Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 3, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, revisionary tactics never go away, Nouri kind of says 700 women will be released from Iraqi prisons -- kind of says that but not really, protests continue,  Iraq Body Count finds more people died from violence in Iraq in 2012 than the year before, and more.
At the right-wing National Review, Victor Davis Hanson notes that Bully Boy Bush left office at the start of 2009 with an approval rating of 34% but it's now up to 46%.  He calls out the way Bush was demonized and notes how Barack Obama can do the same thing or more and get away with it.  That is correct.  But he wants to 'explain' how people were wrong about Bush on the Iraq War.  He backs up his opinions with facts and makes a solid argument from the right.  That's what he's supposed to do.  He hasn't done anything 'wrong.'  And this is how the right hopes to win the argument and has had some success in the past.
There are a ton of reasons to continue focusing on Iraq here in the US.  But if people only care about themselves then maybe now some on the left who've argued it doesn't matter (including two friends with The Nation magazine) will wake up?  We've gone over what could happen repeatedly in the last years.  We did so at length August 20, 2010 in "The war continues (and watch for the revisionary tactics."
If you're old enough, you saw it with Vietnam.  That illegal war ended with the government called out for its actions.  And some people -- a lot in fact -- just moved on.  The weakest of the left moved on because it wasn't 'polite' to talk about it or it wasn't 'nice' or 'can't we all just get along' and other nonsense.  Others talked about things because they didn't care about Vietnam, the Vietnamese or the US service members.  And, after all, they had a peanut farmer from Georgia to elect, right?  And bit by bit, year by year, all these lies about Vietnam took root.  The press turned the people against it!  The US could have won if the military's hands hadn't been tied!  All this nonsense that, back when the public was paying attention in the early to mid-seventies, would have been rejected outright by the majority of Americans.
Jane Fonda explains in the amazing documentary Sir! No Sir!, "You know, people say, 'Well you keep going back, why are you going back to Vietnam?' We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."
And if you silence yourself while your opponent digs in on the topic, a large number of Americans -- including people too young to remember what actually happened -- here nothing but the revisionary arguments.  Jane's correct, the right-wing always went back to Vietnam. They're at fork in the road probably because, do they continue to emphasize Vietnam as much as they have, or do they move on to Iraq.  Victor Davis Hanson's ready to move on to Iraq.  He's not the only one on the right.
And on the left we have silence. 
And that is why revisionary tactics work.  It's not because revisions are stronger than facts.  It's because one side gives up.  And the left -- check The ProgressiveThe Nation, etc.* -- has long ago given up on even pretending to care about Iraq -- about the Iraq War, about the Iraqis, about the US service members.  [*But not In These Times -- they've continued to feature Iraq about every six months.  Give them credit for that.]
I'm sure they'll work really hard at electing some center-right Democrats to Congress in the 2014 elections.  I'm sure that will be the focus of their efforts.  But if they'd focus on things that really matter, it would force the candidates to be stronger.  We'd have a better informed and educated electorate and the candidates would have to rise to that to get votes.  These periodicals (and toss in the Pacifica Radio shows as well) love to whine about how Democrats used to stand for something and how they've been watered down and watered down.  Yet these same outlets do an awful job of informing about real issues because they instead focus on electing Democrats and the occassional cause celebre.   When that's what you do, you automatically cede ground to the other side. 
Another reason to pay attention is because Iraq was a defining moment.  And a number of people have exposed themselves as utter frauds.  For example, many years ago a number of us who are feminists applauded Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer for their work that culminated with the book Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas.  But maybe we were too kind in our praise.  In America, we are likely to treat someone simply doing the job they're supposed to be doing as if they're a hero.  Time has proven that Jane Mayer is an attack dog for the Democratic Party and not actually a journalist.  (A journalist doesn't stop doing expose pieces because a Democrat is in the White House.)  And Jill?   The current Executive Editor of the New York Times appeared at the Commonwealth Club December 6th and, wouldn't you know it, she wanted to talk Iraq.
Jill Abramson:  If there's any one thing I could change it would be, as Washington bureau chief, not all of the reporters who were covering the WMD issues and Iraq were part of the Washington bureau.  And I just wish -- You know -- I  -- many of those stories didn't come through me but certainly I was aware of them.  And, you know, I wish that I had been paying more attention because the Times really did brandish on the front page some very questionable stories that were based on, you know, Iraqi defectors who had an interest in promoting the toppling of Saddam Hussein, who were going around to various reporters including reporters at the Times, peddling the story of this ramped up WMD program which, of course, didn't exist.  That is number one.  I wish I had paid more attention.  And journalism isn't a game that you play with 20/20 hindsight vision unfortunately. I'm sure that many people at the BBC wish -- you know -- 'Gee I wish, you know, I had been paying more attention to the documentary and what not.'  So, number one, I wish I was paying more attention to the totality of the coverage and some of the stories that were faulty including the one about the tubes that suggested -- When the Times published that story on the front page and was kind of a welcome sign for Dick Cheney and Condi Rice to go on the Sunday show -- shows -- to talk about mushroom clouds that, of course, were a fantasy.  And there, I think -- and I've done a lot of thinking about this -- I wish that I had been more tuned in to the reporters in Washington, a few in the Times bureau, but especially Knight-Ridder which had -- at the time -- a very, very good Washington bureau and their major sources on this were skeptics within the CIA -- CIA analysts who were like, 'Be careful with this WMD evidence.' They were very skeptical about it.
What a load of crap.  Let me start first by saying, Jill, I don't think you can be a witness in a perjury trial and then perjure yourself.  Jill was Scooter Libby's witness against Judith Miller, for those who don't know.  Judith Miller wrote some very bad articles for the New York Times (and co-wrote some as well) in the lead up to the war.  We've called her out repeatedly.  We've also noted it was bad reporting and not lying as evidenced by her actions after the start of the war when she basically took over a US military squad and had them looking for WMD that she desparately wanted to find.  She based her career on that WMD.  There was none. 
Judith Miller stayed in jail until her source on Valerie Plame (she never wrote about Plame) gave her permission to name him.  Plame-Gate was when the Bush administration outed a CIA agent to get back at former Ambassdor Joe Wilson for his column in the New York Times about how there was no yellow cake in Niger (in response to Bully Boy Bush's claim that Saddam Hussein had recently sought uranium there).  Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent and she was married to Joe Wilson.  She was outed by Scooter Libby (Dick Cheney's chief of staff) as the administration sought to get back at Joe Wilson.
Once Judith Miller came forward about her source, that's when Jill enters the picture and Jill presented herself on the witness stand as completely involved and an expert on 'bad' Judith Miller.  Because of Miller's lousy reporting on Iraq, some will cheer that.  But let's grasp that what Jill was doing was providing cover for Scooter Libby.   That's what she did in her testimony.
Yet after the courtroom performance on Scooter Libby's behalf, where Jill was an expert on what was taking place and who was writing what and who was talking to whom, Jill now wants to play like she wasn't involved?
She also wants to ignore that James Risen took stories, skeptical stories, to her and she shot them down repeatedly.  Risen's even spoken publicly about some of this.  Jill knows he has and she wants to lie to everyone all these years later?  For example, from Joe Hagan's "The United States of America vs. Bill Keller" (New York magazine, September 10, 2006):
In addition, Risen harbored lingering resentment of Abramson over the paper's WMD coverage.  When she was Washington bureau chief under [Howell] Raines, Risen has claimed to at least two people, he offered her reporting that cast doubt on the Bush administration's evidence about Iraq's WMD program.  At the time, Miller's reporting was how the Times, as an extension of Raines, saw the subject.  And Abramson felt powerless to fight Raines over this and other things.  When Risen press his case, she finally told him to "get with the program," these people say.
It only gets worse.
She wishes she had followed the other coverage, she says, because if she'd followed Knight-Ridder, she might have been skeptical too.  First, it's rather pissy of her not to have named the reporters or noted that it's now McClatchy.  The three primary reporters on Iraq in the lead up to the war were Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and Margaret Talev.   Second, she needed to see other people being skeptical of government officials?  Journalists are supposed to be skeptical.  It's a basic of journalism. 
And when you have a source with an aim (let alone grudge), you are supposed to be very skeptical of their claims.  That's why, for example, when a whistleblower comes forward, an employer will always try to make it seem like a case of sour grapes because if they can make the employee look like they've got an axe to grind, it will make the press take the employee less seriously. 
What I'm talking about here, Jill Abramson knows all that.  She's not stupid.  She gave a for-show performance.  She never mentioned the Iraqis that died or the Americans that died.  She gave a little performance taking as little accountability as she thought she could get away with.
She makes a lot of excuses for herself but she doesn't appear to have learned a damn thing.  In September 2008, she got praise for 'taking responsibility' on Iraq.  She didn't.  It was an aside in a book review.  She's still not taking accountability.  People are dead, people are wounded and her, "I wish I had been more skeptical"?  It just doesn't cut it.
You should pay attention if only to see who, like Jill, changes their story.  Again, it's not just her fault.  It's the fault of people like me, my fault absolutely, for treating her work in the 90s as something wonderful.  She did her job.  Nothing more, nothing less.  She didn't earn the praise.  And then people rushed to praise her in 2008 for her aside in the book review (I didn't praise her for that -- at least I had enough sense then to know better).  So now she thinks she can offer this simplistic revisionary nonsense and get more praise.  And she's probably right because most people don't pay attention.

ICYMI - Attacks are down, but #Iraq is still in a 'low-level war':  @AFP

That's Prashant Rao with AFP.  "Low-level war" is another reason you'd think the world would be paying attention to what's going on in Iraq.
Iraq Body Count reports 272 people were killed from violence in Iraq for the month of December and they count 4,557 deaths from violence in Iraq for 2012.  In a report entitled "Iraqi  deaths from violence in 2012," Iraq Body Count explains:

2012 marks the first year since 2009 where the death toll for the year has increased (up from 4,136 in 2011), but 2012 itself has been marked by contrasts. While it seems December will be the least violent month in the last two years, June was the most violent in three years, so the improvements in the second half of the year are from that higher level of violence. It is premature to predict whether the record low levels of violence in the last quarter of the year will be sustained. Overall, 2012 has been more consistent with an entrenched conflict than with any transformation in the security situation for Iraqis in the first year since the formal withdrawal of US troops.
In sum the latest evidence suggests that the country remains in a state of low-level war little changed since early 2009, with a "background" level of everyday armed violence punctuated by occasional larger-scale attacks designed to kill many people at once.

Iraq Body Count also notes that March 2013 will mark ten years since the start of the Iraq War and that they "will provide an overview of the known death toll covering the invasion and the first full decade of its aftermath."
Violence continued today.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports 3 people were shot dead in a Tarmiyah orchard (police officer, "his brother and a third person"), an al-Tahriyah car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Shi'ite pilgrims and left eight more injured, a Falluja car bombing injured three bodyguards of a police officer and four by-standers, and the son of Abdul-Rahman Khalid al-Nujaifi was shot repeatedly while driving in Mosul.  The father is a colonel in the Iraqi military and he is the cousin of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds that a Karbala car bombing claimed 2 lives.   Alsumaria reports a a Tikrit roadside bombing injured one person and a Babil car bombing that has left a number of people injuredLindsay Brown (ITN -- link is video) reports, "One person has been killed and ten others wounded after three bombs exploded in Tuz Khormato town south of Kirkuk.  The blast caused serious damage to nearby houses and a fuel station."  A male resident states, "The officials of government are busy with disputes while the people are the victims.  There are poor people who are living in this neighborhood.  Not one of them is a member of a political party and there's no headquarters of a political party here.  Does God accept such  a work?  The people were in their houses at night when the four explosions took place.  Why has it happened because we are a simple neighborhood?"
Turning to the topic of the ongoing protests, Alsumaria reports that residents of Kirkuk took to the streets yesterday to show their solidarity with protesters in Anbar Province, Nineveh Province and Salahuddin Province and to echo the demands of the need for an amnesty law and for the Justice and Accountability Commission and law to be abolished along with Article IV.  One of the things fueling this round of protests has been the issue of what's happening to Iraqi women and girls in prisons and detention centers.  From Monday's snapshot:
In October, allegations of torture and rape of women held in Iraqi prisons and detention centers began to make the rounds.  In November, the allegations became a bit more and a fistfight broke out in Parliament with an angry State of Law storming out.  By December, Members of Parliament on certain security committees were speaking publicly about the abuses.  Then Nouri declared that anyone talking about this topic was breaking the law. He continued on this tangent for weeks claiming this past week that he would strip MPs of their immunity.  (The Constitution doesn't allow for that.)  Also this past week, it was learned that at least four females were raped in a Baghdad prison.
The outrage here is part of what has fueled the protests. 
Alsumaria notes the Ministry of Justice's latest spin Saturday: Only women guards are at these prisons!  Whether that's true or not (most likely it is not) world history demonstrates that when women are imprisoned it's very common for someone to get the 'bright idea' to sell access to these women.  Greed is a strong motivator.  Again, the very claim is doubtful but if there are no men on staff, that doesn't mean men have not been present in the prisons.  It wasn't enough to silence objections or stop the protests.  Sunday,  Al Arabiya noted, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered on Sunday the release of female prisoners, who were arrested for terrorism charges without judicial warrants or because of terror crimes committed by their relatives, to appease to protesters who want to see the scrapping of anti-terrorism measures in the country, a local website reported."
Raheem Salman, Ahmed Rasheed, Isabel Coles and Kevin Liffey (Reuters) report that Sunni cleric Khaled al-Mullah is representing the protesters in talks with Nouri and that Nouri states he will declare a special pardon which would allow approximately 700 female prisoners to be released out of 920.  That may or may not address one of the issues.  May or may not?  Nouri's not real good about following up on verbal promises or written ones. And if that doesn't sound fair, you're not only missing his past record, you're missing the rest of the story.  Ammar Karim (AFP) reports the women aren't going anywhere just yet.  What's being reported isn't what Nouri's promised.  What Nouri promised?  That he would "write to the president to issue a special amnesty to release them." That would be President Jalal Talabani.  Nouri's not releasing anyone.  And he's writing to Jalal who left Iraq for Germany in a medical transport from an illness/condition that no one with his office or his family has identified.  (Nouri's office stated Jalal had a stroke.)  What is Jalal's condition?
No one officially knows.  But here's Abdulghani Ali Yahya (Asharq-e) offering an opinion:
When Jalal Talabani fell into a coma as a result of a blood clot in his brain and returned to Germany for treatment, rumours spread about his health and even his death, before it was reported that his condition had stabilized. There were also rumours of certain Arab figures being nominated for his position if he were to die or become unable to perform his duties. As a result, the Kurds sought to reserve Talabani's presidential post for themselves, and began naming candidates such as Dr. Ibrahim Saleh, an experienced politician, and Iraq's first lady Hiro Ibrahim Ahmed, a prominent Kurdish activist. On the international scene, two prominent American researchers urged Washington to push for the nomination of another Kurdish president for Iraq. Amidst all this it was if Iran is absent from what was happening, even though it is the key player in the Iraqi arena.
Does it sound like Jalal's in a position to issue an amnesty?  Maybe he is.  Maybe he's much better off than the above portrayal.  But he still is in Germany.  He's been in Germany for weeks now.  If he was doing well, they'd probably be transitioning home or to the home he stays in when he's in Germany.  But he remains at the hospital.  As a general rule, when someone's in the hospital for weeks, they're not really up for official duties.
Another issue in this round of protests besides female prisoners?  Jason Ditz ( explains, "The protests began after the mass arrest of office workers and security for Finance Minister Rafie Issawi, who officials have since insisted are all 'terrorists.' Sunni protesters see Iraq's loose 'terrorism' laws as being exploited to keep Sunni politicians marginalized, even though the Iraqiya Party has the largest plurality in the government they have only a handful of government posts, including Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is sentenced to death in exile as a 'terrorist'."  As he attempted to spin last month after anger mounted, Nouri offered (among other excuses) that it wasn't him ordering the arrest and that the Americans had been suspicious of al-Issawi (yes, he said both things in December 2011 about Tareq al-Hashemi as well).  However, Max Boot (Commentary) reported Monday evening that he has a letter Gen Ray Odierno wrote in 2010 (when Odierno was the top US commander in Iraq) and it "says that U.S. intelligence agencies have thorougly investigated the charges against Issawi and found them to be uncorroborated." 
The mass arrests of 150 bodyguards and staff of the Minister of Finance took place late on the evening of December 20th (see the December 21st Iraqi snapshot).  There were actually protests in Iraq -- massive -- beginning on December 11th (click here for screen snaps of those protests), a day after Nouri had publicly insulted cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.  In Baghdad and Basra people took to the street to protests Nouri's attack on Moqtada.
 Alsumaria reports that yesterday, in Najaf, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr voiced support for the protesters at a press conference and noted that Nouri is responsible for what is taking place.  He called on Nouri to respond to the calls of the protesters.  He also warned that the Iraqi spring is coming.  He may be remembering (if so, he's the only leader so far that does) that Iraqi youth had called weeks ago for protests to start up in January.  Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel) adds, "[. . .] Sadr accused Maliki of turning Iraq into a laughingstock and called on him to resign rather than call for early elections, as he recently considered doing."  Last month, Nouri floated the threat of early elections.   Yasir Ghazi and Christine Hauser (New York Times) refer to him as "a populist Shiite leader" (noted because the western press usually just calls him "radical cleric" or "anti-American cleric") and notes:

Several times during the gathering, Mr. Sadr directed his remarks at Mr. Maliki, who has taken recent steps that suggested he was asserting greater control over many aspects of the government and that prompted fears he was cracking down on his political opponents.  Mr. Sadr's remarks could indicate that he is trying to test the political waters or possible support from the street before Iraq's provincial elections, which are scheduled for the spring.

Provincial elections are supposed to take place this April.  Jason Ditz ( observes, "Sadr's support is key because he is not only a political rival of Maliki, but also a very influential Shi'ite cleric, and his support will make a crackdown against the protesters more difficult."  All Iraq News notes that Iraqiya (the political slate led by Ayad Allawi which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections) issued a statement praising Moqtada's remarks and position and calling for all to follow the example and show solidarity with the demonstrators.  All Iraq News also notes that Parliament's Human Rights Commission is calling for support of the demonstrators in a statement issued by the Chair of the Committee Salim al-Jubouri.  Alsumaria notes that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq are calling for a response to the legitimate demands of the protesters.  Both men are members of Iraqiya and Sunni but the main reason al-Mutlaq is side-by-side with Osama is because Sunday's incident demonstrated to him how far from other Sunnis he seemed.  In past years, he'd rush to Tareq al-Hashemi.  But the Vice President now resides in Turkey because Nouri and Nouri's kangaroo court declared Tareq a 'terrorist.'  And interesting point is being made in Iraqi social media today.  A lot of the anger at Nouri is fueled by what's happened to women and girls in Iraq prisons and detention centers (torture and rape).  And it's being pointed out that Nouri and his thugs might have felt like they could get away with it more this year because they ran Tareq out of the country.  For those who've forgotten, the treatment and conditions in Iraqi prisons was something Tareq repeatedly highlighted, often taking the press into a particularly bad prison so that conditions could be exposed.  With Tareq out of the country, no one's been able to.  Parliament has objected all year long to the fact that Nouri has suspended their visitation rightts.
MP Sami al-Askari is with Nouri's State of Law and he tells All Iraq News that "we" (State of Law) do not believe that this is a serious crisis.  That tells you how out of touch State of Law remains.    Mary Elizabeth King (In These Times) points out:
Prime Minister Maliki has denied all of the protesters' allegations. Just as many other politicians have in the face of the Arab Awakening, he charges that the protests have a hidden agenda, that foreign countries are involved. He also condemns any demands to end the regime.
Maliki, however, might be wise to take the protests seriously. Thousands of Iraqi Sunnis who feel wronged appear to be turning to nonviolent resistance, fighting with nonviolent methods rather than the IEDs and suicide bombings that have prevailed in the recent past -- especially in media representations. Anbar province was the hub of the deadly Sunni insurgency that broke out after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. After Saddam Hussein came down, internecine violence in Iraq resulted in more than 100,000 deaths in what nearly became civil war.
If he decides to send in his thugs to attack the protesters (as he did in 2011), they're well trained and well armed.  Robert Tollast (National Interest) notes of the Iraqi Speical Operations Forces:
Today there are almost 30 U.S. Special Forces troops advising the Iraqis on counterterrorism, and if recent rumours are correct, more have visited Iraq in a similar capacity since the withdrawal.
As Maliki continues to attack Iraq's state institutions and trample human rights, Washington should ask what helping the ISOF is going to achieve. Tactical success for Iraqi soldiers can stop terrorists, but what if those same soldiers also arrest the innocent? As Iraq investigates apparent corruption in the recent $4.2 billion arms deal with Russia, Maliki will want to keep his options open regarding arms suppliers. Should the United States let him know that further arms deals could be tied to his human rights record?

Finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.  In his latest article "The Only Job I Can Do A Young Mother's Farm Work Story" (New American Media) he lets Lorena Hernandez tell her story:
To go pick blueberries I have to get up at four in the morning. First I make my lunch to take with me, and then I get dressed for work. For lunch I eat whatever there is in the house, mostly bean tacos. Then the ritero, the person who gives me a ride to work, picks me up at 20 minutes to five.
I work as long as my body can take it, usually until 2:30 in the afternoon. Then the ritero gives me a ride home, and I get there by 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. By then I'm really tired.
I pay $8 each way to get to work and back home. Right now they're paying $6 for each bucket of blueberries you pick, so I have to fill almost three buckets just to cover my daily ride. The contractor I work for, Elias Hernandez, hooks us up with the riteros. He's the contractor for 50 of us farm workers picking blueberries, and I met him when a friend of my aunt gave me his number.