Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, April 3, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, calls to postpone voting in Anbar and Nineveh come from the Electoral Commission, the oil workers remain targeted in Iraq, the US government has a sudden and selective interest in War Crimes, Arabic social media is tickled by a cartoon of a nude and saggy Victoria Nuland (neocon Iraq War supporter, Dick Cheney's former deputy national security advisor and current US State Dept spokesperson), Cindy Sheehan gets ready to kick off the Tour de Peace, and more.

No Jail Time for Lt Dan Choi, argues a new Care2Care petition:

In 2011, President Obama repealed Don't Ask Don't Tel (DADT), which finally made it legal for U.S. servicemembers to identify as gay or lesbian without fear of being fired. That's great news. The bad news is that many soldiers and former soldiers are still facing the repercussions of coming out.
One of the most recognizable of these soldiers is Lieutenant Dan Choi, a gay man who made national headlines in 2009 for publicly coming out and being summarily fired from the U.S. army. He then spent the next two years using his story to protest DADT, which he viewed as a homophobic, outdated law that had no place in the United States. In 2010, the Iraq war veteran was arrested for protesting DADT in front of the White House -- and slapped with federal charges.
While most of the other protesters were charged with a fine and released, Lt. Choi refused to plead guilty. He believes that he's being unfairly targeted by the military as a gay man who's attracting too much attention. Now, he's unable to re-enlist and facing six months of possible jail time.
Lt. Choi is a national hero, not someone who should be punished for peacefully protesting a policy that violated his Constitutional rights and left him jobless. Tell the U.S. Department of Justice: no jail time for Lt. Choi!

For more on Dan Choi refer to his Tweeter feed and you can also refer to the March 28th snapshot which was his most recent day in court fighting the charges against him.

Dan Choi stood up.  The world could use more people who take a stand.  A lot of people just hang in the background and claim to stand up.  For example, Reporters Without Borders (still) defines their own mission as:

Freedom of expression and of information will always be the world’s most important freedom. If journalists were not free to report the facts, denounce abuses and alert the public, how would we resist the problem of children-soldiers, defend women’s rights, or preserve our environment? In some countries, torturers stop their atrocious deeds as soon as they are mentioned in the media. In others, corrupt politicians abandon their illegal habits when investigative journalists publish compromising details about their activities. Still elsewhere, massacres are prevented when the international media focuses its attention and cameras on events.

The Committee to Protect Journalism insists:

CPJ promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. CPJ takes action wherever journalists are censored, attacked, imprisoned, or killed for their work. Our advocacy helps to ensure the free flow of news and commentary.

Wherever journalists are censored, attacked, imprisoned, or killed?  Even Iraq?  As Elaine asked of Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday, "Why does it always seem that, with both of these organizations, Iraq always has to come last?"

As covered in yesterday's snapshot, Dar Addustour, Al-Parliament, Al-Mustaqbal and Al-Nas were attacked in Baghdad Monday evening, their employees threatened (five people stabbed, more left with bruises and fractures), offices destroyed and cars set on fire (a fifth Baghdad newspaper, Al Mada, was threatened but not attacked).  As Elaine notes, the press was "covering this topic this morning and this evening the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have still not managed to issue anything.  Not a statement condemning the attacks, not anything."  It's now a day later and still nothing from the 'protectors' of journalists.

Four newspapers attacked in Baghdad. And not one word from the Committee to Protect Journalists?  No condemnation from Reporters Without Borders?

That's a funny way to protect the press, a funny way to be an advocate for journalism.  But Elaine is correct, especially with regards to CPJ, when it comes to Iraq we have seen this over and over.  It's like there is the whole world and then, after they've dealt with everything else in the world, they may make times to mention something from days or weeks ago in Iraq.  Iraq doesn't matter to these outlets obviously.  Monday evening the attacks took place.  It is Wednesday evening now.  And neither press 'protector' could managed to issue a statement.  48 hours after the attacks and not one damn word.

They can take comfort in the fact that Arab social media is focusing more on the silence of the US State Dept and some very funny (and cruel) illustrations of State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland are popping up with her 'concern' expressed Monday about Egypt.  It's noted real concern would require Nuland -- a neocon married to neocon Robert Kagan -- to express concern for the Iraqi press.  The funniest cartoon features a nude and saggy Victoria Nuland with the question of where is her remorse for Iraq?  Obviously, no where to be found.

Dar Addustour reports that the the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council's Sheikh Humam Hamoud has joined those who have publicly condemned the attacks and he has termed them "disturbing and scary."  He has called on the security forces to double their efforts to find the assailants.  As Sheikh is a columnist for Dar Addustour and today he weighs in on the attacks noting that the solidarity many Iraqi officials, politicians and media figures have expressed with the papers attacked has been empowering.  He calls on Iraqis to reject violence and to come together to build a modern, democratic Iraq.  The attacks were a dangerous precedent, he writes, and must not happen again while the assailants must be brought to justice because this will affirm Iraq's commitment tot he law, to democracy and to Constitutional principles.  He ends his column calling for the Almighty's blessing on Iraq and thanking those Iraqis who stood up and expressed solidarity.

Sara Hamdan (New York Times) is expressing
something -- bliss?  Maybe something stronger.  It's the usual neo-liberal crap advocating that state banks be replaced with private banks.  While that may not be surprising -- this is the New York Times, after all --
being low-fact, semi-fact free, may be.  Hamdan offers, "According to the Web site of the Central Bank of Iraq, the country is served by 7 state-owned banks, 32 private banks and 15 foreign banks. But analysts say that a handful of state-owned banks -- and two in particular, Rafidain Bank and Rasheed Bank -- dominate 90 percent of the business."  And that's about all she can handle.  Many days this would be less noticeable.  Too bad for Hamdan that she writes on the same day Farid Farid (Transparency International) chooses to weigh in on the topic of corruption in Iraq -- including that $800 million is "said to be unlawfully transferred out of Iraq every week."   Iraq ranks 169 out of 174 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.  Maybe today wasn't the best day for the New York Times to again pimp privatization -- which brings about even less checks and balances?

Let's stay with the topic of the greed motivated push towards privatization.  David Bacon, whose latest book  Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press)  won the CLR James Award, explains the continued attacks to destroy the Iraqi oil industry -- state-owned before the start of the war.  From Bacon's "For Unionists, Iraq's Oil War Rages On; The leader of Iraq's oil union is being threatened with prison -- again" (In These Times):

The big multinational petroleum giants now run the nation’s fields. Between 2009 and 2010, the Maliki government granted contracts for developing existing fields and exploring new ones to 18 companies, including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, the Italian Eni, Russia's Gazprom and Lukoil, Malaysia's Petronas and a partnership between BP and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. When they started, the U.S. military provided the initial security umbrella protecting all of their field operations.
The Ministry of Oil technically still owns the oil, but functions more as the multinationals' adjunct, while stripping workers of their rights. Since 2003 the ministry has denied the union its right to exist and retaliated against its leaders and activists. As the oil corporations rush in to lay claim to developing fields, ministry spokesman Assam Jihad told the Iraq Oil Report in 2010, "Unionists instigate the public against the plans of the oil ministry to develop [Iraq's] oil riches using foreign development."
In 2011, Hassan Juma'a and Falih Abood, president and general secretary of the Federation of Oil Employees of Iraq, were first subject to legal action by the ministry and threatened with arrest. Many of the union’s elected officers have been transferred from jobs they’d held for years to remote locations far from their families, in an effort to break up its structure and punish activists. "The government doesn't want workers to have rights, because it wants people to be weak and at the mercy of employers," said Juma'a.

Currently Hassam Juma'a is being asked to appear in court Sunday, April 7th.  US Labor Against the War is asking for people to sign this petition which explains:

Despite all the talk about fostering democracy and human rights in Iraq, workers there continue to be denied the right to freely organize trade unions and negotiate over the terms of their labor - just as they were under Saddam Hussein.  
In the last two years, repression against unions has escalated.  A wave of peaceful strikes has recently swept Iraq as workers seek to redress grievances and assert their rights.  The response of the Al Maliki government has been to crack down on discontent with disciplinary action against union activists, and even criminal complaints against union leaders.
Recently the Ministry of Oil lodged a criminal complaint against Hassan Juma'a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions*, claiming he was responsible for strikes in the oil industry.  

If convicted, he could face stiff fines and five years in prison. He has been ordered to appear in court on April 7th to respond to charges leveled against him.
Persecution of union leaders for exercising rights promised by Iraq's constitution and protected under international treaty must not be allowed to stand unchallenged.
Labor organizations across the U.S., including the AFL-CIO, and around the world have responded by signing a letter to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki demanding that all charges against Hassan Juma'a be immediately withdrawn and that persecution of Iraqi workers peacefully exercising their rights must cease.  
They further demand that the Iraqi government promptly enact a basic labor and trade union law that guarantees the right of workers to organize and join unions of their choosing free from government interference and harassment, and that both public and private employers be required to negotiate over the terms and conditions of employment with the unions chosen by their employees.
  • No government that denies these basic labor and human rights can claim to be a democracy.  
  • The U.S. and other governments ought to freeze economic aid to Iraq until these and other basic human rights are respected.
U.S. Labor Against the War calls on its affiliates, members and supporters in unions and allied social justice organizations to sign this petition supporting the rights of Iraq's workers and solidarity with Hassan Juma'a and other union activists who are being persecuted by the government for exercising their rights.

As Bacon notes in his article, there have been several protests in Basra by oil workers in the month of February.

Of course, there are ongoing protests in Iraq that reached the 100-day mark on Monday.  The protesters are calling for a responsive government that addresses the needs of the people.  These are the people who live in poverty.  Billions of dollars come in each month from oil and Iraq has around 30 million people but the government can't provide.  It can't provide needed jobs, it can provide consistent electricity, it can't provide potable water, it can't provide needed sanitation infrastructure (which is why the rainy seasons in Iraq meaning flooding throughout the bulk of the country -- standing water, up to the knees, in parts of Baghdad -- such as Sadr City -- even a day after the rain stops).  Nouri al-Maliki's government  also attacks political rivals and anyone who fights for a better life for Iraq, Hassam Juma'a is only one example of that.  Iraqi Spring MC notes that Nouri's forces killed activist Qahtan Adnan Shalash Hiti yesterday and then grabbed four other activists and took them away with no one providing information about where the four have been taken.

Today, All Iraq News reports National Alliance MP Kareem Alewi declares that Nouri's government "is serious in responding to the demonstrators' legitimate and constitutinal demands soon to serve the Iraqis."  Nouri can line up all of his flunkies for the rest of the year, no one's going to believe words, especially not from him and his supporters.  They're looking for actions.  And what are they seeing?

For one thing, NINA reports they're seeing another mass arrest today, this time in Qadissiya Province, 31 people were arrested.  One of the things the protesters have been protesting is Article IV.  This means that Clay Miller is suspected of terrorism -- suspected, please understand, not guilty of, nothing has been proven.  They can't find Clay.  But I'm married to Clay.  So they arrest me.  Am I thought to have taken part in terrorism?  No.  But I'm Clay's wife and in 'free Iraq' that's all it takes for me to be arrested.  Or I'm Clay's child or his parent or his aunt . . . That's all it takes for me to be arrested.  I don't have to be accused of having done anything wrong.  But the police can't find the suspect and I'm related to the suspect so I get arrested.

This is used to detain thousands of Sunnis and it's part of the continued war that Nouri and thugs like him maintain in Iraq.  Iraq will either learn to be Iraq -- learn to embrace one another -- or it will be the land where Coward Nouri who fled the country decades ago because he was scared he might be hurt now gets to return and overcompensate for the fact that he was a coward who couldn't fight for his own country but instead had to lobby imperial America to overthrow Saddam Hussein.  The impotence of Nouri is so great that he will continue to work out these grudges in his failed attempts to demonstrate something that he hopes approximates masculinity.  And Iraq will suffer day after day.  In contrast to Nouri, Dar Addustour reports Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is speaking of the importance of Iraqi blood -- of all Iraqi blood -- and the need for the country to pull together.

As  Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers observed last month:

In recent months, the government has announced broad reforms in response to weekly mass demonstrations in majority Sunni provinces. These demonstrations began in December, after the arrest of Sunni Finance Minister Rafi al-Essawi’s bodyguards. Early on protesters demanded the release of prisoners — especially female prisoners, who have been held illegally for long periods of time — and reform of Article 4 of the Anti-Terror Law.
Over the last several weeks in Baghdad, I’ve spoken with more than 30 women who are in detention or were recently released, along with lawyers and families of detainees, researching allegations of torture in Iraqi detention facilities.
People told me over and over about random arrests, torture during interrogation and prolonged detention in unofficial facilities. They said corruption was rife among Interior Ministry officials, that there was collusion between officials and judges, and that trials lacked the most basic due process protections.
Detainees repeatedly told me the government uses the broad provisions of Article 4 to detain people without arrest warrants in detention centers overseen by security forces that answer to the Interior and Defense Ministries, or directly to the Prime Minister’s Office.
I asked officials I met about promises to release detainees and about the broader problems with the criminal justice system. By the government’s own admission, some detainees have been held illegally for months — even years.
There is little evidence, though, that the government is carrying out the pledged reforms, or that the reforms target illegal arrests, coerced interrogations and arbitrary detentions.

So, no, there's been no movement on this issue or on any other.  Iraqi Spring MC declares today that the country mourns daily those who have been falsely arrested and notes a Falluja activist who 'disappeared' has returned: His corpse was returned to his family today, he was tortured to death.  For the 'crime' of peaceful assembly.

Nouri's a thug, a despot and a liar.  Like when he told the protesters in 2011, 'give me 100 days and I'll address your demands.'  The 100 days came and went and he didn't do a damn thing.  He's empty promises, he's a broken oath.

Alsumaria reports that protesters gathered in Nineveh today to protest the security forces arresting an Iman in Mosul and that the security forces fired shots into the crowd.  Iraqi Spring MC notes that today warrants were sworn out for the leaders of the on-going sit-in in Kirkuk.

Kitabat reports protesters in Kirkuk are decrying the Minister of Education Mohammad al-Tamim and, yes, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq -- they are saying that in an attempt to stop the people from exercising their right to assembly and end the protests, the two men have sworn out false warrants on three leaders of the Kirkuk protests.

Saleh al-Mutlaq is the leader (at least for now) of the National Dialogue Front.  He is also a member of Iraqiya (if only in name).  Iraqiya pulled out of the Cabinet meetings (as did the Sadr bloc) weeks ago and refused to return unless Nouri would respond to the demands of the protesters.  Saleh al-Mutlaq -- always one to curry favor as he crawled before his betters -- broke the boycott and returned.  He then went on to 'speak for' the protesters with lies and distortions leading the protesters to announce that not only did he not speak for them, each province would select advocates who would speak for them.  Last Friday's protests saw Saleh al-Mutlaq denounced in one city after another, at one protest after another.

Saturday, All Iraq News noted that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has said al-Mutlaq's actions are outrageous and he declares to al-Mutlaq, "Your attitude is unacceptable and does not serve your interests whatsoever; therefore, I call on you to reconsider your decision as we are tired of our experiences with Nouri al-Maliki since 2006.  Maliki is not trustworthy to start with him on new negotiations, so we advise you to cut your relations with him."  Tareq al-Hashemi is currently in Turkey because he didn't rub his crotch against Nouri's ankles the way al-Mutlaq did while whimpering like the dog al-Mutlaq is.  In December 2011, Nouri targeted them both.  He dropped his opposition to Saleh al-Mutlaq after al-Mutlaq worked overtime to curry favor.  He continued to persecute Tareq al-Hashemi.

While the western media has largely ignored al-Mutlaq's current troubles, Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq al-Awsat) tries to get al-Mutlaq on record about how "he controversially decided to resume his post at the end of last month, in a move that some feel has divided the Iraqiya bloc to which his party belongs. Some have even speculated that his reinstatement was engineered by Maliki to divide the Sunni parties in advance of the provinicial council elections scheduled for April 20."  Excerpt:

Asharq Al-Awsat:You recently decided to return to cabinet meetings despite the fact that your coalition, Iraqiya, has withdrawn from the government. Does this mean that you are running counter to your coalition or that you have left the fold?

Saleh Al-Mutlaq: Iraqiya boycotted the cabinet sessions because of the government’s actions against Mr. Rafie Al-Issawi, the former minister of finance who recently resigned. Security forces raided his offices and his home, and we viewed this as a violation of the principles of a peaceful state. The way in which Mr. Issawi’s offices were ransacked was brash and illegal in our eyes. Following that, our boycott was fueled by the demonstrators in the western and northern governorates, and we announced that we would not return to cabinet meetings until the demonstrators’ demands were realized.
After the boycott had stretched on for some time, we received invitations to return to cabinet meetings. We replied that we would not return unless the government convened a special session that would exclusively discuss the demands of the demonstrators, and the government responded that it would convene such a session. The General Secretariat of the cabinet issued a statement that called for an emergency session in order to discuss the demands of the demonstrators, and when we attended the session we found that the agenda did not include discussing the demonstrators’ demands. We opposed this, but it just so happened that the only thing that we ended up discussing was the demonstrators’ demands. The session was devoted entirely to this topic, and we discussed a set of laws that would address the priorities of the demonstrators.
For instance, an issue that had particularly vexed the Iraqi people was that of the women detainees who had allegedly been exposed to torture in Iraqi prisons. We in the cabinet adopted a resolution that granted amnesty to imprisoned women, as well as to those who have been sentenced. There are 963 women in detention in Iraqi jails, some of whom will be released in accordance with the amnesty resolution. Those convicted of graft will be released once they have paid back the money they stole from the state, and those convicted of terrorism will have their status discussed on a case-by-case basis. There is a push to remove all women from prison, and there is also an amnesty agreement in the works for male prisoners.

[. . .]

Q: Do you feel that you defected from Iraqiya?

We did not split from Iraqiya. Those who split are those who formed an independent bloc for electoral purposes. Those who left and fragmented the coalition are the ones who abandoned the true national agenda that works to benefit all Iraqis. By forsaking Iraqiya’s vision, they have unfortunately betrayed both it and the coalition.

Poor Saleh al-Mutlaq, scrambling to avoid the shame that he's brought to his onw name.  Meanwhile the Iraq Times reports that Haider al-Mullah is calling out Nouri for his failure to attend sessions of Parliament and answer questions.  This is a key story and not because of Nouri.  This goes to the split the State Dept delegation saw in Saleh al-Mutlaq's National Dialogue Front on their one-day visit to Iraq.  Haider is seen as making a move to take leadership of the political party.  To take leadership from Saleh al-Mutlaq who has displeased party elders.  This is a key moment and it may play out at a low level for another year but we noted here what the State Dept observed with regards to al-Mutlaq on that visit.  This goes to those observations.  My own personal guess?  al-Mutlaq would immediately leap over to Nouri's State of Law if he lost his leadership of the National Dialogue Front.

Let's turn to the US State Dept for a moment.  This afternoon Stephen J. Rapp and Donald Y. Yamamoto held a press conference.  Rapp is the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and Yamamoto is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.

Stephen J. Rapp:
  We’re here today to announce the designation of additional fugitives for a reward – for which a reward can be paid under recent legislation to expand the State Department’s longstanding War Crimes Rewards Program. We’re announcing today that the Secretary of State will offer up to $5 million for information leading to the arrests, the transfer, or conviction of three top leaders of the LRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army: Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen, as well as the leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known as the FDLR, Sylvestre Mudacumura. The nine fugitives that had earlier been designated for the ICTR, the Rwanda tribunal, will remain on the list. Accountability is a key pillar of the United States Atrocity Prevention Initiative and our national security strategy, which states that the end of impunity and the promotion of justice are not just moral imperatives; they’re stabilizing forces in international affairs. We act today so that there can be justice for the innocent men, women, and children who have been subjected to mass murder, to rape, to amputation, enslavement, and other atrocities.
I’d like to tell you just a little about this program and its expansion. It’s managed by my office, the Office of Global Criminal Justice, here at the State Department. It originally offered rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of individuals indicted by the three international tribunals that were created for the former Yugoslavia, for Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Since 1998, our ability to pay these rewards has proven to be a valuable tool for the United States Government to promote accountability for the worst crimes known to humankind, by generating valuable tips that enable authorities to track down the world’s most notorious fugitives from justice.

Here's a tip for Rapp, Iraq provides a ton of opportunities to prosecute various leaders for War Crimes.

Last week, Felicity Arbuthnot (Pravda) noted the realities of the massacres of Falluja:

There were numerous reports during the 2004 April and November-December US assaults on Fallujah of, in addition to DU - three times unanimously designated a weapon of mass destruction by UN Sub-Committees - illegal, experimental chemical weapons and napalm being used in the decimation of this city of about three hundred thousand people.

After the second assault, Dr. Saleh Hussein Iswawi of the Fallujah General Hospital told the BBC, "About sixty to seventy percent of the homes and buildings are completely crushed and damaged, and not ready to inhabit ... Of the thirty percent still left standing, I don't think there is a single one that has not been exposed to some damage."

Charred bodies and those half eaten by stray dogs littered the streets. One resident, Yasser Sattar said, "This is the crime of the century. Is this freedom and democracy that they brought to Fallujah?"

What happened in Fallujah was a pogrom.It was by no means the only one.

People leapt into the Euphrates River to put out their burning flesh - it continued to burn in the water. Dead were described as "caramelized." Other bodies were described as melting, disintegrating, but their clothing staying intact, by doctors who have seen much in Iraq in 1991 and since, but never this.

"All forms of nature were wiped out," stated the (pro-American) Iraqi Health Minister, Dr. ash-Shaykhli.


So maybe Rapp and the US State Dept could start there?  If Rapp and the State Dept are confused, they can refer to Margaret Kimberley's report published at Black Agenda Report today:

Babies in Fallujah are born without eyes, or only one eye, or organs outside of their bodies, or no heads or two heads. The gruesome toll has gone on since 2005 and now nearly ten years later continues unabated.
The United States is not a signatory of the Treaty of Rome which established the International Criminal Court. That is not by accident. Former president George W. Bush, his vice president and all of his foreign relations and national security team would be in the dock in the International Criminal Court if it hadn’t been created to punish only Africans. Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and company are easy targets for blame but the denunciation must go much further. Only two members of congress, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, ever made an effort to investigate the number of civilian fatalities in Iraq. No candidate for president or any other high office ever raised the subject. Newspapers and television networks were eager to curry favor with the Bush administration and never directed their embedded reporters to say anything about the war’s toll on civilians.
Now the Bush administration has been out of power for four years. Newspaper editorial boards no longer have to worry about them. Most combat troops have left Iraq and reporters have left with them. What now prevents the New York Times from doing a story on the high rate of cancers and congenital deformities in Fallujah? MSNBC is supposed to be the Democratic Party’s cable news network. Why haven’t they covered this story?

Rapp declared at today's press conference, "Here today we’re talking about war crimes, which are situations where international or internationalized courts have sought people for atrocity crimes, for crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes."  Okay, so let's talk about War Crimes, here today.  Let's talk about what was done to Falluja, let's just start there.

Don't hold your breath on that.  And don't hold your breath waiting for Rapp to talk about how Barack Obama's Drone War is a War Crime -- but it is a War Crime.

Let's note some of today's violence.  The National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing has left eight people injured, 1 corpse was discovered in Maysan Province (gun shots and signs of torture), a Mosul roadside bombing left 2 police officers dead and a third injured, a bomb near a Kirkuk mosque left one police officer injured, 1 person was shot dead on the streets of Mosul, a Falluja drive-by shooting left 1 person dead, a Baghdad attack left Mohammed al-Qasim (brother of a National Security Advisory official) dead, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad bombing left three people injured, and a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured.  In addition, AP notes a Sahwa member and his mother were shot dead in Baghdad and his brother was left injured.  10 people reported dead and fourteen injured  but not a lot of interest from the western press.

In other news, it is said that 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces will hold elections April 20th.  All Iraq News notes the Electoral Commission met with UNAMI and Martin Kobler yesterday -- Kobler is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq.  In a statement from the Electoral Commission, it's noted the meeting included a discussion of postponing elections in Anbar and Ninvehe Province (as Nouri has ordered).  Kitabat reports the Electoral Commission is offering that elections in Anbar and Nineveh be postponed until May 18th.

National Iraqi News Agency reports
, "The spokseman of Motahedoon Alliance, Dhafer al-Ani said that the government's bias and lack of impartiality became a foregone conclusion, nothing that postpone elections in Nineveh and Anbar is an attempt to deprive the provinces to catch up with the other Iraqi provinces."  He states that what needs to happen is "to postpone the elections in all parts of Iraq because of the security situation is worsening in more than one province, particularly Baghdad, stressing the need to achive this demand or cancel the previous decision which was to postpone the elections in Nineveh and Anbar."

In the United States, peace activist Cindy Sheehan is beginning the Tour De Peace.  We'll close with that:

for Thursday, April 4, 2013
Contact: Tour Media - DeDe Miller 562/500-9079
National – Cres Vellucci 916/996-9170

Anti-War Mom Cindy Sheehan Announces 3,000-Mile
Cross Country 'Tour de Peace' Bike Ride for Peace; 1st Leg
Begins Thursday at Son Casey's Grave, and Ends in Sacramento

VACAVILLE/SACRAMENTO, Ca. – Cindy Sheehan will begin an arduous 3 month, 3,000-mile Ride-for-Peace – dubbed "Tour de Peace" – this Thursday/April 4 from the Vacaville grave of her son to Arlington Cemetery and White House.

She will hold a press availability at 10 a.m., Thursday (April 4) at Vacaville-Elmira Cemetery (522 Elmira Road/West Side), where her son Casey is buried. He was killed in Iraq nine years ago.

The first leg of the 'Tour de Peace" runs from that Vacaville gravesite in to Sacramento, about 41 miles. Supporters are expected to welcome Cindy and the initial bike rider in Sacramento about 6 p.m. Thursday at Sierra 2/Curtis Hall (2791 24th St.).

Cindy will be available for interviews along the route, and in Sacramento at the end of the first leg.

WHAT: The Tour de Peace bike ride across the United States will follow historic Route
66 to Chicago, and other roads from there on to D.C.  Bicyclers will join in for all or part of the tour, which will include public events organized by local groups along the way. 
Complete route:

The tour begins April 4, 2013, nine years after Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq, and 45 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in Memphis.  It will conclude on July 3, 2013, with a ride from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House.

WHY: This August will mark 8 years since Cindy Sheehan began a widely reported protest at then-President George W. Bush's "ranch" in Crawford, Texas, demanding to know what the "noble cause" was for which Bush claimed Americans were dying in Iraq.  Neither Bush nor President Obama has yet offered a justification for a global war now in its 12th year.  The Tour de Peace will carry with it these demands:

To end wars,
To end immunity for U.S. war crimes,
To end suppression of our civil rights,
To end the use of fossil fuels,
To end persecution of whistleblowers,
To end partisan apathy and inaction.

Watch the trailer: