Friday, March 01, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Friday, March 1, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests take place throughout Iraq, the Finance Minister resigns,  Bradley Manning gets some attention, and more.

We're starting with Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning who confessed yesterday that he passed on documents to WikiLeaks.  Alexa O'Briean has transcribed his statement in full.  We're going to note a section at the top:

The CIDNE system contains a database that is used by thousands of Department of Defense--DoD personel including soldiers, civilians, and contractors support. It was the United States Central Command or CENTCOM reporting tool for operational reporting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two separate but similar databases were maintained for each theater-- CIDNE-I for Iraq and CIDNE-A for Afghanistan. Each database encompasses over a hundred types of reports and other historical information for access. They contain millions of vetted and finalized directories including operational intelligence reporting.
CIDNE was created to collect and analyze battle-space data to provide daily operational and Intelligence Community (IC) reporting relevant to a commander's daily decision making process. The CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A databases contain reporting and analysis fields for multiple disciplines including Human Intelligence or HUMINT reports, Psychological Operations or PSYOP reports, Engagement reports, Counter Improvised Explosive Device or CIED reports, SigAct reports, Targeting reports, Social and Cultural reports, Civil Affairs reports, and Human Terrain reporting.
[. . .]

I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and anger on both sides. I began to become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year. The SigActs documented this in great detail and provide a context of what we were seeing on the ground.
In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

I don't get -- or I didn't -- why people still aren't covering counter-insurgency.  Bradley Manning's been behind bars for over 1000 days because he hoped to spark a national dialogue.  24 hours after he states that, there's still nothing in the media. 
For those late to the party, Monday April 5, 2010WikiLeaks 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. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."

At Rolling Stone, Janet Reitman asks, "Did the Mainstream Media Fail Bradley Manning?" And suddenly it falls together.  Not because of what Reitman finds -- she finds nothing.  Not because of Kevin Gosztola's hypothesis that the Washington Post and the New York Times might have been too scared to publish it.

Check the archives, but we covered the WikiLeaks releases in real time.  Today, a lot of people like to pretend they did but they didn't.  In Little Media, they wrote for magazine websites and for magazines and they had their own programs but they never used them to explore what was released.  They didn't have time for it.  They didn't give a damn until they got their postage of Julian Assange.

They still don't give a damn about Bradley.  But Julian they could get behind. 

Janet Reitman wants to know if the press failed Bradley?  It wasn't about Bradley.  It was about Iraq.

And, yes, the US press failed Iraq.  Failed before the start of the war, failed it after.

Did you pay attention to the recap earlier.  People pretend like there was great interest in the WikiLeaks 2007 video.  No, there wasn't.  There should have been but there wasn't.  And there was even less interest when they began publishing various documents.

The question to ask is "Did the press fail Iraq?"  Yes, it did.  By the time WikiLeaks released the Iraq information, there had been a withdrawal from Iraq -- a press withdrawal.  ABC closed down their operation and lied that they'd grab BBC if there were any developments.  (Use the BBC for their evening news.) They didn't really.  NBC was out.  The networks pulled out.  McClatchy Newspapers was pulling out.  No one gave a damn in the US press about Iraq. 

And if you complained -- and I did to many producers and editors -- you were told that the viewers were tired of Iraq.  I didn't then and don't now see how that's possible.

Among the trash that passes for 'independent' media in the US, Demcoracy Now! couldn't be bothered with the topic, nor could The Nation magazine, nor could The Progressive.

In the spring of 2009, Steven D. Green went on trial.  We covered it every day here.  May 7th Steven D. Green was convicted for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents and the murder of her five-year-old sister while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead he was sentenced to life in prison. 

This was a War Crime.  It should have been covered widely.  Instead it was Kentucky media.  It was the Associated Press' Brett Barrouquere and Time magazine's Jim Frederick.  That was it for the national mainstream press.  Arianna Huffington deserves credit for sending a reporter down there (Gail Mellor) and even more for realizing the best reporting was coming from high schooler Evan Bright and carrying his coverage at The Huffington Post.  We interviewed Evan for a May 3, 2009 piece at Third.  Evan was covering every day of the trial.  Evan wasn't shy.  Why wasn't he on Democracy Now! during the trial?  Why did Pacifica Radio waste all that money on the garbage that was Mitch Jeserich's Letters from Washington but fail to send even one reporter to Kentucky for a War Crimes trial?  Why wasn't Matthew Rothschild or Katrina vanden Heuvel at all concerned with the gang-rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl by US soldiers? 

It's in that climate that Bradley Manning tries to interest the media in what he has.  It wasn't about Brad, it was about the complete lack of interest on the part of the press with anything to do with Iraq by 2010.  If you need a 'reputable source' making that observation, here's PEW on Iraq War coverage in 2010:

The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were on the periphery of both the American public’s and news media’s radar in 2010. Just 1% of the total news coverage last year was devoted to events related to and policy debates about the Iraq war. In no single week did Iraq consume more than 10% of the newshole. With the exception of a week in September, during a large troop withdrawal, most of the public reported they were not following events in Iraq very closely when surveyed throughout the year.

Get it?  The media didn't fail Bradley.  Long before Bradley tries to interest the media, it had already failed Iraq.

And the Amy Goodmans and Greg Mitchells can pretend they did something but they didn't.  They didn't treat the WikiLeaks releases seriously in real time.  After Julian Assange became a folk hero to some, once they had their poster on the wall, the Goodys and Mitchells suddenly could give a damn . . . about Julian Assange.  Not about Iraq, not about Iraqis, never about Iraq, never about Iraqis.

And what we're seeing yet again, right now, is an attempt to posterize.  We're not talking about the War Crimes, we're not writing about the War Crimes, we're rehashing this and that and blah blah blah.  I'm not going into counter-insurgency today.  Unlike Amy Goodman, we've covered it here (and called it out) regularly.   I don't have the time or space for/in this snapshot today to go over counter-insurgency again.

But we've covered it (including yesterday -- and we first covered it in 2006 when the ridiculous Montgomery McFate got her first press via The New Yorker.  These are the issues of substance.  A whole rag-tag assembly wants to pretend that they support Bradley.  Yet they still won't take the time to write and talk about counter-insurgency.  Even now, 24 hours after Bradley outlined his hope/intent to spark a debate on the policy.

You can't argue whether Bradley was in the right or in the wrong to release the documents if you can't address the importance of the documents.  Support him?  Then kick-start the national dialogue on counter-insurgency.  Yeah, it might take a little work and, goodness knows, a little work's too much for our Panhandle Media.  But if we want the mainstream to cover it and if we want people to know the importance of Bradley's actions, then we're going to need to do a little work. 

Let's stay in the US and turn to a loser named James Fallows sets the low mark -- the all time low mark -- for 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq rambles.  The cowardly scribbler for The Atlantic cowers as only the spineless truly can.  The invasion, Fallows whimpers "was the biggest strategic error by the United States since at least the end of World War II and perhaps a much longer period."

What nonsense.  It's not an "error," it's a crime. And if you can't say that, why the hell are you scribbling today to begin with? 

And could you maybe learn to write Jimmy Fallows?  Stop resting on work you did before many readers were born and learn to write today? "The biggest strategic error by the United States since at least the end of World War II and perhaps a much longer period" -- what is that?  Cover your ass in case senility's set in and you're not remembering some major event?  And what is that wording?  Are you aware you're suggesting -- via your construction -- that the worst strategic errors were invading Iraq and ending World War II?  Do you need someone to remind you to take your meds?

If my claim to fame was being a speechwriter for then-President Jimmy Carter -- one of the most bland and boring speakers of all time, I think I'd be trying real hard for another credit to put by name.   And in Fishbowl Idiot, Fallows may have finally found another credit.

This is just completely a puzzle to Fallows, this Iraq War.  "Vietnam," he writes, "was costlier and more damaging, but also more understandable.  As many people have chronicled, the decision to fight in Vietnam, was a years-long accretion of step-by-step choices, each of which could be rationalized at the time."  Anything can be rationalized at any time.  Second, Vietnam, for the US government, was not just criminal, it was more stupid than Iraq because the US followed France's failure in Vietnam but kidded itself that it was so much better at War Crimes that it would be victorious over the Vietnamese.  The US government was wrong.

By contrast, the Iraq War is completely understandable.  September 11, 2001 was an attack on the United States.  We could have dealt with it as we had other attacks.  We could have followed the law.  We could have been grown ups and had honest discussions.  We didn't follow the law and we demonized those who wanted to speak honestly (such as Susan Sontag).  By refusing to address what happened, the events that follow are completely understandable.

We put aside thinking, logic, processing and everything else and were left with nothing but injury and hurt and we looked for someone in a weaker position to lash out at to feel better.  Strip the tired colloquialisms from Thomas Friedman's bad writing and TV appearances and what your left with is a tiny, impotent and angry man raging with violence.

Where in the world did you think that rage would go?  Because it had to go somewhere.

Bully Boy Bush stoked the rage, encouraged the rage and he and his administration attacked anyone and everyone who questioned in any way or tried to use actual thought.  The rage had to go somewhere.  And they knew what they were doing having decided early on to use 9-11 to push for war with Iraq.  (September 11, 2001 -- though repeatedly linked to Iraq by Bully Boy and his administration -- had nothing to do with Iraq.  While Saddam Hussein was President of Iraq, al Qaeda didn't even have a base in Iraq because secular Hussein and fundamentalist al Qaeda were at complete odds with one another.)

Bully Boy Bush repeatedly picked away at 9-11 because it had to be an unhealed wound, it had to be gaping, for him to misuse the horror of it to push for the Iraq War.

I'm sorry that James Fallow is confused.  I truly am sorry that he's such an imbecile because, after 10 years, if we still can't recognize and name what happened and how, there's not much hope for any of us.  All these years later and we still can't be honest?  The refusal to honestly address what happened allowed emotions to be manipulated and played to.  If we can't be honest about that, we're never going to learn from it so forget about any talk of preventing  it from happening again.

Let's go to someone far wiser than James Fallows: Joan Didion.  In 2003, The New York Review of Books published her Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11.  From that slender book overflowing with wisdom.  Excerpt.

And yet, all through the summer of 2002, the inevitability of going to war with Iraq was accepted as if predestined.  The "when" had already been settled.  "Time is getting short," The New York Times had warned us in July, "for decisions that have to be made if the goal is to take action early next year, before the presidential election cycle intrudes."  That last cause bore study.
"Before the presidential election cycle intrudes."  In case the priorities were still unclear.
The "why" had also been settled.  The President had identified Saddam Hussein as one of the evildoers.  Yes, there were questions about whether the evildoer in question had the weapons we feared he had, and yes, there were questions about whether he would use them if he did have them, and yes, there were questions about whether attacking Iraq might not in fact ensure that he would use them.  But to ask those questions was sissy, not muscular, because the President had said we were going to do it and the President, if he were to back down, risked losing the points he got on the muscular "moral clarity" front.
"I made up my mind," he had said in April, "that Saddam needs to go."  This was one of many curious almost petulant statements offered in lieu of actually presenting a case.  I've made up my mind, I've said in speech after speech, I've made myself clear.  The repeated statements became their own reason: "Given all we have said as a leading world power about the necessity for regime change in Iraq, "James R. Schlesinger, who is now a member of Richard Pearl's Defense Policy Board, told The Washington Post in July, "our credibility would be badly damaged if that regime change did not take place."

Why can we not be honest?  What purpose does James Fallows' nonsense serve?  He wants to brag about his 2002 nonsense.  It won a National Magazine Award.  2002 and 2003 are the worst years for American journalism.  So you can imagine the kind of nonsense he wrote to win.  Of that garbage, he says today, "I feel I was right in arguing, six months before the war in 'The Fifty-First State,' that invading Iraq would bring on a slew of complications and ramifications that would take at least a decade to unwind."  Oh, the bravery.  (That was sarcasm.)  He wrote an article in October 2002 proclaiming points of interest if the Iraq War happened.  You know Jim Hoagland was doing the same thing in a Washington Post column in June of 2002?  In fact, the topic was all over the place long before Fallows used it to offer his centrist tour of potential things to look for after the war starts.  A real journalists should have been working on questioning the claims.  But James Fallows isn't a real journalist.  There was no money to be made off telling the truth.  During Vietnam, he couldn't be counted on to do anything either, except lie to avoid serving there.  Couldn't rally, couldn't organize the war but didn't want to go there.  How sad that as the days wind down, Fallows is as timid and ineffectual as he was in his college years.

The kind of garbage he provides, we don't need.  If you're writing about Iraq on the 10th anniversary of the start of the illegal war, you should be doing to explain how things are today or to explain how the illegal war was sold.

How things are today? 

Protests across Iraq.  The Iraqi Spring Media Center proclaims:

Here the People of Iraq Revolt against Tyranny and Oppression
It is not important which sect you belong to or race
What is important is that you seek to regain your Iraqi Identity
What is important is you regain your Honour, and live in your
                                 country with dignity!!!

Of all the protests across Iraq, Ramadi received the most attention due to a high profile speaker.  Alsumaria notes  Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi attended and, in his speech, resigned his office.  Hamdi Alkhshali (CNN) adds, "The finance minister resigned because the government has not met the demands of the demonstrators to end the marginalization, spokesman Aysar Ali told CNN."

Zaid Sabah (Bloomberg News) quotes al-Issawi telling the protesters, "I am with you, I am your son.  I will not return to this government."  Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quote al-Issawi telling the crowd, "I am presenting my resignation in front of you. I do not care about a government that does not respect the Iraqi blood and its people." Sabah notes the protesters chanted back, "We are with you! We are with you!"
al-Issawi tells Reuters, "More than 70 days of demonstrations and this government hasn't fulfilled our people's demands.  It doesn't honor me to be part of a sectarian government.  I decided to stay with my people."  Alsumaria notes that Nouri al-Maliki has declared he will not accept the resignation until a legal and financial investigation is completed.  Ayad Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi states that there are secret arrest warrants Nouri is holding on Iraqiya politicians.  Allawi states the members are innocent and this is part of an effort to silence Nouri's political rivals.  Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 provincial elections, besting Nouri's State of Law in the process.

In Mosul, Nouri's forces refused to allow journalists access to the protestNouri's forces also raided a mosque in Mosul to prevent morning prayers. Journalists trying to report on the morning prayers in Baghdad's Adhamiya section were arrested by Nouri's forces.   Nouri's State of Law sees other reasons for the protests.  MP Abdul al-Abbas, for example, insists to All Iraq News that the protests are a plot to run the economy of Iraq.  Iraqi Sping MC notes that protests took place today in Baquba,  in Jalawla, in Samarra and in DuluiyaAl Mada reports that participation in the protests increased today in Falluja and Ramadi and that Samarra protesters are calling for a general strike in the cities throughout the province.

The Washington Post's Liz Sly Tweets:

  1. "Iraqis are still to some extent prisoners of a self-image the US fashioned and left behind..." 10 years on:

  2. To understand Iraq 10 years on - and the real tragedy of the US legacy - read nothing but this. Brilliant and true

Muhammad Yassine (translated by Nicolas Dagher for World Meets US) offers a look at Iraq's crises:

Prime Minister Maliki, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and primarily responsible for the security situation in the country, refuses to descend from the fragile throne he ascended to years ago through an open agreement between America and Iran. Nouri al-Maliki was put there as a cover for their mistakes. Citing the Constitution, which he says gives him all rights and authority, Maliki has refused to give up even a small measure of influence or administrative authority to his political partners. With his poor judgment, he has lost many of his partners and allies, particularly among the Kurds.
Maliki's gambit to remain in power by relying on the Americans and Iranians was misplaced. When he ignored the demands of anti-government demonstrators on February 25th, 2011, he laid the groundwork for a worsening of the crisis between the corrupt political class and the disenfranchised public. No one can deny the success Maliki has had cutting down to size his political partners, who obeyed his deranged demands to resign in return for personal favors and privileges. With privileges granted by marginalizing and excluding huge segments of the Iraqi people, these partners conspired against the voters and their constituents, hiding under the cloak of Maliki's dictatorial powers.

The violence never ends in Iraq. Probably because Nouri al-Maliki has been as much a failure at Iraqi security as he has been at Iraqi unity.   Today Alsumaria speaks with Diwaniya Poice Chief Brigadier Abdul Jalil al-Asadi who explains 2 car bombs went off in a livestock market (cattle and sheep) resulting in 5 deaths and forty people being left injured.  Imad al-Khuzaie, Suadad al-Salhy, Isabel Coles and Patrick Graham (Reuters) quote butcher Jassim Khalid stating, "I came to buy some calves and was checking them when the explosion happened, I threw myself on the ground, then the second explosion happened."  AFP reminds, "The blasts came a day after at least 26 people were killed and more than 60 wounded in a series of bomb attacks in the Baghdad area and shootings in northern Iraq."  Alsumaria notes a home invasion just to the south of Baquba (8 kilometers to the south) in which Ghalib Abdul Ali was shot dead by machine guns and his son was left wounded and a Mosul sticky bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiersAll Iraq News adds that Kaen Saleem, Commander of Salah-il-Din Emergency Regiment, was targeted with three Dijail bombings leaving him and one civilian injured and a Babel car bombing targeted a kindergarten (but there are no reported injuries).

AFP's WG Dunlop Tweets on violence:

  1. Day-by-day breakdown of Feb. attacks in , based on reports from security and medical sources

Finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "MERCADO WORKERS PROTEST SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND FIRINGS" (Truth-Out):

Valentine's Day sometimes brings chocolates and sometimes flowers. But Valentine's Day in Oakland, California, brought angry women out to the Mi Pueblo supermarket in the heart of the barrio. There they tried to speak to the chain's owner, Juvenal Chavez, not about love, but about the sexual harassment of women who work there.
As they gathered next to the parking lot holding pink placards, Latino families in pickup trucks and beat up cars honked and waved. Laura Robledo then stepped up to an impromptu podium and told her story. As she spoke, her teenage daughter held her protectively around the waist, and stared angrily at the doorway where managers stood waiting for trouble.
Robledo used to work at the Mi Pueblo market in San Jose. She lost her job when she complained to the company that she'd been sexually harassed by a coworker. "I had two witnesses who heard everything he said," she recalled angrily. "The words were so low and degrading it was horrible just to hear them. He even tried by force to kiss and embrace me."
So she complained to the company. That was unusual, because workers at the markets complain about intimidation by managers, and that those who complain lose their jobs.
Fear at Mi Pueblo has been high since last August, when the company announced it was using the E-Verify database to check employees' immigration status. Then in October company lawyer Julie Pace said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was auditing Mi Pueblo's personnel records. Almost all the chain's workers are immigrants.
In each store employees were herded into meetings, where they were shown a video in which Juvenal Chavez told them that if their immigration status was questioned they would be fired. "The possibility of losing one of our employees will hurt my heart," he assured them. "And it will feel like losing a family member."
When Robledo went to the company to report the harassment, however, she says it didn't feel at all like a family. "They said they'd investigate it," she recounted. "But they did nothing. After two weeks they gave me a letter saying they'd finished their investigation and that nothing had happened and that workers were always treated with respect. For me this was terrible. I felt very humiliated because I could see they didn't respect my rights as a woman."
Robledo was a new employee, having only started working at the store that October. The harassment began almost immediately, she says. Despite getting the letter claiming she had no basis for her charges, she continued working. Robledo is a single mother of three children, and couldn't afford to quit.
The company then made that decision for her. "I worked a couple of weeks after getting the letter," she recalls. "Then they accused me of getting into an argument with another worker, which wasn't true. It was just a pretext. They fired me because I kept complaining about sexual harassment. They knew that because I know my rights and I'm willing to defend myself that eventually I'd expose the truth."

zaid sabah

qassim abdul-zahra