Monday, October 11, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, tensions increase between the KRG and Turkey, Nouri can appoint a Minister of Electricity -- even if he can't do the same with the security ministries, US troops hum the Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" (negotiatons to extend the war continue), immunity remains a question mark, Cindy Sheehan shares an important story, Heidi Boghosian reports (on Law & Disorder Radio) from the Occupy Wall Street NYC protest, and more.
The editorial board of the Arab News has a few comments and a question, "America's audacity is breathtaking. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demanded that Iraq provide total immunity to the US troops staying on beyond the scheduled pullout later this year. First, the US must invent a pretext to maintain its military presence in Iraq, not to mention thousands of 'advisers,' private security contractors and mercentaires, notwithstanding President Barack Obama's promised withdrawal from the Arab country. And now it has the temerity to deman 'immunity' from Iraqi laws for its forces. Talk of adding insult to injury. The question is: What are America's brave soldiers afraid of if their hands are clean?"
The general offered no apologies
He said, "The soldiers erred in judgement
They should have hired a hooker"
to the outraged Japanese
No "Sorry little girl"
The pigs just took her
Tire skids and teethmarks
What happened to this place?
Lawyers and loan sharks
Are laying America to waste
-- "No Apologies," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Taming The Tiger
Saturday Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) reported US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was speaking to US sailors in Naples Friday and, asked about the issue of whether or not US troops would stay in Iraq (as US troops under the US Defense Dept -- as opposed to under the State Dept umbrella or NATO) without a guarantee of immunity, responded, "If they want the benefits of what we can provide, if they want the assistance, if they want the training, if they want the operational skills that we can provide, then I think they have to understand that they've got to give us some protections in that process. [. . .] If you're going to play a large role in dealing with another country where it requires, as I said, a large group of troops to be on the ground and to be dealing with that country, I want to make damn sure that you're protected."
The problem for the Arab Times editorial board is that they fail to address all the issues. Yes, some US troops have behaved not just poorly but criminally while stationed overseas. That is an argument against immunity. But Iraq isn't Japan, nor is it Germany or Spain or any number of functioning countries. Not only is it among the most corrupt [PDF format warning, Transparency International ranked it fourth most corrupt on the globe in their latest study] it does not have a functioning legal system.
That is among the reason Iraqis have been protesting for most of 2011. Let's drop back to the April 1st snapshot:
The two main groups behind this protest were the Youth Movement of Liberty and the Coalition of the Revolution. The Youth Monument of Liberty states, "We are not asking, we are calling for the immediate trial of all detained Iraqis who were not brought before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest because that is a violation of the Constitution's Article 19's thirteenth paragraph." That paragraph reads:
["]The preliminay investigative documents shall be submitted to the competent judge in a period not to exceed twenty-four hours from the time of the arrest of the accused, which may be extended only once and for the same period.["]
And those are among the reasons that there are concerns about immunity. (Though, to be clear, the US government always expects other countries to grant US troops immunity.) Those concerns aren't addressed or acknowledged in the Arab Times' editorial. They are not minor concerns. We don't note 'confessions' here -- check our archives -- unless it's to question them. The Iraqi legal system is infamous for forced confessions. The system is infamous for torturing prisoners. Muntadar al-Zaidi was not a violent person or someone who needed to 'confess' -- he's the reporter who threw the shoes at Bully Boy Bush. That was on tape. But he still got tortured while awaiting his trial. The Iraqi legal system is a joke and were the White House to make a deal without immunity, they'd risk anger some Americans and, if something went wrong, they'd risk angering even more.
Aswat al-Iraq notes Moqtada al-Sadr declared "today that the continued presence of occupying forces under the pretext of training police and military force is 'an organized occupation in new attire'." This morning Suadad al-Salhy had a report for Reuters billed as an "exlusive" and it's apparently so exclusive that other Reuters reporters filing this morning missed it. al-Salhy reports Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri "Maliki told Reuters U.S. troops could be attached to the existing U.S. embassy training mission, or join a broader NATO training group, rather than seek a bilateral deal requiring U.S. immunity that would fail to pass Iraq's parliament." That Nouri said it is the news factor. We've covered those options Saturday and last week. These are options both the White House and the State Dept have been weighing seriously since Wednesday. And those are only two of the options. Dan Zak (Washington Post) reported late Saturday, " A State Department official said Saturday that while Iraq is not likely to budge on its resistance to military immunity, there are other paths to continuing the U.S. training mission in the country." Iraqi MP Mahmoud Othman is quoted stating, "Americans misuse immunity. They've had it for eight years. They made a lot of violations . . . Sometimes they killed people, attacked people, captured people, and no one could tell them anything. Iraq doesn't want a repeat of that." In addition, Camilla Hall and Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) report this afternoon that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stated today that they could use "commercial" trainers -- meaning something other than US military personnel. He is quoted stating, "We are ready to discuss the options available without immunity and a different definition for the trainers." However, Aswat al-Iraq cites a statement from the Ministry which states that US security forces will not be replaced with "private security companies."
It would be interesting to see Nouri get private trainers into Iraq and most interesting to see just how long that would take. This morning Dar Addustour reported that Nouri was going to announce Abdulkarim Aftan as Minister of Electricity, following yesterday's vote in Parliament to confirm Aftan. (AFP notes that the announcement took place and provides background of Aftan.) Raad Shallal al-Ani was the Minister of Electricity until questions arose about what the Iraqi press dubbed "phantom contracts" which appeared to enrich individuals while robbing Iraq.
For some, that was too long, the two months to name a new Minister of Electricity. But if Nouri had only taken two months to name a Minister of National Security, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of Defense, many would be applauding him. Instead, those posts remain empty. Per the Constitution, Nouri was supposed to nominate individuals for those posts and Parliament was to vote on the nominees. And this was to take place before he could move from prime minister-designate (a post to last no more than 30 days during which the prime minister nominee proves he or she is up to the job by creating a full Cabinet) onto prime minister. Per the Constitution, when Nouri was unable to do that after 30 days (the end of Decembe 2010), a new prime minister-designate should have been named.
When Nouri got wavied through Political Stalemate II began. The Erbil Agreement -- hammered out by the US and Iraqi political blocs -- allowed Nouri to become prime minister-designate after over 8 months of Political Stalemate I. It also promised things to other political blocs. Nouri became prime minister-designate and then prime minister and trashed the Erbil Agreement, refusing to follow it because he got what he wanted. At the end of December 2010, Nouri, 'informed observers' in the US press assured us, would name ministers for those three security positions in no time. It's over nine months later and he hasn't named them.
While the US press insisted it would be just a little bit before these ministers were named, in the foreign press, Iraqis could be heard voicing the opinion that this was, in fact, a power grab on Nouri's part and that he had no intention of naming people to head these three ministries. They may have indeed been right about it being a power grab. (Nouri would argue that he named two ministers, he named "acting ministers" -- they have not been approved by Parliament. Without being approved by Parliament, the 'acting ministers' are nothing but Nouri's rubber stamp, they can be removed at any time by Nouri and Parliament can't protect them. Anyone in such a position is not independent nor do they have any real power.)
Again, the Minister of Electricity is replaced within two months. Nouri was supposed to have named the ministers of the security councils back in December, at the end of December. He didn't. Nearly ten months later, the spots remain empty.
And Al Mada reports that the defense of Iraq's borders is weak. Today the ministries of Communications, Defense, Interior and National Security are supposed to brainstorm today on ways to increase defense. One problem said to be facing Iraq is that security forces for the Interior are allegedly engaged in smuggling weapons across the border -- this according to senior Interior agent Adnan al-Asadi. If security's a real concern, Nouri should have named the heads of the three security ministries over nine months ago. If Interior has a problem, it might stem in part from the fact that it has no head. In related news, Alaa Ahmed (Al Mada) reports that there have been assassination attempts on six intelligence officers in Baghdad. Alsumaria TV notes that one of the six was Maha Al Dori, an MP with the Sadr bloc, who was shot at last night in Baghdad.
In other news, Trend News Agency reports, "Turkish authorities within the framework of cooperation with the U.S. and Iraq on fight against terrorism, has begun evacuation of Kurdish Separatists Camps of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the newspaper Vatan reported. According to the plan, 8 camps with 11,000 residents will be evacuated. Ninety percent of all residents are Turkish citizens. The evacuation will be carried out in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Kurdish regional administration in Iraq. The evacuation should be completed until the end of this year." Hurriyet's report appears to indicate this is in the talking stage and has not yet begun. They note the Makhmour refugee camp which was set up by the United Nations "between Arbil and Mosul in 1992 for nearly 12,000 Kurdish refugees who fled to northern Iraq in the early 1990s following clashes in Southeast Anatolia." Aswat al-Iraq notes, "The Iraqi Parliament called on the government to exert efforts and political and diplomatic means to convince the Turkish parliament and government to cancel the continuation of military operations, according to a statement released by the Parliament." The paper also explain, "Kurdistan border areas are under Iranian and Turkish fire under the pretext of chasing anti-Iranian PJAC party and anti-Turkish PKK party, which led several killings, immigration of civilians and material losses."
The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Aaron Hess noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."
Still on the KRG, Alsumaria TV reported over the weekend, "The meeting of Kurdish delegation with Iraqiya List and National Alliance resulted of many statements that stressed on close views between political parties. During the meeting with National Alliance, Kurdistan delegation stated that Baghdad talks are not restricted to meet the demands of the delegation only. The National Alliance stressed the necessity to resort to dialogue in order to resolve unsettled issues on all levels." The Kurds have objected to Nouri's oil & draft proposal, to the refusal to implement Article 140 of the Constitution (nearly six years after the Constitution was ratified) and the failure to implement the agreed upon Erbil Agreement. Dar Addustour reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has refused to meet with the Kurdish delegation. Alsumaria TV adds that his spokesperson "accused Iraqi officials of failing to stop violence and demanded to form a strong intelligence system capable of breaking through terrorist groups."
Reider Visser (Gulf News) examined the legislative branch Saturday and found it lacking noting that Parliament couldn't even hold a session due to the fact that they couldn't reach a legal quorum. "Meanwhile, Iraqi politics remains in its usually messy state. Everyone shouts they will agree to anything that is in accordance with the constitution. (Few of them know what is actually in it). Ammar al-Hakim garners widespread praise for a supposed initiative of five principles for dialgue that have nothing substantial to them. (This is precisely why everyone thinks they are wonderful.) The Kurds declare that Maliki has agreed to implementing the Arbil agreement (Again.)"
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left five people injured (three were police officers) and claimed 1 life, a second roadside bombing injured three people, four police officers were wounded in an attack on their Mahaweel check point, and, dropping back to Sunday for these last two, a Khaldiya sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk (an Iraqi contractor). Aswat al-Iraq notes 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in Mosul by assailants using "weapons equipped with silencers". Rebecca Santana and Nabil al-Jurani (AP) note a series of Baghdad bombings which claimed 10 lives and left nineteen injured.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio-- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI (didn't air today due to a WBAI pledge drive) and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include terrorism with Saul Landau and a report from Occupy Wall St. by Heidi and producer Geoff Brady. We're about to do a long transcript of the report. It's an excerpt, it's not in full. And I will bring it back around to Iraq. But we do note Law & Disorder and we do note Heidi often. Equally important, Law & Disorder didn't air on WBAI today. And I caught a few seconds of the stream. Amy Goodman doing pledges. Live. From a studio. Begging for money. Insisting "Only with you." Why the hell wasn't she outside? Why wasn't she proving that WBAI has meaning by taking her ass out of the studio and onto the street to interview people about the protests?
Heidi and Geoff did that. They weren't live, but they went out and they reported. And they didn't just do a bunch of glowing remarks. They interviewed all walks of people -- some who weren't impressed with the protests (the excerpt includes two of those people). It was a real, chips fall where they may report. If you're able to benefit from streaming, you should listen (go to Law and Disorder Radio). But Geoff and Heidi did a great job. (Heidi's done segments where she's reported on the spot for Law and Disorder before.)
Heidi Boghosian: We just ran into Michael Leonard, a member of the National Lawyers Guild. He's not wearing a legal observer outfit today rather he's in a suit. Michael, why are you here on your lunchbreak?
Michael Leonard: I have been coming down here for the last week and a half or so, on and off, and I sometimes have the opportunity to work in downtown Brooklyn and there was a mix up on a case so I came here during my lunch break.
Heidi Boghosian: So you're headed off to court after a stop here?
Michael Leonard: That's right. Headed back to the ring.
Heidi Boghosian: And what does the sign you're carrying say?
Michael Leonard: This was a sign that I picked up on the steps and it says: "The crisis is capitalism." And I thought that was-was-did the trick.
Heidi Boghosian: Have you been talking to a lot of people here over the last two weeks?
Michael Leonard: Well I've had the opportunity to talk to some people today standing on the steps -- just getting into some positive dialogue with those people who were asking the protesters why they were here and what is it exactly they-they want.
Heidi Boghosian: What kind of answers are you getting to those questions, Michael?
Michael Leonard: Well those have been questions that have been posed to me. I think that the-the protestors as a group -- and I realize I can't really speak for them -- but have been slow to articulate actual demands. And I think that in part is due to a real respect and reverance for the process and for gaining consensus among the -- among the group. I've been involved with this work for a number of years now and I think that what we are seeing is a lot of grassroots, bottom-up decision making and I think that's really, really wonderful.
[. . .]
Heidi Boghosian: Good morning. What have you seen over the last two weeks?
Man 1: Pandemonium from all these people, just crowding up the block, getting in our way, they aren't really proving a point but we understand that they're mad about maybe not having jobs but I personally think none of these people would work if they had a job opportunity. I just don't think they're here for a purpose, they're here for a party.
Do you agree with that?
Man 2: Yeah, for the most part. I don't see them making any progress about anything. I don't hear about all I hear is they're holding up the crowd. They're holding up signs and nobody's listening.
Heidi Boghosian: Some people are saying their demands aren't clear enough that --
Man 2: Who are they really bothering except pedestrians? Everyday pedestrians? They're not really getting a clear message to Wall Street when Wall Street is down a couple of blocks. They should be over there and blocking doorways and stuff. Not --
Man 1: Not crowding the park.
Heidi Boghosian: Have you seen deliveries coming in in the early morning hours? Food and water?
Man 2: Well they're definitely getting deliveries. I don't know what time though.
Man 1: Yeah. I haven't seen it yet but this place has been growing rapidly daily. And it's in the morning when you see it. I come out here for lunch and we used to sit down at the benches here which was a nice, clean, beautiful park --
Man 2: It should be all construction workers just for the time being --
Man 1: It's just -- it's like a shanty town.
Heidi Boghosian: What do you think should be done though to protest what's happening with the economy?
Man 2: Uhm. Well, for our sake, we're in the union so we do our own rallies and we go -- We make a message across, we're talking and we're getting chants going so it's pretty obvious what we're getting across. These people are playing drums and it's like -- It's just like a hippie convention for the most part. It really doesn't seem like these people are trying to get a clear message across to anyone in Wall Street or
Man 1: I have a feeling if you talk to half of them, they don't even know why they're here.
Heidi Boghosian: But a lot of the unions are supporting this effort, aren't they?
Man 2: There are, don't get me wrong.
Man 1: I support that they're standing for a cause and that cause would be jobs. I just think they're going about it the wrong way. All I see is that they're crowding the park. And go to the powers that be. They're not talking to anybody over here. Go stand on [NYC Mayor Michael] Bloomberg's steps or something. Go set up a tent in front of his house and I guarantee more would get done. All they're doing is crowding the park here.
[. . .]
Woman: I'm from western New York. I have been here on-and-off for about ten days.
Heidi Boghosian: And were you on the Brooklyn Bridge?
Woman: Yes, I was. I was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Heidi Boghosian: Did you feel that the police were literally leading you onto the bridge?
Woman: Yes. There's been like -- There's been questions whether or not they made an actual announcement of you go on the Brooklyn Bridge that you would get arrested. I heard no such announcement; however, I did talk to people who said the announcement was made on a very, very muffled bullhorn so that they could have it on film that they said it but that it was not audible to the people standing right in front of them.
Heidi Boghosian: Have you been in other arrest situations and how did this compare in terms of police treatment of protestors?
Woman: I've been arrested for other protest-related things. Not in New York City. As I said, I'm from western New York. But this -- this was not good but not bad. I feel that being cuffed on an MTA bus for six hours with no food and no water isn't the best treatment but I was in no way physically harmed directly by the cops. I do feel like I have a little bone bruising on my wrists from the flexi-cuffs but, you know, I know it could be a lot worse. There were other arrests in this occupation where people had concussions and were not treated well and left on buses and were not able to get medical treatment. So, in that way, I feel very lucky that I was not treated the way other occupiers were treated but at the same time not being able to eat, not having access to water, except for whatever was in our backpacks is still not very acceptable in my opinion. We're humans too. Whether or not the state or the government agrees with us, we deserve to be treated like humans.
Heidi Boghosian: Are you surprised by how this movement is catching on all around the country?
Woman: Yes and no because I'm -- I am surprised because of the diversity of the people that have been coming out and saying -- I'm very particularly far left personally and was concerned that it would be a group of far leftists that would be construed as another anarchist, militant, violent group of people; however, it has been pleasantly surprising to me the number of people that have come out that are liberal, that are Libetarian and maybe even conservative. But we all share the same view. We are all the 99% and we all have very common goals. What separates the extreme right and the extreme left, I think, is mostly tactics and the dispute comes not from the end goal but how do we get to that goal.
Heidi Boghosian: Process.
Woman: Yeah, process. Definitely.
Heidi Boghosian: Any final words for people who might be thinking of coming here from around the country?
Woman: You know, come out and see what we're all about. Give it a shot. I came out here intending only to spend a week and I am back indefinitely because this is a beautiful movement.
More information can be found at Occupy Wall Street. Heidi and Geoff's report featured more people, featured a speech about how October 15th was global Occupy Wall Street Day with actions going on around the world, featured drumming and singing ("If I Had A Hammer" was a song sung during the report). How do we bring it back to Iraq?
Cindy Sheehan. She's given so much to end the wars and been attacked by some on the right wing when Bully Boy Bush was in the White House and by some on the left wing now that Barack's in the White House. She hasn't stopped calling out war. And in her "Partisan Politics is Off the Table," she shares how political operatives and Nancy Pelosi saw Camp Casey as something they could use for elections. She's offering her story as an example of what Occupy Wall Street needs to avoid. In this section, she's writing about Pelosi calling her on the phone when the two had never met (and Cindy didn't even know who Pelosi was):
Anyway, she called me to express her support and invite me to meet with her when I arrived in DC. I visited many, many Congress people when I arrived in DC, and most of the Democrats I met with, including Pelosi, told me: "Cindy, you help us take back the House an we'll help you end the wars." So, I thought that was a great deal and the movement worked hard to "take back the House." Consequently, with MoveOn.org, the Democrats proceeded to exploit the energy the Camp Casey movement to regain the majority. Pelosi became Speaker and one of the first things the new Democratic Majority did with their toadies in MoveOn.org supporting them, approved the supplemental funding to continue and expand the wars while NOT holding the Bush Crime Family accountable. So, I went back to Congress and basically asked the Democrat Members, "what the hell?" I was told, "Cindy, we need MORE Democrats." That's when I left the party.
They used Camp Casey, they used the war. They grand standed on those issues, those life or death issues, just to get a few more seats in Congress. They'll be happy to do the same thing with Occupy Wall Street if given the chance. And, as with the wars, they'll come up with excuses after the election for why they can't help you even though, cross their hearts, they really, really want to.