Saturday, April 02, 2011

Iraqiya cries "coup," INA counters "genocide"

Violence continues in Iraq. Al Rafidayn reports 3 police officers and 3 soldiers were killed in Anbar province by "insurgents using small arms" (an unnamed Iraqi security source) and eight people were left injured. In addition, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldiers and left four people injured while, in Kirkuk, Sahwa member Nassif Mahmoud Kassem was killed in an assault on a checkpoint. Reuters adds a Baghdad sticky bombing left a worker from the prime minister's office injured. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the violence and also appears to have filed the only English language report on any of the genuine protests yesterday (as opposed to the faux action by Ahmed Chalabi intended to elevate himself and to stir up sectarian passions):

Nearly 1,500 Kurdish demonstrators had gathered in the central square of the Iraqi city of Sulaimaniya on Friday to continue their demands for political reforms and to protest corruption, a lack of basic services and unemployment, security officials said.
But the peaceful protest turned violence.
Security officials said angry protesters stormed shops, threw stones at Kurdish riot police and wielded sticks when police pushed back. At least 50 people were wounded, including 37 members of the riot police, police and health officials in Sulaimaniya said.

Al Mada reports on the protest in Baghdad yesterday with "security forces surrounded [Tahrir Square] and blocked citizens access to the square." Al Mada notes that many families were present carrying photos of their family members who had disappeared into the Iraqi 'justice system,' calling for the release of their loved ones. As protests took root in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki began desperately spinning for time and came up with a "100 days reform" -- the political equivalent of hitting the snooze button. The 100 days come to a conclusion on June 7th. Today Nouri al-Maliki tells the Associated Press that it will not be any problem for he and his Cabinet to meet the deadline: "But Premier Nouri al-Maliki opened several escape clauses for his ministers should they fail to meet the June 7 deadline, which he set in an effort to appease protests by crowds demanding better public services and an end to corruption. He also dodged questions in an interview with The Associated Press about whether he would also step down if his government is deemed to have fallen short of demands for change that have resonated throughout Iraq over the last six weeks." Press TV calls Nouri's statements of Iraq's future "an optimistic picture."

Is there a scramble on to replace Nouri? May be. Various parties are now throwing accusations at one another when they were oh-so-close last November. Al Rafidayn reports the Iraqi National Alliance is calling for an investigation into "the crime" that took place in Falluja which the Iraqi National Alliance is calling a "genocide" -- Ayad Allawi was prime minister when US forces attacked Falluja -- and it is being compared to the Halbaja genocide when Saddam Hussein ordred a chemical attack on the city March 16, 1988 (the Iraqi Parliament declared the Halbaja assault a genocide in a vote on March 17th). New Sabah adds that Ayad Allawi's Iraqi is stating a "coup" has taken place because KRG President Massoud Barzani has not implemented the 19 terms he agreed to including the creation of the National Supreme Council which would have been headed by Ayad Allawi. This is in reference to the deal made in Erbil by State Of Law, the KRG, Iraqi, the National Alliance, the Sadr bloc and Joe Biden to 'end' the political stalemate and allow Nouri al-Maliki to continue as prime minister.

In other news, Al Mada reports Iraqi President Jalal Talabani congratulated the Iraqi Communist Party on their 77th year anniversary: "I congratulate you heartily on the seventy-seventh anniversary of the founding of your party [. . .] [which] worked hand in hand with the other political parties to fight for a free Iraq that would be free of social injustice and discrimination." No reports on Nouri congratulating them but he probably feels he did 'his part' by ordering the military to evict them from their Baghdad headquarters last month.

We'll again close with this from Michael Ratner's "To Hell with the Constitution: Obama Goes To War" (Just Left):

How is it that Congress isn’t screaming at President Obama for usurping its power to take this nation to war against Libya? (Even Bushes #41 and #43 had their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq authorized.) And if Congress isn’t screaming, then why aren’t we? We should be. The power to make war impacts us all: it kills, it costs our dwindling treasury, and it has serious consequences.

Those are just some of the reasons why the Constitution doesn’t allow the president to make the decision to go to war unilaterally — a fact that Obama, himself a former constitutional law professor, knows full well. If fact, when candidate Obama was asked if the president could bomb Iran without authority from Congress, he categorically responded: “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

Candidate Obama’s letter perfect response reveals precisely how well he understands the framers’ fear of giving the power to initiate war to the president. As James Madison, principal author of the Constitution wrote, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature.” Consequently, Article 1, section 8, cl. 11 states that Congress and only Congress can authorize the use of military force against another country. It makes no difference whether it’s called war or a “military action” — Obama’s term for the attack on Libya.

Some have argued that it would have made little difference for Obama to have asked for authority — that Congress would have approved the war anyway. Whether or not that’s true, it’s not the point. Had Obama gone to Congress there would have been the kind of public debate that’s necessary in any country that calls itself a democracy.


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A widow wins a victory against the Army

June 7, 2005, Louis Allen and Philip Esposito were murdered while serving in Iraq. The military had an agreement with Alberto B. Martinez but decided to set the plea aside and go to court. Where they lost. Leaving Allen's widow, Babara Allen, to cry out after the verdict was announced, as reported by the Fayettevill Observer, "He slaughtered our husbands, and that's it. You murdred my husband." Having bungled the prosecution, the military has since attempted to keep the court transcripts from Siobhan Esposito. This despite the fact that trial was open to the public (this is the US) and despite the fact that it was well covered by the press. She's had to sue the Army in an attempt to get court transcripts. Hema Easley (Lower Hudson Journal News) reports the military has absorbed how ridiculous they look and have "agreed to provide her an unredacted transcript of the court-martial". Easley reports:

The Army eventually agreed to settle with Esposito after the judge refused the the Army's request that the case be dismissed. On Monday Esposito picked up the documents she had been fighting for for two years.
"The turnaround on the Army's part is stunning," said Esposito, who now lives in Virginia with her daughter. "It took my bringing the Army to court for them to stop their attempt at obstructing the law."

Robert Gavin (Albany Times Union) adds:

On Monday, a settlement was reached between her attorney, Eugene R. Fidell, and the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C., which represented the Army, and signed by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates. She picked up the documents on Friday.
"I think they realized they had a weak position. They realized they had no basis under the law," Esposito, 36, of Virginia, the mother of the captain's 7-year-old daughter, Madeline, told the Times Union Friday. "It wasn't legal denying me the records."

Meanwhile WGHP reports that a send-off ceremony was held in Greensboro, North Carolina today for eighty members of the state's National Guard who are deploying to Iraq where they "will fly Blackhawk helicopters as part of an air assault squadron once they arrive." "Assault squadron"? What an interesting term when Barack declared "combat operations" over on August 31st. Mike Shuster (Weekend Edition, NPR) reports on the Iraqi air force and, no surprise, there's been no hasty miracle schedule. They will not be ready at the end of the year to take over their duties without US assistance, we are told.
Apparently the air force was the day's junket in Iraq as UPI also reports on it with copy strangely similar to Shuster's. That's been the case since 2007 -- check the archives -- we've repeatedly noted the Iraqi Air Force wouldn't be ready by the end of 2011. From the June 14, 2007 snapshot:

The Pentagon report has many sections and one of interest considering one of the 2007 developments may be this: "There are currently more than 900 personnel in the Iraqi Air Force. . . . The fielding of rotary-wing aircraft continued with the delivery to Taji of five modified UH II (Iroquois) helicopters, bringing the total delivered to ten. The final six are scheduled to arrive in June. Aircrews are currently conducting initial qualifications and tactics training. The Iroquois fleet is expected to reach initial operation capability by the end of June 2007." By the end of June 2007? One of the developments of 2007 was the (admission of) helicopter crashes. US helicopters. British helicopters. Some may find comfort in the fact that evacuations and mobility will be handled by Iraqis . . . whenever they are fully staffed and trained. Four years plus to deliver the equipment, training should be done in ten or twenty years, right?

In July 2009, Elisabeth Bumiller wrote a major article on this subject "Iraq Can't Defend Its Skies by Pullout Date, U.S. Says" (New York Times):

The Iraqis will be unable to handle their own air defenses after all American troops withdraw from the country by the end of 2011, the top commander of American forces in Iraq said Tuesday.

And Gareth Porter (Dissident Voice) covered new ground with his scoop last year detailing how the White House has actively been working to decieve the US voters into believing the Iraq War would end when, in fact, it would not. NSC-er Puneet Talwar was dispatched to offer Iraq 15,000 US troops after the end of 2011 'withdrawal' and to explain that the would simply shove these 15,000 under the US Embassy to hide the remainders. From the article:

Talwar's remarks suggest the Obama administration was planning to adopt a ruse to keep combat troops in Iraq after the expiration of the U.S.-Iraq troop withdrawal agreement on December 31, 2011, while assuring the U.S. public that all U.S. troops had been pulled out by the deadline.

[. . .]

When the Iraqi participants in the September 23 meeting asked how many troops might be left in Iraq, Talwar said preferably one brigade but that it could be two brigades. When asked how many soldiers that would mean per brigade, however, the NSC official said the number could be open-ended.
An Iraqi military official told Talwar the military understood the minimum number of troops needed for a self- contained U.S. combat force was 15,000 to 28,000. They asked Talwar whether the U.S. could keep at least 15,000 in the country, and Talwar answered that it was possible.
Each U.S. combat brigade team has 3,500 to 4,000 troops. Thus the 15,000 regular combat troops discussed as a possible post-2011 troop presence would represent between three and four brigades.

The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com and Military Families Speak Out -- updated last night:




Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.




















thomas friedman is a great man






oh boy it never ends




















Friday, April 01, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Friday, April 1, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Diane Rehm continues to ignore Iraq for the tenth straight week, protests continue in Iraq with at least 50 injured in the KRG, a woman attempts to set herself on fire in Baghdad, and much more.
 
The Great Iraq Revolution reports Iraqi security forces attempted to disperse protesters. As usual and, as usual, barbed wire is roped around to stop mobility and hinder access and the press are being harassed. Alsumaria TV reports that they were "calling for the release of detainees and urging to end unemployment and corruption in Iraq mainly in governmental institutions. Protestors urged to provide them with ration cards." Chanting and carrying banners (video here) what appeared to be thousands occupied Liberation Square. Al Mada reports that many more attempted to join the protesters but Iraqi forces surrounded the scene of the protest and blocked access.  As with last Friday, those protesters who had family members imprisoned carried photos of their loved ones.  They were easy to spot amongst the crowd with their photos and generally clad in black.  On his album . . . Nothing Like the Sun, Sting has a song for the wives and daughters in Chile whose husbands were imprisoned, tortured and murdered under the terrorist reign of Augusto Pinochet and the song, sadly, fits so many regions including Iraq.
 
Why are there women here dancing on their own?
Why is there this sadness in their eyes?
Why are soldiers here
Their faces fixed like stone?
I can't see what it is that they despise
They're dancing with the missing
They're dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They're dancing with their fathers
They're dancing with their sons
They're dancing with their husbands
They dance alone
They dance alone
-- "They Dance Alone" written by Sting
 
Kitabat has multiple videos on their home page of today's protest in Baghdad.  One woman holds photos of four missing men. She yells out for Allah to help her while others around her note that [Nouri al-] Maliki does nothing.  In another video, twenty-one women dressed in black and holding photos gather together chanting while one woman wipes her tears with the back of one hand, displaying the photo of her missing family member with the other hand.  A woman, Um Ahmed attempted to set herself on fire, the Great Iraqi Revolution notesThey explain she is "the mother of a detainee" and the other protesters prevented the fire and rescued her.
 
 
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 they report protests took place in Falluja and in SulaymaniyaAlsumaria TV notes of the Sulaimaniyah Province demonstration in Kaler (or Kellar) that eye witnesses say Kurdish security forces threw stones at members of the Change Political party. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that the protest in Kellar "started peacefully but then the Kurdish Militias and Assayesh brought in their thugs and fighting started."  AFP reports, also in Sulaimaniyah province, but in the city of Sulaimaniyah, approximately 4,000 protesters gathered and chanted slogans agains the two main Kurdih political parties -- the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party -- and that police used batons on protesters who used stones on the police resulting in 35 people being injured. MaximumEdge.com News notes, "City health official Rekard Rasheed said at least 38 of the injured were policemen in the melee of protestors demanding better government services, ending corruption and more jobs in the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north." Press TV reports that "at least 50 people" were injured. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) also notes "at least 50 people were wounded".  Yesterday on All Things Considered (NPR), Kelly McEvers reported on the protests in northern Iraq, especially in relation to the disputed Kirkuk:
 
McEVERS: In recent protests that were part of a larger wave of demonstrations around Iraq and the region, intellectuals like Farouk Rafiq said the Kurdish success story is a myth.
 
Mr. FAROUK RAFIQ: This is a myth that there is economical opportunity. Do you know why? Because political parties, they captured the market. They have their own companies for themselves, for politicians, for those who are on the top.
 
McEVERS: So far, those politicians don't show any signs of relinquishing power. In fact, it's support from the Kurds that helped Iraq's incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, recently secure a second term. In exchange for this support, the federal government in Baghdad recently agreed to let Kurdistan proceed with agreements to pump and sell its own oil. Now, says analyst Jutiar Adel, the Kurdish leaders see economic growth as a way to continue asserting their autonomy.
 
Mr. JUTIAR ADEL: (Through translation) The economical presence, the economical strength is very important, and they want to guarantee that there is an economical power for Kurdistan.
 
 
McEVERS: That means in addition to ignoring protesters' demands for a bigger piece of the economic pie, other issues might be on the back burner, issues like who will control the area around the city of Kirkuk, where Kurds were the majority until Saddam sent Arabs to settle there.
 
Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language).
 
McEVERS: At a recent conference, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani told followers it's likely his grandson will still be fighting for Kirkuk.
 
 
For those who would like more audio of past protests in Iraq, Hamzoz has filed audio reports at Alive in Iraq on the March 11th protest in BaghdadRania El Gamal (Reuters) observes, "Iraq's protests have not reached the critical mass of those in Tunisia and Egypt, but Iraqis are tired of shortages of food rations, water, power and jobs, and widespread corruption, eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein." At the Los Angeles Times, the Carnegie Endwoment for International Peace's scholar Maria Fantappie weighs in on Iraq noting:

While the protests in Iraq may not threaten an entire leadership, they could shift the balance of power within the ruling coalition. With both promises and targeted public policies in southern Iraq, the Sadrists could infiltrate Maliki's strongholds -- especially Basra and Baghdad -- consolidate their popular support there, and increase their pull within the new government, most likely at the expense of Maliki's State of Law coalition. As a result, the Sadrists could regain politically what they lost militarily in the 2007 Battle of Basra to Maliki-affiliated armed forces and emerge as a key player in the government.
During the protests, the Sadrists lobbied for the resignation of several State of Law governors and high-ranking officials in Baghdad and Basra, accusing Maliki's administration of being lax in combating corruption. This move may turn the Sadrists from an indispensable ally for Maliki's reelection into his chief competition. Maliki already seems to be avoiding alienating the Kurds over the issue of Kirkuk, possibly to secure them as an alternative ally.
The winners of this period of social unrest will be those who heed the call of the Iraqi street, and hold the potential to respond at the local level. The Sadrists have a golden opportunity to overshadow their past as a sectarian militia and recast themselves as populist policy makers who are receptive to the people's demands. Whether they do so remains to be seen.
And whether Nouri al-Maliki and the other puppets controlling Iraq can stop torturing, remain s in doubt.  Wally slid the following over from MADRE:
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
MADRE: Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide
CONTACT: Stephanie K√ľng, MADRE (212) 627-0444, media@madre.org


Pro-Democracy Youth Activist in Iraq Tortured and Threatened

Monday, March 28, 2011 -- New York, NY -- Last week, a youth activist organizing pro-democracy protests in Iraq was kidnapped, detained and tortured. MADRE learned of the attack on Alaa Nabil from our partner organization, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Alaa Nabil and OWFI believe the men who carried out the attacks to be Iraqi security agents. Today, MADRE and OWFI sent an official letter to the Iraqi government condemning the attacks and calling for action to protect Iraqis against such human rights violations.

On March 23, Alaa Nabil was kidnapped from the area around his residence by men who transported him to an unknown location. They forced him to face a wall, and they beat, kicked and whipped him with hoses and cables on his back and his arms. Before releasing him, the men issued direct death threats against him and against his activist colleagues, saying, "We will cut your tongues, you and your organizing colleagues, Firas Ali, Suad Shwaili, and Falah Alwan, if you dare to reach Al Tahrir Square. And if you insist on continuing this work, we will shoot each one of you and throw you where your bodies cannot be found."

Yanar Mohammed, Director of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, said today, "The kidnapping and torture of Alaa Nabil are a violation of his human rights and a violent attack on legitimate calls for democracy in Iraq. Through weeks of protests, I joined Alaa in our demonstrations calling for jobs, for justice and for our human rights, and I stand with him now."

Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director, said today, "In organizing pro-democracy protests, Alaa Nabil exercises internationally recognized human rights that the Iraqi government is legally obligated to uphold, yet he has been tortured and his life threatened. Iraqis have joined with people across the region calling for democracy, and they have been met by repression at the hands of their government, which is heavily supported by the US. We join with our partners in Iraq in raising our voices to denounce the attacks and death threats against Alaa Nabil."

To read the letter submitted by MADRE and OWFI to Iraqi officials, click
here.

The following people are available for comment:

Yanar Mohammed, Director of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), co-founded OWFI after the US invasion in 2003. She set up a series of shelters that served as an underground railroad for women escaping the violence and death threats that escalated dramatically during the occupation.

Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization. Yifat has worked extensively with women's human rights activists from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa to create programs in their communities to address violence against women, economic development, climate change, and armed conflict.

###

For more information about MADRE, visit our website at www.madre.org.
 
Meanwhile Denise Natali (Foreign Policy) also weighs in on the ongoing protests:
Nuri al-Maliki also assured that the opposition would remain localized by keeping the protestors away from each other. During the demonstrations, for instance, he controlled communication services and set up road blocks so that protestors had to walk about five kilometers to reach the central square in Baghdad. These measures may not have deterred the demonstrations, but they shifted them to outlying localities. Residents in Basra, Fallujah, and Ramadi overthrew their provincial governments and burned down public buildings. Gunmen in Tikrit attacked their local government and took hostages. In Anbar, the sheikhs seek to remove the governor, provincial council chairman and operations centers commander.
The unrest has had political fallout in Baghdad. Maliki's power base has been further undermined as Ayad Allawi and Moqtada al-Sadr have threatened to withdraw support from the government. Even some members of Maliki's State of Law party have distanced themselves from the prime minister by forming a 'White Block" in parliament and calling for Maliki's resignation if the situation does not improve in 100 days. Developing alongside these political rifts is the strengthening of the position of Ayatollah al-Sistani, who has taken credit for the non-violent nature of the demonstrations without really having been involved in them. 
As expected, Maliki has responded by trying to control and appease his challengers. While clamping down on protestors, he has promised political reforms and strengthened the state's distributive function through increased allocation of revenues for public goods and services.  Furthermore, he has attempted to co-opt western Sunni Arab tribes by negotiating an amnesty with the "Jihad Reform Group", an ensemble of five Iraqi resistance groups based in Syria. The tribe's perception (and distrust) of Maliki as a Shi'a with Iranian backing, as well as its lucrative trade along the border area, will hinder Maliki's effort to draw Sunni Arab tribes back into the state and to undermine Ayad Allawi's tribal support base. And even though Maliki has licensed the Sadrists' "Sit in against Occupiers" demonstration planned for April 9, he needs to assure that the event does not become violent or further erode his fragile government.
 
At the New York Times, the paper can't find the protests already noted today; however, they can go to town for Ahmad Chalabi.  Maybe Tim Arango's attempting to show how Chalabi continues to attempt to spin. Chalabi wants to be Minister of the Interior.  So many people don't want him to be.  He's using unrest in Bahrain to try to make himself appear in touch with 'the people.'  And insisting -- as Arango sketches out -- that a near 100% Shi'ite is a mixed turnout.  Arango is incorrect when he refers to the Parliament's ten day vacation/holiday as "Parliament briefly suspended its work to protest the Bahrain's crackdown" He's incorrect because ten days is significant.  The ten days off came after the body had grandstanded that they were going to put Iraq first and therefore were cancelling their April vacation. It also came when Nouri's one-hundred days 'till reform kicked off.  Using a tenth of those reform days is not "briefly."  The Speaker of Parliament, Osama al-Nujafi has repeatedly denied it was a vacation or holiday.
 
In rather striking news, Reuters reports that the number of people killed in Iraq (Iraqi "civilians, police and soldiers") "rose in March" and uses a Ministry of Health count of 136.  However, that number is a huge undercount.
 
Let's review, March 1st 1 person was reported killed.  March 2nd 5 people were reported dead and twenty-nine injured.  March 3rd 11 were reported dead and twenty-six injured.  March 5th 5 people were reported dead and nineteen wounded.  March 6th 21 were reported dead and twenty-six wouned.  March 7th 2 were reported dead, two were reported wounded.  March 8th 4 dead and seven wounded.  March 9th 5 were reported dead and ten wounded.  March 10th 10 were reported dead and twenty-two injured.  March 11th 7 dead and eleven injured.  March 12th three were reported injured.  March 13th 17 were reported dead and seventeen injured.  March 14th 14 were reported dead and forty-two injured.  March 15th 1 was reported dead and seventeen injured.  March 16th 1 person was reported dead and thirty-three injured. March 17th 5 were reported dead and fourteen injured. March 18th 2 dead and one injured. March 19th  11 were reported dead and twenty-four injured. March 20th 2 were reported dead and fifteen injured.  March 21st 7 were reported dead and fifteen wounded.  March 22nd 4 were reported dead and thirteen injured. March 23rd 6 were reported dead and twenty-five injured.  March 24th 2 were reported dead and three were reported wounded and -1 on dead because Maj Gen Ahmed Obeidi was reported dead the day before but was alive.  March 25th 9 were reported dead and thirty-four injured. March 26th 3 were reported dead and five injured.  March 27th 12 were reported dead and sixteen injured.  March 28th 20 were reported dead and fifty-two injured.  March 29th 60 were reported dead and one-hundred-and-three injured. March 31st 7 were reported dead and thrity-one injured. Check my math but that comes to 251 reported dead and 615 reported injured.  Those deaths include everything but US service members.  So 251.  And that's an undercount.  All the deaths are not reported and all deaths reported don't get noted in the snapshot.
 
Alsumaria TV reports the death toll given by the Ministries of Defense, Health and Interior is 247 with 370 injured.  Iraq Body Count does the numbers and finds "287 CIVILIANS KILLED" in the month of March.  Reuters publishing 136 is laughable.  It's all the more laughable when you note this sentence from the report: "Many of the deaths in March were the result of an attack on Tuesday on the provincial council of Salahuddin in Tikrit" -- we counted 58 for that (some counts were 60 and higher but for our 251 for the month, we only counted 58).  Subtract 58 from 136 and you end up with 78.  Reuters, which does a daily count of violence, seriously thought only 78 people were killed on all the other days this month?  Seriously?
 
If you think that means Iraq gets attention from the media, you don't know Diane Rehm.  Each Friday, The Diane Rehm Show offers an hour of discussion on domestic news in the first hour and an hour of discussion on foreign news in the second hour.  If you set aside Nadia Bilbassy's two brief sentences on February 25th ("There was demonstration in Iraq. There was two people dead in Iraq today, in Baghdad and in Basra.") as she went over demonstrations in the Middle East, current events in Iraq have not been discussed since January 21st when CNN's Elise Labott was asked about Iraq by Diane. Today continued Diane's pattern of silence.
 
Grasp, please, that TEN FRIDAYS IN A ROW have found Diane and her guests (or substitute host Susan Page and her guests) ignoring Iraq on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show.  Violence has increased, US service members have died in Iraq during this time.  Protests have taken place.  Journalists have been beaten  by Nouri's security forces.  This week alone provincial council offices in Tikrit were turned into a hostage scene in which US forces and Iraqi forces stormed in but didn't manage to save anyone and at least 58 people died. Nouri spent all of February denying Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) Human Rights Watch's documentation of the secret prison forces under his immediate command were in charge of.  That lie would continue until March 15th -- at which point, oops-we-do-have-a-secret-prison!  None of that was news to Diane and her guests.  None of it merited discussion. 
 
To listen to The Diane Rehm Show's international hour for the last ten Fridays was to think Iraq must have fallen off the face of the earth and, certainly, the war had ended.  Those who sold the Iraq War probably should be working overtime to pay their debt off.
 
March 3, 2003, Diane could talk about the financial cost of a potential Iraq War, but not about the human costs. Gordon Adams and Loren Thompson were her guests.  And Loren Thompson -- of a think tank that's really a lobbyist for the defense industry -- sure did pop up a lot as a guest on Diane's show during the lead up to the Iraq War, didn't he?  Such as January 21, 2003.  She'd return to "economic implications" February 3rd. Or how about the laughable January 13, 2003 episode billed as an hour on the anti-war movement but included David Corn who was Red-baiting A.N.S.W.E.R. and countless others during that time period.  Corn -- opposed to the illegal war but more strongly opposed to the peace movement -- got to be a guest many times -- March 7th, for example.  March 17th, she had Robert Kagan as one of her guests.  Making the case for war.  Somehow, Diane 'forgot' to inform her listeners that Kagan's wife was working for Dick Cheney.  Conflict of interest?  Not to Diane.  How about February 6, 2003 when Colin Powell's lies (The Blot) to the United Nations was 'analyzed' by War Hawk Ruth Wedgwood (Johns Hopkins University, of course) and cave-boi David Corn who insisted, "I give him credit, a very good case from a p.r. aspect."  "Far more concrete evidence about these deceptions," Corn insisted were provided by Powell.  He couldn't call it out.  He could raise a few questions but he couldn't (try "wouldn't") call it out.  So you had a weak and uninformed David Corn making a weak, kind of case sort of against the war and War Hawk Ruth Wedgwood insisting that the case was made.  Thanks, Dave, you really went out on a limb there, didn't you?  Ruth Wedgwood can declare the case has been made and David Corn's idea of offering a 'rousing' refutation was to say, "The question still is what do you do about it?"  He repeatedly accepted the premise in his own remarks.  (He cited, for example, one person who questioned Powell's presentation in the Washington Post. But in his own remarks he found Powell convincing.  Again, thanks, David Corn, for nothing.)  Contrast Corn's weak-ass garbage with Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! of the same day Phyllis Bennis "there were no smoking guns, but a lot of smoke and mirrors."  Even in headlines, the spin wasn't being accepted the way Corn did on The Diane Rehm Show (which airs several hours later than Democracy Now!).  From that day's opening headline.
 
Amy Goodman: But much of the Powell -- much of the evidence Powell presented is impossible to verify.  Powell's speech was peppered with assertions like "Our sources tell us" or "we know that . . . "  Defectors and detainees were not named.  
 
Goodman's first segment after headlines was the seventy-plus minute speech Powell gave to the United Nations.  Phyllis Bennis and James Paul were the guest offering analysis.  (From Iraq, Jeremy Scahill offered the response from Iraq's government.)  Via telephone, As'ad Abukhalil noted that the original Arabic recordings -- which Powell was translating to the UN -- "the translations are not really that good."  the original Arabic is far more general and could mean a lot of things. By contrast, for Diane and her guests, the original Arabic meant only what Powell said it did.
 
The Iraq War hasn't ended.  And every Friday, US citizen Diane Rehm has a whole hour to discuss world events but doesn't feel that the US war in Iraq is worthy of discussion -- for ten weeks now (that includes today), she's felt that way.  It's going to be fun to watch Ann monitor the show to point out Diane's huge gender imbalance among guests.
 
 
In some of today's reported violence, which Diane also couldn't be bothered with though it was all in the news cycle before her show went live,  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Falluja suicide bombing has claimed the life of the bomber plus that of "at least three Iraqi soldiers." Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that at least six people were injured (and identifies one of the dead as "a passer-by" as well as 2 Iraqi soldiers) and that the suicide bomber passed for "a street cleaner". Reuters states all 3 dead are Iraqi military and notes one man was shot dead in Mosul and a Mosul grenade attack injured two people.
 
 
Meanwhile Al Mada reports rumors that Nouri al-Maliki is planning to alter the political scene in Iraq and create "a majority government." What is public is that Sabi al-Issawi attempted to resign as the Secretary of Baghdad but Nouri al-Maliki refused to allow it, Al Mada reports. Al Rafidayn adds this was the second time al-Issawi has attempted to resign.
 
 
Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.
 
 
 

Suicide bombing in Falluja, protest in Baghdad

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Falluja suicide bombing has claimed the life of the bomber plus that of "at least three Iraqi soldiers" today. Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that at least six people were injured (and identifies one of the dead as "a passer-by" as well as 2 Iraqi soldiers) and that the suicide bomber passed for "a street cleaner". Reuters states all 3 dead are Iraqi military and notes one man was shot dead in Mosul and a Mosul grenade attack injured two people.

It's Friday which means protests in Baghdad.

baghdad

The Great Iraq Revolution reports Iraqi security forces attempted to disperse protesters. As usual and, as usual, barbed wire is roped around to stop mobility and hinder access and the press are being harassed. And they report protests took place in Falluja and in Sulaymaniya.

At the Los Angeles Times, the Carnegie Endwoment for International Peace's scholar Maria Fantappie weighs in on Iraq noting:

While the protests in Iraq may not threaten an entire leadership, they could shift the balance of power within the ruling coalition. With both promises and targeted public policies in southern Iraq, the Sadrists could infiltrate Maliki’s strongholds -- especially Basra and Baghdad -- consolidate their popular support there, and increase their pull within the new government, most likely at the expense of Maliki’s State of Law coalition. As a result, the Sadrists could regain politically what they lost militarily in the 2007 Battle of Basra to Maliki-affiliated armed forces and emerge as a key player in the government.
During the protests, the Sadrists lobbied for the resignation of several State of Law governors and high-ranking officials in Baghdad and Basra, accusing Maliki’s administration of being lax in combating corruption. This move may turn the Sadrists from an indispensable ally for Maliki’s reelection into his chief competition. Maliki already seems to be avoiding alienating the Kurds over the issue of Kirkuk, possibly to secure them as an alternative ally.
The winners of this period of social unrest will be those who heed the call of the Iraqi street, and hold the potential to respond at the local level. The Sadrists have a golden opportunity to overshadow their past as a sectarian militia and recast themselves as populist policy makers who are receptive to the people’s demands. Whether they do so remains to be seen.

Meanwhile Al Mada reports rumors that Nouri al-Maliki si planning to alter the political scene in Iraq and create "a majority government." What is public is that Sabi al-Issawi attempted to resign as the Secretary of Baghdad but Nouri al-Maliki refused to allow it, Al Mada reports. Al Rafidayn adds this was the second time al-Issawi has attempted to resign.

We'll close with this from Michael Ratner's "To Hell with the Constitution: Obama Goes To War" (Just Left):

How is it that Congress isn’t screaming at President Obama for usurping its power to take this nation to war against Libya? (Even Bushes #41 and #43 had their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq authorized.) And if Congress isn’t screaming, then why aren’t we? We should be. The power to make war impacts us all: it kills, it costs our dwindling treasury, and it has serious consequences.

Those are just some of the reasons why the Constitution doesn’t allow the president to make the decision to go to war unilaterally — a fact that Obama, himself a former constitutional law professor, knows full well. If fact, when candidate Obama was asked if the president could bomb Iran without authority from Congress, he categorically responded: “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

Candidate Obama’s letter perfect response reveals precisely how well he understands the framers’ fear of giving the power to initiate war to the president. As James Madison, principal author of the Constitution wrote, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature.” Consequently, Article 1, section 8, cl. 11 states that Congress and only Congress can authorize the use of military force against another country. It makes no difference whether it’s called war or a “military action” — Obama’s term for the attack on Libya.

Some have argued that it would have made little difference for Obama to have asked for authority — that Congress would have approved the war anyway. Whether or not that’s true, it’s not the point. Had Obama gone to Congress there would have been the kind of public debate that’s necessary in any country that calls itself a democracy.





The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.
























Yocum continues marching, New Jersey National Guard moves to cut aid to service members and veterans

army_mil-73865-2010-05-19-060544

(Troy Yocum photo taken by John Crosby)


Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. He began the walk last April with the plan of 7,000 miles. Jeff Daley (WDAM) reports "Troy Yocum arrived at Camp Shelby" yesterday and he has so far raised issues and awareness as well as $170,000. He tells Daley, "I figured that I needed to do something to help so I started drawing maps and basically came up with the idea to walk from town to town, city to city across America to spread awareness about these issues and raise as much funds as possible and help as many families as possible." Jeremy Pittari (Picayune Item) reports on Troy's visit Tuesday to Picayune:


“I think the most important step taken was the first step,” Yocum said.
Recently veterans have faced tough financial situations in addition to post traumatic stress disorder and a poor economy, which have all combined to create an environment where the veteran suicide rate is so bad that it has broken records over the past three years, Yocum said.
Yocum is not alone in his adventure. His wife, Mareike, whom he married only 256 miles into the hike last year, and their two dogs are also along for the hike. Yocum said his wife has been instrumental to his success.
“I could not do this hike across America without her,” Yocum said.

While Troy Yocum tries to help, others aren't so concerned. Take the news from New Jersey. Jim Dolan (WABC) reports that the all volunteer Teaneck Armory is being shut down by the National Guard:

The New Jersey National Guard Armory is enormous, but there's apparently not enough room for a tiny pantry that provides free food for service members and families who can't afford to buy it.
The Guard says they don't need it anymore.
"There is a need, when people are calling me in the middle of the night saying, 'Look, I know the pantry is closed, but I need something,' and we're able to fill that need," said Minnie Hiller-Cousins, the pantry manager.

In nearby Pennsylvania, Iraq War veteran Jeff Key takes his play The Eyes of Babylon to the Bristol Riverside Theatre in Bristol for performances tonight and tomorrow night (8:00 pm) with a 2:00 pm matinee Saturday and a 3:00 pm matinee Sunday. Ted Otten (Trenton Times) speaks with Key and has more details about the performance.

The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out -- updated last night and this morning:



Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.














thomas friedman is a great man






oh boy it never ends
















Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Hate The War

Mike Shuster gets called out for factually incorrect reporting in today's snapshot. An angry visitor e-mails the public account and insists, "You complain about the lack of coverage and when NPR reports you just rip them apart."

NPR didn't report. Reporting is fact based. Shuster maintains in his 'report' that Kirkuk has never held an election for the governor. The day before he filed that report, Reuters, Alsumaria, AP and many, many others were reporting on the fact that a new governor had just been elected in . . . Kirkuk. How do you miss that?

I noted that Kirkuk is an issue that people see bias in. I noted that I've been criticized and that it's made me very careful about how I handle the issue. Back in 2004 and 2005, I was less so. I assumed a position stated once was known. It wasn't. So I have repeatedly stated -- over and over -- that, as an American, it is not my job or my country's job to determine who gets Kirkuk. That is a matter to be resolved in Iraq without foreign command. The 2005 Constitution ended the matter. Unless or until the a Constitutional amendment repeals Article 140, how the issue is to be resolved is a matter of accepted law and that law must be used.

For some stupid reason, the United Nations is doing rule of law workshops in Iraq currently while at the same time insisting that a deal can be reached on Kirkuk by bringing the parties together and bargaining. There's nothing to bargain about. The law is very clear. Kirkuk is to be decided by the steps outlined in Article 140 of Iraq's Constitution. To disregard that is to disregard the law.

Though Kirkuk is not one of the main issues at this site, it is the issue we get the most e-mail on. To this day. Outside of Iraq, everyone thinks they know who should have Kirkuk, apparently. And everyone thinks they know how it should be decided. None of them cite the law, for some strange reason (maybe they all work for UNAMI?). Of that group, I am repeatedly accused (to this day) of favoring one side or the other. (I will freely admit that Turkmen and other minorities in Kirkuk are short changed by me and that's because I know, ahead of time, when we address the issue here, I better be clear on the Arab issue and on the Kurdish issue or expect waves and waves of e-mails.)

Though Shuster arrived in Iraq only a little while ago, he is a seasoned reporter and had a few thoughts on Iraq over the course of the war. It should not come as a surprise to him that, when he reports on Kirkuk, his reporting will be weighed. It should be.

His report was factually incorrect in numerous ways including his refusal to note that Kirkuk had just elected a governor and including the the protest in a city he mentioned (Hawija), took place in a city in the province of Kirkuk and that the protest included loud calls for Article 140 to be eliminated -- meaning that the protest was anti-Kurdish.

I think, due to the scope of his story, that once including the Kurds claim that al Qaeda in Iraq was seeking to disrupt Kirkuk in February, he was required to note that the Iraqi army boasted at the start of February (I believe this was February 9th but do your own research) that they had captured 2 al Qaeda in Iraq operatives in Hawija. The report suggests that Kurds are lying. As I noted in the snapshot, they may be or they may not be. I tend to be skeptical of all the claims that al Qaeda in Iraq is to blame for every moment of violence. But if you're going to include that claim of deception on the parts of Kurds (I believe the report takes that point of view and does not just quote others claiming the Kurds are lying), you need to note that the Iraqi military -- not the peshmerga -- announced they captured al Qaeda in Iraq operatives in Hawija.

It is very one-sided.

I do want more coverage of Iraq. But I don't want factually incorrect coverage. In terms of this site, we can survive just on the Arab media. That's already been demonstrated as the world press ran to Egypt, then to Japan and then to Libya. Every time a friend (in the press) says, "You're going to have to expand your focus," I say we're not and, thus far, that's been the case. We're not dependent upon whether or not, for example, the New York Times files a report from Iraq that week.

Even if that wasn't the case, I would never endorse coverage that is misleading.

The e-mailer writes, "You really live to rip apart the MSM." Really? I live to do that?

A reporter was killed Tuesday in Tikrit. In that day's snapshot, it was noted. I bit my tongue on one aspect. The next morning, when I clearly should have raised an issue, I put it off again telling myself I just didn't have the energy required to be the bitch I needed to be that morning.

So let me raise it now and grasp how much I do sit on.

A reporter died. Sabah al-Bazi (also spelled "al-Bazee") was among the many killed in Tikrit.

We quoted his colleagues. We did not quote his bosses.

There's a reason.

Were we to quote any of his employers, it would have been Al-Arabiya. They're an Iraqi outlet.

In 2004, a paper (US) covered Iraq. They no longer do so. Shortly after this site started, an Iraqi stringer e-mailed this site. He was very offended by a number of things in terms of his employment. (He's not the only stringer to have e-mailed. Many of the New York Times' stringers have e-mailed over the years and they are among the reasons that we loudly called out John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins.) He had every right to be. I was appalled to read how much he was being paid. That was not a human wage and I confronted friends on the paper's editorial board about that. He and other stringers saw a bump in pay. They should have.

But when you read the New York Times and others rushing to quote, for example, Reuters management, your first question should have been how much was al-Bazi being paid?

Do you really think it's normal for someone to work for CNN and Reuters? While also working for an Iraqi TV station? Only the TV station has an excuse. Reuters and CNN have a lot of money to spare. It's a shame neither felt the need to add him on staff. It's even sadder that, to survive, he was forced to work full time for a TV station and free lance for two Western outlets who clearly did not pay him market value.

With few exceptions, most Western reporters don't go out and see with their own eyes when 'reporting' on Iraq. Dexter has admitted that himself -- never in print, but in numerous public appearances. They are dependent upon the stringers. The stringers risk their lives. It's a shame that even though many Western outlets would have had no Iraqi coverage from 2006 on without stringers, the true value of the stringer is not appreciated as evidenced by the low pay.

We quoted al-Bazi's collegues. I purposely ignored comments by management. I also think it's appalling the way the death was covered in the Western media outside of CNN. But I bit my tongue and, believe it or not, I do that more often than not.

For example, I would love to never have to critique a report from the New York Times again. I've done that repeatedly. Life moves on, I'd like to with it. But when, as happened this week, six women who are killed are accused of being prostitutes in the official paper, the paper of record for the US, and they are accused of this by malicious and unverified gossip, I'm going to weigh in.

If you're happy with Mike Shuster's reporting from Iraq, I would argue you haven't paid attention to it or you don't know enough about Iraq to grasp how often he has abused or ignored facts. And if NPR would do their own job, such as airing corrections to his reports or Alicia Shepherd weighing in, I wouldn't have to point out the problems. The fact that the problems are getting on the air is not about me being a bitch (though I won't deny or apologize or fret over that term), it's about the problems at NPR. If a governor is elected in a province and a day later Shuster's reporting that the province has never elected a governor, NPR has a serious problem. Shuster's only part of it. The more serious problem is where in the NPR matrix did the person who should have caught Shuster's error fall asleep on the job and allow it to air.



It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last week, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4441. Tonight it is [PDF format warning] 4444. That number should include a US soldier who was home and receiving medical attention from wounds in Iraq but passed away this month. Another digit may have been added due to the fact that, for some unexplained reason, this month it fell back from 4442 to 4441. Those two would take it to 4443.




The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.