Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, December 17, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, US officials say Nouri's soldiers looked the other way as War Crimes took place, Iraqi Christians continue to be persecuted, the US government's illegal spying continues, the rebuke to the Obama administration by a federal judge yesterday gets coverage, but the Glenn Greenwald Fan Club can just focus on Glenn, and more.

We're going to start with the illegal spying.  Remember Amy Heckerling's Fast Times At Ridgemont High?

  • Ppl viciously attacking for not fulfilling impossible journalistic standards need to kick back their egos & reassess priorities.

  • Abby Martin should have more important things to do then try to act like a Spirit Bunny at Ridgemont High.

    Vicious attacks are Glenn Greenwald's specialty, he's made a career out of them as a blogger and at Salon long before he ever moved onto the Guardian and restyled himself as a reporter.  I haven't seen any recent vicious attacks on Greenwald.  I've seen him launch them, however, such as the ones he launched on a whistle-blower.

    As Stan pointed out last night, Sibel Edmonds is a whistle-blower, she's under a government gag order -- even now with President Precious in the White House.  Idiots smearing Sibel to defend Greenwald better grasp that he's not a whistle-blower.

    He's a journalist.  A tawdry one -- as so many are.  But he's a journalist that's becoming a joke.

    Questions about his new venture -- even critical questions -- are not attacks.  Abby Martin shames herself and she's not the only one.

    Reporters don't need circle-jerks.  In fact, circle-jerks destroy them.  Glenn's entered his post-Johnny Guitar Joan Crawford period and now plays to the circle-jerk.

    In doing so, he trivializes not just himself but also the subject.  Abby Martin should find some concern over that -- if she can't find any over the way Glenn's set up the Ed-Snowden-good-but-Bradley-Manning-irresponsible nonsense.

    Glenn Greenwald went on Anderson Cooper 360 last night for a segment on yesterday's verdict and also appearing on the segment was Jeffrey Toobin.

    It resulted in the Circle Jerk taking to Twitter.

  • Another epic Glenn Greenwald vs. Jeffrey Toobin on Snowden and federal judge hitting NSA.

  • For those who missed it -- we covered it in yesterday's snapshot -- Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon found that the illegal spying in Barack's administration "most likely violates the Constitution" (Charlie Savage, New York Times). You really don't get that in the Circle Jerk Tweets.

    What you get is Dan and Greg kissing Glenn's balls.  Hopefully, they all enjoyed it.  Because it didn't help anyone else.

    I think Jeffrey Toobin's a moron and I've said much worse than that here.  But the segment wasn't about Toobin and it sure shouldn't have been about Glenn Greenwald.

    There is a huge section of the American people who have no opinion on the illegal spying.  They will form one.  Sadly, it will probably be to dismiss concerns.

    That's because idiots like Dan and Greg can't cover issues because they're too busy nuzzling Glenn's crotch in public.

    These wild pack attacks that Abby Martin and others engage in?

    They're not going to win over people either.

    They're going to make people suspicious.

    And they should be.  Huge money just entered the narrative and when is money not a detail in a narrative?  Didn't everyone freak over the thought that the Koch brothers might purchase the Los Angeles Times?  Glenn Greenwald's new enterprise is being bankrolled by a questionable source.  Pretending otherwise doesn't make it go away.

    As a journalist, Abby Martin shouldn't be condemning people for raising issues.

    Instead of dealing with the issues, Greg, Abby and Dan are turning this into a personal club.  That's exactly what will drive people away from opposing illegal spying.

    You need to make it about the issues, not your love for Glenn.

    Glenn needs to stop whining about everything.  He's supposedly a reporter now.  There's a different standard for them.  The standard isn't Best Bitch on TV.  When he goes on TV, he needs to calm down and address issues.  Or he needs to stop pretending he's a reporter.

    He's far too caught up in his own celebrity and far too busy playing out Joan Crawford-like drama which, of course, means nothing makes him happy.  Back in June, I said he needed to learn to enjoy the moment.

    He still hasn't learned to.  Since then, he's put on at least 15 pounds, his bags under his eyes have bags, he looks 10 years older (never a good thing when you're significant other is many, many years younger), and everything has him in a snit fit.

    People are allowed to question Glenn who, last time I checked, wasn't born in manger or to a virgin.   When he makes it all about his own drama, he's begging for questions.  When he's writing a book -- and has yet to release all the documents on illegal spying -- people are going to ask questions -- such as what did you save for the book?  People have a right to ask questions about funding -- it's not for nothing that "follow the money" is a journalism adage.

    While Abby, Dan and Greg may want to belong to a Glenn Greenwald fan club, most Americans don't.  Most American don't want to belong any fan club.  And when you're dealing with a complex issue like the illegal spying and you give people an 'out' by turning into a fan club for a reporter, many will gladly grab your out and bail on the issues.  So if Abby, Dan and Greg actually give a damn about getting the world out on the illegal spying, then they need to focus on that.

    You'd think the Center for Constitutional Rights would pay attention to the issue but they don't.  They're such little whores for Barack, doing secret meetings with him, Vincent Warren playing footsie with Barack, so they have nothing to say.  A federal judge declares the activities unconstitutional and CCR is issuing yet another press release on stop and frisk and saying nothing on illegal spying.

    On the illegal spying, Ian Traynor and Paul Lewis (Guardian) report:

    In an angry exchange with Barack Obama, Angela Merkel has compared the snooping practices of the US with those of the Stasi, the ubiquitous and all-powerful secret police of the communist dictatorship in East Germany, where she grew up.
    The German chancellor also told the US president that America's National Security Agency cannot be trusted because of the volume of material it had allowed to leak to the whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to the New York Times.
    Livid after learning from Der Spiegel magazine that the Americans were listening in to her personal mobile phone, Merkel confronted Obama with the accusation: "This is like the Stasi."

    On the illegal spying of Americans, District Judge Richard J. Leon wrote in his ruling,  "No court has ever recognized a special need sufficient to justify continuous, daily searches of virtually every American citizen without any particularized suspicion. The Government urges me to be the first non-FISC judge to sanction such a dragnet."  Of the ruling, John Burton (World Socialist Web Site) reports:

    The case, Klayman v. Obama, was brought by two conservative activists, Larry Klayman, who founded the libertarian Freedom Watch organization, and Charles Strange, whose son was a Navy Seal killed while on a mission in Afghanistan. Their suit is based on the same revelations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden as those underlying American Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper, which was argued in a New York federal court last month. (See “Obama administration defends NSA against civil liberties lawsuit”).
    Leon was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States District Court, generally viewed as the most influential trial court in the US since it hears many disputes regarding the legality of official US government actions. Coincidentally, Leon was nominated the day before the September 11, 2001 attacks that are still being used more than a decade later as the pretext for the dismantling of democratic rights in the name of the “war on terrorism.
    In his 68-page ruling, Judge Leon, employing unusually blunt—and in places openly contemptuous—language, slammed the profoundly anti-democratic arguments of the Obama administration lawyers. His ruling--that the NSA telephone metadata program defies a cornerstone of the Bill of Rights—stands as an indictment of the anti-democratic and authoritarian consensus within the political establishment and the corporate-controlled media, and between both the Democratic and Republican parties, all of which have overwhelmingly supported the establishment of such police state spying programs and joined in witch-hunting Snowden.

    Judge Leon’s decision follows on the heels of media reports that an advisory panel set up by Obama, ostensibly to “reform” the NSA, will recommend keeping its mass surveillance programs in place, with the addition of a few cosmetic “checks” designed to blunt popular opposition.

    At Forbes yesterday, Jennifer Granick noted:

    In the wake of today’s tremendously important ruling by the District Court for the District of Columbia that bulk collection of telephone metadata violates the Fourth Amendment, it is more important than ever that Congress end this misuse of section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. However, Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified earlier this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the NSA might continue its bulk collection of nearly all domestic phone call records, even if the USA FREEDOM ACT passes into law. That must have come as a real surprise to committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the dozens of USA FREEDOM Act’s bipartisan co-sponsors, all of whom agree that the core purpose of the bill is to end NSA dragnet collection of Americans’ communication data.

    Leahy's office issued the following yesterday:

    December 16, 2013

    [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) released the following comment Monday after a D.C. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction ruling regarding the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance program. Leahy introduced in November the USA FREEDOM Act, a bipartisan bill that would end the bulk collection of phone records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.] 
    “Americans deserve an open and transparent debate about the constitutionality, efficacy, and appropriateness of the government’s dragnet collection programs.  I welcome today’s district court ruling regarding the collection of phone metadata, particularly because the litigants were afforded the opportunity to participate in an adversarial process.  The Senate Judiciary Committee has held three full committee hearings and a subcommittee hearing on these issues in recent months, and it is clear to me that even more oversight is needed in the future. Our continued work on the USA FREEDOM Act that I introduced will also offer further opportunities for oversight, and for action.”
    # # # # #

    Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the illegal spying (we covered it here).  In that hearing, Committee Chair Patrick Leahy observed, "The American people have been told that all of their phone records are relevant to counterterrorism investigations. Now they are told that all Internet metadata is also relevant; and apparently fair game for the NSA to collect. In any country, in any country, this legal interpretation is extraordinary,  it goes beyond extraordinary in the United States."  And on Monday, a federal court judge agreed.   Sunday, the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle explained:

    Significant reforms to this country's spy operations are now on President Obama's desk. They test his commitment to privacy rights. Regrettably, the initial response is not encouraging. The White House already has rejected a call to put the National Security Agency under civilian command.

    The suggestions come from a panel Obama named last summer in the wake of revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The leaked papers showed widespread collection of data from phone calls, eavesdropping on foreign leaders and monitoring of online links - all in the name of chasing down terrorist threats.
    By asking for the study, Obama offered the hope that he was open to a genuine overhaul. But he's the same commander in chief who has endorsed wider use of drones, delayed closing the Guantanamo Bay jail where terrorism suspects are held indefinitely, and presided over a huge buildup in security work shown in the Snowden leaks. 

    While the editorial board can connect the illegal spying to the White House, others lack the ability to do so.  For example, Scott Whitlock, of the right-wing NewsBusters, surveys the initial network TV coverage of the judge's ruling and finds that NBC Nightly News' Brian Williams and Pete Williams managed to 'address' the issue without ever mentioning the White House or Barack.  That's beyond shameful.  Whitlock doesn't point it out so I will, the judge's ruling?  It was in the case of Klayman et al., v. Obama et al.  How do you report on a ruling without including the name of the party being sued?

    Senator Bernie Sanders' office issued the following today:

    After a federal judge on Tuesday issued a scathing ruling against the National Security Agency, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Congress must stop the “out-of-control” agency from spying on innocent Americans and end the bulk collection of Americans' telephone, email and Internet records. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said the way the NSA swept up millions of phone records “almost certainly” violated the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches. Moreover, the judge added, the program probably isn't effective in fighting terrorism.

    “The NSA today is out of control and we need strong legislation to rein them in. In a free society, the government does not collect data on tens of millions of people, 99.999 percent of them having nothing to do with terrorism,” Bernie said. “We must be vigilant in protecting the American people from terrorism, but we can do that without taking away the constitutional and privacy rights which make us a free nation.”

    As a member of the House, Bernie in 2001 voted against the so-called USA Patriot Act. As a senator, he voted against renewing the law in 2006 and 2007. Earlier this year, he introduced the Restore Our Privacy Act, legislation to put strict limits on the intelligence agencies.
    Video Watch an interview on MSNBC

    Read Read more about Bernie's Restore Our Privacy bill

    Let's stay with Congress and the administration.  The administration has stonewalled Congress on the whereabouts of 7 people kidnapped in Iraq earlier this month.  Yochi Dreazen (Foreign Policy) reports, "U.S. intelligence officials believe that Iranian commandos took part in a deadly attack on a compound of dissidents inside Iraq and then spirited seven members of the group back to Iran, highlighting Tehran's increasingly free hand inside Iraq in the wake of the U.S withdrawal from the country."

    We're talking about the Ashraf residents so let's include the overview on the Ashraf community.  As of September, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  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. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  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 repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. 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.   That was the second attack this year alone.   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."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  It was during that attack that the 7 hostages were taken.

    Where are they?  The United Nations has demanded that Iraqi prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki answer that question but he's played dumb.  Last month,  Brett McGurk, the State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, appeared  Wednesday before the  US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa (see the November 13th  "Iraq snapshot," the November 14th "Iraq snapshot" and  the November 15th  "Iraq snapshot").  In that hearing, this exchange took place.

    US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:   [. . .]  But there are hostages in Iraq that we must have now.  There's documentation that those hostages are there by our French allies, by the United Nations and other supportive groups and information.  I can't imagine with the wealth of sophisticated intelligence authorities that we have, that we have funded who have a vast array of information about Americans  cannot pinpoint where starving Iranians, loved ones [are] whose families are trying to save their lives after being on a hunger strike for 73 days.  And so I would ask this question of you, already knowing about your heart and your concern, I will not judge you, I already know that you're committed to getting this right/  Will you -- will you demand of Maliki, not next week or months from now, but can we expect in the next 48 hours a call to the head of the government of Iraq demanding the release of these hostages and demanding their release now?  Or the documented, undeniable evidence that they are not held in Iraq?  Second, would you be engaged with -- or  the Secretary [of State John Kerry] be engaged with -- and I have spoken to Secretary Kerry, I know his heart -- with Maliki to demand the security of those in Camp Ashraf  for now and forever until a relocation to a homeland, a place where their relatives are or where they desire to be? [. . .]

    Brett McGurk:  [. . .] We can pinpoint where the people are and I'd like to follow up with you on that.  The seven are not in Iraq.  But I will guarantee in my conversations with Maliki on down, the safety and the security of Camp Ashraf, Camp Liberty, where the residents are, the government needs to do everything possible to keep those poeople safe  but they will never be safe until they're out of Iraq.  And we all need to work together -- the MEK, us, the Committee, everybody, the international community -- to find a place for them to go.  There's now a UN trust fund, we've donated a million dollars and we're asking for international contributions to that fund for countries like Albania that don't have the resources but are willing to take the MEK in.  And we need to press foreign captials to take them in because until they're out, they're not going to be safe and we don't want anyone else to get hurt.  We don't want anymore Americans to get hurt in Iraq, we don't want anymore Iraqis to get hurt in Iraq  and we don't want any more residents of Camp Liberty to get hurt in Iraq and until they're out of Iraq, they're not going to be safe.  This is an international crisis and we need international help and support. 

    US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:  May I follow -- May I just have a minute more to follow up with Mr. McGurk, Secretary McGurk?  And I hear the passion in your voice but let me just say this. We're in an open hearing.  You know where they are.  Who is going to rescue them?  Whose responsibility will it be to get them from where they are into safe haven?  Because otherwise, we're leaving -- we're leaving Maliki now without responsibility.  We're saying, and you're documenting that they're not there.  Let me just say that when my government speaks, I try with my best heart and mind to believe it.  But I've got to see them alive and well to believe that they're not where I think they are, they're in a pointed purse.  I'm glad to here that but I want them to be safe but I want them to be in the arms of their loved ones or at least able to be recognized by their loved one that they're safe somewhere.  So can that be done in the next 48 hours?  Can we have a-a manner that indicates that they are safe?

    Brett McGurk:  I will repeat here a statement that we issued on September 16th and it's notable and I was going to mention this in my colloquy with my Congressman to my left, that within hours of the attack, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Score issued a statement praising the attack.  We issued a statement on September 16th calling on the government of Iran to use whatever influence it may have with groups that might be holding these missing persons to secure their immediate release.  And I can talk more about details and the status of these individuals.  And I've briefed some members of the Subcommittee. I'd be happy to follow up. 

    Dropping back to Friday's snapshot:

    Tuesday Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  It was a testy hearing.   John needs to stop being so damn combative in hearings.  He also needs to stop insisting over and over that he get to yammer on.  There's a five minute rule in House hearings.  He was often rude (but at least he spread it around -- he was rude to Republicans and to Democrats). .

    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: And lastly, two issues.  Regarding Camp Ashraf, are the Ashraf 7 being held in Iran or are they in Iraq?  And, Mr. Secretary, [. . .]

    He went on and on.  I'm not including it.  I'd love to include the insult to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (and I agreed with him 100% on that), for example that took place in the exchange that followed Ros-Lehtinen, but I don't have the time.  As it is, I'm pushing back coverage of another hearing to Monday's snapshot.  So we'll ignore all of his words that had nothing to do with Camp Ashraf and pick up here.

    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  If you could answer the Ashraf and the Cuba question?

    Secretary John Kerry: Beg your pardon?

    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  If you could answer the question about Ashraf --

    Secretary John Kerry:  The question of Ashraf was where-where are they?

    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  Iran or Iraq?

    Secretary John Kerry:  Well they're in Iraq.

    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  They're in Iraq?

    Secretary John Kerry:  The people.

    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: The seven hostages that were taken from Ashraf?

    Secretary John Kerry:  I-I-I . . .

    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  They have not -- We have not known where they are.

    Kerry spoke with the people sitting behind him, then returned to the microphone.

    Secretary of State John Kerry:  Uh, I can talk to you about that in classified session.

    Citing three unnamed US officials, Dreazen reports,  "Three officials, speaking to Foreign Policy for the first time, said gunmen from two of Tehran's Iraqi-based proxies, Kitab Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, then carried out the actual attack."  Iraqi soldiers who were supposed to be protecting the residents of Camp Ashraf instead elected to look the other way and allow the attack, the murders and the kidnappings to take place.  Nouri al-Maliki is over the military.  Not just because he's commander in chief, he's also over the military because he has refused to nominate anyone to be Minister of Defense.  So this is on him and he should be brought up on international charges and tried in an international court.

    The National Council of Iran Resistance believes Nouri had Iraqi forces take an active role in the September 1st assault and Dreazen quotes NCIR's spokesperson Shahin Gobadi stating.  "The repeated statements by U.S. officials that Iraq has had no role in the September 1 massacre at Ashraf are only designed to exonerate the Iraqi prime minister and his senior officials from any responsibility in this manifest case of crime against humanity and to help him elude justice."

    Let's move to another targeted group in Iraq:  Christians.  Kevin Rawlinson (Guardian) reports:

    Relations between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East have reached crisis point, according to Prince Charles, who is "deeply troubled" by the plight of Christians in the region.
    The heir to the British throne told a reception for Middle East Christians at Clarence House on Tuesday that the divisions have been "achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution, including to the Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time".
    Charles, who spoke of his work to promote understanding between the two religions, said bridges between Christians and Muslims were being deliberately destroyed by people with a vested interest.

    Iraqi Christians have been targeted throughout the war.  Though nothing matches the scale of the October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, lower level attacks too place before that and since.  In addition, there's been an increase of targeting Iraqi Christians in Mosul in the last few months.

    December 25th is Christmas.  For Christians around the world, it is a holy day celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Open Doors notes that Iraqi Christians worry about dangers from publicly celebrating:

    Iraq is No. 4 on the 2013 Open Doors World Watch List (www.worldwatchlist.us), which ranks countries that are the worst persecutors of Christians. It is estimated there are only 330,000 Christians left in Iraq as many have fled the country due to violence and persecution. 
    Pastor Tariq* tells Open Doors that "churches are targets for terrorists, especially on Christmas Day. Many Christians stay home because they are too afraid."
    Common Christmas traditions are still important to the Iraqi believers. Tariq and Human*, another pastor, say that in the past many families would purchase a Christmas tree, decorate the house and make special food. They would also buy new clothes and visit relatives and friends. However, because the situation is worsening in Iraq, they can't always do these activities anymore.

    The pastors tell Open Doors that believers enjoy celebrating the Christmas feast because it reminds them of God's love and His promises. "But because security is limited, the freedom to celebrate Christmas is growing less and less," Tariq explains.

    Barnabas Aid (Christian Today) quotes Iraqi Christian Temathius Esha stating, "In Saddam's time, Christians could worship freely, and as long as you avoided politics, you could survive.  But since the war we have been attacked, robbed, raped and forced out of both Doura and the country."  Throughout the war, Iraq has had waves and waves of refugees fleeing the country.  These waves have included a lot of Christians. This week, Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) reported:

     As the last remaining Christian priest in the Baghdad suburb of Doura, Archdeacon Temathius Esha no longer just puts his trust in God's all-seeing eye. Built into the wall of his vestry, amid pictures of Catholic saints, is a 16-screen CCTV monitor, keeping watch on every corner of his church in case of possible attack.
    Along with the armed guard outside and concrete anti-blast walls, it makes St Shmoni's feel more like a fortress than a house of worship. And after a decade in which Doura's Iraqi Christian community has been robbed, kidnapped and murdered by Islamist extremists, it finds itself offering sanctuary to an ever-dwindling flock.
    "Doura was once one of the biggest Christian communities in Iraq, with 30,000 families," said Mr Esha, as he prepared for an afternoon congregation that barely filled two of the 22 rows of pews. "Now there are only 2,000 left. They feel they are strangers in their own land, and that makes them want to leave. The bleeding from migration is continuous." 

    John L. Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter) notes:

    Warning that a Middle East empty of Christians would be "just like the Taliban," Iraq's most senior Catholic leader pointedly called on the West to show greater concern for suffering Christians in the region.
    "We feel forgotten and isolated," said Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church.
     "We sometimes wonder, if they kill us all, what would be the reaction of Christians in the West? Would they do something then?"

    Sako made clear he's not asking for a mobilization "to protect Christians," but rather Western efforts to support "harmonious societies for all human beings", based on "a civil state in which the only criterion is citizenship grounded in full equality under the law."

    Violence continues today in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person was shot dead in Almajooah al-Thaqafiyah, a Tharthar roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured, an Oraibi home invasion left 1 Department of Nineveh Water employee dead and his wife injured, an attack on a Yarmouk checkpoint left 1 security force dead and another injured, Baghdad Operations Command state they killed a suspect they believe to have been "the Wali of the south," they also announce they shot dead 5 suspects in Hor Rajab, a New Baghdad grenade attack left 3 pilgrims dead and seven more injured, an al-Mashtal grenade attack left 2 pilgrims dead and fifteen more injured, a Mahmudiya suicide bomber took his own life and that of 4 pilgrims with thirteen more left injured, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead "east of Kirkuk" and late last night, a Riyadh attack left 1 police officer and 1 woman dead with two more women and one child left injured.