Barack's still looking for a skirt to hide behind. Lindsey Boerma (CBS News) reports US President Barack Obama made a statement today "flanked by" House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner. It was all a for-show fakery. Pelosi supports an attack on Syria "and expects Congress to vote the request through, she believes the American people still need to hear more about the intelligence on the ground in Syria." Has all the plastic surgery finally effected her brain? It didn't have to be that way. Not just because she didn't need to have all that work done but also because we, in the eighth district had a choice, a better choice, in 2008 when Cindy Sheehan ran for the seat. While Nancy babbles on about how the American people just need a little information, Cindy strongly calls out the proposal:
The President of the USA, aka, Able Servant of Empire, claims that his planned assault on Syria will be “limited” and he won’t order any “boots on the ground” as if he is angling for praise from the almost non-existent antiwar movement and/or to prove that he really earned that Noble Peace Prize!
Besides the fact that the US now has troops on the ground in 35 African countries; destroyed Libya for regime change; is bombing “al Qaeda” in Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; AND is already arming and training “al Qaeda” in Syria, the Able Servant of Empire is chomping at the bit of more mass murder to launch a Tomahawk missile attack on Syria.
My friend Ann Wright, who is a retired Colonel, US Army and a former diplomat who resigned when the US invaded Iraq in 2003, wrote in this piece about what could be the possible consequences of Obama’s “limited” assault on Syria:
Use her link to go to Ann Wright's piece, right now we're going back to the fake event today. Justin Sink (The Hill) notes a petulant Barack whined, "This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan." Today at the Senate hearing, Senator Barbara Boxer declared of comparing Iraq to Barack's Syria attack, " I believe it's a totally false comparison."
Well it is a bit shaky but not for the reasons that the sad Boxer gave (she supports an attack on Syria). The real difference is the levels of stupidity. The crooks behind the start of that war were idiots. But, clearly, they were much smarter than Barack Obama. Friday, Hannah Allam and Mark Seibel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "The Obama administration’s public case for attacking Syria is riddled with inconsistencies and hinges mainly on circumstantial evidence, undermining U.S. efforts this week to build support at home and abroad for a punitive strike against Bashar Assad’s regime." Victor Wallace (Open Media Boston) goes over the lies being used to push for an attack:
First, the particular charge that the Assad forces have engaged in chemical attacks is dubious. The opposition forces have been militarily dependent on foreign fighters. The regime has been gaining the upper hand in combat. It invited the UN inspectors in, and could have no interest in carrying out an attack for which they would then be able to establish its culpability. [See http://shoebat.com/2013/08/27/evidence-syrian-rebels-used-chemical-weapo... and http://www.infowars.com/rebels-admit-responsibility-for-chemical-weapons... ] The opposition, being at a military disadvantage, could hope for success only by creating a scenario of chaos within which an all-out PR campaign blaming Assad could set the stage for external military intervention. The unseemly haste reflected in Obama’s call for an attack without waiting for the UN inspectors’ report is consistent with this interpretation.
Second, whatever the truth of the chemical-warfare charge, it is disingenuous for the US government to set itself up as an arbiter in such matters, given its own past complicity in chemical attacks (supplying Iraq with chemical weaponry in the 1980s; later using phosphorus against Iraq [Fallujah, 2004] and supporting Israel in its use of the same substance in the 2008-9 assault on Gaza). Evidently, whether or not chemical warfare should be condemned depends on who applies it. In other words, it can’t be the real reason for the planned US attack.
Third, independently of the rationale (i.e., even if the accusations against Assad were true), the idea that missile attacks on the country would constitute a remedy makes no sense. While they might indeed weaken the Assad regime and eventually make possible its overthrow (as happened with the Gaddafi regime in Libya), the outcome would be one of chaos and amplified suffering. Among the “victorious” opposition, the upper hand would go not to any democratic civilian organization but rather to whoever was best armed. This might suit US policymakers, but it makes a mockery of their proclaimed (democratic) values.
It is important that we try to persuade Congress to vote down Obama’s call for a military attack on Syria. [See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/norman-solomon/obama-will-launch-a-huge_b_... ] But our arguments will be stronger if we can at the same time demonstrate that the premises behind his proposal are false.
Also calling out Barack's roll out of lies was Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey (Pravda):
Remember the declarations made by the United States of America that the Syrian government was "stalling" and not allowing the UN inspection team to carry out its work? While Secretary Kerry was making these declarations, the US government was informing the Syrians that the team did not have the conditions to enter the area under investigation. Then Kerry himself said the investigation came too late to be credible. To note: as soon as it received a request for the inspection team to visit the site, the Syrian government implemented an immediate ceasefire and granted unimpeded access. This, in the words of the US State Department, amounts to "destruction of evidence".
Moral of the story: do not believe a word John Kerry says; imagine a barefaced liar in charge of a country's diplomacy. Why, in 2011, Kerry was calling Bashar al-Assad "a very generous man" no doubt remembering the dinner he and his wife shared with the Assads two years previously, smiling politely at each other around the table.
Has the Obama administration informed its citizens of its funding and arming of the Syrian opposition, which includes terrorists with links to al-Qaeda? Has it explained its plans for military action? Does anyone really believe that it will amount to a few cruise missiles or more obviously, will it not be a campaign to topple the Syrian Government and turn the country into a haven for al-Qaeda?
Are the American Catholics aware of the official position of the Vatican, blasting the western powers, claiming there was no evidence against President Assad in the Ghouta attack and taking a firm stand against military intervention?
At Iraq Inquiry Digest, Andrew Mason notes:
Reported nearly a week ago by Kenneth Timmerman, a recognised authority on Middle Eastern military affairs, and published by the Daily Caller, a relatively new and successful entrant into the world of online reporting operating in the same sphere as the Huffington Post before it, this piece may explain why President Obama has taken the decision he has, to delay any US military action against the Syrian regime until such time as Congress returns on September 9 and further debates the situation.
The Obama administration has selectively used intelligence to justify military strikes on Syria, former military officers with access to the original intelligence reports say, in a manner that goes far beyond what critics charged the Bush administration of doing in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war.What is quite unusual about this account is that it hasn’t been more widely picked up on and referred to elsewhere.
According to these officers, who served in top positions in the United States, Britain, France, Israel, and Jordan, a Syrian military communication intercepted by Israel’s famed Unit 8200 electronic intelligence outfit has been doctored so that it leads a reader to just the opposite conclusion reached by the original report.
The doctored report was leaked to a private Internet-based newsletter that boasts of close ties to the Israeli intelligence community, and led to news reports that the United States now had firm evidence showing that the Syrian government had ordered the chemical weapons attack on August 21 against a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus.
The doctored report was picked up on Israel’s Channel 2 TV on Aug. 24, then by Focus magazine in Germany, the Times of Israel, and eventually by The Cable in Washington, DC.
According to the doctored report, the chemical attack was carried out by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother.
However, the original communication intercepted by Unit 8200 between a major in command of the rocket troops assigned to the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division, and the general staff, shows just the opposite.
The general staff officer asked the major if he was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. From the tone of the conversation, it was clear that “the Syrian general staff were out of their minds with panic that an unauthorized strike had been launched by the 155th Brigade in express defiance of their instructions,” the former officers say.
According to the transcript of the original Unit 8200 report, the major “hotly denied firing any of his missiles” and invited the general staff to come and verify that all his weapons were present.
The report contains a note at the end that the major was interrogated by Syrian intelligence for three days, then returned to command of his unit. “All of his weapons were accounted for,” the report stated.
Nancy Pelosi thinks the American people need to hear these lies repeated louder and more often. As Patrick Martin (WSWS) observes, "President Obama’s announcement Saturday that he would seek congressional authorization for military strikes against Syria sets the stage for a two-week campaign of media propaganda and political intimidation. Its goal is to browbeat the American people into accepting yet another imperialist war in the Middle East." Along with noting the fakery of US House Rep Barbara Lee's 'action' 'against' an attack on Syria, John V. Walsh (Dissident Voice) points out:
In one way Obama's assault on Libya and now on Syria is worse than George W. Bush's war on Iraq. Bush at least took the time to lie to Congress. But such a lie to Congress is an indictable offense, and the lie is easily demonstrable if Congress marshals the likes of a Watergate hearing. So an impeachment move against Obama is also an opening for a move to indict Bush. And perhaps the unconstitutional assaults of Clinton on Sudan and Yugoslavia will be revisited. One can only hope.
It is time for all antiwarriors to champion the idea of impeachment and push for it now. The slogan might well be, "Impeach Obama. Indict Bush." It will not happen unless we demand it. And if we do not, we are acquiescing in the face of endless war.
Yesterday, Ryan Grim (Huffington Post) quoted Noam Chomsky weighing in on Barack's desire to attack Syria, "As international support for Obama's decision to attack Syria has collapsed, along with the credibility of government claims, the administration has fallen back on a standard pretext for war crimes when all else fails: the credibility of the threats of the self-designated policeman of the world." Meanwhile Shamus Cooke (at Iranian.com) calls out a large number of allegedly 'left' and 'antiwar' types who are nothing but Whores for Barack:
The most guilty parties who have aided and assisted Obama’s expected war plans will have blood-stained hands after the bombing begins. Perhaps the best example of this coterie is Van Jones, the former adviser to Obama who founded the Rebuild The Dream organization.
Many liberals took Jones’ “stand by our president” approach, even if it wasn’t stated as directly as Jones did, and even after “our president” was unable to present any sensible reason for waging another aggressive war in the Middle East.
A notch lower on the leftist spectrum of Syria war guilt is MoveOn.org, which has done everything in their power not to portray President Obama’s actions in their true light. But MoveOn had to take a more creative approach to covering up for Obama in Syria.
MoveOn organized a “teach-in” that was streamed on their website. The panel of speakers — with one exception — presented Obama’s position in a very evenhanded, “objective” way, presenting the president as an entirely reasonable person for wanting to bomb Syria, even if it might not be the best way to deal with the situation.
Instead of pointing out the flagrant similarities between Obama’s Syria war rationale and George Bush’s Iraq War lies, these similarities were papered over, thus legitimizing Obama’s criminal actions.
The worst Obama apologist on the panel was Matt Duss from the Center for American Progress, who explained that, although he was against a war on Syria, he “respects” that “other progressives of good faith may come to a different view.”
Phyllis Bennis from the Institute of Policy Studies was the only consistent anti-war panelist, who appeared as a fringe element when compared to the rest of the panel, only because she offered a common sense, consistent anti-war message.
The teach-in ended with a “what can we do” segment to influence the situation. Instead of mobilizing in the streets against Obama, the panelists discussed “contacting congressmen,” “calling the White House’s comment line,” “tweeting,” “email,” “petitions,” but no call was made for doing what was done against Bush: mobilize people in the streets to demand that the war be stopped.
MoveOn further exposed their pro-Obama, pro-war attitude on the website, where for days the featured petition being promoted was titled: “President Obama: Don’t Strike Syria Without Congressional Approval.”
Again, there is no basis for any strike on Syria, period — Congressional approval or otherwise. Even if Congress doesn’t approve Obama’s actions in Syria, it’s likely that he’ll attack Syria anyway, just as happened in Libya after Congress refused authorization.
David Swanson (War Is A Crime) observes:
Back in 2007, the Congressional Progressive Caucus helped organize 90 Congress members to commit to voting against war funding. Most of them turned around and voted for war funding. That was a high point for the CPC. Since then, its commitments -- such as to vote against corporate healthcare -- have hardly been taken seriously, and so it's hardly been news when most members have gone back on their commitments.
The CPC has shifted in recent years away from pretending to take a stand on things, and instead toward issuing statements full of non-committal rhetoric. That, too, is now a stage in the devolution of the CPC to which we can look back with nostalgia.
The CPC, on the question of a new war on Syria, is choosing to do nothing at all. In fact, one of its two co-chairs is actively promoting war. Compare this whip list with this list of CPC members. You'll notice that virtually no members of the House of Representatives have taken any position on whether or not to attack Syria. That includes most of those who claimed they wanted the president to allow a vote, as the Constitution requires. The same is true for the CPC: virtually nobody has a position.
Those firmly committed to attacking Syria, in the House, include four Republicans, five non-CPC Democrats, and CPC Co-Chair Keith Ellison. Those firmly committed against this madness include 10 Republicans, three non-CPC Democrats, and four CPC Democrats.
Ellison was first elected as an opponent of war and an advocate for impeaching George W. Bush for the crime of war, but reversed his positions immediately upon election. He just recently responded to pressure from Veterans For Peace in Minnesota and introduced into the Congressional Record acknowledgment that the Kellogg-Briand Pact bans all war. He then turned around and threw his support in behind the next war.
Congressional approval is required, read the Constitution. But Congressional authorization does not provide legality on the international stage. As IPS analyst Phyllis Bennis noted repeatedly last week on KPFA's Up Front with Guest Host Philip Maldari (Tuesday, Democracy Now! on Wednesday, CCTV and FAIR's Counterspin on Friday -- only one body can give legal authorization for the attack. We'll quote her from her discussion with Peter Hart on Counterspin:
Phyllis Bennis: Only if the [United Nations] Security Council votes to endorse the use of force is the use of force legal. No other agency, institution, organization has that right. So the Kosovo precedent that you refer to and that unfortunately this is being talked about in the press. It's being asserted that if the Security Council doesn't agree, there are other options. Yeah, there are other options. The problem is they're all illegal. The Kosovo model was illegal. What the US did in 1999, when it wanted to bomb, to start an air war against Serbia over Kosovo, realized it would not get support of the Security Council because Russia had said it would veto. So instead of saying, 'Well okay we don't have support of the Security Council, I guess we can't do it,' they said, 'Okay, we won't go to the Security Council, we'll simply go to the NATO High Command and ask their permission.' Well, what a surprise, the NATO High Command said 'sure.' It's like the hammer and the nail. If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you're NATO everything looks like it requires military intervention. The problem is, under international law, the UN charter is the fundamental component under international law that determines issues of war and peace. And the charter doesn't say that the Security Council or NATO or the President of the United States can all decide over the use of force. The only agency that can legally approve the use of force is the Security Council of the United Nations. Period. Full stop.
Ban Ki-Moon is the Secretary General of the United Nations. RTE notes that, as Phyllis Bennis has, the Secretary General states "use of force is only legal when it is in self-defense or with UN Security Council authorisation." Whitney Cox (Ground Report) examines a Media and Public Opinion Research poll to argue that "most Americans who favor intervention would prefer to do so with the UN's blessing."
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! -- link is text, audio and video) noted this morning, "Protests by antiwar groups against the proposed strike are continuing across the country and around the world." WECT reports, "The Wilmington Peace Group gathered at the intersection of South College Road and Oleander Drive to protest the potential involvement of the United States military in the ongoing conflict in Syria. The protest comes in light of President Barack Obama's request to Congress that U.S. military forces be sent to Syria." Kat Carlton (Indiana Public Media) covers a protest last night in Bloomington and quotes participant David Kepple, of The Bloomington Peace Action Coalition and Just Peace Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Church, stating "The important question is whether a strike can either protect Syrian civilians or stop weapons of mass destruction. It can do none of those, and it can embroil the United States in a much wider war that will engulf us for years."
Sunday, Ava and I noted the Saturday protest outside the White House, " While Barack was giving his speech Saturday, protesters could be found outside the White House. It's a shame that it took so long. Applause for A.N.S.W.E.R. and all the others present but grasp that what they finally achieved is still not of the size England saw on Wednesday." Ty says e-mails have come in asking why we're stressing A.N.S.W.E.R. when the article linked to only names CodeStink? Because A.N.S.W.E.R. was one of the two organizations responsible for it. Since that seems unclear, let's note Justin Mitchell (Voice of Russia) report published today:
The Hands off Syria protest was put on by two left-leaning activist organizations, the International Action Center and the ANSWER coalition. The organizers claimed protests were planned in dozens of cities across the country. Protests also took place in London and Germany.
The protestors were a mix of nationalities, ages, and political persuasions -- but they all agreed on one thing: avoiding foreign entanglements.
Kyle Phillips of Germantown, Maryland spoke for many of the protestors.
"I think the U.S. intervention would not help at all," Phillips said. "I think that we've proven time and time again that we can only hurt a country's people that live there, and that's what I'm worried about."
Phillips just wanted to see his country play a different role in the world. For others, such as Amal Esmail, the issue hit much closer to home.
"I have all my family [in Syria], I have my children here," Esmail told VOR. "I love the U.S.A. I love Syria. I don't want any conflict."
Though she carried the red, white and black flag of Bashar al-Assad's Syria as well as a posterboard with pictures depicting alleged rebel atrocities, Esmail said she did not necessarily support Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"The Syrian people over there should decide [who is in power]," she said. "I think that change is good, but not in this way."
Rebecca Myles has an audio report for Free Speech Radio News. Peter Rugh (Indypendent) notes that protest took place Saturday in over 50 cities across the country and he reports on the one held in Times Square:
Relaying Obama's speech through the human microphone method popularized by Occupy Wall Street, the crowd in Times Square reacted strongly to Obama's words. "Hey Barack, remember Iraq,” they chanted, and “We don't want no World War III, come on let Syria be!” – a reference to what could be the unintended consequences of starting a war in the Mideast region that could draw in Iran, Israel and Lebanon.
“We have no business out there,” said Noor, a Syrian-American student who attended the Times Square rally and did not give her last name for fear of retribution from war enthusiasts and/or U.S. law enforcement, who have targeted both Muslims and anti-war activists in recent years without evidence of wrongdoing.
Noor wanted her dissent registered, however, and noted that while Obama has condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for killing civilians in the two-years-long civil war, various factions of the rebel army challenging his regime — some linked to al-Qaeda — are accused of similar atrocities. Strikes on her country of origin would have more to do with “empire, greed and power,” she said.
Last Saturday's protest was not a one-off for A.N.S.W.E.R. They are planning more protests including this Saturday:
Now is the time for the people to step up pressure on Congress and demand that they vote NO to any resolution authorizing a military attack on Syria.
On Saturday, September 7, people are descending on Washington, D.C., for a major demonstration that will assemble at the White House and march on the Capitol Building as Congress returns to Washington, D.C., and prepares to vote. This demonstration is initiated by a broad ad hoc coalition called the Vote No War Against Syria Coalition. If you or your organization would like to be an endorser of the Sept. 7 demonstration, email email@example.com.
Those who can will stay over in Washington for daily demonstrations, and to maintain a round-the-clock visible anti-war presence at the U.S. Capitol building beginning Saturday, September 7 and continuing daily as Congress meets to take up and vote on the resolution.
A.N.S.W.E.R. will also hold protests around the country Saturday. In San Francisco, this Saturday the protest kicks off at noon at Chelsea Manning Plaza (Embarcadero). And good for the International Action Center, they're a part of these actions as well, I've just been told on the other phone, and A.N.S.W.E.R. and the IAC will be working jointly on this action -- click here for a list of protests planned for across the country.
We noted Barbara Boxer's nonsense today. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Syria today. A brief overview of the hearing. US Secretary of State John Kerry looks petty and bitchy when he deliberately mispronounces the name "Assad" -- Syria's President is Bashar al-Assad. Not only is it stupid and childish and was done (by Colin Powell, among others) with Saddam Hussein's name so that his first name became "Sodom," it's also stupid because Assad is a very common last name so when Kerry acts like a prick to insult the Syrian president, he's actually insulting a large number of Arabs -- and "Assad" is used as both a first name and a last name in Arab culture.
The Committee Chair is Robert Menendez and he attempted to get Kerry to agree that the Congress would be wise to put in a no-boots-on-the-ground clause if they gave authorization for an attack on Syria. Kerry didn't react, he over-reacted. He was opposed to it and claimed that if more action was needed, this would hurt the US. First off, Barack promised Saturday that there would be no boots on the ground. Kerry's part of the inside team so since he was ranting like a crazy man on this issue, it's clear that Barack has -- as Samantha Power famously noted in March 2008 -- told the people one thing while planning for something else.
John Kerry went too far. And was called on it by his team. Tip to John, you're not a Senator anymore.
He was a witness. But since he was in the Senate for so many years, he acted as though he were a Senator and not just in cutting off those asking him questions but also in forgetting to turn off his microphone. Witnesses are expected to turn their mikes on when it's time for them to speak and to turn them off after they answer a question. Kerry left his microphone on throughout the hearing, he never turned it off. Allowing a number of things that he probably didn't want broadcasted to be broadcast.
Stupid mistake. And those listening closely heard John Kerry being told to walk it back. This resulted in his missing the sucking up Senator Ben Cardin was doing but did allow him to quickly insist that he (now) wasn't opposed to some sort of compromise or agreement on the boots-on-the-ground issue.
He continually whined one point over and over.
And we're emphasizing it because it has to do with Iraq.
Kerry maintains Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons and he insist that "one of the reasons" for their use "is that the West, writ laege, and the United States are not going to do anything about it."
He also yammered on about all the foreign leaders he'd spoken to about this.
Really? Because that's above his pay level. He's not President of the United States. He gets that right? He's yammering away about conversations with the King of Jordan and others that he's been having for the last year.
Guess what, John Kerry?
You weren't tasked with that. If a military strike were needed, if a military option was desired, that's for the President and the Secretary of Defense to float to leaders and military officials of other countries.
John Kerry doesn't really think he's commander-in-chief, does he?
While he was busy pretending to be something other than the Secretary of State, he wasn't doing the job he was supposed to. That would be Iraq.
Did he forget who was in charge of the US mission in Iraq?
I know he knows it's not the Defense Dept because, in Barack's first term as president, John was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he heard from various State Dept officials about the budget, he advocated for the huge increase himself, because the State Dept was taking over the Iraq mission.
Iraq is falling apart. And, yes, that has to do with the inept State Dept which has repeatedly failed to provide oversight -- let alone follow the laws. Yes, laws are being broken, US laws, by the State Dept regarding Iraq.
Before we get to that, Sunday saw an attack in Iraq which led UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to issue a statement:
The Secretary-General deplores the tragic events in Camp Ashraf today that have reportedly left 47 killed. He expresses his sorrow and extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
The Secretary-General reiterates his full support for and his absolute confidence in the relentless work of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). He appeals for the urgent restoration of security in the Camp as it is the responsibility of the Government of Iraq to ensure the safety and security of the residents. The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Iraq to promptly investigate the incident and disclose the findings.
Tim Arango (New York Times) reported there was confusion about the exact details, "The Iraqi security officials said 15 people in the camp had been killed and more than 30 wounded, while representatives of the group, known as Mujahedeen Khalq, or the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, said more than 50 people had been killed." Adam Schreck (AP) reports today that the United Nations just confirmed the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents. Al Mada noted yesterday that Nouri's declared he should be over the Iraqi investigation since he's commander-in-chief. And that's exactly why he shouldn't be over it. Are we really surprised that the concepts of "independence" and "integrity" would escape Nouri? Today the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a statement which included:
Reiterating his previous statement, the UN Envoy expressed his outrage at the brutal killing of the camp’s residents. Mr. Busztin took note of the statement issued by the Government of Iraq announcing it has initiated its own investigation into the tragic events and acknowledging its responsibility for the safety of the camp’s residents. “I call on the Iraqi government to ensure that a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into this atrocious crime is conducted without delay and that the results of the investigation are made public”, he said.
What does this have to do with the US government?
Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp attacked twice. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Those weren't the last attacks. They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept. (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.) In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions." So the US has an obligation to protect the residents. 3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf. They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part. A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.
February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah. Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured. Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."
What did Kerry say today about al-Assad? Oh, right, that the chemical attack happened, "one of the reasons," was because "the West, writ laege, and the United States are not going to do anything about it." Would John Kerry care to tell the American people what, if any, message the State Dept conveyed to Nouri when Nouri's forces (on his orders, let's not kid) yet again attacked the Ashraf community back in February?
By Kerry's 'logic,' Sunday's attack could only have happened because the West didn't have a strong response to the attack. Under the Geneva Conventions, the US government remains responsible for the Ashraf community until they are out of Iraq.
The UNAMI statement today also noted:
Underscoring the utmost volatility of the situation, as Camp Ashraf does not provide an adequate level of security for its residents, Mr. Busztin affirmed that “until the camps residents are relocated to safety, all measures must be taken to protect their lives”.
Yes, that is correct. It's also correct that the White House wants nothing to do with the residents. Well then get them out of Iraq. Once that happens, the US government's legal obligation expires. This is a State Dept issue, getting them out of Iraq. This was made clear in the court battle that took place when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
Maybe if John Kerry and his staff hadn't spent the last year (and he appeared to mean 2012 and 2013 in other remarks to the Committee today but we'll just say a year) attempting to sell other nations on a military attack on Syria, he could have done the job he's actually responsible for.
We're going to go in another direction for the next part and set the Ashraf community and the violence done to them to the side to offer the clearest example of how the US State Dept is breaking the law currently.
The editorial board of the Providence Journal notes, "Some would characterize today’s Iraqi government as authoritarian, not democratic. One result has been that minority Sunnis have seen their trust in Iraq’s nascent democratic institutions decline precipitously, to the point that al-Qaida has rekindled its bid to stir trouble there." Press TV isn't concerned with that, they carry the water for Nouri. They aren't the only outlets that carry Nouri's water but it's becoming ever more difficult to look the other way with the increased violence and Nouri's actions. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports:
As security has deteriorated, Iraqis say it has become clearer with each bombing attack, each spasm of vigilante violence, that Iraq's American-trained security forces have been ineffective and, worse, a growing source of abuses themselves. And the hope for stability under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has vowed to be a leader for all Iraqis, is giving way to fears that his government is mimicking many of the repressive tactics that his Shiite constituency suffered under the past Sunni minority regime.
As Sunni jihadist groups have staged ever more deadly bombings this year, al-Maliki's forces have responded with their harshest security crackdowns yet - including, rights advocates say, indiscriminate roundups of Sunnis, the use of torture to extract confessions, the tainted use of secret informant testimony to secure convictions and frequent demands for bribes from the families of detainees.
A powerful notion of revenge, a subtext to much of the current turmoil across the Middle East, underlies the increasingly systemic violence in Iraq. Sunni bombings bring Shiite crackdowns as payback, driving more Sunnis toward extremism. Each fuels the other, again and again.
Those are strong observations from Arango and from the editorial board. There's also what took place last spring. The April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from Nouri's federal forces storming in. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
That's only one example. But what that massacre means -- a massacre the State Dept continues to ignore publicly, is that US aid gets cut off. It's the Leahy Amendment. And Peter Sullivan (Foreign Policy) noted August 23rd:
The State Department confirmed Thursday that it has suspended assistance to the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia because of 12 killings in 2011 by an "ad hoc task force within the police department." Reuters reports that five of the dead were on a hit list of people deemed to be criminals. The State Department said there has been only "limited progress" in investigating the killings.
If that required cutting off aid (and it did), so does Nouri's forces attacking the protesters. And remember, the governor of Kirkuk refused entry to Nouri's forces so Nouri had them helicoptered into Hawija -- with helicopters the US sold. Also don't forget 2011 when Iraq's LGBT community was targeted by the government. It was the Ministry of the Interior that visited schools and conflated gay with Emo and said they sucked human blood, etc. Yes, the Ministry denied it. But Alsumaria, Al Mada and others didn't just report what the Ministry did, they reproduced the Ministry of Interior's handout that was distributed during the presentation at each school.
Nouri ignored the Constitution and refused to nominate anyone to head the Ministry of the Interior so that he could control it. It still has no Minister. The attack on Iraqi youth that the Ministry of the Interior launched is on Nouri. Try to remember that those suspected of being gay or Emo after the 'presentations' were stoned to death, were tortured to death, were mutilated and much more.
After the April 23 massacre, John Kerry and the State Dept are in violation of the Leahy Amendment. Seems like he might have been able to be in compliance with the law if he'd bothered to oversee Iraq as the Secretary of State is supposed to do. Instead, he's shirked his responsibilities as he's argued/advocated for war on Syria with various foreign leaders.
It's a real shame the US does not have a real Secretary of State but it does go a long way towards explaining how Nouri got away with his ever increasing authoritarianism.
September has just started. Yet in the first two days of the month, Iraq Body Count notes 106 people have already died in violence. Today, National Iraqi News Agency reports an attack on a home to the south of Baghdad left 5 people dead ("father, mother and three children"), a Babil car bombing left 5 people dead and five injured, 1 person was shot dead in Basra, a Falluja roadside bombing has left two people injured, and a Baquba sticky bombing left two police officers injured. Al Manar adds:
Eleven car bombs went off in Baghdad, killing at least 40 people and leaving dozens wounded, according to security and medical officials.
The blasts went off minutes apart at around 6:00 pm (1500 GMT), the latest in a trend of attacks timed to coincide with Baghdadis visiting cafes and other public areas during the evening.
AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:
He also Tweeted, and we'll close with this, the following:
Not a day goes by when I am not in awe of the courage my Iraqi colleagues display, constantly braving mayhem to get information.
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