Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, August 22, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's fugitive president remains out of the country, the Minister of Oil is accused of hiring a thousand of his own relatives, Camp Liberty's a nightmare according to a former UN human rights workers, a new petition calls on Women's Media Center and Ms. magazine, and more.
So many wars, let's start with the Drone War before moving onto Iraq.  Brenda Norrell (Narco News) reports:
President Obama's Tuesday kill list is responsible for the assassination of a 16-year-old boy from Denver, Medea Benjamin of CodePink said here today. Describing the US program of targeted assassinations using drones, the CIA out of control, and the US Congress refusing to act, Benjamin said it is time for US citizens to show the world they do not support US drone assassinations in Pakistan and elsewhere.
Benjamin called for citizens in Tucson to join the march with Pakistanis in northern Pakistan, during the week of September 21, and show the world that the people of the US seek global peace and understanding, and do not support US drone killings.
Now we'll move over to Iraq where the political crisis continues to grip the country.   What does it say about a country when the president is out of the country for over two months?  Back on June 16th, I wrote:
As Iraq explodes, President Jalal Talabani continues to shrink.  Alsumaria reports that he's written an indignant letter to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi and KRG President Massoud Barazni in which he belittles Moqtada al-Sadr and in which he insists he'd rather resign than change his opinion and forward the petition with 176 signatures to Parliament (the petition calls for a no-confidence vote on Nouri).  Poor overweight Jalal.  Last month, he'd pictured himself getting his arteries cleaned in the US and the pigging out on Philly Cheesesteaks.   Now his image is in tatters, his political party PUK has asked him to lower his profile (his weakness is hurting the party) and he's been told not to leave the country.  Back on April 28th, he talked big to Moqtada, Allawi and Barzani.  He swore that he could remove Nouri as prime minister all by his lonesome.  Then Nouri did a little pressue, the US did a little pressure, and like a cheap belt, Jalal buckled.  Next year the KRG holds provincial elections.  The PUK is furious with Jalal for his decision not to forward the petition.  It's made Massoud Barzani even more popular in the KRG, it's made him look even more like a leader and Jalal look even weaker and more ineffectual.  (The two main parties in the KRG are the Jalal's PUK and Barzani's KDP.  In the last years, Goran has emerged as a third party.  PUK officials fear that they are losing power not to Barzani's KDP but to the emerging Goran as a result of Jalal's embarrassing moves.)
And I was wrong because I thought when you're told not to leave the country, you don't leave the country.  But the very next day, June 17th, we were noting, "He's not very popular of late.  Not even with his own political party.  So it probably wasn't smart of him to head for Germany today, as Alsumaria reports.  Especially after he'd been instructed not to leave the country until the political crisis was settled."
It is August 22nd and Jalal's still not made it back to Iraq.  People talk about Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi being a fugitive, but Jalal appears to be the one.  For those who've forgotten, as Jalal was being mocked for leaving the country, his office wanted Iraq to know that he had to leave because he needed a life altering surgery, he was at risk.  Apparently of tipping over because that 'important' surgery turned out to be knee surgery.  He had elective surgery.  It could have waited. 
But he used it to bail on Iraq.  In 2011, Iraq had three vice presidents and one president-- and all were in the country.  Right now it has one vice president in the country and that's it.  Jalal really thinks this is how to be president?  Hiding out in Germany?
The very optimistic Iraq Updates insists today that Jalal "will return home soon and first meet with Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani [. . .]"  For those who've forgotten how Jalal ticked off a large portion of Iraqis, it was when he stabbed his colleagues in the back.  Jalal was present at the end of April meeting with Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi, Massoud Barzani and others and Jalal was on board for the no-confidence vote in Parliament on Nouri.  Signatures were collected.  More than enough.  But Jalal began disallowing signatures at the last minute and declared that they weren't valid and the vote couldn't go forward.  Yes, they were valid. 
And Jalal stuck his own big ass further in the fire this month when, attempting to shine his tawdry image, he spoke to Nakhel News about why he halted the no-confidence vote.  Jalal gave five reasons.  None had to do with signatures.  He never even raised the issue of signatures.  His reasons included not wanting to go against the Shi'ites (and feeling Moqtada was but one voice) and assurances he'd personally received regarding the Erbil Agreement.  He's begun to make another call for a national conference to address the nation's political crisis.  (He and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi began making the call December 21st.)  Buratha News notes he wants all the political blocs to take part.  Jalal's renewed call takes place as Fryad Mohammed (AKnews) reports that the Kurdistan Islamic Union's Najib Abdullah is stating that the ground work for such a meeting has still not been done
From the failing president to the corruption, Rebin Hassan (AKnews) reports that Parliament's Oil and Gas Committe has discovered that, since 2003, $27 billion (in US dollars) "have been spent on the electricity sector in Iraq" and his with no progress to show for it leading MP Qasim Mohammed to declare, "There is huge corruption in the electricity sector in Iraq."  With all the money spent, Iraqis still do not have dependable electricity and most make do with 6 or so hours a day.  Minister of Electricity is a post with a huge turnover rate.  Let's just note the last two years.  In June of 2010, CNN was reporting on the resignation of Karim Waheed as a result of protests.  Aseel Kami (Reuters) reported in August of 2011 on the resignation of Raad Shallal's resignation -- he was the Minister of Electricity who stepped down due to what were called fake contracts.  Buratha News reports that social media rumors (and documents) attest to the current Minister Abdul Karim Aftan hiring 1,000 relatives to work for the Ministry.  All Iraq News adds that a member of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc in Parliament is stating that the Minister will be questioned before Parliament shortly.
Turning to some of today's violence,  All Iraq News reports a Mosul home invasion resulted in the death of one woman who was shot to death.  Alsumaria reports that 1 man was shot dead in Dhuluiya and they note a Diyalal Province bombing injured two Iraqi soldiers.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 336 people killed in violence so far this month in Iraq.
Though the election law for next year's provincial elections still hasn't been settled, AKnews reports that Diyala Province plans to elect a governor next Saturday.  This is due to the death of the previous governor.  Saturday Alsumaria reported that Diyala Province Govenor Hashim Hayali  has died in what was called a traffic accident in Baquba. All Iraq News reported that his wife also died in the accident and noted that he had previously survived an April 21st assassination attempt.  He had been governor for less than a year.  AFP says his wife and two daughters are injured while his son died.  All Iraq News notes he had been governor for five months and was a member of the National Accord Front which is part of the Iraqiya slate.
US General Martin Dempsey visited Iraq yesterday.  The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following statement on the visit:

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey visited Baghdad on August 21, 2012.  He met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials to discuss regional and security issues, including the situation in Syria.  General Dempsey also met with U.S. Embassy officials, including Charge d'Affaires Stephen Beecroft and members of the Embassy's Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
General Dempsey's visit is part of the United States' efforts under the Strategic Framework Agreement to support Iraq's continued development as a strategic partner that contributes to peace and security as a leader in the region. 

Dempsey did not meet with the the US Ambassador to Iraq because there is no US Ambassador to Iraq.  All Iraq News notes that Dempsey's visit is the highest ranking official visit of 2012.  Of the US Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, RTT reports, "More than 225 U.S. troops, seven Defense Department civilians, 530 security assistance team members and more than 4,000 contracted personnel are currently in the office at the Iraqi government's invitation."

Ashish Kumar Sen (Washington Times) reports  on the assertions by the former human rights chief for UNAMI that conditions at Camp Liberty are as bad as the residents have been saying.

Camp Liberty is a former US military base (often referred to in the press as Camp Hurriyah).  Nouri and the US want Iranian dissidents from Camp Ashraf relocated there.

Approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.  They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago.  The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents.  The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.

Despite that legal status and the the legal obligation on the part of the US government to protect the residents, 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."

For months, the claims of Camp Liberty not being fit to be a refugee center have been dismissed in the press.  Bomedra is stating that he resigned from his post after he grasped that UNAMI's purpose was to provide cover for Camp Liberty.  He states that Nouri had no respect for international human rights standards and that raising that reality to the UN Secretary-General's Special Enovy in Iraq Martin Kobler resulted in ridicule.  He also states Kobler "misled [the U.N.] headquarters in New York" regarding Camp Liberty.

Kobler most recently provided public testimony to the United Nations Security Council on July 19th.  This is what he said on the topic of Camp Ashraf:

UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler:  Finally, Mr. President, I still remain very concerned by the lack of progress in resolving the issue of Camp Ashraf. 2,000 residents of Camp Ashraf have relocated to Camp Hurriyah [Liberty] in the last months.  Approximately 1,200 remain in Camp Ashraf.  The several deadlines set by the government of Iraq have been extended. I thank the government of Iraq for their flexibility in this regard and I appeal to the Iraqi authorities to continue the process to resolve the relocation peacefully. Our committment is strictly humanitarian, to facilitate a voluntary, temporary relocation of residents to Camp Hurriyah as the first step of resettlement to countries outside of Iraq; however, the success of a facilitator depends at least on good will. Their can be no facilitation without constructive and practical dialogue.  We are faced with three main challenges.  First, recent weeks have witnessed difficulties in maintaining dialogue between UNAMI and the residents and between the residents and the government of Iraq reinforcing a perception that the residents lack genuine will to participate in the process faciliated by UNAMI.  Second, responsiblity also falls on the many international supporters.  It is of great importance that they contribute to positively influence the residents' position.  And third, to  date almost no memeber-state has stepped forward to offer resettlement to eligible, former Ashraf residents.  There must be a way out of Hurriyah in the foreseeable future.  Without prospect for resettlement, the ongoing process runs the risk of collapsing.  The tempoary transit location at Camp Hurriyah has the capacity to accomodate the remaining 1,200 residents and meets acceptable humanitarian standards.  Both UNAMI and UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] have devoted substantial energy and resources to resolving this issue.  More than 100 staff are dedicated to the project in the meantime.  I appeal to the government of Iraq to be generous -- particularly in terms of humanitarian needs like water and electricity and to avoid violence under any circumstances.  I also appeal to camp residents to abide by Iraqi laws and avoid provocation and violence.  Time is running out to find a sustainable solution.  The government's patience is wearing thin. I would therefore like to echo the Secretary-General and urge Camp Ashraf residents to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities and to relocate from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriyah.  It is also imperative that third countries step forward to accept eligible residents for resettlement as soon as possible without which there can be no durable solution. 

In the United States, four women make up two presidential tickets, but you might not know that due to lack of covearge.  The four:   Jill Stein has the Green Party's presidential nomination and her running mate is Cheri Honkala and  Roseanne Barr has the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party and her running mate is Cindy Sheehan
Both tickets have gotten some mainstream press.  Know what they haven't received?
Attention from Ms. magazine's blog (or 'magazine') or Women's Media Center.
Now in 2008, we used the snapshot and space at Third and Ava and I worked the phones and between all that and the work of other women as well, we were finally able to guilt WMC into doing one article on Cynthia McKinney.  That was their 'gift' to women.  One article.  Cynthia was running for president on the Green Party ticket and her running mate was Rosa Clemente.  And WMC could only do one article on Cynthia.  (None on Rosa.)  As lousy as that is, it's one more than Ms. or it's Feminist Wire Daily managed. 
Every day it's about how can they advance the Democratic Party.  It's not about informing, it's not about reporting, it's not about journalism.
It's whoring.  They're very good whores.  It's a shame they don't want to be something more than a whore but I guess their own self-images are so poor that when casting themselves in the story of their lives, they decided the whore was the only role they'd be believable in.
Here's a little hint for them both: Fundraisers only have worked in the past because women have believed you're about women.  When you've got feminists like Roseanne and Jill and they're both running to be president of the United States and you're not covering it, you make it so very easy for all of us to stop donating to you.

So maybe this is how Ms. magazine finally dies?  Revealed to be nothing now but a shallow and whore for the patriarchy, the magazine finally goes down?  If so, it's no great loss.  It was supposed to be a monthly and for obvious reasons couldn't pull that off.  (Obvious reasons do not include lack of stories.  Obvious reasons does include a failure to cover the feminist movement out of fear of upsetting some men.)  If you missed our "No, really, who is Gloria?" (byline "This was written by Ava, C.I., Ann, Elaine, Betty, Ruth and Marcia." ) and the counter-argument "The accomplishments of Gloria Steinem?" (Ava and myself) at Third Sunday, I'm not in the damn mood for any of this crap anymore.  You either start covering women or admit that you're not feminists.  When two women are running for president and you're not covering it, you're not a feminist press.  You can lie -- and we know you can whore -- all you want, you're not a feminist press.  Elaine argued last night "Real feminists go third party" and that's a valid point.  But I don't care who you endorse or if you endorse.  My point is that women who have their own outlet for women but don't cover Jill and Roseanne ought to be ashamed of themselves.  You're disgusting and drowning in your own self-hatred -- sadly, not drowing quick enough so we all have to suffer from your craving for male approval.
Again, I'm not in the damn mood. If you're also tired of the crap? This petition is calling for the two outlets to cover the two runs. Rebecca started it.  Thank you, Rebecca.
Chris Faraone (Boston Phoenix) offers a piece on Jill Stein's campaign and platform:'
Despite my initial prejudices, it took just one read through Stein's "Green New Deal for America" to flip me into a wholehearted endorser. That's how this turned from a hatchet job into a mash note -- probably one of the only Jill Stein puff pieces you'll ever read. But hell, it's necessary -- someone has to call attention to how Stein stands apart from the pack. While big-tent sleazeballs gorge on loot from predatory lenders, for example, she calls for restoring the Glass-Steagall separation of commercial and investment banks. As for extra bona fides, the doctor has experience hitting Mitt Romney, having run against him for governor of Massachusetts 10 years ago. Sure, she lost, badly -- but not before she used her debate platform to condemn "tax loopholes for the wealthiest five percent," and to contend that financiers have no place in public office. In other words: Stein has spent the past decade hammering inequities that the increasingly broke public claims it wants corrected.
Presidentially speaking, Stein is no joke. She's a highly intelligent and experienced organizer, not to mention a Harvard alum, like her big-party opponents. Among other sensible ideas, Stein wants to abolish the Electoral College, repeal the Patriot Act, and cut military spending in half -- ideas that so-called progressives seem to wholeheartedly embrace in non-election years only. With that in mind, here's a conscience call to anyone who has enough courage to put their ballot -- and perhaps their volunteer time -- where their mouth is.
Kevin Gostzola is a reporter who's distinguished himself by, among other things, being one of the few reporters who is covering the Bradley Manning case.  He spoke with Dr. Stein for Firedoglake's Dissenter and here's an excerpt:
KEVIN GOSZTOLA, The Dissenter: Let's begin with you talking a bit about your background and, specifically, I'd like you to talk about your work as an activist, because I think that is something unique or exceptional that you bring to the presidential race.
JILL STEIN, Green Party Presidential Candidate: The American people are clearly clamoring for something real out there in this political system that has become so disconnected from what real everyday Americans are struggling with and the solutions we are clamoring. So, I think the fact that our campaign is not bought and paid for by Wall Street, the fact that we are every day real people who struggle on behalf on those things that are critical to the American public is why we are getting the resonance that we are.
My background—I'm trained as a medical doctor and I became active, both from my perspective as a health care provider but from my perspective as a mother, looking at generations of young people struggling with chronic diseases they shouldn't have. This epidemic of asthma, learning disabilities, obesity, diabetes, cancer, autism—you name it. I said to myself, our genes didn't change overnight. These were new diseases twenty years ago in young people. And I said, our genes didn't change. Something's going on at the level of our communities, and I became tired of pushing pills on people and sending them back out to the very same things that were making them sick, so I became involved in community efforts to make our communities healthy and to take them back and make them work for the people who live there, not the multinational corporations who profit from them and exploit them. And I began to work to close down our polluting incinerators and to create jobs through recycling programs or to clean up and implode our coal plants and create jobs in weatherization, conservation and renewable energy.
I thought, well surely if our legislators knew we could save lives, money and create jobs they would throw their support behind this kind of thing. As your typical activist, it took me about ten years to see this was just a game we play to keep the discontented busy spinning their wheels while the relentless exploitive economy continues to turn its wheels. In fact, we've only been accelerating in the wrong direction.
I should mention that I became involved then in getting the money out of politics, thinking that seemed to be the problem. Let's get the money out that bribes our elected officials legally to do the wrong thing. And, I joined a large coalition here in Massachusetts to pass public financing for elections. We passed it in a referendum by a two-to-one margin and the nearly solidly Democratic legislature -- about eighty-five percent Democratic -- promptly began to fight the law and within a year or so had repealed it. At that point, it became clear to me if we want the jobs we need or the health care we deserve and all the rest, we need to change the sick political system in order to fix everything else that ails us. So now I say I am practicing political medicine, when people ask me what I am doing, because it is the mother of all illnesses and we got to fix this one in order to fix everything else that is literally and figuratively killing us. And I don't just mean our health but our economy, our jobs, our civil liberties, our democracy, our health care system.
That's basically a long way of saying I'm here as a mother, above all, really concerned about the direction that we have taken under this predatory political system that is bought and paid for by Wall Street. And in my own experience, I found if we're going to change it, it's not just changing one law. It's not just simply finding a nice person within a sick system that will prevent them from doing the right thing, even if they wanted to, but we really need fundamental system change. So, that's why I am working with the Green Party.
Frederick Melo (Pioneer Press) reports Jill and running mate Cherie Honkala will be in the Twin cities tomorrow to film campaign ads and get the word out on the Green New Deal for America.
For immediate release
August 22, 2012
Sacramento, CA

Cres Vellucci
Press Secretary for Barr/Sheehan 2012
According to a piece in titled: "'No one really cares': US deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000 in forgotten war," the death toll of US troops in Afghanistan has now surpassed 2000 under the watch of President Barack Obama and 80,000 troops still languish in the quagmire.
The presidential ticket for the Peace and Freedom Party, Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan, wishes to express deep condolences to the families of the needlessly killed troops and the people of the Af/Pak region that have been devastated by almost 12 years of war.
"It's not true that 'no one cares,' we passionately care about ending US military involvement overseas to bring the world to peace," said VP candidate Cindy Sheehan, from her home in Vacaville, California.  Sheehan continued, "I am the only candidate in this race that personally knows the tragedy of war . . . the never-ending mourning for a son that won't return and while Roseanne and I agree the economy is a pressing issue, ending the money-pit of US empire will also bring a boon to our national economic stagnation."
The presidential ticket of Barr/Sheehan has been greatly encouraged that campaign events have been packed by people who also see immediate peace as an imperative issue in the 2012 presidential race even though the two capitalist war paries are trying to avoid the issue of the endless wars at all cost.
The Platform of the Peace and Freedom Party includes a very aggressive plank for world peace:

Peace and International Justice

The drive for greater profits by multi-national corporations which direct U.S. foreign policy is a major cause of war. We stand for peace between nations and the right of all peoples to self-determination. We support an ongoing socialist transformation everywhere. We therefore call for:

  • The U.S. to renounce nuclear first strike, and take the initiative toward global disarmament by eliminating all of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
  • No U.S. intervention anywhere. End all support and aid to repressive regimes and all military and police training aid everywhere. End efforts to destabilize foreign governments. End U.S.-directed economic warfare against other countries. Abolish the CIA, NSA, AID and other agencies for interference inother countries' internal affairs. Withdraw all U.S. troops and weapons from all other countries.
  • Stop all U.S. arms exports and trade.
  • Dissolve all military pacts.
  • Convert from military to peaceful production; reallocate the resulting "peace dividend" for social benefit.
  • Abolish the Selective Service System.
  • No weapons in space.