Monday, November 12, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri argues with Russia though no one's sure what exactly is being said, a new proposal is made for the rations card system, 10 more people are executed, Debra Sweet and Cindy Sheehan talk activisim in light of last week's elections, and more.
The former top US commander in Iraq from February 2007 to September 2008 was General David Petraeus. Late Friday, Petraeus resigned as CIA Director citing an affair. If this is indeed the reason he stepped down, an affair, if that made him subject to blackmail, then he wasn't properly vetted because he had 'intense' relationships with many female journalists while he was in Iraq and that should have come up when he was up for the post of CIA Director.
Today on Democracy Now! -- no link to that trash -- Amy Goodman again spoke with CIA contractor Juan Cole and supposedly they talked about counter-insurgency but that would require honesty and you don't get honesty from those currently on the CIA payroll. Michael Crowley's dishonest at Time magazine but we'll put that down to a reluctance to tell the 'ugly truth' about counter-insurgency.
As Iraq began to stabilize in 2007 and 2008, counterinsurgency got much of the credit. Soon the theory caught fire in Washington: Think tanks hired and the media spotlighted some of the doctrine's many well-educated (and combat tested) proponents. The U.S. military developed more counterinsurgency training programs for its troops, offering tips on things like making nice with village elders and knowing when to let the enemy escape rather than risk high civilian combat casualties. This was a form of warfare that even many liberals (perhaps misguidedly) saw as kinder and gentler enough than the usual shock and awe to tolerate.
Tips on making nice? That sort of leaves out the violence and intimidation, doesn't it? Counter-insurgency isn't just handing out a bunch of water bottles, it's about getting a native people to turn on their own. That means ratting out fellow Iraqis to foreigner invaders. And the ratting out? What comes after that? Do the foreign invaders just hand out daisies? No. They take out the fingered.
Counter-insurgency did not emerge during the Iraq War. It has a long history. It failed in Vietnam (even the CIA admits that) and it generally does fail. But before that's apparent, a lot of people are killed and a lot of people are harmed. Crowley gets closer to the truth in this passage:
Those sort of targeted assassinations aren't quite the opposite of counterinsurgency. (That would be carpet-bombing.) But they fly in the face of the doctrine in multiple ways. Drone strikes -- which often kill unlucky civilians -- are enraging local populations in countries like Pakistan and Yemen, risking "damaging and counter productive" effects for U.S. interests. At least one recent would-be terrorist plotting to attack America has said he was motivated by drone attacks in Pakistan. Counterinsurgency requires huge numbers of troops to protect and build relationships with local populations. Drone-based counter-terrorism strategy requires few if any boots on the ground. Death is rained down anonymously, typically no explanation or apology for "collateral damage."
Of course, death isn't 'rained down anonymously.' The surivovrs blame the US government for the deaths. As Kimberly Wilder (On the Wilder Side) noted yesterday, the immediate effect of the Petraeus saga is that he may not be testifying to Congress about the Benghazi attack that claimed the lives of Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and Chris Stevens. The editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel argues, "Lawmakers should not let the tabloid-worthy story at the CIA sidetrack them from a thorough investigation into the security failures in the attack in Benghazi. They should insist on hearing directly from Petraeus -- even though he's no longer in charge." The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune agrees, "Petraeus should volunteer to testify at the hearing. There are already many questions about what happened in and after the attack in Benghazi, and his abrupt departure from the CIA has created more suspicion. There is only one reason for him not to testify -- to spare himself more public embarrassment."
One hearing on Benghazi this week will be presided over by Senator Dianne Feinstein who is the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She told Chris Wallace yesterday (on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace) that she wasn't told about the investigation of Petraeus until Friday, "We received no advanced notice. It was like a lightning bolt. The way I found out, I came back to Washington, Thursday night. Friday morning, the director told me there were a number of calls from press about this. I called David Petraeus. And as a matter of fact I had had an appointment with him, at 3:00 that afternoon, and that was canceled." When were others told, such as the president? Mike Levine, Chatherine Herridge and Judson Berger (Fox News) report that despite Attorney General Eric Holder being informed Petreaus was part of an ongoing FBI probe, the White House states "the president did not find out about the situation until last Thursday." The editorial board of the Washington Post argues that if these are the facts -- with nothing else to be added -- they don't believe Petraeus should have resigned:
THE RESIGNATION of David Petraeus as CIA director is a serious blow to the nation's national security leadership, and it comes at an unfortunate moment. With the expected departure of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a possible reshuffling of senior officials at the National Security Council, President Obama could have benefited particularly from Mr. Petraeus's knowledge and seasoning as he begins to grapple with second-term challenges in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. Mr. Petraeus understands those issues as well as any American, and his record of service as a military commander is without equal in his generation.
Given those facts, some have questioned whether Mr. Obama should have accepted Mr. Petraeus's resignation. The CIA director was found to have committed no crime. Adultery, which he confessed to, is not uncommon, including presumably among his agency's staff. However, in our view the president made the right call. Mr. Petraeus's failing was not merely an illicit relationship; he recklessly used a Gmail account to send explicit messages and, as a result, was swept up in an FBI investigation of alleged cyberstalking. Such behavior would not be acceptable in the private sector, or in the military, as Mr. Petraeus recognized.
The Chicago Tribune editorial notes that the woman Petraeus had an affair with had access to classified documents (which Petraeus states must have come from someone else) and that she gave a speech in October where she declared the attack on the Benghazi facility was because the CIA was holding Libyans in a secret prison there.
Moving over to Iraq where the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is supposed to run Iraq, not ruin the country. Possibly he misunderstood? He's forever in search of new enemies to tick off. For example, from Friday's snapshot:
After the decision last month to buy billions of weapons from Russia, it may appear Russia and Iraq are getting very close -- and they might be. But friendly? Do you threaten a friend? AFP reports, "Baghdad has told Russian energy giant Gazprom to either cancel its energy contracts in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region or abandon its work with the central government, a spokesperson said on Friday."
October 9th, Nouri was strutting across the world stage as he inked a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia. Then something happened 30 days later and the status of the deal became in question. Was it all just buyer's remorse over a big-ticket item? Saturday, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) reported:
Iraq's prime minister has canceled a recently signed arms deal with Russia after "suspicions over corruption" surfaced, his spokesman told CNN on Saturday. Under the $4.2 billion deal forged last month, Russia would deliver attack helicopters and mobile air-defense systems to Iraq.
Amani Aziz (Al Mada) reported that there are senior Iraqi government officials who are involved with a brother of Russian President Vladimir Putin. All Iraq News noted there are calls for Nouri to step forward and clear his name. Al Rafidayn added Nouri spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi announced that the deal is off. New contracts may be needed, he said, because weapons are, but the deal is off. AP hedged the bets going with language about the deal being "reconsidered" and in "turnaround." Reuters spent the day providing constant updates and in their third one they noted, "In a confusing exchange, the announcement by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office was immediately contradicted by the acting defence minister who denied the corruption charges and said the Russian arms deals were still valid." RIA Novosti reminded, "At the time the deal was announced in October, the Russian press had hailed it as the country's largest since 2006. Under the contract, Moscow is to supply 30 Mil Mi-28NE night/all-weather capable attack helicopters, and 50 Pantsir-S1 gun-missile short-range air defense systems." Al Mada reports today that Iraqiya is demanding Nouri provide a report to Parliament explaining the details of the weapons deal with Russia.
If the deal is off, Nouri looks rather poor on the world stage. But then, he already did as Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) notes today:
Those who saw the picture released by the prime minister's office of Nuri al-Maliki inspecting fighter jets by knocking on the metal body of the plane should not be surprised that he has decided to halt the deal out of suspicion of corruption.
The picture should have sounded alarm bells for the Russians, Czechs and people of Iraq. He seemed like a man shopping for a car in a sales lot, not a head of state buying strategic weapons. From the start, the deal did not seem to have been examined well or to have gone through the proper procurement procedures.
You don't make a four billion dollar deal, take the bows nationally and internationally for it, then cancel a few weeks later without your image taking a huge hit to your image. That's setting charges of corruption to the side. Those who hoped that, come Monday, something as basic as whether the deal was on or off would be known were hoping in vain.
The World Tribune states, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has canceled a $4.2 billion weapons contract with Russia amid allegations of bribery. But the Defense Ministry, which signed the deal, has insisted that the project would continue."
The Russian press is as unsure of what's taking place as everyone else. Pravda feels the need to find an enemy before nailing down any details and they tell you that the "rumors" flying "could be provoked." By whom? "However, sources at the government say that there could be a third party involved in the scandal. 'The United States has made significant efforts to prevent the transaction, - a source in the Russian government circles said. - I won't be surprised if they try to prevent or complicate it post factum. The Americans have not been in Iraq for so many years to give the arms market of Russia,' another expert from the military and diplomatic circles said on conditions anonymity." The Voice of Russia quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stating, "We will renegotiate the agreement to put an end to suspiciouns of corruption in the weapons deal." Olga Denisova (Voice of Russia) observed this afternoon, "At present, the news from Iraq is very contradictory." UPI adds, "Confusion surrounds Iraq's weekend announcement that it's scrapping a $4.2 billion Russian arms contract but the feeling is it may be a ploy by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to renegotiate a more favorable deal."
Something only slightly less than confusion surrounds the food-ration card system. Last Tuesday, Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh announced the cancellation of the program. There was a huge pushback that grew and grew -- from politicians, from clerics, from the people until Friday when it really couldn't be ignored. The program has been in place since 1991 meaning that it is all over half of Iraqis know (Iraq has a very young population, the median age has now risen to 21). It allowed Iraqis to get basic staples such as flour sugar, rice, etc. As the clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, noted, this move would hurt the people who are already struggling economically. It was also an idiotic political move to make. In April, provinicial elections will be held. Nouri's already in campaign mode and this very unpopular move did not help him there. The smartest thing politically would have been to go into a full retreat on the proposal and announce that you had heard the people, to flatter them and make it appear you listened.
Today Alsumaria reports that the food program is not getting the axe. Instead, the people will be able to decide if they would like to remain on the existing system or receive cash. When you tell people they can remain on the ration card system or they can get cash, when you tell that to people in a bad economy with many bills, they will be tempted to go for the cash. The ration card is the better system. But there are bills owed that have to be paid and there is the hope in people that things have to get better. So they will tell themselves that they can make it right now with the cash and that, in a few months or a year, fate will provide and things will be better. In the meantime, they've been moved off the progam and the prices -- as Sistani, politicans and the people have noted -- will sky rocket. So the money will be of little use to them then.
But they won't be able to go back on the ration card system. The point is to dismantle the system. That was what the US government tried to do immediately after the invasion. It's what Nouri and others have done with the constant reduction of what rations the cards provided. All Iraq News notes the Parliament has voted to cancel the decision to replace the cards with cash but it's not clear whether the Cabinet's emergency meeting and new decision overrides that move by the Parliament. Khalid al-Ansary and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) covers it in a brief English language story.
All Iraq News notes the trade unions, including the General Federation of Trade Unions, want to know which Cabinet members voted to do away with the ration card system and they also want to know who was involved in the $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia -- a deal that may or may not be off. Meanwhile Al Mada reports the weapons deal and the ration card system move has political blocs are calling for a reshuffling of the Cabinet.
Alsumaria reports that a headless corpse of a woman was discovered in Baghdad. Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012. Time to add more to that total. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian"). Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council." And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb. A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed. Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."
October 10th was World Day Against the Death Penalty -- in fact, it was the tenth World Day Against the Death Penalty. Amnesty International noted some countries were seeing a decrease or halt in executions while other were seeing an increase, "In 2012, Iraq, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Saudi Arabia have actually seen a rise in executions. Almost a third of those executed in Saudi Arabia in 2012 – 65 by early October – were alleged drugs offenders, including many foreign nationals. In Iraq 119 people have been executed this year so far – almost double the known total for all of 2011." That same day, Human Rights Watch issued "Iraq: Urgent Need for a Death Penalty Moratorium" which included:
"The Iraqi authorities' insistence on carrying out this outrageous string of executions, while unwilling to reveal all but the barest of information, underlines the opaque and troubling nature of Iraq's justice system," said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "Rather than executing people, Iraq should focus on reforming its security and judicial systems to protect its citizens from increasing human rights violations." Iraqi officials contend, when challenged about the death penalty, that it is rooted in cultural tradition. But the prevalence of unfair trials and torture in detention, particularly in national security and terrorism-related cases, raises serious concerns and makes the lack of transparency in Iraq's imposition of the death penalty particularly egregious, Human Rights Watch said.
The US presidential election was last week. Cindy Sheehan discussed it on Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox with Black Agenda Report's Glen Ford and World Can't Wait's Debra Sweet. In the excerpt below, Debra's commenting on Glen's belief that there will not be significant resistance in the next four years to Barack.
Debra Sweet: The Democrats came to power and they paralyzed the movement for the most part -- not the people on this call, at least the ones I know, were never paralyzed and didn't have the same level of illusions that a lot of people have had. But, you know, thinking back to 2008, you told this story the other night when you spoke at Revolution Books about losing half of your mailing list three days after Obama's inauguration when you criticized him -- in fact, you called him a War Criminal -- because he did a drone strike in Pakistan. What did he do after his re-election? He just did a drone strike in Yemen.
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Debra Sweet: Right. And this is a whole picture here of the unbridled -- whether it's Republican or Democrat -- they have complete unity on the importance of the national security state -- up and down, US domination being expressed militarily, financially and even ideologically all over the world. Everybody on the call knows this so I feel it's essential to say, absolutely, there has not been significant -- There wasn't even enough resistance, for God's sake, when Bush was in. Otherwise, we would have driven him out.
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Debra Sweet: I mean, forgive me, and I am not a Pollyana person --
Cindy Sheehan: Uh-huh.
Debra Sweet: I am not about to lay down in the face of this horror of the US continuing to do what it does even in the United States. And I've got to say that when Glen is talking about there won't be enough significant resistance coming from the Black community? You know we all have to take into account that there's an epedimic of mass incarceration that most specifically and completely effects the Black community, the Latino community, oppressed communities across the country -- people who are effected by this. It is so bad that in New York City, 2000 people get stopped every day for illegal searches -- you know illegal under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution -- where NYPD says, 'You know, basically we're holding you and we're looking through all your stuff and you're not free to go until we're through with you. This is what develops the new face of Jim Crow, it's the new face really of slavery in this society. And all of those things, they were never addressed in this election and are not even going to be talked about. But they are the very things that are happening to people that I believe have the potential to create very significant resistance indeed.
In fairness to Glen, he was speaking of Black resistance in particular (although the question the caller asked was about left resistance in total). Friday, Stan described a scene that's all too familiar -- where someone who would be against empire wars suddenly is for them because of Barack's skin color. Glen referenced incidents like that, to be clear since we're not quoting from Glen. In terms of Debra's remarks, I applaud them but would have noted one more targeted group: activists. And not just when they show up at political party conventions. You see the targeting especially as 90s drew to a close and the targeting of environmentalists seriously began. They were kind of the test case. How much could they be targeted without creating an uproar? Today, we have more activists arrested and serving hard time today than at any time since Watergate. Think Bradley Manning (still unconvicted) and attorney Lynne Stewart. Targeted for their activism.