Monday, October 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a Ramadi police station is held hostage, 4 US soldiers died in the Iraq War during the month of September, Iraq is agreed on US troops staying in Iraq past 2011, the Iraqi government gives out false figures for September's death and wounded tolls, and more.
This morning attention was focused on Ramadi where the protectors were the ones in need of protection. Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports that the Ramadi police station was stormed by "gunmen and suicide bombers" who were "wearing military uniforms" and who went on to hold "14 policemen and officials" hostage, according to a police source. AKI also notes that the assailants wore police uniforms. Police uniforms and military uniforms have long been used in attacks. As late as 2006, there was a pretense that some mythical warehouses throughout Iraq were being raided. Now, at least when the violence is within Baghdad, reports are more likely to acknowledge that it could be Iraqi security officers -- like the forces working for the Ministry of the Interior which terroized and killed Sunnis in Baghdad during the ethnic cleansing phase of 2006 and 2007. RTT explains, "Local news reports quoted police officials as saying that the hostages include the Mayor of al-Baghdadi as well as several police officers and government employees." AFP adds, "At least two explosions preceded the attack on the Al-Baghdadi police headquarters, which is in a compound that also houses the office of the town's mayor, according to the officials." The Palestine Telegraph reports that Anbar's Deputy Governor, Dhari Arkan, "said the army was surrounding the police station in the town of al-Baghdadi."
What followed, according to AFP, was a standoff that lasted approximately two hours. Mazin Yahya (AP) notes that, from the seizure of the station through the standoff and finally the resolution, three hours elapsed. (From the start BBC News states that security officials then announced that all the assailants were killed . . . as were three hostages. Citing Iraqi military's Brig Mohammed al-Fahdawi, AP also notes 3 hostages were killed. Reuters counts 13 dead. DPA states 25 hostages were freed which is strange since Press TV reports that the assailants had taken "15 senior officials and policemen hostage". In addition to assailants killed, AFP adds, "Anbar provincial council deputy chairman Saadun Obeid Shaalan said four people were killed including Obeidi, an official in the town mayor's office and two policemen" while Maj Gen Mohammed al-Askari states, "We killed the four gunmen. The police chief and one civilian were killed."
AP reports that the town's mayor, Muhanad Zbar Mutlaq, hid in a "bathroom next to his office, locking the door behind him." He then texted SOS messages. He claims it was the Islamic State of Iraq and that he knows that because he heard them say it in his office -- the office the bathroom was next to. It seems strange that they would be in the office and not check a bathroom if they were holding everyone hostage. If they did check a bathroom door and found it locked, it's strange that they wouldn't kick it down. And clearly for the mayor to have heard them speaking in his office through the door of the adjoining or next to office bathroom, the door would have to be very flimsy.
In other Iraq violence reported today, Reuters notes 2 Kurdish security officers were shot dead in Khanaqin with five more injured, 1 Iraqi intelligence officer shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three more injured, a second Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, dropping back to Sunday, 1 Iraqi intelligence officer was shot dead in Baghdad and 1 former Iraq armed forces pilot was shot dead. Michael S. Schmidt and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) report that "gunmen attacked a police headquarters in the city of Hit, killing two police officers and kidnapping others."
Meanwhile, can Reuters stop single-sourcing? Yet again, Reuters ran with the Iraqi government figures for the number of deaths and injured for the month of September. The numbers were laughable but Reuters made no effort to provide context (or to keep track of their own reporting). The Iraqi government offers, and Reuters runs with, 177 dead and 319 injured. Let's check our own imprecise tracking of reported deaths and wounded. (Note those totals are civilians and security forces combined. As will be the totals from the Iraq snapshots below.)
208 injured last week alone and the Iraqi government is claiming 319 wounded in the entire month of September but Reuters doesn't stop a moment to say, "That figure seems impossible"? Back when Bush was in the White House, the press loved to run with Iraqi Body Count. It was the source they relied upon. These days, they don't even mention it. But what did IBC find? For the month of September, they counted 335 civilians killed. 335. And the 177 total (which is civilian and security forces) doesn't bother Reuters? How many civilians did the government of Iraq say were killed? 102.
Are you seeing a problem? Why do we have to go through this each month? Why are outlets not keeping their own counts? Why does Reuters single-source these reports instead of bringing IBC and other trackers? If accuracy were the goal, if informing were the goal, we wouldn't be going through this month after month.
Leave aside the wounded this month -- the New York Times certainly did, never reporting on any of them -- and the attacks on US forces -- ibid -- and the fact that the administration wanted US troops confined on bases for all but "essential missions" this month (after the heavy death toll in July). Set all of that aside. And grasp that since the Iraq War "ended" (Barack's August 31st declaration of the end of combat operations), the Pentagon says [PDF format warning] 56 US military personnel have died. In one year. In one year since the illegal war supposedly ended. The 56 who died in the last 12 months are still dead. If they'd all died in June or all died in January or at a rate of a little over 4 each of the 12 months, they'd still be dead.
That number of US military personnel killed in Iraq since Barack's August 31st declaration of the end of combat operations rose to [PDF format warning] 60 (Official Pentagon count last updated September 30, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. and you're looking at the Operation New Dawn numbers.) So 4 US soldiers died in the Iraq War in the month of September. Not that the New York Times bothered to cover that. "No deaths in the month of August" has them screaming from the mountain tops. Someone might need to explain to the paper that it's not supposed to be All The Happy News That's Fit To Print. And for those who just know I have my numbers wrong (I don't), you can refer to Jim Loney's report for Reuters from September 1st: "Pentagon statistics show 56 U.S. military deaths since the start of Operation New Dawn on September 1, 35 in hostile incidents." Or try Richard Allen Green's September 1st report for CNN which notes "56 [deaths] since the United States declared an end of combat operations exactly a year ago, according to a CNN analysis of Pentagon statistics." It's 60 now. That's 4 US soldiers. And the press didn't report the deaths. And the press didn't even call out the Pentagon which tried to slip some of those deaths into the count without releasing death announcements. (And if you can't access PDF, there's a screen snap of the Penatgon official numbers in last night's "And the war drags on . . .")
In Iraq, Political Stalemate II continues. The political blocs are set to meet up at Iraqi president Jalal Talabani's home Tuesday evening in an attempt to reach some form of understanding. Political Stalemate I (the period following the March 7, 2010 elections) ended when the political blocs and the US brokered the Erbil Agreement. However, Nouri al-Maliki followed it in terms of retaining the prime minister post but, once he had that, immediately tossed aside the Erbil Agreement and did not honor what other political blocs were suppopsed to receive -- including the creation of a new security commission that would have been headed by Ayad Allawi who is the head of Iraqiya which came in first in the March 7th elections. Yesterdat Dar Addustour noted that the political meet-up at Jalal Talabani's home is scheduled for Tuesday night and that the blocs will meet and attempt to sort out differences.
Al Mada reports that there is not a lot of hope going into Tuesday's meet-up though Allawi is stating that he's "hopeful." Kurds continue to feel shut out and call for the Erbil Agreement to be honored as well as for something other than the oil & gas draft bill Nouri has proposed. As to the issue of the US military withdrawing at the end of the year, the article quotes a source reminding that the decision is Nouri's since he is the leader of the armed forces. Al Mada also reports Allawi is stating "no" to immunity for US troops that would remain in Iraq beyond the end of the year. Allawi notes that US Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani last week while Talabani was in the US and Biden stated that immunity is a must for US troops. The article also notes that Nouri has stated no US troops will remain in Iraq after the end of the year . . . except for trainers which is okay and universally recognized as being okay.
US outlets haven't reported on Nouri's remarks and Al Mada is an Arabic publication. But those needing an English language source on the above can refer to this article by Aswat al-Iraq today which includes:
**Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said on Thursday that the presence of foreign experts and trainers during the purchase of weapons is a natural thing, reiterating that the presence of the US troops in his country would end by end of the current year
"The presence of the American troops is settled and shall end by the end of the current year, according to an agreement between both sides, and there won't remain a single foreign soldier in the country," a statement by the Prime Minister's office reported.
But Prime Minister Maliki said that the "resence of foreign experts and trainers during the process of purchase of weapons is something natural and is followed in other parts of the world."**
We go over that yet again for a reason. The Tehran Times reports today, "Iraq's President Jalal al-Talabani has said all the Iraqi political leaders are united that the U.S. troops have to leave their country by the year-end deadline." Is anyone that stupid?
They are in agreement that all US soldiers leave Iraq at the end of the year . . .
except . . .
those they start calling "trainers." Press TV grasps it and they quote him saying, "The meeting, which is due to be held next Tuesday evening, is to discuss the American trooops' withdrawal as there is unanimity on the withdrawal. And the topic of trainers will be discussed in said meeting and God willing we hope to reach a unanimous decision in the next meeting." Get it? Two different categories. On soldiers, Talabani says there's unanimous agreement. On "trainers," he hopes they will "reach a unanimous decision."
In a perfect world, we would note that in all five of this week's Iraq snapshots. We noted it here and hopefully I'll remember to include it at least once more. Ideally, it'll be in every day's snapshot.
In other protest news, Dar Addustour reports that college students in Erbil protested yesterday about education issues and that security forces fired in the air or on the crowd (it's not clear) to disperse the students.
Earlier we were mentioning the little scamp Ali al-Lami who was killed a few weeks back. A terrorist, in fact. The US military held him for awhile. They held others with the Shi'ite thug group the League of Righteous. They're responsible for the deaths of 5 American service members. Maybe more. But 5 they are known to have killed.
And Barack let their leader and some of his followers go in a deal in the summer of 2009 -- a deal that the families of the 5 fallen soldiers were not consulted on or even given a heads up to -- because Barack didn't want to be president of the United States. That was too small for Barry. He needed -- his ego needed -- a world stage. So when the British needed something to get their 5 citizens kidnapped by the League freed, Barry said, "Screw dead Americans who were killed doing a job their government ordered them to do, I'm going to free the League -- this rag-tag group of killers -- because I don't give a damn about the safety of Iraqis and because I want to get in good with England."
So Barry released them and, as usual from Princess Tiny Meat, his 'grand gesture' fell quickly. Because the addiction to the Kool-Aid was still so high in 2009, let's drop back we'll drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot with the realization that some who looked the other way in real time will now be outraged:
***********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." ******
Agreed. Not only did Barry betray the fallen, he demonstrated yet again no one should trust him at the adult table by himself. His 'big' deal resulted in only one living British citizen released. Three corpses were released.
The fifth kidnapped victim?
Though Barry's 'big' deal was supposed to free all five, the League, years later, is now insisting they want a new deal (and figure Barry's just the pushover to give it to them?). Al Mada reports they have issued a statement where they savage the US government for not honoring -- and quickly honoring -- the agreement made with them. As a result, they say Alan McMenemy will not be released.
Peter Moore, the only one released alive, was a computer tech working in Iraq. Four British bodyguards were protecting him. The bodyguards were McMenemy, Jason Swindlehurst, Alec MacLachlan and Jason Cresswell. The families of the four have continued to publicly request that Alan McMenemy be released.
They condemn the "procrastionation" of the US government after the deal was made and state that a promise was also broken when "US forces did not stop attacks" -- apparently Barack made very grand promises -- so now Alan McMenemy will not be released. The statement is credited to Akram al-Ka'bi.
What the statement really does is demonstrate what many condemned in 2009: The US government, the administration, entered into an agreement that did not benefit the US or Iraq. They freed known killers from prison. Killers of Iraqis, killers of American citizens. There was nothing to be gained by that act for Iraq or the US. At some point, history will ask how Barack Obama thought he was fulfilling his duties of commander in chief by making such an ignorant move?
The above is not going to go away for Barack. It's the cancer on his political legacy. Miltiary families will continue to learn of it and they will ensure that he doesn't go down as one of the greats in history. And that was when it was just one group of fallen US service members being treated disgracefully by their commander in chief. It's now two incidents. Kieran Lalor (Washington Examiner) reports: on the man said to be responsible for killing Capt John McKenna (who was also a New York State Trooper) and Lance Cpl Michael Glover who were killed in Falluja:
In July, the administration tried quietly to transfer Ali Mousa Daqduq, a Lebanese Hezbollah commander working at the behest of the Iranians, over to Iraqi authorities. Among other acts of terror, Daqduq masterminded the killing of five American soldiers. A group of U.S. senators wrote the Pentagon to prevent Daqduq's transfer because it was almost certain he'd be released or allowed to escape. The administration has yet to turn him over, but remains committed to doing so by year's end.
Most media reports about Daqduq and other dangerous detainees being transferred to Iraqi authorities give the impression that this is an aberration, and that the Obama administration's hands are tied by the agreement signed by the previous administration. Nonsense. The Obama administration can still detain terrorist outside Iraq, rather than hand them over to the Iraqis so they can be turned loose to kill again.
They only found by sending a letter on May 16 to then Defence Secretary Robert Gates in which the elder McKenna inquired what had happened to Ahmad.
'Since our armed forces have a much reduced role in Iraq, I am not sure (of) the status of the sniper's case,' the letter read.
'My family and the family of Lance Cpl Michael Glover very much hope that you would be able to provide us with updates as to the status of this individual.'
Nearly three months wen by before the response landed on his doormat on August 4 from William Lietzau, deputy assistant secretary of defence for rule of law and detainee policy. According to the Daily News it read: 'Consistent with our legal obligations under (the) Iraq Security Agreement, Ahmad was transferred to Government of Iraq control in June 20102 pursuant to an Iraqi criminal warrant. . . . Ahmad's case was reviewed by an Iraqi court, and he was ordered released on October 25, 2010, because of a lack of evidence.'
The families of both men were horrified and pointed ou that Ahmad's distinctive physcial appearance -- notably his big ears -- made identifying him straightforward.
It happens once, a few (not all) will insist it was an aberration. It happens more than once and we're seeing an emerging pattern. This is the scandal that will haunt the administration. It's not going away. The families of the fallen will see to that.
First, in Yemen today, two American citizens were killed. Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn were killed by Barack Obama who, in a deliberate distortion of the powers of a US president, ordered a drone attack on them. Their crime?
There is no crime. They're American -- they were American citizens. In the United States, you're not guilty of a crime until you've been convicted of one in a court of law. These are the basics and they're not difficult to grasp unless you're an idiot serving in the US Congress who disgraced yourself today whooping with joy over this attack on US citizenship, attack on the US legal system and attack on the US Constitution -- the last one should especially concern Congress since they take an oath to uphold the Constitution -- clearly not an oath they take very seriously. Or maybe they're just too stupid and ignorant to grasp what they're swearing an oath to? Maybe we need to get some Constitutional tutors to spend time with members of Congress? And this was bi-paristan stupidity -- Democrats joined Republicans in treating this as a joyful moment.
Scott Horton: And now a little bit about the reaction to this killing here. I'm sure that you must not have been surprised but had to have been a little bit shocked to see Obama supporters coming out to defend this much worse action to say tapping our phones or just kidnapping and torturing people. This is actually killing them. All the things that were bad when George Bush did it are just fine when Obama does it seems like.
Glenn Greenwald: Well it's not just the fact that the policies are so comparable. And you're right, I mean, look at the controversy that ensued when George Bush sought simply to eavesdrop on the telephone calls of citizens or to detain them in prison without due process. The Democrats and progressives in unison, you know, stood up and said, "This is tyranny and he's shredding the Constitution." Here you have not merely eavesdropping on or detaining American citizens but ordering them killed off a battelfield without due process and many, many of his supporters are vigorously defending it. But what I find even more disturbing is that if you -- I was somebody who criticized Bush - Cheney terrorism policies for many years and what it would ultimately come down to was that the people defending those polices -- Republicans back then -- would always resort to or collapse to the same rationale which is, "Look, we are in a war. These are terrorists you're talking about -- people in Guantanamo, people who are being tortured, people who are being eavesdropped upon and therefore we have to stay safe, that has to be the first priority. So I'm glad Bush is doing what he's doing." Now of course it would be the question because rather they were terrorists was the question that wasn't being addressed because they were being denied trials, but that was the argument they would resort to. If you look at the way Obama defenders are defending this assassination, it's verbatim the same things: "We're in a war. He went and joined the other side in the war. He was a terrorist in al Qaeda. He got what he deserved." Now, of course, they have no idea whether or not that's really true but for them the fact that the president said so -- just like the fact that Bush accused people in Guantanamo of being terrorists -- is enough for them to believe it's true. Basically we're in a state, and it's pure authoritarian mentality, where the minute the government utters the word "terrorist" and points at somebody, huge numbers of people start screaming, "Kill him! Kill him!" Republicans were the ones leading the chorus back when there was a Republican president. Democrats are the ones now leading the chorus now that there's a Democratic president. But the mentality and the behavior is indistinguashable.
At Third, we noted a number of people who were standing up on the topic. Along with those voices and Scott Horton and Glenn Greenwald, we're going to note a few more weighing in. Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) observes:
The assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki sets an important precedent, one that will go down in our history as a shameful moment, a turning point, when the policy of endless war empowered the President to kill his own countrymen without benefit of trial. Any American, whose "preaching" purportedly "inspires" a terrorist act is now fair game for our Praetorians. The first time we take out an American citizen on American soil, on the mere suspicion that he may be a "terrorist," our legal eagles will point to the al-Awlaki case as justification. That a citizen of this country may be put on a list that marks him for death, without public trial, seals the doom of our old republic. Obama's partisans hail his great "victory," while their neoconservative rivals do the same -- and there is no one left to wonder what has happened to the Constitution.
As America enters a period of travail, when the prospect of economic and civil turmoil becomes all too real, this precedent is terrifying. That the President may order the death of an American without due process of law means that the concept of law is no longer operative: it signals the end of the America we knew, and loved, and the beginning of … something else.
We didn't note Justin because he published today. We didn't note Tom Hayden because I wasn't aware he'd weighed in. He did weigh in with a column covering many topics but indicating if he had any sense he'd be writing a book on counter-insurgency because that's the thread running through his column and he remains the one who could do it best. From his latest column:
Using a conventional conspiratorial model, the CIA and the White House seem to believe that al-Awlaki's sermons and Samir's magazine,Inspire, were causes of several terror plots, including a Christmas 2009 attempted bombing of a flight originating from the Detroit airport and a later 2010 attempt to send hidden explosives on airliners to Chicago. Al-Awlaki is said to have inspired the Pakistani individual who attempted to bomb Times Square in 2010, and he exchanged 20 emails with Nidal Malik Husan, the Palestinian-American general who shot and killed thirteen soldiers at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009.
Is this evidence of a terrorist conspiracy with al-Awlaki at the center? Perhaps more evidence will surface, but it seems to be another case of reversing cause and effect. Acts of violence are in response to the humiliation and hatred some people feel towards occupation, killing of innocents, night raids and drone attacks. The rage cannot be quenched by targeting and killing alleged leaders who, in the end, are replaced by others. According to the FOX News account, al-Awlaki was "not believed to be an operational leader, but a spokesman." Al-Awlaki denied that he had instructed Hasan to carry out the Fort Hood shootings but thought they were heroic. TheNew York Timesreported that while al-Awlaki "denounced the September 11 attacks," he became a "dangerous radicalizing force," who issued "eerily calm justifications for violence," which grew "steadily more approving of anti-Western violence," especially after being imprisoned in Yemen in 2006 and 2007. (New York Times, October 1, 2011)
Every American adult knows what an armed conflict is. The U.S. is engaged in armed conflict in Afghanistan and Libya. It engaged in combat in Iraq from 2003-2011. Thus, every American knows that the U.S. is not engaged in an armed conflict in Yemen -- not a real armed conflict. Nevertheless, President Obama placed an American citizen in Yemen on a kill list. Anwar al-Awlaki and several other people were killed on September 20 by a "barrage" of missiles launched from drones operated by the CIA.
The president and his officials know that it is unlawful to kill persons in this way outside of armed conflict hostilities. So they have been asserting the U.S. is in a worldwide "armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces." This assertion defies common sense. So officials also assert we have a right to kill persons who pose an "imminent" threat under the law of self-defense. In fact, the law of self-defense, found in the U.N. Charter, permits force in self-defense on the territory of a state if the state is responsible for a significant armed attack. Yemen is not responsible for any significant armed attacks.
So are we seeing a repeat of the famous "torture memo" strategy? Arguments are being asserted that are just plausible enough to keep Congress, the courts and U.S. allies at bay so targeted killing can continue. Where we once debated the legality, morality and effectiveness of "harsh interrogation methods", we now discuss the legality of intentionally killing of suspected terrorists far from any actual armed conflict hostilities. In other words, the end justifies the means, especially with a plausible-sounding legal cover story.