Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nouri's use of collective punishment and barrel bombs means the US has to support him?

Today a child is among the dead in Nouri's latest War Crimes.  NINA notes the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods have left 4 people dead and fifteen more injured. Yesterday, it was 2 children. The bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods claimed the lives of 6 civilians -- two of whom were children -- with sixteen more civilians injured.

These are War Crimes, legally defined as such.

Nouri has been doing this since the start of the year.

This is a crime that is known as "collective punishment."  The State of Palestine, Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations notes:

“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidations or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.” Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention.
Forms of collective punishment against all or parts of the population have included, inter alia, the imposition of curfews and sieges on entire villages or urban centers, often for prolonged periods of time, raids, home demolitions, blanket closures of schools and universities, and the destruction and confiscation of property, including agricultural and private lands and the uprooting of trees and crops.

Last week, Senator Robert Menendez (see yesterday's snapshot) raised the issue of barrel bombs with Ambassador Stuart Jones.  (Jones is US Ambassador to Jordan, he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because US President Barack Obama has nominated him to be the next Ambassador to Iraq).   Human Rights Watch noted barrel bombs in their May 27th report:

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.”

Nouri has been using barrel bombs in Falluja.  He has repeatedly denied using them.  In early May, Al Jazeera's reported:

Shelling by the Iraqi army in the city of Fallujah has killed more civilians, hospital sources and witnesses have said, amid allegations that government forces were using barrel bombs in an attempt to drive out anti-government fighters from the area, 
The use of barrel bombs in civilian areas is banned under international conventions given their indiscriminate nature.
But Mohammed al-Jumaili, a local journalist, told Al Jazeera that the army has dropped many barrel bombs "targeting mosques, houses and markets" in Fallujah.

Though Nouri continued denying, Ned Parker, Isra' al-Rubei'i and Raheem Salman (Reuters) reported May 17th:

However, a mid-level security officer in Anbar province confirmed that barrel bombs had in fact been dropped in Falluja.  “It’s the scorched-earth policy – the destruction of a whole area. The army is less experienced in house-to-house fighting, which the rebels have mastered. That’s why they’ve resorted to this,” said the officer who has been involved in planning to retake the city, speaking on condition of anonymity.

And yet Nouri still denied the use of barrel bombs.

For those who missed it, here's the exchange from last week:

Chair Robert Menendez:  Ambassador Jones, you know, we had Prime Minister Maliki here last year.  It was a difficult meeting.  I don't know whether or not he will actually, uh, be the prime minister again.  I guess by many accounts, he may very well ultimately build the coalition necessary to do that. But, as I said to Ambassador Beecroft as it relates to our relationship with the Egyptian government, in this case, the Iraqis must understand that the use of barrel bombs, that the overflights and the transiting of airspace by Iran sending troops and military equipment into Syria with impunity, and the lives of the people at Camp Liberty until they are resettled is going to be part of what this Committee judges as it relates to future arm sales, as it relates to our relationship.  So I would like to hear from you.  We understand the importance, we honor the lives of those who were lost in pursuit of a more democratic Iraq from the United States and an enormous national treasure.  But there has to be some change in the course of events here including having a government that is more inclusive, in which every Sunnis isn't an 'enemy' of the state.  There are many Sunnis who want to be part of Iraq as a nation but they have to be included as well.  Can you tell me about what you'll be messaging there as it relates to these issues?

Ambassador Stuart Jones: [. . .]  In regards to the use of barrel bombs, the use of barrel bombs is completely unacceptable.  It's an indiscriminate weapon against civilians and it cannot be tolerated.  This is something that my colleague, Steve Beecroft has raised with the senior levels of the Iraqi government.  There has been an instruction handed down through the military that barrel bombs will not be used.  And we've also heard from military contacts that they recognize that instruction. 

I've narrowed Jones' response to just barrel bombs.  See yesterday's snapshot for his full response to Menendez's questions.

Ask yourself why the US government should even consider helping Nouri?  He's a War Criminal using collective punishment.  In addition, he's also broken the law by using barrel bombs.

Exactly why does the US government need to prop Nouri up?

The Tom Haydens will find reason to ignore War Crimes -- they always do.  They have no ethics.  They choose sides based on personalities.

The Sunnis don't matter to Tom at all.  In 2006, he was pushing what Laura Flanders termed pen-pals-with-terrorists, remember?  That was Tom's plan that the US peace movement should work with Shi'ite militias.  Tom's always had a thing for the Shi'ites.  So the fact that Sunnis are being discriminated against?

Let's remember this is the same Tom Hayden who went to Israel in the 80s to cheer on military strikes against the Palestinians.  Tom doesn't care about Sunnis.  He probably chuckled at today's news of 44 Sunni prisoners being found dead in Nouri's Baquba police station.  This is the man who used to rant and rave about Sunnis, remember?  In the late 70s and early 80s.  Insisted they were the great criminals, insisted that Rollover (Jane's only film flop after her return from graylisting) had to be made and that the villains had to be Sunni Muslim.

At any rate,  Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland (New York Times) report on the cycle of violence:

The bodies of 44 Sunni prisoners were found in a government-controlled police station in Baquba, about 40 miles north of Baghdad. They had all been shot Monday night in the head or chest. Then the remains of four young men who had been shot were found dumped Tuesday on a street in a Baghdad neighborhood controlled by Shiite militiamen.
By evening, it was Shiites who were the victims again, as a suicide bombing in a crowded market in Sadr City killed at least 14 people, local hospital officials said.

A cycle of violence doesn't get broken by the US government taking sides.  In fact, their decision to push Sunnis out of the government, their decision to install Shi'ite exiles, and their refusal to support non-sectarian Iraqiya in 2010 (Iraqiya defeated Nouri in those elections) aided the cycle of violence.

NBC's First Read Minute today noted some of the issues regarding Iraq and the US (link is video):

Mark Murray: And Carrie we have some more developments regarding the situation in Iraq.  President Obama sent a War Powers Act letter to Congress notifying them that up to 275 US military personnel have been deployed to Iraq -- all in an effort to kind of secure the embassy people there and for, pretty much, security purposes.

Carrie Dann: Right.  And all this comes amid -- there's a new New York Times report today which characterizes what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is up to.  The President has indicated we really want to see a political situation worked on by the government there. He's [Nouri's] really concentrating on the military part of this -- even spending most of his time in the military section of his compound.  His staff is walking around in military outfits.  So there's definitely a disconnect on the ground in Iraq right now.

Mark Murray:  So the question is until there's a political solution, what good do any military strikes do in Iraq?  That all the sudden you're just propping up a government that already doesn't have a functioning military, that is still just riven with Sunni-Shi'ite conflict.  And that does seem to be the hesitancy right now of the Obama administration -- that they're not going to do anything until the government of Iraq gets its act together.

Carrie Dann:  And-and amid all this too you're seeing sort of a self-partitioning of different sectarian group in the country moving into separate areas.  That in and of itself also sort of creates the potential for a humanitarian crisis on the same scale for the Obama administration to be answering right now.

On The Reid Report (MSNBC) later today, Joy speaks with Michele Flournoy.  I will most likely disagree with Flournoy -- I almost always do -- but it's worth catching if you can because it will provide you with where the Democratic Hawk side of the party stands on the issue of actions to take with regards to Iraq.

Rod Nordland (New York Times) reports that rebels have seized the oil refinery in Baiji. National Iraqi News Agency notes a Baghdad sticky bombing killed 1 police member, security forces say they killed 250 'terrorists' in Saqlawiyah, a battle northeast of Baquba left 2 rebels dead and six peshmerga injured, and "three Turks engineers" were kidnapped to the south of Kirkuk along "with their Iraqi driver."

The following community sites -- plus, the Guardian, Black Agenda Report, Ms. magazine's blog, Iraq Inquiry Digest, On the Wilder Side, McClatchy Newspapers and the House Veterans Affairs Committee -- updated:


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