Monday, October 1, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, there are US troops in Iraq (who knew! -- not the bulk of the US press which keeps lying), the Sadr bloc wants the National Alliance to explore replacing Nouri as prime minister, the amnesty law was scheduled for a vote today but no vote took place, John Kerry is proven right again, and more.
In its final act before leaving town earlier this month, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) that failed to reauthorize the main mission of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq (OSC-I), despite Pentagon warnings that the move could force the military to withdraw hundreds of U.S. troops who are still in Baghdad helping to develop the Iraqi security forces and working with them on counterterrorism. The authority for U.S. forces to train and assist the Iraqi security forces expired Sunday.
He damn well should know but he's just one more whore passing themselves off as a reporter (which is why we awarded him "Biggest Damn Liar of the Week" at Third). Why is so damn difficult for the US media to report the truth? Are they that vested in whoring for Barack Obama? We've noted the truth here and lived to tell. We've received thank you e-mails from the families of US troops still in Iraq, glad that someone, anyone, doesn't repeat the lie, doesn't pretend that their loved ones aren't in Iraq. Why the hell does the media lie?
Most Americans have been led to believe that all US forces besides those guarding the massive American Embassy in Iraq have been withdrawn since the end of last year. But small units of up to 300 troops have remained in Baghdad to train Iraqi security forces and provide aid and support, allegedly for counter-terrorism operations.
In reality, US troops have been providing this support to elite Iraqi forces that report directly to the increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They have essentially been used as a secret police force for Maliki to attack, detain, and torture his political opponents and crack down harshly on public dissent.
Last week, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."
Repeating: How stupid are you, Roger Cohen? And do you even read the paper that pays you a salary? You look like an ass in front of the whole world and that's on you because you can't even read the coverage from your own paper.
Of course, Roger may not be stupid, he may just enjoy whoring like so many of his peers.
Regardless, the American people are not being informed by the alleged news media. Despite Tim Arango's report, there were no headlines about the negotiations for a return, there were no headlines about more Special-Ops going into Iraq (Tom Hayden did cover the Special-Ops aspect in a blog post at The Nation -- no, that doesn't seem like a lot but it's more than The Progressive, Democracy Now!, In These Times, et al did.).
So much gets ignored including yesterday's attacks which mainly served to remind the country of how few US outlets have reporters in Iraq. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes Iraq witnesses its second deadliest day of the month on Sunday. (September 9th was the deadliest day). BBC (link is text and video) offered, "Civilians were among those killed and injured in the attacks around the capital, but the aim of the attackers seems to have been to kill as many security personnel as possible, wherever they could reach them, says the BBC's Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) counted 34 dead and 85 injured while explaining, "In and near the Iraqi capital, eight car bomb explosions and gunfire attacks killed up to 25 people and wounded 59 others, according to the police reports." Kareem Raheem, Suadad al-Salhy and Sophie Hares (Reuters) added, "Two more policemen were killed when a car bomb went off in the town of Balad Ruz, 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and bomb planted in a parked car in al Qaeda stronghold Mosul killed a civilian."
Most reports floated al Qaeda in Iraq as the culprit. The Irish Examiner quotes MP Hakim al-Zamili who sits on the Security and Defense Committee stating, "Al-Qaida leaders have no intention of leaving this country or letting Iraqis live in peace. Thus, we should expect more attacks in the near future. The situation in Iraq is still unstable ... and repetition of such attacks shows that our security forces are still unqualified to deal with the terrorists."
Today Alsumaria reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc has stated that Nouri's prime responsibility as prime minister is to ensure security and that he's failed at that. So in today's press conference they announced the need for an emergency metting by the National Alliance to explore Nouri's fate. All Iraq News reports the Sadr bloc is questioning whether it isn't time to replace Nouri due to the continued violence.
If the series of assaults were part of the Islamic State of Iraq's Breaking The Walls campaign, they will no doubt claim credit in the next few days. 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.) They are only one group in Iraq resorting to violence. On the continued violence, Mohammed Tawfeeq offered this framework, "The violence comes just days after dozens of prisoners broke out of a jail in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit. Among those who got out Thursday were several al Qaeda members on death row, according to authorities. The jailbreak occurred when armed men detonated two car bombs at the gates of Tasfirat jail. The explosions triggered clashes with security forces."
September in Iraq ended with a wave of violence. Mohammed Tawfeeeq (CNN) reports last month was the deadliest month in Iraq "since August 2010" according to figures supplied by the Ministry of the Interior which states there were 365 deaths. AFP adds, "It was the highest monthly toll given by the government since August 2010, when figures showed 426 people were killed and 838 wounded in attacks." All Iraq News notes the ministry's figures for number injured is 683.
Which outlet tabulating came the closest to the number provided by Iraq's ministries? The Associated Press counted "nearly 200 people" and AFP's tally for the month is 253 killed. 365? Looks like everyone got it wrong and -- Oh, wait. Iraq Body Count's total was 356. By Price Is Right logic (closest without going over), Iraq Body Count wins. And if those number succeed in demonstrate anything, hopefully, they indicate that it's past time for the press to return to citing IBC in their monthly look-back pieces.
A question to ask is why, after a non-stop pattern of undercounting deaths each month, the Ministry of the Interior suddenly didn't low ball?
Is the Ministry under control of Nouri at war with him? Or, more likely, did Nouri okay an accurate number being released? After months and months when the official number from the Iraqi government was 100 or more short with each release, what's going on?
If I were someone who had stated that getting most US troops out of Iraq was a good thing and I was in negotiations with the White House to bring some troops back in, I think I'd need to make an argument that they were needed. One way I'd do that would be by noting the high fatalities.
Today's attacks come as Iraq's still recoiling from yesterday's attacks which claimed 34 lives and left at least eighty-five injured. Al Mada notes that a member of Parliament's Committee on Security and Defense declared that the bombings will continue for as long as the political crisis does. Iraq has been a political stalemate for over a year.
In the 2010, campaign, Maliki's party was primarily a sectarian political list of Shiite candidates with a few Sunni political figureheads. In contrast, Allawi's political coalition was a cross-sectarian list. While Allawi is a Shiite, he headed a party consisting of Sunni political leaders from western and northern Iraq and some Shiite politicians who believed it was time to move beyond sectarian politics if Iraq is to achieve national unity.
In Iraq's short history of free elections, Shiite candidates have a demographic advantage. Shiites are approximately 60% of the population, and Iraqis voted almost exclusively along sectarian lines in the 2005 national elections and the 2009 provincial vote. Maliki also had a media advantage. The state-run national news network did not accept paid campaign advertisements, but freely broadcast extensive reports of Maliki's election appearances and campaign speeches in evening news bulletins. On the eve of the vote, state TV broadcast a documentary highlighting the Prime Minister's visit to security checkpoints around the capital. Maliki is widely credited with an improvement in the day-to-day security in the capital and in the south, but his pre-election inspection of the security checkpoints was seen as a long campaign ad. According to domestic media monitorying reports of state-runtelevision, Al-Iraqiya, Maliki's political coalition received by far the "highest positive coverage" when compared with all other political parties in the campaign.
When it came to the vote, Allawi demonstrated that sectarian voting patterns could be broken. A small percentage of Shiites voted for a party that included Sunnis on the ticket which helped deliver the two-seat lead. Prime Minister Maliki charged widespread fraud and demanded a recount to prevent "a return to violence." He pointedly noted that he remained the commander in chief of the armed forces.
Was Maliki threatening violence? Was he using the platform of state-run media to suggest that his Shiite-dominated government would not relinquish power to a Sunni coaltion despite the election results?
Yes, that is what he was doing. And he had the White House's backing. But let's pause for a moment to note that Amos is the author of one of the finest books on the Iraq War, Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. Too many books supposedly about the Iraq War disappear the Iraqis -- not so with Deborah Amos' book.
Following the March 2010 elections, there was an 8-month political stalemate when Nouri al-Maliki refused to let the winning slate Iraqiya have first crack at forming a government (the Constitution gave Iraqiya that right). With the White House's backing, Nouri brought things to a standstill. In November 2010, the US brokered a contract known as the Erbil Agreement. It was a list of concessions by Nouri in exchange for getting a second term as prime minister despite his State of Law coming in second in the elections. Leaders of all the political blocs -- including Nouri -- signed off on the contract. Nouri used it to grab a second term and then trashed it, insisting that elements would be implemented shortly. By the summer of 2011, Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc were calling for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented. This is the current political stalemate. It is upgraded to a political crisis in December 2011 when Nouri's previous crackdowns on Sunnis and Iraqiya members moves to Baghdad with him targeting Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Worth noting again from last week,
Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
The White House could have stood by democracy and will of the people but elected not to.
Dar Addustour notes that Parliament met today with four bills on their schedule -- the infrastructure bill and the amnesty bill among them. The two were on Thursday's schedule as well, along with the line of credit (not on the schedule today). There was a walk out by Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance over the infrastructure bill and that ended the session on Thursday. Before the session started, Al Mada reported that the infrastructure bill was seen as the most important and that the Kurdistan Alliance was stating they had not been persuaded to support it. Alsumaria notes that, first, votes were postponed due to the failuer to meet a quorum and now the vote on the infrastructure bill has been kicked back to October 9th. All Iraq News adds that State of Law is accusing Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi of burying the bill, arguing that he could have had a quorum at several points in today's session but refused to call for a count when that was possible.
AKnews becomes the latest press outlet to go out of business. This means even more in Iraq where an independent press should be thriving. The outlet serving the Kurdistan region was started in October 2008 and it was a daily outlet. Sunday the General Director of AKnews Bedran Ahmed Habeeb reported, "AKnews will stop boradcasting and at the time of writing these words it has already been shut down. I'm deeply sorry that due to heavy financial burden, we had to close down AKnews. During my carrier I have worked in many cultural foundations and established many by myself. Among all the foundations I established, I was happy with AKnews. I believe it would, most than all foundations, serve a message which I carried since a very young age: rescuing my country from the oppression and establishing a prosperous and free community. At the beginning I thought expending money for this high goal should not be measured. However, the cost for running this news agency was beyond the capacity of Aras Publishers which founded AKnews. AKnews was a completely independent news agency. In the almost four years of operating, we never bent, even slightly, for a political party, unless there was something which passed through by mistake."
At the end of June 2010, Deborah Amos authored [PDF format warning] "Confusion, Contradiction and Irony: The Iraqi Media in 2010," a paper for Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Amos noted that "nearly 16 million" -- in a country of approximately 30 million -- have exposure to the TV news media.
Iraq's media landscape had become a mirror of Iraq's political-sectarian divisions. This divide had driven the country to devastating violence from 2005 to 2007 and now has evolved into a political power struggle with satellite television ownership representing the power players. There are no neutral outlets. In a landmark 2007 study, researcher Ibrahim Al-Marashi described Iraq's media as powerful sectarian empires" coalesced around ethno-political groups in Iraq who have print, radio and TV communications at their disposal."
In the emerging Iraq, every press voice is needed and necessary. The closure of AKnews is very sad news.
Very sad also describes Victoria Nuland. The US State Dept spokesperson -- Dick Cheney's right-hand during the lead up to and early days of the Iraq War (helped with planning, messaging and so much more) -- Victoria Nuland tried to smack down US Senator John Kerry last month. Maybe that's how she got Cheney's attention but all it did with John Kerry is prove him wrong and prove her hopelessly out of her league.
It starts with a September 20th Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Robert S. Beecroft to be US Ambassador to Iraq. We covered that hearing in the Wednesday and Thursday snapshots. Kerry's questioning is in the Wednesday snapshot. Like others on the Committee, he was frustrated with the use of Iraqi air space to carry goods into Syria. (The Senate, like the White House, believes this is taking place. Nouri al-Maliki's government denies that it is.)
Chair John Kerry: Can you share with me an answer to the issue I raised about the Iranians using American airspace in order to support [Syrian President Bashar] Assad? What are we doing, what have you been doing -- if anything, to try to limit that use?
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: I have personally engaged on this repeatedly at the highest levels of Iraqi government. My colleagues in Baghdad have engaged on this. We're continuing to engage on it. And every single visitor representing the US government from the Senate, recently three visitors, to administration officials has raised it with the Iraqis and made very clear that we find this unnaceptable and we find it unhelpful and detrimental to the region and to Iraq and, of course -- first and foremost, to the Syrian people. It's something that needs to stop and we are pressing and will continue to press until it does stop.
Chair John Kerry: Well, I mean, it may stop when it's too late. If so many people have entreated the government to stop and that doesn't seem to be having an impact -- uh, that sort of alarms me a little bit and seems to send a signal to me: Maybe -- Maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response? I mean it just seems completely inappropriate that we're trying to help build their democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country and they're working against our insterest so overtly -- agains their own interests too -- I might add.
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Senator, Senator, I share your concerns 100%. I'll continue to engage. And, with your permission, I will make very clear to the Iraqis what you've said to me today -- and that is you find it alarming and that it may put our assistance and our cooperation on issues at stake.
Chair John Kerry: Well I think that it would be very hard. I mean, around here, I think right now there's a lot of anxiety about places that seem to be trying to have it both ways. So I wish you would relay that obviously and I think that members of the Committee would -- would want to do so.
Kerry and the Committee were in agreement on this. Victoria Nuland would comment Thursday in the US State Dept press briefing.
QUESTION: But you've been protesting all along about this issue. Yesterday, Senator Kerry warned Iraq. Are you going to further pressure Iraq and warn about the aid to Maliki government?
MS. NULAND: Well, Senator Kerry has obviously made his own statements. We do not support linking U.S. assistance to Iraq to the issue of the Iranian over-flights precisely because our assistance is in part directed towards robust security assistance, including helping the Iraqis build their capability to defend their airspace. So there's a chicken/egg thing here.
What a sad and inexperienced State Dept. This was the only pressure that the US had in the diplomatic tool kit. Kerry was willing to use the tool kit, Victoria Nuland was more concerned with appeasing Nouri al-Maliki. As we noted in the September 21st snapshot:
It's a shame she couldn't back up Kerry and it's a shame she couldn't have just said she'd get back to them on it. Instead, she had to waive the white flag. Always. Reuters reported today, "Iraq denied permission to a North Korean plane bound for Syria to pass through Iraqi airspace last Saturday because it suspected it could be carrying weapons, a senior official said on Friday." On Friday, they announce the denial six days prior of a North Korean plane? Why?
Because they feel and fear the pressure from the proposal John Kerry and others on the Committee floated. So now they're making some sort of effort to say, "Well, we're at least doing this." And making it because they want the US money. So, Alsumaria reports, Nouri told US Vice President Joe Biden on the phone today -- I would say whined -- that he was being doubted about his Syrian position by US officials and that this wasn't fair. Point being, John Kerry and the Committee knew what they were doing. Again, it's a shame that Nuland was so quick to raise the white flag at the State Dept yesterday. Already, Kerry and his Committee floating the idea has had impact. It's not yet where they want it, but it could get there. If Nuland and company would stop undercutting the Senate. There's more here but we'll pick it up next week, hopefully on Monday. Nuland doesn't have the sense to be embarrassed but if anyone has bragging rights today, it's John Kerry and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which, in less than 48 hours, have accomplished more than all the talk and talk and talk with Nouri that the State Dept's done for months now.
Yesterday, Reuters reported, "Iraq will ask Syria-bound Iranian planes passing through its airspace to land for random inspections after Washington said they could be ferrying arms to Damascus, the Iraqi foreign minister said in an interview." Maybe next time, the State Dept should be a little less eager to try to slap down John Kerry? He's three years shy of the thirty year mark for service in the Senate. Might he know a thing or two about diplomacy? You'd think a Democratic administration would grasp that it's not really smart to pick fights with a Democratic Senator -- but maybe Victoria Nuland thinks she's still working for Dick Cheney? Who knows. Yet again, Kerry has been proven correct. Events have demonstrated that he was right to float the notion that US funds could be denied. It would be really big of Nuland to note that Kerry was correct in a State Dept press briefing but I won't hold my breath.
On a personal note, we are delinking from Courage to Resist. Fair or not, I've had it with the brother and sister team of Rebecca and David Solnit. When they insulted and trashed two friends of mine and I got stuck commenting on their book, I high roaded it and stayed focused on that awful book. In part because of Courage to Resist but in part because no one was going to read that damn book. And no one did. And there have been other things I've overlooked. But I really have an allergy to the freaks who hide in political closets. I especially have an allergy when these freaks -- non-Democrats -- decided they are the Democratic Party's enforcers. No offense, Rebecca, but Democrats don't need non-Democrats telling them what to do. And 360.org may be all the craze of American Communists and Socialists who hide in the closet but we have no interest in that crap-ass group. Lambert of Corrente linked to this strong piece at L'Hote by Freddie which led to people using the links and discovering that Rebecca Solnit's trying to play enforcer for the Democratic Party.
Rebecca, if she really wanted to help Barack, should probably close her mouth and stop speaking. Though Barack will take any voter's vote gladly, Team Obama doesn't really want to be associated with or linked to the Red vote -- that's caused them more p.r. problems than anything else, you can check with David Axelrod on that.
Is that really reason to ban her and her brother David? Actually, it is. Your vote is your vote. We have stressed this repeatedly. People like Rebecca who long for totalitarian regimes don't respect the people or the will of the people so that would be enough all by itself. But David was already on my s**t list. He got there last week, as did Courage to Resist, when they posted something that was not helpful to say the least.
There are US war resisters in Canada. They deserve support. I'm not really sure how the so-called report on Skyler James that went up helps war resisters in Canada. I'm confused mainly because it doesn't help them. Maybe I'm missing some subtext not having a Marxist ring to decode Bob Meola's text? I asked a friend who's a centrist military attorney to look at it. He doesn't believe any of Skyler James' charges and accusations. I then shopped it around to three friends in DoD. I wasn't looking to find out if the charges were true or not (I'll take Skyler James at her word), I was trying to see what the reaction was to those who don't already support war resisters. And the reaction was no one believed Skyler's claims of mistreatment -- which means that the Canadian government most likely won't either.
So when you leave her claims of no toilet paper and having trouble catching a ride to the mess hall and other things aside, what you're left with is Skyler James left Canada, returned to the US and wasn't tortured, wasn't even imprisoned. She was free to roam the base.
If you're missing it, that's not how life was for Robin Long. Nor for Clifford Cornell. It's probably not how life's going to be for Kim Rivera. But it certainly does help the Stephen Harper's government's argument that war resisters are not treated unfairly. "After three and a half months of being back in the states," Skyler tells Courage to Resist, "and doing paper work to do a Chapter 10 in lieu of a court martial, Colerman finally put in the paper for the Chapter 10 discharge in lieu of court martial. About a week later, Adrian Haddad, my civilian attorney let me know that it was approved."
How does that help the war resisters in Canada? It doesn't. It, in fact, makes Harper's case for him.
Skyler James wasn't your typical war resister. She was resisting the Afghanistan War, for one thing, and not many did that who publicly went to Canada. But most importantly, she is a lesbian. Because of what she was claiming when she went public in Canada, it's very doubtful the US military would risk dragging the process through the press. Skylar was victimized in the military because of who she was and that victimization is why she was hustled out of the military quickly. It's a real shame Courage to Resist couldn't be bothered with that.
Instead they've written and posted online what can be evidence for the Canadian government when they try to to deport the next US war resister. When Alyssa Manning argues to the courts that the war resister will suffer harsh treatement, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney can just introduce the Courage to Resist article into the record. I'll tell you how it reads to people who don't support war resisters because I heard it from everyone I showed the article to. Skyler James was taken to the base Fort Campbell while the military determined what to do. On the base, she was not locked up. She was not restricted in movement. She freely traveled around the base. On Memorial Day weekend she partied (and they believe she was drugged or she did drugs). None of that helps war resisters in Canada. I have no idea why the useless article was run by an advocay group. Or a so-called advocacy group. And if you're wondering why Canadians -- not Courage to Resist -- floating applying pressure to Barack to save Kim Rivera, it's because Cowards Don't Resist won't stand up to Barack. I'm tired of the Solnits and their faux actions. They've compromised whatever integrity they did have.