Tuesday, December 4, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, tensions continue between Baghdad and Erbil with various officials flying back and forth, but Baghdad won't let Turkey land in the KRG, Iraq tops a list (it's not a list a country wants to top), Iraqiya and the Sadr bloc call out attempts to censor the internet, and more.
Yesterday evening there was a Bradley Manning Support Network's DC event or, as it turned out, No Gold Star Left Behind. Everyone gets a prize just for participating. Before we get to that, Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.
Some notes. I attended with a National Lawyers Guild friend. I'm sure we weren't the only ones rolling our eyes as various 'political prisoners' got name checked and Lynne Stewart was ignored. We didn't attend expecting to hear Lynne's name but when you've got time to name check others, you've got time for Lynne. Lynne's always had time for everyone else and, yes, you owe Lynne Stewart. You might also have included her on the 'great attorneys' of the past list -- but, of course, no women made that list either.
There was time to thank reporters, time to mention them by name, time to applaud them, time to weigh in on Subway and working lunches. As that speech was finally winding down, my friend pointed out, "Now we know why they can't make a credible argument for Assange." Indeed. Does no one organize before speaking to an audience? You're not there to tell the history of time. You choose a few key points. You make those points, you're done. It appears presentation has confused with filibuster.
At last came David Coombs, Bradley Manning's attorney, and I wrongly thought (yet again), "Okay, get ready to take notes." Wrong. Key moment from the speech?
Probably when Coombs was climbing the cross to praise himself -- the first time. Now attorneys tend to have oversized egos, that's not surprising. But what was surprising was hearing someone self-aggrandize to a packed room about how great they were because they turn down all interview requests. ("I also avoid any interviews with the media.") That's not great at all.
You're in a media war, David Coombs, you need to be taking every interview request and then some. Your failure to do so goes a long, long way towards explaining how Bradley has disappeared from the radar so often.
The failure to grasp that this was a press event and not an ABA convention further hurt Bradley. Going on about how the pre-trial motions blah blah blah, Coombs suddenly declares, "I'm enjoying my opportunity to cross-examine those who had Bradley Manning in those conditions for so many months." And like dutiful idiots, many of those applauded that crap.
Well, hey, then, let's let this trial go on for 30 years. For those of us who are actually outraged that the US government has refused to provide Bradley Manning with a fair and speedy trial, the 'enjoyment' of the defense attorney really isn't our concern.
Here's another tip: "Those people." No one gives a damn about some free floating, nebulous menace. Even the idiot Bully Boy Bush knew he had to paint a face on what he dubbed the "axis of evil." But there was Coombs pontificating endlessly about "those people" who knew Bradley was being wronged but did nothing, could see with their own eyes that Bradley was being wronged but did nothing. Who are these people? Do you mean guards? If so, why can't you say that?
"Change"? Unless you're talking coins, stop using that empty phrase -- especially as a noun. The 2008 election drained it of all value. At one point, Coombs wanted to liken Bradley to Daniel Ellsberg. I'm sorry but I was at rallies for Daniel Ellsberg -- actual rallies -- and this 'presentation' was more self-congratulatory then anything we had for Ellsberg. Everything is not an applause line and people need to stop applauding themselves. It's not only immodest, it's counterproductive. A real discussion could have taken place if everyone hadn't decided that self-suck was more important than addressing reality. After three solid minutes of various thanks (with no end in sight), my friend leaned over and asked if he did "the E-Z checks plan, will they give me my PBS mug so we can leave already?"
I've noted before that Jane Fonda is one of our country's great speakers. She truly is. We can all learn and borrow from her. One of the things she's always been very good at is conveying some nervousness about speaking and growing stronger in her presentation so that the subtext is: This made me stronger. She embodies that. She does not stand there yammering on about 'I'm scared but now I'm stronger and blah blah blah.' If Jane were to put that into words instead of making it the subtext, it wouldn't work. And Coombs' bad attempt to steal Jane's signature move sank as he verbalized (in a hundred and one words) what she embodies with a gesture, a head tilt and the growing passion in her voice.
David Coombs loves the judge, loves the military system, loves the legal system, loves to hear his own voice. We learned about that and so many more things about David Coombs. Bradley? Not so much. What should have been the strongest moment quickly sank.
David Coombs: Last Tuesday, the President of the United States signed into law The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. As President Obama was signing this bill into law, Brad and I were in a court room for the start of his unlawful pre-trial motion. How can you reconcile the two?
Is it possible for Coombs to speak plainly? "Unlawful pre-trial motion." Is that a soundbyte outside of a legal journal? I don't think so. Nor do I think "Brad and I were in a court room" is appropriate. Bradley is the targeted one, not David Coombs.
What followed were 'questions' that were written out ahead of time on index cards. It was as though we were sitting through the press conference Bully Boy Bush held right before starting the Iraq War.
As we were leaving, a reporter I knew stopped us and asked how fair were the questions? "Off the record," I said, "the whole thing was bulls**t. Where do we get off on the left refusing to take questions? Doing pre-screened -- excuse me, 'pre-approved' questions? I thought the heart of this case was about the need for information to be out there. Freedom of information died here, somebody call the time of death." My friend summed it up better, however, "I support Manning 100% but what went on in there was a cross between an Amway convention and a Nuremberg Rally."
My comments above are on the first half of the presentation only. (In part because I had to step outside to return a few calls including one about last night's snapshot -- it was too long when it was typed up and we had to edit it.) I was present for the entire presentation and 'question' and answer session with Coombs. I stepped out right after that.
It's going to catch that outbound plane but where will it land? Presumably not in northern Iraq. Kitabat reports Taner Yildiz, Ministry of Energy for Turkey, was unable to land today at the Erbil airport because the Civil Aviation Authority in Baghdad would not grant permission. Al Jazeera notes that he was to attend an energy conference in the KRG but instead "was forced to land in Turkey's Kayseri, southeast of the capital Ankara." And apparently this was not the only flight that Baghdad refused to allow to land. Reuters quotes Nasser Bandar (who is charge of the Civil Aviation Authority in Baghdad) stating, "The UAE, Jordan and Turkey forwarded their demand to get permission for private flights, and we refused the three requests as they were not going along with Iraqi laws and regulations." Ivan Watson (CNN) quotes an official with Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating, "We had applied for flight permits. We were issued one, and the plane was on the move. But in the meantime we were notified by the Iraqis that they have banned all VIP flights to Northern Iraq."
Turkey is importing oil from Iraq's Kurdistan region without Baghdad's agreement and despite repeated statements from the Iraqi government stressing that all oil contracts in the country, including in the Kurdish region, must go through the central government. Ankara-Baghdad relations turned sour last year after Ankara expressed support for fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who faces terrorist charges in his country and is sentenced to death, and gave him refuge. The two countries are also at odds over the Syrian unrest.
Hey, remember when Nouri al-Maliki was wanted for terrorism in Iraq and he escaped and hid out in Iran? Press TV never appears to. But that did happen. Tareq al-Hashemi was not given a fair trial, witnesses were tortured (including one potential witness who was tortured to death), his defense wasn't allowed to call witnesses and there is never a fair trial when judges hold a press conference to announce the accused is guilty -- hold a press conference to make that announcement before the trial even starts. That's not even getting into the Baghdad judge who, at that press conference, declared that Tareq had tried to kill him. This was not a fair trial, it was Nouri's kangaroo court. And though Press TV and other outlets keep talking about al-Hashemi being in Turkey, Arabic outlets had him going to Qatar over a week ago.
And it's this crisis that led to Iraq actually being raised in the State Dept's press briefing today presided over by State Dept spokesperson Mark Toner.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MR. TONER: Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: What is your update on the U.S. mediation to defuse the military tensions between the Iraqi Government and Kurdistan Regional Government in North Iraq? Do you have anything new?
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, I think I would just say at the outset this is obviously an Iraqi process. We're doing what we can, obviously, to encourage dialogue, and discussions are ongoing. I would refer you to the Government of Iraq for any details, but ultimately improving security in Iraq is in the interests of all parties in Iraq and will benefit all Iraqis. So we want to see this dialogue continue and want to see a resolution.
QUESTION: Okay. Mark, on this point --
MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.
QUESTION: -- a few weeks ago, there was a delegation, a delegation, that went and met with the Ministry of Interior and Armed Forces in Iraq. Are you – did anyone share with you the results of that meeting and --
MR. TONER: I don't, Said. I can take the question and see what came out of that --
QUESTION: Okay. Sure.
MR. TONER: -- specific meeting.
What the above doesn't convey is that spokesperson Mark Toner read his answer. He had a series of typed notes (on typing paper, stapled together) and he flipped to the Iraq section and barely looked up as he read, word for word, from his notes.
KUNA reports, "Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi arrived here [Erbil] Tuesday evening in yet another mission to break the stalemate between Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraq's federal government over Kirkuk region." This morning, Alsumaria reported al-Nujaifi stated the Baghdad versus Erbil crisis is now so large that there is the threat of military confrontation. Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports several MPs spoke yesterday -- MPs of various political parties -- noting that Nouri was acting without any input or consultation of the Parliament and its committees. While Najafi headed to Erbil, Al Mada reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrived in Baghdad for talks last night.
All Iraq News reports Moqtada al-Sadr is calling out the remarks Nouri al-Maliki made on Saturday, noting that Nouri's threats were a dangerous error and should not happen again. Kitabat notes that Moqtada called out the Russian arms deal as well as stating that any weapons Iraq purchased should be for the defense of the country, not to oppress Iraqis. Alsumaria notes he called on corruption to be investigated.
Dar Addustour reports that it is said Nouri al-Maliki has been getting legal opinions on state-of-emergency and is planning (toying with?) declaring a state of emergency, ordering the arrests of various political rivals and demonstrating to everyone what happens when the US governments installs and backs tyrants. Second, the air space. Nouri whines that he can't control the air space when it comes to Iranian flights to Syria and yet Kitabat reports Taner Yildiz, Ministry of Energy for Turkey, was unable to land today at the Erbil airport because the Civil Aviation Authority in Baghdad would not grant permission.
How scared is Nouri's State of Law of the Iraqi people? Alsumaria reports that yet another flunky with State of Law has made idiotic comments. Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi should be silent, insists State of Law. He has no right to speak. Check the Iraqi Constitution and you'll find Allawi, like every other Iraqi, has the right to speak whenever he wants. More importantly, he should be speaking right now. He is the popular leader of Iraq. State of Law came in second to Iraqiya. If the Constitution had been followed, Allawi or someone else from Iraqiya would be prime minister right now. But Barack wanted the Bush-installed Nouri to have a second term.
Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. 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."
Surveying the events of late, Tim Arango and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) observe that "[. . .] Iraq finds itself in a familiar position: full-blown crisis mode, this time with two standing armies, one loyal to the central government in Baghdad and the other commanded by the Kurdish regional government in the north, staring at each other through gun sights, as officials in Baghdad, including American diplomats and an American general, try to mediate."
It's Barack Obama's Iraq, it's Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq. And how proud they must both be today as Iraq beat out 157 other countries to be declared number one.
Before Nouri preens for the cameras, we should point out that the list topped is the Global Terrorism Index. Iraq had 1228 incidents between 2002 and 2011 that were classified as terrorism and this lead to 1798 deahts and to 4905 more people being injured. This allowed Iraq to remain number one. Of the index, The Economist notes, "It [Iraq] has suffered from the most attacks, including 11 of the world's worst 20. Indeed, Iraqis comprised one third of deaths from terrorism between 2002 and 2011."
Nouri's Iraq is also an Iraq where people struggle for the basics. This includes food. Yesterday the United Nations made a brief announcement. It was spin, pure and simple, opening with the assertion that the last five years had seen a decrease -- 250,000 less Iraqis facing food insecurity. That sounds so much better than noting 1.9 million Iraqis continue to face food insecurity (the 2007 number was 2.2 million). The UN did acknowledge, "The report points to the Public Distribution System (PDS) as an important element that has helped to ensure food security and decent living standards for the poorest of households." That's the food-ration card system. If you take that away, you don't just add the 250,000 back into the total, you add a great deal more. The food-ration card system is the only thing keeping many Iraqis afloat. You may remember Nouri tried to end it. The people and Parliament fought him on that and they won.
Al Mada reports a fight went down in Parliament yesterday as well. Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance walked out of the session to protest an aspect of the proposed Information and Telecommunications Law. They say it goes to far and curbs basic freedoms and that a red line must be drawn, a line you do not cross, that ensures internet freedom. Nothing, the politicians argued, not even the threat of porn, is enough to restrict the freedoms. Article 12 of the proposed law would allow the government to control access and content. They are demanding that Article 12 be striken from the bill.
Saturday, Nouri threatened to arrest members of Parliament who spoke publicly about the abuse Iraqi women are suffering in prisons. The BRussels Tribunal has a very important article on this torture. We're going to highlight a little from their report each snapshot this week and hopefully include the entire thing that way. Yesterday, we noted the arrest. Here's the next step.
This is the second stage of the unfair arrest journey. The female detainee will be sent either to Shaab Stadium Prison or the notorious Al-Muthanna Airport Prison. A group of the worst psychopaths in the government is supervising these prisons, a corrupt committee of criminals of the Military Intelligence, the Intelligence services of the Ministry of Interior, and an Intelligence and Security Representative from the Chief Commander's Office. This management is appointed by the Iraqi Correction Office through the Ministry of Justice. 45% of its employees are Al-Mahdi Militia members, 30% from the Badr Organisation. The other 25% is divided among the other criminal parties of the government.
This phase is considered as the most barbaric. The security forces, prison guards and members of the prison management practice the most terrible ways of torture, humiliation, profanation, deprivation, blackmailing the prisoners, ethnic and sectarian and political discrimination, and raping men and women without exception. Female prisoners are detained for very long periods, without legitimate accusations or investigating their case. In criminal Maliki's jails, there are many women who were imprisoned for periods between one year and six years, without any legal representation or procedures regarding their case.
There are many examples of the immoral and brutal practices being committed against female and male prisoners in Al-Tasfeerat Prisons. Some officers from the Ministries of Interior and Defense, the Office of the Chief of Command, and some partisan and criminal militia leaders visit these prisons, and choose some detainees to be tortured for hours and raping them for sectarian reasons. Some of the prisoners die as a result of this brutal torture. Between 2008-2012 Al-Rasafah Tasfeerat Prison recorded the death of more than 250 prisoners, among them 17 women. During the same period Al-Muthanna Airport Prison recorded the death of 125 prisoners, among them three women.
And these torture practices do not only take place in Al-Tasfeerat Prisons, but in all the prisons supervised by the Ministry of Justice, especially the Juveniles Prison, Al-Kadimiyah Women Prison, the notorious Abu-Ghraib Prison, in addition to the secret prisons of Al-Maliki where no accurate records are available about the male and female detainees who died because of the brutal torture they faced there.
It's worth mentioning that under Al Maliki's rule, some notorious high risk level prisoners - men and women alike- were released or secretly smuggled out Al-Tasfeerat Prisons, after destroying all the documents and papers related to their cases, on the orders of Ministers and VIPs in the Ministries of Interior and Defense, and the Commanding Chief's Office. Here are some of prisoners who were "released":
Radiyah Kadum Muhsin : she was one of the prominent leaders of the Dawa Party, and was released after an order from Al-Maliki himself, and under the supervision of his Intelligence and Security Consultant. She was accused of leading one of the biggest human trafficking criminal gangs that kidnap children and sell them, in addition to prostitution, seducing some officers and government officials, and blackmailing them with their own pornographic photos, or even eliminating them. She was also accused of drug dealing, and forging official documents.
Adnan Abdulzahra Al-Aaraji: he is one of the prominent leaders of the Mahdi Militia, and the head of one of the most notorious gangs known in Iraqi history in terms of sadism, criminality and discrimination. He was arrested by the Americans while he was trying to smuggle 5000 corpses of his victims to Iran during the sectarian wars in 2006. Those corpses were sent to Iran in three cooled vehicles for the sake of human organs trade. He was accused of smuggling antiques, explosives, weapons, and drugs. We mentioned here only two of the prisoners who were "released" from Al-Maliki prisons.
October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia. After taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off. It's not going away.
And it's made Nouri a joke on the international stage -- which hurts investment in Iraq. Nouri signed a deal and then trashed it. Was it corrupt? Maybe so. If so, he should have known before he signed it. Among all the leaders of countries in the world, Nouri now looks like the most rank amateur. He brings that shame on Iraq. And he does so after six years in office.
Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports Parliament's Integrticy Committee began their questioning Sunday of the officials who went to Russia with Nouri -- including the 'acting' Minister of Defense. Yeah, Nouri should have had a Minister of Defense looking over that deal. But, oops, despite Constitutional requirements, Nouri never nominated anyone for that post. As part of a power-grab, he wanted to leave it open. As Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed in July, "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." Rumors swirl in Iraq right now that Nouri's former spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh (who is reported to have fled the country) has passed on papers to the Committee -- documenting the corruption. State of Law's Izzat Shabandar was scheduled to testify today. All Iraq News notes that a statement from the Sadr bloc notes that Shabandar did testify today and that his remarks matched information that the Integrity Committee had previously unearthed in their corruption investigation. Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports the Sadr bloc declared yesterday that the deal wasn't worth half its stated value.
In an NPR interview on Dec. 20, 2002, Rice joined the bellicose chorus, declaring: "It's clear that Iraq poses a major threat. It's clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that's the path we're on. I think the question becomes whether we can keep the diplomatic balls in the air and not drop any, even as we move forward, as we must, on the military side."
Rice also was wowed by Secretary of State Colin Powell's deceptive speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. The next day, again on NPR, Rice said, "I think he has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don't think many informed people doubted that."
After the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Rice foresaw an open-ended U.S. occupation of Iraq. In a Washington Post online forum, she declared, "To maximize our likelihood of success, the US is going to have to remain committed to and focused on reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq for many years to come. This administration and future ones will need to demonstrate a longer attention span than we have in Afghanistan, and we will have to embrace rather than evade the essential tasks of peacekeeping and nation building."
Only later, when the Iraq War began going badly and especially after she became an adviser to Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign, did Rice take a less hawkish position. She opposed President Bush's troop "surge" in 2007, a stance in line with Obama's anti-Iraq War posture. During Campaign 2008, she also mocked one of Sen. John McCain's trips to the Baghdad as "strolling around the market in a flak jacket."