Wednesday, January 9, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri closes a road and a port, Allawi and Barzani meet, impeachment is floated, a development in the Bradley Manning case, and more.
As protests continue in Iraq, a new development emerges. Al Arabiya explains, "The Iraqi ministry of defense has closed the country's border crossing near Jordan on Wednesday at 6 a.m. (local time) without stated official reasons, an Al Arabiya correspondent reported. The Teraibeel border crossing near Jordan, an important commercial thoroughfare, is located in the Sunni stronghold Anbar province. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets on a daily basis in the area against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his government, accused of marginalizing Sunnis." Petra notes that the road wasn't the only thing closed, Port Trebil on the border Jordan shares with Iraq was shut down by the Iraq Ministry of Defense and that Anba Province's Vice Chair, Saadoun al-Shaalan, declared that the protesters did not disrupt the port or the international highway, that the provided services to those traveling on the road and he decries the closing of the port. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quotes protest organizer Saeed Hmaim stating, "The closure . . . serves only on purpose, and that is to damage the image of the protesters and depict them as troublemakers who want to make the lives of Iraqis more difficult. We will stand firm on our demands, and we will not be shaken by this irresponsible act." UPI continues that thread, "Hikmat Suleiman, a Sunni council leader in Anbar province, said the border closure was to put pressure on protesters. Local leaders expressed similar sentiments, saying the central government was waging an economic war on the anti-Maliki movement, reports al-Arabiya." Emirates News Agency adds that Jordan issued a statement which including that "Jordan is maintaining contact with Iraq through security and diplomatic channels to follow up on the issue." Reuters explains, "The protests have become a major test for Maliki, a Shi'ite nationalist whom many Sunni leaders accuse of marginalising their minority sect, shoring up his own authority and pushing the OPEC country closer to Shi'ite non-Arab power Iran." Alsumaria adds that Anbar Province council officials told them they will sue the federal government over the closing of the Port of Trebil ("without justification") .
QUESTION: Some Iraqi officials are blaming the U.S. for supporting the demonstrations in Iraq against the government. Do you have any reaction?
MS. NULAND: We've talked about this a couple of times last week. We are not taking a side in any of these internal difficulties inside Iraq. We want to see the Iraqi stakeholders sitting down, talking, meeting, discussing, finding constitutional solutions to the various grievances on all of these issues. Our role has simply been to try to encourage the various stakeholders to talk to each other.
There was no mention of Iraq today. And Nuland still hasn't called out the violence on Monday against protesters in Mosul -- at least four were injured -- today Al Mada's Mohammad Sabah reports that 70 MPs have signed off on an investigation into how the protests in Nineveh Province ended in violence. Considering that Nuland's the one who raised the issue of violence -- when she falsely smeared the protesters -- you might think that now that it's been used against the protesters, Nuland would be right up front calling it out. But nothing. She's got nothing to say on the topic? How telling.
Like Nuland's insanity, Nouri's crazy knows no bounds. Press TV quotes him without question stating, "If rallies go on without permission, or carry banners that compromise national security or private work, security should prevent them. " The protests are not illegal, they are not unconstitutional. The judiciary and the Parliament already rejected those claims by Nouri. As for a baner being able to "compromise national security," there's you clue right there that the US government better get its act together real damn quick and stop supporting Nouri. He is Little Saddam and every days he grows into a bigger and bigger despot.
A banner can be a threat to national security? That sounds like something Pinochet would do. When that despot came to power, the Guardian notes there were "four hundred US CIA experts [to] assist Pinochet." Thanks to Ted Koppel's report for Rock Center with Brian Williams(NBC) in December of 2011, we do know that the CIA has maintained an office and presence in Iraq.
MR. KOPPEL: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the joint special operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can, can you give me sort of a, a menu of, of who all falls under your control?
AMB. JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff.
As to whether Nouri gets 400 (like Pinochet did) or more CIA agents hasn't been divulged at present.
As more and more walk away from Nouri, Salar Raza (Rudaw) offers his take on the status between the Kurds and Sunnis currently:
Their growing opposition to Iraq's Shiite-led government has pushed the country's Kurds and Sunni Arabs closer together, but problems between the two still persist, MPs from both sides say.
For the past several weeks Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been besieged on two fronts, first by the autonomous Kurdistan Region's anger over Baghdad's efforts to take over security in disputed northern territories, and lately by Sunni-led protests over alleged discrimination against provinces where they are the majority.
"The Sunni Arab protests in Iraq have unified the Sunni and Kurdish position, but the two sides have not come close enough to solving problems between themselves," said Bakir Hama Sidiq, an MP from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU).
"It is just events that have brought us and the Sunni Arabs together, nothing more," he added.
He said that while the two sides are in agreement in their opposition to Maliki, a signed alliance between them would have to be "based on belief in the rights of the Kurds, not only on mutual interests." He said he did not believe that the Sunni Arab Iraqiya coalition was ready to accept Kurdish rights, including those over the energy-rich disputed territories.
When talking about the relations between the Kurds and Iraqiya, one thing to note is that Iraq's president, who is Kurdish, is seeking medical help out of the country. Saturday, AP noted that the office of Iraq President Jalal Talabani has finally issued a statement identifying the incident that led to Talabani's hospitalization: a stroke. The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany. He remains in Germany currently. Al Mada reports today that Fuad Masum of the Kurdistan Alliance states he visited with Jalal yesterday and that he is "steadily improving" that Jalal was able to shake hands, that he listened and spoke -- and spoke to those in the room in Kurdish, Arabic and English.
Today Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya visited Erbil in the Kurdistan Regional Government (semi-autonomous region in nothern Iraq). While Allawi is a Shi'ite, Iraqiya is a mixed slate with a large Sunni presence. Alsumaria reports Allawi was in Erbil to meet with KRG President Massoud Barzani and that the two agreed on a path to solving one of the country's current crises. As that relationship sorts itself out, Nouri is more and more isolated. From yesterday's snapshot:
AFP quoted Iraqiya's Jaber al-Jaberi who stated, "They made a decision to boycott the session today. They don't see a response from the government to the demands of the protesters . . . or to accepting power-sharing." Today al-Jaberi tells Reuters that the signatures are being gathered to compell Nouri to appear before Parliament for questioning and he's quoted stating, "The first step is questioning him and we presented a request today. The next stage will be a vote of no confidence if we can get enough votes." Could it happen? Yes. Nawzad Mahmood (Rudaw) notes:
Iraq's Kurds have been too patient with the Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and it is time to have him impeached, Kurdish MPs said.
"We have to show Maliki our strongest reactions," urged Bakir Hama Siddiq, an MP from the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU).
"Maliki's policies and behavior must be ended. This prime minister has practically proven that he has nothing positive in his agenda," Siddiq said.
"Impeaching Maliki is still on the table and a consensus has formed among the political parties about the dire consequences facing Iraq if his State of Law party continues on its current path," according to Shwan Muhammad Taha, an MP of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Baghdad.
In other news, the Iraq Times has obtained a government document from the Ministry of Planning addressed to the Parliament which details the 'progress' of Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet in 2011. The newspaper states it is a clear portrait of government failure in all areas. Less than 30% of tasked goals were accomplished for that year. The most succesful branch was the Endowment which had a completion rate of 97.86% -- that would be a praise worthy figure for a cabinet or department in any country's national government. The next most successful would be the Christians Bureau Endowments which had an 82.42% success rate. The Ministry of Displacement (79.83%), the Supreme Judicial Council (85.79%) and the Ministry of Human Rights (78.73%) were among the other successful departments. But then there were the very unsuccessful ones. The Ministry of Education -- so important to what and where Iraq will be 20 years from now -- only managed to meet 5.46% of their written tasks for the year. (The Ministry of Higher Education did somewhat better with 31.65%). If you're wondering how so many departments could fail -- and the bulk fail -- you need look no further than the completion rate for Nouri's office. 24.53% was the completion rate for the Prime Minister's Office.
Another distrubing report on the goverment comes via Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that Parliament's Committee on Human Rights has discovered that 34 prisoners or detainees died in October, November and December 2012. The last three months alone, saw 34 deaths. That is an alarming number (the prisons, jails, et al are responsible for maintaining the health of the prisoners and for treating any illness or medical conditions). In other news of government abuse and neglect, All Iraq News notes Iraqiya MP Muhammad Iqbal notes that human rights continue to be violated and that arrests continue to take place without arrest warrants. He points out that human rights are linked to a stable and prosperous life and sees the high rate of unemployment and wide rates of illiteracy as alarming signals that human rights may be declining across the board in Iraq. He specifically calls out the arrest -- the warrant-less arrests -- of Iraqi women because the authorities want the women's sons or husbands or fathers.
All Iraq News notes that today Parliament began the first reading of the bill on the term limits for the three presidencies which, the outlet notes, has to do with limiting Nouri to two terms. They don't note it but he did make a pledge to limit himself to two terms back in early 2011. The press ran with it and applauded him. Here? We noted it wasn't sincere. Sure enough, his spokesperson retracted the pledge in a news cycle and ever since, Nouri's attorney repeatedly tells the press that Nouri can run for a third term.
A third term of Nouri? There would be no one to arrest (other than crooked Nouri). He's done mass arrests for so long. With some perspective on that, Alsumaria notes that Diwaniya Province's Police Brigadier Abdul Jalil al-Asadi told them that they had arrested 4871 people last year, 125 on charges of terrorism (200 on trafficking in drugs).
AFP has an article today that explains why you don't use SITE -- it tells you nothing. A group has claimed credit Rita Katz & company say. What group? Uh . . . uh . . . A group! An al Qaeda front group!!!!! Well that narrows it down. Poor Rita Katz, life was so much easier when she was making things up in a 60 Minutes interview.
Did someone say 60 Minutes? Abu Ghraib is just to the west of Baghdad but is sometimes billed as part of the city of Baghdad. The confusion is aided by the fact that the infamous Abu Ghraib prison is known as Baghdad Central Prison today. (It is in Baghdad Province.) In 2004,
60 Minutes II broadcast the story of Abu Ghraib Prison and the abuses taking place there. Iraqis were being abused by Americans. It was part of terrorizing them and breaking them to use them in the future -- that was the purpose of the photographic evidence that 'intelligence' had guards taking.
The Bahrain News Agency notes, "US defense contractor whose subsidiary was accused of conspiring to torture Abu Ghraib prisoners has settled with former inmates for $5m (£3m, the BCC reported." The defense contractor is Engility Holdings. AFP elaborates that there were 72 plantiffs and they will split the $5.28 million (minus lawyers fees). AP says contractor CACI has yet to settle and that case is set to be tried over the summer.
Hamilton Nolan (Gawker) uses sarcasm in "Abu Ghraib Victims Richly Compensated for Their Troubles" and some may take him as being sincere. He's not. He's noting that the victims suffered rape, assault, humiliation, beatings and more and, before any expenses (attorneys' fees, etc) are deducted, each Iraqi would be getting $74,366. That's really nothing wonderful. Marjorie Censer (Washington Post) also points out, "For these sizeable contractors, a settlement of several million dollars generally isn't damaging to stock prices, but analysts said the companies are focused on defending their record."
There is a new development in the Bradley Manning case. Who?
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 this month was been postponed until after the election .
A military judge ruled today that Private First Class Bradley Manning should get 112 days off of his potential sentence, because he was unnecessarily put on suicide prevention watch while detained at Quantico's military prison. Manning's defense had previously asked the tribunal to drop Manning's charges entirely or greatly reduce his sentence, arguing the pretrial conditions violated the Constitution and international law. But the Judge, Colonel Denise Lind, said 8th Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment don't apply to pretrial detention. And according to FIREDOGLAKE reporter Kevin Gosztola, she said Manning was not held in solitary confinement for nine months, because he had some human contact. But many legal and human rights experts, including attorney Michael Ratner with the Center for Constitutional Rights, have called the military's treatment of Manning torture. Ratner told FSRN that the evidence presented at the hearings he attended reminded him of his clients' experience at Guantanamo. "Bright lights, stress positions, no sleep, and stripping, you look at what happened to Bradley Manning, you have to say yourself: what they did at Guantanamo they're doing to Bradley."
They should have let him loose. They have held him more than long enough, they have denied his right to a speedy trial and they have abused him. Bradley should have walked today.
It is more than understandable that Mike would feel that way. Bradely has been treated very badly, it's criminal and it's inhumane. But it's a military court and they're not big on fairness. That Judge Lind saw enough to call out what was done to Bradley can be seen as a suprise and a pleasant one. Lind's finding also creates a way for Bradley's attorneys to argue, in a higher court. Amy Davidson (The New Yorker) notes that the trial is now set to begin in June after having been set for March -- however, that's the current start date and it could change again -- and that: "In the preliminary hearings in the court-martial of Private Bradley Manning, at Fort Meade, the lawyers spent a good part of Tuesday arguing about coded advertisements in newspapers during the Civil War." And that if this sort of argument is pursued, it could put the press on trial as well.
International labor journalist, David Bacon, author most recently of the book Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award, is known for text and for photographs. He continues to use both talents to tell the stories that are a lot more important to society than the multitude of celebrity profiles (that's political celebs as well as entertainment ones) that take up the bulk of the press today. One example of that can be found in his "Making A Life, But Not A Living" (TruthOut): I was born in a little town called San Francisco Higos, Oaxaca. I've worked all of my life. I started to work in Baja California when I was a little girl. I've worked in the fields all of my life, because I don't know how to read or write. I never had an opportunity to go to school. I didn't even know what my own name was until I needed my birth certificate for the immigration amnesty paperwork after I'd come to the U.S. When I was seven, my mother, stepfather and I hitchhiked from Oaxaca to Mexicali, and I lived there for two years. I spent my childhood in Mexicali during the bracero years. I would see the braceros pass through on their way to Calexico, on the U.S. side. I would beg in the streets of Calexico and they would throw me bread and canned beans on their way back home. I also begged in Tijuana. I'm not ashamed to share that because that is how I grew up. I began working when I was nine years old. In Culiacan I picked cotton, then I went to work in Ciudad Obregon, Hermosillo and Baja California. I would get three pesos a day. From that time on, I have spent my entire life working.
I was born in a little town called San Francisco Higos, Oaxaca. I've worked all of my life. I started to work in Baja California when I was a little girl. I've worked in the fields all of my life, because I don't know how to read or write. I never had an opportunity to go to school. I didn't even know what my own name was until I needed my birth certificate for the immigration amnesty paperwork after I'd come to the U.S.