Saturday, February 06, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, February 6, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, British troops are reportedly the victims of violence in Iraq, Haider says the wall is not going up around Baghdad, others say construction on the wall has begun, Barack Obama releases some -- not all -- photos of abuse, and much more.

The US Defense Dept announced more bombs dropped on Iraq today.  As Sonny & Cher used to sing, And the beat goes on . . .

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 14 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Habbaniyah, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Mosul, five strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed four ISIL assembly areas, three ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, and eight ISIL command and control nodes.

-- Near Qayyarah, three strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL assembly area.

-- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed five ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL heavy machine guns, an ISIL recoilless rifle, and an ISIL fuel transporter, six ISIL weapons caches, an ISIL command and control node, an ISIL front end loader, and an ISIL vehicle borne bomb facility.

-- Near Sinjar, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Since August 2014, Barack's been ordering Iraq bombed to bring 'peace.'  All these months later, peace has still not arrived.

As Russ Wellen (FPIF) observes, "It’s hard to believe, but 13 years after the United States invaded Iraq and the situation isn’t much better than when it was at its worst."

Today, Jay Akbar (DAILY MAIL) reports, "Three British Special Forces soldiers were wounded in a firefight with 30 ISIS militants in Iraq, it has been reported.  The SAS and SBS are said to have been on a secret mission deep inside enemy territory when the terrorists opened fire on them with machine guns mounted on American-built Humvees."  THE MIRROR adds:

 But the heroes’ bravery has not been officially acknowledged as Tory ministers lean on defence chiefs not to acknowledge the secret ground war being fought by our special forces in Iraq and Syria .
The SAS and SBS soldiers suffered blast and fragmentation injuries as 30 ISIS thugs fired on them during a 25-strong allied special forces patrol in northern Iraq.
It is believed these are the first major military injuries of Britain’s shadowy war.

Estelle Shirbon and Jeremy Gaunt (REUTERS) note, "The Ministry of Defence said it did not comment on special forces operation."

At Friday's US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson John Kirby was asked to comment on a new development.

QUESTION: The Pentagon released 198 previously classified photos that document abuse or mistreatment of some detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to 2009. Are you concerned that putting these – I know that there has been some concern with the government. They’ve been trying to withhold them. So now that they’re finally out, what are you – is the State Department issuing any warnings to Americans overseas to be cautious or to watch out essentially for any --

MR KIRBY: Well, look, any citizen traveling can go to our website and read whatever our travel warnings and alerts are. I’m not aware of any specific alerts with respect to this release. That said, we have made sure that our posts and our embassies, particularly in the Middle East, were aware of this release and were aware of the essential content of it and reinforced what they already know, which is they have to do what they need to do based on the temperature there – the security temperature – to look after the safety and security not only of our facilities, but providing information – the appropriate information – to American citizens there.

QUESTION: And do you think these photos could lead to retaliatory-type attacks or --

MR KIRBY: I wouldn’t speculate one way or the other. I wouldn’t want to do that. I certainly wouldn’t say – want to say anything that could in any way have an effect on that.

Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr (CNN) explain:

The Pentagon released 198 photos Friday, several of which appear to show injuries suffered by detainees after allegedly experiencing abuse while held in Iraq and Afghanistan during the George W. Bush administration.
Department of Defense spokesperson Cmdr. Gary Ross said that the photos originated from independent criminal investigations into allegations of misconduct by U.S. personnel.
    The investigations substantiated approximately 14 allegations of misconduct while another 42 allegations were proven unsubstantiated, he said.

    Cora Currier (THE INTERCEPT) observes, "The photos are mainly close-up shots of arms, feet, heads, hands, or joints, sometimes showing bruises or scabs. Faces are redacted with black bars. It's not always clear where each of the photos was taken, but they come from internal military investigations and have dates ranging from 2003 to 2006. Sometimes the marks on the prisoners' skin are labeled with tape measuring the size of the wound, or a coin or pen for comparison."

    Tara Copp and Corey Dickstein (STARS & STRIPES) report:

      The Pentagon provided no names or locations of where the abuses occurred, or the corresponding punishments for military personnel who were convicted. However, each photograph contains the corresponding U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command case numbers.
    In one example, identified as an Army Criminal Investigation Command case from 2004, black and white photographs depict a detainee holding a pen to his shin just under an area that appears slightly discolored. According to redacted files obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the Freedom of Information Act and presented on its website, The Torture Database, the photos show a detainee from Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq who claimed he was hit in the head with a rifle and kicked in the shin while detained at Al-Adhameyah Palace. CID concluded there was not enough evidence to determine whether the detainee, whose name was redacted, had been abused by U.S. or coalition forces. Investigators did, however, determine the detainee was likely abused by Iraqi Civil Defense troops.

    BBC NEWS notes, "None of the photos released on Friday involved detainees held in Abu Ghraib or at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said."

    While that is news, Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef (DAILY BEAST) emphasize another aspect:

    But the real story is what the Obama administration decided to keep hidden. Friday’s photos are an innocuous fraction of a much larger cache of 2,000 images, detailing the abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
    Some of the most graphic images are said to show American troops posing with corpses. Others depict U.S. forces holding guns to people’s heads or simulating forced sodomization. In one, a large man rides an elderly woman as if she were an animal and whips her with a stick. The mistreatment of corpses and prisoners are widely considered to be violations of the international rules of war.
    [. , ,]
    While the abuse occurred under the administration of George W. Bush, the Obama administration has successfully kept this evidence of possible war crimes buried.

    TELESUR TV offers:

    The photographs released this month represent just 10 percent of the total collection of photos that the American Civil Liberties Union sued to get released 12 years ago. Though President Barack Obama vowed to release all of the torture footage in 2009, he backed out after strong words from the top U.S. commander in Iraq and then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who claimed that knowledge would spur extremism. This time around, the judicary rejected that argument as "too easy and too meaningless," in the words of New York judge Alvin Hellerstein, who ordered the release of several torture videos and photos.

    Eliza Relman (ACLU) explains:

    The photos were released in response to an ACLU lawsuit that we have been litigating for almost 12 years. You can see a few of them in the slideshow to the right. The photos mostly show close-ups of body parts, including arms, legs, and heads, many with injuries. There are also wider shots of prisoners, most of them bound or blindfolded. But what they don’t show is a much bigger story, and the government’s selective release of these photos could mislead the public about the true scope of what happened.
    Six months before media organizations published the notorious Abu Ghraib photos, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records, including photos, relating to the abuse and torture of prisoners in U.S. detention centers overseas. Since we sued to enforce our request in 2004, the legal battle has focused in part on a set of some 2,000 pictures relating to detainee maltreatment. The photos released today are part of that set, and they are the first photos the government has released to us in all these years of litigation. (The court hearing our lawsuit ordered the government to release the Abu Ghraib photos in 2004, but the photos were leaked, and posted online by Salon, while the government was appealing the decision.)
    The disclosure of these photos is long overdue, but the photos released today are almost certainly the most innocuous of the 2,000 that were being withheld. From the nearly 6,000 reports, investigations, emails, and other documents the government has been forced to release to us in the course of this litigation (all searchable in our Torture Database), we have found more than 100 documents that either reference photos related to cases of abuse or actually contain photos that were redacted before they got to us. From what we can infer from the descriptions, we know that the most damning evidence of government abuse remains hidden from the public. (This spreadsheet details what we know about the photos we’re still waiting for.)

    The photos still being withheld include those related to the case of a 73-year-old Iraqi woman detained and allegedly sexually abused and assaulted by U.S. soldiers. According to the Army report detailing the incident, the soldiers forced her to "crawl around on all-fours as a 'large man rode' on her,” striking her with a stick and calling her an animal. Other pictures depict an Iraqi teenager bound and standing in the headlights of a truck immediately after his mock execution staged by U.S. soldiers. Another shows the body of Muhamad Husain Kadir, an Iraqi farmer, shot dead at point-blank range by an American soldier while 

    REUTERS quotes the ACLU's Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer stating, "The still-secret pictures are the best evidence of the serious abuses that took place in military detention centers. The government’s selective disclosure risks misleading the public about the true extent of the abuse."  The ACLU's Alex Abdo pens a column for TIME here.  RT speaks with a variety of people and we'll note this section:

    Sarah Flounders from the International Action Center said that “these photos are a reminder of just how criminal the continuing war in Iraq and Afghanistan is to this day and the amount of time that torture and drastic abuse was used as a matter of policy.”

    “We should remember all the photos released from Abu Ghraib, the incredible revelations of Private Chelsea Manning,” she added.

    Amnesty International has a new podcast where actress Michelle Hendley speaks for Chelsea Manning.

    Meanwhile, in Iraq, will there be a wall or won't there?

  • | PM Haider al-Abadi refuses Operation Command plan to build a security wall around the Iraqi capital.

  • premier Haider al-Abadi refused to build a fence around , stressed that Baghdad is the capital for all Iraqis.

  • So Haider's saying the wall's not going up and others are saying the construction has already begun.

    It's as confusing as this week's Iowa caucus.  Barry Grey (WSWS) explains:

     The Iowa Democratic Party has rejected calls by the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and the state’s leading newspaper, the Des Moines Register, for an audit of the vote in Monday night’s dead-heat contest between Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
    Clinton, in a highly unusual move, went on television late Monday night to effectively declare victory over Sanders, despite the fact that vote counters had her ahead by a razor-thin margin of only 0.2 percent, with a number of key precincts still unaccounted for.
    Preempting the victory speech of Republican Senator Ted Cruz, she thanked Iowans for allowing her to “breathe a sigh of relief,” a reference to her loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 Iowa caucuses and the collapse of her lead over Sanders in the state, which just months before had been polled at more than 50 percent.
    At 2:30 AM Tuesday, the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, Dr. Andy McGuire, declared Clinton the winner based on results from 1,682 of 1,683 precincts. The Iowa Democratic Party said the final tally of delegate equivalents for all the precincts statewide was 700.59 for Clinton and 696.82 for Sanders—a margin of just 3.77 delegate equivalents.
    At 2:35 AM, Clinton’s Iowa campaign director, Matt Paul, issued a statement saying, “Hillary Clinton has won the Iowa caucus.” Campaigning the following day in New Hampshire, the scene of the first primary election, to be held February 9, Clinton made much of her victory in Iowa. With Sanders poised to score a decisive victory in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign had feared a possible meltdown in the event of a loss in Iowa.
    Under the Democratic caucus process, a head count is taken at each precinct of the supporters assembled there for each presidential candidate, which is then translated into delegates to a county convention, which, in turn, selects delegates to a statewide convention. That convention then selects national delegates for the competing candidates to the Democratic National Convention, to be held in July of this year in Philadelphia.
    Amid complaints of disorganization at many of the caucus sites, including long lines, delays of up to two hours, and a lack of trained staff and designated chairpersons, the Sanders campaign initially asked to sit down with state party officials to review the paperwork submitted by precinct chairs. Sanders aides told the Des Moines Register that they had found discrepancies between tallies at the precinct level and numbers that were reported to the state party.
    McGuire, whose state organization, like the national party apparatus, is solidly behind Clinton, rejected the request, telling the Register in an interview Tuesday, “These are the final results.” Democrats have never released actual head counts in Iowa caucuses, and McGuire flatly said they would not be released this time either.
    On Thursday, the Register published an editorial headlined, “Something smells in the Democratic Party,” denouncing state party officials for refusing to agree to an audit or release details of the voting. “What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period,” the Register wrote. “Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy.”
    The newspaper argued that the results, with “two tenths of 1 percent [separating] Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton,” were “too close not to do a complete audit of results.” It continued: “Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems.”
    The editorial alluded to the fact that ties for six county delegates were decided, in accordance with party caucus rules, by coin flips. Clinton won all six.

    Corruption and Cranky Clinton are never far apart.  And some are starting to panic as a result. Luciana Lopez (REUTERS) reports:

    A prominent Democratic donor worried about the party's chances of winning the presidency emailed dozens of fans of Vice President Joe Biden on Friday, urging them to remain prepared to donate if Biden jumps into the race.
    The donor, Bill Bartmann, cited new polling showing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont nearly tied with the Hillary Clinton, eroding the 30-point lead the former secretary of state held at the end of last year. Bartmann and other party insiders are concerned that Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, is too far to the left to win against a Republican in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

    "We cannot afford to lose the White House," Bartmann wrote in the email, seen by Reuters.

    Lastly, community theme posts this week.  On songs, Mike wrote about  "Steve Grand 'Stay'," Rebecca tackled "phoebe snow" singing "If I Can Just Get Through The Night," Trina went with 
    "Carly Simon 'Make Me Feel Something'," Stan went with "PJ Olsson and "Visine"," Betty wrote about "Aretha's 'Sweet Bitter Love'," Ruth remembered "Driving All Night with Joss Stone," Marcia focused on "Donna Summer "There Will Always Be A You"," while Kat went with "Stevie Nicks 'Lady'," Elaine chose "Ashford & Simpson's "High Rise"" and Ann wrote about the Afghan Whigs' 

    nancy a. youssef