Friday, July 13, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the US Government Accountability Office has bad news regarding Iraq, the political crisis continues, Bradley Manning gears up for another pre-court-martial hearing, Dr. Jill Stein appears to be on the eve of becoming the Green Party presidential nominee, and more.
Alsumaria reports today that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his concern over the continued political crisis in Iraq and how they hinder efforts at progress within the country. The Secretary-General made these remarks in a report handed over to the United Nations' Security Council. Also noting the impasse is Sheikh Abudl Mahdi al-Karbalai, a representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Al Mada reports the Sheikh declared at Friday morning prayers that the Iraqi politicians are unaware of the way the people suffer.
Now that he is back in Iraq, Sadr is positioned to play a key role in the next elections. In the midst of a contest for power among Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites that has created political gridlock in Iraq, Sadr has joined with Kurdish and Sunni parties in opposing Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a fellow Shiite. But he has to tread carefully to avoid alienating the devout Shiites who form his main base of support. "The Sadr movement and its durability is something that surprised everybody at first," Duss continued. "Sadr has been written off and counted out countless times since the invasion. He has had his ups and downs. But the fact is that his movement is based upon poor urban Shiites, of whom there are many in Iraq, and as long as he is speaking to and serving that constituency, he is going to continue to have an important political role in Iraq."
This as Al Mada reports the Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahma Khalil is stating that Nouri's State of Law doesn't want to solve the crisis which is why it has made one threat after another -- early elections, dissolve Parliament, dismiss Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Meanwhile Iraqiya states State of Law uses intimdation in an attempt to get their way. Dar Addustour notes that al-Nujaifi met with Nouri al-Maliki Thursday night.
Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports on how the Parliament's sessions are often televised but, even so, not everything is televised. For example, one MP shares that they are often briefed on a bill -- whether it's legal, whether it's sound -- by specialists in the area and these briefings do not get televised. Some bills are withdrawn and those actions are not televised. One MP feels that everything should be before the public. Others feel there is too much information being televised while some argue that the experts and specialists appearing before the Parliament to brief them on the bills are unnecessary because the bills result form deals and agreements within Parliament and they don't need any advice with regards to that. Kitabat notes that it was announced yesterday that 100 MPs will work on drafting a law to limit the three presidencies -- Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and Iraqi President -- to two terms only. Gorran (Change) the struggling third party in the KRG tells Al Mada that they have no position on the issue of term limits.
Violence can take many forms especially when Nouri remains unable to provide security. Today it's a bomb attack, tomorrow is tainted water. Al Mada reports Iraqiya MP Nahida Daini is calling out the promoters of "food terrorism," vendors selling food and beverages that are not safe for human consumption. The article notes that March 23, 2011 hundreds of tons of damaged food stuffs were discovered in Diyala Prvoince. Alsumaria reported June 30th (2012) that workers of the Ministry of Health had confiscated over 33 tons of harmful food in Kirkuk Province.
In addition to potential problems, there are also current health problems that Iraqis face. One of the latest is, thus far, unexplained. A series of people are going blind. Al Mada reports that the Medical College of the University of Dhi Qar has issued an apology over its failure to participate in the investigation of the recent cases of blindness. The college states it's unable to participate at this time. Last week, Dar Addustour reported that six people in Nasiriyah, while undergoing eye exams, were exposed to some form of bacteria that is still unknown at this time but that resulted in their being blinded. The number of people who have been blinded has now risen to 9.
Today the US Government Accountability Office released [PDF format warning] "IRAQ: U.S. Assistance to Iraq's Minority Groups in Response to Congressional Directives." According to the report, through November 2011, the US taxpayer has footed the bill for $40 million which was supposed to go towards assisting Iraq's minority population. [The report breaks down the $40 million as follows: "According to the agencies, USAID provided $14.8 million for the 2008 directive, USAID and State provided $10.4 million for the 2008 supplemental directive; and State provided $16.5 million for the 2010 directive."] Since Iraq's population is estimated by the CIA to be 31 million, the US government could have skipped the minority issue and given a million dollars to every Iraqi. So the GAO just completed a 12 month audit (June 2011 to July 2012) to see if USAID was living up to the outlines of Congress' 2008 directive?
No one knows. USAID didn't pass the audit. The report notes:
Our analysis of USAID documents found that USAID could not demonstrate that it met the provisions of the 2008 directive because of three weaknesses. First, although USAID reported that it provided $14.8 million in assistance to minority groups through existing programs to meet the 2008 directive, its documents could link only $3.82 million (26 percent) of that amount to the Ninewa plain region. The documents linked $1.67 million (11 percent) of the assistance to areas outside of the Ninewa plain region. USAID documents did not provide sufficient detail to determine the location of the remaining $9.35 million (63 percent). Second, USAID documents generally did not show whether the projects included minority groups among the beneficiaries of the assistance and whether $8 million was provided specifically for internally displaced families. According to USAID officials, the agency generally did not track its beneficiaries by religious affiliation. For $14.7 million of the $14.8 million in assistance, USAID documents did not provide sufficient detail for us to determine that Iraqi minority groups were among the beneficiaries of all of the projects. Only 1 of the 155 projects ($66,707 out of $14.8 million) provided sufficient detail in its documents for us to determine that the assistance was directed to internally displaced families; however, the location of that project was outside of the Ninewa plain region. While USAID documents listed $2 million in funding for a microfinance institution, USAID officials were unable to provide detail on whether all of these loans were disbursed in the Ninewa plain region. Third, USAID officials and documents did not demonstrate that the agency used unobligated prior year ESF funds to initiate projects in response to the 2008 directive. USAID could document that the agency used unobligated prior year funds for two of the six programs after the date of the 2008 directive. However, according to USAID officials, the agency did not use unobligated prior year funds for the remaining four programs.
When you can't produce documentation to back up your claims, you have failed the audit.
Which is bad news for Iraq's minorities and for US taxpayers. Robert Burns (AP) notes this cost issue from the report, "A contractor was allowed to charge $80 for a pipe fitting that a competitor was selling for $1.41." There was no oversight. There will be no oversight. The State Dept will go before the Congress and make statements about their Afghanistan mission that will be similar to the statements they made about the Iraq mission and, unless Congress gets serious about accountability, you will see the exact same waste and fraud.
The State Dept is supposed to provide ongoing oversight of their own personnel. They didn't do that very well and what they found, when they did find something, usually a great deal of time had passed between the crime or violation. Laura Litvan (Bloomberg News) reports, "The agency said work by its investigators and those of other agencies have resulted in 71 convictions and almost $177 million in fines and forfeitures. Kickbacks were the leading type of criminal activity, accounting for 71 percent of indictments, according to the report."
The report notes this background on Iraq: :
Iraq is ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse. Ethnically, Arabs comprise about 75 percent of the population of Iraq, with Kurds comprising around 15 percent and other ethnic groups, such as Turkoman and Assyrians, comprising the remaining 10 percent. Religiously, Shi'a and Sunni Muslims make up 97 percent of the population of Iraq, with non-Muslim groups -- such as Baha'i, Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis -- comprising the remaining 3 percent of the population. Some communities may be an ethnic majority but a religious minority (such as Arab Christians), while other communities may be an ethnic minority but a religious majority (such as Shi'a Shabaks). For the purpose of this report, we refer to the following religious and ethnic communities as minority groups: Anglican, Armenian, Assyrian, Baptist, Chaldean, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Presbyterians, Sabean Mandaean, Shabak, Syriac, Turkoman, and Yazidi. Since 2003, Iraq's minority groups have experienced religiously and ethnically motivated intimidation, arbitrary detention, killings, abductions, and forced displacements, as well as attacks on holy sites and religious leaders. In August 2007, coordinated truck bombings killed some 400 Yazidis and wounded more than 700. In August 2009, a series of attacks in Ninewa province killed almost 100 and injured more than 400 from the Yazidi, Shabak, and Turkoman communities. In February 2008, a Chaldean archbishop was kidnapped and killed -- the third senior Christian religious figure to be killed in the city of Mosul since 2006. A series of attacks against Christians occurred in 2010, including an attack in October on a Catholic church in Baghdad that left more than 50 dead and 60 wounded.
You may notice a major minority group not listed above.
Iraq's LGBT community. They were not excluded from the 2008 supplemental directive and the 2010 directive should have allowed for the LGBT community.
Is the Senate failing (Senate Appropriations Committee) or is USAID?
The 2010 directive specifically was about refugee assistance and that should have covered the LGBT community. But the US government is not doing anything to help that community. And they get away with that and with doing nothing to protect Iraqi LGBTs from being hunted and killed in Iraq -- "hunted" is the only term for what has repeatedly taken place -- so at what point does the government get their act together?
Obviously, not any time soon. Because this failed audit should immediately result in Senate hearings but you won't get that. The failed audit will be greeted with a yawn as Democrats in the Senate rush to protect the White House.
Thing is, the White House should be able to protect itself. It's Iraq's LGBT population that needs protection.
While the US does nothing, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports, "The Dutch government has decided to grant aslum to gay Iraqis. Immigration minister Geert Leers says Iraq is no longer safe for homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Mr Leers has already announced a temporary halt to the deportation of gay Iraqis last month following an alert from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry warned that it was impossible to be openly gay anywhere in Iraq without being at serious risk. The Iraqi authorities also fail to take any measure to stop discrimination or attacks on homosexuals."
Around the globe water issues continue to emerge with many warning that the wars of the 21st century will be resource wars with particular emphasis on water. Alsumaria reports a conservation organization held a press conference today in Sulaymaniyah calling on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to stop the Austrian company that's constructing a damn for neighboring Turkey which will interfere with the flow of the Tirgris River into Iraq. In other water news, Al Mada notes the Ministry of Water Resources' Muhannad al-Saadi has publicly expressed concerns about the Mosul dam's structural strength in the case of earthquakes. Experts have stated that the dam could collapse and after Mosul was sunk, the waters would flow to Baghdad -- while the water would not sink Baghdad, they would displace thousands in Baghdad and surrounding areas. This week, the Ministry of Water Resources noted, "H.E Minister of Water Resources Eng.Mohanad Al-Sady met the Deputy and Member of the Iraqi Parliament Falih Al-Sari to discuss means of providing water shares for arable lands and develop the irrigation and agricultural aspect in the Governorate. During the meeting, H.E affirmed that the Ministry of Water Resources is executing several irrigation projects in all governorates including Al-Muthana governorate and taking the necessary actions to provide water for arable lands in order to insure executing the agricultural plan during summer and winter seasons. The Ministry is about executing Raw Water Transfer Project through pipes for Al-Muthana Governorate to insure preventing encroachment over allocated water share to provid water for drinking, farming and other uses."
Earlier this week, Sylvia Westall (Reuters) reported on Iraq's art scene, specifically Baghdad where some of the musicians who fled the country earlier are returning. Westall notes the musical history. Excerpt.
Several nights later Tunisian revolutionary singer Emel Mathlouthi performed at a social club in the capital to an audience of diplomats, Iraqi officials, students and teachers at a concert organised by the French Institute.
Tariq Safa al-Din, the Alwiyah club's president, said it was one of the largest concerts of this kind at the venue in the past decade. Small groups perform Iraqi folk music every week in the garden of the club, founded in 1924.
"This is for the past two years. Before that, you know what it was like in Iraq, nobody used to come to the club," he said.
Mathlouthi's performance was just the beginning of a new era for live music in Baghdad, he said.
She says her name is Anahita, the 28-years-old voice and vitriol behind Janaza, which is believed to be Iraq's very first female-fronted, black-metal band. Allow that notion --Iraq's very first female-fronted, black-metal band -- to sink in for a moment. Her first recording, Burn the Pages of Quran, boasts five distorted, primitive tracks that altogether run just shy of an unlucky 13 minutes. She, along with a handful of other acts hailing from the Middle East, are repurposing black metal's historically anti-Christian ferocity to rail against Islam. In doing so, these bands are serving up anotherexample of how art and dissent can intersect in a region where dissent can sometimes have deadly consequences.
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.
Again, Lindsey's column was run by an Iraqi paper -- not Ed West's column. Andrew Johnson (Islingon Tribune) reports "a glitzy 500 [pound] a head fundraiser where former Prime Minister Tony Blair was making his political comeback." Or trying to. But life's never easy for a War Hawk responsible for over a million deaths. Lindsey German and others turned out to make sure Tony know that he -- and his crimes -- were not forgotten. Excert.
"The UN Charter, which this country signed up to, was to save the world from the scourge of war," he [Bruce Kent] said. "It says that no nation can go to war or take military action without the decision of the Security Council, and it can only take that decision after all other measures to avoid war have been exhausted. That didn't happen in Iraq. It was a disgrace."
Sabah Jawad, of the Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation Group, told protesters that there were still terrorist attacks in Iraq.
"In the last few months there have been attacks in Iraq and hundreds of people have been killed," he said. "This is a legacy of the war in Iraq. The tragedy of Iraq is still with us and it's going to be with us for years to come. Our message to Tony Blair is that wherever you go, we're going to be there to remind you of your murderous history. We're not going to forget."
Moving over to the US where Bradley Manning's court-martial is scheduled to begin September 21st. Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.
Next week the soldier and his defense team will be back in military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, in the latest of a succession of pre-trial hearings to hammer out the terms of the eventual court martial. Previous engagements have led to sparky interactions between Coombs and the army prosecutors seeking to condemn Manning possibly to spending the rest of his life in military custody.
The most significant discussion at next week's proceedings will revolve around the precise legal definition of what "aiding the enemy" means – specifically its allegation that Manning "knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy". The judge presiding over Manning's trial, Colonel Denise Lind, has ruled that the soldier must have had "actual knowledge" that he was giving intelligence to enemy for the charge to be proven.
Coombs will next week attempt to gain further clarification that would raise the legal bar much higher. In his motion he argues that it is a truism in the age of the internet, any posted material is potentially accessible to anybody.
AMYGOODMAN: You are Dr. Jill Stein, so let's talk about healthcare. As Romney continues to vow to end so-called "Obamacare," the Republican-controlled House passed a repeal of the measure, but the Democrats in the Senate say they will not allow this to pass there. Speaking on the House floor, House Majority Leader—House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi traded barbs over the law.
REP. ERICCANTOR: We are trying to end the era of Washington-controlled healthcare. We believe, as do most of the American people, that it's patient-centered care is our goal. That's where we need to start. We start along the path towards that goal by repealing Obamacare.
REP. NANCYPELOSI: American people want us to create jobs. That's what we should be using this time on the floor for, not on this useless bill to nowhere—bill to nowhere, that does serious damage to the health and economic well-being of America's families.
AMYGOODMAN: That's Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor trading barbs on the House floor. Dr. Jill Stein, interestingly, you are from Massachusetts, from Lexington, so even as Mitt Romney attacks President Obama over his healthcare plan, it was very much modeled on Romney's healthcare plan when he was governor of your state of Massachusetts.
DR. JILLSTEIN: Exactly, yes, and we've had Romneycare, aka Obamacare, in effect in Massachusetts for five years. So, there's a track record here. And, you know, that track record is very problematic. Romneycare, Obamacare, helped some people, and it hurt other people. It basically pits the very poor against the near poor. And that's not a solution.
And this whole debate, I think, misses the point, which is that we can actually solve this problem. There is also a track record of success: it's called Medicare. Instead of spending 30 percent of our healthcare dollar on waste and wasteful insurance bureaucracy and paper pushing, we can take that 30 percent, squeeze it down to 3 percent—that's what the overhead is in Medicare—and then use that incredible windfall to actually expand healthcare and cover everyone. So, you know, Medicare works. People like it. It's been tampered with, and we need to fix it and create an improved Medicare, but it actually works, and we have the track record all over the world, really, of just about every developed nation.
AMYGOODMAN: So, just dropping the "over 65" from Medicare?
DR. JILLSTEIN: Exactly, right. Let's make it from the point of conception on, you know, that we're basically covered cradle to grave. And --
AMYGOODMAN: How could the U.S. afford that?
DR. JILLSTEIN: Well, it actually is a money saver. And we know that because of that 30 percent waste, that is part and parcel for our privatized healthcare system now, 30 percent of your healthcare dollar is paying for those elaborate forms that you have to fill out, you know, every time your insurance changes or every time you see a provider. There's a mountain of minutiae that goes into the tracking of payments. Instead of tracking who's using what and who pays for it, let's just pay for healthcare, and let's cover it as a human right.
DR. JILLSTEIN: Well, Cheri stands out as the leading advocate for poor people, for justice, for the fight against predatory banks, for the fight against mortgage foreclosures, fighting on behalf of children most at risk, fighting for justice and for a fair economy. And Cheri is an incredibly inspired human being and mother, who was a homeless single mother and who began to take over empty buildings, saying, "There are buildings that are -- there are homes that are empty there, and there are people like me who are sleeping out on the street. What's wrong with this picture? I'm going to go sleep in that empty home." And, you know, Cheri's -- Cheri is unstoppable and, I think, exemplifies the fighting spirit that is alive and well across America that we hope to give voice to in this campaign, that is what this is about.
AMYGOODMAN: Well, the P word is certainly one that's not really very much talked about --
DR. JILLSTEIN: Exactly.
AMYGOODMAN: -- by the presidential candidates: "poverty." Cheri Honkala, we're used to seeing you ahead of marching at the presidential conventions, marching for poor people's rights in this country, now being chosen as a vice-presidential candidate. Your feelings today?
CHERIHONKALA: It's very exciting. I think I'm prepared to take on this challenge. I was absolutely shocked when I was chosen, but I think it's a real statement of the Stein campaign. And it meant so much to people across the entire country. Once the announcement was made, I literally received hundreds of letters, not just from people in this country but from folks around the entire world.
AMYGOODMAN: Was it a hard decision to decide to do this?
CHERIHONKALA: It was definitely the hardest decision I've ever made in my life, because I have a family out there. And I -- you know, I have two sons, and they're used to their mother bringing attention to them in the various different choices that I make. And I asked my 10-year-old, Guillermo, and he immediately did the happy dance in the living room, so I knew it was a go.
8 am: Media check-in. Location: Holiday Inn lobby.
9 am: Press briefing and news conference with Green presidential candidates Roseanne Barr and Jill Stein. Location: 12th Floor, Harbor II Room.
9 am: The on-stage Nomination Day program begins. Location for all nomination events: Chesapeake Room on the first floor.
10 am: Guest speakers
10:15 am: Platform Approval
11:30 am: Speeches by Presidential Candidates
11:40 Roseanne Barr
11:55 Jill Stein
12:05 pm: Lunch
1:00 pm: Doors open
1:45 pm: The afternoon plenary begins
1:55 pm: Keynote speaker Gar Alperovitz, historian and political activist (http://www.garalperovitz.com), on the Green New Deal; guest speakers
2:48 pm: State roll call and voting for the nomination. Times for events after this are tentative, depending on how long it takes to complete the nomination process.
3:40 pm: Presidential campaign speech
3:55 pm: Vice-Presidential nomination and speech
4:10 pm: Speech of the 2012 Presidential Nominee
4:30 pm: END
8-11 pm: Fundraiser for Jill Stein in the Chesapeake Room. Media invited.
SUNDAY, JULY 15 No media events are scheduled.
The University of Baltimore is across the street from Penn Station (Amtrak, Maryland Transit trains) and a few blocks to the west on Mt. Royal Avenue from the University of Baltimore - Mt. Royal Light Rail station.
The Holiday Inn Inner Harbor is a short half block from the University Center-Baltimore Street Light Rail station.