Thursday, August 16, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, August 16, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, a State of Law MP goes on TV to blame the Kurds for today's wave of violence, Julian Assange and Ecuador steal focus, Camp Ashraf, Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr, and more.
We're dropping back to November 28, 2010 for a moment from the KPFA Evening News:

Anthony Fest: The whistle blower website WikiLeaks released another trove of confidential documents today. Last month WikiLeaks released thousands of Pentagon documents most associated with the US occupation of Iraq. In contrast, the documents made public today include thousands of diplomatic cables -- communications between the State Dept and Washington and US consulates all around the world. The documents cover both the George W. Bush and the Barack Obama administrations. WikiLeaks gave an advance look at the documents to several media organizations including the New York Times and the British newspaper the Guardian. Those publications now have articles on their websites analyzing the documents. WikiLeaks says it will post the documents on its own website in the coming days although it has said its site was the target of a cyber attack today. The documents release is certain to provoke tension between the US and its allies. For example, some of the cables say that Saudi donors are the largest financiers of terror groups. Other cables detail the cover-up of US military activities. One of them records a meeting last January between US Gen David Petreaus and the president of Yemen about air attacks against rebels in Yemen. The president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, tells Petraeus, "We'll continue to say they are our bombs and not yours." According to the Guardian, the documents reveal that some Arab leaders had privately urged an air attack against Iran and that US officials had been instructed to spy on the United Nations' leadership. Among the other disclosures are deep fears in Washington and London about the security of Paksitan's nuclear weapons. Another document asserts massive corruption at high levels of the Afghanistan government saying the Afghan vice president traveled to the United Arab Emirates carrying $52 million in cash. Still other documents disparage the British military in Afghanistan.
In 2010, WikiLeaks was still doing major releases.  In fact, that was probably the high water mark for WikiLeaks.  Already,  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks had 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. Still in 2010,  June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. And that was part of the change.  At that point, the head of WikiLeaks and the face of WikiLeaks to the media and the world, Julian Assange, was stating that they didn't know who the leaker was (that leaked the material to them).  Ever since, Julian Assange has lived on the defensive.
Today he's in the news cycle because Ecuador is offering him asylum. 
If the last four years have taught those of us on the left anything, it should have taught us that there is no excuse or justification to whore for one person, that we either stand up for what we believe in and do so truthfully or we're liars in the eyes of the whole country.
I like Michael Ratner but his Julian Assange commentary has been less than honest for some time.  Today Assange was the topic of a segment on the lousy show Democracy Now! and Michael Ratner fell to the program's low level.
Ecuador has granted asylum to Julian Assange which is pretty much conditional
 upon his getting out of England or else hoping to live in the Ecuador Embassy in the UK.  Michael Ratner wants to assert that Ecuador is "doing what was legally required here."  That is incorrect.  That is a falsehood.  As someone who has repeatedly advocated for Canada to grant asylum to US war resisters, I have never argued that Canada had to do so or that they were legally required to.  Because they weren't.  No country is required to grant someone asylum.  That is why cases for asylum are argued.
There are enough lies out there with regards to the Julian Assange case.  More do not need to be put out there. It is also dishonest for Michael to assert claims to legal rights of asylum when stating that the UK needs to back off.  Julian Assange was released on bail.  He is in violation of British law currently. 
You can assert that B means we follow the law while ignore the earlier event (A).  But when you assert that, you look like you are eithter uninformed or dishonest to anyone who knows the actual details.  In addition, you make others look foolish for believing you.  Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) is an intelligent and caring person.  And she believed she could trust that 'trusted voices' were telling the truth.  She has outraged several who have e-mailed this site about her comments regarding the accusations against Julian Assange in Sweden.  Her pithy claim that they wouldn't even be crimes in the US is embarrassing.  It appears that the Grand Idiot Naomi Wolf has influenced Wilder's take (either through reading or hearing Wolf or hearing others repeat Wofl's arguments).  Here's a tip for every woman in the US, when it comes to rape don't trust Naomi.  This is the woman who stayed silent following a gang rape -- excuse me, that's wrong.  This is a woman who stayed silent in terms of going to the authorities but who laughed with the rapists the night after a gang rape -- laughed about the victim, laughed about the victim's shoe left behind in the frat house as she escaped following her gang rape.  Why did Naomi laugh?  She didn't want to be called a lesbian.
Nothing could hurt the cock-driven (cock-starved?) Naomi Wolf more than to be called a lesbian.  Why didn't she call the authorities?  On that she's remained silent.  But when a professor apparently made a pass at her in the midst of a private evening (he denied it, she said it happened), she wanted the whole world to know about it, over a decade later.  (Did it happen? I have no idea.  But after you've mocked a victim of gang rape with her rapists and then been stupid enough to share that story, don't expect sympathy from me.)  Ava and I have repeatedly warned against that nutcase over the years (in terms of the nutcase and Assange, see "TV: Saboteurs"). 
The harm she's done on the Assange case will not go away.  That's why you don't lie.  Someone's going to believe you're on 'our side.'  When it comes to rape, however, 'our side' gets a hell of a lot smaller and any woman capable of self-honesty will admit that.  When it comes to the environment, the left is one big happy family, hugging trees and replanting forests.  When it comes to issues of violence against women, the left willing to call it out is about a quarter of what it was for the environment.
Michael at least says "my view" at one of his most ludicrous moments.  But he's an attorney and he should know better so the "my view" is nonsense.  He asserts that Julian "has a right to leave that embassy, get on a plane and go to Ecuador.  Will the British ever honor that . . ."? 
The British  right to arrest him -- he is a fugitive -- trumps the right of Ecuador.  They are on British soil.  It is not complicated and Michael knows that.  As does Julian Assange which is why Assange isn't strolling through London to an airport right now.
The dishonesty is so disappointing because we don't need more of it on the left.  If you want to make a case for Julian Assange going to Ecuador, you should be able to do so without resorting to falsehoods.  When Michael Ratner, an intelligent and usually thoughtful person, presents the sloppy throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-hope-something-sticks faux legal argument that he has, anyone paying attention is going to wonder: "If Michael Ratner can't make a plausible legal case, does that mean that there's not one?"
In fairness to Michael, he's not speaking as a legal analyst and shouldn't have been presented as such.  He's working for Assange.  A real public affairs program that operated under journalistic standards would have presented him with another guest who took a different opinion.  And the back-and-forth of such an exchange probably would have greatly sharpened Michael's own argument.
He makes assertions on aslyum that are puzzling at best.  He asserts that "once you've been given asylum, it's not like you can be then picked up by a country and sent into the hands of your persecutor.  Whether it's in the car, whether it's on the streets, wherever you are, it's illegal to do so."  There's no UK case law that backs that up.  If there's an international law that states that, I'm unfamiliar with it -- I am unfamiliar with it and many countries are also unfamiliar with it because this standard he's applying has not been the standard.  If you are wanted for murder and you claim you're a political target and Spain agrees to give you asylum, unless you are in Spain, the authorities have the right and will attempt to arrest you.  This is not a new development. 
Michael Ratner is incorrect when he says it's the law.  Asylum isn't a floating space in the midst of a game of tag-you're-it.  You're granted asylum at an embassy or in that host country.  By Michael's logic, Julian can remain in London, he can travel all over and, if anyone tries to arrest him, he just says, "Uh-uh, I've got asylum from Ecuador."  That's not how it works.
Michael asserts that, "It's illegal for them to stop Julian Assange trying to get to Ecuador."  In what world?  Does he not know any of the asylum cases during the lead up to WWII?  I cannot believe anyone would make such a claim.
We deserve better than that from Michael Ratner or from anyone.  What was broadcast today was a bunch of cheery, beat off material.  I believe the left has self-pleasured enough for the last four years.  Let's try reality and honesty instead.
We can discuss this again tomorrow but for now I am tired of people lying to make their political cases, I am tired of all the whoring.  I realize it's ingrained in some, certainly a number were more than willing to repeat as gospel whatever the party line was out of the mouth of Joseph Stalin.  It needs to stop.  Kimberly Wilder is a smart and caring person.  She's repeated a false claim because the left media whored.  They refused to tell the truth.  That needs to stop right now.  On the left we need to be smarter and more factual.  We're not helping anyone by dumbing ourselves down.  (And Bob Somerby tries to make that argument every day at The Daily Howler.  I wonder how many of us even listen?)
In addition, Michael sounded like the best little Joe Stalin groupie as he attacked the US and the UK and Sweden while praising Ecuador (CCR has also issued an embarrassing press release, Talk Radio News reports on it here).  Ecuador, despite their whoring, is not Mecca.  Click here for Human Rights Watch and here for Amnesty International.  Or go to Huffington Post to read about Ecuador's "Lesbian Torture Clinics."  (To be clear, the US can be criticized and I do so every day here.  That's not the issue.  The issue is presenting Ecuador as some wonderful savior when indigenous people, gays and lesbians and many, many more would beg to differ with your portrayal of their country.)
The left needs to grow the hell up, all of us.  And that includes losing the need to paint anyone who thinks as we do (or appears to) as marvelous, wonderful and 100% pure.  There is a growing number of people (possibly a small number but it's out there, we encounter them when we speak to college audiences especially) who feel Assange distracts from political prisoner Bradley Manning (I agree) and that Assange should turn himself in already because with his talk show and his this and his that he's become a joke (it's his decision to turn himself in or not, I have no opinon on that).  I would like that to be the end of it this week on Assange and hope that Monday, when the latest Law and Disorder Radio, rolls around -- which is hosted by  Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and, yes,  Michael Ratner -- that Michael will have sharpened his argument regarding to Julian Assange and we can open the snapshot with his explaining to us why the amnesty must take place.  He can, for example, present the same claims as the ethical (or "moral" -- but I refrain from the use of that term whenever possible) choice.  That's fine.  But don't claim something's the law when it's not.  We can't afford to be any more ill-informed or mis-informed in this country.  And we can't afford to lose someone as smart as Michael Ratner to the easy-bake punditry that has afflicted so many on the left.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "The current Muslim holy month of Ramadan was bloody for Iraqis as al Qaeda in Iraq carried out a number of deadly attacks across the country, targeting mainly Shiite areas."  And the violence of the month continued today as Iraq was slammed with a wave of violence.   RT offers a photo essay of some of the damage.   At least nine cities have seen major violence.  Kareem Raheem, Mustafa Mahmoud, Jamal al-Badrani, Fadhil al-Badrani, Ali Mohammed, Barry Malone and Patrick Markey (Reuters) note that while no one has claimed credit for today's violence -- it may be the work of one group or of many groups and individuals -- the Islamic State of Iraq has been taking credit for recent violence (following the announcement of their Breaking The Walls campaign) and "It has been reinvigorated by the inflow of fighters and cash into neighboring Syria, providing a morale boost and some extra arms and cash, security experts say. Iraqi insurgents are vowing to retake territory lost during a long war with American troops."  And such a move -- retaking territory -- would explain why some of the al Qaeda in Iraq that is now a part of the Free Syrian Army is reportedly buring weapons (see yesterday's snapshot) to prepare for the "after" if President Bashar al-Assad is driven out of power.  July 22nd, the Islamic State of Iraq released an audio recording announcing a new campaign of violence entitled Breaking The Walls which would include prison breaks and killing "judges and investigators and their guards."  (They also threatened to attack America on US soil.) Regardless of which individual or individuals are behind today's attacks, it is a bloody day in Iraq.

al Bawaba reports, "In the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk (north), four car bombs exploded between 08.15 and 09.30, killing one person and injuring 20 others, according to a police official and Dr. Wali Karim from the main hospital in the city. Many members of the security forces were among the wounded, added the two sources."   Xinhua reports, "In addition, gunmen with assault rifles attacked a police checkpoint at an intersection just west of Baquba, killing one policeman and wounding another, the source added. Meanwhile, a member of the government-backed Awakening Council group was gunned down by gunmen near his house in Aswad village, some 9 km north of Baquba, he said." Near Baquba, Alsumaria reports, MP Hussain Kazhim Mahmud declared that his bodyguards were attacked today by 30 gunmen in three cars outside his Khalis office resulting in one assailant being killed and two of his bodyguards being injured (he is part of the Sadr bloc in Parliament).  Salam Faraj (AFP) reports, "In Al-Garma, near the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah west of Baghdad, four policemen were killed and three others wounded in a shooting at a checkpoint, according to police Major Enes Mahmud and Dr Omar Dalli at Fallujah hospital. As emergency responders and civilians rushed to the scene, a roadside bomb exploded, wounding three others."  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "A car bomb exploded outside a real-estate building in northeastern Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing six people and wounding 32 others, police said.  Also Thursday, a car bomb exploded on a busy road in al-Taji district on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, wounding nine people, police said." Alsumaria reports the Tikrit police disarmed a car bomb at noon today but a Salahuddin Province home bombing resulted in the death of the wife of Mushtaq Ahmed al-Jaffar and left him and three of their sons injured.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) counts 29 dead and one-hundred-and-one people injured.

BBC News notes of today's violence throughout Iraq, "Many of the attacks targeted security personnel." Police, soldiers, Sahwa.  There are 15 more days in the month but already August has been a violent one.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 206 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.
 State of Law's Sa'ad al-Motallebi went on Iran's Press TV (link is text and video) to blame today's violence on . . . the Kurds?  Excerpt.

Press TV: Why do you think there has been a spike in attacks and violence in the past month. Do you see any relation to the current situation in Syria as the terrorist groups there are getting support from the US and its allies?

al-Motallebi: Yes, I think one of the factors, one of the reasons for the escalation of violence in Iraq could be for regional reasons from regional interferences.

Unfortunately, we have very complicated circumstances happening in Syria and a lot of al-Qaeda is transferring their activities from Iraq into Syria and vice versa.

Also, we have a complicated political situation with KRG, the Kurdistan Regional Government. Usually whenever we have differences with Kurdistan there would be an escalation of violence.

We are not sure of the relationship between the two events, but we cannot escape the fact that there are may be regional interference from inside Iraq or from Syria and definitely Turkey and Saudi Arabia will always be accused of instigating unrest in Iraq.
State of Law may have also been behind the rumors about the KRG earlier today.  Alsumaria reports KRG President Massoud Barzani has denied that the KRG will be providing asylum to the residents of Camp Ashraf.   What is Camp Ashraf?
Since Barack Obama has been sworn in as US president, Nouri has ordered not one but two attacks on Camp Ashraf resulting in multiple deaths.  Let's recap.  July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."
In recent weeks the situation surrounding the safety of 3,400 members of an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq has taken a significant turn in the halls of the White House.
As the US takes a keener interest in protecting these Iranians from the clutches of the regime in Tehran, it appears that this US administration has finally realised that it cannot allow Iraq to fall into the hands of Tehran.
How the story of Camp Ashraf now plays out will tell us much about where the future of Iraq lies.
[. . .]
[US Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and her team in Iraq must succeed in guaranteeing the safety of the Camp Ashraf residents. This will allow the UN to carry out the ultimate relocation work. Not only will this ensure that the US has carried out its humanitarian duty, but further it will leave Iraq less influenced by Iran and the US seen as a nation which lives up to its obligation. This is something that the entire democratic opposition movements of the Arab Spring will look to for hope and is a test which the US cannot fail.
The US State Dept may make a decision in October, it may not, as to the residents.  The US federal court system is expecting the State Dept to have made a decision by then.

David Letterman:  Now let me ask you about medical marijuana.

Roseanne Barr: David, you know one thing I want to say is Obama is trying to take our medical marijuana  over there in California and trying to send in federal troops to get our medical marijuana and I'll tell you this, Obama, you'll get my joint when you pry it ouf of my cold, dead fingers.  That's when.  And I know -- I don't want to get Obama's kill list.  You know, I got to look out for drones on my way home now I know.
David Letterman:  Let's say a person signs up for the medical marijuana --
Roseanne Barr: Okay.
David Letterman:  -- is there a list of ailments that you have to support or prove you have?
Roseanne Barr:  You know, it's not funny, Dave.  It's a real medicine that a lot of people can't live without.  I mean it really helps with mental illness and stuff which is why I use it.  [Applause.]  The only bad thing is you can't use it and own a gun.  If you're on the medical marijuana, they won't let you own a gun.  Well all these drunks are walking around with guns.  And now, did you know that in the state of California that big government is trying to get these porn stars and force them to wear rubbers.  The founding fathers are rolling over in their graves on that, Dave.
On CBS' The Talk, actress and co-host Sarah Gilbert [who played Darlene on Roseanne] offered, "I think Roseanne's always been a pioneer, she's always thought outside the box and done things diferently than anybody else and I wish her all the success in her new career."  Independent Political Reporter notes Darcy Richardson on who he is supporting:
While I deeply respect Rocky Anderson and Jill Stein, I'm in the process of organizing a Peace & Freedom Party affiliate here in Florida and hope to place Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan on the November ballot. We filed our qualifying paperwork  --  i.e., the party's officers, bylaws and constitution --  with the Division of Elections on Tuesday.
On The Big Picture with Sam Sacks (RT), Jill Stein spoke about the Green New Deal and Vote Third Party has reposted the episode.  Excerpt.
Sam Sacks:  The Green Party is the only political party today running on a new Economic Bill of Rights guaranteeing a job, a living wage, quality health care, a good education and housing and other rights to all Americans.   Not only that, the Green Party is the only political party that's speaking out against the corporate takeover of our democracy and economy.  It's running on a platform to overturn corporate personhood, guarantee a vote  for all eligible Americans and set up a robust public financing system that breaks up the two party duopoly in America and brings new ideas into the political debate.  Our nation is in crisis today and it's obvious that doubling down on 30 years of failed economic policy won't work and neither will trimming around the edges and looking for minor tweeks.  We need revolutionary change in America and joining me now to talk about how that happens is Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party's presidential candidate for president of the United States.  Dr. Stein, welcome.
Jill Stein:  Thank you so much, Sam, it's great to be with you.
Sam Sacks:  It's an honor to have you on.  You're proposing this Bill of Economic Rights I just mentioned that [US President Franklin D.] Roosevelt tried to propose.  Had he been successful 70 years ago, would we have been able to see CEOs taking more and more profits that should have gone to better wages?  Would we have seen Too Big To Fail jump up on Wall Street and crash our economy?  Would we be in the mess that we're in today.
Jill Stein:  Well we certainly shouldn't be.  You know, where we'd be is hard to say because even those reforms that were passed in that era following the Great Depression, those reforms to separate the investment from the commercial banks, the Social Security, Medicare, you know, the various reforms that have grown out of the New Deal and beyond, they are -- they havehave been under attack for decades. So it's hard to say where we'd be, but it's clear that right now we are in a real crisis.  And that crisis give us, you know, it's really a perfect storm for revisting where we are.  And that means not only an Economic Bill of Rights, but also a full employment program to put people back to work.   We did this in the midst of the Great Depression.  And the New Deal substantially got us out of the Great Depression.  It reduced the unemployment rate to about 25% down to about 10% before the start of WWII which finished the job.  But prior to that it had been enormously successful.  There's no reason why we don't do that today.  We could have a full employment program by directly creating jobs -- for basically the amount of money that the president  spent in the stimulus package of 2009.  Instead of jump starting two to three million jobs which was actually what was created then, we could actually create 16 million jobs directly, which in turn would create a secondary waves of about 8 million jobs, get us to  25 million jobs which is what we need.  And the difference is that instead of providing tax breaks to large corporations  which was the bulk of that stimulus package, instead we can directly provide jobs at the community level, provide national funding, but put communities in charage of deciding what jobs they need to become sustainable not only economically, [but] socially and also environmentally.   And in doing that,  we not only solve the economic emergency that we're facing but also the climate emergency because the Green New Deal jump starts that transformation to the Green  Economy which is absolutely essential if we're to survive not only into the next century but increasingly we're looking at into the next decade or two given the rate at which climate change is accelerating and exceeding the wildest and most dire predictions of the science which is  has been proven really to have been too optimistic.  So, in our view, the clock is ticking.  We don't have time to fool around with the unemployment crisis or the climate crisis that we're facing.