Wednesday, October 18, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Turkish forces enter Iraq, the press plays the blame game, the US Defense Dept identifies the fallen, Nouri thinks Iraq needs to educate other countries about how to run elections, and more.
In the years since their capture in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie have been largely forgotten by both Washington and the American public. There have been no protests demanding the government make whatever concessions necessary to win their release. Most Americans don't even know their names. The situation in Israel, one of America's closest allies, could not be more different. The Jewish state held a national celebration on Tuesday following the safe return of Gilad Shalit, a young soldier freed in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Shalit had become a household name in Israel, where pop stars composed songs honoring Shalit and hundreds of thousands of Israelis regularly demonstrated to pressure the government to strike a deal with his captors.
We don't cover the Afghanistan War. So that takes away Bowe Bergdahl who, hopefully for his family, is safe and will make it home soon. We do cover the Iraq War. There are numerous reasons Ahmed Altaie is not known widely in the US. For example, the press doesn't care about the issue. I checked with three friends at the White House, Barack Obama -- sworn in nearly three years ago -- has never once been asked about Ahmed Altaie. Has his name came in any White House press briefings since Barack was sworn in (January 2009)? I was told "no" to that as well. "No" on both, not "rarely" as Yochi writes (which probably means he did a search on his own, didn't find anything but decided to use "rarely" just in case he missed a mention in his research.)
Maybe Yochi might want to learn to point the first finger at his professionf and not at the American people? Second of all, Altaie was not captured in battle. (A) He elected to marry an Iraqi woman (he was born in Iraq and the family moved -- first to England -- when he was still a child) after the Iraq War started -- which would be a no-no for him. Some try to say, the marriage took place in February of 2005 -- no supporting documents have yet been provided to the media or public for that claim. And some insist that's fine and dandy because he didn't arrive in Iraq until November 2005. He already his orders by February and the war started in 2003. And the military code of conduct is clear on this. It's among the reasons he doesn't garner a great deal of sympathy from those in the ranks. (B) Once serving in Iraq, while men and women were without their spouses or loved ones, he was sneaking off base without telling his commanders and rushing off to his wife and her family in Baghdad. Again, a no-no. (C) While sneaking off on a visit in October of 2006 (and out of uniform, of course) he was apparently abducted. (As explained by his brother-in-law who was apparently kidnapped with him and the brother-in-law was let go for some unknown reason.) This was news for a day or so and then the media lost interest as it was learned that the possibly kidnapped soldier was sneaking off to see his wife. None of that makes him a 'bad' person. But it goes a long way towards explaining why many Americans who are aware of the case aren't that interested. (We've noted him twice this year alone.)
And you can be sure that if Gilad Shalit had been an Israeli soldier who married a Palestinian woman and was captured or kidnapped while sneaking off to visit her, he wouldn't be receiving the hero's welcome that he did.
Yochi wants to blame America while comparing an egg to an orange and pretending they are the same thing. Yochi wants to also pretend he cares about Staff Sgt Ahmed Altaie. But what we just went over, how he married an Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, how he snuck away to visit her while stationed in Baghdad, how he may have been kidnapped while he was attempting to sneak off and visit her yet again, it's really not acknowledged in the story by Yochi reducing it to a single sentence: "Altaie was married to an Iraqi woman and may have broken military policies by leaving his post to visit her shortly before his abduction." Shortly before. That's where he was enroute he was abducted, per his own brother-in-law. If Youchi truly cares about this missing US soldier, one would assume, he'd make the time to truly explain how he disappeared. Of course doing so might interfere with his ability to tsk-tsk at Americans because there are readers who would think, "He didn't disappear in the line of duty, he snuck off, to see a wife he shouldn't have had per the military code and he changed into Baghdad-garb (out of his US soldier uniform) to blend in and didn't tell his supervisors what he was doing and while everyone in his unit was serving in a war zone, he was visiting his wife and eating with his in-laws." And a lot of those people are not going to be sympathetic to the story as a result. (Yochi does discover the press in the equation when it comes to another POW/MIA, Keith Maupin, who was discovered dead four years after he was captured in 2004, for PFC Maupin, Yochi does acknowledge that there was "only minimal press coverage.")
Yochi wants to insist, "In the U.S., most Americans have no firsthand connection to the all-volunteer military, whose bases are located outside major cities and whose troops are largely invisible to the general public." We do the Iraq snapshot, not the Afghanistan one so, again, we'll leave Berdahl to some other site. But, no, that's not the issue. After the Iraq War started, a US soldier (originally from Iraq) elected to marry an Iraqi woman (that he had supposedly not seen since childhood if then). He did not disclose that to his command despite the fact that he had orders to go to Iraq before he entered that marriage, he did not disclose his marriage to his command despite the fact that he was stationed in Baghdad where his wife and her family lived. While serving, he made regular trips (according to his in-laws) to visit his wife and her family, eating with them often. It was so regular that the brother-in-law grew alarmed that some militants/resistance might target him for kidnapping. That's all in the public record. And, pointing it out one more time, when you marry the side that your country is presumably fighting, you lose a lot in the sympathy factor. Right or wrong, that's how it works. A US GI marrying a German woman in Berlin in the midst of WWII would not have received a great deal of sympathy if he'd become a POW. Also worthy of note, when a government releases 1,000 prisoners to have 1 prisoner returned, you better believe the media in the country knows to play up the one returned as a major event.
Moving along . . .
Turkey continues attacking northern Iraq and, for years now, Turkish war planes have been bombing northern Iraq. The latest wave of attacks started August 17th. This morning Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Kurdish Workers Party announced today that the Turkish forces continued their military concentration on the northern Iraqi borders with Turkey. The source told Aswat al-Iraq that the Turkish forces have been gathering ranks since yesterday." Daniel Dombey and Funja Guler (Financial Times of London) notes, "Turkey has vowed to wreak 'great revenge' on Kurdish militants for the deaths of 26 policemen and soldiers on Wednesday as tension increases in both the south-east of the country and neighbouring northern Iraq." Citing Turkish military sources, Reuters reported that Turkish planes are bombing nothern Iraq and that Turkish helicopters are depositing "Turkish commandos" in Iraq. PRI's The World offers footage of Turkish forces entering Iraq. Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) adds, "NTV, a private television network, said 600 Turkish ground troops chasing the attackers pushed 2.5 miles into northern Iraq".
Marc Champion (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Some 200 PKK fighters attacked military posts in Hakkari province, near the Turkish borders with Iraq and Iran, said a PKK spokesman, contacted by phone in northern Iraq. The attacks began at 1 a.m. and ended around 5 a.m. after fierce gun battles, some of which were captured on video by Turkey's Dogan News Agency." Sahar Issa and Ipek Yezdani (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Iraqi government officials raised no immediate objection to the Turkish incursion, and Turkish officials promised tougher action aimed at the Kurdish Worker's party (PKK) rebels." Seyhmus Cakan (Reuters) offers, "Yet as winter snows approach, many doubt the second-biggest military in NATO can rout some 4,000 PKK fighters dug in at camps in Iraq, not least while Iraqi Kurds' own seasoned foreign guerrilla forces retain their ambivalance between solidarity with ethnic kin and building trade with a powerful neighbor." Kelly McEvers is back in Iraq and files a report for NPR's All Things Considered. (I'm sure it's wonderful, I haven't listened to it yet. An NPR friend asked for the link. Good to know Kelly' McEvers is back in Baghdad. Hopefully NPR can provide her with air time. I'll most lilkely note the report in tomorrow's snapshot in some manner.)
BBC News quotes Tukey's President Abdullah Gul swearing, "No-one should forget that those who make us suffer this pain will be made to suffer even stronger. They will see that the vengeance for these attacks will be great." I think the Kurds of Turkey are very familiar with what the government's vengeance looks like -- having lived under it for years. Dan Zak (Washington Post) quotes PKK leader Duzdan Hammo stating, "Turkish forces have provoked our fighters to conduct attacks. There is still a lot of heavy shelling on the border." Zak also notes KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a statement -- we'll quote that in full:
At a time when efforts are being made to find peaceful solutions to the Kurdish question in Turkey, it's very unfortunate that today 24 members of the Turkish forces were killed by an armed group in the Hakari area. We strongly condemn this criminal act and publicly state that this action is first and foremost against the interests of the people of Kurdistan. We call for an immediate end to these attacks and we reiterate our position that violence and conflict are not a solution.
That was one of many statements issued on the matter. Today's Zaman notes, "Ria Oomen-Ruijten, European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, has said every country had a right to defend itself and its citizens as she commented on Turkey's incursion in northern Iraq following the latest attack by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that killed 24 troops and injured 18 others." Deutsche Welle adds, "Support for Turkey has poured in from the international community" and notes, among others, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and US President Barack Obama. France's Foreign Affairs Ministry issued the following:
France condemns, with the utmost severity, the attacks made by the PKK terrorist movement on military posts in South East Turkey.These caused the death of 26 Turkish soldiers, with at least further 18 wounded. This was in addition to the attacks in Bitlis the previous day, with 8 dead. France expresses her fullest soldiarity with the Turkish authorities and her deepest sympathy for the families of the victims in this time of grief. The terrorist attacks of the last few days only strengthen the determination of France to stand alongside Turkey in fighting against terrorism -- and in supporting its efforts to achieve a political solution to the Kurdish question. France reiterates her appeal to the elected representatives of the Turkish populations of Kurdish origin, to clearly establish their distance from PKK terrorist violence.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent attacks by the PKK in Turkey's Hakkari province. I join President Obama in offering our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed and injured in this tragedy. We will continue our strong cooperation with Turkey as we work to combat violent extremism in all its forms and safeguard the security of peace-loving people everywhere.
If you're thinking that and other outpourings of sympathy meant a damn thing to the Turkish government, think again. Deutsche Welle reports that the government responded to the statements by blaming Europe (yet again, as DW notes) and declaring "true friendship cannot be measured solely by sincerity, and now we expect more than ever from our friends. EU member states can no longer accept the PKK's terror without doing anything about it." It's everyone's fault, proclaims the Turkish government -- the same government that refuses to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
1.5 million Armenians killed because they were Armenian, targeted solely for that reason, and the Turkish government denies it to this day. Back in March of 2009, Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) reported: "According to a long-hidden document that belonged to the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official population records from 1915 through 1916. In Turkey, any discussion of what happened to the Ottoman Armenians can bring a storm of public outrage. But since its publication in a book in January, the number -- and its Ottoman source -- has gone virtually unmentioned. Newspapers hardly wrote about it. Television shows have not discussed it." And although that was back in WWI, never forget how the current government responds to the genocide. Not just by denial but with modern day threats. BBC News reported last year that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was threatening to throw 100,000 Amenians out of Turkey and making insulting comments leading the Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian to declare, "These kinds of political statements do not help to improve relations between our two states. When the Turkish prime minister allows himself to make such statements it immediately for us brings up memories of the events of 1915." Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) quoted Armenian MP Hrayr Karapetyan declaring, "The statement once again proves that there is an Armenian genocide threat in present Turkey, thus world community should pressurise Ankara to recognise [the] genocide." Possibly if Erdogan and the current government could stop living in denial and threatening other governments over a very real genocide nearly 100 years ago, they could also learn to reach out to other communities the Turkish government has persecuted through the years? That might be the only thing that would ensure peace for the country. If you doubt that the attitude is part of the problem, refer to this analysis by Deutsche Welle of how a 2009 peace quickly fell apart. From an academic standpoint, the PKK has nothing and therefore no reason to cease and desist. The Kurds -- which is more than PKK members -- are the largest minority without a homeland. The persecution by the Turkish government created the PKK and the recent decision that Kurds in Turkey could have the 'right' to speak Kurdish (in some areas and public places) and that they could have a TV station that broadcasts in Kurdish is less than scraps. In addition, promising other things and then going back on them (such as refusing to seat elected members of Parliament) only further fuels the sense of being persecuted. The Turkish government has and has always had the power to recognize and treat fairly the Kurds. They've refused to do so. They are alarmed now by the number of Kurds in Turkey.
The use of Kurdish, the mother tongue for up 15 million Kurds in Turkey, is banned at her children's school. Scores of Kurdish activists and mayors have been arrested in recent security crackdowns. Army operations and Kurdish guerrilla attacks make even a family picnic in the woods too dangerous.
"I would like to live in a city where we could take our kids to picnics on weekends. We don't have that freedom because we don't know if a bomb will explode or if there will be clashes," said Yildiz, a civil servant in the Kurdish city of Tunceli.
She was speaking days before Turkey launched air and ground assaults on Kurdish militants in Iraq in retaliation for the killing on Wednesday of 24 Turkish soldiers in one of the deadliest Kurdish attacks in decades.
"If a family is afraid to take their kids to picnics you can'tt talk about democracy," she said. "The prime minister (Tayyip Erdogan) has travelled to all problematic countries during this year, but he should come here and listen to his people's demands. Why can't we have a 'spring' like the Arabs?"
Instead of grand standing on 'terrorism,' Barack, Hillary and the rest of the US government should be explaining that this is how governments are toppled and that if Turkey wants to have a future, it will work to bring the Kurds into the process fully. The alternative is endless war and for proof of that look no further than Israel which is now a teetering nation-state as a result of its refusal to come to terms with what was a minority population but is now a fastly growing one. It's a real shame that people who could be weighing in on this issue would rather gas bag. I'm thinking specifically of Theda Skocpol whose "France, Russia, China: A Structural Analysis of Social Revolutions" (Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol 18, 1976, Cambridge Press) and "Revolutions and the World-Historical Developmen of Capitalism" (co-written with Ellen Kay Trimberger, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, vol 22,, 1978) are pertinent to the what's taking place. But instead of providing insight on that, Theda can be found nearly each day offering trite and banal gas baggery about the Democratic Party for POLITICO's Arena forum. Talk about bastardizing your craft.
In Iraq, the Kurds remain at odds with Nouri. Dar Addustour reports that Nouri's spokesperson states that a Kurdish delegation will arrive October 24th in Baghdad to speak with Nouri and the Kurdish bloc states they will be insisting that the Erbil Agreement be implemented.
The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I after over eight months of deadlock following the March 7, 2010 elections in which Nouri al-Maliki's slate came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya. Per the Constitution, Allawi should have been named prime minister-designate and given first right to form a coalition. Nouri refused to allow that to happen.
The political blocs and the US hammered out an agreement in Erbil back in November. It would allow Nouri to continue as Prime Minister and, for that concession, the other political blocs would get various things in return. What the Iraqi people wanted -- as evidenced by their votes -- was of no interest to the US government.
Nouri agreed to the Erbil Agreement. And because of it, he was named prime minister-designate and then prime minister. And he tossed aside the agreement the minute he got what he wanted thereby creating Political Stalemate II.
Al Mada adds that KRG President Massoud Barzani states that the Erbil Agreement is not the problem, that all the participants agreed upon the agreement. It is the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement that is the problem and that goes to the inability of the government to work as a real partnership. Al Mada notes that the National Alliance is calling for the creation of a committee to amend the Constitution. Al Rafidayn reports Nouri is insisting that there are certain foreign areas that need instruction from Iraq on how to build a country. He really is deluded. In related news, Aswat al-Iraq notes that Nouri has pledged one million dollars to Tunisia to help with elections. Iraq has something to teach other countries about elections? You mean: How Not To Do Them?
After the 2005 Parliamentary elections, it took four months to name a prime minister-designate (this is supposed to be done in a matter of weeks, not months). Five years later, they hold Parliamentary elections again and it takes twice as long. Despite the fact that nothing really changed in the end. Talabani remained President (as he wanted), Nouri remained Prime Minister and they had the same two vice presidents (until the Shi'ite one elected to resign). None of the major offices changed and it took them over eight months. They think they have something to teach other countries?
On the issue of education in Iraq, Dar Addustour reports there's an effort underway to replace Mohammad Tamim as Minister of Education due to a large number of complaints. Among other education issues in the last three months, there is the fact that illiteracy is increasing (not surprising in a war zone) which Parliament responded to by passing a law (basically declaring war on illiteracy -- in an LBJ type way). More recently test scores have been a repeated issues -- Al Rafidayn has especially covered that issue in recent months. And he probably won't be helped by Al Rafidayn's report that a group of Iraqi elementary school children were frightened by poisonous snakes -- no one was hurt. Al Mada notes a new issue in Mosul schools -- one causing a problem for Christian families -- females -- teachers and students -- are being forced to wear hijabs (veils). Aswat al-Iraq notes that the Minister of Electricity is facing demands from the Ahrar bloc to prepare a report of "the problems that hinder the developments of electricity production"
Political Stalemate II also includes the inability of Nouri to appoint a full Cabinet. Per the Constitution, he should not have moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister for that reason (per the Constitution, a new prime minister-designate) should have been named. Dar Addustour reports that the Federal Supreme Court rejected yesterday a lawsuit filed against Nouri and the Parliament for the failure to name heads of the security ministries (Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and Minister of National Security). [Nouri has filled two of the posts with 'acting' ministers -- acting ministers are not ministers -- there's nothing in the Constitution that allows for them. Not having gone before Parliament for approval, they can be fired on Nouri's whim and have no protection or independent power. The puppet has two puppets of his own.] Al Mada notes that the League of Righteous has declared they have no problem with American trainers being in Iraq next year. AFP reports that Moqtada al-Sadr states that's fine as well provided "compensation" is paid by the United States -- "without giving details of what he meant by compensation," AFP adds.
Aswat al-Iraq notes a Ramadi car bombing claimed 1 life and left four people injured. In addition, they note, "Sheikh Abbas al-Muhamadawi announced today that a source at Baghdad Operations Command informed him that an assassination attempt was to be made against him. Muhamadawi is the secretary general of a political bloc."
Yesterday the Dept of Defense released the following statement: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Staff Sgt. James R. Leep Jr., 44, of Richmond, Va., died Oct. 17 in Babil province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team, Portsmouth, Va. For more information the media may contact the Virginia National Guard public affairs office at 804-539-1451 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org." The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, "He is survived by his wife, two adult children and a sister. He was from Davenport, Va." WAVY - 10 notes that Leep joined the military in 1986 and features of photo of Leep. Lauren King (Virginian Pilot) adds, "His previous deployments include Bosnia from September 2001 to April 2002, Iraq from December 2003 to March 2005, the southwest U.S. border security mission from June to August 2006, and Afghanistan from November 2008 to January 2010." Jim Talbert (SWVA Today) notes that Staff Sgt Greg Newberry and Sgt Timothy Bayless held a press conference today to discuss Leep with Newberry declaring, "I remember him riding that big Harley-Davidson to work from the time it started getting warm in the spring until it got cold. That, (ride his motorcyle), and hunt was what he liked to do when he wasn't serving his country or working."
Last week, I attended part of a hearing that I keep trying to include but we haven't had the space. I'll try again tomorrow. Other things that have been on hold due to space? Adam Kokesh and Iraqi Christians.