Saturday, October 18, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, October 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq finally has a Minister of Defense and a Minister of Interior, Human Rights Watch has concerns, we look at the lie of WMD in Iraq, and much more.

Let's start with the biggest nonsense of the week.

CJ Chivers wrote poorly this week -- no surprise.  Chivers is a New York Times no-star who has clocked  more miles than a bald tire and all those years of working for the paper have really never amounted to anything of note.  The paper that creates and spits out journalistic 'stars' couldn't do anything with Chivers.

This was demonstrated yet again when he had an assignment fall in his lap.  Michael Gordon or Judith Miller could have created shockwaves with it.  A number of others could have painted it for what it was -- a story of government indifference to the suffering of soldiers sent into a risky situation (without appropriate gear) and then ignored as they suffered.  All Chivers could do was go rote and hope he'd pleased an old college professor.

It was left to the right wing media to do what Miller (no longer with the paper) or Gordon might have done, run around like Chicken Little insisting the sky was falling and it was falling WMDs!


And we waited to see if the Forest Gump of White House occupants, Bully Boy Bush (the original, "I am not a smart man . . ."), would prove to be as dumb as he was so often thought to be.


Bush was actually rather smart this week.

He kept his mouth shut and let others stick their necks out and claim he was right and that he had been vindicated.

He let others lie.

He kept his mouth shut because the chemical weapons US troops encountered in Iraq were not WMDs.

They were not what Bully Boy Bush sold the war on.

What were they?

What you can find in Russia today.  What you can find in parts of Eastern Europe still.

Old stockpiles that should be destroyed.

(But how do you destroy them?  Even 'safe' procedures will damage the environment -- a reality that should be considered when these monsters create weapons to begin with.  And 'monsters' refers to the multinational corporations.)

Counting those decaying -- and largely unusable -- artifacts would have been like Bully Boy Bush pointing the vast number of landmines littering Iraq and claiming they too were a threat to US lives.

Like the landmines, the aged stockpiles were not 'deployable' and were only a threat for any unlucky enough to stumble upon them (or live in the area -- those weapons degrade slowly and release chemicals into the immediate area as they do degrade).

Bully Boy Bush did not declare, "With a lot of elbow grease and chewing gum, Saddam Hussein is hoping to glob together some decaying chemical weapons and, with a really big slingshot, aim them at Philadelphia."

March 19, 2003, Bully Boy Bush insisted:

The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

The US troops suffering -- 17  plus seven Iraqis according to Chivers -- wouldn't have had to 'meet that threat' if Bully Boy Bush hadn't sent them into Iraq.  (And the bulk of what was discovered, as Chivers noted, were supplied by the US government.)

While so many wasted time on fantasies and lies this week, Iraq suffered as usual.

Today the Parliament met.  And, in real news, the Parliament voted on the security ministries.  National Iraqi News Agency reports Mohammed Ghaban is the new Minister of Interior (over the federal police and prisons) after winning the votes of 197 MPs while Khaled al-Obeidi is the new Minister of Defense after securing 173 MP votes.

The Parliament voted on other positions as well and they matter also.  For example,  All Iraq News reports Bayan Nouri is now the Minister of Women Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari (who served 8 years as Foreign Minister) is now Minister of Finance, Faryad Rawandozi has been voted Minister of Culture, Dirbaz Mohamed was voted Minister of Immigration, Saman Abdullah was voted Minister of State, and Adil al-Shirshab was voted Minister of Tourism.

These are all important posts.  These all should have actually been voted on some time ago. But while those posts and others are important, there is a special importance to the security ministries at present.

National Iraqi News Agency notes: Osama al-Nujaifi (Speaker of Parliament for the last four years before becoming one of Iraq's three vice presidents currently) issued a statement congratulating the Parliament on their work today:

He said in a statement read by his press office that this Saturday has witnessed an event of positive connotations, which is to complete the formation of the Iraqi government, and the approval of the House of Representatives on the ministers who were proposed by Dr. Haider Abadi.
He added that this involves a fundamental and important stage in the process of starting to achieve reform and implementation of the political agreement according which the government of Mr. Abadi emerged.
He stressed that "the success of al- Abadi in completing the formation of the government confirms the determination to meet the challenges and realize the process of change that all citizens await.

NINA notes the Vice President offered his congratulations to those voted into office today by the Parliament and, along with those we named above, Rose Nuri Shaways was also voted on today and is now Deputy Prime Minister.

US State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki issued the following statement:

We congratulate the Iraqi people and their elected representatives in the Iraqi parliament on the selection of seven new cabinet ministers today. These ministers, including new Ministers of Defense, Finance, and Interior, represent the diversity of Iraq, and complete an inclusive cabinet led by Prime Minister Abadi. Significantly, this is the first time since 2010 that Iraq has had a full cabinet with security ministers confirmed by the Iraqi parliament. Today's vote is another important step in the long-term campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and restore stability to Iraq.
The United States looks forward to further strengthening our partnership with Prime Minister Abadi, his new cabinet, and the Iraqi people. We also look forward to working with all the new ministers, in the many fields outlined in our Strategic Framework Agreement, including security, economic, educational, and cultural cooperation. Our commitment to Iraq is long-term, and this new cabinet, representing all communities inside Iraq, is a key step in overcoming the many challenges confronting Iraq.

Jen sugar coats it -- or maybe she's being diplomatic.

Iraq has not had a Minister of Defence or Minister of the Interior since spring 2010.

Let's go over what happened today.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi nominated Mohammed Ghaban to be Minister of Interior and Khaled al-Obeidi to be Minister of Defense.  Parliament voted on the nominations and named the two to those posts.  They are now over those ministries, they run them.  They continue to run them for the next four years unless (a) they die, (b) they chose to resign or (c) Parliament votes them out.

In the US, if US President Barack Obama wants someone out, they're out.  (Ask Julia Pierson, former head of the Secret Service.)  Iraq has a different government set-up and the Cabinet heads have a level of authority and independence that their American equivalents would not and do not have.

Haider hopefully chose well because he's pretty much stuck now with the two he nominated.

In his eight years at prime minister of Iraq, thug Nouri al-Maliki fought with everyone.  He wanted this MP legally prosecuted for comparing him to Saddam Hussein (the MP wasn't prosecuted, he had immunity).  He wanted Tareq Ali, then Vice President of Iraq, stripped of his office.  Tareq served his full term.  In exile, yes.  But Tareq remained Vice President.  Parliament refused to strip him of his title.  When Nouri went after Tareq, he also went after Saleh al-Mutlaq (aka The Turncoat, more on Saleh later in the snapshot).  For approximately five months, he attempted to have Saleh stripped of his post but Parliament refused to do so.

Once Parliament votes you in, only they can remove you.

In 2010, Nouri decided to get around this and break the law (the Constitution of Iraq) by refusing to nominate people to head the security ministries.

Those great western outlets told their readers and viewers that this was a temporary measure and that, in a few weeks, Nouri would nominate people for these posts.  Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya and now one of Iraq's three vice presidents, spoke the truth in January 2011 when he said this was a power grab by Nouri and that Nouri had no intention of ever nominating people to head the security ministries.

Allawi was right.

Nouri went his entire second term without heads of the security ministries.

He wanted to control those ministries so he sent no names to Parliament.

That's actually grounds for removal of office and should have triggered a no-confidence vote.  But the White House was backing Nouri until May of this year and they worked to ensure no such vote took place -- including when the diverse group of Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraqiya leader Allawi (Iraqiya was non-sectarian political grouping), Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, then-Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi (a Sunni) and others came together in April and May of 2012 to push forward a no-confidence vote on Nouri.

(They did all that was required by the Constitution.  The final step was for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to introduce the request in a session of Parliament.  Under US pressure -- and a victim of his own grand ego -- Jalal refused to do so and declared that he had the duty -- not written anywhere in the Constitution -- to consult with all who signed the petition, counsel them, query them and ensure that their signature was something that, even after badgering from him, they meant to put on paper.)

Since 2010, Iraq had been without a Minister of Interior or a Minister of Defense.

This as the violence climbed yearly.

So the confirmations of Mohammed Ghaban and Khaled al-Obeidi  are major news and hopefully will result in some sort of change.

For Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's, this is monumental.

It shouldn't be.

Because Nouri never should have been allowed to complete a second term (to even start one) without having the security ministries confirmed.

But he did.

It could have set an awful precedent had al-Abadi also refused to obey the Constitution.

Instead, his efforts to have the offices voted on (efforts that began months ago) demonstrate that the Constitution remains the supreme law in Iraq and that even office holders must obey the law.

On Monday, at the State Dept press briefing, Psaki or Marie Harf can rightly hail this as a major accomplishment.

And if it doesn't seem like one, it's because the people unimpressed aren't aware of the struggle under Nouri's last four years.

The State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweeted the following today:

United Nations Secretary-Genral Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq Nickolay Mladenov Tweeted the following:

On the Cabinet, it'll be interesting to see if there's more than one woman in it.  One does, however, put al-Abadi ahead of Nouri al-Maliki who began his second term with no woman in the Cabient and with (male) Hoshyar Zebari as 'acting' Minister of Women's Affairs.

Equally true, is that neither person confirmed as security heads may be qualified or fit.

Only time will tell that.

Kenneth Roth heads Human Rights Watch.  He feels the above is important enough to Tweet twice.

I agree it's important and if he or HRW has more on it, we will note it.

If it's true about Mohammed Ghaban?

I don't think there's any if.

I think it's true.

Roth's not an alarmist or one to go out on a limb.

But my position?

As one thug after another has been brought into the Iraqi government -- usually at the US government's behest -- and as there's been no justice commission*, what do you do?

Hopefully, Ghaban will see this as a moment to go bigger than himself, to go beyond sectarian feelings, to prove that he can move forward -- and, therefore, so can Iraq -- and work towards unity and abandon the destructive cycle of never-ending revenge.

That was the hallmark of Nouri's two terms.

A chicken s**t coward who fled the country rather than take on Saddam, Nouri advocated for the US to attack Iraq (again, something he was too cowardly to do himself) and only after that happened did he return to the country.  Once named prime minister, he attempted to assault the Sunni community in revenge reprisals.

It's all nonsense at some point and you just have to let the past go.  That doesn't mean you forget, that does mean that you work towards the future and not spend every waking hour trying to avenge the past.  The past is, after all, past, gone.

I support a justice commission but I'm also leery of one.

The Justice and Accountability Commission was not a truth commission but it fancied itself as such.  All it did was persecute Sunnis.  If that's what's going to pass for a truth commission or justice commission in Iraq, the country might as well not even bother.

If they want to address actual crimes against humanity, and put Sunnis and Shi'ites (and maybe even Kurds) on trial, fine.  They should certainly start with Nouri al-Maliki.

But I don't see such a commission being created.

I'm not dismissing Kenneth Roth's concerns and I'm glad that he's calling attention to Mohammed Ghaban's history.  Maybe such attention will help move Ghaban away from sectarianism and towards unity.

And maybe such attention will allow Iraq to arrive at a point in the near future where their government is made up of their citizens who chose to fight for the country, not to run from it.  Maybe at some point, actual Iraqis in the government will outnumber the exiles who only returned after the US military ran Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad.

Kenneth Roth's concerns are not 'pie in the sky.'  They are very real concerns that should be taken seriously and Ghaban's actions should always be tested against that past record.  I am also not claiming that I'm being 'realistic' or 'real politic' or any such thing.

I'm just saying that my position is, Iraq needs to move forward.  I didn't pick Haider al-Abadi's nominee.  But he was picked and he's been confirmed.  And it's good, Constitutionally speaking, that someone now holds the office.  Ghaban has a chance to show he's more than what Roth or I think of him.  He has a chance to represent Iraq -- all of Iraq -- and to take part in the creation of unity.  We should know in a matter of months -- or weeks -- whether or not he's up to that challenge and up to the honor of the office.

Again, I'm not presenting myself as a 'realist.'

If anything, I'm just a concerned and exhausted observer.

And exhausted explains Saleh al-Mutlaq's latest troubles.

The man who has been dubbed the Whore of Babylon on Arabic social media saved his own ass multiple times but, in order to do so, he had to burn a lot of bridges.

As noted earlier, in December 2011, Saleh was targeted along with Tareq al-Hashemi by Nouri.

While Tareq continued to be targeted, Saleh fell before Nouri, dropped to his knees and begged mercy.

Lay down with dogs, get fleas.  Lay down with Nouri, get pubic lice.

And it's itchy for Saleh now.

Long rumored to have enriched his own pockets with government money while serving as Deputy Prime Minister (2010 to 2014), Saleh's now facing more than rumors.

All Iraq News notes that Speaker of Parliment Saleem al-Jobouri announced today that Saleh will face questions from the Parliament about rumors of corruption and crimes.

Like Saleh, the Speaker is a Sunni.  In the past, that might have been enough to protect Saleh.  Not after he got in bed with Nouri and burned his bridges.  Since then, he's had objects hurled at him by Sunni protesters and his face has been prominently featured at Sunni protests -- his face with a large red X over it.

Saleh may really be on his own.

If so, he may be the first to be punished for corruption.

On another topic, I was going to do this for its own entry but an HRW friend asked why I didn't highlight this by Erin Evers and why I didn't highlight Amnesty International's report this week.

On HRW, will note it in a moment and I honestly was unaware of their piece.

It came out ahead of Amnesty International's piece.

We did highlight Amnesty and link to it.

Normally, I would have done a lot with it.

We would have gone over it in two or more snapshots.

But I'm just really damn tired.

I'm tried of being here online and I'm tired of having to lobby Amnesty International to do their damn job.  I had one phone call after another with them over this for over a month now.  I got two friends who fundraise for them to lodge objections as well.

This all started back in September (see "The death of Amnesty International?" ) and I know Amnesty International US branch is bulls**t.  It's nonsense, it's garbage.  If you need something done, you know you lobby the UK branch which does have some concern about human rights.

But this time, even those doors were closed.  I had to yell and scream at friends with AI, I had to pull in two friends to join me and then finally AI responds with a report that they should have issued months ago.

Now it's issued and everyone from  CBC to Stars and Stripes has covered it -- by carrying the AP report on it.  So that's a good thing.

But the efforts on my part, the time I had to put in, the yelling I had to do (I was hoarse one day from yelling on the phone) and, yes, the threat I had to make about funding drying up if AI was seen as anti-Arab, after all of that, I wasn't in the mood to spend time on a report which basically notes what we've been covering forever and a day.  We'll probably use it as a reference but that's about it.

Now this is from Erin Evers' Human Rights Watch piece at the end of September:

The spectacular conquests by the Islamic State have held much of the world’s attention ever since it took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Adding to this attention are the US airstrikes in northern Iraq, where the group targeted minority populations, kidnapping and killing hundreds - maybe thousands - and displacing thousands more.
But these high-profile killings and abductions are only part of the story of the horrendous abuses Iraqi civilians are suffering, including from government troops and Shiite militias. I met in recent days with more than 40 residents of Latifiyya, a town in the area known as the ‘Baghdad Belt’ whose population size, they said, has been reduced from approximately 200,000 to 50,000 in recent months. The town is majority Sunni with a sizeable Shia population.
The town is strategically located at the crossroads connecting four provinces – Baghdad, Babel, Wasit and Anbar. During the US-led occupation of Iraq, US troops named Latifiyya and the neighbouring towns Yousifiyya and Mahmoudiyya the ‘triangle of death’ because of the strong al-Qaeda presence. Though Latifiyya is particularly vulnerable right now, the abuses residents described are very similar to what we’ve been finding in the Baghdad Belt and other parts of Iraq for months.

The area’s majority Sunni population is paying a high price for the town’s location and its reputation for being restive. Residents told me that Shia militias, still operating under the control of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, are laying siege to the town, especially the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq militia. Sunni residents of other towns to the north accused that group and other militias of carrying out summary executions there after the militas took control in the wake of US air strikes against the Islamic State.

Erin always does strong work and my apologies for missing that report.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 142 violent deahts in Iraq on Friday with another 122 left injured.

At her site, Trina's noted  "Sibel Edmonds and the Deep State (SOAPBOX PODCAST 10/19/14)"  and we'll note it here as well.  As Trina points out:

It should be a wide ranging discussion because Cindy's no Amy Goodman.
Amy's not interested in Sibel or issues that really matter.
What I like about Cindy's show is Cindy just doesn't give a damn about so-called respectability.
She's going to have an interesting discussion with her guests and if they go to places that aren't Ford Foundation approved, oh well.
So make a point to catch this.

Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration (Beacon Press). We'll close with this from Bacon's "GLOBALIZATION AND NAFTA CAUSED MIGRATION FROM MEXICO" (The Public Eye/Political Research Associates):

When NAFTA was passed two decades ago, its boosters promised it would bring "first world" status for the Mexican people.  Instead, it prompted a great migration north.

Rufino Domínguez, the former coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, who now heads the Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants, estimates that there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the U.S., 300,000 in California alone.1

In Oaxaca, some towns have become depopulated, or are now made up of only communities of the very old and very young, where most working-age people have left to work in the north. Economic crises provoked by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other economic reforms are now uprooting and displacing these Mexicans in the country's most remote areas, where people still speak languages (such as Mixteco, Zapoteco and Triqui) that were old when Columbus arrived from Spain.2 "There are no jobs, and NAFTA forced the price of corn so low that it's not economically possible to plant a crop anymore," Dominguez says. "We come to the U.S. to work because we can't get a price for our product at home. There's no alternative."