Thursday, October 25, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, WikiLeaks has a new document release, a War Hawk rushes to embrace Barack, not a great deal of interest in Iraq in the US presidential election and more.
In the US presidential race, incumbent Barack Obama notched up a high profile endorsement and, were I British Socialist who let my freak flag fly in alternatve UK publications but pretended to be New Labour when writing for a daily paper, I'd be all gaa-gaa-goo-goo. But not having whored my soul out thus far, I'll instead note that Barack has received the endorsement of War Criminal Colin Powell.
Tacit erasure of inconvenient history -- including his own -- is integral to the warm relationship between Powell and U.S. news media. There's a lot to erase. For instance, in January 1986, serving as a top aide to Pentagon chief Caspar Weinberger, he supervised the transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA, and then sought to hide the transaction from Congress and the public. No wonder: Almost half of those missiles had become part of the Iran-Contra scandal's arms-for-hostages deal.
As President Reagan's national security adviser, Powell worked diligently on behalf of the contra guerrillas who were killing civilians in Nicaragua. In December 1989, Powell -- at that point the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- was a key player behind the invasion of Panama.
The Gulf War catapulted Powell to the apex of American poliical stardom in early 1991. When he was asked about the Iraqi death toll from the war, Powell said that such numbers didn't interest him.
The numbers of the dead didn't interest him? In 2003, Jack Kelly (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) reported on demographer and Carnegie Mellon University professor Beth Daponte's estimates "that 158,000 Iraqis -- 86,194 men, 39.612 women and 32,195 children -- had perished in the war and its aftermath." Those numbers don't interest Colin, not even the children, not even the 32,195 children. American Everyman covers today's endorsement with a post entiteld "Liar, Neocon, War-Criminal Colin Powell Endorses Obama -- 'I think we ought to keep on the path we are on'." In 2008, Collie endorsed Barack as well leading Joe Mowrey (Dissident Voice) to revisit some of the high water marks (waterboarding marks?) on Powell's criminal record:
Powell is the guy who, as a bright young 31 year old Army Major, did his level best to keep information about the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam from becoming public. Specifically, he was charged with investigating a letter from a whistle-blowing soldier giving detailed accounts of many of the atrocities committed by U.S. military personnel in Vietnam under the auspices of the Phoenix Program. That program was a lovely little package of war crimes intended to "identify and neutralize (via infiltration, capture, or murder) the civilian infrastructure supporting the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (the Viet Cong)." In other words, it was a U.S. and South Vietnamese death squad operation which rampaged through the country side slaughtering civilians and burning down entire villages. You know, capturing the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. Powell summed up his investigation of the whistle-blower's accusations by saying, "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent."
Well that's enough for me. If Powell endorsed the rousing success of the Phoenix Program, what more do we need to know? Queried about his participation in the attempted white wash of My Lai, some 40 years later Powell said, "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again…" Personally, I think he sounds really sorry. And he's seems to be bashing Republicans these days, so I like him a lot.
Fast forward to 2003. Then Secretary of State, Powell, made a triumphant speech to the United Nations outlining the urgent need for us to invade Iraq in a war of aggression in order to eliminate the massive amounts of weapons of mass destruction which Saddam Hussein was going to use to invade and destroy the United States. Thank Buddha that Powell was able to use his dignity and gravitas to convince the world of the imminent danger. Imagine where we might be today without his steadfast endorsement of that magnificent war crime. I don't know about you, but I wasn't into wearing a turban and having Saddam Hussein's picture on the one dollar bill. I shudder to think of Brittany Spears in a burka. Of course, it's a bit unfortunate that Powell's speech to the U.N. was a pack of outright fabrications and lies. But I've forgiven him by now, especially since he's decided to come out in favor our Our Guy Obama.
Iran-Contra, My Lai, the Iraq War -- he's sort of like the Forest Gump of Death and Destruction. But with Collie, there's never enough room to include all the harm he's done. For instance, few writers bother to note the way he savaged Bill Clinton's plan to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Collie was the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back then. Today, we realize how awful homophobia is. If Collie hadn't stood in Bill's way, think of how much better life could have been for LGBTs that much sooner. Think of the people who wouldn't have been kicked out of the military. Collie's never apologized for his homophobic. He dropped his objection a few years back and for that we're all supposed to be grateful?
Earlier this year, when Collie needed some media attention and was flirting with endorsing Barack, Bill Perdue (FireDogLake) observed, "The fact that Powell is once again endorsing Obama means that Powell feels safe that he won't be indicted as a war criminal as long as Obama continues wars of aggression and that he agrees with Obama's war policy, which will enlarge and expand these wars causing more deaths and putting the finishing touches on the destruction of our economy and standard of living."
Collie The Blot Powell. Having sold the Iraq War with a lying testimony to the United Nations, Collie appeared shocked that illegal war might go wrong. As he rushed to get out of a sinking administration in the fall of 2005, he sat down with mother-confessor Barbara Walters to serve up more self-serving half-truths. As Ava and I noted after that aired:
Walters says, unable to look at him while she does -- oh the drama!, "However, you gave the world false, groundless reasons for going to war. You've said, and I quote, 'I will forever be known as the one who made the case for war.' Do you think this blot on your record will stay with you for the rest of your life?" Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.
Walters: How painful is it?
Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it *was* painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.
Has a less convincing scene ever been performed?
Medea Benjamin and Charles Davids (Antiwar.com) observed last June that Powell continues to refuse to take accountability for his actions, "In other words, according to Powell, the fact that he lied to the American public as well as the international community on the eve of a disastrous war is not his fault — heavens no — but the fault of his anonymous underlings, the allegedly timid State Department staffers who lacked the courage to speak truth to their courageous boss. Like many of Powell's anecdotes, it's a tidy little story about leadership that's about as truthful as his U.N. speech." And just last June, Veterans for Peace, Chapter 92 ("Greater Seattle") geared up to protest Colin's visit to the area, "Please join members of Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace as we protest the Seattle appearance of former US Army General and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell will be the guest of Seattle's City Club and is promoting his new book, It Worked For Me." I don't know which is worse: Getting the endorsement of a War Criminal or being unable to call out a War Criminal who's endorsed you.
Last night, Rebecca noted that Terry O'Neill and NOW were in violation of the law with the mailing Terry sent out yesterday. NOW cannot send that mailing and it cannot be listed as coming from NOW. This is is explained in number 8 of NOW's Faqs online, "NOW's Political Action Committee, or NOW/PAC, supports candidates in federal elections (for Congress and the Presidency.) You must be a member of NOW to contribute to NOW/PAC. NOW/PAC is the only part of the national organization that can endorse federal political candidates." That's pretty damn clear to everyone . . . except Terry O'Neill. So Terry sent out an e-mail tarring and feathering Mitt Romney for what some other Republican in a race stated. Guilt by association was the card Terry played. Colin Powell endorsed Barack. Despite NOW's supposed (post-Mother Of Us All) commitment to LGBT equality, don't expect NOW or Terry to utter a word. The endorsement is both offensive and telling. But you can buy the silence of whores.
And expect many to be silent today as the Butcher of Baghdad himself, Collie The Blot Powell, makes an endorsement and expects the world to take him seriously. Colin Powell is a War Criminal. He shouldn't be making endorsements, he should be serving hard time behind bars. Why might Barack embrace a War Criminal? Because they're two of a kind? Timothy P. Carney (Washington Examiner) observes:
President Obama has killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia through a drone war aimed at exterminating the suspected terrorists on his unprecedented and ever-expanding "kill list" — a list that has included U.S. citizens.
In Iraq, Obama tried to perpetuate the U.S. occupation past his promised date for withdrawal, and after Iraqi leaders wanted American troops to leave.
In Libya, Obama illegally intervened in a civil war, sending U.S. fighter jets and missiles to kill a dictator who posed no threat to America. The aftermath of this unauthorized war: a coup in neighboring Mali paired with the rise of al Qaeda in that country, and a terrorist attack in Libya ending in the death of four Americans.
Amid real successes — such as the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, and ultimately ending the occupation of Iraq — Obama's foreign policy has been riddled with failures, scandals and mistakes. But if you watched this week's debate or follow this election cycle's media coverage, you would assume Obama has been throwing a perfect game around the planet.
While Barack makes nice with War Criminals, he continues to attack whistle blowers. In a smart move by WikiLeaks, they're back in the news. Charles Miranda (News Limited Network) reports, "The whistleblowing website tonight released five restricted files from the US Department of Defense, including the standard operating procedure manual for Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay. Over the next month, the website will publish more than 100 classified documents covering operating procedures at detention camps in Iraq and Cuba." Reuters quotes Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, stating, "'The Detainee Policies' show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the U.S. Department of Defense. It shows the excesses of the early days of war against an unknown 'enemy' and how these policies matured and evolved."
Julian Assange's attorneys should pay attention. This is how you make people give a damn about WikiLeaks, not by resting on past glories. The past is the past and can't be taken away. You want to make the case for Julian Assange's supposed importance, you do it with what WikiLeaks can do, not what it did a few years ago.
Turning to the topic of violence, Jeanette Torres (ABC News) sees violence increasing (for the month) as Eid al-Adha approaches and notes, "Since Sunday, 36 people have been killed in Iraq, more than the combined total of deaths reported during October's first 15 days." Regardless of whether the pattern holds, violence did continue today. Alsumaria reports a Mosul motorcycle bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured today. Alsumaria adds a Tirkt bombing claimed the life of 1 cousin of Misan al-Jabaari. AFP notes 15 people died from violence yesterday and calls it the deadliest month of October in Iraq. Yesterday, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported a Falluja suicide bomber attacked the home of the father of Rafei al-Essawi (Minister of Finance) leaving 1 woman dead and five more injured (and the suicide bomber dead). Rafei al-Essawi is a Sunni (not noted in yesterday's coverage) and a member of Iraqiya. This was not the first attack this year on the al-Essawi family. Dropping back to the January 3rd snapshot: Another member of Iraqiay that Nouri has been targeting is Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi whom Jack Healy and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) profiled Saturday and noted that Nouri had tried to get the Cabinet to toss him out but the Cabinet had refused. al-Esawi told the New York Times, "Maliki now wants just to get rid of his partners, to build a dictatorship. He wants to consolidate power more and more. Someone else should be prime minister." The day after the comments ran, there was an attempt on al-Essawi's life. Press TV reported he was the target of a roadside bombing Sunday which left "three of Essawi's bodyguards, two officers and one soldier" wounded. Dan Morse (Washington Post) reports Essawi is calling for an investigation and Morse writes, "Essawi is widely regarded in Iraq as a moderate official."
All Iraq News reports MP Khalid al-Alwani has denounced the attack on al-Essawi's father. All Iraq News quotes MP Walid al-Mohammadi stating that the targeting of the fathr of an official sets a dangerous precedent. The attack may be (or may not be) part of the continued assault on Sunnis and/or Iraqiya.
While many had hoped that 2012 – and US withdrawal – would mark an era in which Iraqi leaders would focus on solving the numerous problems their country faced, such hopes were quickly dashed by increased political instability and the threat of more violence. The severity of Iraq's deep political divisions, and the coming intensity of Prime Minister's struggle for power with his rivals became apparent just days after President Obama praised Iraqi democracy progress in a December 2011 White House press conference with Prime Minister Maliki. With the withdrawal of US troops, it became clear that US-Iranian competition in Iraq was to play out in an increasingly uncertain and unstable environment. By late January 2012, New York Times was already reporting that "finally confronting the social, economic, and religious divisions that were papered over by the presence of American troops" posed a far greater challenge than previously anticipated. The ethnic and sectarian tensions that have driven these recent divisions have been apparent ever since Iraq's founding as a state, but the current crisis has is direct origins in Iraq's March 2010 parliamentary elections. A range of rival political and sectarian factions sought power. Two factions – Ayad Allawi's Iraqiyya bloc and Maliki's State of Law coalition – emerged as the leading factions with only a small majority favoring Allawi. The end result was a post-election power struggle for control over the government, and for control over Iraq's political system, security forces, and oil wealth. This political struggle continues and has become more violent and divisive. If left unresolved, it could lead to the collapse of Iraq's fledgling democracy and serious civil conflict. The struggles at the top are being compounded by a broader growing Shi'ite split with the Kurds and Sunnis. There is no way to predict how sectarian and ethnic internal violence will emerge out of the power struggles now going on in Iraq. However, the current levels of violence are high, Data from the US National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) show that Iraq had a consistently higher level of violence than Afghanistan during 2009-2011, with no consistent reduction in violence since mid-2009.
So that's their take on the political crisis. Iraqiya came in first in the March 2010 parliamentary elections (Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law came in second). Nouri has targeted both Iraqiya and Sunnis -- when the two overlap, they tend to get run out of the country. Among the targeted by Nouri, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi who is both a member of Iraqiya and a Sunni. All Iraq News reports he gave an interview in which he stated Nouri had attempted to send security officials into Turkey to kill him. Shortly after Tareq arrived in the KRG in December 2011, Nouri accused him of terrorism and had a warrant issued. Tareq has moved on to Turkey and Nouri's court has found him guilty of terrorism. Tareq states in the interview that the verdict isn't to be taken seriously because (a) he was tried in absentia, (b) he was not allowed to present defense witnesses and (c) when the judge refused to rule the way Nouri wanted, the judge was replaced. He also states that the solution to the ongoing political crisis is not Nouri because Nouri is the root of the problem. He speaks of returning to Iraq.
The political crisis continues as does Nouri's power-grab. He's refused to honor the Constitution and implement Article 140. He was supposed to do that in his first term as Prime Minister. It's written into the Constitution that it's implemented by the end of 2007. Why anyone would think Nouri would do in a second term what he refused to do in a first -- US-negotiated contract or not (Erbil Agreement) -- is a puzzler. Al Mada reports that he is attempting to swarm Kirkuk with Operation Tigris. (Operation Tigris has been going on for weeks now.) Nouri has declared that the Peshmerga (Kurdish force) is in violation of the law and the Constitution by providing protection and refusing to surrender areas to his army.
Those who've paid attention will remember that General Ray Odierno warned of this. It's a shame the White House refused to listen to him and took the word of the idiot Chris Hill instead. (Yes, I know, after Robert Gates set up a meeting between Odierno and Hillary Clinton, she took the issues to the Cabinet. By then, however, it was too late.)
Kirkuk is disputed territory. This issue of Nouri sending in forces to disputed territory has raised its head before. In the past, the US military would mediate. What happens now? Dar Addustour quotes Nouri declaring that his army should be free to cover every inch of Iraq. You better read that the way Nouri intended it. Meaning the US and foreign press will merely repeat that or ignore it. But what it is actually is a threat to the KRG. The Peshmerga are their forces and now Nouri is trying to occupy the disputed territories and claiming he can occupy any place in Iraq which, yes, does mean he's claiming he can send the Iraqi army into the Kurdistan Region despite it being semi-autonomous. In a fair fight, it's very likely Kurdish forces would repeal Nouri's attempt to seize control. That's because (a) Iraqi forces wouldn't favor such a move and many would check-out (as many did when Nouri used them in early 2008 to attack Basra), (b) the Kurds would fight to death on the KRG and that would be Iraqi Kurds and Kurds from surrounding areas -- the KRG is the closest thing to a homeland the world's most displaced population has, and (c) the nothern region is not like the rest of Iraq and the KRG would have an advantage because they know the terrain.
But it wouldn't be a fair fight. Nouri's been on a weapons shopping spree, remember? 4.2 billion dollars to Russia for weapons and 1 billion dollars to the Czech Republic. And then 18 more fighter jets from the US for a a total of 36. Do you get now why KRG President Massoud Barzani has objected to these purchases? Why he's noted these weapons could be used on the Iraqi people?
Al Mada reports President Barzani noted the ongoing political crisis and stated that dialogue is the only way to address these unresolved problems. Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports Parliament is considering passing a bill that would end the 'acting' positions.
What's are they talking about?
To move from prime minister-designate to prime minister, an individual must put together a Cabinet -- that's nominating them and getting Parliament to vote in favor of them -- within 30 days. This isn't a partial Cabinet. If it was partial, why the 30 day limit? This is a full Cabinet.
Nouri never did that. He got away with violating the Constitution because his second term was guaranteed not by the Constitution (nor by the will of the Iraqi people) but by a contract the White House negotiated (the Erbil Agreement).
Back in July, 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."
Those positions were supposed to be filled in Decmeber 2010. Go back to press as late as January 2010 -- US and European -- and you will see claims that Nouri would do so in a matter of weeks. He never did. Currently, he's made people 'acting' ministers. An acting minister -- which is not recognized by the Constitution -- is a puppet of Nouri's who does what Nouri says or loses the job. You only have job protection if the Parliament confirms your nomination. If that takes place, Nouri can't get rid of you without the approval of Parliament (which is difficult to get as Nouri discovered earlier this year when he tried for months to have Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq removed from his post).
Over the past two decades the outcome of the US presidential elections has been hotly debated by Iraqis. However this year, the approaching American cliff-hanger hardly seems to interest locals at all. NIQASH asked Baghdadis why.
In past years, as the US presidential election has approached, the subject has dominated conversations in the coffee shops, clubhouses, restaurants and streets of Iraq, as well the Iraqi media.
Two decades ago, the outcome of such an election meant a lot to the Iraqi people who watched the campaigns and nervously awaited the results. And they did so because they knew the outcome would have a major impact on US foreign policy toward Iraq.
Back in 2004 and 2008, Iraqis were discussing the candidates whenever they could, trying to analyze which candidate would be best for Iraq. Some locals even placed bets.
But this year, it seems, nobody cares as much. The US presidential elections, which take place every 4 years, are scheduled for Nov. 6 and, according to current opinion polls, support for the two candidates, current US President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the candidate for the opposition republican party, is fairly even. It will be a tight race.
A recent BBC poll noted that while Americans may be uncertain, the rest of the world clearly favours Obama. Yet somehow not that many people in Iraq seem to care.
Retiree Mohammed Najeeb told NIQASH he's more worried about politics and security in Iraq than he is about anything going on in the US. "Neither Obama nor Romney can do anything to help the Iraqis," said the local who doesn't like watching television. "We only want the US to leave us alone."
The Voice of Russia notes, "Turkey is a strategic ally of the USA. At the same time, Ankara's actions don't always fit in with Washington's ambitions in the Middle East. How can the current relations between Turkey and the US be characterized And will they change after the presidential elections in the US? What is the future of the Turkish-American relations?"
Maybe there is no future relations? Recent events call into question the sincerity of the US government? As noted in October 17th snapshot, for some unknown reason US Ambassador to Turkey Frank Ricciardone (above) decided to reveal secrets that now leaves the Turkish government in an uncomfortable position. Press TV explained:
On Tuesday, Francis Ricciardone revealed to Turkish journalists that the US had offered Turkey its military technology to hunt down the PKK leaders. However, the Turkish government turned down the offer, saying it would continue battling with the PKK "on the basis of its laws and experiences."
This is leading to charges by opposition parties that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a puppet. Ricciardone's revelations are causing problems within Turkey and will most likely result in Erdogan having to maintain -- if not increase -- the dropping of bombs on northern Iraq in order to not appear 'weak' at a time when the opposition is attacking him as a puppet. Please remember, 1980 is not that long ago. That's when Turkey has a military coup.
In addition, the PKK issue is a huge issue for the region. 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."
This is a decades long conflict and war and more war hasn't been the answer. Tomorrow, we won't all wake up to a world where magically war and more war suddenly becomes the answer. The US government either got the Turkish government -- an ally -- into trouble due to incompetence or due to a desire to stab Turkey in the back. If it was incompetence, why hasn't anyone been publicly reprimanded?