Wednesday, October 24, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, an Iraqi journalist is stabbed to death, Barack gets busted for lying about Iraq, Nouri gets accused of assassinating a political rival, Robert Gibbs justifies the killing of a 16-year-old American, new e-mails reveal the White House should have known what was going on during the Benghazi attack, and more.
Reporting for the Pentagon's American Forces Press Service, Jim Garamone notes Lt Gen Mark P. Hertling expressed doubt on Tuesday as to what Iraq might become -- democracy or something else, "They are still struggling and it pains me to watch it." He also stated, "There was a lot of blood and sweat and tears and hard work put into that country by American soldiers." Joel Gehrke (Washington Examiner) ties "the general's misgivings about the insurgency and Iraqi security forces" to comments made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the debate Monday as well as to those of Senator John McCain who has stated, "Iraq is going to hell in a hand-basket. Al Qaida has doubled there presence there. There are al Qaida training camps in Western Iraq. . . . I've got to hand it to the president to [be able] to say things [in the debate] that in my view defy reality."
To be fair, an awful lot of supposedly sensible Democrats supported the war too, including a lot of senior officials in the Obama administration. But they didn't dream up the war or work overtime to sell it from 1998 onward. They just went along with the idea because they thought it was politically expedient, they couldn't imagine how it might go south, or they were convinced that Saddam was a Very Bad Man and that it was our duty to "liberate" the Iraqi people from him. They were right about Saddam's character, of course, but occupying the entire country turned out to be a pretty stupid way of dealing with him.
You have to be a huge liar to say "to be fair" and then proceed not to be fair. Barack's had necons throughout his administration. We regularly call out Victoria Nuland who is better known as Mrs. Robert Kagan and who is even better known as Dick Cheney's National Security Adivsor (2003 to 2005). In February 2011, whistle blower Sibel Edmonds (Boiling Frogs) noted some of the many neocons serving in Barack's administration: Marc Grossman, Dennis Ross and Frederick Kagan (that would be Victoria Nuland's brother-in-law). In 2010, Kristine Frazao (Russia Today -- link is video and text) thought Kagan's addition was so important, she did a report on just that, opening with, "They're ba-a-a-ck! The US government may be done with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld but another neoconservative is returning to the government payroll. That same year, Allen McDuffee (ThinkTanked) observed, "Because we overinflated the impact of neoconservatives during the Bush administration and paid little attention to them before that, we're missing the fact that neocons are having the same influence in the Obama administration they've always had, according to a report issued by the Brookings Institution." And if we drop back another year, we can land on Jacob Heilbrunn's Huffington Post report from May of 2009 which opened:
This morning leading neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan held a meeting at the Mayflower Hotel -- in support of President Obama's Afghanistan policy. Kristol and Kagan, as Foreign Policy's Laura Rozen has reported, have formed a successor organization to the Project for the New American Century, which came into disrepute for its advocacy of the Iraq War. The new one is called the Foreign Policy Initiative. Its contention is that America remains, in the words of Madeleine Albright, the "indispensable nation"and, furthermore, that neocons can play a valuable role in coming years in ensuring that it remains one.
So Walt's sudden concern about the neocons return to power is rather disingenuous. Return to power? When Barack brought them into his administration? His insincerity and lack of scruples go a long way towards explaining why many of the people who applauded him just five years ago wouldn't cross the street to greet him today.
On Monday night, we heard President Obama and Governor Romney each profess their love of militarism.
The president boasted, "We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined; China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it." Then his opponent called for increasing the military budget even more! It was the president who called the United States the "one indispensible nation," but both candidates showed their love of U.S. exceptionalism and exhibited paternalistic worldviews.
That is not the way I see our relationship with our sisters and brothers across the globe.
Mark Johnson is posting from Basra, he's back in Iraq. Barack's taken a distortion (lie) he made in the debate and turned it into a new ad which Glenn Kessler (Washington Post) gives three Pinocchios. Among other things, the ad proclaims, "Mitt Romney would have left thirty thousand troops there [Iraq]." Kessler reviews how the Status Of Force Agreement (negotiated under the Bush administration) was coming to an end and the Barack administration attempted to negotiate another agreement. The deal faltered on the issue of immunity. But even after it was seen as faltering, negotiations continued (and still continue -- but we will get to that).
This was established by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs) appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee November 15, 2011 (for reporting on that hearing, see "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot," "Iraq snapshot." Ava reported on it with "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally reported on it with "The costs (Wally)" and Kat reported on it with "Who wanted what?"). By November 15th, the press had been telling you for weeks that negotiations were over. But that's not what Senator Joe Lieberman and Panetta were saying at the hearing. Excerpt.
Senator Joe Lieberman: Let me, Secretary Panetta, pick up from that point. I've heard from friends in Iraq -- Iraqis -- that Prime Minister Maliki said at one point that he needed to stop the negotiations -- leave aside for one moment the reasons -- but he was prepared to begin negotiations again between two sovereign nations -- the US and Iraq -- about some troops being in Iraq after January 1st. So that's what I've heard from there. But I want to ask you from the administration point of view. I know that Prime Minister Maliki is coming here in a few weeks to Washington. Is the administration planning to pursue further discussions with the Iraqi government about deploying at least some US forces in Iraq after the end of this year?
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: Senator, as I pointed out in my testimony, what we seek with Iraq is a normal relationship now and that does involve continuing negotiations with them as to what their needs are. Uh, and I believe there will be continuing negotations. We're in negotiations now with regards to the size of the security office that will be there and so there will be -- There aren't zero troops that are going to be there. We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be present by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there. But I think that once we've completed the implementation of the security agreement that there will begin a series of negotiations about what exactly are additional areas where we can be of assistance? What level of trainers do they need? What can we do with regards to CT [Counter-Terrorism] operations? What will we do on exercises -- joint-exercises -- that work together?
As Kessler points out, the administration attempted to negotiate a variation of a SOFA and failed. Failed. But the administration wants to spin. Kessler:
In other words, Obama has spun a diplomatic failure -- an inability to reach a deal with Iraq -- into a "mission accomplished" talking point. In fact, Obama made a dubious claim in the debate that having any troops in Iraq "would not help us in the Middle East." Since the departure of U.S. troops, the United States has lost leverage in Iraq. For instance, Iran uses Iraqi airspace and convoys on the ground to ferry arms and military equipment to the beleaguered regime in Syria -- a government that Obama says must fall.
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.
Back in December 2011, Nouri accused Vice President Tareq al-Hasehmi of being a terrorist. While Tareq was in the KRG, Nouri ordered his arrest. The KRG refused to hand him over. After killing one of Tareq's bodyguards -- he was tortured by Nouri's forces who tried to pretend kidney failure had nothing to do with torture -- they then staged their kangaroo court and convicted Tareq who now resides in Turkey. Josh Rogan (Foreign Policy) picks up the story there: But Hashimi is still technically the vice president and he is fighting for what he calls a "fair trial." He argues that Maliki has hijacked the Iraqi political system and become beholden to Iranian interests, which include supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Hashimi said he has evidence and reports from politicians, from officers in the Interior Ministry, and from Iraqi intelligence officials, all pointing to a growing and active ground transport route from Iran to Syria. The route crosses through the Zarbatia checkpoint on the Iran-Iraq border, west of the Iranian town of Mehran, flows through the city of Karbala, and crosses over to Syria via the al-Qaim border crossing, he said. "The transit is not only aerial using Iraqi airspace, but the ground transit is becoming a phenomenon. Munitions, heavy arms, and even militias are passing checkpoints without any sort of obstruction," Hashimi said in a telephone interview. "I am very afraid the U.S. and the international community is only focused on the aerial transit and leaving behind the ground transit. Everything should be checked now."
Noting Hashemi's remarks, Paul Mulshine (New Jersey Star Ledger) observes, "Got that? Not only is the nation we liberated helping the Iranians to ferry arms to Syris, but its elected vice-president is under a death sentence and is living in exile.
Tareq al-Hashemi: I am with the Syrian people against the unprecedented repression and killing. I am with the Syrians and champion them in finding an opportunity to live in freedom. What is happening in Syria will also inspire a generation of true change in Iraq.
Al Arabiya: Hashemi scoffed at the statements made by the Iraqi government about searching Iranian planes crossing into Syria via Iraq.
Tareq al-Hashemi: We have proof on this matter and so does the US administration. And in truth, this random inspection is considered fabrication.
Al Arabiya: He urged the international community to see Iraq's double standard regarding its policy towards Syria. He said there is an Iraqi-Iranian agreement to down planes that medical and humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians and at the same time turn a blind eye to the planes that carry weapons and artillery to the Syrian regime.
Tareq al-Hashemi: This is an issue that the international community must pay attention to.
Al Arabiya: He accused Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki of persecuting Sunni Iraqis.
Tareq al-Hashemi: The sectarian issue is another matter. Today, when you go to prisons, you will find that over 90% of inmates are Sunnis. This is something that cannot be ignored. Today, the Arab Sunnis are targeted by Nouri al-Maliki's government exclusively. Today, the torture that is carried out, the random apprehensions, turning our provinces into regions have occured for sectarian purposes.
That's far from the only serious accusation Nouri's currently facing. He now stands accused of the assassination of a political figure. From the September 27th snapshot: "Alsumaria reports that the former governor of Basra, Mohammed Misbah Waili, was assassinated today (the firearm had a silencer)." And from the October 2nd snapshot: "On fear, Alsumaria reports that in Basara accusations are being tossed around following the assassination last Thursday of former Governor (2005 to 2009) Mohammed Misbah Waili with some accusing a clan within the province and the clan accusing unnamed foreign powers." Despite a so-called investigation, nothing has been turned up regarding the who or why of the assassination. However, Kitabat reports that the family of the late governor is stating that Nouri and others in Dawa (Nouri's political party -- State of Law is his political slate) wanted him dead and they are accusing Nouri of ordering the assassination. Family members state that when they arrived at the scene they found security officers in offficial Iraqi military uniforms, these officers surrounded the scene and prevented the family from going to the car where they could hear the governor, still alive, screaming. They are arguing that had he been immediately moved to a hospital, he would be alive today. The family says that the refusal to move the injured governor to a hospital resulted from orders from higher up. They are going to file a lawsuit against Nouri and others (Abdullah Auaz al-Jubouri and Issam al-Asadi) in a Basra court. A member of the family tells Kitabat that although they know Nouri acts as if he is above the Constitution and the judiciary, the family is stronger than Nouri and the Dawa Party because they have the truth on their side.
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 146 killed in violence so far this month. Today?
Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory notes the investigative journalist was in Baghdad's Tahrir Square at ten a.m. Monday morning conducting meetings and interviews and she was also working on a story about prostitution and brothels in Iraq. She went to a police station to interview some of the 180 women arrested but a police officer prevented her from entering and he denied that there were any prostitutes among the arrested. He left and then moments later re-appeared telling her she could enter but without her colleagues. Zia Mehdi didn't feel comfortable with that offer and instead returned to Tahrir Square to continue her LGBT interviews. Later she was discovered dead, stabbed to death, still in her jacket that noted she was a journalist.
So far this year, Iraq is known to have executed 119 people. It has ignored calls from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others to impose a moratorium on the death penalty. Despite the fact that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani insists he is against the death penalty and regularly basks in applause for that stance, he has not blocked one execution. (His 'opposition' is refusing to sign the death warrants, leaving it for a vice president to sign it. As president, he could object to any or all executions and stop them immediately. He refuses to use that power.)
Turning to the topic of Libya, e-mails wonder why Bob Somerby calls Elise Labott "CNN's tremendously awful 'foreign affairs reporter'" and "a genuine nightmare"? Because she's a woman. He knows nothing about her reporting and has never critiqued before today. He probably doesn't know she's a CNN producer and that she covers the State Dept. Bob's not real smart sometimes but he never passes a chance to demonize a woman. If a man had reported what Elise did, Bob would treat them with kid gloves. He only beats up on women -- see CiCi Connelly, Katharine Seelye, Maureen Dowd, Anne Gearan and on and on and on. He'll go after State Dept reporters Labott and Gearan but you'll never see him take on AP's Matthew Lee. Bob only beats up on women. We noted this a long time ago, over 7 years ago, in fact. In the Howler world a woman is demonized but a man guilty of the same 'crime' is treated as savable and redeemable but the witch, you understand, must be drowned -- even if she floats. Especially if she floats.
Elise Labott has the same problems any other person does and she can be wrong and she can be right. As a journalist, she's one of the strongest working today. And unlike Bob Somerby, we've noted Elisa Labott many times here. What are we talking about when we're talking about Libya? US House Rep Darrell Issa outlined it very clearly at a hearing earlier this month:
Committee Chair Darrell Issa: On September 11, 2012, four brave Americans serving their country were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya. Tyrone Woods spent two decades as a Navy Seal serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2010, he protected the American diplomatic personnel. Tyrone leaves behind a widow and three children. Glen Doherty, also a former Seal and an experienced paramedic, had served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan. His family and colleagues grieve today for his death. Sean Smith, a communications specialist, joined the State Dept after six years in the United States Air Force. Sean leaves behind a widow and two young children. Ambassador Chris Stevens, a man I had known personally during his tours, US Ambassador to Libya, ventured into a volatile and dangerous situation as Libyans revolted against the long time Gaddafi regime. He did so because he believed the people of Libya wanted and deserved the same things we have: freedom from tyranny.
See those names: Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens, Tyrone Woods. Guess where you didn't see them? At The Daily Howler. Bob Somerby thinks he can trash Elise Labott. But Elise has noted the dead, she's done the work for over a month now. Not true of Bob Somerby, not true at all.
Last night Ruth notedSharyl Attkisson (CBS News) reports on e-mails sent from the Benghazi consulate on September 11, 2012 during the attack and immediately after including one sent at 6:07 pm where it is noted "the embassy in Trpoli reported the Islamic military group 'Ansar al-SHaria Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack'." This is what Elise is covering as well: "Two hours after first being notified of an attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, a government e-mail to the White House, the State Department and the FBI said an Islamist group had claimed credit, according to a copy obtained by CNN." (Elise maintains Barack used the term "terror" on September 12th. That's her take and her opinion. As noted in the October 17th snapshot, we disagree. Others disagreeing that there's a clear-cut assessment include The Washington Post and CBS News (text report by Brian Montopoli, video report by Jan Crawford.) Anne Gearan (Washington Post) adds, "The reference to Ansar al-Sharia may fuel Republican efforts to show that the White House had evidence of terrorism almost immediately but sat on it. Five days after the attack, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice said the attack appeared to have grown out of a 'spontaneous' protest over an anti-Muslim video." Mark Hosenball (Reuters) explains, "While some information identifying recipients of this message was redacted from copies of the messages obtained by Reuters, a government source said that one of the addresses to which the message was sent was the White House Situation Room, the president's secure command post. Other addressees included intelligence and military units as well as one used by the FBI command center, the source said." John Parkinson, Dana Hughes and Sunlen Miller (ABC News) pick up there:
In light of the emails, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire teamed up today to write a letter to question President Obama why his administration "consistently described the attack for days afterward as a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video."
"These emails make clear that your administration knew within two hours of the attack that it was a terrorist act and that Ansar al-Sharia, a Libyan militant group with links to al Qaeda, had claimed responsibility for it," the trio wrote. "This latest revelation only adds to the confusion surrounding what you and your administration knew about the attacks in Benghazi, when you knew it, and why you responded to those tragic events in the ways that you did."
John Hudson (The Atlantic) notes that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared, "Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence." No, it wouldn't necessarily hold as evidence in a court of law; however, it is used as evidence by the State Dept and the US intelligence community all the time. Equally true, someone's who has claimed to have taken responsibility needs to stop minimizing and justifying information's that's coming out. Part of taking responsiblity is shutting your mouth when you're exposed to have misled. Hillary misled. She was very clear in her accountability that State didn't make the false claims the White House did. She's been silent as to why that is. Now she wants to dismiss new findings. That's not accountability, that's excuses. She needs to either explain why the White House told people the attack was something that it wasn't or she needs to bow out of the matter.
How does Team Obama justify killing him? The answer Gibbs gave is chilling:
ADAMSON: ...It's an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he's underage. He's a minor.
GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.
Again, note that this kid wasn't killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists. Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment. Is that the real answer? Or would the Obama Administration like to clarify its reasoning? Any Congress that respected its oversight responsibilities would get to the bottom of this.
Conor's correct, Congressional oversight is sorely needed.