many other populations in Iraq). At CNN, Hill showed up this week with a lot of nonsense which, yet again, reduced Iraq to a land of only Shia and Sunni. He wanted to talk the "arab Spring" but had no knowledge of what had been going on in Iraq during that time period. (Iraq had protesters. Nouri ordered his forces to attack them, kidnap them.) Hill has the nerve to type: "Indeed, one wonders how much more progress Iraq would have made had the Saudis [sic] had spent more time and money supporting Iraq rathern than denouncing it." Yeah, that was always the problem with the illegal war, that Saudi Arabia didn't step up more.
If Hill had a brain, he'd realize that lack of Saudi support (alleged or real) was not the problem, the problem was the US invasion and ongoing occupation. But how typical of the mind set that says all problems are the problems of someone else. As long as Saudi Arabia can be scapegoated for the Iraq War, the US government can pretend like its own motives were pure and noble and that they could have worked.
In 2009, the State Department sent me to Iraq for a year as part of the civilian surge deployed to backstop the more muscular military one. At the head of a six-person Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), I was assigned to spend U.S. government money creating projects that would lift the local economy and lure young men away from the dead-end opportunities of al Qaeda. I was to empower women, turning them into entrepreneurs and handing them a future instead of a suicide vest. This was newfangled hearts and minds, as practiced with a lavish checkbook and supervised by a skittish embassy looking for "victory" anywhere it could be found. We really did believe money could buy us love and win the war.
The work was done by amateurs like me, sent to Iraq on one-year tours without guidance or training, and eager to create photogenic success stories that would get us all promoted. No idea was too bizarre, too gimmicky, or too pointless for us hearts-and-minders: We actually preferred handing out croissants and children's calendars to tackling tough issues like health care or civic services. One month it might be guaranteed-to-fail small businesses like car washes and brake repair shops in an economy struggling just to take a breath; the next, an Arabic translation of Macbeth, with some of Saddam Hussein's henchmen in bad-guy roles. As one Iraqi told me at a U.S.-funded art show in Dora, one of the most violent suburbs of Baghdad, "It is like I am standing naked in a room with a big hat on my head. Everyone comes in and helps put flowers and ribbons on my hat, but no one seems to notice that I am naked."
While Peter Van Buren was in Iraq, for the bulk of that year (though not at the start), who was the person in charge of the diplomatic mission? That would have been the Pig Pen Ambassador himself Chris Hill.
Moving to the US Congress, Tom Kacich (News-Gazette) reports on a Decatur townhall US House Rep Tim Johnson held yesterday. The Republican Congressman was once seen as at odds with the people he represented due to his call for an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But last night he got a round of applause for the opinion which shocked in 2007. Johnson acknowledged that some might disagree with him but that the costs are rising and "close to 4 trillion dollars" will be the price tag at the end of the wars despite the fact that the wars have not made America "one iota safer because we're losing thousands of American men and women, and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Libya and Iraq. I have consistently voted in appropriation after appropriation and bill after bill to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya." Kacich notes that those present burst into applause at that statement.
BA: What were your politics like before you got involved in peace and justice activities?
CS: If you had asked me this before my son was killed, I would have said that I was very liberal, very left-wing, but that's just because of the community I live in, where being a Democrat is thought of as liberal and left-wing. I always voted Democrat because I believed that was the right thing to do. After my son was killed and after these Democratic politicians in Congress betrayed the antiwar movement, betrayed the working people over and over and over again, and even though I was uninformed and undereducated about these things before Casey was killed, I realized the two-party system really is just a fraud, and people invest all their time, energy and money where we the people have the least amount of effects. It's the corporations, it's the lobbyists, it's the robber class that really control politics in this country, and we can actually have a political system in this country that's responsible to the people. We have to start from the bottom up, not the top down.
Again, that's October 5th.
E-mails are coming in about the October events. Why am I not noting them? When one of the participants mentioned Iraq to get the word out, I not only noted the event, I defended him and his action. See the September 16th "Iraq snapshot." And what are you reading right now? The IRAQ snapshot. On the October 2011 webpage, it yammers away about Afghanistan and a host of other issues. The Iraq War isn't mentioned once. Not only is this the IRAQ snapshot but if I decry Real Media ignoring Iraq why the hell would I promote a half-assed event that doesn't even mention Iraq while wanting to whine about the cost of the Afghanistan War. (Iraq has been a lot costlier -- in blood and in money.)
I'll give Kat's BFF Kevin Zeese a link, because he's her BFF, but read his post "This quagmire sees no end and is not only destroying Afghanistan and killing civilians . . ." blah, blah, blah. Where's Iraq, Kev? Where's Iraq? Actually, I'll give Kev a tip too, FIX THE WEBSITE. That link to his post at the Come Home America website? Goes to the main page. They don't have links to their individual blog posts. Since they're largely ignored at this point, it's not a problem. But should someone ever want to steer a reader to a specific page, they need individual web addresses.
Here's another tip. Prepare to be mocked by the media. Does no one know a damn thing about messaging? You're a grab bag of issues at a time when supposedly we're supposed to be streamlining and focused? However, when you can't be original -- 'Bring Tahrir Square to DC!' -- I guess streamlining is the least of your issues. World Can't Wait brings Raed Jar-Jar Blinks in on a conference call tonight as an Iraq War expert. The same Jar-Jar who told us that the Iraq War ends at the end of this year. Love Debra Sweet but I'm not interested in garbage. In fact, let me be really clear here, I wanted to shut down this site after the 2008 election. That was the announced plan in the summer of 2005 and I noted that I didn't believe the Iraq War would be over by then. Why couldn't I shut it down? A number of minor reasons but the major reason was everyone dropped Iraq with fools like Raed insisted the SOFA meant all US forces left Iraq at the end of 2011. We're getting there now and we're seeing that what I said and was demonized for was correct and what Raed said was a pack of lies. Those who didn't lie just ran from the topic of Iraq and acted like the war was over, like the dying stopped, as if Iraqis now lived in peace and happiness and were so lucky to have had the US drop by for a (never ending) visit. I'm sick of being online (as sick of it as those who don't like me are of me being online). Why would I put myself through the hell of being online and then turn around and note events that negate all the work done here since the 2008 election? I'm not in the mood. Medea Benjamin tries to drag Iraq into the October events but does so with a column that pretends Barack Obama has less say than Dianne Feinstein or John McCain -- neither of whom is commander in chief of the military. I'm not interested in that crap. I'm tired of the nonsense.
As C.G. Estabrookrightly observes at CounterPunch, "The first task of the anti-war movement in 2011 is to overcome its co-option by the Democrats in the elections of 2005 and 2008, and dispel the propaganda fog of the Obama administration. Obama's killing in the Mideast and Africa is more widespread, efficient, and brutal than Bush's ever was, but the policy remains what it has been more than a generation. The anti-war movement must make that clear to the American people -- and that it's being done in our name."
I'm not here to promote your little feel-good events or to hand you a gold star because today you said two weak words of criticism about Barack.
And please note Antiwar.com did not run from Iraq. I'm referring to left outlets. But to be clear, in the columns, in the reports, in the blog posts and on Antiwar Radio, Iraq never disappeared. The Progressive and The Nation can't make the same claims.
Though I have no interest in promoting an event that forgets the Iraq War, I have no problem again noting Military Families Speak Out has an action alert calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
With Congress back in session and the budget debates continuing, there are a lot of opportunities to make our voices heard and take action to end the wars and bring the troops home now. Read below for opportunities to write to your Congressional Representatives, make suggestions to the Super Committee, and take action in Washington DC and locally.
Tell Congress it's time to end the Iraq War, not prolong it
Earlier this summer Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) asked their colleagues to sign a letter to the President urging him to bring all the troops home by the end of the year. MFSO in turn, asked our members to support them by urging their own representatives to sign this letter.
Continuing her efforts towards finally, truly ending the war in Iraq, Congresswoman Lee has written as a bill: HR 27577, the Iraq Withdrawal Accountability Act of 2011, which would require the removal of all US troops and contractors from Iraq on or before the promised deadline December 31 2011. It has reached 37 cosponsors to date. Click here to learn more and send an email to your Representative.
Flood the Super Committee Deficit Reduction Suggestion Box!
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka "The Super Committee") has been meeting to come up with the next round of budget cuts. Despite the many examples of obscene military waste on outdated equipment, fraud and negligence, it is despicable that some on Capitol Hill are talking about cutting veterans benefits and raising Tricare rates. Servicemembers, veterans, and military families have suffered enough. The Super Committee needs to hear from us: End the wars and cuts military waste, not veteran's benefits. Click here to tell them what you think should be cut.
Take Action to End the Wars
On October 6th & 7th, people will be taking action in DC and across the country to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, whether you're lobbying Congress, occupying Freedom Plaza, or building solidarity with the communities impacted by the War on Terror.
On October 6th there will be a national call-in day to Congress demanding an end to the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. We will send out more information about this next week along with talking points.
Make an appointment to meet with your Representative or their staff on October 6th or 7th, either in their DC or home district office. Our Representatives need to hear from military families! Click here to find your Representative's contact information.
Join us in DC! MFSO is organizing a unique event on October 7th called War Voices, a forum bringing together veterans and military families with Afghan civilians and community and economic justice organizers and artists to reflect on a decade of war. Click here to find out more.
Many MFSO members will also be participating in the occupation of Freedom Plaza starting on October 6th. Click here for more info and to read MFSO's statement on this protest.
On behalf of MFSO,
Jack Amoureux, Rosanna Cambron, Debbie Carruth, Rosalie Donatelli, Sarah Fuhro, Adele Kubein, Jeff Merrick, Diane Santoriello, Larry Syverson, Katy Zatsick -- MFSO Board of Directors Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson – MFSO Co-Founders Oskar Castro, Samantha Miller, Liz Rocci, and Clarissa Rogers -- MFSO Staff