Monday, November 21, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a candle light vigil is held for a fallen US soldier, US Gen Lloyd Austin warns of dangers in Iraq, Bradley Manning gets a date for his Article 32 hearing, Reuters and others must have missed last week's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Iraq hosts an international chess tournament, and more.
Liz Sly (Washington Post) reports General Lloyd Austin, top US commander in Iraq, stated today, "Al-Qaeda will continue to do what it's done in the past, and we expect that it's possible they could even increase their capability." Of course, the general fails to note that al Qaeda in Mesopotomia wasn't present in Iraq until after the US government started the illegal war. Rebecca Santana (AP) adds that he stated the Shi'ite militias were also a potential problem and likened them to Hezbollah in Lebanon. W.G. Dunlop (AFP) quotes him stating, "The Iraqi government has to treat [Shiite militias] based upon what they really are, and again, these are elements that are really focused on creating a Lebanese Hezbollah kind of organization in this country." Scott Peterson and Sahar Issa (Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy Newspapers) add that "Iraqi forces themselves sounded confident today about their capabilities." They also state that the US is down to eight bases. WRONG. The US may be down to 18 bases. General Martin Dempsey testified that there will be 10 US bases ("enduring bases") in 2012. If you just want that section of the hearing, you can refer to Third's "Gen Dempsey talks "10 enduring" US bases in Iraq."
And you can't have reporting without a jack ass. Ladies and gentlemen, bottom feeder Patrick Markey (Reuters) who tells you, "The only U.S. troops will be around 150 military personnel attached to the embassy." Stupid ass. Tuesday's "Iraq snapshot," Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot," Thursday's "Iraq snapshot," "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," "The costs (Wally)" and "Who wanted what?" cover the Senate Armed Services Committee last Tuesday. Among the many things learned is that US soldiers -- under DoD, not the US embassy -- will remain on what General Martin Dempsey, the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff -- called the 10 "enduring bases." Buy a clue, asshole. But Markey can't buy a clue because he's either so stupid or such a liar: "Talks between Washington and Baghdad about keeping a small contingent of U.S. soldiers in Iraq as trainers fell apart in October over the refusal of Iraqi political leaders to grant legal immunity to U.S. troops." Are we still putting up with that crap?
It was way too hard . . . it was way too tough
On this she had not bargained
But she was like some missionary dancing to the beat of some
man's ancient drum
And she tries hard to tell this story . . . but it's a hard one to tell
She consults her books of Miracles . . .
Cry . . . and the wind says fly on
Well now you're on your own
You're back out on the road again for a million reasons
Well you're back out on the road again
And you try to tie together some connections . . .
You get some ribbons and some bows and get back out on the road again
Repeating yet again, in the Tuesday hearing, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified to the Congress that negotiations were ongoing. Is Reuters afraid they've been too fact heavy in the past and attempting to go fact-free? Friday's snapshot opened with: "Starting with breaking news out of Iraq, Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports a mixture of White House officials and US military officials arrived in Baghdad Friday for a three day visit to discuss a number of issues including to "provide immunity to American trainers." The delegation will meet with President Jalal Talabani and Iraq's two vice presidents, with the prime minister, and with the head of the political blocs. In addition, it will visit the Krudistan Regional Government. Al Mada reports that Rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wasted no time in announcing that, should immunity be granted, his bloc would immediately withdraw from the National Alliance coalition. An MP with the Sadr bloc is quoted declaring that it is not the right of Nouri al-Maliki to provide the Americans with immunity."
Al Rafidayn reported Saturday that two members of the delegation -- US Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis McDonough and the National Security Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, Antony J. Blinken, met with Jalal Talabani and they were accompanied by US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US Commander in Iraq Lloyd Austin. Click here to see the photo of the meet-up. Al Baghdadia reported Saturday that Iraq's Parliamentary Commission on Defense and Security stated the purpose of the three-day visit by a US delegation to Iraq was to continue negotiations on the issue of immunity for US troops after the 'withdrawal'. It's noted that they met with Nouri al-Malik, prime minister and thug of the occupation, and that Nouri discussed with the Americans the desire to keep US trainers and the issue of immunity. An unnamed source under Nouri states that Baghdad and DDC are working on a final version of trainers and once they agree to a number they will address immunity. A separate report, citing MP Rafi Abd al-Jabbar and Abdul Salam al-Maliki, offers that the number of trainers has to come first because, otherwise, the immunity issue will derail it. Today Al Mada reports that the Parliament has summoned Nouri al-Maliki -- who may or may not attend the session -- to answer questions regarding Iraqi security forces and their state of readiness as well as what the US military presence will be in Iraq after the end of the year. Dar Addustour notes US Vice President Joe Biden's visit is expected to take place in December and that Iraq's Supreme Security Committee is currently negotiating with the US on the number of trainers that could stay beyond 2011. A source on the committee states that currently the Comittee is willing to offer "partial immunity" to 750 trainers. The article also notes the US delegation that was present in Baghdad on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and met with Nouri and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Senator, as I pointed out in my testimony, what we seek with Iraq is a normal relationship now and that does involve continuing negotiations with them as to what their needs are. Uh, and I believe there will be continuing negotiations. We're in negotiations now with regards to the size of the security office that will be there and so there will be -- There aren't zero troops that are going to be there. We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be present by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there. But I think that once we've completed the implementation of the security agreement that there will begin a series of negotiations about what exactly are additional areas where we can be of assistance? What level of trainers do they need? What can we do with regards to CT [Counter-Terrorism] operations? What will we do on exercises -- joint-exercises -- that work together?
"We're in negotiations now" and "there will be continuing negotiations" and it's just too hard for Reuters. Facts are too damn hard for Reuters. Jim and Dona moderated a discussion on the Tuesday hearing ("Enduring bases, staging platforms, continued war") that is still either ignored or misreported (exceptions being NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller and LewisRockwell.com's Laurence Vance -- they got it right). People are still dying in this war. You'd think reporters would feel the need to be accurate but apparently that's not the case.
David E. Hickman is the most recent US military fatality. The Greensboro News-Record notes, "Hickman, 23, was a member of the White Falcons, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg. His father said he was proud of what his son was accomplishing." Fox 8 reports that Hickman was a 2006 graduate of Northeast Guilford High School and that, on Sunday over "100 friends, students and faculty held a candle vigil" in his honor. While in high school, David Hickman "was an all-conference outside linebacker for the Rams and a second-degree black belt in taekwondo." Cami Marshall (WFMY News -- link is text and video) adds that the high school "football coach announced the award for the school's defensive player of the year will now be named after Hickman." Mike Kernels (Greensboro News-Record) quotes his friend Olivia Pegram stating, "He was the most genuine and loyal person you'd ever meet. He had the most infectious laught that I'd give the world to hear again."
Back to Iraq where Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) notes that the Sadrist bloc is stating that the US is engaged in a conspiracy to cause havoc in Iraq in the new year. Related, Al Rafidayn reports Adnan al-Asadi, Undersecretary at the Ministry of the Interior, states that there will be a huge gap in Iraq's security capabilities should the US leave at the end of the year and he places special emphasis on Diyalal Province, Anbar Province, Nineveh Province and Salahuddin Province as areas of potential unrest.
In today's violence, Reuters notes 1 soldier was shot dead in his Mosul home, a Mosul roadside bombing injured another Iraqi soldier, a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, and, dropping back to Sunday night for the next two, a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured two people and 1 Asaish security member was shot dead in Tuz Khurmato. Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports Moqtada al-Sadr has stated that the Governor Qassim Fahdawi (Anbar Province) should provide evidence that the Mahdi Army has plans to assassinate him (the governor). Dar Addustour notes that the govenor states that the evidence is a document that Nouri al-Maliki forwarded to him from Iraqi intelligence services.
The Iraqi Chess Federation invites players to join the 1st Iraq International Chess Championship Nov. 18th (arrival) to Nov. 25th (departure) 2011 in Duhok City, North of Iraq. This invitation includes 2 male layers & 2 female players from your federation. Download the invitation, Iraqi Chess Federation will pay all cost of Board & Lodging for the whole period of the Championship.
Concerning the Visas you may call Iraqi Embassy in your Country. If there will be any problem you may send Iraqi Chess Federation copies of Participants' Passports to adopt the necessary action concerned.
Iraqi Federation has allocated financial awards for the First Winners about ($3,500).
Asian Chess Federation had supported the first international sport event in Iraq after the fall of the Saddam regime by conducting a FIDE Training and Arbiter seminar in April 2009.
Last week, Aswat al-Iraq reported that chess players from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Georgia, Morocco, Palestine and Syria would be participating. Today Aswat al-Iraq quotes Imad al-Bakri, "The Iraqi Chess Select Players have achieved 4 out of 5 victories by the Iraqi Players, representing the National Chess Select [and the] first session had achieved its targets by the Iraqi Women Team, who shared their men competitors, in order to incrase their expertise, as 3 of them lost the 1st session." I can remember a few years back when the US press treated Iraq's participation in physical sports as the end-all-be-all. Surprisingly, the same outlets don't report on the skilled Iraqi chess players. Maybe this year, they could finally note this tournament?
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be back in Iraq by the time the tournament wraps up but right now he's in Japan where, The Mainichi Daily News reports, he was to discuss Japanese investment in the oil industry in Iraq. Nouri is quoted stating, "I hope Japanese companies will make inroads in Iraq before it's too late," implying all the good opportunities will quickly be gone. Meanwhile Nouri remains in conflict with the Kurdistan Regional Government over the Exxon deal.
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel (Kurdish Globe) notes Baghdad's anger has grown with the increase on the part of oil companies in the Kurdish region, "The oil giants may have stepped aside and let the minors run the show in Kurdistan to date, but it has become increasingly evident that as time passes, and with little sign of a breakthrough in the ratification of a commonly accepted oil law, those who linger in the background will lose out greatly in the long run. As the widely acknowledged last frontier, oil companies must arrive first or arrive too late. The deal with Exxon Mobil may have been drawn on an economic basis but certainly the political ramifications echo a lot louder."
Nouri has proposed a new oil bill and attempted to ram it through the Parliament. He's been unsuccessful ramming it through thus far; however, it did lead the KRG to lodge a serious complaint and increase tensions between the central government out of Baghdad and the KRG. Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi (Daily Star) offers his take:
Only in 2008 did Baghdad sign its first deal with a foreign oil firm. It did so with China's National Petroleum Corporation, to develop the Ahdab field in Wasit province. The contract was in fact a reworking of a 1997 agreement that Saddam Hussein's regime had signed with the Chinese corporation. This deal, like all subsequent agreements (mostly joint ventures) with foreign firms to develop the oil fields in central and southern Iraq, was heavily tipped in the government's favor. Iraqi crude -- like Saudi petroleum -- is among the cheapest in the world to extract, at only a few U.S. dollars per barrel. Therefore, it is potentially highly lucrative for oil companies. However, the Iraqi government refused to shift from its position of offering a very low fee-per-barrel, equivalent to $2 per barrel, to oil companies, including ExxonMobil, that signed the most important contracts in 2009.
Sounding alarms over the focus/reliance on oil is Iraq's Sunni vice president. KUNA reports, "Iraqi Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashimi warned on Sunday his country might witness a major financial crisis if oil prices fall in 2012 to an expected USD 85 per barrel. The annual budget for Iraq depends entirely on oil sales and imports, Al-Hashimi said during his participation in the 5th political forum of the Renewal Movement, adding that next year's budget has been estimated at USD 112 billion." The Voice of Russia adds, "Speaking on Sunday, the minister argued for speedy economic reconstruction and diversification away from oil and natural gas."
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.
Again, today a date's finally been scheduled for the Article 32 hearing. For reasons unknown, Noam Cohen (New York Times) calls it "a so-called Article 32 hearing." Is he doubting the fairness of it? He also feels the need to go to a law professor to explain what one is -- or try to -- when it's explained in David E. Coombs' blog entry. If there's a reason for Cohen calling it "a so-called Article 32 hearing," it's escaping me. At an Article 32 hearing, everyone rooting for the defense hopes that the case will be tossed aside. That rarely happens. Most Article 32 hearings are a rubber stamp (and maybe that's why Noam Cohen is using "so-called" -- Jason Ukman at the Washington Post also uses "so-called"). Luis Martinez (ABC News) explains, "Unlike civilian proceedings, Article 32's are open to the public and defense attorneys have the right to cross-examine witnesses and to present evidence. The investigating officer presiding over the hearing will then make a recommendation as to whether the case should proceed to a court martial." Matthew Hay Brown (Baltimore Sun) explains, "Manning, 23, faces a court-martial on neartly two dozen charges related to the leak of hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks. He has been held in maximum-security confinement since his arrest." BBC News notes, "Mr Manning has also been charged with 'aiding the enemy', a charge that could carry the death penalty. However, reports say prosecutors will only seek a prison sentence." Ed Pilkington (Guardian) quotesJeff Paterson declaring, "We will be protesting against the charges levelled at Bradley Manning. If he is proven to have been the WikiLeaks source, then to us, Bradley is a hero: he's the most important whistleblower in decades." Ashley Fantz (CNN) reminds, "In February, a friend of Manning's told reporters that the soldier, who was 23 when he was arrested in 2010, was deteriorating mentally and physically from his imprisonment. Manning was initially held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, but has since been transferred to the prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas." And BBC News notes, "State department spokesman PJ Crowley resigned after publicly criticising the detention conditions of Mr Manning and British politicians have also spoken out on the subject."
The White House today declined to comment in response to a petition drive by supporters of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower PFC Bradley Manning. Although supporters had surpassed the signature threshold required by the rules on the new White House online initiative weeks ago, the White House argued today that it is required to "decline to comment" on specific cases in the military justice system. However, the President has already spoken publicly about the question of Manning's innocence. (Watch the video…)
"Why stop commenting now?" said Kevin Zeese, a legal adviser for the Bradley Manning Support Network. "The White House has now confirmed that it was improper for the President to have influenced military officials under his command with his earlier public declaration of Manning's guilt."
When he was asked about Bradley Manning's conditions of confinement at a fundraiser in April, President Obama replied that "he broke the law." Legal experts have noted that this comment likely represents an "undue command influence" violation.
In today's statement, the White House did not address a longstanding request from both PFC Manning and Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, for an unmonitored meeting to discuss abusive conditions that occurred while he was held at a facility in Quantico, Virginia.
"Obama used the United Nations to publicize his new initiative for transparency, but he's keeping their officials in the dark when they seek to investigate evidence of wrongdoing," said Jeff Paterson, an organizer with the Bradley Manning Support Network. "It's time to stop worrying about the spotlight and let the sunshine in."
Lastly, US Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Murray Press OfficeMonday, November 21, 2011 (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Murray Statement on President Obama's Signing of Landmark Veterans Employment Bill Into Law
Murray: This bill takes a huge step forward in rethinking the way we treat our men and women in uniform after they leave the military
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray released the following statement after President Obama signed the "VOW to Hire Heroes Act" into law. This bipartisan, bicameral, comprehensive legislation would lower the rate of unemployment among our nation's veterans.
It combines provisions of Senator Murray's Hiring Heroes Act (S. 951; Report #112-36), Representative Jeff Miller's Veterans Opportunity to Work Act (H.R. 2433; Report #112-242), and veterans' tax credits into a comprehensive package that will aggressively attack the unacceptably high rate of veteran's unemployment. "Today is a historic day in our efforts to support our veterans when they return home," said Senator Murray. "This law helps our nation's heroes translate the skills they learned in their service into careers, and gives employers even more incentive to hire our veterans. After crisscrossing my home state for more than two years, hearing the concerns from highly qualified veterans who struggle to find work, I am thrilled Congress was able to come together in a bipartisan manner and do right by these brave men and women. This is an example of how Congress can and should work -- elected officials putting what's best for the American people before politics or partisanship. I thank President Obama for signing such a critical bill into law and am glad to see our veterans finally get the employment assistance they deserve."