Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, June 22, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's assault on Anbar continues, more families are displaced in Anbar, the use of collective punishment, we look at the silence on Anbar, we note how Alice Walker managed to leave the Cult of St. Barack and regain her voice, and more.

Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, continues his assault on Anbar Province.  And where are the people around the world objecting?  Falluja's electrical grid has been destroyed (by the Iraqi military), this week has seen a school bombed (by the Iraqi military),  Iraq Times notes that Nouri's assault on Anbar has displaced over 22,000 families.

And this is treated as a misfortune and how sad but . . . No, not a misfortune.  The Anbar residents are victims of War Crimes.  Monday, Aswat al-Iraq quoted MP Mohammed Iqbal Omar (he's with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's Mutahidoun bloc) noting the military was responsible for the deaths, that the mission remains "vague" and he called for this "tragic" assualt to cease and for a political solution to be worked out.

Applause to him.  But I'm not talking about Iraqis right now.  I'm not talking about the cowardly and cowed press (I'm sorry AFP but when you had journalist arrested just months ago, you should have made a news report and not buried it -- you risk your own lives and everyone else's when you respond to Nouri's thuggery with silence). I'm not talking about the disappointing and lying US government.

I'm talking about the people of this world.  This site started in November 2004.  The second assault of Falluja began shortly after.  We called it out.  Like we call out this one.

But in 2004, we weren't the only ones calling out the terrorizing of the Iraqi people.

Where are those voices today?

Leslie Cagan, was United for Peace and Justice nothing but an ego trip for you?  Noam Chosky, you know this is wrong and you've given one trivial and useless interview after another in recent weeks but never stopped to call out what's happening in Anbar.  CODEPINK, I call you "CODESTINK" and you get mad and your itty bitty feelings are all hurt.  You tell me repeatedly when Medea Benjamin embarrasses herself and your organization that I'm "not being helpful" when I note it here.  I'm sorry, when are you helpful?  My role is the role of the critic.  It is clearly defined and I serve that purpose.  Your role is supposedly advocating for peace.  How do you do that when Medea rails against The Drone War but can't call out the person who oversees and continues it?  (That would be US President Barack Obama.)

Without Iraq, CODEPINK would never have been a media event.  They were a momentary joke with their FCC actions before the start of the illegal war.  It was about self-interest for them, their little media stunts.  That's how most people saw it, a bunch of bored people dressing in pink for attention.  And CODEPINK realized that which is why they basically dropped domestic issues.  (Illegal spying, et al, has to have an international aspect to appeal to CODEPINK today.)  They'd be nothing today without Iraq.  Protesting it gave them meaning, gave them stature, made them appear to be a serious organization.

Yet today they can't mention Iraq.  They refused to note it when, in the fall of 2012, Tim Aragno (New York Times) reported that Barack had sent "a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers [. . .] to Iraq to advise on contuerterrorism and help with intelligence." That was shameful and disgusting but it was on the eve of the 2012 presidential elections and CODEPINK are Cult of St. Barack.  That's why they never 'bird-dogged' then-Senator Barack Obama in their faux action.  It's why co-founder Jodie Evans was a bundler for Barack's 2008 campaign -- a detail she should have made public by CODEPINK in 2007.  They just finished two days of 'action' in Switzerland but couldn't stand up for the Iraqi people.

Cult of St. Barack is not fatal.  You can shake it and re-emerge as someone committed to peace.  March 9th of last year, Lyse Doucet (Newshour, BBC World Service) interviewed Alice Walker.  Excerpt.

Alice Walker: And you know, he charmed me, he held out this wonderful vision of a different way.  But we cannot have the different with with the same people and the same programs and the same destructiveness.  It's impossible. So I smile at my naivete in a way but I love it too.  I love that I have such a youthful hopefulness about the possibility of change. 

Lyse Doucet:  Well you wrote a letter to Obama when he came to power and you gave him some advice about how to work with the enemy.  And, of course, it was about that time that he got his Nobel Peace Prize.  Did he listen --

Alice Walker:  No.

Lyse Doucet:  -- to you advice?

Alice Walker:  No.  No.  I don't think he listens, really, to people like me.  I don't think he is the kind of person who pays that much attention to the masses actually.  I say that because I have a friend who actually ended up as part of his team but was soon kicked out because he was probably too truthful and too radical.  And one of the things he came back to tell us was that in the inner circle in the White House they don't think that they get into positions of power because people, you know, masses of people protest and demonstrate and, you know, vote.  They think they get there because people pay a lot of money to get them there. And so that's who they listen to. So, I think we've been, you know, naive in our desperate desire to have leadership that will change things.

Lyse Doucet:  But now he has several more years.  Do you have any hope that in his second term he could pursue the kind of changes that you and others like you believe should happen?

Alice Walker:  I don't think he's powerful enough.  I don't think one person can do all of that and I also think that he's more like a CEO rather than like the person who actually has the power to make decisions that will change things very much. 

Lyse Doucet:  Do you see him as someone who came to change the system and then the system changed him?

Alice Walker:  I don't know if he actually came into power to change the system.  He said he was going to make changes but I think he listens much more to bankers and to people that are not us, not the masses of the people and the poets.  And I must say, I think it's fatal not to listen to women, children and poets.  

Lyse Doucet:  He seems -- He says he listens to poets, poets like you, poets like Maya Angelou, he invites them to his great moments.

Alice Walker:  Well he invites them.  He doesn't invite me.  I have never been invited.  And I understand why he would think twice about doing that because I probably wouldn't go because I see the use of drone warfare as criminal and so I think it is a criminal act.  I think that the presidents before him were criminals.  And I think that they've made war on-on humanity and on the planet and they should be actually brought to justice for these things.

Lyse Doucet:  You may remember that ten years ago this week, you were arrested outside the White House where you were protesting against the war in Iraq.  And yet at that moment, you and Barack Obama, before he came to power, agreed more or less on the war in Iraq.

Alice Walker:  Well he said he was on our side but he didn't stop the war.  And even though they have withdrawn some troops, there are still tons of Americans there and their job now seems to be what the plan was all along which was to administer the oil fields.  And I came from people in the south who struggled very hard for decency and goodness and who believed in justice and who worked very hard to change an evil system of apartheid in the United States so there's no way that I can feel that this is good and what he, as the head of this country, seems to be about. 

Alice Walker survived the Cult of St. Barack and re-emerged with her own voice intact.  Others could do the same if they so desired.

In the interview, Alice notes, "We cannot sanction the destruction of people anywhere."

And she's right.  So why are so many today silent as Anbar is terrorized?

This is not about justice or even about terrorism.

The Boston Marathon Bombing took place April 15, 2013.  The US government didn't respond by shelling Cambridge and bombing Watertown.  Since when do you respond to act of crime by sending in the military to attack the people and their homes, schools, cities and towns?

You don't do that.

A good leader, as opposed despot like Nouri, does everything he or she can to ensure the safety of the people.  But Nouri is not a legitimate leader.  First the Bully Boy Bush administration insisted he be made prime minister in 2006 and then, despite the votes of the Iraqi people, the Barack Obama administration insisted that he have a second term in 2010.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) speaks with Shi'ite politician Adil Abdul-Mahdi who was Vice President of Iraq.  In 2006, he and Tareq al-Hashemi were Iraq's two vice presidents; in 2010 he and al-Hashemi were again named Vice Presidents and, in 2011, Khondair al-Khozaei was named a third vice president, weeks later Abdul-Mahdi resigned his post in protest of the ongoing corruption and other issues.  He is a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (led by Ammar al-Hakim) and he has often been mentioned as potential prime minister -- most often in 2005 and 2006.

Al-Monitor:  What is a decision taken by Maliki that you wished he had not taken or thought it wiser that he postponed taking?

Abdul-Mahdi:  His candidacy for a second term. I hoped that the principles of power rotation be better promoted, particularly considering that Mr. Maliki and the State of Law Coalition failed to receive the preponderance of votes and never had a parliamentary majority, even after they formed an alliance with the Supreme Council, the Sadrist movement and the remaining National Coalition forces that formed the National Alliance. He did not garner the majority of votes until after the Kurdistan Alliance and the Iraqiya bloc endorsed him following long months of complications and secret deals that were detrimental to him and the state during his second term, causing it to become more complex than it was during the first term. For, to rule during his second term, he had to disrupt the legislative and oversight role played by parliament. … And he reneged on the Erbil Agreement, leading to a period of complex conflicts that even reached the ranks of the National Alliance. The country then entered a period when it was ruled through a cult of personality, militarization, a system of quotas and the manufacture of new crises without solving older ones first. … The post and office cannot be of utmost importance. If each of us always claimed that others were wrong and we were always right, and never realized that right and wrong are subjective and not an objective reality, we would disrupt any possibility for change and the opportunity to discover the potential of others. This makes the battle for the premiership a complex one, akin to facing a military coup every time [elections are held]. … But in fact, it is a natural and simple process predicated on the majority that will be formed in parliament. In his capacity as a leader who gained his mandate and legitimacy through free and direct elections, I would have hoped that Mr. Maliki would have become a role model in this regard. Doing so would not have only benefited the country, it would have also been beneficial for his legacy, in accordance with the popular saying that states, “Look at the actions of others and realize how good mine are.” The halo of quarrelsome personalities and leaders would thus fade, to be replaced by agendas and actions, the goodness and usefulness of which could be clearly seen by the people, who would fight to maintain them through democratic means.

He's an artificial 'leader.'  He was never chosen by the people.  He remains an illegitimate leader and illegitimate leaders will always use violence against the people to maintain a hold on power.

A real leader would have listened.  A real leader would have honored power-sharing agreements (like The Erbil Agreement).  A real leader would have listened to the protesters in 2011 instead of lying that if they'd leave the streets, he'd end corruption in 100 days!  He didn't end it.  He doesn't even care about it anymore.  The protests started back up December 21, 2012 and they continue.

He doesn't want to meet the protesters demands.  He doesn't want to inspire or lead.  He just wants to destroy.

Abdulaziz al-Mahmoud (Peninsula) explains:

After about a year of peaceful protests in Al Anbar province, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri Al Maliki, has sent army troops to end the sit-in by force.
The troops, as always, were holding sectarian flags and shouting chants of revenge for Al Hussein ibn Ali’s death by Yazid bin Muawiya and his allies, so they killed, burned and captured a large number of people.
Consequently, as an already known spontaneous reaction, residents of Al Anbar wielded weapons to defend their lives, homes and dignity. As a result, Iran immediately declared that it supported Al Maliki in his war against terrorism and that it was ready to send him necessary support.
The US declared the same thing; it even rushed weapons Al Maliki had asked for. The United Nations Security Council, the UN Secretary-General and the Arab League adopted the same stance.
What is this nonsense?
Is it possible that all these parties do not know that Sunnis in Iraq are suffering under a savage and sectarian regime, which works its fingers to the bone to humiliate, marginalise, displace, impoverish and exclude them, using every villainous way created by a sadistic and ruthless mind? Has Iran begun reaping the fruits of its long stand-off with the US?

And the office of the European Union's Struan Stevenson issued the following:

“Iraq is plummeting rapidly towards civil war and genocide,” according to a senior EU lawmaker Struan Stevenson, a Conservative Euro MP from Scotland who chairs the European Parliament’s important Delegation for Relations with Iraq. Stevenson says that an onslaught against supposed Al Qaeda terrorists in 6 Iraqi Provinces is no more than a cover for the “annihilation of Sunnis opposed to the increasingly sectarian Shia policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

Speaking from Scotland Struan Stevenson said:

“When I visited Iraq in November I met with many of the leading Sunnis who had organised protests and demonstrations against Maliki in Anbar and Kirkuk and other Sunni Provinces. I also met with the Grand Mufti, one of only 2 religious leaders of the Sunnis in Iraq. All of them told me in detail how they were under constant attack by Maliki’s forces and how often these forces would be infiltrated by highly-trained assassins from Iran, who could be identified easily because they spoke Farsi rather than Arabic. They told me how thousands of Sunnis have been killed in these attacks and how Sunni Imams and mosques were being ruthlessly targeted.
“Maliki’s determined efforts to eradicate all leading Sunnis from the Iraqi government, including trumped-up charges of terrorism against the leading humanitarian, Vice President of Iraq Tariq al-Hashemi, has led to an upsurge of protests which have continued for more almost two years. The last straw was the violent arrest of the senior Sunni MP and Chair of the Iraqi Parliament’s Economics committee – Dr Ahmad Alwani – on 28th December, when an assault force of 50 armoured vehicles, helicopter gunships and hundreds of heavily armed troops massacred 9 members of his family and arrested him and over 150 of his staff on baseless charges of terrorism. Dr Alwani has been a key critic of Maliki and of Iranian meddling in Iraq.
“Just as I was told in November, Maliki’s ploy, aided and abetted by the mullahs in Iran, is to label all of the Sunnis as terrorists, claiming that they are active members of Al Qaeda. In fact I have been assured that there are no foreigners involved in the uprisings in the 6 SunniProvinces. Although some Al Qaeda jihadists had infiltrated Ramadi in al-Anbar Province, near the Syrian border, they were quickly driven out by the locals. The people who have now taken up arms against Maliki’s forces are ordinary Iraqi citizens, forced to defend themselves against a ruthless dictator. Shamefully, the Obama administration has fallen for this ploy and supplied Maliki with, 75 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles which are now raining down on his own people in Ramadi and other Sunni cities. 10 reconnaissance drones are expected to follow in March, with a further 48 drones and the first of a batch of F-16 fighter jets later in the year.
“The Americans seem unable to accept the fact that their blundering intervention in Iraq has so far led to over 1 million Iraqi deaths, changed that oil-rich nation into a virtual basket-case and simply replaced the brutal Saddam Hussein with another corrupt and bloody dictator in Nouri al-Maliki. Providing him with US arms to wage outright war on the Sunni minority in Iraq, as the Iranian mullahs cheer from the side-lines, will solve nothing and will certainly lead to civil conflict. The only solution is to remove Maliki from office and replace him with a non-sectarian government of all the people, which respects freedom, democracy, human rights, women’s rights and the rule of law and stops the growing interference from Tehran. Even senior Shias whom I met in Iraq have voiced their concern over Maliki’s malign regime.
For the Americans to hide behind Maliki’s lies and fabrications that Al Qaeda terrorists have taken over Ramadi and Fallujah and other Sunni cities will pave the way to the genocide of Iraq’s Sunni population.”
On behalf of Mr Struan Stevenson MEP

Where are the Americans speaking out for the residents of Anbar?  

John Feffer writes another ridiculous piece (click here for Foreign Policy In Focus -- we're not linking to The Nation).  He never condemns the assault on Anbar.  This is a heavily populated province and Nouri's launching US-provided Hellfire missiles, it's bombing cities and towns, it's launching mortar attacks on cities and towns, it's prevented aid from reaching the province and so much more.  Feffer manages to mention Anbar -- but only in relation to 'al Qaeda.'

The reason that so many on the pathetic left could not call out the assault on Afghanistan was because toss out the words 'al Qaeda' and suddenly they lose their spine.  But the attack on Afghanistan destroyed lives -- and continues to do so.

If 10% of the population of Anbar was established to be al Qaead or al Qaeda linked, that still wouldn't justify the attacks.  There is no justification.  There is never a justification for collective punishment which is why it's classified as a War Crime.

The Latin American Herald Tribune reports, "Security forces killed more than 60 suspected terrorists in a 24-hour period, Iraqi authorities said Wednesday."  Suspected terrorists?  Well, the killers never tell the truth, do they?  Look at all of Barack Obama's claims that his Drone War only kills 'terrorists.'

Feffer writes another ignorant and ill-informed commentary.  At one point, he writes:

“From 2006 to 2008, tribesmen were able to beat Al Qaeda with the cooperation of American forces and the support of the Iraqi government,” Sunni politician Osama al-Nujaifi told The New York Times. “After gaining victory over Al Qaeda, those tribesmen were rewarded with the cutting of their salaries, with assassination and displacement.” Many Iraqis complain that the United States has not done enough to pressure the al-Maliki government to heal the rift with the country’s Sunni minority.

Do you see a problem?

In 2008, was Nancy Pelosi billed as "a Democrat politician" by the press?  No, she was billed with her title: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  Today, she's billed as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Osama al-Nujaifi is a Sunni politician.  He's also Speaker of Parliament.  So if you're only going to reference him once in your article, you go with, "Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi."

Nouri's assault on Anbar continues with NINA noting military helicopters continue to bomb Falluja and Ramadi.  Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that Anbar MPs say Nouri is attempting to extend the assault on Anbar up through the April 30th parliamentary elections.  MP Hamid al-Mutlaq notes a government acting wisely would have avoided a military campaign by listening to the cries of the protesters and granting concessions, would have avoided bombing cities by being in talks with the police and people of the city.  Nouri al-Ali al-Kilani (Kitbat) offers a column on how Nouri al-Maliki, and his double standards, endorse and breed sectarianism in Iraq.  He notes the thug and prime minister goes before the Iraqi people sullen and issues threats.

And the war's spreading to the airwaves and social media.  Al-Shorfa reports, "The local government in Iraq's Anbar province on Wednesday (January 22nd) announced the launch of a counter-terrorism radio station to raise awareness about threats posed by al-Qaeda and extremist groups."  And Omar al-Jaffal (Al-Monitor) reports:

The administrator of the Facebook page for Rayat Ahl al-Sunnah Fil-Iraq (Flag of the Sunnis in Iraq), which views the army as occupying Anbari cities to harass and oppress the population there, pleaded with the media to support the “battle of the people of Anbar against the army.” In an interview with Al-Monitor, he asserted, “The media has not dealt fairly with our cause. We established a page on Facebook so that we could tell the world what is happening in Anbar.”
The group's page has attracted a large number of supporters from among Sunni youths, who share the page’s view that Anbar's “cities are being brought to ruin by the army.”
On the other side of the online battle, the Facebook page for the Iraqi Electronic Army seeks to close down pages that call for fighting the army by informing Facebook administrators of abuses aimed at Iraqi national figures on them. The page administrator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor, “Our page wages war against all the terrorist pages, from every sect and religion in Iraq.” He denied that his page had received “material support from any political faction in Iraq.” He said that it “communicates with all the soldiers of Anbar to relay word of what is happening on the ground there.”

And the signs of Nouri's leadership failure are all around.  Xinhua reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki on Wednesday said that the time has come to end al-Qaida presence in the city of Fallujah in the volatile province of Anbar, while four people were killed and nine wounded in violent attacks across the country.
"The time has come to settle this subject and end the presence of this gang in this city (Fallujah) to save its residents from their evil," Maliki said in his weekly televised speech to the nation.

"I ask the sons of this province, its tribes and notables and all who live there to be ready to take serious stands against those dirty people without casualties and without sacrifices," Maliki said without specifying a time for any action.

He didn't ask for his help when he started the assault, didn't even think about them.  But now that he's created yet another mess he can't clean up, he's dependent upon others to accomplish what he couldn't.

Again, Iraq Times notes that Nouri's assault on Anbar has displaced over 22,000 families.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post) reports from Karbala:

The plush accommodation halls on the outskirts of this southern Iraqi city, normally reserved for visiting Shiite pilgrims, now teem with displaced Sunnis fleeing violence in the Western province of Anbar.
There and elsewhere, sectarian tensions are brewing as Iraq spirals into the worst cycle of violence it has experienced in years. But here, in one of the holiest cities for Shiite Muslims, Sunni children play on brightly painted swings as families gather in the waning winter light beside clipped magnolia-lined lawns.

The refugees Nouri's assault has created should be seen as shocking and disgusting.  Iraq can't afford more displaced people and to ask the citizens of Anbar to live through Nouri's assault on the province is to ask a great deal of a province that's already suffered more than enough.  Hamza Mustafa (Ashraq Al-Awsat) reports:

The Anbar Provincial Council has formed a crisis unit ahead of a possible military raid on Fallujah in the hopes of resolving the conflict in the city peacefully.
Council head Sabah Karhout issued a statement Tuesday, saying: “Anbar has formed a crisis cell led by Governor Ahmad Al-Dulaimi,” adding: “The military solution will be the last resort if the ongoing negotiations between officials and tribal leaders fail.”

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

The Political Council in Kirkuk called on those who are described as the owners of the decision not to invade Fallujah to spare the blood of Iraqis and not to aggravate things.
Head of the Council , Sheikh Abdul Rahman Munshid al- Assi told / NINA / that "We appeal to the Prime Minister and the acting ministers of defense, interior and chief of staff , intelligence and the national security, that the responsibility is great in taking such decision to invade Fallujah and areas of the rest of Anbar .

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 791 violent deaths for the month so far.  Today, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes, "Armed confrontations and roadside bombs made for a bloody day in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday, claiming the lives of at least 16 people -- including militants who died in a battle with the Iraqi army, police in Mosul said."  National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 fighters were shot dead in Tikrit, Nouri's federal police boasted they killed 10 suspects "in the area of Aljazeerah south of Mosul," indiscriminate military artillery shelling at Falluja left 1 person dead and two more injured, an Alaaskari bombing left three police officers injured, an Ein al-Jahesh Village roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and three more injured, a Mosul armed attack left 1 police officer dead and two more injured, a Baghdad shooting (Camp Sara area) left 1 person dead, a Baghdad shooting (Tarmiyah area) left one person injured, a southwest Baghdad mortar attack (Radwaniyah area) killed 1 person and left two people injured, 2 fighters were shot dead in Mousl, a Kirkuk shooting left SWAT officer Mohamed Kamel injured, and 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk (38-year-old male with "signs of torture and gunshot wounds"). All Iraq News notes 1 "Iraqi Army officer with a Major rank was kidnapped to the west of Ramadi city." 1  Alsumaria notes that late last night, 1 farmer was kidnapped in Tikrit with assailants then setting a house bomb which killed 1 woman and left five people injured.

We noted the death of Iraqi journalist Firas Mohammed Attiyah in Monday's snapshot.  Today the Guardian's Greenslade Blog noted the death and these details:

The bomb exploded as Attiyah accompanied a government patrol to a ceremony in the city of Khalidiya. Muayad Ibrahim, a journalist for Anbar TV, was also wounded in the incident.

They're wrong.  We were as well.  Despite early reports claiming the journalist was 'embedded' with the military at the time of his death, that is not correct.  Kitabat reports today that his news outlet has confirmed that Firas Mohammed Attiyah was not with the military when he died, he was enroute to Ramadi to meet with displaced families.

Yesterday, we noted the pretty spin AP put on Nouri's decision to carve up areas of Iraq (where he polls especially poorly and where the judiciary does not bend to his will) to create new provinces out of the city of Falluja, Tuz Khurmato and the Valley of Nineveh.

Alsumaria reports an emergency session was called today by Anbar's provincial council and that, yesterday, Kurdish MP Khalid Shwani called Nouri's efforts a flagrant violation of the Iraqi Constitution.  National Iraqi News Agency adds:

The head of the provincial council in Anbar, Sabah Karhut rhot confirmed that: "Fallujah is part of Anbar province, and cannot be a governorate at this time ."
He told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / : "Anbar provincial council held an urgent meeting to discuss the government's decision to make the city of Fallujah a governorate without informing the local government officials in Anbar ."
He added : "The local government in Anbar have not contacted the central government to make Fallujah a province by itself, and this raised signs of surprise among officials in the province, in light of the security situation ."

Iraq Times also notes the surprise and quotes council member Suhaib al-Rawi stating that the proposal is strange and raises many questions. Strange that it raises so many questions and objections but AP missed all that and presented it as normal.

Not only is not normal, it's leading others to make requests.  NINA reports:

Hundreds of Khanaqin district of Diyala province , demanded the central government to transfer their district to a province in accordance with the law and the Constitution.
The head of the municipal council in Khanaqin said to NINA reporter ,that citizens believed that their demand is a legal and a constitutional entitlement.

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