Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May 27, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's killing of civilians in Falluja gets noticed by Human Rights Watch, Barack gives a speech on Afghanistan, three senators object to an "end date" for war, Eric Shinseki was not right about the Iraq War, we note a few people who were right about the illegal war, but Shinseki isn't one of them, and much more.

Starting with War Crimes.  They've been taking place non-stop in Iraq.  Ava and I noted Sunday:

Early last week, we were noting how the world press looks the other way as Iraq's chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki kills Iraqi civilians.  He's long labeled Falluja -- where he is deeply unpopular -- a city where 'terrorists' have a foothold.  At the end of December, he began assaulting Anbar Province (whose big cities include Falluja and Ramadi), a Sunni dominant province which fueled the long standing charges that Shi'ite Nouri targets the Sunni population.
Labeling Falluja a hot bed of terrorism, Nouri began bombing it.
Falluja is a major city.  It has a huge population.
Nouri began bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja at the start of January.
This bombing continues all these months later.
Even if you believe there are 'terrorists' in Falluja, you are not allowed to kill civilians.
This is what is known as "collective punishment."  It is a legally defined War Crime and has been for decades.  The US government recognizes it as a War Crime in various laws and treaties.
Nouri is committing War Crimes.
Each day people are injured and/or killed.
And no one in the US government speaks out, the western press offers no fiery editorials.  At one or three dead a day, it doesn't apparently seem that much.  But as the days turn to weeks and as the weeks turn to months, the tolls of the dead and wounded add up.
Nouri's also bombed hospitals in Falluja repeatedly.  This too is a War Crime.
And yet, all we get is silence.

Saturday, National Iraqi News Agency reported 1 civilian was killed and six more injured when Nouri bombed their Falluja home and another round of bombings of residential neighborhoods left 4 civilians dead and sixteen more injured.  In addition, Al-Faouq Omar Mosque was bombed as was the Falluja Water Department.  Sunday, National Iraqi News Agency reported one bombing left 4 civilians dead and nine injured and another left 9 dead and sixteen injured.  Monday,  National Iraqi News Agency reported Falluja General Hospital received twenty-seven victims today -- 7 dead civilians and twenty injured.  Today?  Alsumaria reports the latest bombings of Falluja's residential neighborhoods resulted in the death of 1 child and 2 other civilians with three more injured. A second bombing, NINA reports, left 3 civilians dead and eighteen injured.

These are War Crimes and they are being ignored outside of Iraq.

Every day the death and wounded toll grows higher. NINA speaks with Falluja Teaching Hospital's Dr. Ahmed al-Shami who explains at least 461 civilians have been killed in the last five months and 1466 injured from these bombings:

Al-Shami told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that / 461 / civilians, 18% of them children, and 11 % women were killed, adding that the number of wounded reached / 1466 / people, 19% of them children, and 17 % of them women .

So nearly 100 children have been killed by Nouri and the world outside of Iraq has pretty much stayed silent.  Human Rights Watch issued "Iraq: Government Attacking Fallujah Hospital" today.  Excerpt:

Iraqi government forces battling armed groups in the western province of Anbar since January 2014 have repeatedly struck Fallujah General Hospital with mortar shells and other munitions, Human Rights Watch said today. The recurring strikes on the main hospital, including with direct fire weapons, strongly suggest that Iraqi forces have targeted it, which would constitute a serious violation of the laws of war.

Since early May, government forces have also dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods of Fallujah and surrounding areas, part of an intensified campaign against armed opposition groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). These indiscriminate attacks have caused civilian casualties and forced thousands of residents to flee.

“The government has been firing wildly into Fallujah’s residential neighborhoods for more than four months, and ramped up its attacks in May,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “This reckless disregard for civilians is deadly for people caught between government forces and opposition groups.”

The armed groups fighting against government forces in Anbar, including ISIS, say they have executed captured Iraqi soldiers. ISIS has also claimed responsibility for suicide and car bomb attacks against civilian targets in other parts of Iraq in response to the assault on Fallujah. Human Rights Watch has found that ISIS abuses probably amount to crimes against humanity.

In Fallujah, ISIS has planted improvised explosive devices along the main highway and other parts of city, and is operating prisons in Fallujah and elsewhere, Fallujah residents said.

Six witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed, three of them hospital staff, gave credible accounts of repeated strikes by government forces on Fallujah’s main hospital since January that have severely damaged buildings and injured patients and medical staff. An Iraqi government security officer based in Anbar, who spoke to Human Rights Watch on condition of anonymity, said government forces have targeted the hospital with mortars and artillery on 16 separate occasions.

The three hospital employees said mortar shells and projectiles had at various times struck the emergency room, the intensive care unit, the central air conditioning unit, a trailer that housed Bangladeshi hospital staff, and other parts of the hospital. The attacks injured four Bangladeshi workers, three Iraqi doctors, and an unknown number of patients, they said.

Such accounts of repeated strikes over four months, corroborated by photographs of apparent damage to the hospital, strongly indicate the hospital has been targeted, Human Rights Watch said.

Two witnesses to the hospital attacks, one of them a hospital employee, said that non-ISIS anti-government fighters were guarding the hospital and that wounded fighters were receiving treatment there. The Anbar-based government security official said that, according to information he received through his work and from hospital staff, ISIS has partly taken over the hospital, using the second floor to treat wounded fighters and administrative offices to detain high-level local officials.

All hospitals, whether civilian or military, are specially protected under the laws of war. They may not be targeted, even if being used to treat enemy fighters. Under customary international law applicable to the fighting in Anbar, hospitals remain protected unless they are used to commit hostile acts that are outside their humanitarian function. Even then, they are only subject to attack after a warning has been given setting a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has gone unheeded. Armed groups should not occupy or use medical facilities.

Witnesses and residents of Fallujah also described indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks that have killed civilians, and damaged or destroyed homes, at least two mosques, and one school that were not being used for military purposes.

Accounts from witnesses, residents and the government security official indicate that, since the beginning of May, these indiscriminate government attacks have included the use of barrel bombs, dropped from helicopters, on populated areas of Fallujah. The Anbar-based security official said the army has been using barrel bombs since about May 2 in Fallujah, as well as in the towns of Garma, Saqlawiyya, Ibrahim Ibn Ali, and surrounding areas. “They started using them [barrel bombs] because they want to cause as much destruction as possible,” he said. “My government … decided to destroy the city instead of trying to invade it.”

At today's State Dept press briefing, the cowardly press refused to ask about the HRW report.  The State Dept is over the US mission in Iraq.  But the cowardly reporters didn't think the above was anything to ask about.

We'll come back to Iraq.  Right now, we're noting a speech.  Today, US President Barack Obama gave a speech about the US 'withdrawal' from Afghanistan.   The White House has video here and text here.


US President Barack Obama:  The United States did not seek this fight.  We went into Afghanistan out of necessity, after our nation was attacked by al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001.  We went to war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies with the strong support of the American people and their representatives in Congress; with the international community and our NATO allies; and with the Afghan people, who welcomed the opportunity of a life free from the dark tyranny of extremism. 
We have now been in Afghanistan longer than many Americans expected.  But make no mistake -- thanks to the skill and sacrifice of our troops, diplomats, and intelligence professionals, we have struck significant blows against   al Qaeda’s leadership, we have eliminated Osama bin Laden, and we have prevented Afghanistan from being used to launch attacks against our homeland.  We have also supported the Afghan people as they continue the hard work of building a democracy.  We’ve extended more opportunities to their people, including women and girls.  And we’ve helped train and equip their own security forces.
Now we’re finishing the job we started.  Over the last several years, we’ve worked to transition security responsibilities to the Afghans.  One year ago, Afghan forces assumed the lead for combat operations.  Since then, they’ve continued to grow in size and in strength, while making huge sacrifices for their country.  This transition has allowed us to steadily draw down our own forces -- from a peak of 100,000 U.S. troops, to roughly 32,000 today.

2014, therefore, is a pivotal year.  Together with our allies and the Afghan government, we have agreed that this is the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan. This is also a year of political transition in Afghanistan.  Earlier this spring, Afghans turned out in the millions to vote in the first round of their presidential election -- defying threats in order to determine their own destiny.  And in just over two weeks, they will vote for their next President, and Afghanistan will see its first democratic transfer of power in history.

He lies so much:

"The United States did not seek this fight.  We went into Afghanistan out of necessity, after our nation was attacked by al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001.:?

The Taliban did not attack the US on 9-11.  The Taliban was the government of Afghanistan.  The country was supposedly harboring Osama bin Laden.  The US government wanted him handed over.  The response was to provide whatever proof or support for the US government's claim that bin Laden was responsible.  Colin Powell, among others, insisted the proof would be provided . . . after.  Afghanistan's government refused to hand bin Laden over without proof.  So the US government declared war.

That is the brief overview of what took place.

Barack's speech was yet another snooze button for the Nobel Peace Prize winning War Hawk.  He'll end that Afghanistan War soon -- but soon never comes.

Now the world learns that the end of the Afghanistan War won't be this year.

Paul D. Shinkman (US News &  World Reports) offers, "The remaining troops will likely be solely dedicated to training, advising and supporting the fledgling Afghan military, and possibly carrying out direct action missions only against al-Qaida forces there. Obama has said all troops will withdraw by 2016, as his term winds down."  Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) notes:

But under Obama’s plan, the war would not end in 2014, despite at least two years of administration implications it would. White House aides had floated a proposal to withdraw all US troops from the country this year, and in 2010, Joe Biden said that the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan in 2014. 

Aamer Madhani and Tom Vanden Brook (USA Today) explain:

Current Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declined to sign a security agreement before he leaves office this summer, much to Obama's consternation. The president bluntly warned Karzai earlier this year that the "longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 U.S. mission will be smaller in scale and ambition."
Both of the leading candidates to replace Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, however, have voiced their support of signing the BSA if they are elected, Obama noted.

In response to the speech, Senator John McCain's office issued the following:

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) released the following statement on President Obama’s announcement on Afghanistan today, which includes withdrawing all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2016:
“The President’s decision to set an arbitrary date for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy. This is a short-sighted decision that will make it harder to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly.
“The President came into office wanting to end the wars he inherited. But wars do not end just because politicians say so. The President appears to have learned nothing from the damage done by his previous withdrawal announcements in Afghanistan and his disastrous decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq. Today’s announcement will embolden our enemies and discourage our partners in Afghanistan and the region. And regardless of anything the President says tomorrow at West Point, his decision on Afghanistan will fuel the growing perception worldwide that America is unreliable, distracted, and unwilling to lead.
“The alternative was not war without end. It was a limited assistance mission to help the Afghan Security Forces preserve momentum on the battlefield and create conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict. The achievement of this goal, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, should be determined by conditions on the ground, not by the President’s concern for his legacy.
“All wars end. The question is how they end. The war in Iraq has ended in tragedy. And it is difficult to see how we can succeed in Afghanistan when the President tells our enemies that our troops will leave by a date certain whether they have achieved our goals or not.”

On the three senators, I'll note that non-endless war wars all come with an end date.  But there's a bigger issue no one appears willing to address.

Barack imposed an end date on Iraq and now possibly on Afghanistan.

This was shocking to McCain in both cases.  But there's a reason end dates were/are needed.

It is impossible for victory to be declared.

What the end date meant with Iraq is: The US lost.  It would mean the same with Afghanistan.

And both wars were lost before they began.

But part of some people's problems with announcing end dates is that end dates are announced because "Victory!" can't be.

Turning to today's violence in Iraq -- in the ongoing war in Iraq, the biggest death toll thus far comes from a suicide bomber in the Shorja section of Baghdad.  Reuters reports a suicide bomber took his own life in a central Baghdad mosque and took the lives of at least 19 other people. Xinhua notes the mosque was Abu al-Timan mosque. CNN explains, "The Abu al-Timan mosque is in a busy commercial neighborhood in the middle of Baghdad."  BBC News notes, "The attack occurred as worshippers prepared to attend midday prayers in the Shorja district of the capital." Sakan Faraj (AFP) adds, "Security forces barred journalists from taking photographs or videos of the aftermath of the scene, a common occurrence in the wake of deadly violence in the capital."

Other violence?  National Iraqi News Agency reports Joint Operations Command announced they killed 5 suspects in Mosul, a Qayyarah bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured,  Sadr City market bombing left 2 people dead and nine injured, 2 Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, and 2 Mosul suicide bombers took their own lives and the lives of 3 others (two were police members) while leaving three more injured. Alsumaria adds that a Mosul International Airport employee was shot dead in front of his Mosul home, 1 university professor was shot dead in front of his Mosul home, an al-Muthanna bombing left one Iraqi soldier and one woman injured, and a Tuz Khurmatu sticky bombing killed 1 person.

Turning to the topic of oil and Nouri's boiling blood.  He's in a snit fit over something the Kurdistan Regional Government did.  From Thursday's snapshot:

Marina Ottaway offers an analysis for CNN which includes, "Elated by his victory, al-Maliki is sounding uncompromising, and although he has declared that he is open to work with any political party, he has made it clear that it would be strictly on his own terms. For example, he has told the Kurdish party that they are welcome in a government coalition as long as they accept his interpretation of the constitution, thus renounce their ambition to export oil independently."  Apparently while preparing that analysis today, Ottaway missed Sinan Salaheddin's Associated Press report which opens, "Iraq's self-ruled northern Kurdish region on Thursday started exporting crude oil to the international market through the Turkish port of Ceyhan despite objections from the central government in Baghdad, Turkey's energy minister said." 

Now from Friday's snapshot:

This morning, Gary Dixon (TradeWinds) noted, "Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz told Reuters loading of the 1m barrel stem was completed on Thursday."  Selcan Hacaoglu and Ali Berat Meric (Bloomberg News) added, "More than one million barrels of Kurdish oil were shipped from Turkey to Europe yesterday, Turkey’s energy minister and the Iraqi Kurdish administration said, a sale that may trigger legal action by Iraq’s government."

Friday is also when the Kurdistan Regional Government issued the following:

Erbil, Kurdistan (KRG.org) - In line with its policy of implementing the 2005 Constitution of Iraq and helping Iraq achieve its oil production, export and revenue targets, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has completed the first sales of crude oil produced in the Kurdistan Region and piped to the port of Ceyhan.
A tanker loaded with over one million barrels of crude oil departed last night from Ceyhan towards Europe. This is the first of many such sales of oil exported through the newly constructed pipeline in the Kurdistan Region.
The revenue from the sales will be deposited in a KRG-controlled account in Halkbank in Turkey and will be treated as part of the KRG’s budgetary entitlement under Iraq’s revenue sharing and distribution as defined under the 2005 Constitution of Iraq.
Meeting Iraq’s continued international UN obligations, five percent of the sales revenue will be set aside in a separate account for reparations.
The KRG has invited independent bodies to observe the sales and export process in line with the KRG’s commitment to transparency. KRG also hopes that officials from SOMO (the federal Iraqi oil marketing organization) accept KRG’s invitation to observe the process. 
The KRG will continue to exert its rights of export and sell oil independently of SOMO but remains committed to negotiate in good faith with its counterparts in Baghdad to reach a comprehensive settlement on oil issues within the framework of Iraq’s Constitution.

  The KRG has worked tirelessly with its international partners and investors to create new pathways to prosperity and economic development for the people of Kurdistan and Iraq and is ready to become a reliable and stable source of energy both for its immediate neighbours and international markets.

The Kurds can sale their oil because (a) they're semi-autonomous and (b) no national oil & gas law has been passed.  They also have strong footing in that Nouri's trolling for support to attempt a third term as prime minister.  He did not sweep the April 30th election and does not have enough seats in Parliament with his State of Law alone to be named prime minister-designate.  So as he attempts to find supporters and with the Kurds having a number of seats in the Parliament, he can't afford to tick them off.  (The Economist says State of Law has 92 seats in Parliament and the Kurds have "over fifty.")

The three major parties in the KRG are Massoud Barzani's KDP, Jalal Talabani's PUK and Goran (Goran bested the PUK in the fall 2013 provincial elections).  From Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's party comes a new proposal.

Rudaw reports PUK "senior leader" Malal Bakhtyrar spoke yesterday at Duhok University and declared, "If the constitution isn't going to solve it, then let us annex the Kurdish territories to the Kurdish Region."  That's a pretty major suggestion/call.

Oil rich Kirkuk is also disputed Kirkuk.  Both the KRG and the central government out of Baghdad insist they have true claim to Kirkuk.

How to settle the dispute?

The 2005 Iraqi Constitution outlined it in Article 140:  Census and referendum in the province.

Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister in 2006 and took an oath to uphold the Constitution.

But he never implemented Article 140.  The Constitution said the prime minister had to by the end of 2007.  Nouri ignored it.  In 2010, when he came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya and couldn't cobble together needed support for a second term, the US government brokered The Erbil Agreement which was a legal contract signed by Nouri and leaders of other political blocs.  They gave him a second term and, in exchange, he promised (in writing) to give them certain things.  The Kurds wanted Article 140 implemented.  Nouri agreed in writing.

But he never implemented it.

Now a PUK leader is tired of waiting and issues a call at a time when PUK leader Jalal Talabani clearly cannot respond to the call or tamp down on the call.

That's because December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

Ending with the topic of the public record, we'll note this Tweet.

  • "The issue with General Shinseki is [that] he was right about the Iraq War.” 

  • No, he wasn't "right about the Iraq War."

    Many of us were right, he was not one of them.  Those of us who were right would be a lengthy list which would include Janeane Garofalo, Howard Zinn, Maxine Hong Kingston, Laura Flanders, Ani DiFranco, Cat Power, George Clinton, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Ann Wright, Sean Penn, Norman Solomon, Alice Walker, Lynne Stewart, Ramsey Clark, Russell Simmons, Stephan Smith, Chuck D, Natalie Maines, John Brady Kiesling, John H. Brown,  Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Justin Raimondo, Pat Buchanan, Senator Russ Feingold, Senator Ted Kennedy, Neil Young, Steve Baggarly, Missy Elliott, Leslie Nuchow, Mos Def, Al Gore, Jonatha Brooke, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Ted Rall, Molly Ivins, Robert Scheer, Helen Thomas, Rev Walter Fauntroy, Rev Dr. James Fitzgerald,  Nancy Lessin, Joy Gordon, Francis A. Boyle, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Kim Basinger, Jessica Lange, Elliott Gould, US House Reps Maxine Waters, Dennis Kucinich, Lynn Woolsey and Ron Paul among others.

    Eric Shinseki?


    Right about the illegal war would be speaking out against it.

    Shinseki didn't do that.

    He may have been right about numbers -- he argued Bully Boy Bush should be planning to send more troops into Iraq.  He argued for more US troops to be sent into Iraq.

    That's really not "right about the Iraq War."  Being right about the Iraq War was being correct about the chaos and violence it would unleash, noting that it was a war based on lies.  That's being right.