Tuesday, September 8, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, the new trend in violence in Iraq is attacking checkpoints, Nouri continues war of words on Syria but there's a pushback in Iraq, Thomas E. Ricks soils himself in public and much, much more.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Corps – Iraq servicemember was killed today when an improvised explosive device targeting the patrol detonated in southern Baghdad at approximately 10: 30 a.m. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of servicemembers are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/ The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the servicemember's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." And they announced: "Three Multi-National Corps -- Iraq Soldiers were killed today when an improvised explosive device targeting their patrol detonated in northern Iraq at approximately 11:40 a.m. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. [. . .] The incident is under investigation." ICCC has been down since Wednesday. It is still down. Sunday the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war should have been 4338. It should now be 4342 unless we've missed a death. We haven't missed any announcements by MNF; however, they don't always remember to announce. If DoD has covered a death that MNF never announced, then our estimate is off. AFP also estimates that ICCC's number should be 4342. Ali Windawi and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) observe today "was the deadliest day for the Americans since June 29, when four soldiers were killed in Baghdad."
Windawi and Parker note, "It was also a bloody day for Iraqi security forces around the oil-rich Kirkuk region of northern Iraq, the territory at the center of a land dispuate among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen" with 2 police officers dead and four injured in a bombing outside of Kirkuk. Meanwhile BBC News reports an Amirli roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police chief and four police officers today while one in Baghdad claimed the life of 1 "health ministry employee" with four others left injured. The police chief was Maj Zaid Hussein, Windawi and Parker explain. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a roadside bombing in Kirkuk today targeted the home "of a judge . . . without causing casualties." Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 man, a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 person and injured another (both are labeled "insurgents" by the police), a Daquq roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and injured three, a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 of Salahuddin Province Deputy Governor Ahmeda Abdul-Jebbar's bodyguards, a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing claimed the lives of 4 police officers and left three more injured, a second Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing claimed 1 life, a Baquba sticky bombing injured one civilian and one police officer, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Ministry of Health employee with twelve people injured (four MoH employees), another Baghdad roadside bombing which left eigh people injured (four are police officers) and a third Baghdad roadside bombing left two police officers injured. In addition, Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul.
Many of the wounded and dead Iraqi security forces were killed in attacks on police and military checkpoints. This has been a recent pattern of violence. Sunday's violence trend in Iraq was attacks on checkpoints with 3 attacks in Mosul on army and police checkpoints. Monday saw an attack on a military checkpoint and on a police checkpoint. Marc Santora (New York Times) noted, "For those seeking to undermine the Iraqi government, attacking checkpoints is a natural way to undermine public confidence. However, the attacks at checkpoints could also indicate a frustration at being able to penetrate attack more populated areas, Iraqi officials say."
Meanwhile Nouri al-Maliki attempts to create an international crisis as he goes after Syria with accusations that they harbor the two masterminds behind Black Wednesday's bombings. Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) report Nouri continues to air 'confessions': "Two confessions have been shown on state television and a third was aired at a news conference." Today Sherko Raouf, Waleed Ibrahim, Missy Ryan and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report "rifts" emerging in Nouri's assault incluidng the country's Presidency Council (made up of Iraq's President and two vice presidents) releasing a statement "calling for dialogue and speaking of the need 'to ease tension with Syria'." President Jalal Talabani is quoted saying the escalation is "unacceptable. This is not in the interest of Syria, Iraq or (other) Arab nations. Such a stand from the Iraqi government, without consultation with the presidency council, is illegal." They also note that Iraqi's Sunni vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, released a statement which "called for an internal fact-finding committee to collect more evidence about the Aug. 19 attacks." [Adil Abd Al-Mahdi is Iraq's Shi'ite vice president.] In addition, Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Nouri is being accused "of lunching a purge of senior security officials in order to weaken political rivals ahead of winter elections. Maliki ordered the dismissals of at least three senior officials from the Interior Ministry over the weekend, Iraqi newspapers reported Tuesday: Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, the ministry's commander of operations; Gen. Ahmed Abu Rikheef, the head of internal affairs; and the director of the explosives division, who wasn't identified in the reports."
Friday, Jasim Azzawi (Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq, video link) observed, "A so-called Bloody Wednesday has put the brakes on Prime Minister Maliki's claim of winning the war on violence. The question is will he use Syria as the whipping boy to engender sympathy to avoid the backlash of angry voters in January's next election?" Samir Altaqi and Saad al-Muttalibi were the guests.
Jasim Azzawi: To discuss the rising tension between Iraq and Syria, I'm delighted to welcome from Baghdad Saad al-Muttalibi a political adviser to the Ministry of National Dialogue in Iraq and from Damascus Samir Altaqi, Director of the Orient Center for International Studies. Gentlemen welcome to Inside Iraq. Saad Muttalibi, let us go the heart of the matter, rhetoric aside, where is the evidence that Syria is implicated in Bloody Wednesday.
Saad al-Muttalibi: Well next time maybe we should ask the terrorists to bring an authorization when they come and commit a crime I mean this is -- this question should not be asked this way. There are evidence, there are confessions, there are roots, there are cameras, there are maps, there are -- there are millions of things that indicate that 90% of terrorists come through Syria into Iraq. We are not implicating the Syrian government, I must be very clear on this. We implicating Iraqi citizens living in Syria, taking advantadge of the hosp -- of the Syrian hospitality, using Syria as a launch pad to organize crimes against state of Iraq and the people of Iraq.
Jasim Azzawi: Samir Altaqi, Syria has a history of not handing over political refugees requested by their mother country. al-Maliki himself, when he resided in Syria, was asked by Iraq to hand him over during Saddam Hussein and Syria refused. Is this a principle position or is Syria keeping those two suspects for a rainy day.
Samir Altaqui: Not all. Practically the Syrian position for a long time was that it won't be handling those opposition people since not only Mr. Maliki even Mr. [Masoud] Barazani at a certain moment and [Iraqi President Jalal] Talabani were guests in Syria and Syria did not deliver them. Unless there is real evidence that would implicate them directly, that Syria would be convinced that this is not coming because of conflictual positions within the Iraqi political arena.
Jasim Azzawi: Saad Muttalibi, I will come to the maps and the other evidence you alluded to but for the time being regarding Bloody Wednesday, the trucks, the explosives, the suicide bombers, they were all in Baghdad. And some people, they say al-Maliki is shifting the blame against himself because he was the one who ordered those concrete blast walls around the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be removed.
Saad al-Muttalibi: No, that's not ver -- that's not very honest statement. Not from you, but from the people who says that. The environment in Baghdad became better. Security became much better. A drop -- over 90% drop in violence in Baghdad. The walls beca -- constituted a hurdle in the way of Ira -- in the way of Iraqi citizens. So they were not -- they were not needed anymore. That's the general feeling of people had so the government acted on the general will of the people. That was not a deliberate act of removing these walls to allow bombing -- that's ridiculous. The -- the-the-the bombs were in Baghdad but the political will to start and use these bombs came from overseas or abroad. We say from Syria. We have evidence. We have proof. From Syria. [Turkey's] Foriegn Minister [Ahmed] Oglu was completely convinced of all the evidence otherwise he wouldn't have presented them to the Syrians. He was completely convinced that if this evidence were about Turkey, Turkey would have acted. So there is no question about the validity Syrian political will to hand over those criminals.That's basically it.
Jasim Azzawi: Samir Altaqi, the evidence against you is air tight, he says
Samir Altaqi: Not at all, I think. If we are speaking on behalf of Mr. Ahmed Oglu, he -- as a mediator -- he has to present the Iraqi position but practically he didn't consider them as tight -- water proof. I think practically what is needed is a direct dialogue between the two sides -- not across the media centers today or the press -- but through specialist channels, through diplomatic channels to present those evidences and to discuss them in a decent way.
Jasim Azzawi: The fact that 1.2 million Iraqis live in Syria, can they do exactly what they like regarding Iraq without the knowledge and consent of the Syrian government and Syrian intelligence as Saad al-Muttalibi alludes.
Samir Altaqi: I -- I think we have to take in account the fact that you have one-million-two-hundred-thousand refugees in Syria, they are not from one faction, they are not from one confession. They are Shia, they are Kurds, they are Sunnis and everyone of them is still having his political view about what is going on. And the more the political process in Iraq would be inclusive, the more this will withdraw any support, any domestic support and refugee support to those who are still thinking about regulating their positions in Iraq through violence.
Saad al-Muttalibi: I must comment here. Really. For you to dictate to us that we should include this part -- faction or that faction, that is --
Samir Altaqi: No, no, no, no --
Saad al-Muttalibi: -- interference in Iraqi affairs --
Samir Altaqi: I'm not, I'm not --
Saad al-Muttalibi: You are not, we do not interfere in your affairs --
Samir Altaqi: You are expression to me one million --
Saad al-Muttalibi: No, no, no, I'm not accusing anybody.
Samir Altaqi: -- one million refugees --
Saad al-Muttalibi: No, no --
Samir Altaqi: -- refugees. I'm telling you, it's --
Saad al-Muttalibi: With a welcome mat! First of all -- first of all ---
Samir Altaqi: I'll try to make the situation --
Saad al-Muttalibi: -- first of all -- first of all --
Samir Altaqi: Please -- please. Exactly, they don't consider themselves safe and they don't consider justice available nor justice even fairness would be --
Saad al-Muttalibi: Okay, okay.
Samir Altaqi: -- available for them in Iraq. That's why
Saad al-Mmuttalibi: Okay, okay, let me correct some information. Let me correct some information for you, my dear friend. First of all, the United Nations says there are 160,000 Iraqis in Syria, not 1.2 million. That's one. Second, as from this moment, I am saying we are ready to have all of this 160,000 back --
Samir Altaqi: They are not ready
Saad al-Mmuttalibi: -- We'll pay them.
Samir Altaqi: They are not ready.
Saad al-Muttalibi: -- if they want to come back. They are Iraqis. Well that is their problem, that's not my problem.
First off, al-Muttalibi is incorrect as usual. 160,000 have been registered. state they have registered that many. Yet again, Saad al-Muttalibi has gone on Al Jazeera and lied. The United Nations Refugee Agency (one of the few UN agencies Nouri hasn't been able to successfully bully) carries the estimate of 1,105,698 Iraqis in Syria. Click on this page, on the right side of the page is "Statistical Snapshot" the number follows "Refugees" and you get the information when you run your mouse across the blue "i".
Second of all, Saad al-Muttalibi's 'that's their problem' attitude to refugees who don't feel it is safe to return (and many of whom do not wish to ever return) when you consider that Saad turned tail and ran to England in 1977 and stayed there until 2003. In other words, by his 'logic,' it was HIS PROBLEM he was a refugee back then. It needs to be especially pointed out that for someone who went to college in the United Kingdom and lived there for nearly 30 years, Saad never managed to master the English language. He can't even get his subjects and verbs to agree. Apparently his planning to pull the US into an illegal war was more important than anything else. At the end of last week, The Economist offered an editorial entitled "Iraq's freedoms under threat: Could a police state return" in which they noted:
Old habits from Saddam Hussein's era are becoming familiar again. Torture is routine in government detention centres. "Things are bad and getting worse, even by regional standards," says Samer Muscati, who works for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby. His outfit reports that, with American oversight gone (albeit that the Americans committed their own shameful abuses in such places as Abu Ghraib prison), Iraqi police and security people are again pulling out fingernails and beating detainees, even those who have already made confessions. A limping former prison inmate tells how he realised, after a bout of torture in a government ministry that lasted for five days, that he had been relatively lucky. When he was reunited with fellow prisoners, he said he saw that many had lost limbs and organs.
The domestic-security apparatus is at its busiest since Saddam was overthrown six years ago, especially in the capital. In July the Baghdad police reimposed a nightly curfew, making it easier for the police, taking orders from politicians, to arrest people disliked by the Shia-led government. In particular, they have been targeting leaders of the Awakening Councils, groups of Sunnis, many of them former insurgents and sympathisers, who have helped the government to drive out or capture Sunni rebels who refused to come onside. Instead of being drawn into the new power set-up, many of them in the past few months have been hauled off to prison. In the most delicate cases, the arrests are being made by an elite unit called the Baghdad Brigade, also known as "the dirty squad", which is said to report to the office of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki.
Turning to England, there's news regarding the kidnapped British citizens. To recap, May 29, 2007, Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell, Alan McMenemy, Peter Moore and Jason Swindelhurst were kidnapped in Baghdad. Both Jasons are confirmed dead. At the end of July, the British government stated they believed Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy were dead. The families remained hopeful. Last Wednesday a third British corpse was turned over and Thursday it was announced it was Alec's. That leaves Alan McMenemy and Peter Moore unaccounted for. (The three corpses were turned over by the League of Righteous after the US military released the group's leader and the leader's brother -- a deal was made. Not a very good deal obviously.)
Tom Pettifor (Daily Mirror) reports Peter Moore's mother Avril Sweeney feels the kidnapping was an inside job (press reports in England have maintained the same for over a month now) and explains her son "was working on a computer system which could have tracked billions in stolen aid and oil money." She points out the League of Righteous (Asaib al-Haq) sent firty people dressed in police uniforms and driving 19 Land Cruisers to kidnap all five. She states:
The cat's out of the bag. All evidence shows the men who took my son had help from the Iraqi Government. I will leave no stone unturned. I'm a normal working woman but I can't sit quietly waiting any more. I gave Peter life and I'll fight to the end to save that life.
On the subject of Iraqi government involvement, press reports have linked the League of Righteous to both Nouri al-Malik and Ahmed Chalabi. Last week, Hannah Allem's "Chalabi aide: I went from White House to secret U.S. prisoner" (McClatchy Newspapers) backed up Eli Lake's earlier "EXCLUSIVE: Iraqi official's top aide linked to Shi'ite terrorists" (Washington Times) which reported that Ahmed Chalabi's secretary Ali Feisal al Lami had ties to the League of Rightous. While briefly imprisoned, Lami brags in Allem's article, he encountered his old friend, leader of the League of Righteous, "I asked him, 'So, Sheikh Qais, which is better: your military way or my political way?' He said, 'It's all the same. We're both in prison.' He was right and I was wrong." Lami states that the leader of the League of Righteous "was right" to use violence. Grasp that.
BBC News reports that Alec Maclachlan's body arrived in the United King yesterday.
David Zeiger, Director of Sir! No Sir! and Bestor Cram, Director of Unfinished Symphony note:
Episode Five: This is Not Human Nature available now. Click here
This Is Where We Take Our Stand discussed in a New York Times piece on the antiwar movement and Afghanistan. Click here
Episode Five of the ground breaking web series, This is Where We Take Our Stand, is now live at http://www. thisiswherewetakeourstand.com.
"This is Not Human Nature" tells the story of the Iraq Veterans Against the War members' struggle to bring hundreds of veterans to Washington, DC, to tell their stories and reveal the true nature of these occupations. If you've watched the first four episodes, you won't want to miss this one.
And if you haven't, WATCH THEM.
This is Where We Take Our Stand is a series that can and should help push the debate about these wars back on to the table. Experience the series, send this email to everyone you know, and spread the word!
This is Not Human Nature: For the first time in history, women have combat and other front-line roles in the U.S. military, yet the military today is rife with sexual harassment, as Wendy Barranco reveals. Is this progress? Is it inevitable? Human nature? Or perhaps it's the sign of a deeper malignancy. For Wendy, her treatment was "the last thing I would have imagined from my own peers and comrades."
This is Where We Take Our Stand, the series that tells the riveting and timely story of the hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who testified at last year's Winter Soldier investigation, continues today. Watch episode five, tell friends, forward this email, spread the word and fan the debate. These stories must be heard.
Stay tuned for the final episode:
Episode Six: No Longer a Monster will launch September 20, 2009.
Spread the link and mark your calendar!
Over the weekend, the Kurdish region of Iraq received some attention. Tim Cocks, Shamal Aqrawi and Michael Christie (Reuters) reported tensions in Nineveh Province as Mayor Barzan Said Kaka (who is Kurdish) declared "independence from the largely Arab-run council" in the province while offering a list of allegations against the council including violent crimes and claims that they aren't concerned at all with Kurds. The reporters note that the province's governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi, has made repeated statements against the Kurds and that he "has so upset mayors in 16 Kurdish areas that they're threatening to secede."
Staying with the Kurdish focus, Azad Aslan (Kurdish Globe) reported that Barham Salih, who recently resigned as deputy prime minister of the central government (under Nouri al-Maliki) is expected to "start negotiations to form the next Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)." Saturday the Kurdish Globe reported on the KRG's reaction to Nouri's announcement that the long-promised census will not, in fact, take place this year:
"The KRG is concerned that the decree has been issued. The census process is a national right for all Iraq, including Kurdistan Region. By holding the census, all of us would have benefited from the great information that would have been gained," said Osman Shwani, KRG Minister of Planning. Shwani explained that the delay had political backgrounds. The decree came during a meeting of the Iraqi Council of Ministers, according to a statement published by government spokesman Ali al-Dabagh on Thursday. Al-Dabagh stated that the Council of the Ministers agreed to postpone the census until October 2010 as reply to "social changes" in provinces of dispute.
Ako Muhammed (Kurdish Globe) reports that Kamal Kirkuki (Speaker of KRG Parliament) is calling out the United Nations' inept and unfocused 'help' offered in the last years. It's noted that Staffan de Mistura did very little as the UN rep in Iraq. The article notes:
UN involvement came as Baghdad halted fulfilling constitutional Article 140, which calls for returning displaced families home in the disputed areas, deporting brought-in people from those areas, and allowing the original people of those places to decide in a referendum whether to be governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government or directly by the federal government. "We insist on the resolution of this issue in accordance with the implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution, because we do not want to see our people go through hardships and tragedies again." [KRG President Massoud] Barzani also assured of their readiness to cooperate with the UN, "but this issue concerns a whole nation and we will not make any concessions on this issue in any way whatsoever.
TV notes. NOW on PBS asks: "Is Obama tossing out the Constitution with his new anti-terror plan?" -- the program began airing on many PBS stations Friday:
This week NOW, as part of a collaboration with the nonprofit investigative unit ProPublica, explores the controversial tactic of "preventative detention," a government plan that may detain suspects indefinitely without trial or even formal charges. Implementing such a plan may have far-reaching consequences on not just our fight against terrorism, but the integrity of the U.S. Constitution and the cause of human rights.
They round that out with an online exclusive: "In an eye-opening web-exclusive video, a government prosecutor talks candidly about his appointment to convinct an alleged 9/11 conspirator, and the surprising decision he made after gaining access to what he considers evidence of torture."
Related, Sunday I noted of Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed's decision to reprint the transcript of a 'confession,' "I don't question their right to do so. However, we're not quoting from it. The current 'government' of Iraq has already notched up a bulky history of torturing people for 'confessions' and I will not knowingly allow the possible work-product of torture to go up here." I didn't condemn them, I didn't question their ethics or motives. And I won't. It is news. They have every right to print it in full. I have the right to decide I'm not going to include it here but I would look like a fool if I stomped my feet and started screaming at two reporters for practicing journalism. America, meet Thomas E. Ricks whose brains have apparently slipped down to his man boobs. (Click here for Isaiah's comic on that back in May.)
The Associated Press had a photo of a dying Marine and ran it. First of all, AP owns NO papers and owns NO TV stations. (Radio would not appear to apply here but they also don't own any radio stations.) Point, if the photo ran in a newspaper, it ran due to a decision made by newspaper staff not the AP. But Saturday, Thomas E. Ricks soiled his Depends as he screamed and yelled at the AP for putting the photo out on their wire services (from which TV or newspapers can grab it). Ricks lies: "I'm a 1st Amendment fundamentalist." No, Ricks, you're not. You can't scream that AP covering the news is "morally indefensible" and claim to support the First Amendment. You've spent too long with your head up the ass of counter-insurgency. That's reality. You're becoming a huge embarrassment and, every day, less and less of a reporter. Saturday was such a big disgrace that you really need to issue an apology or accept the fact that you're now a journalist in the same way that Robert Novak was.
Well into his rant, Tommy Ricks lets slip, "I confess that I haven't looked at the photo, and don't want to." It's his right not to want to look at it. It's not his right to scream and yell and question the journalism ethics of AP while boasting he hasn't even seen the photo. Ricks then further disgraces himself suggesting that the phto could have run if AP had held it "a few weeks or months". No, you dumb idiot, news is a daily cycle and when you were still a reporter, before you became a WAR ADDICT, you damn well grasped that. The photo was news. Anyone can choose to look away but no one has a right to censor it. An AP photographer snapped the news photo. They made the decision to put it out on the wires. That is perfectly in keeping with the ethics of journalism.
Apparently Tommy Ricks was too bored to find one of those cheesy nude or half nude pics of young women to post at his blog -- which really qualifies as sexual harassment at Foreign Policy -- it's not Sports Illustrated and every time that s**t goes up, Tommy runs off women. So, bored, he decided to attack journalism. "Today I am embarrassed for American journalism," he whines. Guess what, American journalism is embarrassed for you and many more little stunts like your assualt on AP and you can forget about ever going back to journalism. Robert Novak is your other future. You're at a fork in the road, make a damn decision.
I'll note Kat's "Kat's Korner: Cass Elliot's buried classic surfaces" went up yesterday and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Prepares To Talk To The Kids" went up Sunday. Mike posted yesterday at his site with "Labor Day post."