Friday, June 01, 2012

How to turn your back on an ally

How bad are things in Iraq?  NPR finally finds it for a fleeting moment.  Peter Kenyon shows up with a report today for Morning Edition (link will be audio shortly and a transcript will be up by this afternoon).

There are many problems with the report from a left perspective and from a journalistic one as well.  I'm going to waive Kenyon through on all that (and before a CPB friend calls -- when was this report filed, it wasn't filed today, it wasn't filed this week -- let's agree to just leave it at what I said about "many problems" and don't make me back them up because I can without breaking a sweat).  The reason being there is so little in the US on Iraq.  Once was a time Diane Rehm would squeeze in six or so minutes for the Friday international round up.  And that might be all you heard in late 2010 and early 2011 about Iraq on NPR (other than violence briefly noted in the hourly headlines).  Now you don't even get that.

Peter Kenyon: Baghdad analyst Ahmad al-Abyadh says Maliki has a host of political enemies.  The Kurds are convinced he's ready to attack them as soon as the Americans deliver promised F-16 fighter jets to the Iraqi air force. The Sadrists are convinced he's planning to evict them from the ruling coalition, and Abyadh believes another Shiite group in Maliki's bloc, known by the acronym ISKI [Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- headed by Ammar al-Hakim], could be wavering.

Of greater concern to the Kurds -- who I don't believe are trembling at the F-16s, though they are concerned -- and should be and when the Vice President of the United States was still Senator Joe Biden he had that same concern about giving Nouri F-16s and how they would be used -- is the US 'friendship.'  This isn't in Kenyon's report, I don't believe any US outlet has noted it, I know about it via friends at the State Dept.  The US government, through Ambassador James Jeffrey, has conveyed that they support and are friends with the KRG . . . as long as it remains part of Iraq.

Here's a bit of reality, if you put a conditional on it, you're not my friend.

The same US government that has regularly explored a federation -- Joe pitched that all the time and would get so angry when people said he was proposing breaking up Iraq -- is now insisting that the KRG cannot declare independence.

If it wants to remain 'friends,' it can't declare independence.

That's part of why Russia is now ready to begin courting KRG President Massoud Barzani.  The strained relationship between the US government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (three provinces in northern Iraq, semi-autonomous since the 90s) has come on Barack Obama's watch.  The US has a long relationship with the KRG and that was if Bully Boy Bush was occupying the White House, or when Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush were serving their elected terms.  Political party didn't matter.  Now the KRG feels the US has turned its back on them.

We noted that feeling repeatedly.  It's been emerging for some time.  Had outlets bothered to seriously report on the April 5th DC speech Barzani gave, that might have been more obvious.  But most instead chose to ignore it.

The US has a serious problem with the Kurds.  The State Dept is aware of it.  One friend told me that I was wrong (not the first time) and that Chris Hill's ignorance on the Kurdish issue wasn't overlooked by the administration when they nominated the manic-depressive idiot to be US Ambassador to Iraq, that the reality is that's what made him so attractive to the administration.  (Again, that may be the reality.  If so, I was wrong about the White House overlooking Hill's ignorance -- glaring ignorance as demonstrated in the confirmation hearing.)

That person and another swore that the only one who could peacefully straighten things out now is Ryan Crocker but, of course, he's getting out and getting out for good reasons (which the press has not been interested in reporting either -- I find it really hard to believe that I can visit the State Dept and hear talk about this in the halls, not offices, as I walk through and the press can't find this story?).  I asked what about Joe because Joe Biden has a historical relationship with the Kurds that goes back decades.  That's why they put so much trust in him.  But the feeling in the State Dept is that he was countermanded too many times and the KRG doesn't feel he can deliver a promise now as a result.  They don't think he's dishonest, they just don't feel that he has any real power on the issue of Iraq.

At some point in the near future, columns will be written with titles like "How Did We Lose The Kurds?" and while that will be the fault of this administration (unless they address this quickly), it's equally true that the silence from various opinion writers has helped that loss along.  I have nothing against the Kurds or KRG and try to give them a fair hearing and try to slap down nonsense when I feel p.r.'s being spun by the press about the KRG.  But that slapping down?  Hasn't really been required in years?  All of the KRG's many friends in the US press have seemingly all fallen silent.  When they suddenly discover what's taken place, it might be worth asking them why they didn't notice it as it was happening?

The KRG is not heaven.  It is not even heaven in Iraq.  It has many problems.  (As does the United States.)  But what it does have is a people well vested in their country.  I don't mean the longing for a Kurdish homeland though that's a bond for those in the KRG and for Kurds throughout the world.  I'm talking about their elections which they were not introduced to last decade.  They do have free and fair elections.  They are criticized because there are two main parties -- Talabani controls one, Barzani the other.  And a lot of people take that criticism very seriously. I don't because we have the same situation in the US (two main political parties dominate everything). There are human rights issues, freedom of the press issues and more.  But if the point is the spread of democracy (though often stated, that is rarely the US government's goal), you maintain ties to the Kurds because that's the only place where there's a model for democracy in Iraq.

If a KRG election had been overturned by the US government the way the March 7, 2010 parliamentary elections were, you'd have Kurds in the street.  Instead, you just have Iraqis talking about what hypocrites Americans are talking about the importance of democracy and elections until their puppet loses one and they demand he gets a second term anyway (Nouri al-Maliki).

As Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, gets closer to the KRG, you'd think the White House would rethink their KRG strategy.  But Putin's already shamed Barack once in recent weeks.

baracks shrinking stature

From May 13, that's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack's Shrinking Stature" about Putin blowing off Barack's big G8 meet-up.

 Turning to the issue of Julian Assange.  John Pilger needs to stop lying.  That I even need to point that out is appalling.  If you are a supporter of Julian Assange, stop lying.  It doesn't help him.  What it does is make him look guilty by the fact that you're lying.  Pilger declares in an interview ZNet -- a glorified clip job web site apparently -- felt was worth posting:

Assange tried to "sort things out", as you put it. Right from the beginning, he offered repeatedly to be questioned -- first in Sweden, then in the UK. He sought and received permission to leave Sweden - which makes a nonsense of the claim that he has avoided questioning. The prosecutor who has since pursued him has refused to give any explanation about why she will not use standard procedures, which Sweden and the UK have signed up to.

That's not what happened.  It is the lie.  And a ton of liars will repeat it.  They certainly did when Assange's problems first surfaced.  But many of us paid attention and we know reality.  So stop lying.

Julian Assange left Sweden without permission. This came out in the trial, it's in the judge's findings.  We covered this in the February 24, 2011 snapshot.  And you can read Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle's ruling [PDF format warning] here in full.  The ruling calls out the idiot Sven-Eric Alhem -- who we said was an idiot and didn't know what he was doing when the trial was ongoing and people wanted to insist, "Oh, he's so smart!" Smart attorneys do not get called out for lying in judicial rulings.  Smart attorneys do not try to sneak reality into written testimony while saying something different in oral testimony.  All of that's in the verdict.  The government of Sweden wants to question Assange.  They contacted Hurtig telling him that they needed to question Assange. From the ruling:

In summary the lawyer was unable to tell me what attempts he made to contact his client, and whether he definitely left a message.  It was put that he had a professional duty to tell his client, and whether he definitely left a message. It was put that he had a professional duty to tell his client of the risk of detention.  He did not appear to accept that the risk was substantial or the need to contact his client was urgent.

Assange left.  Hurtig may or may not have told him.  I hope he didn't, and unless we learn otherwise, I will assume he didn't convey to Assange that they wanted to question him.

In the ruling, the judge notes that lie and calls it out repeatedly.  "Mr Hurtig was asked why he told Brita Sunderberg-Wietman that Ms Nye had made no effort . . ."  This is at the heart of the ruling, that Hurtig lied repeatedly and was caught lying.  That on September 22nd, days before Julian Assange left Sweden, Ny informed him that they were ready to question Assange (the delay was caused -- as Hurtig had to admit when confronted by the judge -- by an officer being sick).  Five days before Julian Assange left Sweden, his attorney was informed that they were ready to question Assange.

Hurtig then entered into negotiations about when and what time.  But he (apparently) never informed Julian Assange who left Sweden thinking he wasn't wanted for questioning.

That's not the only lie Assange's attorney was caught in.  He was caught lying repeatedly.  That's why they had to change attorneys because you can't continue to be represented by a known liar and have any chance with appeals.

Pilger needs to stop hurting Julian Assange's case by repeating lies.  The biggest lies about Assange's case come from Hurtig.  Read the decision, he's a proven liar.  The judge finds one lie after another including -- pay attention, John Pilger -- about Hutrig's repeated mischaracterizations of the prosecutor's role and powers.  John Pilger needs to sit his ass down and learn the facts.  If that's too hard for him, he needs to keep his damn mouth shut.

Julian Assange is not helped by people spreading known lies.  And ZNet should be ashamed of itself for posting that ridiculous and fact-free interview.  As Rebecca noted last night, the assumption will be: "if john pilger has to lie in order to make you feel for julian assange, then assange must be guilty."  So Pilger needs to STOP LYING. He is hurting Julian Assange's case, not helping it. 

The following community sites -- plus Adam Kokesh,, POLITICO, KPFK, Pacifica Evening News and LA Times -- updated last night and this morning:

And we do it again -- and include Jane Fonda, Cindy Sheehan and Diane Rehm -- because everyone's not showing up:

 We'll close with this from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

May 31, 2012, Oakland – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. The legal action is part of a larger movement to reform inhumane conditions in California prisons’ Security Housing Units (SHU), a movement dramatized by a 2011 hunger strike by thousands of SHU prisoners; the named plaintiffs include hunger strikers, among them several of the principal negotiators for the hunger strike. The class action suit, which is being jointly filed by CCR and several advocate and legal organizations in California, alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eight Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the absence of meaningful review for SHU placement violates the prisoners’ right to due process.  
“The prolonged conditions of brutal confinement and isolation such as those at Pelican Bay have rightly been condemned as torture by the international community,” said CCR President Jules Lobel. “These conditions strip prisoners of their basic humanity and cross the line between humane treatment and barbarity.” Advocates hope that the suit will strike a blow against the increasingly routine use of solitary confinement in American prisons.
SHU prisoners spent 22 ½ to 24 hours every day in a cramped, concrete, windowless cell. They are denied telephone calls, contact visits, and vocational, recreational or educational programming. Food is often rotten and barely edible, and medical care is frequently withheld. More than 500 Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have been isolated under these conditions for over 10 years, more than 200 of them for over 15 years; and 78 have been isolated in the SHU for more than 20 years. Today’s suit claims that prolonged confinement under these conditions has caused “harmful and predictable psychological deterioration” among SHU prisoners. Solitary confinement for as little as 15 days is now widely recognized to cause lasting psychological damage to human beings and is analyzed under international law as torture.
Additionally, the suit alleges that SHU prisoners are denied any meaningful review of their SHU placement, rendering their isolation “effectively permanent.” SHU assignment is an administrative act, condemning prisoners to a prison within a prison; it is not part of a person’s court-ordered sentence for his or her crime. California, alone among all fifty states and most other jurisdictions in the world, imposes extremely prolonged solitary confinement based merely on a prisoner’s alleged association with a prison gang. Gang affiliation is assessed without considering whether a prisoner has ever undertaken an act on behalf of a gang or whether he is – or ever was – actually involved in gang activity. Moreover, SHU assignments disproportionately affect Latinos. The percentage of Latino prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU was 85% in 2011, far higher than their representation in the general prison population, which was 41%. The only way out of SHU isolation alive and sane is to “debrief,” to inform on other prisoners, placing those who do so and their families in significant danger of retaliation and providing those who are unable to debrief effectively no way out of SHU isolation.
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone are co-counsel on the case.    
The case is Ruiz v. Brown, and it seeks to amend an earlier pro se lawsuit filed by Pelican Bay SHU prisoners Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell. The case is before Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Click here to read the complaint. 
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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