Monday, August 27, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 27, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, some women are forced to wear the veil (and 'morality police' scrub the women's faces of make up), Nouri's Cabinet loses a member, Jalal Talabani remains in Germany, Julian Assange's defense needs to learn about perceptions and how to present their case to a public that's really not into all the hype and drama, Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr run on issues, War Criminal Tony Blair might get arrested in South Africa, and more.
Starting with War Criminals.  Over the weekend, PBS' Religion & Ethics (link is text and video) featured Tony Blair in what Blair probably thought would be part of the hazy gauzy comeback he's been working so hard for yet even it had to let a little sunlight in.  Excerpt:
SEVERSON: Unfortunately for the former prime minister, many in his own country would not say the same of him. It's been almost ten years since the Iraq invasion, and still there are newspaper stories with negative headlines about Blair's role in the Iraq war.
O'SHAUGHNESSY: I will never forget what he's done, and you would have to hold me over hot coals several times before you get me to vote for him again.
SEVERSON: Hugh O'Shaughnessy is a noted British author on developing-world issues who, like many, felt betrayed when Blair led the country into war.
O'SHAUGHNESSY: People still keep in their minds the way he treated public opinion. He brushed public opinion aside and launched into this illegal, cruel and lawless war.
Now Tony's off to South Africa and Money Web reports a protest is planned for Johannesburg and quotes the president of the Al Jama-ah political party Ganief Hendricks stating, "The democration is being held to support a warrant of arrest to charge him for crimes against humanity relating to the invasion of Iraq which led to the killings of millions of Iraqis."  Arrest Blair For Crimes Against Peace notes his scheduled appearance in Johannesburg at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit on Thursday and the site reminds:
Anyone attempting an arrest which meets the rules laid down here will be entitled to one quarter of the money collected at the time of his or her application.
Money donated to this site will be used for no other purpose than to pay bounties for attempts to arrest Tony Blair. All the costs of administering this site will be paid by the site's founder.*
The intention is to encourage repeated attempts to arrest the former prime minister. We have four purposes:
- To remind people that justice has not yet been done.
- To show Mr Blair that, despite his requests for people to "move on" from Iraq, the mass murder he committed will not be forgotten.
- To put pressure on the authorities of the United Kingdom and the countries he travels through to prosecute him for a crime against peace, or to deliver him for prosecution to the International Criminal Court.
- To discourage other people from repeating his crime.
We have no interest in people's motivation, as long as they follow the rules laid down by this site. If they try to arrest Mr Blair because they care about the people he has killed, so much the better. But if they do it only for the money, that is fine too, and we will have encouraged an attempt which would not otherwise have taken place.
TJ Strydom (Times Live) notes what can only be seen as a weak defense by the group that's asked him to speak -- Discovery Life's chief executive Herschel Mayers states, "We're not saying that we support him or that we don't support him, but he is a prominent international leader and we are glad to have him speaking."
From a former UK government official to a current US one,  Al Rafidayn reported this morning that  a US delegation will arrive in Baghdad September 3rd and that US Vice President Joe Biden will be leading it.   The Turkish Press states Biden will be discussing events in Syria and that it "will be the highest level visit by a U.S. official" in 2012.  Presumably Joe Biden will have the appropriate paperwork. Dar Addustour reports 5 British citizens were arrested in Baghdad yesterday -- they did not have passports or i.d. on them.

Moving to oil,  Seyhmus Cakan, Ayla Jean Yackley and Nick Tattersall (Reuters) report that a pipeline carrying crude oil from Iraq to Turkey has been shut down as a result of a fire and that how the fire broke out is not known at this time.  Xinhua identifies the pipeline as the Kirkuk-Yumurtalik pipeline and notes that "Turkish troops were deployed in the area" after the fire broke out.  Hemn Hadi (AKnews) adds, "The fire occured in Dorkulu village in Slopi town."  Press TV observes, "The pipeline, which carries a quarter of Iraq's oil exports, has been attacked several times in the past, sometimes cutting oil flows from Iraq for days.  PKK has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks."  Reuters quotes the Ministry of Oil's Asim Jihad declaring, "We were informed by the Turkish authorities that a blast and then a fire ignited on the 40-inch export pipeline on the Turkish side and we had to halt the crude flow.  We demand that the Turkish authorities work without any delay to repair the damage quickly and to help switch the flow to the second 46-inch alternate line to ensure no more disruption to Iraq's exports to Ceyhan port." 
The Voice of Russia reports, "The security forces in Turkey have announced that it was a terrorist attack and that they suspect it was carried out by the Kurdistan Workers Party."   In addition, Dar Addustour notes Saturday a waiting room in the Ministry of Finance caught on fire due to electrical wiring.
Saturday kicks off September.  As August winds down, the body count continues to rise.  Iraq Body Count notes that through Thursday violence has claimed 364 lives.  Bahrain News Agency reports, "An officer Iraqi Interior Ministry border garrisons in the rank of brigadier was killed by gunmen who targeted the officer's automobile in northern Baghdad today"  and a Mosul roadside bombing targeting a military patrol left two children injured.  Bushra Juhi (AP) reports a Haditha roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 person and left four Iraqi soldiers injured.  In addition, Alsumaria notes the PKK -- Kurdish independence group seen as a terrorist group by some nations including Turkey -- has announced that they killed 10 Turkish soldiers and 1 of their own was killed in the never-ending battles between the PKK and the Turkish military that take place on Iraq's border with Turkey.
Over the weekend, All Iraq News noted that Hussein al-Mansouri, an MP for Moqtada's bloc, states that the lack of people to lead the security ministries creates problems and prevents the Ministy of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior from properly carrying out their duties.  Two weekends ago, Nouri's State of Law was insisting that as soon as  Eid al-Fitr was over, Nouri would be nominating people to head the security ministiries.   He was supposed to do that in December of 2010.  They have instead remained without leadership.  All Iraq News also reported National Alliance MP Jawad al-Bolani  was calling for the creation of a nation terrorism and crime council.  In Nouri's first term as prime minister, Jawad al-Bulani served as Minister of the Interior.   If his proposal sounds familiar, it's what's in the Erbil Agreement.  It's what, November 11, 2010, Nouri was expected to create (and agreed to when he signed the Erbil Agreement).  However, he instead announced that he couldn't do it yet, that it would take awhile.  (This prompted the bulk of Iraqiya to walk out of the session of Parliament.) 
 Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports the Communications Network Commission is denying media reports that they were used by Nouri's security agencies to spy on Nouri's political rivals.  The claim might be more convincing if the CNC didn't get caught up in splitting hairs and lost in the weeds of wiretaps.  None of the media reports I saw referred to legal wiretaps so the CDC's distraction of courts and what's needed for a wire tap is besides the point.   Further harming the CNC's messaging is Alsumaria's report that the Minister of Communication, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, just announced his resignation.  Al Mada adds that there was conflict between Allawi and Nouri with Allawi stressing the professional purpose of the ministry and Nouri allegedly wanting to use it for "personal and partisan interests."   Mohammed Tawfiq Alawi is a cousin of Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi.  Nouri's people whisper to Al Mada that the ministry was riddled with corruption and that Allawi resigned only after Nouri presented him with charges of corruption.  Others say the corruption is rooted in Nouri who entered into illegal telecom deals with close friends.  CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq Tweeted:

#Iraq's Communications Ministe Mr. Allawi resigned from his position in protest over political interference. PM #Maliki accepted it today.

 AFP quotes Allawi stating, "I resigned because Maliki refused to . . . (stop) political interference in my ministry."   BBC News points out, "Mr Allawi is thought to be the first member of the national unity government to resign since it was formed in 2010. Last year, Electricity Minister Raad Shallal al-Ani, an independent who was nominated by Iraqiyya, was sacked after allegedly authorising £1.1bn ($1.7bn) of improper contracts for power stations with foreign companies."  Reuters quotes from his resignation letter, "I present my resignation because I have become incapable of working in such an infested environment."  AP adds that he told Nouri to stop meddiling, "reinstate some officials he ordered transferred" or that he would resign his post.
AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted:

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Torhan al-Mufti (Turkman-Iraqiya) to be acting Minister of Comms: Ministry of Comms official @AFP

As Rao noted, al-Mufti is Iraqiya as was Allawi.   Trend News Agency notes, "There has been no word yet from the prime minister on the allegations."  Raman Brosk (AKnews) informs, "Political observers stated that the resignation of the Minister of Communications may deepen the gap between Iraqiya List and State of Law Coalition." 
 In addition, the outlet reports Iraqiya' MP Jawad al-Bolani is calling for the creation of a nation terrorism and crime council.  If that sounds familiar, it's what's in the Erbil Agreement.  It's what, November 11, 2010, Nouri was expected to create (and agreed to when he signed the Erbil Agreement).  However, he instead announced that he couldn't do it yet, that it would take awhile.  (This prompted the bulk of Iraqiya to walk out of the session of Parliament.)
Let's turn to the political crisis.  Nouri al-Maliki is the prime minister and his political slate is State of Law.  The other major players are Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, and Moqtada al-Sadr
Yesterday, the offices of Moqtada al-Sadr were bombed.  Alsumaria notes that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi condemned the attacks today in a statement.  Iraq has been gripped by a political crisis for over  a year.  Last summer, Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr were calling for Nouri al-Maliki to implement the Erbil Agreement -- a US brokered contract that ended the first political stalemate -- the eight months that followed the Parliamentary elections -- and allowed Nouri to have a second term as prime minister.  Nouri has refused.  In April, various blocs met again in Erbil and decided to pursue a no-confidence vote in Nouri.  Signatures were gathered and then President of Iraq Jalal Talabani tossed it aside.  He quickly fled to Germany, claiming he needed life-saving surgery (he had knee surgery) and he's remained there ever since.  All Iraq News reports that Moqtada sent a delegation to meet with Jalal today in Germany.  This comes as Al Mada reports that Talabani met with German politicians on Thursday and declared that the crisis would be over soon.  This as State of Law MP Salman al-Moussawi is stating that the crisis can't end until Talabani returns to Iraq because the dialogue can't continue in his absence
As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) weighs in stating that no one denies Jalal's role in the political balance and he notes Jalal's call for a national conference.  December 21st, Jalal and Osama al-Nujaifi made the call for a national conference, Nouri blew them off with a variety of excuses over a variety of months.  At the end of March, Jalal just announced that it would take place April 4th.  To save face, Nouri went along with it and then State of Law worked overtime to torpedo it forcing Osama al-Nujaifi to announce the day of the conference that it had been called off.  This month, Jalal renewed his call for a national conference.  As Sheik notes that Jalal's saying the conference will be held and that reforms will be in place to guarantee rights and this will be done for the benefit of all but while Jalal may be serious the hopes seem to be too high in light of the reality of the political crisis. 

Turning to sports, Alsumaria reports that Baghdad is organizing the first official tournament for women in the Iraqi Federation of Weightlifting.  This will allow the athletes to participate in the Arab Championship taking place in Morroco at the end of September.  It should also hopefully lay the groundwork for Iraqi women to compete in the weighlifting of the 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, Amir al-Daghistani (AKnews) reports, "The head of the Iraqi Swimming Federation said Monday that Baghdad would host Iraq's swimming championship on the Tirgris River in Baghdad on Friday."  Mohammed Karezi (AKnews) adds, "Erbil's karate clubs championship will begin on September 10 at the karate academy hall in the city, said the head of Erbil's branch of the Kurdistan Karate Federation."
From equal playing fields to unequal ones,  Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports the city of Kadhimiya is moving to prevent any woman from entering the city unless she is covered by a veil and that a group known as the morality police are following men and women in the city who were the hair 'differently' and that they stop women without veils and force them to put on veils -- they also force women wearing make up to remove it.  Force?  At least one woman has been beaten by the 'morality police.'  Raman Brosk (AKnews) notes that despite local press insisting this new law on the veil was passed by both the local government and the Baghdad Provincial Council, the provinice is stating, via the head of their legal committee Subbar al-Saadi, "Baghdad Provincial Council did not issue such a resolution.  A decision was issued to wear a head scarf or abaya inside the holy courtyard in the religious shrines in Kadhimiya, Najaf, Karbala or Samurra."  
Iraq has many prisons.  Mohammed Tawfeeq Tweeted on prison statistics today:

Nearly 29000 inmates in #Iraq's prisons, according to Statistics released by Iraq's Justice ministry on Mon.

Meanwhile Al Rafidayn notes that there are 68 Iraqi prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include an update on Julian Assange, a discussion of the Cuban Five with attorney Martin Garbus, a discussion on global warming with professor Eleanor Stein  and a strong conversation on the International Criminal Court with attorney Roger Wareham.  Excerpt of the Assange update.
Michael Ratner: But he [Julian Assange] gave, I thought, a very good talk. I particularly liked it because he emphasized the attacks on whistle blowers and publishers of secrets, of corruption articles, of criminality of governments and didn't really talk very much about himself but about others like Bradley Manning who are under the government's gun in terms of the government's suppression of secrecy and going after whistle blowers. I thought he looked courageous in doing it. He's a courageous man for what he's been able to do. But you're seeing now a reaction, particularly among the major media and others -- the Guardian, the New York Times -- which is writing some very nasty stuff both about Correa, the president of Ecuador, and Ecuador, about what should happen to Ecuador because they gave asylum. You, of course, saw the article that the British claimed they were going to attack and assault the Embassy to get Assange out of there. I think the British made a huge mistake in doing that, it backfired. Embassies are sacrosanct. The idea that the British were going to go in there to pull out Julian Assange was pretty remarkable --
The idea that the British were going to do that?  That idea came from screaming crazies on Democracy Now!, remember?  That wasn't what happened.  From All Things Considered (NPR -- link is audio and text), August 16th:
Melissa Block: I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with a diplomatic standoff. Ecuador has granted asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Assange has been holed up in Ecuador's small embassy in London for eight weeks trying to avoid being extradited to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual assault. Now, he can't leave. British authorities say they'll arrest him if he steps foot outside the embassy. They've also issued a rare warning to Ecuador. To arrest Assange, they say, they might even enter the embassy. NPR's Philip Reeves has our story.
[. . .]
Philip Reeves:  Under international law, embassies worldwide are treated as if they're sovereign territory of the nations occupying them. The security services of the host nation can't just enter and arrest someone. However, Britain is now brandishing another law that it passed in the 1980s. That says it can revoke the embassy building's diplomatic status if that building is not being used purely for diplomatic purposes. British Foreign Minister William Hague again.
It's time for Julian's defense to buy a clue.  It's no longer playing and hasn't been.  A UK poll found a gender gap on Assange.  No surprise, after his defenders insulted and trashed the two women and after that IDIOT Craig Murray went on the BBC this month and violated the BBC policy by naming one of the women accusing Assange of assault -- naming the woman even as the BBC host told him not to -- there's no way you're going to get women back.  You'd have to gag John Pilger and all the other idiots.
You've had no interest in curbing the hatred of women from your goons.  Michael Ratner is part of the defense.  He needs to be working on those issue.  He didn't.  Not only do women not support Assange, men in England don't either.
And lying and creating drama and trauma doesn't help the defense or sway public opinon on Julian.  At this point, the perception is that Julian Assange is a coward.  That's reality -- people see him that way.  If that's not what he is, the defense needs to work on improving his image.  They don't do that by screaming and playing high drama, they don't do that by playing like the entire world is against poor little Julian.
Part of being a successful defense team is knowing when to tone it down, when to reel it in.  Ratner is one member of a large defense team.  He's not responsible for the entire defense strategy.  However, when he's on his show (and Heidi's show and Michael Smith's show), he can say what he wants.  His current efforts are not helping Julian Assange.  All they're doing is piling on the drama, turning it into a tawdry soap opera.  That's not his intent.  But it's what he's doing and that's in part because Ratner and the others have apparently not sat down in months to consider what Julian Assange's image has become.
Here are few tips: He's a journalist or he's a whistle blower.  He can't be both.  They like to bring up the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg.  Daniel was a whistle blower.  The New York Times and the Washington Post published the Pentagon Papers, they were journalistic outlets.  Supporters cannot be all over the map on this point.  It's one or the other.  Spreading themselves so thin with their arguments have allowed public opinion to punch holes through it.  It's past time the defense regroups and rethinks.
The current image is Julian Assange is accused of assault and Julian Assange refused to go to Sweden -- he's now broken bail -- and keeps insisting on conditions before he will submit to questioning.
The defense has failed to make any case to justify that.  Equally true, you may need to consider playing up 'poor Julian, his nerves.'  Because this garbage about he's so strong is only forcing people (UK mainly but it's going to bleed over to the US) to ask, "Well if he's so strong, why's he afraid to face questioning in Sweden?  And if he's going to argue he might be deported from Sweden to the US, why isn't he prepared to stand up for what he believes in?"
The defense team needs to grasp -- and real quick because you are losing the people on this -- that 'strong' Julian looks pretty weak in a culture where people take brave stands regardless of the cost.
Here's another take on Julian Assange.
Robin Morgan: For example, Julian Assange you know that he's been wanted for some time in Sweden for questioning on accusations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion brought by two women in Stockholm.  So he's fled and he's been in Britain which wants to extradite him to Sweden and he fought court cases and he lost court cases and so now he has taken refuge in and been given asylum by Ecuador in their Embassy in London from whence he holds forth denouncing women in Sweden as feminists -- denouncing Sweden as feminist -- Ah, take that Sweden! -- and posturing himself as a martyr to free speech and journalism because he claims the US is vamping on him because of WikiLeaks of classified documents. But the interesting thing to me now is that this great champion of press freedom and martyr to it taking refuge in Ecuador's embassy. The current president of Ecuador Rafael Correa and his regime -- it's a leftist regime but it is authoritarian -- has been accused of persecuting and jailing journalists who criticize him and his policies. So I'd like to know what part of "no" and what part of cognitive dissonance Julian does not understand? So many troglodytes so little time.
Michael Ratner needs to figure out if he's defending Julian Assange or Ecuador?  He needs to pick one client to work for and only one.  If Julian's under assault is the talking point and suddenly you want to whine -- and whine is the word -- about poor Ecuador, you look like Chicken Little screaming the sky is falling as you insist that everyone on your side -- country or individual -- is being persecuted and threatened.  Quick, let's get Julia Roberts to whisper, "Everyone I've told about the brief is dead."  And those aware of human rights -- and we noted this two weeks ago -- are well aware of the sorry state of human rights in Ecuador. 
Robin Morgan's comments are from her weekly rant -- her just started weekly rant which she does at the start of her new radio program ("rant" is not being pejorative, she labels it a "rant" on air).   WMC Live with Robin Morgan debuted yesterday and airs each Sunday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST online and on DC's WPWC 1480 AM radioAva and I are planning on covering the show as part of a media mix Sunday at Third but I'll note now that Robin's already exhibited a natural radio persona that most listeners should want to check in on regularly.  The show will have podcasts and more and we'll note some more of that this week.
In the US,  the presidential election is underway and there are two campaigns made up of four women, two presidential tickets. 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. Click here to sign a petition calling on Ms. magazine and Women's Media Center to cover her campaign and the other female candidate for president Roseanne Barr's campaignOver 250 people have signed onto the petition so far.  Some sign and leave comments and we noted some of the comments in Sunday's "Women Win When Women Run: The conversation Roseanne and Jill are inspiring" at Third -- and "women win when women run" is a theme that repeats in the comments with several people signing noting that theme or expanding on it.
Today let's look at some of the issues the two campaigns are raising.  Roseanne and Cindy are running on many issues including:
Equal Rights for All
America runs best on diversity, freedom of thought and many ideas interjected from many kinds of people--collective intelligence. We need our differences! Current laws should not restrict people on whom they can love or where they can live and work. Racial or any other kind of profiling is not American and makes innocent citizens into criminals. We need to revamp our laws. Equality is what was truly intended by our nation's founders.
National Security / War / Peace
Wars make the stock market go up and are fueled by profits. Where one puts their money is where one puts their energy. The Military Industrial Complex is our shadow government. If we are going to bring on America the same things that we have done in other countries then we need to get up off our knees and fight against those who would take away our freedoms. War is already over. Let's work together to make war obsolete.
Food & Water Safety
Clean water and preservation of natural water sources is paramount to our survival. Those that lead us have allowed the corporations to cross over the web of life and they have destroyed the genetic code. In the process, they have befouled our food and water supply. We need real discussions and rapid action about future water sources, greening our neighborhoods and growing natural, organic food.
1. The right to employment through a Full Employment Program that will create 25 million jobs by implementing a nationally funded, but locally controlled direct employment initiative replacing unemployment offices with local employment offices offering public sector jobs which are "stored" in job banks in order to take up any slack in private sector employment.
   • Local communities will use a process of broad stakeholder input and democratic decisionmaking to fairly implement these programs.
   • Pay-to-play prohibitions will ensure that campaign contributions or lobbying favors do not impact decision-making.
   • We will end unemployment in America once and for all by guaranteeing a job at a living wage for every American willing and able to work.
2. Worker's rights including the right to a living wage, to a safe workplace, to fair trade, and to organize a union at work without fear of firing or reprisal.
3. The right to quality health care which will be achieved through a single-payer Medicare-for-All program.
4. The right to a tuition-free, quality, federally funded, local controlled public education system from pre-school through college. We will also forgive student loan debt from the current era of unaffordable college education.