Today Military Families Speak Out notes the passing of Charlie Richardson "on May 4th, 2012 at home after a six-year battle with cancer". They note:
The seeds of MFSO were sown in the summer of 2002 when Charley’s son, a U.S. Marine, was being deployed and it became clear he would most likely be ending up in Iraq. As life-long peace and labor activists, Charley, and his wife Nancy Lessin, knew they couldn’t sit by silently while their son was being sent into harm’s way, to a war that should not be happening, an illegal and immoral war of aggression. They brought a sign to anti-war protests with their son’s picture on it that said, “Our Son Is A Marine – Don’t Send Him to War for Oil!” Charley and Nancy were overwhelmed by the response they received to the power of their voice as a military family protesting the war.
At one of these rallies they met another a father whose son was facing deployment to Kuwait. Together, they formed Military Families Speak Out to organize and amplify the voices of military families in opposition to an invasion of Iraq. Just months later, Nancy and Charley spoke at a press conference, offering their home phone number for MFSO; within days, two hundred families from around the country joined the organization.
In February, 2003 Charley and Nancy were lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against then-President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, calling for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the U.S. from invading Iraq until there was a congressionally mandated declaration of war. Three active-duty service members, other MFSO members and twelve Members of Congress were part of that lawsuit. The case went two rounds in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and finally failed on March 18, 2003. The bombs dropped on Baghdad the next day.
For the next two years MFSO existed in Charley and Nancy’s living room. On top of their day jobs as prominent labor activists, Nancy and Charley wrote grant proposals, helped members start chapters, trained families on how to speak to the media and pushed tirelessly to create a home for families like them, who had loved ones in the military and were opposed to the war. Families came to them with the same story. “Thank God I found you. I thought I was the only one! What can I do to be a part of this?”
Staying with the topic of peace, Yavuz Baydar (Al-Monitor) notes, "Sticking to its promises, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) appears to have started pulling out from Turkey as agreed with Ankara. At least 50 militants are said to have crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan since May 8." At her site last night, Betty continued the conversation about how ridiculous Nouri looked for declaring Thursday that the PKK could not come into Iraq. World Bulletin News quotes Turkey's Foreign Ministry, "This announcement seems to result more from the contestations between Baghdad and Erbil. It is obvious that the PKK withdrawing from Turkey will not be a threat to anyone, and that they will leave behind terror. We are not sending terrorists to another country to organize attacks. Therefore there is no reason to worry. The PKK came from Iraq anyway and would enter and exit periodically. Why are they now a problem?"
Background. Turkey has been the part of many histroical empires -- including the Hittite, Byzantine and the Ottoman Empire. From 1918 to 1922, Constantinople was occupied by the French, British and Italians. The native population fought back, expelled the occupiers and the Republic of Turkey was created. That's a very brief and incomplete history of Turkey. 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." May 8th saw the start of a process the two sides had spent some time negotiating.
While the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in the north is where the PKK will go, it has been the central government out of Baghdad which has spent the week complaining. Along with Nouri, you've had his Cabinet members launch various verbal attacks on Turkey. How bad is it? So bad that Nouri's government figured they better make nice with another neighbor. Al-Shorfa reports, "Iraq has re-opened its land border crossing with Jordan two weeks after closing it for security reasons, Anbar's local government said Friday."
Jordan, like Turkey on Sunday and Syria previously, has been accused by Nouri and his Cabinet in the past of being responsible for the ongoing protests in Iraq which kicked off December 21st and continued today. Iraqi Spring MC reports that a Reuters reporters has been detained in Anbar while attempting to cover a protest. In related news, the National Iraqi News Agency reports, "Police forces prevented the media and journalists from entering the Mosque of Muhammad Rasoolollah in the city of Kirkuk to cover the unified Friday prayers." Falluja is in Anbar and the sit-in continues there. In this Iraqi Spring MC video, the speaker in Falluja rejects the division of Iraq. Today's protests were about unity and dignity and a unified Iraq. Alsumaria notes the Ramadi protest saw tens of thousands turn out to celebrate dignity and choose peace. They called on the United Nations and the religious authorities to curb Nouri's lust for power. NINA reports that the Ramadi and Falluja protesters "demonstrated after Friday unified prayers on The international road condemned the double standard policy of Maliki government in dealing with Iraqi people component and demanded to bring down such a government."
It was another bad day for prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki. Alsumaria reports that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr declared his sympathy for the Iraqis who've lost family members as a result of the purchase and use by Nouri's government of 'magic' wands -- which have been known not to work since 2009. Moqtada urged the families who lost loved ones and those who were injured as a result to sue the person who purchased the items. (That would be Nouri.) April 23rd (see the April 24, 2013 snapshot), James McCormick, the man who made and sold the wands, who was on trial for those wands, was pronounced guilty on three counts of fraud. And still Nouri has allowed -- no, insisted that the wands be used. May 2nd, McCormick was sentenced to a maxium of 10 years. Jake Ryan (Sun) quoted Judge Richard Hone stating, "The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category. Your profits were obscene. You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse." And yet last Friday, Ammar Karim (AFP) reported that the 'magic' wands to 'detect' bombs (and drugs and, no doubt, spirits from the other world) are still being used in Iraq. He spoke with a police officer in Baghdad who admits that everyone knows that they don't work but that the police are under orders to use the wands.
Last Saturday, NINA reported, "Leader of the Sadrist Trend, Muqtada al-Sadr, demanded Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to apologize and stand before Parliament to answer about the deal of the explosives detection instruments." Moqtada suspects some Iraqis were bribed in this deal and wants names he also demands that the 'magic' wands stop being used immediately stating that they are "an insult to the Iraqis' intelligence." Moqtada and Iraqiya have called for Nouri to appear before Parliament and explain why the wands were purchased, who profited from them and the various details of the deal that was made for them.
Al Mada reports that the Ministry of the Interior claimed today that they would recover all the money spent on the magic wands. Ministry of the Interior Inspector General Aqeel Turaihi states that they have known and acknowledged since October 2010 that the magic wands do not work.
Regardless of whether money is recovered for the purchase, as Moqtada al-Sadr points out, lives have been lost and people have been injured. The violence continues today. National Iraqi News Agency reports Mohammed al-Rawi (Director of the Statutes Civil Dept in al-Qaim) was shot dead in Anbar Province, a Diyala Province car bombing left a wife and husband injured, and a Babil Province sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured. All Iraq News reports an armed clash in Mosul that left 1 police officer and 3 rebels dead and, in southern Mosul, police shot dead 1 rebel. Al Jazeera notes a bombing targeting the al-Sultan mosque in Mahaweel. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports 3 people were killed in the bombing and seven more injured.
Alsumaria reports that Sayed Ahmed Safi, speaking on behalf of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for the government to speed up the release of monetary compensation to those victims of the ongoing floods. Yesterday, Alsumaria noted that the dams in Gazzanh and Mandall are reaching their max with an estimated two million cubic meters of water having been added in the last days. Also yesterday a helicopter attempting to evacuate families trpped by the floods has crashed in Wasit Province. KUNA noted that the helicopter "hit a communication tower." Wednesday the Iraqi Red Crescent Society announced that in addition to food, over 1200 hot meals, and other forms of relief including putting up 650 tents for families in the provinces of Maysan and Wasit. In this video, Alsumaria reports on the flooding and that fifteen villages are trapped by the floods. Dhi Qar's government announced that 300 homes have been destroyed.
Along with the immediate impact of the floods, there are other impacts that we'll be felt in the coming weeks and months. Alsumaria notes that Diwaniyah Province asserts that the floods are leading to the loss of 150,000 acres of wheat and barley. All Iraq News explains Iraiqya MP Raad al-Dahlaki is stating that all sides of the government are responsible, "All sides hold the responsibility over damaging the crops due to the lack of the real infrastructures. The floods are expected to happen and their should be plans to face such a disaster."
Wednesday All Iraq News reported that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's medical team insists that there has been no change in his condition. Talabani suffered a stroke. The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany. He remains in Germany currently. As I stated earlier this week, I had no idea what the medical team's announcement ment. Generally, when a statement like that is issued, it's to quell talk (real or false rumors) that a patient has taken a turn for the worse. The Iraqi press has not had any such rumors about Jalal. Why the medical team has elected to issue a statement that Jalal's condition remains the same is a mystery. That was Wednesday. Today in Iraq there are rumors that Talabani has passed away. All Iraq News notes that the PUK's Najm al-Din Karim declared today that the rumors are false and that "Talabani enjoys good health and has continuous improvement" and "Talabani's health continues to improve day after day."
Monday, All Iraq News reports, "The delegation of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by the Iraqi President's wife Hero Ibrahim Ahmed Talabani, met with the Secretary General of the Iranian National Security, Saeed Jalili, [to discuss] the latest political developments in Iraq." Wednesday, , National Iraqi News Agency reported that she has no designs on the presidency and that there was no "talk, during her visit to Tehran, about replacement for the presidency of the Republic of Iraq" or even for someone else to head the PUK (Jalal currently is the Secretary General of the party). She stated that her visit was nothing more than honoring a formal request for a meeting which the Islamic Republic of Iran had made.
In the months Jalal has been out of Iraq, the political crises have only worsened and tensions increased further. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports:
Usama Nujaifi, a Sunni who is speaker of the parliament, said the government was pushing Sunnis to the brink. "The conditions for a civil war are present now," Nujaifi said. "The first person responsible is the prime minister."
A former Sunni fighter who goes by the name Abu Selim said Hawija and subsequent violence had given new life to armed groups that had been less active in recent years, including the Iraqi affiliate of Al Qaeda, the Baathist-inspired Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist-led Islamic Army.
"The Islamic insurgent groups had lost their mission … they were just waiting for an instance to take over again under an attractive banner," he said. "Hawija was the zero hour they were waiting for."
The site of a massacre last month. Dropping back to the May 7th snapshot:
The Australian carries a wire service report which quotes UNICEF's Iraq representative Marzio Babille stating that "all boys between the ages of 14 and 17 -- several were said to have received severe gunshot wounds." What's Babille speaking of? The April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP has been reporting 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. Over the weekend, UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured). AKI notes that the youngest killed at the protest was a 13-year-old and that all who were killed died from gunshot wounds. Yassin al-Sabawi (Kirkuk Now) reports, "The administration council of Hawija has halted their duties as a tribute to the violence but the schools and service establishments are open." Ali Abel Sadah (Al-Monitor) notes another response, youths are arming themselves in Anbar, Kirkuk and Mosul "to protect protesters, should they be subjected to an attack similar to the one that occured in Hawija." Sadah adds that "carrying weapons is necessary, according to tribal traditions in Iraq. After tribal members are killed, their relatives believe they have to avenge their death and defend their peers."
Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) reports on the realities in Iraq post-Hawija:
Tensions spread into other provinces but after some further fighting, the conflict is officially supposed to be at an end. This may be so but according to confidential documents sighted by NIQASH, significant numbers of well-equipped peshmerga forces have moved into troubled areas like Hawija, Tikrit and Yayji. Many of these places are part of Iraq’s disputed territories here – that is, terrain that Iraqi Kurdistan says belongs to its semi-autonomous state but that the government in Baghdad believes is part of Iraq proper. The peshmerga appear to have taken the opportunity afforded them by incidents in Hawija to move into some of these areas.
Meanwhile the commander of the controversial Tigris Operation Command, part of the Iraqi army here, wants the peshmerga to withdraw. And his memos appear to indicate that he is ready to confront the peshmerga if they do not move out of areas that he feels his Tigris Operation Command is supposed to oversee. The documents sighted by NIQASH say that the Iraqi army’s 12th brigade was instructed to watch what the peshmerga were doing and that if they did anything out of the ordinary, the brigade was to stop them.
Speaking anonymously, one officer from the Tigris Operations Command told NIQASH that, “we asked the peshmerga to withdraw from where they’ve recently deployed to, in order to ease tensions. We’ve received information that peshmerga have come into areas like Tikrit, Hawija and Yayji, dressed as local police and with the cooperation of local security forces,” he explained. “And that concerned us because it means they’ve exceeded their powers.”
Since it was formed in July last year, the Tigris Operations Command has been controversial, as Iraqi Kurdish forces accused it of being another way that the Iraqi government was trying to take power in disputed territories like Kirkuk.
In the past, these flashpoints between Nouri's forces have been difficult to resolve, to say the least.
We're dropping back to the July 26, 2011 snapshot for more on this issue:
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops." The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer. If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report. CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor. (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.) Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years. And had outside actors. The authors acknowledge:
Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops. While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war. They don't want it solved. The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them. However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake. So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over. Greed trumps loyalty is the message. (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007. Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven." Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time. They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq." It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
When that report was written, it should be noted, the Tigris Operation Command did not exist. Nouri created it last year -- and did so without the approval of Parliament.
As Ann noted last night, this week's reports from Niqash also include an in-depth look at the provincial elections last month in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Daoud al-Ali explains:
The results of Iraq’s provincial elections are in – and they are far from conclusive. While the ruling State of Law bloc still leads, it’s clearly not as popular as it was. And various alliances are being built to challenge it further.
The initial results of Iraq’s recent provincial elections were announced by the country’s Independent High Electoral Commission or IHEC, the body responsible for conducting and overseeing the elections, on May 4.
And while the actual voting involved a fairly lacklustre polling day it seems the results may make for more interesting politics as major parties must seek coalition partners for local government.
The results have yet to be finalized as various appeals have yet to be heard. But it seems clear that there will some changes ahead in provincial government. Provincial authorities are influential in their own areas, having some control over security, economic development – and thereby, jobs – and how federal funds are used.
Let's move over to the US. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. Her office issued the following today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 10, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Senator Murray’s Statement on Governor Inslee’s Executive Order to Support Veterans
(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, former Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released the following statement applauding Governor Jay Inslee’s Executive Order promoting the hiring of veterans in Washington state.
“Far too many of the brave men and women who have served our country return home without receiving the benefits and help they deserve, so I applaud Governor Inslee for his leadership to support veterans here in Washington state.
“Veterans have the leadership ability, discipline, and technical skills to thrive in our 21st century workforce, but too many remain unemployed for months and years after they return home.
“This Executive Order will ensure that our state agencies support the hiring of veterans for key positions, and thanks to the newly formed Washington Military Transition Council, veterans in Washington state will have better access to the federal resources available to them.
“Governor Inslee has taken the lead to support our veterans, and I encourage businesses across our state to take advantage of the incredible skills that these brave men and women have to offer.”
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
There will be a lot of veterans in the coming years and not just because of the drawdown in Iraq (not withdrawal) and the expected drawdown in Afghanistan. There are a lot of wars the US is engaged in including The Drone War.
Sherwood Ross (Veterans Today) reported on The Drone War this week explaining:
U.S. drone strikes are creating cadres of anti-American fighters, furious over the killing and wounding of thousands of civilians.
Far from the drone attacks being “on a very tight leash,” as President Obama claimed, they have generated widespread terror across Muslim populations in the attack regions as they disrupt civilian lives and activities, literally driving people mad, reliable authorities state.
According to an article in the UK Guardian, the Pakistani ambassador to the UN Zamir Akram charged that more than 1,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes. The use of drones, he said, “leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.” Other estimates put the Pakistan death toll from drone attacks as much higher---between 2,000 and 3,500 killed.
Author Gregory Johnsen told McClatchy News Service the drones attacks in Yemen are “exacerbating and expanding” resistance. “We have seen AQAP (al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula) expanding from 200-300 fighters in 2009, when the U.S. bombing campaign began, to more than 1,000 fighters today.” Johnsen is author of The Last Refuge, a new book on Yemen and al-Qaida.
And retired Marine General James Cartwright told The Nation magazine the drones cause anger, bitterness, and resentment among Muslim populations and predicted their use will cause “blowback” attacks against America.
Today on Morning Edition, listeners got a chance to sort of hear former Air Force pilot Brendan Bryant talk about The Drone War:
We fired the missile, and 1.2 seconds after the missile fires, it sonic booms. And so the sonic boom gets there before the missile does. And the guy in the rear hears this, and he runs forward to the two guys in the front, and then the missile hits. And after the smoke clears, there's a crater there. You can see body parts of the people. But the guy who was running from rear to the front, his left leg had been taken off above the knee, and I watched him bleed out. The blood rapidly cooled to become the same color as the ground, because we were watching this in infrared. Then I eventually watched the guy become the same color as the ground that he died on. In my own mind, I thought these guys could've been local people that had to protect themselves, and I think we jumped the gun.
Sort of hear? While you can understand and follow the above very easily, on the broadcast it -- and every other remark from Bryant -- was repeatedly broken up with 'commentary' from David Greene and Kelly McEvers.
No one interrupted Kelly -- or corrected her -- when she offered this false information as a 'conclusion' to the 'report', "I think if you ask people, well, would you rather have boots on the ground or would you rather have something that does it with such low risk, they would probably choose the latter."
It's a false choice. It's as if saying that we can address a crime by killing the person with the electric chair or by killing the person with lethal injection. There are many other options. And that's true of The Drone War as well. It can be -- and should be -- ended. But Kelly McEvers sells war. She sells war on Syria, she sells The Drone War. And that's what got her the current audition spot to be a weekend anchor on NPR.
Early today Jonathan Karl (Good Morning America, ABC News -- link is text and video) revealed that despite White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisting that the talking points Susan Rice would use on five different Sunday morning programs came from the CIA, this is not true. The talking points were regarding the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012 which claimed the lives of Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens and Tyrone Woods. Karl reports ABC has 12 different drafts of the talking points and that it appears that "edits were made with extensive input from the State Department." These including deleting references to terrorists including past threats on Benghazi.
It's worth now dropping back to the House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi Wednesday. The hearing was covered in that day's snapshot, Ava covered it with "Crazies on the Committee (Ava)," Kat with "If today were a movie . . .," Wally with "Biggest Coward at today's Committee hearing" and Ruth, who's owned this topic from the beginning in this community, covered it with "An order to stand down." The biggest coward in the hearing, according to Waly, was US House Rep John Tierney who was not only cowardly but dishonest as he insisted that "The Fact Checker" (the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler) had named Committee Chair Issa "The Whopper." No, that didn't happen but honesty and facts aren't John Tierney's strong suit. Let's drop back to Wednesday's hearing. Gregory Hicks is the Foreign Service Officer. James Clapper is the Director of National Intelligence. Though Princess John Tierney insists upon calling him "General," he's not a general. He was one. He's retired. He's taken the job of Director of National Intelligence and if that job -- and its title -- is beneath him, he needs to resign. Barring that, his title is Director (not general).
US House Rep John Tierney: But the mention of the demonstration was put into talking points by the intelligence committee -- not the White House or the State Department. So I want to play a little video here if we can of General Clapper where he specifically addresses the attacks on Ambassador Rice. We have that cued up.
Footage of Senator Carl Levin: And when she was highly for following them what was your feeling inside? Your own personal belief. Did you think it was fair that she was criticized --
Footage of Director James Clapper: Well I thought it was, uh, I thought it was unfair because, uh, uhm, you know the hits she took, I-I didn't think that was, uh, appropriate and-and she was going on what we had given her and, uhm, the -- that was our-our best judgment at the time of what-what should have been said.
Footage of Senator Carl Levin: Thank you.
US House Rep John Tierney: So General Clapper says he thinks the attacks on, uhm, Ambassador Rice run fair, she was using exactly what the intelligence community gave her. Mr. Hicks, do you have an argument with his veracity when he made those statements?
Gregory Hicks: There was no report from the US mission in Libya of a demonstration --
US House Rep John Tierney: The difficult question I have for you is, you're good enough to come forward, is do you contest General Clapper's veracity? Is he lying or is he telling the truth of what information he gave Ambassador Rice?
Gregory Hicks: I don't know anything about the development of those talking points.
US House Rep John Tierney: So look, we-we haven't investigated this issue yet. You know, it would be interesting to know. But the House Intelligence Committee has. They got all of the draft talking points. They got the briefings and the testimonies from CIA officials. According to Adam Schiff, one of the representatives that's on -- part of that investigation, he said, and I quote, "General Peteraeus, the former head of the CIA, made it clear that the change was made to protect classified sources of information, not to spin it, not to politicize it, and it wasn't done at the direction of the White House."
Tierney wanted to make Hicks look stupid. Hicks doesn't look stupid today, does he. He admitted he knew nothing about the talking points.
Tierney couldn't shut up about them. Adam Schiff (who infamously didn't want then-CIA Director David Petraeus to testify before Congress about Benghazi) says that there was no effort to politicize it. And that's good enough for Tierney.
Too bad Adm Schiff's 'evaluation skills' don't stand up to reality.
Jonathan Karl quotes from an e-mail State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland (who's supposed to be promoted shortly to be over Europe) e-mailed the White House that if the information was left in it "could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?"
So the American people were lied to repeatedly because Victoria Nuland decided that the truth was embarrassing to the State Department. How did US House Rep Adam Schiff miss that?
Tierney looks like a bigger idiot today than he did on Wednesday -- and who would have thought that was possible?
Kelly O'Donnell and Carrie Dann (NBC News) explain they've backed up ABC News' claims, "On Friday, NBC News confirmed that the White House, with input from State Department officials, had edited talking points about the Benghazi attacks 12 times in the hours following the incident. Those edits included a scrubbing of references to terrorist warnings as well as to the al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia." Oren Dorrell (USA Today) reports:
A top State Department official pressed the CIA and the White House to delete any mention of terrorism in public statements on the Benghazi terror attack to prevent critics from blaming lax security at the consulate, according to documents obtained by ABC News.
The information "goes right to the heart of what the White House continues to deny," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told USA TODAY. "For eight months they denied there's any manipulation, but this continues to shed light on something that was never true."
Donna Cassata (AP) explains, "Deleted from the final talking points were mention of al-Qaida, the experience of fighters in Libya and Islamic extremists, according to the congressional official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the emails that have not been released." Sharyl Attkisson (CBS News) provides a detailed time line of the various drafts of the talking points. It's worth pointing out that Susan Rice received the early versions so, yes, she lied when she went on TV. Attkisson's story makes it clear that Rice wasn't the victim of bad information. She was privy to the editing that was taking place and she still went on five networks and told a cute little story that wasn't accurate. Ruth calls out one of the Rice apologists/excusers at her site tonight so look for that. Jim Acosta, Jessica Yellin and Elise Labott (CNN) also note that Rice received the very first draft and was advised on Saturday about deletions.
"Why is this important?" asks Peter Grier (Christian Science Monitor). "It’s important because the White House has long denied that administration officials made anything other than cosmetic changes to those talking points." Or as Alex Koppelman (New Yorker) puts it:
It’s a cliche, of course, but it really is true: in Washington, every scandal has a crime and a coverup. The ongoing debate about the attack on the United States facility in Benghazi where four Americans were killed, and the Obama Administration’s response to it, is no exception. For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession. But now there is something to it.
Mark Mardell (BBC News) concludes:
As Ms Nuland puts it, such a report "could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?"
However you read the motives, the state department and apparently the White House did get the CIA to change its story.
This is now very serious, and I suspect heads will roll. The White House will be on the defensive for a while.
As CBS News notes White House spokesperson Jay Carney insisted today that the White House wasn't hiding anything. Of course that's not true. For example, the White House press briefing today started over an hour late. Why? Because the White House was providing what was supposed to be an off the record background briefing. They were telling reporters their 'version' of 'the truth' but doing so in a format that prevents reporters from quoting them. In other words, they were a creating a template for the press to use. You only do that when you're hiding something or, as Justin Sink (The Hill) puts it, "Carney's efforts to assure reporters that the White House had nothing to hide were partially undercut by a background briefing conducted with just 14 news outlets earlier Friday afternoon." David Martosko (Daily Mail) reports that 14 reporters were part of the off the record background briefing. As Keith Koffler (White House Dossier) points out, the meeting was supposed to be a secret:
But the White House apparently also asked reporters to keep the meeting itself secret.
The White House should not hold large, secret meetings with reporters, and reporters should not agree to do them. The White House should not attempt to hide that it is trying to influence the press. And reporters should not be engaging in secret meetings at the White House. It’s just too contrary to the press’s mission of openness.
Lesley Clark (McClatchy Newspapers) notes the background briefing delayed the scheduled press briefing, "The White House has said it's editing was minimal, but the briefing was originally scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Then it was 1:45 p.m. -- and now, it's 3:15 p.m." The revelations were raised at the US State Dept press briefing today. We'll note part of the exchange CNN's Elise Labott had with State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell.
Elise Labott: Just to finish that, to close the loop on the first question --
Patrick Ventrell: Yep.
Elise Labott: -- but when Victoria Nuland, in the email – and she said “leadership,” who does that refer to when she was, like, we need changes because of the leadership?
Patrick Ventrell: I mean, again, I can’t speak to every word that’s been cherry-picked from these emails, but I can tell you as a spokesperson myself and the way that we do interagency talking points --
Elise Labott: They’re full quotes; they’re not really necessarily words that are cherry-picked. I mean, the emails are out there themselves. I mean, it’s not --
Patrick Ventrell: Well, again, excerpts of various emails have been taken --
Elise Labott: And you feel that – do you feel that if we were able to read the emails in their entirety, they would show some kind of context that we would understand?
Patrick Ventrell: Well, of course, the emails were only one piece of the wider interagency discussion of this. And so when you take them, and snippets of them, it can be taken out of context.
Elise Labott: Well, why don’t --
Patrick Ventrell: And let me clarify, Elise. The things that I made clear, and one of the things that doesn’t necessarily come across in the snippets that have been out there, is specifically that we in the Spokesperson’s Office were looking at them as talking points for members of the House at that time. There’s a wider interagency discussion about how they were developed and how the intelligence community makes their assessments. That’s a different question. So --
Elise Labott: I mean, does it matter if they were for Ambassador Rice or if they were for Congress? I mean, talking points are pretty much just like your basic knowledge of the situation and how you want to message it, right?
Patrick Ventrell: Again, I think that’s part of the point of – in terms of us at the spokesperson’s level, some of the tactical assessments are made about who’s speaking and what’s been said prior, and when we’re preparing to go to the podium after we haven’t been for a weekend, sometimes what’s going to be said out there will affect how we’re going to brief later. So those are the kind of tactical concerns we raise at a Spokesperson’s Office, and when you say you’re raising it up, that means that some of the policy makers are also going to be taking a look at it.
I can’t speak in this specific case to the exact context of who’s being referred to, but in general terms, when we as public affairs officers or spokespeople inside of an organization are negotiating online, sometimes we make additional reference to other individuals or other policy makers. So that’s the context that I can provide in general terms about how we operate as press spokespeople. And we very frequently have discussions, whether it’s over email or other format, about what are the – not only the best language to use but the best tactics in terms of explaining what we’re talking about to journalists and to others and to the American people.
Elise Labott: You seem to suggest that the emails that – just reading snippets of the emails don’t really fully and accurately describe the concerns that you had. So why not just release the full emails, that the full emails will show that this wasn’t about some kind cover-up?
Patrick Ventrell: Well, first to say on that, Elise, we’ve shared these emails with the Congress --
Elise Labott: I know --
Patrick Ventrell: -- but let me finish – and that’s been part of their concern, was to see a number of these documents, which we’ve shared – thousands of documents, indeed, including these. In terms of any redaction that would be necessary in an entire email chain in terms of sensitive or personally identifiable information or other things that go through the standard redaction process to make public release, that’s a separate process that goes through the lawyers and I can’t speak to that on an individual document. But suffice it to say, to be transparent with the Congress who had – who wanted some of this information, we shared it with the Congress. Okay?
So the takeaway from the State Dept press briefing? To quote the e-mails is to "cherry pick" from them. To release the e-mails? The State Dept then insists that there were these conversations going on around the e-mails that aren't captured in the e-mails so even that wouldn't provide an accurate picture. The State Dept appears to have a huge problem with accuracy.
Ed Pilkington (Guardian) points out, "The media swirl around the talking point emails puts Carney himself into a tight spot. In a press briefing last November, he told reporters that the extent of White House and State Department involvement in editing the talking points was a "single adjustment" to change the word 'consulate' to 'diplomatic facility' as the building in Benghazi that came under attack was not a US consulate."
Yesterday, John Glaser (Antiwar.com) offered his guess on the cover-up:
I can only speculate, but my best guess is that they wanted to avoid the political costs of another terrorist attack on American interests that was only made possible because of the U.S.-NATO bombing war in Libya aimed at toppling the Gadhafi regime. The decision to change the regime in Libya and excite the civil war had long-ranging consequences, from destabilizing the entire north African region to bolstering the presence and influence of al-Qaeda affiliated groups.
According to a book written by former Navy SEAL Jack Murphy and former Army Ranger Brandon Webb, the Benghazi attack was retaliation for the secret raids Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan directing on militias in Libya at the time.
Last night on Erin Burnett OutFront (CNN), US Senator Rand Paul told Erin:
I never have quite understood the cover up or if it was intentional or incompetence. But something went on. I mean they had talking points like they were trying to make it out to be about a movie when everybody seemed to be on the ground telling them it had nothing to do with a movie. I don't know if this was for political reasons. I've always actually suspected although I have no evidence that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria. In the week preceding this, the New York Times has reported that there was a Turkish ship taking Libyan arms and giving them to Syrians. And they interviewed the commander of the boat, the captain of the boat talked about the supplies. I don't know were they trying to obscure that there was an arms operation going on the CIA annex? I'm not sure exactly what was going on but I think the questions ought to be asked and answered.
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