Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, December 11, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, for the third day in a row an attorney is assassinated in Iraq, another Iraqi Jew discovers their personal property into the Jewish Archives (stolen from the Jewish community by Saddam Hussein) and these are the archives that the White House insists should be handed over to the Iraqi government, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing, Jalal Talabani is 'seen' in another set of  carefully posed photos, and more.


hero and jalal

The above is from a series of photos, said to have been taken this month, to demonstrate Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is 'healthy' or at least still breathing.  Click here for the series of photos at his website, click here for the series at the Patriotic Unino of Kurdistan's media office.  The PUK Media office claims the photos are from "two days ago during a visitation of Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, Iraqi First Lady, to President Talabani in Germany."

For those confused, last December,  Iraqi President Jalal 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.

AFP has two articles.  This one is embarrassing.  This one is solid. Reuters is just embarrassing all the way -- including links that don't work and running a 2010 photo of Jalal.  If the news is these photos, these new photos, why aren't you running them?

So what we have is photos and a claim, at his own site, that his medical team that Jalal's "on the road to a full recovery."

Oh, the lovely liars.

PUK claims the photos are two days old, Jalal's website says they were taken on December 6th and December 8th.

The liars can't even get the basics right.

Let's briefly note the outlets -- AFP and Reuters.  It might be a good idea, if you're noting that 'road to recovery' spin, to also point out that this has been stated repeatedly.  Next week, it will be a full year since Jalal stopped doing his job.  Iraq will have been without a president for a full year.

He's on his road to recovery just doesn't cut it!

Nor do photos of a heavily made up Jalal Talabani.

Hint to those behind the fraud, next time you ply pancake on Jalal's face?  Put him in gloves or put make up on his hands.  His hands and his face need to match or you look like idiots.

And you look like idiots.

A heavily made up Jalal appears in a series of new or 'new' photos.

And who knew he was going through a Mariah Carey phase?

Remember when Mariah would only be photographed from her right side?  Until husband Nick Cannon told her she looked fine from the left as well?

Can we send Nick to Germany to talk to Jalal?

Jalal is not on the road to full recovery.

Like the May photos, he is shown only from the right side.

That would indicate that he still doesn't have control over the left side of his face.

Not that he has control over his right.

If you look at the latest photos, the first thing that stands out after the heavy facial make up is the mouth.  It can't smile.  It can't move.  The lips remain in the same position in every photo.

That's not from the current crop of photos.  It's from the ones they released months ago in May.  Jalal's still being photographed from the right, he's still unable to smile, his mouth apparently can't move because, in the new photos, Hero's all over the place acting like she's keenly listening to what he's saying but his mouth never moves in one photo after another.  It's always the same tight line, always drooping down at the end.

Jalal's a fat man.  He's also a vain man.  When he travels to the United States, for examples, he takes luggage, lots and lots of luggage.  He doesn't like repeating even a tie when he's doing official visits.

So for two days this month, he was fine with being photographed in the same jogging suit?

That really doesn't sound like Jalal.

The photos yet again look posed.

The photos yet again indicate Jalal has not recovered and does not have full control (or partial) over his body movements.  If you missed the photos in May, click here.

Jalal may be improving slightly.

Road to recovery?

He's been on it for nearly a year.  He's not moving at a fast pace.

He's clearly unable to do his job duties.

The Constitution called for him to be replaced back in January.

Article 75, Third Clause, "The Vice President shall replace the President of the Republic in the event that the post of the President becomes vacant for any reason whatsoever.  The Council of Representatives must elect a new President within a period not to exceed thirty days from the date of the vacancy."

Instead, the Talabani family has pulled the wool over the Iraqi people's eyes, played them for fools.

Questions need to be asked including when did Jalal stop receiving his presidential salary?

Or is he still receiving it?

In 2013, he has not performed one presidential duty.  In 2013, he has not set foot in Iraq.

The Iraqi people have been lied to, they need to now know the Talabani family has not also committed economic fraud in 2013.

The fraud also demonstrates that Iraq is not a Constitutional republic.

The Constitution is meaningless in Iraq.

By the end of 2007, Article 140 of the Constitution was supposed to be implemented -- per the Constitution.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki didn't do it in 2007 and has refused to obey the Constitution since.  The 2010 parliamentary elections demonstrated that the Constitution did not matter as US President Barack Obama ordered the brokering of a contract (The Erbil Agreement) to go around the Constitution and give second place Nouri a second term as prime minister.  As 2011 drew to a close, Nouri began his attack on Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi which included charges against him and a kangaroo court trial -- this despite the fact that Parliament refused to strip al-Hashemi of his office.  Per the Constitution, he has to be stripped of his office to stand trial.

There's talk of amending the Constitution, there's talking of tossing it for a new one.

Why bother?

No one's following it currently.

The Iraqi Constitution allows free speech and the right to assembly but Nouri's forces attack protesters for protesting.  The Iraqi Constitution allows freedom of speech but Nouri's forces attempt to strong-arm journalists into signing statements declaring that they won't report.

Let's move over to a group of Iraqis visiting the US -- a group the State Dept still has Thursday to publicly note and highlight (though they've ignored them so far).   Samantha Glickman (Raleigh News Observer) reports on the three Iraqi coaches and eleven girls who were visiting North Carolina:

The first all-girl soccer team to visit the United States as part of the State Department’s Iraq Soccer Visitor Program has spent much of its 10-day trip in the Triangle. The high-school-age girls from Baghdad, Kirkuk and Irbil watched the NCAA Women's College Cup tournament in Cary over the weekend and had a clinic Sunday with two-time Olympic gold medalist Cindy Cone, who works with the women's soccer program at the University of North Carolina.

Read more here:

16-year-old Iraqi Sarah Sameen Yasen explains, "Every girl and every woman stays away from sports because of security issues.  I want to prove to the others that this is not a reason to stay away from sports." 17-year-old Afiaa Kareem Taresh Chnani states, "That's why I'm here, because I want to learn how to be able to teach. I learned new skills, new exercises, new techniques I can take back with me to my home country and implement them so my other teammates who are still in Iraq can benefit from the skills that I've learned here in the States."

Read more here:

From soccer to football, last night Gen Ray Odierno was honored with the National Football Foundation's Distinguished American Award.  The former top US commander in Iraq (fall 2008 to fall 2010) appeared today on Fox & Friends (link is video).

Brian Kilmeade:  If you had a residual force, do you believe things would be better in Iraq?

Gen Ray Odierno:  I think -- It's hard to say.  I think it probably would have been if we were allowed to have a residual force. 

Brian Kilmeade:  Does it -- does it hurt you because you spent so much of your life there and know so many people who lost their lives there.  Your own son [Capt Tony Odierno]  lost an arm there.  Does it disturb you to see where it is right now?

Gen Ray Odierno:  Well I just think -- I haven't give up hope yet.  And maybe that's reaching a little bit.  But it is -- it is concerting to see the violence at the levels it's been and how it's grown throughout the year and it's really because of political disagreement and mistrust between the parties in Iraq, the fact that they simply don't trust themselves and they can't get to agreement and so it's allowing others to exploit this and it's increasing the violence.  And it really is difficult to watch.  

National Iraqi News Agency reports that attorney Naser Ali al-Atabi was assassinated in Kut. Monday a Mosul sticky bombing killed a lawyer and left his brother injured. Yesterday  1 attorney was shot dead today in Mosul.  That's three attorneys assassinated in three days.

That wasn't the only violence today.  NINA also notes a Haswa IED left two police officers injured, 1 person was shot dead in Ramadi and another was left injured, 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Ramadi, a Mosul home invasion left 1 police officer dead, a Baghdad bombing killed 1 member of a Sahwa's family and left three neighbors injured, and 1 employee of the Baghdad Mayor's office was shot dead in Baghdad.  All Iraq News adds that two severed heads were discovered in Tikrit -- one belonged to Sahwa leader Nashmi al-Fadam and the other was a relative.  In addition, the outlet notes a Mudkadiya bombing left 2 police officers dead. That's 11 reported dead today and six reported injured. Through Tuesday, Iraq Body Count notes 344 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month which means there was an average of 34.4 murders a day for the first ten days of December.

In Friday's snapshot, we noted this Tweet:

  • That's Iraqi Zeidoun Alkinani and he's at the Pegamon Museum of Berlin noting the Babylonian Ishtar Gate.  Hyacinth Mascarenhas (PolicyMic) notes the Tweeted photo and other artifacts which should go back to their rightful owners including, at number 7, the Iraqi Jewish artifacts:

    The scholar Harold Rhode found thousands of moldy artifacts of Iraq's ancient and mostly dispersed Jewish population in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein's service headquarters in Baghdad with the U.S. invasion force in 2003. He is now fighting to prevent his findings from being returned to the Iraqi government.
    Likening the return to "giving the personal effects of Jews killed in the Holocaust back to Germany," Rhode has even launched a campaign to halt the transfer and is supported by several American Jewish groups and members of Congress arguing that the findings belong to Iraqi Jews and not the Iraqi government.
    Currently on display at the National Archives in Washington through Jan. 5, the pieces include a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible, a Torah scroll fragment that includes parts of the Book of Genesis, a Zohar from 1815, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793, a lunar calendar in Hebrew and Arabic from 1972-3 and other books, personal papers, and sacred texts.

    So they're going back?  Lauren Markoe (Religion News Service) explains:

    It’s a question many Jews have been asking with increasing urgency as the time draws near — summer 2014 — when the documents, per an agreement between the American and Iraqi governments, are slated to return to Baghdad.
    Global organizations of Jews of Middle Eastern heritage, as well as scores of American Jewish leaders and key members of the House and Senate, have questioned the plan and tried to derail it, arguing that the U.S. never had the right to promise the archive’s return in the first place.
    “The argument was flawed, flawed on the premise that this archive is the cultural heritage of all Iraqis when it is in fact the patrimony of Iraqi Jews; and there is no Jewish community left in Iraq,” said Sarah Levin, executive director of San Francisco-based JIMENA, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa.
    “I can’t fathom that under any circumstances that material that was taken should be returned to the people who took it,” Levin said.
    Of course, the government of Iraq today is not the government that looted the archive from Iraq’s Jews. But Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs at the American Jewish Committee, argues that the archive’s future should be determined in consultation with Jewish organizations and particularly the representatives of Jewish Iraqis — many of whom now live in Israel and the U.S.
    Despite negotiations among the State Department, members of Congress and Jewish community leaders, the latest information is that the archive will return to Iraq this summer, though it is first slated to spend some weeks at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

    The property doesn't belong to Iraq and it never has.  As Shmuley Boteach (Algemeiner) has observed, "This is not something that belongs to the Iraqi government. It was looted by Saddam Hussein and should be returned to its rightful owner, the Jewish community of Iraq, who now find themselves mostly in Israel (between 250,000-400,000) and the United States. That the US is even considering returning the stolen collection is incredible. Our government contends that it made a commitment to the Iraqis before they took the documents to restore them. But you can’t make any commitments about property that doesn’t belong to you so the United States is not bound by its commitment." More and more, people are beginning to identify the property -- the rightful owners are stepping forward to identify the property.  Joe O'Connor (National Post) reports:

    Dr. Caroline Bassoon-Zaltzman was an exemplary student at Menahem Daniel Elementary school in Baghdad. She had a 94 in Arabic, 90 in math and science and 100 in English, grades that stood her first overall in her Grade 6 class and a point of youthful, scholarly pride, that the 56-year-old Iraqi-born Jew, now a Canadian physician living in suburban Toronto, had not really thought about for over 40 years until a friend and former classmate, Lily Shor, in Israel, sent her an email on Nov. 20 at 12:55 a.m.
    “Dear Caroline!!” the email reads. “Have you seen this??”

    “This” was a web link. Dr. Bassoon-Zaltzman clicked on it and up popped her Grade 6 report card, along with her school photo, two items that, unbeknownst to the top student at Menahem Daniel were recovered — along with thousands of other Jewish documents and books — from the flooded basement of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s secret police headquarters in Baghdad by American forces in May, 2003.
    [. . .]
    “I really felt violated seeing my report card because I knew the Iraqi secret police had no way of getting it unless they took it from our house,” Dr. Bassoon-Zaltzman says. “All I could think about was somebody being in the house I grew up in and stealing this document and storing it in the basement of the Mukhabarat — the secret police of Saddam Hussein.
    “Sending these items back to Iraq now would be like sending art that the Nazis looted from Europe’s Jews back to Germany. But it’s even worse, because I am nobody. I am not famous, and I am still alive, and there is no inherent value to these items. Nobody in Iraq is going to care about looking at documents and photos of Iraqi Jews that they don’t even know and that have no value to them, or the Iraqi government, or anyone — except the people they were stolen from.
    “It is my report card.”

    December 2nd, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported on Harold Rhode's efforts to prevent the stolen property from being shipped to Iraq:

    Rhode has launched a campaign to halt the transfer, joined by a growing number of American Jewish groups and members of Congress, who argue that the materials belong to the Iraqi Jews they were taken from and their descendants, not to Iraq's government.
    For years, intelligence operatives working for Hussein and his predecessors apparently seized papers from synagogues and Jewish families, in periodic crackdowns or before the families would be allowed to emigrate.
    Why the materials, most of which document relatively mundane activities of Iraq's Jewish communities, were kept for decades in the security service headquarters is a mystery. Rhode attributes it partly to Hussein's mania for getting back at Israel.
    "By Saddam taking this material, it was like he was personally humiliating the Jews of the world and Israel," Rhode says. "So now are we going to return it to them?"

    In response to Cloud's report, two letters to the editors of the Los Angeles Times argue for the archives being returned to the Jewish community.

    Ethically and legally, the archives belong to the Jewish community.  There's also the common sense issues.  In Iraq, where would the wrongly returned archives go?

    Would they be hidden away.

    That's really all Nouri's Iraq knows how to do.  Just look at Iraq's national museum which is still closed to the public.  Abdul Jabbar Alattaby (Al-Monitor) reports:

    Although more than 10 years have passed since the transformative events of 2003 in Iraq, the fate of the Iraq Museum remains a mystery. News of it has all but disappeared. It is known to open its doors to diplomatic missions, but most Iraqis have never been inside the museum, which has been undergoing construction work, which has itself raised questions. Although there are workers in the museum, and although it was officially reopened in 2009, the museum remains closed to the public. With its director, Amira Edan, sometimes outright refusing to speak to the press, the museum is shrouded in mystery and secrecy. This is where my story of the museum began and enigmatically ended.

    Iraq's national museum isn't even open to the public -- despite multiple stunt openings that the world's press has covered over the last years.  But we're supposed to believe the country can house (stolen) documents of a people the government refused to protect?

    There was a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing today.  We have room for Senator Patty Murray's statement.  Tomorrow, we may cover the nonsense of the hearing -- which includes the nonsense of the Committee.  Alison Hickey's figures don't match the American Legion's.  There's a reason for that.  There's also a reason I'm not in the mood -- I don't feel like going back through the hearing the press ignored -- especially Murray's questions -- which explain how the backlog has 'dropped.'  It's a shell game.  But if we go over today's hearing in tomorrow's snapshot, we will quote Hickey from before when she explained how the shell game would work.  Senator Murray serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following today regarding the hearing:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Wednesday, December 11, 2013                                                                           (202) 224-2834
    Senator Murray Presses VA Officials on Claims Backlog
    Recent report shows government shutdown forced furloughs of thousands of Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) employees, jeopardized October benefits for millions of veterans and their families, and slowed the VA’s progress on eliminating the claims backlog.
    WATCH hearing.
    (Washington, D.C.) – Today, during a hearing examining the Department of Veterans Affairs claims processing system, senior Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee member Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed her frustration with the progress in reducing the claims backlog and stressed the importance of passing her budget agreement with Chairman Paul Ryan.
    “Ending the claims backlog and building a timely, accurate claims processing system is one of the absolute top priorities for our veterans,” said Senator Murray during the hearing. “So as VA continues to work to bring down the backlog, we can’t prevent them from doing their jobs.  That means keeping the government open.  As you know, Chairman Ryan and I announced our budget agreement last night. I cannot stress enough how important it is for everyone to support this agreement so that we can get away from governing by crisis, prevent another government shutdown in January, and protect our veterans from the serious harm that we saw in October.”

    According to VA testimony, the government shutdown in October forced VA to furlough 7,800 VBA employees, ended mandatory overtime for claims processors, and decreased claims production by an average of 1,400 claims per day.
    Sen. Murray has been a vocal critic of the claims backlog issues facing Seattle Regional Office over the years and continues to hear from veterans frustrated with the timeliness and accuracy problems with their claims. While the latest information seems to be improving, Sen. Murray will continue to push VA to address the underlying issues with staffing and processing at the regional office so Washington state veterans can count on long-term improvement.
    Senator Murray’s full remarks:
    “Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate you holding this hearing.  Ending the claims backlog and building a timely, accurate claims processing system is one of the absolute top priorities for our veterans. 
    “And I continue to hear frequently from veterans in my home state of Washington that they are still waiting far too long for their claims to be completed.
    “I know getting this right is a top priority for the Department.  And I understand this is a complex problem that has no single easy solution. 
    “So I am encouraged by the steps VA has taken so far, but we still have a long way to go.
    “For example, VA’s initiative to expedite the oldest claims was a good step.  However, I have heard repeatedly from veterans that they were confused and frustrated with the provisional rating process. 
    “Some believed their claims had been flat-out rejected and others did understand they have a year to submit additional evidence. 
    “Secretary Hickey, we need to hear more from you today about how VA will improve outreach and communication with veterans so that future initiatives do not cause more confusion.
    “And while the numbers are moving in the right direction, we need to know the necessary structural changes are being made as well. 
    “This is especially important in handling the more complex claims.  The recent testimony by the Office of Inspector General shows some examples of these problems. 
    “Though it is not surprising these claims take longer to rate, these are also claims for veterans who need their benefits the most. 
    “So as VA continues to work to bring down the backlog, we can’t prevent them from doing their jobs.  That means keeping the government open. 
    “The entirely unnecessary shutdown a handful of Republican Members forced us into earlier this year: forced VA to furlough 7,800 V.B.A. employees, ended mandatory overtime for claims processors, and as Secretary Shinseki testified, it decreased claims production by an average of 1,400 claims per day.
    “As you know, Chairman Ryan and I announced our budget agreement last night. I cannot stress enough how important it is for everyone to support this agreement so that we can get away from governing by crisis, prevent another government shutdown in January, and protect our veterans from the serious harm that we saw in October.
    “So I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and with you, Secretary Hickey, towards meeting these challenges and seeing that each and every veteran receives the benefits that they have earned.”

    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834

    RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office