Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, December 18, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, AFP embarrasses itself again with more hypocrisy, did you know a human body can stop an exploding bomb (no, it can't), the murder of journalists in Iraq gets some attention, the Jewish archives belong to the Jewish community and not the Iraqi government and that fact was established even more on Sunday and (oops!) recognized by the Iraqi government, and more.

Once upon a time, news outlets allegedly reported.  Once upon a time. And when you talk to the losers of AFP, for example, and confront them over their hideous silence regarding the ongoing protests in Iraq, they'll offer weak ass b.s. about how they can't get to the protests and to repeat what they didn't see themselves, well that's jut not what journalism is!!!!!


AFP is the veneral disease of the media.  They prove it yet again today with crap -- and if it's crap, you know The Huffington Post had to pick it up and chew it.

Allegedly police officer Ayyub Khalaf 'hugged' a suicide bomber to prevent others from being hurt.  That's not really how it works, FYI.  He didn't save any lives, he's not a bomb shield.  If he attempted to do it or not, he's a body, not a metal shield.  The 'number' saved by his actions would be about one person -- if even that.  Apparently anatomy and physiology are just two topics AFP also never bothered to learn.  But the thing is, this feel-good report?  It's not a report.

They refuse to cover the protests by speaking to people at the protests.  For those who don't know -- and many don't because there's so little press coverage, protests began December 21st in Iraq.  This Friday?  It will be one year of continuous protests.  But you don't know that.  Nouri's kept the press out and, AFP insists, they can't report on what they can't see and verify themselves.

Unless they're whoring for the security forces -- Nouri's security forces.  They didn't see the alleged 'hugging' but they're happy to repeat it.

Because they're cheap little whores. And they spread disease everywhere they go.

Again, reality, a human body is not a bomb shield.  It appears one too many action movies where, for example, someone shoots at Angelina Jolie and she uses someone else's body as a shield, have misled too many people.  In the real world, bullets go right through.  In the real world, we saw it with the assassination of JFK.  That's bullets.  Bombs are even worse.  But here comes AFP with 'People Saved By Police Hugger!'

It can't be verified.  Those vouching have self-interests and are not impartial.  AFP did not see the event.  And logically the spin doesn't hold up (1 body does not stop a bomb).

But it's feel good!  It's faux news!  It's AFP whoring.

And it matters because they say they can't get to the protests -- Nouri's forces circle the protests and prevent journalists from entering -- and that's why they can't cover the record year-long protests.  They can't just call organizers and leaders and take down what they say and offer that as a report.  But they can and do just that with this 'People Saved By Police Hugger!' nonsense.

And, repeating, the human body is not a shield against a bomb.  So sorry that you're so damn stupid.

Especially you, WG Dunlop.

Iraq policeman sacrifices himself to protect pilgrims, embracing a suicide bomber to shield others from blast

If you read AFP's lengthy pornography -- it's not reporting -- it's also offensive because they get a quote here and a quote there, this family member, that family member blah blah blah.

They didn't bother to do the same for this little girl.

Young Saudi girl shot dead in Iraq

That's Taqi Majid al-Jishi who was shot dead in Samarra and her mother was left injured in the shooting.

But AFP didn't care about her.  Didn't care enough to mention her name or to note her death.

They don't care when a protesters killed.

They don't care when an Iraqi  journalist is killed.

Here's Hayman Hassan (Niqash) reporting on the murder of a journalist:

On the evening of Dec. 6, the journalist Kawa Ahmed Germyani was shot in the head and chest at home, in front of his mother, in Kalar, a town south of the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah. It is generally thought that Germyani was murdered by unknown gunmen because as the editor-in-chief of Rayal magazine and as a correspondent for Awene, an independent newspaper specializing in investigative work, he had been looking into corrupt officialdom in the semi-autonomous region.

Although Iraqi Kurdistan, which has its own parliament, military and legislative system, is generally considered to be far more secure than the rest of Iraq, this was another blow to the region’s more liberal image. Earlier this year, Iraqi Kurdish security forces had to deal with the first extremist bomb attack here in six years.

Rahman Gharib, from the Kurdish media rights watchdog, Metro Centre, told the AFP news agency that Germyani had been threatened – there was some audio evidence of this - and that he had been taken to court by politicians and officials over his work.

Germyani’s murder was not the first. Two other high profile cases in Iraqi Kurdistan have been very similar. The others were Soran Mama Hama, who had also been publishing information about corruption among local officials, and Sardasht Othman, who had been writing satirical stories about the region’s leading Barzani family. Additionally dozens of other journalists and members of the press have been assaulted, intimidated, kidnapped or otherwise attacked. Equipment has been confiscated, property destroyed and there have been arbitrary arrests.

The Metro Centre says it has documented more than 200 attacks on journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan since the beginning of the year and that these range from beatings to arrests and other intimidation. 

In both of the two previous murder cases, the assailants have never been caught and the cases have not progressed. Journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan fear the same will happen in Germyani’s case. And as a result, they organised a number of protests.

After Germyani’s funeral last Friday, locals in Kalar took to the streets to demand justice for the slain reporter. Those protests have since spread and demonstrations have taken place in Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil. Local security forces say they have arrested four individuals in connection with the murder but Germyani’s family say they want those who ordered his murder held responsible too, not just the actual assassins.

Germyani’s brother told NIQASH that the family were filing a law suit against local officials. “Our primary concern is to reveal the names of the officials we believe assigned the assassins,” he said.

In fairness, AFP reported on the murder as well . . . by noting he was shot in front of his own mother.  They didn't go look for siblings to share a quote, they didn't go to his peers in journalism for 'meaning' on the death.  All the things they do today to whore for feel-good?  They don't do it for anyone else.

The United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe issued the following today:

Violence against media workers undermines the ability of journalists to carry out their work freely as well as the right of citizens to receive the independent information they need, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement earlier today.
This year, 71 journalists have been killed, according to Reporters Without Borders.
The head of the United Nations agency entrusted with upholding press freedom pushed on with her campaign to secure the safety of journalists, condemning the killing of media workers in Syria and Iraq.

Freelance Iraqi cameraman Yasser Faysal Al-Joumaili, 35, who often worked for Al-Jazeera International TV and Reuters news agency, was reportedly abducted and killed by members of a radical group in northern Syria earlier this month.
Kawa Ahmed Germyani in Kalar, 32, editor of the magazine Rayal and a correspondent for the Awene newspaper in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, was shot by unidentified gunmen in his home in Kalar, on 5 December after reportedly receiving death threats in connection with his work.
Indian journalist Sai Reddy, a reporter for the Hindi-language newspaper Deshbandhu, died on the way to hospital after he was beaten and stabbed in the market of Basaguda village in the central state of Chhattisgarh on 6 December.
Ms. Bokova has so far this year condemned the killings of eight journalists in Iraq, seven in Syria, and four in India, as well as others in various countries around the world.
Just two days ago she called on the Philippines’ authorities to investigate the separate murders of three journalists in the southern region of Mindanao.

“Too many professional and citizen journalists are losing their lives in the conflict in Syria, often deliberately targeted by the various factions involved,” she said in her statement today on that war-torn country. “The circumstances of freelance journalists are a cause of particular concern, as they are often less well trained to deal with the dangers they face than are staff reporters.”

And the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization issued the following today:

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today denounced the killing of newspaper editor and reporter Kawa Ahmed Germyani in Kalar, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

“I condemn the murder of Kawa Ahmed Germyani,” the Director-General said, “I call on the authorities to ensure that this case is investigated thoroughly and do all they can to improve the safety of media workers in the country.”
Thirty-two-year-old Kawa Ahmed Germyani, editor of the magazine Rayal and a correspondent for the Awene newspaper, was shot by unidentified gunmen in his home in Kalar, on 05 December. He is reported to have received death threats in connection with his work.
The Director-General of UNESCO this year condemned a total of eight journalist killings in Iraq (see the dedicated page, UNESCO condemns the killing of journalists). 

Yesterday's snapshot noted the continued targeting of Iraqi Christians.  The Gatestone Institute notes they have a piece by Raymond Ibrahim on the targeting of Christians in the Middle East and, from that, here's Ibrahim on Iraq:

The nation's Christians, more than half of whom have fled since the U.S.-led invasion a decade ago, are now also being targeted in and fleeing from northern Iraq, which until recently was considered a relatively safe region for Christians fleeing violence in the south. Recently, for example, a suicide bomb went off outside the home of Christian politician Emad Youhanna in Rafigayn, part of the Kirkuk province, injuring 19 people, including three of his children. Several more bomb attacks have also taken place in the northern city of Erbil, for which al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. According to Christian News, "In early September, Christians in the village of Deshtakh complained that they were facing harassment from local police. A group of Christian young people said that policemen told them that they 'should not be in Iraq because it is Muslim territory.' Violence in the south of the country is also escalating. Church leaders in Baghdad say that there are attacks on Christians every two or three days."

Gatestone used to be Hudson which means it's a right-wing organization and its roots go to cheerleading the war in Iraq.  I'd be leery of policy recommendations from them but we will note the above.

Also targeted in Iraq is the Jewish population.  Sam Sokol (Jerusalem Post) reports:

A number of fragments of holy texts confiscated from the Iraqi Jewish community by Saddam Hussein’s secret police were buried in a Jewish cemetery in New York City on Sunday.
The documents, mainly consisting of fragments of Torah scrolls and the book of Esther, are part of a collection discovered in 2003 by coalition forces in the basement of Baghdad’s Mukhabarat, or secret police, headquarters.
According to Jewish law, holy texts that are damaged or otherwise unusable must be placed in permanent storage or buried.

Before we go further, let me work in a plug a friend with Basic Books asked for.  Hugh Wilford's followed up his 2009 book on the CIA's efforts with the press with a new book, just out this month, America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East.  You'll learn all about how the CIA worked to discredit the nation-state Israel  and to breed hostility against it.  (I also noted this book last month in a column for the gina & krista round-robin.)  You'll learn all about the dirty work of Kermit Roosevelt Jr., Archie Roosevelt and Miles Copeland.

The dirty work of Saddam Hussein was to steal the documents currently on display by the US National Archives. The National Archive explains:

On May 6, 2003, just days after the Coalition forces took over Baghdad, 16 American soldiers from Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, a group assigned to search for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, entered Saddam Hussein’s flooded intelligence building. In the basement, under four feet of water, they found thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq – materials that had come from synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad.
The water-logged materials quickly became moldy in Baghdad’s intense heat and humidity. Seeking guidance, the Coalition Provisional Authority placed an urgent call to the nation’s foremost conservation experts at the National Archives. Just a week later, National Archives Director of Preservation Programs Doris Hamburg and Conservation Chief Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad via military transport to assess the damage and make recommendations for preservation of the materials.
Given limited treatment options in Baghdad, and with the agreement of Iraqi representatives, the materials were shipped to the United States for preservation and exhibition. Since then, these materials have been vacuum freeze-dried, preserved and digitized under the direction of the National Archives. Peek “behind the scenes” of the state-of-the-art Conservation Lab [] *
The collection includes more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1540 to the 1970s. A special website to launch this fall will make these historic materials freely available to all online as they are digitized and catalogued. This work was made possible through the assistance of the Department of State, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Center for Jewish History.
The Jews of Iraq have a rich past, extending back 2500 years to Babylonia. These materials provide a tangible link to this community that flourished there, but in the second half of the twentieth century dispersed throughout the world. Today, fewer than five Jews remain.
Display highlights include:

  • A Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568 – one of the oldest books in the trove;
  • A Babylonian Talmud from 1793;
  • A Torah scroll fragment from Genesis - one of the 48 Torah scroll fragments found;
  • A Zohar from 1815 – a text for the mystical and spiritual Jewish movement known as “Kabbalah”;
  • An official 1918 letter to the Chief Rabbi regarding the allotment of sheep for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year);
  • Materials from Jewish schools in Baghdad, including exam grades and a letter to the College Entrance Examination Board in Princeton regarding SAT scores;
  • A Haggadah (Passover script) from 1902, hand lettered and decorated by an Iraqi Jewish youth ; and
  • A lunar calendar in both Hebrew and Arabic from the Jewish year 5732 (1972-1973) - one of the last examples of Hebrew printed items produced in Baghdad.

What the Jerusalem Post reported (Frank Eltman of AP also reported on it) is important.  I don't think people are getting how important it is.  I especially don't think the Iraqi government gets how important it is.  If they grasped how important it was, I don't think the Iraqi Embassy in the United States would have issued this statement:

Embassy of the Republic of Iraq - Washington, D.C.
The Government of Iraq announces the burial of 49 Torah scroll fragments, which were part of the Iraqi Jewish Archive collection currently in the United States, in cooperation with the Iraqi Jewish community presented by the World Organization of Jews from Iraq. The burial under Jewish ritual custom took place on December 15, 2013 at the New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon, New York. The fragments were interred at the cemetery through a religious service ceremony, which was attended by Ambassador Lukman Faily, other Iraqi officials, and officials from the U.S. Government.
Today, Iraq marks another milestone of practicing democracy by approving the proper handling of these fragments and the disposal of its sacred texts, which were no longer viable for religious purposes, and welcomed the opportunity to undertake this good will gesture and cooperate with the Iraqi Jewish community on this important endeavor.
Iraq’s new constitution stipulates that all Iraqis are equal in their rights without regard to sect or religion. The Iraqi Jewish community, like other communities in Iraq, played a key role in building the country; it shared in its prosperity and also suffered exile and forced departure because of tyranny. The Government of Iraq also appreciates the support of the U.S. Department of State and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on this matter and for their continued contribution to the preservation of the entire Iraqi Jewish Archive.
The Iraqi Jewish Archive is a collection of books, manuscripts, and records in Hebrew and Arabic languages, found by the Coalition Forces in 2003 and salvaged from a flooded basement in Al Mukhabarat building in Baghdad after the fall of the regime. The Archive is Iraq’s property and was brought to the U.S. under an agreement for preservation, conservation, and exhibition.

Government papers -- damaged or not -- don't get buried.

The action (and the statement) just increased the legal standing for Jews wishing to sue in federal court to prevent the Jewish archive from being shipped to Iraq.

The claim the White House makes is that they have a contractual agreement with the Iraqi government.  The papers were stolen from the Jewish people by the previous Iraqi government.  The current Iraqi government was in possession of stolen goods.  The burial -- recognized and overseen by an Iraqi government official (Lukman Faily) -- per "Jewish ritual custom" further establishes that these are not documents belonging to the Iraqi government, these are documents belonging to the Jewish community.  Just as some were buried on Sunday ("under Jewish ritual custom"), the remaining documents need to be handed over to the Jewish community.

I would love to see the US government attempt to argue in court that the documents from the archive buried on Sunday were somehow different from the other documents.  No, they're not.  They're all part of the same archive and the actions on Sunday go towards further establishing that the true owners are the Jewish community and not the Iraqi government.  When Jewish law became the ruling law for a portion of the documents (those buried Sunday), it became the ruling law for the entire archive.

Iraq Body Count notes 23 dead from violence yesterday and, through Tuesday, 580 dead from violence so far this month.

On violence, Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

Militiamen in Iraq do not only carry weapons, they also wield religious, moral and economic power over their social environment. They play the role of neighborhood governors in times of peace and murderers in times of war.

Mohammed, a member of a well-known Shiite militia in Iraq, insisted on being called "Sheikh Mohammed," by which the residents of his area in Baya, south of Baghdad, know him. Speaking to Al-Monitor, he said he does not normally carry weapons without receiving orders from within his circles. What happened in the Baya neighborhood was a response to the bombing of a cafe, in which one of the neighborhood’s residents was involved.
While he spoke, the young sheikh tried to express a high degree of religious conservatism: “We are not involved in killing, as our religion prohibits us. We simply fend off certain negative influences and try to protect the residents of the area.”
Mohammed denied committing any crime that would be punishable by law. What he does is a mere self-defense, even if it comes in the form of an assassination. The residents of the neighborhood, however, depict the "sheikh" in a different light. According to one female worker, he is seen as practically the governor of the neighborhood. When someone wants to sell his house to escape threats, Mohammed specifies the price and buys the house himself as a final settlement. No one dares to offer a higher bid.

Back in September, Tim Arango (New York Times) broke the news that Nouri al-Maliki was paying and arming militais:

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

In his second term as prime minister, Nouri can boast of increasing violence and failing to fill the posts of Minister of Defense, Minister of National Security and Minister of the Interior.  They were supposed to be filled by the end of 2010; however, in a power grab, Nouri refused to fill the posts so he could control them.  And the world can see the effects from Nouri's decision.

Despite his lengthy record of failures, Nouri wants a third term.

Well why wouldn't he?

Before he became prime minister he was nothing, a failure whose only 'credit' was fleeing a country like a little chicken and then cowering in Iran, Syria and Jordan while he lobbied the US government to stand up to Saddam Hussein -- something coward Nouri had never done himself.

So why wouldn't he want a third term?

The alternative might be obscurity.

Or more likely lengthy trials to address how he misused the public funds to enrich himself and his family.

Parliamentary elections are supposed to take place April 30th.  Fadel al-Kifaee (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) observes today:

As Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki prepares to make a third run in the Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections, daunting challenges appear ahead. More than ever, Maliki stands as a dividing figure in Iraqi politics—his opponents are numerous and diverse, but the strongest opposition, political and religious, comes from within his Shia community.
There have been indications that Iraq's Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is not in favor of a third term for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but the latter is taking advantage of the Ayatollah's quietism. Although Maliki seems aware of Sistani’s disproval of his performance, he is using Sistani’s abstention from politics (Sistani will not even meet with politicians) to deny claims that he lost the support of the religious establishment. Sistani belongs to and maintains the traditional Shii thought that a marja's role in politics is limited to providing advice without taking sides, unless the Islamic social identity of society comes under a threat—which necessitated his involvement in the ratification of the 2005 constitution. However, Sistani's representatives have, without explicitly naming Maliki, made their discontent with him and his performance apparent, especially on issues of national unity and security (including his handling of Sunni protests and poor management of security challenges, let alone corruption). These criticisms are effectively delivered through Friday prayer, in a soft manner and in compliance with Sistani's approach.

On Carnegie Endowment, we'll note this Tweet:

New Book—Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings, by

Finally,  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, December 17, 2013                                                                                (202) 224-2834
JBLM: DOL Awards $5.5 Million for Transitioning Servicemembers at JBLM
Approximately 900 JBLM servicemembers will be aided by grant established under Murray’s veterans jobs legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) applauded the announcement by the U.S. Department of Labor of a $5,586,385 National Emergency Grant (NEG) to assist approximately 900 transitioning military personnel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). The grant, awarded under Senator Murray’s “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” (VOW), will be awarded to the Pacific Mountain Workforce Consortium and operated by the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council. Of the total award, $2,888,266 will initially be released with further funding up to the approved amount being made available as Washington state demonstrates a need for ongoing assistance. 
“Today’s news serves as a shining example of what happens when we establish strong partnerships between the public and private sector in order to support our nation’s heroes,” said Senator Murray.  “For too long we’ve been patting our veterans on the back to thank them for their service and sending them out into the job market alone without the basic help they need. I’m grateful for the work being done by JBLM and the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council to implement the VOW to Hire Heroes Act and provide our men and women in uniform with the tools and resources necessary to not only make it in the workforce, but to succeed.”
The grant will support separating servicemembers from one year before and up to six months after transitioning from service. With the four current tracks available at JBLM for transitioning servicemembers, the grant will primarily serve those who want to transition directly to employment.
Approximately 300,000 active duty servicemembers and more than 100,000 National Guardsmen and reservists transition back into to civilian life each year. About 13,000 of those men and women plan to re-enter civilian life in Washington state and over 50% of those 13,000 transition through JBLM.
The “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” was signed into law by President Obama in 2011. Double-digit unemployment rates for veterans used to be the norm – but since VOW became law, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is on par with non-veterans. And while recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics prove that these programs work, VOW aims to continue lowering the rate of unemployment among our nation’s heroes by: 
·         Improving the Transition Assistance Program (TAP): The VOW to Hire Heroes Act makes TAP mandatory for most separating servicemembers, upgrades the program’s career and employment counseling services, and tailors TAP for the 21st Century job market.
·         Facilitating Seamless Transition:  This law allows servicemembers to begin the federal employment process prior to separation in order to facilitate a truly seamless transition from the military to jobs at VA, Homeland Security, and many other federal agencies in need of our veterans.
·         Expanding Education & Training: VOW provides nearly 100,000 unemployed veterans of earlier eras with up to 1-year of additional Montgomery GI Bill benefits to qualify for jobs in high-demand sectors ranging from trucking to technology.  VOW also provides disabled veterans up to 1-year of additional Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Benefits.
·         Translating Military Skills and Training:  This law also requires the Department of Labor to take a hard look at how the skills and experiences veterans gain through service can be better translated into a civilian context and to make it easier for qualified veterans to obtain the licenses and certifications they need to launch a range of well-paying, productive civilian careers.  
·         Veterans Tax Credits:  The VOW to Hire Heroes Act provides tax incentives of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans, and up to $9,600 for hiring disabled veterans, if the veteran has been looking for work for six months or longer.
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834