David Pryce-Jones is a conservative of some form (I don't know if he's a neocon or what). He writes for The National Review and writes about Iraq today. I thought we could include it and note our disagreement. I didn't realize he was so uninformed. Uniformed. Know-nothing. I knew his column was going to be pro-Iraq War. Fine. But, again, I thought he'd have his facts down. He doesn't. Presumably he didn't when he was cheerleading the illegal war back in 2003 so, in that regard, we can at least say he's consistent. He has three arguments competing for attention and never makes one fully. We'll note these two sentences, "Maliki is proving uncomfortably authoritarian but he not a killer like Saddam. A political process, however imperfect, exists in Iraq, and that is Bush’s doing."
Nouri is a killer. His forces have killed protesters. His forces (Ministry of the Interior) have targeted and killed members of Iraq's LGBT community -- went into the schools to demonize. That's a killer. And there is no political process.
A political process is more than something on paper. A process is what is followed. In 2010, there were parliamentary elections. The political process outlined in the Constitution was not followed. Had it been followed, Nouri would not be prime minister. To get around the votes and to get around the Constitution, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was created. A contract awarded prime minister. That's because to follow the Constitution would have meant no second term for Nouri. Don't claim a political process exists because a political process is more than words on paper, it is what you follow. The Constitution has not been followed. That's reality.
Reality is also Amnesty International's new report "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses." Reality is that the report has been ignored by CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, PBS' The NewsHour, Democracy Now! and so many other so-called news outlets in the United States. Reality is forced 'confessions' in Iraq that are treated as real ones -- even when the confessors 'recants' and says that
On 20 June 2012 Ramze Shihab Ahmad, 70, a dual Iraqi-UK national, was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment by the Resafa Criminal Court [case number 1901 of 2012, First Branch] after it convicted him under the Anti-Terrorism Law. He had already been held for over two years. Arrested in December 2009 at Mosul, he was held at the secret al-Muthanna detention prison, where he said interrogators tortured him by his ankles, and threatened to rape his wife until he agreed to sign a statement admitting to links with al-Qa'aid in Iraq. Prior to his conviction, he had been tried and acquitted of charges under the Anti-Terrorism Law on eight previous occasions. The court that eventually convicted him based its guilty verdict on three pieces of oral testimony that it accepted as evidence against him -- the pre-trial confession that he had repudiated, the allegedly coerced testimony of a co-defendant in a previous trial, and information from a secret informant.
In 2009, Article 243 of the Penal Code was amended to increase the penalty for falsely accusing an innocent person due to the problems that had arisen from the use of secret informants. At the same time, the Supreme Judicial Council issued a directive urging investigating judges to satisfy themselves as to the reliability of information provided by secret informants and not to consider it sufficient, in the absence of other evidence, to issue arrests warrants or detention orders. Despite this, Ramze Shihab Ahmad's conviction was based on no more than two contested confessions and information provided by a secret informant.
Earlier, in May 2012, the Resafa Criminal Court imposed life imprisonment sentences on Ramze Shihab Ahmad's son, Omar Ramze Shihab, and another accused after convicting them under the Anti-Terrorism Law [case 760 of 10 May 2012, First Branch]. Omar Ramze Shihab had been arrested in September 2009 in Mosul. Later, he was described as the leader of a group that had killed several Christians and detonated a bomb in a village, when he was presented at a press conference convened by the Ministry of Defence on 18 January 2010. At this, officials played the video-recorded pre-trial confessions of Omar Ramze Shihab and eight other men. The Resafa Criminal Court judgement notes that both men at trial retracted their earlier confessions to participating in bomb attacks in 2009 that killed civilians but makes no mention of the men's torture allegations.
If that doesn't disgust you, maybe the pain of a young Iraqi woman will make you feel something? Hugh Sykes has returned to Iraq fora multipart BBC radio documentary entitled After Saddam. Excerpt.
Hugh Sykes: Mahmoud's daughter Mais, doing the high five with her dad, is 21. She's a third year biology student at Basra University. She's a Muslim. She wears a smart head scarf and she's an independent woman -- of the the kind which was normal under Saddam Hussein but which is less so now. She travels overseas alone. She's been twice to the United States -- a liberating experience. But when she returns home, Mais tells me feels constricted by what she sees as the increasingly conservative Islamic environment of the new Iraq. Here in Basra, if you suddenly feel, 'Uh, I've got to get out of the house, I want to be alone!' Can you pop down to the Corniche, walk down to the Corniche on your own?
Mais: Never. I get -- Here the men just look to the women as bodies.
Hugh Sykes: What would the men do if you did walk along the Corniche on your own? How
Hugh Sykes: How would they react? Would it be very unpleasant?
Mais: I can't imagine that. Because maybe even they can touch the girl.
Hugh Sykes: Touch you?
Mais: Yes. If I was alone. Believe me, it's sad. It's sad.
Hugh Sykes: After several weeks in Boston, or Washington, DC, or Chicago and you come back to Basra, to the dust and the mud and the intense heat or the rain and the cold and the broken streets and the poverty, poverty, poverty - and you look out the window of the car when you're coming from the airport, what do you think?
Mais: Sad. Very sad. Because why? I'm asking myself all the time, why we are living here? In this environment, in this bad situations, I can't describe my feeling because it's hard. You came from outside and you are just here for guest and you -- you feel very sad. So how I can feel about my community and my country?
Hugh Sykes: Guess I'm feeling sad now because it's -- it's emotionally overwhelming -- the deprivation and the poverty here and the contrast with the extraordinary cheerfulness of the eager, friendly children who rush towards us and ask me to take their pictures. And then they ask, and this is pretty significant, they ask not for sweets or money or soft drinks. They ask for pencils.
Mais [Crying] I'm sorry. Because I feel sad about my country. I want to stay here to help my country because there is no one care about us. I care about my people. So I am never thinking to go out of my country because there is no one care about the children, the girls, the women, even the old men. I know I am very filled with the sad. Maybe there is very little hope in my heart. But I am here because I love this country. I love my Iraq.
Brits aren't the only ones getting coverage of Iraq. Over the weekend, 60 Minutes (link is video) reported on Iraq.
Michael Usher: It was a war based on a lie: That Saddam Hussein was stockpiling Weapons of Mass Destruction and it cost more than 100,000 deaths. I just spent a week in Iraq asking that question. And what I found was a country still at war. Car bombings, kidnapping and assassinations are a daily threat. [. . .] It was all mean to be over in six months. But a decade on, Iraq is now a battleground between religious fanatics. 350 people killed last month alone. And car bombs are the weapon of choice
If the name of the program seems familiar but the name of the journalist doesn't, it is 60 Minutes but it's Australia's 60 Minutes.
The protests continue in Iraq. Great Britain's Socialist Worker observes, "But despite the decade of misery, sectarianism and war, Iraq is now experiencing a revival in a popular movement. This began last month with anti-government demonstrations in Fallujah, and has jumped across the sectarian and ethnic boundaries." Al Mada reports that there was a meet-up in Falluja on Sunday of various representatives for demonstrators from the western provinces. The meeting follows Friday's "last chance" protest which saw Nouri's forces attack the protesters in Mosul. National Iraqi News Agency reports protesters in Baaj and Tal Afar today are demanding that government officials reduce the "excessive deployment of military and security forces just near the government offices in the regions of western Mosul." These are the forces that Nouri has sent in to intimidate the protesters. Iraqi Spring MC posts this video of students in Tikrit protesting today. And to be clear, that footage is Tuesday footage. Nouri's forces shut them down yesterday. They are protesting again today and showing solidarity with the protesters in Ramadi, Tikrit, Nineveh and Diyala. You can also video of their protest today here. Protests continue in Falluja.
Meanwhile Ali Abedl Sadah (Al-Monitor) reports that Nouri's 'intelligence' states that Ali Hatem al-Suleiman ("Emir of the al-Dalim tribes") and Sahwa leader Ahmed Abu Risha are terrorists. Ali Abedl Sadah reports:
Abu Risha responded to the accusation made by the intelligence services, saying it was "very funny" and had been made under pressure following the request of the Iraqi government.
In a telephone conversation, Abu Risha said he “supports the country’s official army in the fight against al-Qaeda.” He continued, saying that “because of his opposition to al-Qaeda, he had lost 26 members of his family, nine of whom were from his own house and the rest were his brothers, his father and his cousins.”
“How could I support this organization?” he asked rhetorically.
Abu Risha said he did not expect the government to reach this level in its fight against its political opponents. He added that Maliki had previously accused him of implementing a foreign agenda and receiving foreign funding, and Maliki considered his support for protesters part of an electoral campaign.
It seems that Maliki chose to besiege his Sunni rivals, who have been protesting for months against his policies.
In possibly related news, the Minister of Finance was targeted today. Alsumaria reports that Iraqiya is calling for Nouri's government to explain exactly what happened today in Anbar Province when Nouri's forces went for Rafie al-Issawi. Were they attempting to kill him or were they hoping to kidnap him? Some may say al-Issawi resigned; however, Nouri refused to accept that resignation and stated al-Issawi could not resign until Nouri's investigation into him was complete. al-Issawi is a Sunni and a member of Iraqiya. It appears that this identity is why he was targeted today.
Nouri has targeted political rivals from day one so it's surprising that the US government had been so determined to back him. But that's how it's always been during the illegal war. As Peter Maass states in the BBC Arabic and Guardian newspaper documentary James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq:
The clear priority at that time in Iraq was to not have this incredibly shaky provisional government defeated by the insurgency. That was priority number one -- to which every other priority democracy, human rights, etc. was subordinate.
Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes and Siobhan Gorman's "CIA Ramps Up Role in Iraq" (Wall St. Journal) went up late last night:
In a series of secret decisions from 2011 to late 2012, the White House directed the CIA to provide support to Iraq's Counterterrorism Service, or CTS, a force that reports directly to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, officials said.
The CIA has since ramped up its work with the CTS -- taking control of a mission long run by the U.S. military, according to administration and defense officials. For years, U.S. special-operations forces worked with CTS against al Qaeda in Iraq. But the military's role has dwindled since U.S. troops pulled out of the country at the end of 2011.
Previously, December 12, 2011 on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams, Ted Koppel reported who would remain in Iraq after the drawdown:
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.
September 25, 2012, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:
Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
Negotiating an agreement? We covered that agreement. It was finalized December 6, 2012 (and it's posted in full in that day's snapshot). It's the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America.
We addressed its meaning at length in the December 10th and the December 11th snapshots. John Glaser (Antiwar.com) points out today:
Most Americans have been led to believe that all US forces besides those guarding the massive American Embassy in Iraq have been withdrawn since the end of last year.
In reality, US Special Operations Forces as well as the CIA have been providing this support to these elite Iraqi forces that report directly to the increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They have essentially been used as a secret police force for Maliki to attack, detain, and torture his political opponents and crack down harshly on public dissent.
The violence continues. National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing left one police officer injured, a Tikrit armed attack left 1 police officer dead and three other people injured, 2 Tikrit bombings left one person injured, a Kirkuk communications tower guard was shot and wounded while on duty, 3 government employees were shot dead in 3 separate Baghdad incidents last night and yesterday also saw a Balad bombing outside the headquarters of the Islamic Party. All Iraq News notes that the 3 government employees killed last night in Baghdad were a Minstery of Environment employee, a Ministery of Trade employee and a Ministery of Health employee.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
In other news, there may be some news on improving relations between the government of Turkey and the PKK. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." Today?
Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "A Turkish delegation will go to northern Iraq on Tuesday to bring back 10 Turkish officials kidnapped by the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said Monday." Huseyin Hayatsever (Hurriyet) adds:
The government is adamant that the handover of eight public servants and soldiers held by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) should not be turned into a show of force, at the risk of derailing the ongoing peace process.
The greatly anticipated handover is expected to take place at the Habur border crossing on March 12, following tough negotiations.
Cengiz Candar (Al-Monitor) offers this perspective, "It would be excessive daydreaming to expect the Kurdish issue that dates back to the declaration of Turkish Republic to solve it in a week or two, in a couple of months and even one or two years. The said process, no matter what it is called, is fragile enough to be derailed any moment. But then we have never had such a process that created so much optimistic expectation of the right course for a solution and peace."
Hurriyet adds today, "A delegation from Turkey arrived in northern Iraq on Tuesday to oversee the handover of eight Turkish officials kidnapped by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)." World Bulletin offers, "The officials the PKK is now holding were kidnapped on various dates in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Van, Mus, Bingol and Sırnak." Also on Turkey, Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London via Washington Post) declares, "The Americans won the war, the Iranians won the peace and the Turks won the contracts." He argues that Turkey's various companies are raking up big money in Iraq making Turkey the winner of the Iraq War.
When the Iraq War started, Tony Blair was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Now his reputation is in tatters. Where ever he goes, there are efforts at citizen's arrest, he's booed, he's picketed. Quite a come down for someone in the 90s was supposed to have so much promise and a glorious future ahead. Instead, he's just a common War Criminal. Neil Berry (Khaleej Times) observes:
Blair confesses that he has ‘given up trying to persuade people’ of the validity of his arguments on Iraq, implying that if the public does not find him credible on the subject it is not because it has made a rational estimate of his record but because it is defective in understanding. Looking like a man wrestling with ‘anger management’ issues, the former British leader increasingly calls to mind Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell’s depiction of him as a psychotic freak with a grotesquely swollen left eye. It is a Cyclopean image that captures Blair’s maniacal subjectivity, his crazed insensitivity to alternative points of view. Critics might well say to him: ‘We have given up trying to persuade you’.
How curious that Blair portrays himself as both a Christian and a democrat. After all, a Christian is supposed to be a person with a highly developed conscience who believes in turning the other cheek, a democrat someone who heeds the opinions of others. Blair is more accurately defined by his egregious obsession with celebrity, his blatant craving for public exposure. And perhaps, on the 10th anniversary of the war, it is worth pondering the extent to which the war was, not caused, but facilitated by Anglo-American ‘celebrity culture’, with its inordinate investment in personality and visceral drama.
With the exception of Blair's would-be mistress John Rentoul, most who've paid attention see Blair for the War Criminal he is. This month, even John Prescott, Blair's Deputy Prime Minister, said this month that the Iraq War couldn't be justified. Christopher Meyer, England's Ambassador to the United States during the lead up to the Iraq War, said this month that, in that time period, Blair was "subcontracting to Mr Bush the decision to invade Iraq." Most of all, the War Criminal stands rebuffed by his own party. Labour had to do that if they wanted to move forward and they wanted to win. Hopefully, there are ethical reasons behind it as well but just Tony Blair being shunned by Labour is reward enough. Mark Seddon (Guardian) observes:
The party decided to draw a line under the Blair/Brown era, opting for Ed Miliband and not his brother. Miliband's Khrushchev moment came shortly afterwards, when he declared that the Iraq war had been a mistake.
In the months that have followed, Miliband's detractors in the party and the media have been silenced by Labour's steady advance in the national opinion polls, notwithstanding some hiccups in a couple of byelections. Even senior Tories now acknowledge that they will be lucky to achieve 35% of the vote in the next general election.
I haven't known the Labour party to have been this at ease with itself and tolerant of different opinions since John Smith was Labour leader, and since I received a letter from him saying that he wanted "Tribune [magazine] to play its part in the party's policy development".
From War Criminal Tony Blair, let's turn to peace activist Cindy Sheehan who was Joyce Riley's guest for The Power Hour with Joyce Riley (link is audio). Excerpt.
Joyce Riley: We live in a militaristic society now. We have military control vis a vis the drones and surveillance and everything else. I mean, we're here. It's not like, "Oooh, that could happen someday." We are here. Where is everybody? And so, you know what I have a question of? Where are the anti-war people? That is what has been bugging me so much is where are the people who have -- this has been their fundraising mantra if you will is "We're against war." Where are they?
Cindy Sheehan: Like I said, they're there. They're just there supporting Obama and his wars. And you know, Bush, Bush's wars were all about spreading peace and democracy and Obama's wars are about spreading humanitarian interventions. So if you're against Obama's wars, then you're against humanity. It's just -- I'm trying to organize a cross-country bike ride for peace starting here in 24 days on April 4th in Vacaville, California. And there's a lot of people who are onboard with us but I think if [GOP presidential candidate Mitt] Romeny had won last year, there'd be thousands of people instead of a handful of people working on this action with me. So it's just been almost five years now of frustration for me because if you have principled opposition to war, if you have principled opposition to militarism, then it's been very lonely since Obama's been president. And it's because people -- a lot of people's principles are based on partisanship.
Joyce Riley: Yes!
Cindy Sheehan: And --
Joyce Riley: The phony --
Cindy Sheehan: And if there guy's in office, then everything must be okay.
Jocye Riley: The phony partisan issue.
Cindy Sheehan: Oh yeah.
Joyce Riley: And you know very few people understand that. But, you know, during the George Bush administration, we killed people because they were 'terrorists.' But the Obama administration would kill them for their own good!
Cindy Sheehan: It's absolutely mind boggling to me what Obama has been able to get away with. Like you said, we're in African now. Obama has been able to expand empire. So we have troops or drone bases or both in 35 countries in Afriica. Could anybody else have gotten away with that?
Turning to whistle blower Bradley Manning. Free Speech Radio News plays some of Bradley's statement to the court from last week -- via a leaked -- and previously unknown -- recording.
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.
The recording was made available by the Freedom of the Press Foundation -- how they obtained it, no one is saying. RT notes:
Because recording is prohibited at Manning’s hearings, the Pentagon is pursuing measures that would strengthen security and prevent information leaks from the trial.
Military judge Denise Lind, who is trying Manning’s case, has been informed by the Department of Defense that there was "a violation of the rules for the court," a spokesman said in a statement sent to AFP, and that the “US Army is currently reviewing the procedures set in place to safeguard the security and integrity of the legal proceedings and ensure PFC Manning receives a fair and impartial trial.”
Who is Bradley?
For those late to the party, 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. 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. Independent.ie 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." February 28th, Bradley told the court he was the whistle blower who provided WikiLeaks with the documents.
Linda Heard (Arab News via Albany Tribune) observes:
By his own account it was his conscience that led him to do what he did. He felt that the on-the-ground reality in Iraq and Afghanistan meant that “we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides.” He became depressed with counter-insurgency operations “obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists” while “being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners.” He hoped release of the facts into the public domain would “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.” He was particularly troubled by a video showing an “aerial weapons team” targeting Reuters’ employees and others before striking good Samaritans who drove a van to the scene to assist the wounded. “The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the unseemly delightful blood-lust the Aerial Weapons Team seemed to have. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life, and referred to them as “dead bastards” and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers…” he wrote in his 10,000-word-long court statement.
A friend asked me to weigh in on some idiocy (the friend is with the Washington Post) so I'm doing so. Bob Somerby doesn't have to be stupid, but he seems to choose to be an awful lot, doesn't he. In a post today, he's 'too precious for words' playing Baby Gabor as he tosses out 'darlings.' I always wonder about Somerby. Especially when he's attacking Glenn Kessler. Glenn can't be predicted and that bothers Somerby who has to have a box to put every one in. So he likes to attack Kessler. Today, he calls Kessler not just a poodle but a "French poodle." I didn't realize it was fashionable to demonize the French again. Why is Kessler a poodle? Because Somerby is griping that Kessler didn't use his space as "The Fact Checker" for the Post (that's his column) to fact check a TV news personality. Why would Kessler do that?
The scope of "The Fact Checker" is limited to politicians, issues and political ads. So griping about Kessler not fact checking a TV personality is a bit like griping that the hosts of Car Talk aren't offering media criticism and recipes for pineapple upside down cake over the NPR airwaves.
national iraqi news agency
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the wall street journal
julian e. barnes
the new york times
rock center with brian williams
all iraq news
the financial times of london