Monday, November 7, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, an Iraqi governor is the target of an assassination attempt, fears over what might happen to the residents of Camp Ashraf continue, the Turkish military assault on northern Iraq continues, and more.
Turning to the ongoing Turkish military assault on northern Iraq, Saturday Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani stressed with Turkish President Abdullah Gul the necessity to solve all problems by peaceful means and dialogue within bilateral relations framework, according to Kurdish government electronic site today." The Kurdistan Regional Government is a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. Turkey borders it from the north. The problems between the two governments start with the fact that Turkey doesn't want the KRG to exist and fears it fuels dreams and hopes for Kurds within Turkey.
The Kurds are said to be the largest ethnic minority on the globe without a homeland. Amar C. Bakshi (CNN) observes, "As way of very brief background, the Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group without a state. After World War I, when great powers careved up the Middle East, the Kurds, riven by internal strife at the time, did not get a seat at the table. In turn, they did not get a state on the map." Many groups fight for Kurdish independence. Among those are the PKK. Throughout the Iraq War, the Turkish military has bombed northern Iraq with the latest wave of attacks beginning on August 17th and they intensified last month. The Turkish government has maintained the attacks are targeting the PKK. Over the weekend, Bayram Kaya (Today's Zaman) reports, "A special ops unit of the National Police Department was recently sent to northern Iraq to capture or kill the senior leaders of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the National Police Department has said." Al Mada reports that PKK is warning that a civil war may break out. That's only one of the potential threats in the news cycle. Today Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports that 24 PKK who were killed October 19th left behind corpses with burns which appear to indicate "that some chemical agent was used. Their claim has now been raised by MPs from the legal pro-Kurdish party, the BDP, and tkaen up by the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD)." Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar (Kurdish Rights) notes, "In 2010, Kurdish activists sent numerous photos of PKK rebels that were similarly maimed, scorched and barely recognisable to German experts." And Hans Baumann found it "highly probable" that the Turkish military had used "chemical substances" in those attacks.
At The Daily Beast, Owen Matthews writes on behalf of destruction and ignorance, stamping his feet and insisting, "The PKK started it!" That's not really how it happens. In his one-sided view he insists that the PKK has "forced the depopulation of millions of villagers into the cities." That would be Turkey. Set aside the PKK's issues and Turkey's issue. The Iraqi people living in the villages of the northern Iraq mountains are innocent victims. They've done nothing to either side. But the Turkish military saw fit to bomb their homes and now Iraq has even more internal refugees than it did before. That's not the PKK, that's the Turkish military. Matthews doesn't grasp that, doesn't grasp the roots of rebellion or anything to do with it which is how he mischaracterizes the IRA. (Click here for the University of Ulster's professor Paul Arthur explaining in great detail the IRA and the struggle for independence in Ireland for PBS' Frontline.) And just as it's not the PKK turning Iraqis into internal refugees, it's not the PKK rounding up people in Turkey. Wade Jefferson (Kurdish Rights) reports on his father-in-law being rounded up in Istanbul, targeted with other intellecturals, on Friday:
My father-in-law was one of fifty people arrested on Friday morning, and while the police were civil at his house -- calling him beyefendi (sir) and taking care not to break anything -- in other parts of Turkey they kicked in doors and turned homes inside out. The detainees are all members of the Kurdish-affiliated BDP party -- all minor party officials and academics. They were not all Kurdish either. One of the arrests was Professor Büşra Ersanlı -- a sixty-one year old woman. She is distinctly Turkish, a liberal constitutional law professor and a member of the BDP's constitutional commission -- and therefore a person who could have challenged the ruling party when the new constitution is drawn up later this year. Another is Ragıp Zarakolu -- a sixty-three year old publisher and human rights activist. All are charged with membership in 'a terrorist organization', namely the KCK -- the supposed urban arm of the PKK. This is only the latest round of arrests. The government has been chipping away at the BDP for a while now. 7798 party members have been taken into custody -- from mayors to city council chairs to members of parliament. 3939 of those have been formally charged and are now waiting in prison for trial.
The reality is that the Turkish government holds the power. They can include or exclude. They've made a point to exclude Kurds. The minute they offer Kurds full citizenship, full inclusion, there's little reason for the PKK to exist. But they're rather drop bombs, conduct raids, murder and kill then successfully end the Kurdish quest for inclusion. It's their decision and their choices have brought the situation to where it now stands.
Marvin Scott: This week, a group of senators, mostly Republicans have called for full hearings on the president's decision to withdraw from Iraq. Do you feel from your experience there, what you've seen and observed that the timing is right for American troops to withdraw?
Ned Parker: Well I think a big part of the equation of why there was this announcement is that Iraq made the decision for US troops to leave if they were not willing to stay without immunity. So it was as much an Iraqi decision really as it was an American one.
Marvin Scott: Now the president made it sound like it was his decision to pull them out. Originally, he wanted to remove troops in 2010 and, originally, this was a campaign promise to remove all forces. But actually, it goes back to 2008, it was a decision by President Bush and they set the December 31st as the deadline. Isn't that correct?
Ned Parker: Exactly. They did. And you can really trace the departure of US troops this year to the decisions made under the Bush administration meaning that there was a decision then -- the signing of the Status Of Forces Agreement for US forces to leave at the end of this year and also in terms of these questions of influence and how much influence US forces could have on the ground really with the original agreement it declared that all infantry troops had to be out of the cities by June 2009. So many people feel that was really the moment where America lost a lot of its leverage to intervene on the ground in ways that it hoped would promote stability in Iraq.
Marvin Scott: So we're not actually leaving on our own. In essence, we're being pushed out, aren't we?
Ned Parker: I wouldn't say pushed. It's more about the Iraqi internal debate as much as it is about America. Now I think most Iraqi political factions would still like the Americans to stay because they see the Americans in some way as an honest broker for better or worse. I don't think there's any Iraqi side that looks at America 100% as a great friend. I think there's a lot of pain and humiliation for Iraqis over the course of the nine years just because there was a lot of violence during that time. Despite that, America is seen though as the closet thing to an honest broker. The reason why Iraqis couldn't come to an agreement on having America stay was because of the nastiness of the current Iraqi political scene, the competitions between the prime minister in Iraq and his rivals.
Negotiations are ongoing between the US and Iraq. Over the weekend, Al Sabaah quoted an MP (unnamed) with State of Law insisting that the security ministries are working on a plan for the country and that they will need US military help with intelligence efforts as well as for logistical support and that the purchase of weapons will also mean the need for training and maintenance via US troops. Nouri and Barack meet face-to-face in DC next month. Aswat al-Iraq reports:
Al-Alawi pointed out to Aswat al-Iraq that "there are pending dossiers, such as the present political crisis, the security situation following the withdrawal, immunity to trainers, latest developments on regions' questions", but he added that "the visit should come out with something new". The White House announced that Premier Maliki will visit Washington on 12 December next upon an invitation by President Barrack Obama. He elaborated that both sides will "reconsider the situation if the armed group found a way after US withdrawal".
Meanwhile as provinces explore becoming semi-autonomous, Al Sabaah reports that Nouri thinks he can alter the Constitution via his Council of Ministers. At question is Article 119 of the Constitution which covers how a province can become independent. The Council has written their own new bill and intend to force Parliament to vote on it. Another power grab by Nouri. Al Mada notes that the country is in the midst of a political crisis with no end in sight. This is Political Stalemate II. Nouri's refusal to abide by the outcome of the election and surrender the post of prime minister caused Political Stalemate I which only ended (November 2010) when the political blocs met up in Erbil and ironed out an agreement where everyone made concessions. This agreement is known as the Erbil Agreement. Upon all parties signing off, Parliament held their first real session in over eight months and Nouri was named prime minister-designate (Jalal Talabani would wait over a week to name him that 'officially' in order to give Nouri more time to put together a Cabinet.) Upon getting what he wanted, Nouri went on to trash the agreement. This is the start of Political Stalemate II which has continued since. The National Alliance, Iraqiya and the Kurdish politicians (except for Goran) have called for a return to the Erbil Agreement.
Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports on the continued stalemate and notes Nouri is firing people from the security and targeting people with arrests and "At the same time, Mr. Maliki is delaying appointments to top posts that oversee the security forces, now almost one-million strong including the army and police. Mr. Maliki continues to run the ministries of defense, interior and national security himself or through party and sectarian allies, contravening an agreement with Sunni-dominated and Kurdish political blocs that formed the current coalition government more than 10 months ago." Alsumaria TV reports Ayad Allawi is calling for the UN to appoint a human rights minister in Iraq. Congress should echo that call.
Lara Jakes (AP) reported Thursday that the UN Secretary-General's special envoy to Iraq had "offered to broker the peaceful closing of a camp of Iranian exiles." Camp Ashraf houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,500 people). Iranian dissidents were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp attacked twice. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8th of this year Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Nouri al-Maliki is seen as close to the government in Tehran. They have made it clear that they want the dissidents out of Iraq and returned to Iran -- where they would face trial at best, torture most likely. Nouri has announced he will be closing Camp Ashraf at the end of this year. UK MP Brian Binley (Huffington Post) writes, "As things are evolving and if Maliki gets away with his plan to impose the deadline, just as the Christmas and New Year holidays are in full swing, the prospect is that the world will sit and watch while men and women are killed in cold blood or mutilated, crushed by US-supplied armoured personal carriers."
Denis G. Campbell (UK Progressive) reports, "Iraq has stated its intention to close and relocate (forcibly, if necessary) Iranian refugee Camp Ashraf by 31 December. Despite urging in testimony by members of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to act. Despite direct calls to action by the UK House of Commons and Lords select committees to the UN HCR to act and declare Ashraf a refugee camp with UN blue helmeted international troops protecting it, the UN moves at a glacially slow pace. Despite repeated pleas by activist groups to pay attention to Iraq troops supported by Iranian secret police entering Camp Ashraf with a convoy of soldiers in the middle of the night with sirens blaring and force, little is happening." In addition, Alsumaria TV reported Saturday that, "Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) accused Iraqi government, on Friday, of halting supplies of carbon and firewood as well as necessary oil products for winter to Ashraf camp residents. This is an inhuman and major violation to human rights and international agreements signed by Iraq, MKO argued appealing the International Security Council, United Nations (UN), the US Administration and European Union (EU) to take urgent action in this regard."
Lt Dustin Vincent died Thursday in the Iraq War. Jessica Toumani (CW 33, link has text and video) reports his survivors include his wife and their daughter and she speaks with his aunt Jennie Gonzalez who states, "I was telling him I'm really worried and that I really wished that he didn't have to go. I remember hugging him. I remember his hug and how warm and strong it was. There was a smile on his face, reassuring me it's okay, I'm going to be fine." 25-year-old Dustin Vincent hailed from Mesquite which is a city in Dallas County.
"I didn't want my baby, you know, to go away, so I told him, 'I don't agree with it, but I'm here to support you," his mother Marty Vincent tells Monika Diaz (WFAA -- link is text and video). She also explains that her daughter-in-law is Samantha Vincent and that her son "legally adopted her [Samantha's] daughter, Nacomas" because, "In case something happened to him that she and the baby would be taken care of. I sometimes think maybe Dustin knew." "He loved that little girl," Chandra Usry, Dustin Vincent's stepsister, tells Ray Villeda (NBC DFW -- link has text and video). Peter Daut (Fox 4 News -- link has text and video) speaks with Dustin Vincent's friend Amanda Northum who explains, "He was just looking forward to coming home, and coming home to family. We just really, really miss him."
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. 1st Lt. Dustin D. Vincent, 25, of Mesquite, Texas, died Nov. 3, in Kirkuk province, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan. For more information the media may contact the Fort Riley public affairs office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or by phone at 785-240-6359/4928.
US Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and we'll note this from her office:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOVEMBER 7, 2011
CONTACT: MURRAY: 202-224-2834
Chairman Murray and Miller Applaud Compromise to Put America's Veterans Back to Work
"VOW to Hire Heroes Act" Ensures Vets Get Job Training Skills to Find Gainful Employment.
Washington, DC -- Today, US Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and U.S. Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, commended an agreement reached to boost employment opportunities for veterans.
After serving our country honorably, all veterans deserve the chance to earn a paycheck and support their families. Unfortunately the unemployment rate for veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan remains stubbornly high. The "VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011" contains bipartisan provisions to ensure that all service members transitioning to civilian life receive the job training skills they need to find a job to be competitive in today's economic climate. The legislation is fully paid for through offsets.
"This agreement is a bipartisan and comprehensive approach to getting our nation's veterans back to work," said Chairman Murry. "It includes Republican and Democratic ideas we have patted our veterans on the back for their service and then pushed them out into the job market alone. By advancing this legislation we are giving our veterans the job skills to get their foot in the door and incentivizing employers to make sure that door is open to them."
"Today, we are putting aside politics and putting America's veterans first. This is how the process should work," stated Chairman Miller. "The VOW Act, which passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, provides the framework for this legislation and gets to the root of many of the employment problems our veterans face such as the inability to compete in today's job market and a seamless transition from active duty to civilian life. As in any negotiation, neither party gets everything they want, but we found common ground as the House pledged to do in September. I am hopeful that through the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, we can break the logjam of legislation that is currently pending and get all unemployed Americans back to work."
·Expands education and training opportunities for older veterans by providing nearly 100,000 unemployed veterans of past eras and wars with up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI benefits to go towards education or training programs at community colleges or technical schools for high-demand jobs.
·Makes the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) -- an interagency workshop coordinated by Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs -- mandatory for service members moving on to civilian life to help them secure 21st Century jobs through resume writing workshops and career counseling.
·Provides disabled veterans up to 1-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.
·Works with the states to create a licensing and credentialing standard for returning service members to break down the barriers to find meaningful employment in their military occupations.
·Allows service members to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at VA, Homeland Security, or the many other federal agencies in need of our veterans.
·Strengthens the protections for members of the National Guard and Reserve in the workforce to minimize hostile work environments.
·Provides a tax credit of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, as well as a $2,400 credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than 4 weeks, but less than 6 months. Also provides a tax credit of up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.
-- "Judgement Of The Moon And Stars" written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her For The Roses
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 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 Occupy Wall Street, Barack and the Constitution, a report on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers efforts to get a fair wage for Florida tomato pickers and Pam Martens (CounterPunch) explains how Wall Street firms spy on protesters with tax payers footing the bill for the spying. We'll note this on service members participating in Occupy protests.
Heidi Boghosian: I want to mention something that people may not be aware of and that is that active duty GIs, reservists and veterans taking part in Occupy actions actually face kind of strict rules -- things like other than honorable discharges for participating in legal street theater protests actions. Some commands have even gone as far as to illegally confine entire units to base. So with that in mind, I just want to let people know that the [National Lawyers] Guild's Military Law Task Force has released new Know Your Rights material specifically aimed at military members who want to participate in Occupy Wall Street protests.
Michael Smith: Well this goes all the way back to the Vietnam War.
Heidi Boghosian: Right.
Michael Smith: And soldiers were forbidden to demonstrate and that rule was changed. The rule now is you can demonstrate, you just can't demonstrate in uniform. But they've got a First Amendment right to be out there with us.
If you, like me, have concluded that today's kids are practically a throwback to the Neanderthals, with their faces buried in video games instead of books or their fingers texting i-phone messages instead of tapping piano keys, conclude again.
I recently had occasion to attend one of Occupy Wall Street's near-daily Direct Action meetings, and I've never been so impressed. There were approximately 30 or 40 people seated in a circle in a building near Zucotti Park. Almost all of them were very young, except for two or three middle-aged persons and this one old broad, me.
The meeting was conducted -- no, that's the wrong word, they don't have leaders -- facilitated by a young, probably college-age, girl. In a most efficient manner, she adhered to a beautifully conceived structure that provided for anyone to speak, in a carefully allotted and monitored amount of time, and then allowed for the group to respond quickly to their requests. It was all incredibly civil and, by golly, MATURE. Actions were speedily arranged and points of contention were briskly resolved, courteously. Not a minute was wasted on irrelevant chatter. One couldn't help wondering what it would be like to have these intelligent and purposeful young men and women dominating the Congress. Hopefuly, someday they will.
But, most of all, one was struck with the completely democratic way the youngsters managed their complicated agenda. A number of events were planned, fundamental decisions were made, and all without an iota of rancor or ego conflict. And, make no mistake. These kids are ideologically committed to building a better, more economically just society, but with political savvy befitting much older, more experienced elders. They mean business!
Heretofore, I had observed through my grandchildren that the new generation has made great strides in terms of prejudice. They have gay friends, and friends with different racial and ethnic origins. I have noted several of my grandkids railing against bias of all kinds. That, of course, is very heartening, but I was not aware of their generation's stance on other social and economic inequalities....until I visited Occupy.
Don't pay any heed to the Murdoch-controlled New York Post and other media entities that try to paint the Occupy movement as presided over by a bunch of hippie hoodlums. No, Occupy is composed of serious, dedicated and truly democratic people.
Don't pay any attention to Mayor Bloomberg's rants about how badly Occupy is affecting the local businesses. I went into the atrium at 60 Wall Street across from the Stock Exchange last week, and its shops were humming with business. Murdoch and Bloomberg are at the top of the one percent and have a vested interest in discrediting this grass roots movement sweeping the nation and the world. They know their days are numbered in terms of manipulating the system to increase their massive wealth to the detriment of the rest of us.
I left the meeting with a singing heart. I absolutely believe these marvelous young justice-seekers will change the world for the better. So, stop bemoaning the deficiencies of the younger generation, my aging peers. The future is in very capable and caring hands.