Thursday, April 23, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, March 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, David Petraeus leaks classified information and receives no jail time, others aren't so lucky, the refugee crisis continues in Iraq, the State Dept's Marie Harf chooses the second anniversary of a slaughter to act smug and stupid, and much more.

"The problem is not that David Petraeus is getting lenient treatment,  The problem is that lenient treatment is only available to people in high places."

That's the ACLU's Ben Wizner quoted in Tasnim today on the issue of disgraced David Petraues, once know as General Betrayus.  (Wally and Cedric came up with that name for their joint humor posts and then MoveOn later ran with it in a serious manner and shocked and offended many.)

Petraues was once the top US commander in Iraq and later the director of the CIA.

We met Petraeus via non-stop e-mails early on,  one missive after another objecting to the portrayl of him here in verbal narrative I'd written or in a comic feature Isaiah had drawn.  As whine after whine, objection over objection arrived at the public e-mail account, you had to marvel over the man's self-obsession, over his never-ending devotion to how he was seen.

Well you're where you should be all the time
And when you're not you're with
Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend
Wife of a close friend and 
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I bet you think this song is about you
Don't you, don't you, don't you
-- "You're So Vain," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her No Secrets album

In the end, that vanity was his undoing.

 Brad Knickerbocker (Christian Science Monitor) notes that "retired four-star US Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus appeared in a federal court in North Carolina Thursday to learn his punishment for having provided highly classified documents to his biographer, with whom he was having an adulterous affair."

If he acted out of love, it was self-love.

An attempt to ensure his mistress painted him in the most flattering light.

Jim Bradley and Jenna Deery (WSCO TV -- link is text and video) note "he was sentenced to two years probation and the judge instituted a $100,000 fine,"

His ego fat and full, Petraues showed no remorse after the judge sentenced him.  Theodore Schleifer (CNN) quotes him declaring outside the courthouse, "Today marks the end of a two-and-a-half year ordeal.  I now look forward to moving on with the next phase of my life."

Oh, the melodrama.

As journalist Dorothy Kilgallen once observed of Joan Crawford's Flamingo Road character, "A wrong girl for the right side of the tracks and the question never arose that she would cross over those tracks but how she would do it."

And you picture David slinging  his mink stole over one shoulder, head tossed back as he stalks into a national security briefing on the arm of his dashing escort US President Barack Obama.

Because that's what he more or less does.

Disgraced or not, he's still briefing Barack.

He still has access to classified information.

Zachary Cohen (CNN) reported at the end of last month:

Former CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus remains a trusted adviser to the White House on its strategy in Iraq, despite being convicted of leaking classified information to his mistress and biographer, then lying to the FBI.
The National Security Council and Obama administration have been consulting with Petraeus on matters related to Iraq and ISIS, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed on Monday. 

Kid gloves treatment and entrusted by the White House?

Whistle-blowers Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden aren't rewarded with similar treatment.

The US government, it turns out, is very understanding and forgiving of classified information being leaked when its done in service of your own stature and star power, the way Petraeus did.

But when you leak to inform the public of illegal crimes in the US, the way Ed Snowden did, or of crimes carried out in Iraq, the way Chelsea Manning did, when you leak to perform a public service, the US government rages and fumes and shows no mercy.

 Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released  military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Chelsea  Manning who stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Manning admitted leaking to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

If only Chelsea had leaked to be portrayed better in a self-serving biography, maybe she too could walk free?

Instead, she's been sentenced to 35 years.

And Ed Snowden, who exposed the US government's continued (and illegal) spying on American citizens?  Ed remains in Russia and continues to be threatened with prosecution should he return to the United States.

Break the law to feed your monumental ego and the US government will look the other way, do it to inform the people of what's really going on and the US government will attempt to destroy you.

The unequal 'justice' handed out did not go unnoticed:

  • Chelsea Manning, hero, 35 yrs for exposing human rights violations; Gen. Petraeus liar, no time for sharing US Top Secrets with girlfriend.

  • Petraeus gets a 2-year probation for leaking national security secrets to a lover, but Chelsea Manning is still in prison?

  • Why isn't David Petraeus sharing a jail cell with Chelsea Manning?

  • : BREAKING: Ex-CIA chief Petraeus gets 2 years' probation, fine for sharing military secrets with mistress.”

  • Again, as Ben Wizner observed, "The problem is not that David Petraeus is getting lenient treatment,  The problem is that lenient treatment is only available to people in high places."

    Another problem is the refusal to aid those in need.  Last week, when Ramadi was falling to the Islamic State, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi did what?

    Dropping back to Wednesday, April 15th:

    This morning, Arwa Damon (CNN -- link is video and text) reported on the situation in Anbar Province's Ramadi noting that deputy provincial council head Falih Essawi is issuing "a dire, dire warning" as the Islamic State advances.

    Arwa Damon:  ISIS forces, it seems, early this morning managing to enter the outskirts of the city of Ramadi from the east.  This now means that ISIS is fighting on the east.  ISIS advanced from the north -- taking over three towns from the outskirts there over the weekend.  The routes to the south already blocked off.  The city basically under siege except for the western portion that is still controlled by forces, by government forces, but that is wavering as well.

    Sky News notes the three areas taken, "The militant group took the villages of Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, in Anbar province, which had been under government control, residents said." Nancy A. Youssef (Daily Beast) observed:

    Pentagon officials stopped short of saying the city was on the brink of falling. But they didn’t sound confident it would hold, either.
    “The situation in Ramadi remains fluid and, as with earlier assessments, the security situation in the city is contested. The ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] continue to conduct clearing operations against ISIL-held areas in the city and in the surrounding areas of Al Anbar province,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Army Maj. Curt Kellogg, a said in a statement, using the government’s preferred acronym for ISIS. The Coalition continues to coordinate with ISF forces and provide operational support as requested.”

    AFP's Jean Marc Mojon and Karim Abou Merhil sound out various Middle East experts about the prospects for victory in Anbar.  We'll note this section:

    “Anbar, and especially Fallujah, is like Asterix’s village,” said Victoria Fontan, a professor at American University Duhok Kurdistan, referring to an unconquerable town in the French comic book series.
    The province is packed with experienced fighters and while some Sunni tribes have allied with the government, others are fighting alongside ISIS or sitting on the fence.
    Local knowledge is seen as key to retaking territory along the fertile strip lining the Euphrates, where ISIS has inflicted severe military setbacks to the police and army since June.

    Iraqi Spring MC notes this takes place as calls for reinforcements of government troops to be sent to . . . Baiji.

    That's in northern Iraq, Salahuddin Province.  These reinforcements are being sent in to protect . . .  Well, not people.  There are people in Ramadi who need protection.  But the government forces going to Baiji are going to protect an oil refinery. 

    It would take two additional days before Haider would order additional troops to Ramadi.

     As he dithered, the refugee crisis only worsened.

    Today, the crisis can't be ignored.

    These boys are among 115k people who fled violence in ’s Anbar Governorate in the last 2 weeks. Via

    These boys are among 115k people who fled violence in ’s Anbar Governorate in the last 2 weeks. Via

    Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports on those forced to flee:

    The homeless people must pass the harder part of their trip on Bzaibiz Bridge, because authorities require many migrants to provide a guarantor inside the capital as part of security measures to prevent infiltration by militants to Baghdad.
    "Crossing the bridge is a dream for each one of us on the western side of the river. It is like a new life and a new hope for our desperate people," Jumaily said.
    "I can't describe the sufferings that we have seen whether during the trip or during the crossing of the bridge which took long hours for my family, and days for many others," he said.

    "Many crossed but many others remained for days because either they didn't carry their identities or their papers were not convincing to the security men on the bridge," he added.

    Haider's good about expanding the already large number of refugees in Iraq, he's just not too good at assisting them.  Earlier this month at International Rescuee Committee's website, Melanie Teff and Sameer Saran offered a photo essay on Iraqi refugees who'd moved to northern Iraq for asylum.  Last month, Haifa Zangana addressed the issue of the ongoing crises and raised some important points:

    Beyond extensive media coverage of the Islamic State group's crimes and the US-led alliance bombing of Iraqi sites claimed to be under IS control, lurks a massive ticking time bomb, named internally displaced persons.
    According to the latest Iraq report from the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 57,000 children reside in camps.
    "Of the 2.47 million IDPs across Iraq, an estimated 720,000 are school-age children between the ages of six to 17 years, and an estimated 123,000 children between the ages of four to five years."
    You can easily get lost in figures, even when they are produced by a reliable source or a UN body. Most of the reports on IDPs cover the period starting from January 2014, which immediately raises an important question - what about the huge number of the IDPs forced from their homes in the 11 years between the 2003 invasion and the violent liquidation of mass protests in the four central provinces at the end of 2013?
    The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported that in 2010 there were 2.8 million people displaced within Iraq?

    One in four of Iraq's 33 million population have become either IDPs or refugees.

    There are the internally displaced and there are the externally displaced.  It's not escaping the world's attention that the two governments most responsible for the illegal war are also the ones shirking responsibilities for the refugees:

  • Europe's poorest countries taking in refugees, while UK, directly involved in Iraq/Syria/ Libya, conflicts, won't step up. Afraid of UKIP.

  • So the UK burned down Iraq, the fire spread to Syria and beyond, and then burned down Libya - but hey, refugees? Not our problem

  • So, messes up , and bears the burden of refugees and asylum seekers. Not fair.

  • Shirking responsibility is becoming the hallmark of the current US administration.

    Betty noted this Tweet by CNN's Arwa Damon:

    CNN: Obama won't call it Armenian 'genocide' on 100th anniversary of atrocity
    12 retweets 6 favorites

    It's a silence that disgusts and appalls.

    Here's US State Dept press spokesperson Marie Harf yucking it up at today's press briefing:

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS HARF: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Any update on President Barzani’s upcoming visit to Washington?

    MS HARF: I don’t have any updates for you.

    QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any – have you got any concerns or anything from the Sunni Arabs over the President Barzani statement that the Peshmerga will stay in the disputed area even they taken from ISIS?

    MS HARF: I haven’t heard anything related to that.

    QUESTION: Okay. One more, sorry. On the oil export, have you had any – the Kurdish oil export increased. Do you have any update, anything on that?

    MS HARF: I don’t.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS HARF: Okay?

    QUESTION: You don’t have anything on Iraq.

    MS HARF: Go give all the kids who are waiting all of your questions you didn’t ask so I can answer them.

    No, she had nothing.

    That's Nouri's slaughter -- or one of his most infamous ones.

    Nouri's slaughter.  The April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    Today, Marie Harf and the US State Dept -- on the anniversary of this massacre -- yucked it up.

    And they -- yet again -- avoided the topic.

    They've been doing that for years.

    It was almost two years ago -- one day short -- April 24, 2013, when US State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell publicly insisted on the massacre, "I don't have an update from yesterday, other than to say you heard us --  well, the only update is I believe that the Iraqi Government has called for an investigation. So we do want a fair, transparent, timely investigation that has broad participation."

    Did you want that, Pat?

    Did the State Dept?

    Because unless I slipped into a coma and no one bothered to tell me, there was no report from Nouri's government.

    And the State Dept, like a cheap whore in bed with a john with a loud and unpleasant gas problem, pretended not to notice.

    Two years later, Marie Harf and the US State Dept still don't care about the massacre.

    It was always a big  joke to them.

     BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:


    I am Thamer Hussein Mousa from the village of Mansuriya in the district of Hawija. I am disabled. My left arm was amputated from the shoulder and my left leg amputated from the hip, my right leg is paralyzed due to a sciatic nerve injury, and I have lost sight in my left eye.
    I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.

    When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.

    Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….

    On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.

    My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.

    Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

    After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

    I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

    I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
    I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.


     And he should hold Barack Obama responsible.  Not only did Barack give Nouri a second term as prime minister, but Barack also ignored the protesters. Even when they carried signs proclaiming "Obama, if you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?Sunday, April 21, 2013, a State Dept friend called me and said the US was monitoring Hawija closely and considered it a hot spot.  So how did the massacre happen two days later?

    And since they were monitoring it, they clearly knew, at least after it happened, that what took place were War Crimes.

    And yet Barack stood with Nouri, continued to stand with him.

    Iraq did not arrive at its current and many crises overnight.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 52 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    arwa damon