Monday, September 10, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, an Iraqi vice president is convicted and sentenced to be hanged, Iraq experiences the second most violent day of the year with over 100 dead, poor Victoria Nuland is forced to address the topic of Iraq, Senator Patty Murray prepares to fight for a Veterans Jobs Corps bill, and more.
Starting with veterans. In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. August 10th, she, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and veterans held a press conference to discuss S.3429 - the Veterans Jobs Corps bill.
Senator Patty Murray (at the press conference): Just last week I helped introduce the Veterans Jobs Corps bill in the Senate -- and it will be one of the very first bills we consider when we return to DC in September. It's a bill that is modeled off successful job training programs across the country and in states like ours. And it's a bill based on President Obama's call to hire more veterans as police officers, firefighters, and in our national partk. The bill is a $1 billion investment in our veterans and their capacity to strengthen America. And over the next five years, the Veterans Jobs Corps will increase training and hiring opportunities for all veterans, help restore and protect our national, state, and tribal forests, our parks, our coastal areas, wildlife refuges, and VA cemeteries. It will also help hire qualified veterans as first responders at a time when 85 percent of law enforcement agencies were forced to reduce their budget in the past year. This bill contains ideas from both sides of the aisle, is fully paid for with bipartisan spending offsets, and should not be controversial at a time when our veterans continue to struggle. Like I said, it will be job number one when we return, and I am hopeful that regardless of party affiliation this is an idea we can all get behind.
That matters at any time but especially right now because the Senate will be considering the bill tomorrow. From Senator Muarry's office:
TOMORROW: Senator Murray to Speak in Support of Veterans Jobs Corps Bill
BILL WOULD HELP TRAIN AND HIRE VETERANS AS POLICE OFFICERS, FIREFIGHTERS, AND AT OUR NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS
(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 11th, Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, will speak on the Senate floor in support of the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012, which she is co-sponsoring. At a time when over 720,000 veterans are unemployed, this bill would increase training and hiring opportunities for our nation's veterans, especially those from the post-9/11 era. The Veterans Jobs Corps Act would help put our veterans back to work as police officers, fire fighters, and other first responders, positions that our communities are in sore need of after 85 percent of law enforcement agencies were forced to reduce their budget in the past year. In addition, this bill would also help train and hire veterans to help restore and protect our national, state, and tribal forests, our parks, our coastal areas, wildlife refuges, and VA cemeteries.
Senator Murray will point out that the bill contains ideas from both sides of the aisle, is fully paid for with bipartisan spending offsets, and should not be controversial at a time when our veterans continue to struggle. The bill is expected to be considered by the full Senate this week.
WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray
WHAT: Senator Murray will give a speech on the Senate floor in support of the Veterans Jobs Corps bill
WHEN: TOMORROW: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Approximately 12:00 PM EST/9:00 AM PST (this may change depending on floor schedule)
Now we shift over to Canada where Kim Rivera is being threatened with deportation. She is a US war resister, an Iraq War veteran who came back to the US on a pass and decided she couldn't return to the war because of what she had seen. So at the start of 2007, she and her husband and their two children went into Canada. She has applied for refugee status. In the years since, as she's waited, she and her husband have put down roots in Canada and had two more children. The Canadian government is currently stating that they will deport her on or by September 20th. The United Steelworkers of Canada issued the following statement today:
TORONTO – "The USW calls on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to grant Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera's application to stay in Canada," said Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers (USW) National Director.
"The minister can choose to step in and allow Kimberly and her family to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds," said Neumann. "Two of Kimberly's children were born here, yet the process for deporting her failed to consider the wellbeing of her family."
Rivera is to be deported on Sept. 20, according to a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) for Rivera, her husband Mario and their four young children (two of whom are Canadian citizens).
Rivera joined the U.S. Army when she was 24 and was stationed in Iraq. She believed the U.S. efforts would make her country safer and bring democracy to Iraq. Disillusioned by the reality of civilian casualties and Iraqi children devastated by loss and filled with fear, she came to Canada in 2007 and applied for refugee status. Rivera felt she could no longer participate in a war where she was contributing to causing harm and death to innocent people.
The USW has supported U.S. Iraq War resisters since 2004 when the first war resister arrived in Canada. The Toronto Steelworkers Hall is offered for the War Resisters Support Campaign's public meetings.
Members of the USW are encouraged to sign the War Resisters Support Campaign's petition and call Minister Kenney to ask that he allow the Rivera family to stay in Canada.
During the Vietnam War, 100,000 war resisters came to Canada and more than half of them remain here today. Many of them volunteered and, like Kimberly, later developed moral objections to the war that they could not ignore. In the 1970s, conscientious objectors who had voluntarily joined the U.S. military were accepted as permanent residents here without distinction from those who were drafted.
"Across the country, war resisters, including some who are now Steelworkers, were accepted here because they could not in good conscience participate in a war. They, and all of the Vietnam War resisters, have made invaluable contributions to Canadian society and to our economy," said Neumann.
Public opinion polling shows that a majority of Canadians want our government to continue that tradition today. A 2008 Angus Reid poll found that 64% of Canadians would let U.S. military deserters stay in Canada.
More information: Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers National Director, 416-544-5951 Bob Gallagher, United Steelworkers, 416-544-5966 email@example.com
Iraq Veterans Against the War notes Kim ("Send a letter now or call the office of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration: 613-954-1064 ") and Rodney Watson. Rodney? Rodney is one of those who was affected by stop-loss aka the backdoor draft. When his service contract should have ended, he was informed that additional years were being tacked on. Dropping back to the June 17, 2008 snapshot and this is about rallies taking place across Canada in support of war resisters:
On Saturday, rallies took place. Mario Cootauco (Canwest News Service) reported on one in British Columbia that US war resister Rodney Watson attended. Watson explained that he didn't want to return to Iraq, "There's no need for us to be over there and I saw that first-hand. I decided I needed to get out of there. I wanted to go just to be a support. I didn't want to go kicking down doors, killing children or innocent people or getting my hands dirty or anything. I support my country, but I don't support the way we're going about it."
The latest flashpoint in the battle to keep war resisters in Canada has been
the case of Rodney Watson who on Monday October 19, 2009, decided to seek
sanctuary in a B.C. [British Columbia] church rather than face deporation to the United States to face desertion charges. Watson, who is originally from Kansas City, Kansas, enlisted in the US Army in 2004 for a three-year contract with the intentions of becoming a cook since he wanted to serve the troops in a non-combat capactiy.
In 2005, he was deployed to Iraq just north of Mosul, where he was put in
charge of searching vehicles and Iraqi civilians for explosives, contraband and
weapons before they entered the base. He was also expected to "keep the
peace" by monitoring Iraqi civilians who worked on the base and fire his weapon
I have been here in Vancouver since early 2007. I have been self-sufficient. I have fathered a beautiful son whose mother is Canadian. I plan to marry her and to provide our son with a loving and caring family unit. I have made many friends and I have built a peaceful life here. My son and my wife-to-be are my heart and soul and it would be a great tragedy for my family and for me personally if I were deported and torn away from them. I think being punished as a prisoner of conscience for doing what I felt morally obligated to do is a great injustice. This Christmas I hope and pray that people will open their hearts and minds to give peace and love a chance.
Kim and Rodney are two Iraq War veterans who were changed by what they saw.
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi: Yesterday Prime Minister Maliki and his politicized judiciary concluded the final phase of their theatrical campaign against me using a kangaroo court set up for this purpose. It was really a shamble. Therefore, while reconfirming my and my God's absolute [authority], I totally reject and will never recognize the unfair, the injust, the politically motivated verdict which was expected from the outset of the unfair trial. I consider verdict a medal on my chest and a fair cost that I have to pay in return of my absolute dedication in serving my country Iraq.
That's Iraq's Vice President al-Hashemi speaking in Turkey today at a press conference -- video here. and here. Sunday, Ramadan al-Fatash (DPA) explained "that a Baghdad court sentenced in absentia Iraq's vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, to death on terrorism charges. Al-Hashemi, Iraq's most senior Sunni Muslim official, has called the charges a political ploy by the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki." Lara Jakes (AP) reported, "The Baghdad courtroom was silent Sunday as the presiding judge read out the verdict convicting al-Hashemi and his son-in-law of organizing the murders of a Shiite security official and a lawyer who had refused to help the vice president's allies in terror cases. The court sentenced both men in absentia to death by hanging. They have 30 days to appeal the verdict." Al Jazeera adds: Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Istanbul, where Hashemi currently is, said the vice president "didnt seem very worried at all" as Turkey has refused to hand him over to the Iraqi authorities. "He knows he is safe," she said. Our correspondent also noted that the final sentence was a lot more watered down than the initial charges. "At the beginning he was being indicted for financing and organising death squads. He was told he was behind at least 150 attacks. If you look at today's sentencing it has been completely watered down. Compared to what he was accused of, he has just been sentenced on the killing of a lawyer and a security official," she said. BBC News notes, "Other Sunni politicians have denounced Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - who issued the warrant for Mr Hashemi - as a dictator, accusing him of deliberate provocation that risked plunging the country back into sectarian conflict. Correspondents say the fragile coalition government of Sunnis, secularists and Shia has appeared to be in danger of collapse ever since." Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Turkey has not tried to send Hashemi back to Iraq, despite Interpol issuing a 'red notice' to member countries requesting his arrest in May. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet quoted an anonymous diplomat calling the death sentence 'obviously a political decision ... an absurd situation'." Attorney Muayad Obeid al-Ezzi headed al-Hashemi's defense team and he tells Al Jazeera, "This ruling has no legal value or effect. In-abstentia rulings cannot be considered final or enforced." Hurriyet Daily News notes:
"This is obviously a political decision. Sentencing the country's vice president to death is an absurd situation," a Turkish diplomatic source told the Daily News. Recalling that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said al-Hashemi could stay in Turkey for as long as he wants, the source said he was not anticipating a change in this position. The Turkish government had said it would not extradite al-Hashemi to Iraq, after Interpol issued a red bulletin against the fugitive Iraqi politician in May.
State of Law got what it wanted which is one reason for them to stop gloating. Another reason is that their glee backs up the belief that this was politically motivated. Alsumaria reports that State of Law's Haitham al-Jubouri is insisting Turkey must hand over Tareq and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to demand Turkey hand the vice president over. Even worse, State of Law MP Saad al-Muttalibi immediately rushed to Iran's Press TV to offer 'facts' like, "It has nothing to do with politics. The court was not politically motivated. There was hard evidence linking the person to the death squad." I'm sorry, Saad al-Muttalibi was a courtroom observer? No, he wasn't. So his statements which have him seeing the evidence is suspect. Either he's lying when he maintains "there was hard evidence" and he has no idea whether there was or wasn't or else he did see the evidence and since he was neither judge nor juror, why was he shown the evidence in an ongoing trial?
Al Mada reports that some believe Iraqi President Jalal Talabani will intervene in the crisis. Kitabat notes that al-Hashemi has repeated his call for an end to the executions in Iraq which are seen as politically motivated (and amnesty law is supposedly on the verge of being passed but in the meantime Nouri is ordering that Sunnis be executed -- this has led to two prisons have hunger strikes and a prison riot when Sunnis were taken out of the prison to Baghdad to be executed). Omar al-Jawoshy and Michael Schwirtz (New York Times) quote Talabani stating, "It was regrettable to issue, at this particular time, a judicial decision against him while he still officially holds office."
Sam Dagher and Ali A. Nabhan (Wall Street Journal) report, "Many saw the verdict against Tariq al-Hashemi -- a prominent Sunni politician who has professed his innocence and has been sheltered by the Sunni Islamist-led government in Turkey since April -- coupled with Sunday's attacks as emboldening those among Iraq's Sunni minority who see violent confrontation rather than politics as the only way to regain powers lost to the Shiite majority after the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime more than nine years ago."
And why would anyone assume that politics was a way to regain power when the March 2010 election results were overturned by the White House? We called that out in real time while many remained silent. It was not minor. If you say you used war to create a democracy -- an illegal reason for war -- and you then turn around and nullify the results of an election, then don't be surprised when people -- especially people new to democracy -- lose faith in the process.
The March 2010 elections saw Iraqiya come in first. Iraqiya is a political slate that welcomed all and was more concerned with a national identity than a sectarian one. Nouri refused to run with Dawa (his political party) and instead created the slate State of Law which was sectarian. The Iraqi people turned out in record numbers to vote and despite bribes from Nouri -- he bribed in the 2009 provincial elections as well -- and violence, they put Iraqiya in first place.
Which means Ayad Allawi should have had first crack at forming a government. That's what the Constitution says. Instead, Nouri dug his heels in because he wanted that second term and the White House backed him up. He would not have survived causing an 8 month political stalemate without the backing of his puppet masters. And it was the White House that brokered the Erbil Agreement in November 2010 which finally ended the political stalemate. The Erbil Agreement was supposed to see Nouri make various concessions to get a second term as prime minister -- but Nouri used the agreement to get that second term and then broke the contract and the US played oblivious -- this after swearing to the blocs that it was a binding contract and it had the US government's full support.
When the bulk of the US military left Iraq (the drawdown), Nouri amped up his targeting of Iraqiya and Sunnis. He screamed for Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq to be removed from office, he swore out an arrest warrant on Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, etc.
Nouri's refusal to honor the Erbil Agreement has created a second political stalemate that's over a year old. His actions starting in December 2011 have created a political crisis.
Chelsea J. Carter and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quote al-Hashemi stating, "The verdict is unjust, political and illegitimate and I will not acknowledge it. [. . .] To my dear people, I say, make sure that al-Maliki and those who stand behind him don't get what he wishes. Because they want sectarian strife." Reporting on the press conference in Turkey, Ahul Bayt News Agency states, "Mr Hashemi was the most pro U.S. politician in Iraq and his case has sparked a political crisis." Wow. What a way to repay Tareq for that, huh? The US government couldn't have been more in character if they'd put him on the refugee application list and then spent two to three years ignoring his application.
The State Dept issued the following today:
Office of the Spokesperson
September 10, 2012
Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will travel to Amman, Jordan, Baghdad and Erbil, Iraq and Ankara, Turkey September 10-15 to engage leaders on our strategic regional priorities. His visit will provide a strong signal of U.S. commitment to the region and enhance international coordination efforts on Syria.
QUESTION: To start with, Iraqi Vice President Tariq Hashemi, as you know, has been sentenced to death in absentia. Do you have any comment on the verdict?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, Arshad, we have discussed the Hashemi case with a number of Iraqis leaders over these many months. Consistent with our prior positions on Iraqi legal and judicial matters, the United States supports a fair and transparent judicial process in accordance with the constitution and the laws of Iraq and its international legal obligations.
We are concerned about the potential for an increase in unhelpful rhetoric and tension on all sides, and we call on all of Iraq's leaders to continue to try to resolve their disputes consistent with the rule of law and in a manner that's going to strengthen Iraq's long-term security, unity, and commitment to democracy.
I would simply add that our understanding is that under Iraqi law, there is an opportunity for Mr. Hashemi to appeal this. We will, obviously, monitor this case and see what happens.
QUESTION: Do you regard this as having been a fair and transparent process?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we've said all the way along that we have concerns, and we look forward to seeing where this case goes in the future.
QUESTION: No, no. But you began by saying you reiterated your support for a fair and transparent process. When you say you've said all along you've had concerns, I mean, are you – now that there's a verdict and a sentence, can you not say – I mean, do you continue to be concerned that this was not fair nor transparent – the process by which this was arrived at?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think I made clear that it is not clear that this legal process is necessarily over, so I don't think I want to go any further than I did at this time.
QUESTION: Mr. Hashemi said today from Turkey that his case is political, so he doesn't really believe it's a legal issue at all. Do you see it as a political? He's accusing Prime Minister Maliki of making a case based on allegations mainly politically targeted rather than legal system in the court system, the court.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I think we've said – and I said it again here – that with regard to political disputes, political concerns between figures in Iraq, we want to see those solved through discussion among them, through a political process. I don't think with regard to this specific case I'm going to go any further than I went in responding to Arshad.
QUESTION: But I mean, can I just say – I mean, you're saying – you're saying – in response to these particular questions, you're saying a very general statement about politically motivated cases. And so it's unclear whether you think this is a politically motivated case, or you're just taking the time to remind people that you have a problem with politically motivated cases.
MS. NULAND: I would say what we've been saying all along, that we've had concerns about the way this has been dealt with. The legal process continues.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on this.
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. Hashemi is – of course, Iraq is a close ally of the United States. You've spent a lot of time and effort training its judiciary and so on. And he is on the run. He is a fugitive. He also is in a country that is another country that is allied with the United States. So how do you handle this? If they call for his extradition, how do you deal with it? Just to follow up on Nadia's question, is it a political or is it a judicial --
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you're taking me into hypothetical places having to do with extradition, et cetera.
QUESTION: But they are – I mean, they are asking for him to be turned over.
MS. NULAND: Yeah. I think I'm not going to go any further than I've already gone, Said.
QUESTION: I'm just a little confused on what type of discussion you want to have. You say a discussion that avoids unhelpful rhetoric. But now you have a death penalty against someone. Should they be discussing, what, how to implement his death, or I mean, what's left to discuss at this point?
MS. NULAND: Well, as I said at the beginning here, the Iraqi judicial process provides for appeal. It's up to Mr. Hashemi how he's going to proceed there. But given the fact that this – the legal process here may not be over; I don't think I'm going to go any further than I already have.
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: In order for him to appeal, he needs to be physically – according to what legals are saying in Iraq – physically to be present in Iraq. And him and people from his party, Al-Iraqiya, are having fears over his safety, and that's one of the reasons why he fled from Iraq. So do you think that his concerns and his people's concerns are legit? And also, I mean, the death penalty seems like, I mean, if he gets there and if those concerns are proven to be true, I mean, that's really another death penalty. So it's either – whether he goes or he stays out, he has the penalty, the same verdict.
MS. NULAND: Well, again, this is an issue that is something that's going to have to be worked out going forward. I think I'm not going to comment any further than I already have.
Moving on to something else? Samir, please.
QUESTION: Was this on the agenda in the U.S.-Iraq talks that Assistant Secretary Jones had last week in Iraq?
MS. NULAND: Whether this specific case of Mr. Hashemi came up with Assistant Secretary Jones, I will check on that for you, Samir. I think we've been pretty clear and transparent with the Iraqis all the way through about our concerns about all of this.
QUESTION: One more on this?
MS. NULAND: Yeah.
QUESTION: You, I think, said that you had concerns about the possibility that this could lead to an increase in tensions and heated rhetoric, something like that.
MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: When you say tensions, do you mean violence?
MS. NULAND: I think there's concern about whether it's rhetoric, whether it's violence, whether it is anything that takes us further away from the kind of political dialogue that Iraqis have got to have with each other in order for the country to move forward.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on this. Do you expect with – in the increased sectarian tension, and Mr. Hashemi being the most senior Sunni in Iraq, do you expect that this actually will spill over into a more sectarian strife?
MS. NULAND: Well, again, I'm not going to predict the future here. I think we have concerns, as I said at the beginning, that there will be increased tension going forward.
Please. Moving on? Go ahead.
Did you catch it? Did you catch how many times she wanted to change the topic.
I'm sorry Victoria Nuland is discussing Iraq boring you? Forget that your own family -- husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and possibly a pet monkey -- all advocated the Iraq War as did you while working for Dick Cheney, whether you want to discuss it or not, the US tax payer is on the hook for billions in Iraq but now spent by the State Dept. In other words, you should be discussing Iraq every damn day, not working to avoid the topic.
Through yesterday's attacks, Iraq Body Count counts 140 people dead from violence in Iraq so far this month.
Violence continued today. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports an attack on a Dujail checkpoint that has left 3 Sahwa dead. (Sahwa are fighter originally put on the US payroll to stop attacking US troops and US equipment, in 2008, then top US commander in Iraq David Petreaus -- now CIA Director -- credited Sahwa with turning a phase of the war around. Sahwa are also known as "Sons of Iraq" and "Awakenings.") All Iraq News notes a Falluja roadside bombing has left two Iraqi soldiers injured. Alsumaria adds police are stating that they killed a suicide car bomber in Falluja. All Iraq News also notes an armed attack in Samarra which left 2 people dead and three people injured. Trend News Agency notes that Turkish warplanes bombed northern Iraq for over an hour in their ongoing conflict with the PKK. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." AFP notes Turkish TV (NTV network) today stated that battles between the PKK (and other Kurdish rebels -- PKK are in northern Iraq) and the Turkish military this year have left over 461 people dead after 1,000 military assaults.
Alsumaria notes that KRG President Massoud Barzani is stating that the Baghdad-based government is failing the people, that is has created a crisis (the political crisis) and, instead of addressing it, has exploited it. Equally true, Nouri made time to dash over to Iran when Tehran beckoned for a summit when he should have been addressing the ongoing issues in Iraq. It is assumed (true or not) that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is responsible for the attacks. Dar Addustour notes the Ministry of the Interior is blaming that group while Parliament wants answers as to how the attacks happened, how the attacks continue to happen?
That's a question people should ask. They should have asked it in 2010 when they were going to vote in parliamentary elections. Nouri's been prime minister since 2006. At what point does he get held accountable for his actions?
Remember that Nouri has not filled the security ministries. He was supposed to do that in December 2010. Instead, he has assumed leadership of them in what was rightly called a power-grab at the start of 2011. As violence has increased in Iraq, there has been no Minister of Defense, no Minister of the Interior and no Minister of National Security. Just two months ago, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." At what point does Nouri get held accountable for failing to provide security and failing to staff the security posts?