Thursday, May 10, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri has plenty of money to spend on some things (none apparently on basic services), Nouri targets academia again, the political crisis continues, a meet-up excludes Nouri, Josh Rogin expose the White House spin on the release of a prisoner suspected of killing 5 US service members, and more.
Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq still can't provide more than six hours of electricity a day or potable water in most parts of the country but Al Mada reports the government has announced they will spend $50 million over the next three years to launch a satellite into space. According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Communications' Amir al-Bayati the government seems to see itself in a satellite competition with Israel. While Nouri frets over satellites, he still can't provide needed sanitation. Alsumaria reports that a Karbala garbge dump borders residential areas resulting in people being exposed to waste and fumes and to disease and germs. Dr. Ahmed Haidari states he is seeing respiratory issues -- including some breathing problems -- as well as skin and eye issues. Residents complain that the smell is akin to that of rotting corpses. As Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) observes, "Iraq's economic story after more than four decades of dictatorship and almost nine years of US occupation is a contradictory one of oil boom heavy debts and chronic problems with basic services."
Meanwhile Kitabat reports on an art exhibit in Amman, Jordan which focuses on Iraqi refugees and how the International Organization for Migration's Mike Bellinger hopes the exhibit will bring attention to the continued Iraqi refugee crisis. The Iraq War created the largest refugee crisis in the MidEast since 1948. Millions have been displaced internally, millions have left the country. Concerns over the crisis really began with the ethnic cleansing of 2006 and 2007; however, the term "brain drain" had already been in use for years by then and referred to the Iraqi professionals who fled the country due to direct threats as well as the violence. This resulted in what Dr. Souad al-Azzawi (Beyond Educide) has termed "educide" ("a composite of education and genocide to refer to the genocide of the educated segments of the Iraqi society") and Dr. al-Azzawi notes:
During the American occupation of Iraq, well-trained professors, often graduates of highly qualified American or European universities, were replaced by pro-occupation young freshly graduated faculty members. This policy is pursued with grimness by the current puppet government. Educide is still going on. The minister of high education Ali Aladeeb turned the Iraqi universities into sectarian show-offs. No real attendance of classes, no real learning and teaching processes, and no real scientific advancements. All what he cares about is turning Iraqi universities and youth into sectarian institutes that look like Iranian regime revolutionaries.
And it continues. Dr. Souad al-Azzawi (Beyond Educide) explains last week Nouri ordered the arrest of Baghdad College of Economical Sciences' Professor Muhammad Taqa who has been in his post since 1996 and is widely published and the author of six books. Professor Taqa was born in Mosul in 1948, received his doctorate in economics in Germany and is a member of the Iraqi Economics Society and the Union of Arab Economists. All Iraqi News notes that the political movement Iraqiya has decried the arrest and quotes spokesperson Khadija al-Wa'ily stating, "The Movement warned from the arbitrary arrests according to malicious charges which means that the democracy is no longer available and replaced by the dictatorship. The Professor, Mohammed Taqa was arrested by a military force which is considered as evidence on the governmental terrorism where the terrorists must be arrested rather than the national figures such as Taqa." Azzaman reports that "both students and legislators" have protested the arrest and the news outlet notes, "No reasons are given for the arrest and the security forces who stormed his office are declining comments." MP Abdudhiyab al-Ujaili heads Parliament's Higher Education Commission and he notes, "The arrest of Professor Taqa is a slap in the face of our efforts to persuade academics who fled the country to return home. There was even no warrant or order by the judicial authorities to carry out the arrest." Today at Beyond Educide, an Iraqi professor explains how the academic system is being destroyed by the government:
The most important indications of the higher education collapse could be generally summarized as follows: 1- The most significant indication is assigning the Ministry of Higher Education to a person who has no academic qualifications, whose feet never stepped in campus, only after he was appointed as a minister. This appointment was not based on any skill or efficiency, rather on being a member of the governing political party, and on his Iranian origin (his mother for example does not speak Arabic), and on being Shiite. Of course there is nothing wrong with being of this or that origin, or being from this or that sectarian group, but this identity has become an exclusive passport for anyone to assume any (high) position, especially for none Iraqis. 2- Academic, scientific and administrative positions in public universities are assigned and shared according to sectarian affiliations, not expertise or efficiency. All the universities' presidents and faculties' deans are from a specific sectarian group; and their academic and administrative assistants are from other group in order to achieve a supposedly balanced share in power positions. Thus the criterion for appointment is not academic, but exclusively sectarian. 3- Admissions in universities are again based on sectarian affiliation, especially in post graduate studies. Norms of admission that are based on academic record are totally neglected, and exceptions have become the rule. In addition to that, channels of admission are numerous now: seats for political prisoners of the previous regime, seats for families of the martyrs(1) , seats for graduates of religious schools in Iran, seats for deserters during the Iraqi-Iranian war who sought refuge in Iran (the latter were rewarded pieces of land and 10 million Iraqi dinars- more than $10.000). What remains of seats are assigned to what is called "special" admission, which means those who pay higher and who are admitted outside the rules that are based on academic record. What remains of seats, if at all, are assigned to "real" students who compete on honest rules of marks and academic reports. The result of all these discriminations is that opportunities are given to those who do not deserve them, and are normally not interested in academic research, while serious students are deprived. 4- There is also a familiar criterion now, which is (exception from rules) in other areas, apart from the exceptional admission. For example: transfer from one university to another, or transfer from one specialization to another(2) . To explain this point I tell you the following story that took place to me personally: A person came to me asking that his nephew be transferred from X University to another one. I apologized saying that: we all know that this is impossible, because transferring a student from (an academically) lesser to a higher university is not allowed according to the rules, and advised him to look for another college that admits his nephew's academic degree (marks). Few days later, the uncle came back to me saying (sarcastically): "so you are a well known professor but you could not do such a 'small' thing. I told the butcher in our neighborhood about this story, and he just made a call by his mobile, and my nephew is immediately transferred to the college of Administration and Economics". May be this story can tell about the collapse of the whole system. 5- The public universities are "distributed" between the political parties who control, make decisions and admit students in them. Baghdad University for example is allocated to the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq, while Al-Mustansiriah U. is allocated to the Sadr Group. The Nehrein U. (which was one of the most prestigious academic institutions) is allocated to Al-Da'wa party that totally destroyed it.
Those are five of 14 examples. And so it goes in Nouri's Iraq, where everything crumbles and collapses including justice -- even if so many Western outlets 'forget' to inform the world of what's taking place. Kitabat reports that the trial against Tareq al-Hashemi that was supposed to start last Thursday but was then postponed to this Thursday has been postponed to next Tuesday. This delay is said to be due to an appeal Hashemi's attorneys have filed to move the case from the Criminal Court to the Federal Court. Currently al-Hashemi is in Turkey. Al Rafidayn notes that he has the support of the Turkish government. Alsumaria reports that a number of Iraqi politicians and triabal leaders protested outside the Turksih consulate to lodge their demand that Turkey hand Tareq al-Hashemi over to Baghdad. That's not at all surprising or reflective of anything. In the 2010 elections, with over 800,000 voters, Basra awarded almost two-thirds of their seats (14) to Nouri's State of Law (al-Hashemi's Iraqiya won only 3 seats in the province). The Journal of Turkish Weekly quotes Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stating, "We gave him all kinds of support on this issue and we will continue to do so." Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag is quoted stating, "We would not hand in someone who we support." Press TV reports Nouri "lashed out at his Turkish counterpart, saying Erdogan's remarks did not show 'mutual respect'." Nouri's not thrilled with Turkey's response to the red alert so he took time out from terrorizing academics to make a little statement.
The Journal of Turkish Weekly actually explains the INTERPOL Red Notice posted about Tareq al-Hashemi, "Sources said that red notices were based on national warrants, and published at the request of a member state as long as the request did not violate Interpol regulations. Sources noted that red bulletin was not an international warrant of arrest, adding that there was not a certain verdict about al-Hashemi. Sources stressed that al-Hashemi was still the vice president of Iraq and he had diplomatic immunity."
Al Mada reports that the National Alliance held a meeting yesterday that they self-described as important and that they state was part of their efforts to resolve the country's political crisis; however, State of Law was not invited to the meet-up. The National Alliance is a Shi'ite grouping. Among the members are the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (Ammar al-Hakim is the leader), Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, the National Reform Trend (Ibrahim al-Jaafari is the leader), the Bard Organization (Hadi al-Amir is the leader) and the Iraqi National Congress (led by Ahmed Chalabi). The National Alliance backed Nouri al-Maliki for prime minister in 2010. Nouri's political slate was State of Law. It came in second in the March 2010 elections. Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, came in first. Eight months of gridlock followed those elections (Political Stalemate I) as a result of Nouri refusing to honor the Constitution and his belief that -- with the backing of Iran and the White House -- he could bulldoze his way into a second term. The Erbil Agreement allowed Political Stalemate I to end. Nouri's refusal to honor the agreement created the ongoing Political Stalemate II. Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq" (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) notes the events since mid-December as well as what kicked off Political Stalemate II:
Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements. Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence. The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed. The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government. Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.
The Erbil Agreement allowed Nouri to have a second term as prime minister. That was a concession other political blocs made. In exchange, Nouri made concessions as well. These were written up and signed off on. But once Nouri got his second term, he refused to honor the Erbil Agreement. Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds have been calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr joined that call. As last month drew to a close, there was a big meet-up in Erbil with various political blocs participating. Nouri al-Maliki was not invited. Among those attending were KRG President Massoud Barzani, Ayad Allawi, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Since December 21st, Talabani and al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national convention to resolve the political crisis.
Nouri spent the first two months dismissing the need for one, arguing that it shouldn't include everyone, arguing about what it was called, saying it should just be the three presidencies -- that would Jalal Talabani, Nouri al-Maliki and Osama al-Nujaifi -- and offering many more road blocs. As March began, Nouri's new excuse was that it had to wait until after the Arab League Summit (March 29th). The weekend before the summit, Talabani forced the issue by announcing that the convention would be held April 5th. Nouri quickly began echoing that publicly. However, April 4th it was announced the conference was off. Nouri's State of Law took to the press to note how glad they were about that.
Today, Alsumaria reports that Nouri al-Maliki is stating that a national meet-up is necessary to resolve the issues and that this cannot be done via backdoor deals or under the table agreements. He declared the Constitution dead and said that it needs to be revived. He also argues that he is all for a meet up but others have something to hide and they are attempting to prevent a meeting. Nouri also claims that he is looking for a real partnership.
Earlier this week, Nouri al-Maliki announced that every home in Iraq could have one pistol or one rifle. Alsumaria reports that State of Law MP Shirwan Waeli is questioning the wisdom of the decision and stating State of Law shouldn't be giving legitimacy to arming people and that, futhermore, it suggests that the government is unable to protect Iraqis so it is now the direct responsibility of the citizens to protect themselves. Supporters argue that the move was an attempt to limit guns and that the one-gun rule will greatly reduce the number of firearms in each home. Alsumaria notes that objections to Nouri's one-gun policy are also coming from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Kurdistan Alliance. Ala Talabani, spokesperson for the Kurdistan Alliance, spoke publicly today about the issue and declared that they fear making each household register their one gun with the nearest police station in their areas will provide temptation for corruption. Talabani also states that they fear the rule could lead to an increase in so-called 'honor' killings as well as an increase in domestic violence.
In today's reported violence, AFP reports that 7 corpses were discovered between Fallujah and Ramadi ("all handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head").
In Mosul, Alsumaria reports, a woman who had issues with her husband has turned up dead and the assertion is that she hanged herself however an autopsy is being performed and no official cause of death has yet been declared.
Turning to the US, Tuesday the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on mental health care staffing.
Joy Ilem: We must stress the urgency of this commitment. Sadly, we have learned from our experiences in other wars, notably in the post-Vietnam period, that psychological reactions to combat exposure are not unusual: they are common. If they are not readily addressed at onset, they can easily compound and become chronic and lifelong. The costs mount in personal, family, emotional, medical, financial and social damage to those who have honorably served their nation, and to society in general. Delays or failures in addressing these problems can result in self-destructive acts, including suicide, job and family loss, incarceration and homelessness. Currently, we see the pressing need for mental health services for many of our returning war veterans, particularly early intervention services for substance-use disorder and evidence-based care for those with PTSD, depression and other consequences of combat exposure. As we have learned from experience, when failures occur, the consequences can be catastrophic. We have an opportunity to save a generation of veterans, and help them heal from war, but decisive action is essential.
In her prepared statement, Alethea Predeoux observed:
On April 25, 2012, the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee held a hearing entitled, "VA Mental Health Care: Evaluating Access and Assessing Care." During this hearing a veteran and former VA mental health professional testified that too often the VA mental health system places a burdensome emphasis on having staff meet numerical performance goals at the expense of providing veterans with the best care possible. PVA believes that VA leadership must make certain that policies and regulations are developed to provide safe, quality health services for veterans, without compromising the professional integrity of the qualified providers who deliver the care. VA policies must be pragmatic and attainable, and improve the delivery of care by creating benchmarks and measures that help assess strengths and weaknesses of health care services and delivery.
And from Joy Ilem's prepared remarks we'll note this:
The OIG conducted its own analysis and projected that in VHA only 49 percent of patients (versus 95 percent) received full evaluations, to include patient history, diagnosis, and treatment plan, within 14 days and for the remainder of patients, it took 50 days on average. Additionally, VHA could not always provide existing patients their treatment appointments within 14 days of their desired dates. DAV began an informal, anonymous online survey for veterans in December 2011, asking about their experience seeking and receiving VA mental health services. To date, nearly 1,050 veterans from all eras of service have responded to the survey, and our findings were close to those reported by the OIG on waiting times for follow up appointments. A complete report of DAV's survey results can be found on line at http://www.standup4vets.org. The OIG report also noted that several mental health providers whom inspectors interviewed had requested desired dates for patients for follow up care based on their personal schedule availabilities rather than the patients' requests, or based on observed clinical need in some cases. Likewise, VHA schedulers did not consistently follow VHA policy or procedures but scheduled return clinic appointments based on the next available appointment slots, while recording the patients' "desired" and actual dates as if they were compliant with VA policies. Since the OIG had found a similar practice in previous audits nearly seven years earlier, and given that VHA had not addressed the long-standing problem, OIG urged VHA to reassess its training, competency and oversight methods and to develop appropriate controls to collect reliable and accurate appointment data for mental health patients. The OIG concluded that the VHA "... patient scheduling system is broken, the appointment data is inaccurate and schedulers implement inconsistent practices capturing appointment information." These deficiencies in VHA scheduling system have been documented in numerous reports. After more than a decade, VA's Office of Information and Technology has still not completed development of a state-of-the-art scheduling system that can effectively manage the scheduling process or provide accurate tracking and reporting.
[. . .]
I must also report that many VA facility executives seem to tacitly support current bureaucratic practices in HR as a means to conserve facility funding and stretching health care budgets. Almost every VA facility operates a "resources committee" or similar function to examine every vacancy occurring and then to require selecting officials to justify in writing (and sometimes by making personal appearances and appeals before the Committee) why vacancies should be filled at all. This grueling process that constitutes a "soft freeze," can consume months, all the while allowing the facility to "save" the personal services funds that would have been paid in salary and benefits associated with those unencumbered positions. It is common practice for resource committees to deny authorization to fill mental health and substance positions, creating "ghost" positions that are listed in the Service FTEE allocations but can never be recruited. We understand that in many locations, the 1,600 newly allocated FTEE will not even be sufficient to fill these vacancies. We believe, certainly now in the face of inadequate mental health access, that such practices should be halted. With the massive and rising unmet needs being reported today, VA must become very sensitized and make every effort to quickly fill all mental health provider vacancies and their support staff positions as a high priority in HR offices. VHA Central Office and VA Medical Center leadership should be accountable to ensure that this occurs.
The second paragraph above, the one on "ghost positions," was explored in the questioning.
Chair Jeff Miller: Miss Ilem, I was struck in your testimony where you said it was a common practice for resource committees to deny authorization to fill mental health and substance positions creating ghost positions that are listed in the service FTEe allocations but can never be recruited and we understand that in many locations, the 1900 newly allocated FTEEs will not even be sufficient to fill these vacancies. Would you elaborate on the idea of ghost positions?
Joy Illem: Sure. You know as part of preparing for the hearing, we reach out to different mental health providers around the system and we feel that their input is extremely important. They're the people that are on the ground facing the challenges that they are. And these are just some of the information that a couple of folks have shared with us. And we've heard that repeatedly. In the independent budget, I know we've worked on some HR issues and asking, "What are these very long delays? Why is it taking so long?" And it seems to be maybe perhaps certain facilities because of budget -- budget concerns -- that is a way to delay hiring someone although it's an authorized position.
Chair Jeff Miller: I'd like to ask if any of you have heard reports that women whose combat experience is termed "unofficial" are being barred from group therapy sessions dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress because they are reserved for combat veterans? The first question, has it been brought to your attention? If so, do you think that VA needs to change the elegibility requirements for group therapy to include all patients diagnosed with combat related PTS? And I ask any of you who have heard of that, if you would comment. If you haven't, that's fine too.
Joy Ilem: have not heard that regarding women veterans specifically but certainly this has been an ongoing problem that we hear. There's a number of films that have brought to light the recognition or the lack of recognition that women are participating in combat or their exposure to combat is very -- is very real. And when they're coming back, they need the same type of services as male veterans. And often times we're told that "I'm not believed" or "They just don't understand. They just can't comprehend that as a woman I've been exposed to these, you know, realities of combat. So I think VA needs to work very hard and I know there's a number of ongoing research projects in women's health specifically about combat-related PTSD. I mean there's some small groups and ongoing research that we've been very closely monitoring. And we think that we're going to see more and more of that and that it absolutely has to be adjusted to accomodate women veterans as all veterans.
Chair Jeff Miller: Thank you. Miss Predeoux, have you heard that?
Alethea Predeoux: The same as my colleague Joy. It has not been reported to me but I've heard it through attending other sessions involving women veterans and if that is the case with regard to VA policy than I whole heartedly do think that the policy needs to be inclusive of all veterans regardless of gender and generation.
Chair Jeff Miller: Mr. Ibson.
Ralph Ibson: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I believe one of the responses we got in our surveys suggested that was the experience at that particular facility. I would not be able to represent that that was widespread, sir.
Ideally, we'll note the hearing again in tomorrow's snapshot. If so, the plan is to note a line of questioning US House Rep Timothy Walz pursued. This isn't that line but the brief exchange is worth noting.
US House Rep Timothy Walz: In this country there's 340 people for every medical doctor. There's 3400 for every psychologist or mental health practioner. We're graduating about 18,000 to 20,000 doctors per year -- and we're already experiencing a great shortage in general practioners. We're graduating about 4,000 psychologists. It's just impossible to keep up with those numbers. I think it goes back to what Ms. Brown and others were talking about, of how we build this model to collaborate to try and draw upon the resources that we have. There's both a shortage in the private sector and as well as the VA. My concern is, and I'll start with you Mr. Ibson, and maybe just ask each of you. I for one do believe there's an opportunity here to use some other people outside the system. I've seen it happen. I also know that one of the problems is how do we ensure that these providers are providing evidence based care and the outcomes that we want to see too? Because if we're going to ask the VA to take tax payer dollars and fund it out then we're going to be asked to be accountable for every penny of that just like we're doing today . How do we know that we're going to get the care there also if we have to draw upon outside resources? I don't know, Ralph, if you've had any thought on that or how that moves forward because I think -- I just don't see the numbers here for the ability on us to deliver care because there's just not that many mental health care providers for the need that's going to be there. We can't even keep our head above water and it's going to get worse.
Ralph Ibson: Well at the risk of ducking your question, I did want to observe the importance of your earlier emphasis and re-emphasis on outcomes because it is one thing that VA is not measuring. And given a department that's so committed to being a leader, this is an area where leadership is desperately needed in terms of developing measures of outcomes because utlimately -- utlimately having performance measures which-which give us indicators of inputs and through puts and numbers and percentages but don't tell us whether veterans are getting better are not going to advance -- are not going to advance our veterans well being.
Finally, Foreign Policy has a scoop. For background, US Senator Kelly Ayotte's office issued this statement earlier this week:
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today regarding an Iraqi court's ruling to release Ali Mussa Daqduq - a Hezbollah member who was transferred to Iraqi custody when U.S. forces withdrew last December:
"This confirms my fears that transferring Daqduq to Iraqi custody would result in his release. Daqduq is a member of Hezbollah who served as a key liaison with Iran. He trained Iraqi extremists who targeted U.S. troops, and he is suspected of planning the operation in 2007 that resulted in the deaths of five U.S. military personnel. If Daqduq is released, there is little doubt that he'll resume terrorist activities. This case highlights the need for a designated terrorist detention facility to detain, interrogate, and try foreign terrorists."
In addition to questioning senior Defense Department officials about Daqduq in Senate Armed Services Committee hearings last year, Senator Ayotte joined 19 other Senators in sending a letter to Secretary Panetta on July 21, 2011. The letter expressed the Senators' concerns that transferring Daqduq to Iraqi custody might result in his release and a return to terrorist activities.
This week Suadad-al Salhy, Patrick Markey and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) reported this morning, that Iraq's 'justice' system has cleared Ali Mussa Daqdug of all charges related to the "2007 kidnapping attack that killed five U.S. troops." what are we talking about? This was "the Special Groups network," US term, which later became the League of Righteous. For more on that, refer to [PDF format warning] Marisa Cochrane's "Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Khazali Special Groups Network" (Institute for the Study of War). The five Americans killed? They were last seriously reported on when US President Barack Obama released some of the alleged murderers of the 5 Americans to make England happy. That was back in June 9, 2009:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."
No one ever did answer for it and, as last year drew to a close, the last suspected murderer of the 5 Americans was released by the US military. Liz Sly and Peter Finn (Washington Post) reported on the US handing Ali Musa Daqduq over to the Iraqis:
He was transferred to Iraqi custody after the Obama administration "sought and received assurances that he will be tried for his crimes," according to Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington.
This week, Jack Healy and Charlie Savage (New York Times) reported, "Although military officials said he confessed freely and that his interrogation had not included any harsh techniques, his statements to American military interrogators would probably be deemed inadmissible in Iraqi court. But the Obama administration had hoped that he would instead face charges of illegally entering Iraq, a crime that could result in a 10-year prison sentence." And Kitabat reported that Nouri caved to pressure from Tehran and that's why the suspect was released. It's also noted that a number of US Senators were asking the White House not to turn Daqduq over to Iraq but to move him to Guantanamo or another facility. However, the White House insisted that they knew best and they had these assurances.
Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reports today on the White House spin effort to make the above seem normal. He does so via "the internal talking points prepared by the National Security Council and approved by Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough just yesterday."
Finally, on what the administration is doing now, the talking points say only, "As with other terrorists who have committed crimes against Americans, we will continue to pursue all legal means to ensure that he is punished for his crimes."
That's not going to be enough for the U.S. lawmakers and officials who are angry that the administration didn't figure out a way to keep Daqduq in U.S. custody [and are w]orried that he will return to the battlefield soon.