Monday, April 01, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 1, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,  Iraq continues executions, March was a very violent month, Nouri refuses to appear before Parliament at the last moment, Iraqi activists note today is the 100th day of protests, the situation remains bleak for Iraqi Christians, new information on a US torture scandal emerges, and more.

Friday, we noted how far All Things Media Big and Small fell in the lead up to the Iraq War and the years since.  Today new details on a US torture scandal break in England.  Big Media is going to avoid as they avoid all things.  If it's going to get traction in the US, it will have to be via Little Media.  Joel Bleifuss, editor and publisher of In These Times, did a mass e-mailing today.  As if to drive the point home about just how useless our 'independent' and 'alternative' media is, they tried to fundraise not by providing information -- which is what they're supposed to be paid to do, they grasp that right -- but instead by noting that Chris Hayes used to write for them and tonight his All In debuts on MSNBC.  This really trumps torture?  This back patting is going to help raise money?

No, all it says is, "We are so worthless that seven years ago we were able to employ Hayes.  For him to do anything of importance he had to leave us.  So go watch MSNBC and realize how unimportant and ineffectual we at In These Times actually are."

Want to raise money, Joel?  You do an e-mail like this:

Today, British media broke the news of systemic US torture in Iraq that took place during and after Abu Ghraib.  Testimony from British soldiers reveals torture as bad and worse than what was reported about Abu Ghraib.  Do you think the New York Times will front page this story?  No.  That's why In These Times needs your support.  To grab these stories and amplify them, to provide coverage of what Big Media doesn't want you to know about.
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Ian Cobain (Guardian) notes some of what British soldiers saw the US military do in the secret prison:

• Iraqi prisoners being held for prolonged periods in cells the size of large dog kennels.
• Prisoners being subjected to electric shocks.
• Prisoners being routinely hooded.
• Inmates being taken into a sound-proofed shipping container for interrogation, and emerging in a state of physical distress.

The facility was Camp Nama.  The Guardian offers satellite imagery of Camp Nama.  In 2009, Michael Bronner (Center for Public Integrity) turned out a very long article that briefly noted Camp Nama as a hushed aside, "Camp Nama was run by a secretive U.S. Joint Special Operations task force, and was off-limits even to most military personnel. Those who did have access retained operational anonymity -- few knew even each other by their real names. The CIA would eventually become worried enough about being associated with what went on there that it barred employees from setting foot inside."  In March of 2006,  Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall (New York Times) 'reported' on a torture room at Camp Nama:

The new account reveals the extent to which the unit members mistreated prisoners months before and after the photographs of abuse from Abu Ghraib were made public in April 2004, and it helps belie the original Pentagon assertions that abuse was confined to a small number of rogue reservists at Abu Ghraib.
The abuses at Camp Nama continued despite warnings beginning in August 2003 from an Army investigator and American intelligence and law enforcement officials in Iraq. The C.I.A. was concerned enough to bar its personnel from Camp Nama that August.
It is difficult to compare the conditions at the camp with those at Abu Ghraib because so little is known about the secret compound, which was off limits even to the Red Cross. The abuses appeared to have been unsanctioned, but some of them seemed to have been well known throughout the camp. 

"Reported"?  I have no problem with Eric Schmitt's reporting.  In the years when we regularly tracked Carolyn Marshall's 'reporting' here.  We don't have time to review all of her nonsense.  'We know little and we'll tell little' really seems the point of the article with a rushed, 'Now move along now,' tacked on.  Move along is what the torture did, though Schmitt and Marshall missed that in their 2006 'report.'  In the summer of 2004, most likely in a panic over the two Navy Seals who tried to take photos, Camp Nama's torture was  halted because, Cobain explains, "the secret prison was moved to Balad, a sprawling air base 50 miles north of Baghdad, where it became known as the Temporary Screening Facility (TSF). The Army Air Force and RAF troops continued their role there."

Do the British soldiers going public have knowledge of the torture at Balad?  They may very well.  But what they've already revealed is damaging enough to the lie that what happened at Abu Ghraib was more accident and not policy.  It was policy.

In the 2006 article, Schmitt and Marshall could note a then minor figure in terms of public awareness,  mention him at the end of a sentence:  "Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who leads the Joint Special Operations Command, the headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C., that supplies the unit's most elite troops."  Cobain notes today, "One person who has been widely reported to have been seen there frequently was General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of US Joint Special Operations forces in Iraq."  And yet what brought this torturer down was shooting off his mouth about US Vice President Joe Biden?  Torture wasn't just policy, it was approved policy or President Barack Obama wouldn't have put McChrystal in charge in Afghanistan.

In May 2009, John H. Richardson (Esquire) pointed out as Barack named McChrystal to be the top US commander in Afghanistan:

The news that President Obama picked General Stanley McChrystal to run the war in Afghanistan put an old story of mine into the national spotlight last week. In 2006, Esquire sent me around the country to interview military interrogators with a Human Rights Watch investigator named Marc Garlasco. One of those men worked at Camp Nama, a small base near Baghdad where a Special Forces task force was interrogating Iraqis in an effort to find the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq. It was so secret that the officers went by false names there. Bad things happened. They doused people in cold water, used isolation and stress positions and sleep manipulation. These methods all appeared on a checklist. To use each one, they had to check the appropriate box and get approval.
The chain of command for that approval went through General McChrystal. Even more damning, the interrogator told us that he actually saw McChrystal in the camp while such acts were occurring. He also said that his supervisor told him and his colleagues that McChrystal had made a personal promise that the Red Cross would never be allowed into the camp — a violation of our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions, which is a violation of the law that we used to follow before the Bush administration.

Why aren't the torture criminals forced to appear before Congress, to testify in open session?  Because a lot of members of Congress signed off on the torture with their silence.  You saw that when Zero Dark Thirty came out and members of Congress attacked the film.  'That did not happen!' three senators insisted (Carl Levin, John McCain and Dianne Feinstein).  And idiots used that as 'proof' that Zero Dark Thirty was wrong.  No.  As former US House Rep Jane Harman and former CIA Director Leon Panetta noted, it was pretty accurate.

Congress looks the other way because many of them were complicit in the torture.  That's why they refused to launch an investigation into Abu Ghraib.  They are supposed to provide oversight.  They have been derelict in their Constitutional duty, they have ignored their Constitutional oaths.  And they've gotten away with it, year after year.

With McChrystal's confirmation hearing in June 2009, he was lucky to have senators who didn't want to ask about torture -- despite even the editorial board of the New York Times insisting those were the relevant questions.  Instead, helpers like John McCain asked him about Pat Tilman allowing him to grandstand on that (the lies told about Tilman's death) and look like a truth teller instead of the human waste that oversaw torture.

His unimportant remarks about Pat Tilman (we already knew, years prior, that the military and White House lied about Tilman's death -- this was established by the Congress and by the press) did what they were supposed to, lead idiots -- Taylor Marsh to name one -- to applaud him and insist he be immediately confirmed.  (The idiots also seemed unaware that McChrystal's position and immediate knowledge of the truth about Tilman's death meant he was required to immediately notify the family; something he refused to do.  And they weren't at all concerned about the mistreatment of the Tilman family when  McChrystal joined Joining Forces which is a White House group that's supposed to help military families.)

And when John McCain wasn't whoring, Harry Reid was.  Or have we all forgotten that there was reluctance to McChrystal and Reid took to the floor of the senate to deliver an impassioned speech insisting that McChrystal be immediately confirmed?

Congress always wants to rush . . . except when it involves them doing more than voting yes or no.  There's no rush -- now or then -- to investigate the torture.  Harry Reid is fine with torture as long as he is Senate Majority Leader.  Let him lose that position and believe that decrying torture can help him win it back, and Harry will be the biggest anti-torture senator.  And what of Dick Durbin?  Illinois' blubbering senator cried -- more for himself when he issued an apology -- over Abu Ghraib.

After all the senators signed off on McChrystal, Justin Rood (ABC News) reported that then-Senator Russ Feingold (who voted for McChrystal) stated McChrystal wasn't forthcoming on torture.  But they all voted for him, even Russ.

Torture was policy, not happenstance, not accidents.  That's what the latest revelations drive home. 

David Petraeus was sent back into Iraq in 2004 to implement counter-insurgency.  At the start of last month, Jim White (Empty Wheel) noted the US military order Frago 242 which was issued in June 2004 ("an order to ignore reports of torture carried out by these Iraqi groups") and that this order was issued the same month Petraeus returned to Iraq.

This is counterinsurgency.  This is the reality of counterinsurgency.  Harry Reid even noted, when McChrystal was forced out for remarks about Biden, that Petraeus was the one to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan ("General Petraeus has demonstrated that he can effectively carry out a counterinsurgency strategy . . .")

Today,  Cobain explains:

While Abu Ghraib prison, just a few miles to the west, would achieve global notoriety after photographs emerged depicting abuses committed there, Camp Nama escaped attention for a simple reason: photography was banned. The only people who attempted to take pictures – a pair of US Navy Seals – were promptly arrested. All discussion of what happened there was forbidden.

Discussion was forbidden?  No, he was enabled.  He's a War Criminal who oversaw torture but PRI's The World was happy to play patty-cakes with him last January.  Even trained monkey Jon Stewart whored in January letting McChrystal pimp his bad book and not asking any hard questions.  But, hey, Jon Stewart gave up hard questions and pointed humor when Bush left the White House.

Connecting the dots the politicians, press and pranksters don't with to is Muhammad Umer Toor (Pakistan Kakhudahafiz) explains:

Terror detention cells. Ethnic/sectarian cleansing. Butchers in place. Design, spark, initiate, support, fund, sustain and lead sectarian cleansing and civil war. That’s how America “played” with the national and sectarian life in Iraq for decades to come; that’s how they suppressed – factually speaking – sunni insurgency against America. The aim of America was to distract resistance, mainly sunnis, by pitting them against their conventional sectarian rivals – i.e. shias who were brutally oppressed by widely hated and un-Islamic ruler Saddam Hussein – from its real object: foreign occupation.
This news of US exploiting the fault line of Muslim ummah shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, this whole revelation of convincing and unequivocal evidence of US triggered civil war in Iraq is fresh: exposed by Guardian, which broadcasted on internet on 6th March 2013 a documentary on a US veteran, James Steele, the counter-insurgency ‘hero’ who led this campaign of terror and torture. Just as RAND think tank had advised US leaders when asked to work out a strategy to win war:
“Align its policy with Shiite groups who aspire to have more participation in government and greater freedoms of political and religious expression. If this alignment can be brought about, it could erect a barrier against radical Islamic movements and may create a foundation for a stable U.S. position in the Middle East.”
James Steele was a crucial element in executing the strategy.

James Steele is covered in the BBC Arabic and Guardian newspaper documentary James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq (those unable to stream or who need closed captioning for streaming to be of any value can refer to Ava and my "TV: The War Crimes Documentary").

March ended Sunday and Iraq Body Count counts 407 violent deaths in Iraq for the month.  Agence France Presse keeps their own count and they note, "Figures compiled by AFP and based on reports from security and medical officials, meanwhile, showed that March was the deadliest month in Iraq since August with 271 people killed and 906 wounded in attacks."  Also keeping a count is AKE.  John Drake has Tweeted:

At least 45 people were killed and 191 injured in #Iraq violence last week.

At least 107 people were killed and 98 injured in #Iraq violence last week.

At least 78 people were killed and 185 injured in #Iraq violence last week.

At least 125 people were killed and 302 injured in #Iraq violence last week.

That's 355 people dead and 776 injured (check my math).  That includes 3 days of February's violence and lacks six days of March.  AKE's count is close to IBC so we'll go with 407.  Someone who always undercounts?  The government of Iraq.  CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq Tweets the government's claim:

163 people were killed & 256 others were wounded in acts of violence across #Iraq in March 2013, police told #CNN.

What an undercount.

April's violence in Iraq kicks off with a massive injuries and a high death toll in Tikrit.  National Iraqi News Agency quotes an unnamed police source stating, "The number of victims of the blast rose to 42 dead and 67 wounded, police and civilians."  Other sources have lower tolls for the dead and the wounded.  NINA established itself as an independent news source in the immediate aftermath of the start of the Iraq War.  We'll note their count and consider it accurate unless they issue a correction (which they will if they have reason to believe their numbers are wrong).  Elena Ralli (New Europe) also goes with NINA's count.  They're also not updating as quickly as NINA. IANS has a death toll of 10 with thirty injuredAFP has the death toll at 11.  Iran's Trend News Agency has a death toll of 12.

Wang Yuanyuan (Xinhua) notes, "The attack occurred in the morning when a suicide bomber blew up an explosive-laden tanker near the police headquarters and a nearby oil facility in central Tikrit, 170 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad."    Reuters adds, "Police at the scene said guards may not have suspected the tanker because fuel trucks arrive every morning to deliver gas and oil."

RTT continues,  "The latest attack targeting Iraqi security forces took place in the hometown of executed President Saddam Hussain, which is a Sunni-dominated stronghold of insurgency."  Alsumaria observes, "A day earlier a bomb exploded inside a mosque in Iraq's predominantly Shia Muslim south on Sunday, wounding six civilians, police said, as the country's delicate sectarian balance comes under growing strain."

That isn't the only violence in Iraq today. NINA also reports a mortar attack in Falluja, a Falluja sticky bombing left one person injured,  the home "of the Anbar Salvation Council, Hamid al-Hayes, northereast of Ramadi" was attacked leaving two bodyguards wounded, and 1 police officer was kidnapped in Tikrit.  In addition, Alsumaria notes that a worker at a Mosul prison for juveniles was shot dead today by unknown assailants in a passing car.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes, "In Baghdad, two policemen and a civilian were shot dead by gunmen in two separate incidents, the interior ministry said."  Also Mohammed Tawfeeq Tweeted this violence:

  1. 2 local contractors were killed & another was kidnapped when gunmen attacked Akkaz gasfield located in #Anbar #Iraq on Mon, police told #CNN

Kidnappings are still common in Iraq.  One took place Friday involving a large number of people but it only made news today which makes you wonder how much gets covered? Jessica Murphy (UK Press and Journal) reported this morning that foreign oil workers -- including Brock Fettes -- were being held hostage in Iraq.  Esther Beadle (Evening Express) adds, "Insch father-of-three Brock Fettes and two University of Aberdeen graduates were part of a group of 120 men held captive after the gang boarded the HKN Energy rig and demanded $1 million."  The Daily Record notes the hostage crisis started Friday with the armed gang demanding $1 million to release the hostages who were released today but the British government is refusing to answer whether or not a ransom was paid: "But the Foreign Office confirmed the siege was over while trying to play down the incident."  Brock Fettes tells STV, "My concern is this happening again.  If they get paid off this time, it will become the national sport for villagers to target oil rights.  They will all be doing it. The oil company concerned is in denial, and won't admit that anything is going on because they don't want to lose the contract."

Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweets:

100 days of #Iraq protest in #Fallujah - small anti-govt demo marks anniversary as mourners bury protest organizer shot dead last night.

National Iraqi News Agency reports, "Hundreds of citizens demonstrated in Maysaloon Square in central city of Fallujah and the sit-in Square northern Ramadi to mark passing 100 days of starting the sit-ins.  Layla Anwar (Arab Woman Blues) has listed the protesters demands as:

- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

An end to arbitrary killings?  Not last year, not today.

Iraq set a record in 2012 -- like most of the records under Nouri al-Maliki's 'leadership,' it's nothing anyone would brag about.  Dropping back to the November 12th snapshot:
Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012.  Time to add more to that total.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian").  Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council."

November 29th, speaking to the United Nations Security Council, Martin Kobler noted the vast number of executions that had taken place in 2012. 

Martin Kobler:  To date, this year, 123 people have been executed in Iraq.  53 of them since July.  The latest executions were carried out on 11 November, when 11 convicts were executed, including one Egyptian.  I continue to reiterate the Secretary-General's call in his report for the government of Iraq to consider a moratorium on all executions, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions. 

129 or 123, it's a disturbing number.  And despite calls for a moratorium, there's been no effort to stop the executions.  Alsumaria reports that Iraqiya MP Yassin al-Mutlaq announced at a press conference today in front of the Parliament building that the Ministry of Justice executed 30 people yesterday.  The MP also declared that they have evidence declaring that some of the people responsible for the crimes that led to yesterday's executions were allowed to walk by paying bribes and getting out of prison.   Alsumaria also notes that the Ministry of Justice announced today that 4 executions have taken place today.  Jane Arraf Tweets that "3,000 more await hanging."

 March 27th, the European Union's Catherine Ashton stated:

I deeply regret that the authorities have chosen to re-start executions now, when the Iraqi government had committed to re-examining the cases of prisoners and detainees. Iraq is aware of the EU's unequivocal position against the death penalty. The EU strongly believes that capital punishment violates the most fundamental of human rights. The EU appreciates the seriousness of the crimes for which those sentenced to death have been convicted. The EU however does not believe death penalty will act as a deterrent.

The international outcry against Iraq's mass executions only continues to grow but they continue to be carried out.  NINA notes that MP al-Mutlaq at today's press conference called for executions to be halted and noted the need for Parliament "to speed up adoption of the amnesty law and the aboltion of the de-Baathification as well as the adoption of other laws that meet hte demands of the protesters."

April 20th, Iraq is set to hold provincial elections.  Currently, 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces are supposed to participate.  There are three provinces that make up the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government: Dahuk, Erbil and Sulamaniyah.   They hold their own elections and last did so in July of 2009.  It is anticipated that they will hold elections in their provinces in July of this year.  (Parliamentary elections find the KRG voting at the same time as the rest of Iraq, these are provincial elections taking place this year.)  That brings us to 15 of Iraq's provinces.  Kirkuk is an oil-rich province and it is disputed with both the centeral government out of Baghdad claiming it as well as the KRG claiming it.  Article 140 details how that will be resolved -- Article 140 of the Constitution.  Nouri was made prime minister in 2006 and he was bound by the Constitution -- which he took an oath to -- to implement Article 140 by the end of 2007 but Nouri never keeps a promise or oath.  Kirkuk brings us to 16.  The other two provinces not voting?

Nouri has decreed -- giving a different reason every other day -- that Anbar and Nineveh will not be voting in the elections.   Al Mada reports that Parliament is decrying the decision to postpone elections in Anbar and Nineveh (Nouri's said for six months).

Despised politician Saleh al-Mutlaq (pictured in this Iraqi Spring MC photo of the protests last Friday) declared that there's no harm if voting's delayed in Nineveh or Anbar.  Look for Saleh al-Mutlaq to be escorted out of Iraqiya -- that is if he's not killed first.  He's truly hated.  We've documented that since 2011.  The people do not like Saleh al-Mutlaq.  Shi'ites hate him because he's supposed to still be a Ba'athist.  That is what the Justice and Accountability Commission found in 2010 which is why he was prevented from running for Parliament.  Iraqiya fought for him when he was labeled a terrorist.  His thanks to Iraqiya is to continue to spit on them which is why Sunnis hate him.

Dar Addustour notes that the Electoral Commission has announced that they will be issuing a report and the report will determine when elections are held in Anbar Province and Nineveh Province.   Like most Iraqi outlets in the last weeks, Dar Addustour has stopped billing the commission as "independent."

There are certain rules about campaigning in Iraq.  Nouri has upset the Iraqi youth with recent comments.  Al Mada notes that the comments include Nouri asserting that if it were not for State of Law, Iraq would have collapsed.  The Iraq Times notes the Youth Caucus has issued a statement demanding Nouri apologize for the partisan remark.  The only apology he has issued is a weak one, Alsumaria reports, for not attending today's Parliament session where he was supposed to face questions.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds, "The prime minister asked for a closed session including only the leaders of the Iraqi political blocs and the members of the parliamentary commission for security. He asked that the meeting be at his office to guarantee confidentiality."

In other news,    Al Mada carries an article which opens with the declaration that Iraq is headed for disintegration and that the United States stays silent as it takes place and does nothing.  Dar Addustour reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani dispatched an envoy to the US last month to explore the issues with the US government and that the envoy has met with US Vice President Joe Biden.

Sunday was Easter and Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes extra measures were taken in Bahgdad, "Soldiers and federal policemen in armored vehicles were posted outside churches and security patrols were increased in Christian areas. Because of Baghdad’s fragile security, at many churches the main Easter service traditionally ending at dawn Sunday morning was held Saturday night."  The Financial Times of London points out, "Two-thirds of Iraq's estimated 1.4m Chirstian population are thought to have been driven out after the 2003 invasion turned into an ethno-sectarian war."  AP quotes Fatin Yousef who attends St. Joseph Chaldean Church in Baghdad stating, "We pray for love and peace to spread through the world.  We hope Pope Francies will help make it better for Christians in Iraq."  Jane Arraf files a video report for Al Jazeera.  Excerpt.


Jane Arraf:  Chaldean Catholics trace themselves back 2,000 years when an apostle of Jesus, St. Thomas, preached in Iraq.  They still preach a form of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.  But the main Easter service the church isn't quite filled.  Half of Iraq's Christians have left in the last ten years.  A lot has changed outside this church, there are armed guards.  They're here because more than sixty churches have been attacked -- some of them by suicide bombers.  Coming to Mass has become not just a sign of faith but a risk.  The new Patriarch of the world's Chaldeans is struggling to make sure Christians stay in a turbulent Middle East. 

Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako:  They are still going on leaving because you know the security is not stable and services, jobs, but I think the main thing is the trust.  They don't trust the future and the government.

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