Thursday, July 12, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch draws attention to a proposed law that could greatly harm Iraqis, Ammar al-Hakim publicly played Nouri's steady but behind closed doors . . ., Katie Couric's image pops up in Iraq, the White House blusters about wanting a prisoner (that they turned over to Iraq), and more.
Starting with sports, today Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) reports an important event, "For the first time in Olympic history, every country will have a woman competing on its team, including longtime holdout Saudi Arabia, the International Olympic Committee announced Thursday. Brunei and Qatar will also send female athletes to the London Games for the first time." Alsumaira notes Iraq will be sending 8 athletes to the Olympics in London and the goal of the Iraqi team is participation in the sport and to gain knowledge for future Olympic competitions according to Samir al-Moussawi who is over the team which will compete in the 100 meter run (Dania Hussein), the 800 meter run (Adnan Taas), shooting (Nour Amer), crossbow (Rana al-Mashadani), weighlifting (Safa Rashed), swimming (Muhannad Ahmad -- and I'm saying the rest of this parenthetical not Alsumaria, Muhannad Ahmad is gathering a lot of talk as the Arab male athlete to watch in this year's competition -- and only some of that talk is due to Ahmad's good looks), boxing (Ahmed Abdel-Karim) and wreslting (Ali Nazim). Iraqi Olympic Committee notes that Safa Rashed has been at a Ukrainian training camp for weight lifters since June.
Lara Spencer: And we start with
Katie Couric. Her mega-watt is being
seen an unlikely place. She's become the poster child, if you will, for the
Iraqi Electricity Ministry to cool people's impatience over the lack of
electrical power in the country. But is it working? One Iraqi local told the
New York Times, "It doesn't give me hope about
electricity. But I do like to see her beautiful face." Popping
in to talk about it is Katie Couric herself. Hi,
Katie Couric [via phone line]: Hello, Lara. How are you?
Lara Spencer: I'm great. And I'm looking at your mega-watt smile.
Can you tell us -- Can you tell us how this happened?
Katie Couric [via phone line]: Well Lara, as you recall, we
actually broke the story during the pop news segment of GMA [Good
Morning America] a few months ago when I was filling in for Robin Roberts.
Lara Spencer: I do recall.
Katie Couric: So actually, we did break the story and, sadly, the
New York Times is once again following GMA.
Lara Spencer: That's right. We have scooped the New York
Katie Couric: I thought it was really weird so we got a translator
to translate it and they said, "It's a billboard for the local utility
Lara Spencer: And, hey, it's good promotion for your upcoming
Katie Couric's upcoming show is Katie, set to debut September 10th, a syndicated daily (Monday through Friday), hour long talk show with a studio audience.
Lara Spencer: Just how high wattage is our guest host Katie Couric? Well this is a billboard in Iraq Tweeted by a reporter there and it turns out, there it is, and it turns out it's a public service announcement by Iraq's Electricity Ministry. It says, "Daily Electricity Bulletin" which -- ironically, Katie -- is what we were thinking of renaming the show this week.
Katie Couric: Somebody sent that to me on Twitter and they said, "I think this is your face on this bulletin board."
Lara Spencer: I think so.
Katie Couric: And I'm like, "Yeah. Isn't that weird."
Katie Couric has a very nice smile. And if you were the Minister of Electricity in Iraq, you might latch onto it. Right about now is when the person -- all men so far -- in this position usually steps down and usually because of public outcry over the fact that there is no improvement in providing Iraqis with electricity. While the average minister serves all four years of their term, the Minister of the Electricity is far more likely to just serve two years.
At least four times a day, Hadi Ahmed leaves his Baghdad home and goes out into the sweltering heat to restart his generator.
"We are dying in this heat," he says. "I feel like every day this country is going backwards. The lack of electricity is destroying my business."
Mr Ahmed spends about US$3,000 (Dh11,018) a month producing electricity to power a plastics factory that manufactures household items. He says he can afford to operate the factory at only a third of capacity.
"Out of six machines, because of the current circumstances, I only have two operational," said Mr Ahmed.
Still on the energy issue, over the weekend AFP reported, "Iraqi Kurdistan has begun sending oil produced in its three-province autonomous region out of the country without the express permission of the central government, an official said on Sunday." UPI states the Turkish government is seeking the same sort of deal from the Baghdad-central government and "Ankara's maneuvering is also interwoven with Turkey's drive to restore itself as the region's paramount power, which puts it in direct competition with Iran." Trend News Agency notes that Turkey and the KRG border one another but that they have not had a history of cooperation. What changed? Nouri went wacko and began charging the Turkish government with all these accusations. He took a working relationship he had with the Turkish government and destroyed it. Meanwhile, the KRG and Turkey have grown closer. Nouri's own lunacy helped facilitate that.
It is no secret that the majority of Kurds, if not in fact, all of them, would love to see an independent Kurdistan. And the easiest way for a Kurdish politician to become popular is to call for an independent state.
Although the Kurdish president, Massoud Barzani, has recently given the impression that he wants to see an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, the political party to which he belongs, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), and the other major political party in the area, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), have so far resisted similar temptations. In fact, most Kurdish politicians are still talking about a "united Iraq" despite Kurdish public opinion against this idea.
And they have a point. If you are a Kurdish politician and you need to maintain diplomatic relations with your neighbours, and if you're aware of the economic and political realities for Iraqi Kurdistan, then it's very hard to call for Kurdish independence and really mean it.
It is possible that Iraqi Kurdistan is politically mature enough to be independent – but the region is not ready for such a step in economic or military terms. And it is true that, over time, the political consequences of Kurdish independence have always been considered greater than the economic consequences. But that no longer applies.
The draft bill calls for up to 10 years in prison and closing a publication for vaguely worded offenses such as "portraying the prophets inappropriately." It is expected to be voted on in the near future.
The legislation came about after the publication of an article in May 2010 that was an imaginary discussion with God that included profanity. Outrage over the article boiled into rioting that caused property damage and led to arrests and injuries.
Because it was an apparent response to a free speech issue, there were concerns that the bill would also limit free speech. Estabrooks says, "Basher Hadad, the head of the committee that's drafting this bill in Iraq, has told different news services that this is not going to be any kind of censorship," but he believes that's a total front.
By the vague nature of the bill's wording, it will do exactly that, even though people are assured that they will still be free to criticize mullahs, scholars, Islam, or the history of Islam. Estabrooks says,
Iraq's government is in the process of enacting what it refers to as an Information Crimes Law to regulate the use of information networks, computers, and other electronic devices and systems. The proposed law had its first reading before Iraq's Council of Representatives on July 27, 2011; a second reading is expected as early as July 2012. As currently drafted, the proposed legislation violates international standards protecting due process, freedom of speech and freedom of association.
This is not a minor point and HRW connects the law with the broader attack on liberties taking place in Iraq:
Since February 2011, Human Rights Watch has documented often violent attacks by Iraqi security forces and gangs, apparently acting with the support of the Iraqi government, against peaceful demonstrators demanding human rights, better services, and an end to corruption. During nationwide demonstrations on February 25, 2011, for example, security forces killed at least 12 protesters across the country and injured more than 100. Iraqi security forces beat unarmed journalists and protesters that day, smashing cameras and confiscating memory cards. On June 10 in Baghdad, government-backed gangs armed with wooden planks, knives, iron pipes, and other weapons beat and stabbed peaceful protesters and sexually molested female demonstrators as security forces stood by and watched, sometimes laughing at the victims. Given this backdrop, the draft Information Crimes Law appears to be part of a broad effort to suppress peaceful dissent by criminalizing legitimate activities involving information sharing and networking. Iraq's Council of Representatives should insist that the government significantly revise the proposed Information Crimes Law to conform to the requirements of international law, and the council should reject its passage into law in its present form. Without substantial revison, the proposed legislation would sharply undercut both freedom of expression and association.
Further in, the report notes:
Among other things, the law threatens life imprisonment and large fines for those found guilty of "inflaming sectarian tensions or strife;" "defaming the country;" "[u]ndermining the independence, untiy, or safety of the country, or its supreme economic, political, military, or security interests;" or "[p]ublishing or broadcasting false or misleading events for the purpose of weakening confidence in the electronic financial system, electronic commercial or financial documents, or similar things, or damaging the national economy and financial confidence in the state." The law also imposes imprisonment and a fine on anyone who "encroaches on any religious, moral, family, or social values or principles," or "[c]reates, administers, or helps to create . . . any programs, information, photographs, or films that infringe on probity or public morals or advocate or propagate such things."
And let's point out this under Thug Nouri. Nouri who sued the Guardian newspaper in England because he didn't like their story on him where some officials were talking about his power grabs. Nouri who has tried to shut down press outlets repeatedly -- most recently wanting to close a list of outlets -- which included the BBC -- because they didn't have the correct 'papers.'
Let's remember this is Nouri al-Maliki, Little Saddam.
The man who had barely become prime minister in 2006 before he was stating that reporters covering bombings were terrorists and tried to stop all coverage of violence in the country. It's a detail that so many of the foreign (non-Iraqi) press overlooks today -- probably because they were covering something else (another country, another beat) in 2006. This is the thug who has repeatedly targeted one news outlet after another. One example, dropping back to November 2, 2011:
In other news, Iraq continues its crackdown on a free press. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports: On Monday, the Iraqi Communication and Media Commission accused al-Baghdadiya television of having a link to the church kidnappers and ordered the station to close, state television reported. Iraqi security forces surrounded the bureau of al-Baghdadiya TV in Baghdad. Two of the station's employees were detained, according to a statement posted on the al-Baghdadiya TV website. It said the two employees had received a call from the church kidnappers demanding the release of female prisoners in Egypt in return for the hostages' freedom. The demand was later broadcast on al-Baghdadiya TV. The station, which which is an Iraqi-owned, Egypt-based network, subsequently reported that its employees had been released. Daily News World adds:
Al-Baghdadia, the TV station in Baghdad that said it was contacted by gunmen during Sunday's church hostage drama, has been taken off air. It stopped transmitting shortly after its building was taken over, reportedly by a large number of government troops. The station says its director and another employee have been charged with terrorism-related offences. [. . .] Al-Baghdadia – an independent station based in Egypt – says its public hotline number was phoned by the gunmen who requested it broadcast the news that they wanted to negotiate. As the station was being taken over, it broadcast pictures of security forces surrounding the building, before the screen went blank. Transmission then resumed from al-Baghdadia's Cairo studio. The station says its office in Basra has also been taken over by security forces. It has called a sit-in at the building and appealed to local and foreign media to attend in soldidarity.
Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday's decision by the Iraqi authorities to close the Baghdad, Kerbala and Basra bureaux of Cairo-based satellite TV station Al-Baghdadia in connection with its coverage of the previous day's hostage-taking in a Baghdad church, which ended in a bloodbath.
Two of the station's employees, producer Haidar Salam and video editor Mohammed Al-Johair, were arrested under article 1/2/4 of the anti-terrorism law. Al-Johair was released today, after being held overnight, but Salam is still being held in an unknown location, Reporters Without Borders has learned from Al-Baghdadia representatives in Egypt.
That's Nouri and it takes the world's attention to stop him. Grasp that. Grasp that if this bill becomes a law, as bad as Iraq is now, it will get a lot worse. Let's also remember this is Nouri who is waiting for the current Parliament to finish its term so he can use one MP and this is also the same Thug Nouri who tried to have Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq stripped of his post for saying Nouri was becoming a dictator.
The Human Rights Watch report notes that it threatens all Iraqis -- all Iraqis and yet the news cycle is obsessed with one defector today -- journalists, activists, everyone due to it being vaguely written and due to the harsh punishments proposed. It would threaten and intimidate free speech, a major issue in a society already struggling against a government that seems allergic to openess.
Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, continues his visit in Iran meeting with various dignitaries. Ahlul Byat News Agency reports he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Press TV notes he met with Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani. One wonders what they talked about.
His desire to oust Nouri al-Maliki? His push for a no-confidence vote?
In spite of Ammar acting as if he was going steady with Nouri al-Maliki, a new interview reveals that, privately, Ammar was less than supportive of Nouri. Rudaw interviews the Kurdistan Democratic Party's spokesperson Jaafar Ibrahim. KDP is President Massoud Barzani's political party. As they discuss the ongoing political crisis, Ibrahim offers some interesting revelations. Asked if possibly the no-confidence vote was floated too soon, Ibrahim declares they weren't the ones bringing it up, that Shi'ites were when they came to the KRG, "For example, Ammar Hakim was the first to complain about the dysfunction of the Baghdad government." He repeats this later in the interview noting again, "Mr. Ammar Hakim was here in Kurdistan and was complaining." And is the effort to withdraw confidence from Nouri over? "Attempts are ongoing," Ibrahim notes.
Meanwhile Alsumaria notes the Sadr bloc is backing a bill to limit the three presidencies -- Prime Minister, President of Iraq and Speaker of Parliament -- to two sessions and, in a press conference today, MP Baha al-Araji discussed it. He was joined by independent MP Sabah al-Saadi who has already noted that such a change would be done by law in Parliament and does not require a Constitutional amendment.
All Iraqi News notes that MP Sabah al-Saadi also told the press that the judiciary has been polticized, that in the past it was a slave to Saddam Hussein and that today it is a slave to someone else. He means, but does not say, Nouri al-Maliki. The article notes he's talking about Nouri but none of the quotes have him naming Nouri. All Iraqi News also notes that National Alliance held a meeting yesterday to discuss the political crisis.
The Reform Committee is a lot like the earlier call for a national council -- a lot of meetings get held but nothing is accomplished.
Alsumaria reports that a corpse was discovered outside Tikrit. The man was feed shop owner and the body had multiple gunshot wounds. In addition, Alsumaria notes a Babylon attack on the home of an Awakening (Sahwa, Sons of Iraq/Daughters of Iraq) and four members of his family were also shot dead, a Kirkuk bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer with two more injured and a Salah al-Din attack left one truck driver injured. Through Wednesday, Iraq Body Count counts 151 dead from violence in Iraq so far this month.
But don't worry, the same Nation magazine that once railed against the undercounting of Iraqi deaths, the one that grandstanded -- remember? -- will allow their Lyndon LaRouche refugee to undercount the deaths as he did this week. The United Nations may say over 400 died but that's not good enough for The Nation magazine, you understand. The rag that used to be outraged by the refusal to pay attention to the Lancet study finding over one million Iraqis had died in the Iraq War now proves what a cheap and whorish rag it is by joining in the undercount because The Nation only really opposed wars today when a Republican occupies the White House.
Turning to England and other liars. Ed West can't grow a man's beard and he also apparently struggles with honesty which would explain this nonsense at the Telegraph:
But one thing Blair is not is a war criminal. Iraq was a dreadful mistake, a mistake that cost thousands of American and British lives, and the lives of between 100,000 and 150,000 Iraqis, and strengthened the most hostile power in the region (not to mention driving out Iraq's Christian population). But it was not illegal, nor was it opportunist on Blair's part; people forget that the prime minister was not jumping on the 9/11 bandwagon, but had been rooting to remove Saddam since 1997.
1) taking advantage of opportunities as they arise
Which would be Blair using the tragedy of 9-11 to get the war he'd always wanted (Iraq was not involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US).
2) exploiting opportunities with little regard to principle or consequences
Which would be Blair -- the alleged Christian whose illegal war drove Christians out of Iraq. We can provide tons of examples on the second definition but that does it. Tony pretends to be pious and envoke's a deity's name repeatedly in public -- in a manner that the UK hasn't seen to that degree from a prime minister in the last 100 years and yet for all his lofty Christian ideals, the Christians and Iraq suffer because of what Tony Blair did. Suffer and die.
He's a war criminal.
Ed West further argues that Stop the War Coalition's Lindsey German shouldn't be listened to about Tony Blair because Tony Blair got move votes than German. Uh, that's not how it works but if Ed wants to play it that way let's note. 1) Ed West is nothing, a nobody outside of England. 2) In the US many of us make a point to give Lindsey our attention with any column, interview or speech and that's true around the world. Where there are people who've made a point to oppose the Iraq War, you'll find people who know of Lindsey German. Repeating, no one knows Ed West globally, no one cares. Lindsey German? A fine example of citizenship lived fully. Lindsey German had a Guardian column on Tony Blair.
Five years after he left Downing Street, Tony Blair's attempted comeback to political life shows how little he understands about what went wrong with his career, and about the level of opposition to him that still remains. He has planned a series of fundraising events to facilitate his return to grace, including an "in conversation" with Tessa Jowell and a £500-a-head dinner alongside Ed Miliband tomorrow. Jowell had to hastily cancel her appearance for fear of demonstrations. Tonight's Blair event at Arsenal's Emirates stadium in north London will be met by protests organised by the Stop the War coalition over his role in the Iraq war. It appears that his old friend and partner in crime, Alastair Campbell, will be there. While we have to assume that those attending will not choke on their dinners, many Labour members and voters will find all this too much to stomach.
From England and Iraq to the US and Iraq. Ali Mussa Daqduq is someone that I believe likely killed 5 Americans and 4 British citizens. There are probably others as well. But my "likely" doesn't matter. A court of law makes that decision. As December 2011 approached and the US government prepared to pull most US troops out of Iraq, Republicans and Democrats in Congress began asking the White House about Ali Mussa Daqduq who was then in US custody. Many Republicans were vocal that the US should keep him in custody and try him in the US, in a military court, at Guantanamo or somewhere. As with the leases and everything else about Iraq, the Barack Obama administration bungled it. They handed him over to the Iraqis.
Once that happened, that was the end of it. The White House played idiot and insisted they had promises that Ali Mussa Daqduq would be prosecuted and, though he might not be found guilty in the death of the 5 Americans, he could be busted for entering Iraq 'illegally.' What a comfort to the families of the fallen. (That was sarcasm.)
So Iraq tried him. And said he was innocent of all charges. The US government whined and moaned and the verdict was appealed. The appeals court rendered a not-guilty verdict. Moqtada al-Sadr has called for Daqduq to be released. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said Daqduq should continue to be held.
I like Leon but he's wrong. I agree there is no 'justice' in the Iraqi 'justice' system. But the US handed him over and knew he would be tried by Iraqi courts. When that happened and he was twice found not guilty, that was the end of the story. He needs to be set free.
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."
I am very sorry that the families did not see justice. I'm very sorry that Barack Obama traded others involved in the killings (he let go the head of the League of Righteous and others who were involved in this attack -- let them go in the summer of 2009 from US prisons and did so -- as they would reveal themselves -- because he wanted the 5 kidnapped British citizens released by the League). I'm sorry that American lives mattered so little to Barack Obama. I'm sorry that he wants to grandstand on the backs of US service members after releasing the ringleaders involved in killing 5 Americans.
But at this point, it's too late. The legal system is followed or it isn't. The US is interfering with Iraqi law and the legal system. Not to try to save someone from being executed but to try to prevent someone from being released. If Barack didn't want him released, he should have kept in US custody. Barack chose not to and the man was turned over to Iraq. He's now stood in trial twice. He was found not guilty. By the rule of the law, he's free. I don't like it, I don't think it's fair, but it's the law.
And think about the message that the US sends when they ask Iraqi to continue to hold a man twice found innocent.
My heart goes out to the families of the fallen but when Barack made the choice to release Daqduq to Iraqi custody, it became a matter for the Iraqis. Now Barack doesn't like their decision and wants a do-over.
That's not how it works.
Lara Jakes and Qassim abdul-Zahra (AP) report that Antony Blinken -- Vice President Joe Biden's national security adviser -- states that the US wants Daqduq to be hld and that they not only want to see him extradited to the US, they've already made that request. They also note, "Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, spokesman for Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council said the appeals court ruling is final and there are no charges pending against Daqduq. Ali al-Moussawi, media adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said he was unaware of any U.S. request to extradite Daqduq."
As a physician, what is your response to the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the president's health care bill?
Stein: It's very problematic. I think the Supreme Court's decision destroys the most useful part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - that is the Medicaid extension. We have a track record here. We don't have to just guess what he impact of the ACA will be. We already have it in Massachusetts, where I live. We've already had it for five years. It has not been a solution. The cost of health care continues to skyrocket.
On the other hand we have a real track record of what does work. It's called national health insurance, Medicare for all. We actually achieve health and we do it in a way that provides health care to everyone at less than half the cost per person. We know that under Medicare for all, we would be saving trillions of dollars over the next decade because it eliminates the wasteful health insurance bureaucracy and it stabilizes medical inflation. This is the way to go.
You have a "Green New Deal" to employ "every American willing and able to work." Is this your economic plan? And how do you plan to do it?
Stein: By using our tax dollars instead of to provide a stimulus package that's predominately tax breaks for corporations, instead we use a comparable amount of money and put it into the direct creation of jobs. And again, this is not a hypothetical idea. It's based on a plan that helped markedly to get us out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. This would not be a cookie cutter, top-down Washington-controlled program. Rather it would be nationally funded but locally controlled where by communities decide what kinds of jobs they need to become sustainable. It would create jobs in what we think of as the Green economy, but it would also create jobs meeting our social needs - hiring back teaches, nurses, after-school care [providers], violence prevention.
Stein is the presumptive nominee. The candidate will be announced at the Green Party's national
convention which kicks off tomorrow in Baltimore.