Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, August 13, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri doesn't want to go, the Pope Tweets, and much more.

Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) weighs in on Iraq:

The U.S. corporate media were more interested in the rest of al-Baghdadi’s message, in which he warned Washington that “soon enough, you will be in direct confrontation – forced to do so, God willing. And the sons of Islam have prepared themselves for this day. So wait, and we will be waiting, too.” For most self-obsessed Americans, this was received as a threat to attack “the Homeland.” However, downtown Manhattan is not on the Caliphate leader’s map. Al-Baghdadi meant that the American strategy of financing Muslim muppets to fight imperialism’s wars is kaput, and that the Pentagon will soon have to do its own dirty work, dressed in “Crusader” uniform.
Accordingly, the U.S. is sending additional hundreds of “non-combat” troops to northern Iraq – as if Marines and Special Forces are anything but combat soldiers – to join the 1,000 or so American military and “security” personnel already there, by official count. Contrary to what many Americans on the Left believe, U.S. planners are not itching to send large American units to Arab lands (the Kurds are not Arabs), since their presence is counter-productive in the extreme. The problem is, the Pentagon’s proxies are evaporating, in flight, or – in the case of Arab Iraq – growing even more dependent on Iran and (who would have predicted it?) Russia, which is assisting in reconstituting the Iraqi air force.
Some leftists in the U.S. even imagine that Washington has achieved some kind of victory with the imminent departure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the veteran American stooge. But, Maliki’s ouster was also backed by Iran, Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani (who mobilized millions demanding an end to the U.S. occupation), Muqtada al-Sadr (whose militia fought two wars against the occupation), and even much of Maliki’s own Dawa Party. Only the Kurds remain in Washington’s (and Israel’s) pocket – and this matter of convenience, too, may pass as the neighborhood changes all around Kurdistan.

There's more to the piece than just that.

But on that?

Sorry, Glen, if Barack hadn't pulled US support, the world would not be attempting to rush Nouri off the stage. 

That is the power of the United States -- it's frequently misused by presidents, but it can also accomplish good.

And Nouri going is good. 

Is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani responsible?  Absolutely.  As is Moqtada and many leaders and officials not mentioned -- a list which would include KRG President Massoud Barzani, ISCI leader Ammar al-Hakim (who surprised many US participants by not attempting to seek the post himself despite working very hard to ease Nouri out), and Ayad Allawi among others. 

But most of all this came about because of the Iraqi people -- Sunni, Shia, Kurd and other.

In the midst of the Arab Spring or 'Arab Spring,' Iraqis took to the streets and protested in large numbers.  They were largely ignored by the world.  The same was true from December 2012 through January of 2013.  That time, they protested non-stop and turned out every week.

They showed up to protest despite threats, despite torture --

In fact, let's stop there.

You didn't have to peacefully participated in protesting for Nouri to sick his goons on you.  Hadi al-Mahdi was rounded up for reporting on the protests.  Falling back to the September 8, 2011 snapshot:

In Iraq, a journalist has been murdered.  In addition to being a journalist, he was also a leader of change and part of the movement to create an Iraq that was responsive to Iraqis. 
Al Mada reports Iraqi journalist Hadi al-Mahdi is dead according to an Interior Ministry source who says police discovered him murdered in his Baghdad home.  Along with being a journalist, Al Mada notes he was one of the chief organizers of the demonstrations demanding change and service reform that began on February 25th -- the day he was arrested by Iraqi security forces and beaten in broad daylight as he and others, after the February 25th protest, were eating in a restaurant. The New York Times didn't want to tell you about, the Washington Post did.  And now the man is dead. Gee, which paper has the archives that matter to any real degree.  Maybe it's time to act like a newspaper and not a "news magazine" with pithy little human interest stories?  (That is not a dig at Tim Arango but at the paper's diva male 'reporter' who went on NPR to talk of an Iraqi collegue this week.)  So while the Times missed the story (actaully, they misled on the story -- cowtowing to Nouri as usual),  Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported:

Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
"It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."

That day's snapshot?  That's the day Haidi was murdered.  Like so many other journalists killed in Nouri's Iraq, the killer was never found -- mainly because no one ever made a point to look for a killer to begin with.

Did Black Agenda Report cover his murder?


No, they did not.

They didn't cover the hunting of Iraq's LGBTQ community.  Nouri's 'acting' Minister of the Interior helped with that on Nouri's orders.  Young men and boys who were gay or wrongly thought to be gay were targeted.  Death didn't come easy to those killed.  To cite two popular examples for ways to murder, some were beaten to pulp with bricks, some had their anuses super glued.  This was barbaric not just in that innocents were being killed -- being gay is as normal as being straight -- but in the way they were being killed -- slowly and painfully in an effort to inflict the most pain possible.

Does Glen want to explain why that was?

Better yet, can he?

Nouri's flunkies went into high schools and middle schools handing out pamphlets about how awful these people were -- they had same-sex sex, they were vampires, they were this, they were that.  (Of course Nouri and his flunkies denied it -- but both Al Mada and Alsumaria got ahold of the handouts the Ministry of Interior was distributing to children.)

What Nouri's gotten away with?  War Crimes.

Has Black Agenda Report objected even once to the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods?  We all know that collective punishment is a legally defined War Crime.  But since the start of this year, Nouri has daily attacked and left wounded and dead numerous civilians whose only 'crime' was to live in Falluja.

I like Glen and think he's an important voice.

I also he's a very sad person if he can't, for even one moment, think of the Iraqi people.

The Pope Tweeted a popular message today:

I thank all those who are courageously helping our brothers and sisters in Iraq.

Reuters notes Pope Francis wrote a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today which stated, among other things, "I write to you, Mr. Secretary General, and place before you the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq."

Nouri is a thug and they had to endure 8 years of him. 

US President Barack Obama pulled the US government's support. 

I wish Barack had done that in 2010 -- when Nouri lost the election -- but I don't for one moment think doing it now didn't make a difference.

I also have no problem praising Barack for taking that step. 

If he used the rest of his final term to do similar things, I'd praise him for that as well.

Will he?

I wouldn't bet on it.

I support the air drops of food, water, etc for the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar.  They are victims and relief missions are something every nation could do and take part in.

Barack's taken that beyond air drops.  And today the Defense Dept issued the following:

Release No: NR-427-14
August 13, 2014

Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby

As part of the ongoing humanitarian efforts ordered by President Obama, today a team of U.S. military personnel, accompanied by USAID, conducted an assessment of the situation on Mt. Sinjar and the impact of U.S. military actions to date. The team, which consisted of less than twenty personnel, did not engage in combat operations and all personnel have returned safely to Irbil by military air. The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days. The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped. Based on this assessment the interagency has determined that an evacuation mission is far less likely. Additionally, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance as needed and will protect U.S. personnel and facilities.

The mission Barack's now having US troops carry out in terms of the Yazidis is riskier than air drops but air drops are risky as well.  I'm sure Alissa J. Rubin knew that long ago but it was certainly made clear Tuesday when the Kurdish helicopter the New York Times reporter was on crashed after dropping aid and attempting to rescue some Yazidis.

Rubin walked away with painful injuries (broken wrists are painful), Yazidi MP Vian Dakhil was injured, the pilot died and a few more passengers who haven't been named yet were left injured.  The pilot hasn't been named either.

We noted this Tweet last week from the Financial Times' Borzou Daragahi:

  • The MP he was Tweeting about was Vian Dakhil.

    I don't support fly over bombings -- nor do I believe for one minute that the bombs being dropped from the air means the US is not in 'combat' in Iraq. 

    I do not support more US troops going into Iraq (or any being there other than to guard US embassy staff -- which Marines do around the world).   All Iraq News notes, "About 130 American military advisers have arrived in Iraq to help with its humanitarian aid in north area of the country, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a press statement."  The number of US troops in Iraq keeps increasing.  That's not a good thing to those of us opposed to war.

    The addition was noted in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf:

    QUESTION: Okay. And conversely, you deployed – or the United States deployed some 130 --

    MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

    QUESTION: -- advisors and so on to Erbil. Does that mean that the situation in Baghdad or around Baghdad is quiet enough where you don’t need this kind of advisory effort?

    MS. HARF: Well, let’s be clear about what these 130 advisors will and will not be doing. They are focused squarely on looking at the humanitarian situation on Mount Sinjar and developing options to potentially move people and relocate people safely from the mountain. As we know, dropping food and water is not a long-term solution for the tens of thousands of people on that mountain. So these U.S. military personnel that have just gone in are assessing the best way to bring these people to safety, whether that’s some sort of airlift, whether that’s a humanitarian corridor. They’re looking at the options, they’ll present them to the President, and then he’ll make decisions about how – the best way that we can help do that will be.

    QUESTION: And I know yesterday that you denied that there was any kind of pressure on Maliki to leave August from early June or mid-June right after the fall of Mosul. So no one has talked to him at that time, “It’s time for you to leave?”

    MS. HARF: What we’ve always said, Said, is that there is a constitutional process and that process needs to move forward. There are very clear rules under that process for how a new prime minister for a new government is designated. We have encouraged everyone to play by those rules, period. And that’s the message that we’ve been sending for a very long time.

    Former Governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party Presidential nominee Gary Johnson Tweeted the following today:

  • WSJ: "U.S. Begins to Assess Iraq Rescue Strategy". Obama insists we are not going back to war, but how many bombs & troops = war??

  • Let's turn to the political in Iraq.  Jason Ditz ( maintains Iraq's prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi is Nouri al-Maliki circa 2006.

    Comically, he does that as is in the midst of a fund raiser boasting they're always right.

    I'm not always right.  I'm often wrong.

    But I wasn't wrong about Nouri.

    And, unlike Jason Ditz, I didn't giggle on air and agree with Scott Horton about how wonderful Nouri was.

    Jason Ditz has a lot of nerve.  I've been kind but we all know I forget nothing.

    I can quote from those chats with Horton -- where Scott and Jason made like the Gabby Gabors enthralled with Nouri.

    Is Haider the same?


    Is he good or bad, saint or sinner?  I already said this week that we don't know.

    But what we know is that Nouri's selling point for the American government was chiefly his paranoia which, it was thought, would make him easily manipulated.

    I knew about the paranoia and we wrote about it here, what, three or four years before WikiLeaks confirmed what we were saying?

    I'm not hitting anyone up for their piggy banks.

    I am saying that if you have the nerve, before the prime minister-designate has done anything, to insist he's another Nouri, you damn well better have called out Nouri.

    Or you can sit your tired ass down.

    This is my last nice, Jason Ditz. 

    I'm not in the mood.

    Back to today's State Dept press briefing:

    QUESTION: In Iraq, please. Today Prime Minister al-Maliki said he would not step down from his post until the Iraqi judiciary rules on whether or not his constitutional challenge to the process should go forward or not. I’m wondering if you all have any idea of how long this process might take as it speaks to some concerns people have raised about whether he will try to run out the clock on the 30 days he now – that designate al-Abadi has.

    Also I’m wondering if you were able to get an answer to my question yesterday as to what level of confidence does the U.S. have in the Iraqi judiciary system.

    MS. HARF: A couple issues, and then we’ll – I’m sure you’ll have follow-ups. The comments made by the prime minister today were similar to ones he’s made in recent days, quite frankly. And as I said yesterday, with all political systems there will be differences with how certain processes unfold. We never expected this to be completely seamless, but the United States firmly rejects any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial processes.

    And then look, I don’t want to get ahead of the constitutional process that’s underway. We just began the 30-day time clock for the Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi to form a new government. They are moving along with that process. So we will watch day by day as that plays out, but Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi is moving forward as part of this process, and that’s what we’ll be focused on in the coming days.

    QUESTION: So you don’t believe this court challenge that Maliki is posing is going to be slowing that 30-day clock in any way?

    MS. HARF: Well, look, the prime minister-designate is the one who is in charge of what happens during the 30-day clock, and he’s working actively towards that. And again, we would reject any efforts by anyone to use the judicial processes to manipulate or coerce the outcomes here. But there is a separate process and it’s the constitutional one, and that’s moving forward.

    QUESTION: How is it that the designate has control of the clock when Maliki is still the prime minister?

    MS. HARF: Well, he has control of the clock. What I meant was the progress that can be made in the 30 days to form a new government is in the hands of the prime minister-designate, who has the support, as I said over the last few days. He was nominated by the Shiite bloc, including many members of Prime Minister Maliki’s own party.

    So we’ve seen these kind of comments from the current prime minister before, but separate from those comments there is a process under the constitution that is moving forward. And we expect that to move forward and we will continue watching what happens in the coming days.

    QUESTION: Do you have any expectations of how long this court appeal will last?

    MS. HARF: I don’t have any guess on that.

    QUESTION: May I just follow up on that? I mean, his words were very critical of the United States, today – Maliki’s speech. He basically said that you espouse democratic values but you go ahead and sabotage the democratic process. What do you have to say to that?

    MS. HARF: Well, the Iraqis have their democratic process that’s underway right now, and that process has led to a new prime minister-designate being named by the current prime minister’s own bloc. So the process is playing out how it should. Again, we knew this would not be without complication. Nothing ever is – certainly not here in Iraqi politics. But their own democratically, constitutionally outlined process has been ongoing and that’s what’s happening right now.

    QUESTION: I know that you warned against manipulating whatever legal process in the courts or whatever to sow divisions and so on in Iraq. Has anyone talked to the prime minister personally to say refrain from doing that because you’re driving the country further into the abyss?

    MS. HARF: We’ve certainly had conversations with a range of leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, emphasizing, Said, that this is a key, critical time in Iraq on the security front, on the political front – they are very closely intertwined – and that nobody should do anything to prevent the progress that’s laid out under the constitution from taking place and from moving forward. Nobody should.

    QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

    MS. HARF: We’ve certainly had those conversations.

    QUESTION: Okay. Now, as we – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, they all welcome the prime minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi, but Maliki still has some support within the Shiites. He has some support within some, like, militant type of militias and so on. Are you concerned that he actually might resort to violence?

    MS. HARF: I don’t want to venture to guess on that hypothetical, Said. There’s a process in place and that process is moving forward. What’s key here is that the President asked the prime minister-designate to name a government. This was the designate that his own bloc, Prime Minister Maliki’s own bloc selected. So I think that should speak very clearly about the support that Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi has. And, again, the process is moving forward.

    We'll note this Tweet.

    Twenty eight women (prostitutes) killed in Iraq! A reminder of Iranian regime when prostitutes were burned to die!

    I have no idea why a woman would do that to other women.

    28 women were killed.  By thugs.

    The thugs call them whores.

    And we repeat that?

    That's how we show sympathy for these women who were killed?

    The Tweeter's never been there and knows nothing.

    'A press report said it!'

    Oh, okay then.  Press report are never wrong, right?

    It would be something wonderful if we could see people rejecting an urge to insult the dead.  (I am not attacking women who engage in sex work.  I am noting that prostitute is a huge pejorative in Iraq and dead women who can't defend themselves shouldn't have prostitute tied around their dead necks solely because a group of men -- who killed them -- have labeled them whores.)

    I'm not interested in running down violence.  Monday night, I noted a death and offered Tuesday might be the last snapshot.  The friend I dictated it too wisely pulled that.  But a friend died this week and it really makes me question the point of online life.

    This week saw the passing of actors Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall.  (I was referring to Robin in the previous paragraph.)  TCM has a video clip entitled "Lauren Bacall -- (TCM Remembers) 1924-2014."  PBS' The NewsHour remembers her here.

    Maria noted her passing in "The Walker," Ann in "Remembering Lauren Bacall," Stan with "Bacall," Elaine with "The great star Lauren Bacall," Ruth with "Lauren Bacall," Trina with "Lauren Bacall -- one of a kind," Betty with "Lauren" and Kat with "The wrong people keep dying."  Robin's passing was noted in Mike's "Robin starred in so much of our childhood," Rebecca's "robin" and Marcia's "Iraq and Robin Williams." In addition, Robin was noted in a statement the Pentagon released earlier this week:

    August 11, 2014

    Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the Passing of Robin Williams

    The entire Department of Defense community mourns the loss of Robin Williams. Robin was a gifted actor and comedian, but he was also a true friend and supporter of our troops. From entertaining thousands of service men and women in war zones, to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who serve this nation in uniform. He will be dearly missed by the men and women of DoD - so many of whom were personally touched by his humor and generosity.

    the washington post
    stephanie mccrummen