Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, July 7, 2010. Chaos and violence continues, on the fourth month anniversary of the Parliamentary elections the political stalemate continues, 49 pilgrims are killed in violence (178 wounded),  3 US service members died in Iraq last Friday (not just two as announced), the Iraq Inquiry hears from a witness who states former prime minister Tony Blair practiced revisionary history in his testimony ("I also felt, at the time of Mr Blair's testimony to you, that he was seeking to cast a retrospectively benign light on a series of very bad decisions taken about the legality of the attack on Iraq"), a former member of the US Congress enters a guilty plea in a federal court, and more.
Today is the 7th of July which makes today exactly four months since elections took place.  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government.
Four months later and no prime minister.  Four months later and Parliament's only met once -- and then they met for less than 20 minutes.  Is that normal?  For 'modern' and 'democratic' Iraq, is that normal.  We have 2005 as a model so let's walk through.  December 15, 2005 was Iraq's previous Parliamentary election.  April 22, Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister designate.  Four months and seven days later. 
And let's remember things were a lot worse in Iraq then. (Violence has never gone away and today demonstrated that yet again.)  For example, from the April 26, 2006 snapshot, "The Associated Press notes that '[m]ore than 100 Iraqi civilians or police have been killed . . . since [Jawad] al-Maliki was tapped as Iraq's prime minister designate on Saturday . . .'" From Saturday to the following Wednesday. But a prime minister designate could be named.  Not only that, grasp that Nouri wasn't first pick.  The first pick was Ibrahim al-Jaafair.  But the US nixed that.
Today, it's four months since the election and the political stalemate continues. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR) reports, "It has been four months since the parliamentary elections, and the parties are still bickering over who gets to form a government. Electricity is terrible, the phone networks don't work, and most basic services like water and sewage are patchy at best. Iraq is constantly indexed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced. And there is still violence, every single day. About 4,400 American service members have given their lives in Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. Both Iraqis and Americans are still being killed, though in vastly reduced numbers." And the response to that from the US military?  Snippy e-mails from US Maj Gen Stephen Lanza insisting that the correspondents are providing negative coverage.  Is anyone wondering why the US didn't just change the Constitution and let Bush do is own third term if that's all Barack Obama was going to provide?
Is there a reason that USF (formerly MNF) can't get its act together. It doesn't have a lot of tasks. They don't do patrols, they just issue press releases. That apparently is too much work for them or else they're deliberately trying to distort the body count. From Friday's snapshot:

Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – Two U.S. Soldiers have died in unrelated non-combat incidents. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incidents are under investigation." If that's not the most s**t poor announcement USF/MNF has ever made, I don't know what is. When did the two die? Where did the two die? Why are those details not being supplied? Does anyone supervise these press releases? The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4411.

"S**t poor" was actually too mild. The above press release -- the only one issued Friday by USF and none have been issued since on any military deaths -- tells us two US soldiers died in Iraq Friday. Simple enough?

Yeah, except there were three. From Monday's entry: "Friday the US military announced two more deaths. The News & Observer notes that one of those deaths was Maryland's 19-year-old Spc Morganne McBeth who joined the military in 2008 and was deployed to Iraq August 17th." That's one of the two deaths announced. Yesterday's entry included: "Friday, 2 US service members died in Iraq. One was Maryland's 19-year-old Spc Morganne McBeth, the other was Sgt Johnny W. Lumpkin who 'died July 2 in Balad, Iraq from injuries he sustained in an incident the day before in Taji, Iraq.' Meredith Armstrong (WRBL, link has text and video) notes that the Columbus soldier is survived by parents Jan and Wayne Lumpkin, a wife (July 4th would have been the couple's ninth wedding anniversary) and three children."

Follow that?

Two deaths announced on Friday, two fallen identified. Except it's three. The Shreveport Times reports that Sgt Jordan E. Tuttle also died Friday ("in Baghdad of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident"). Is there a reason that the military can't get it right? Is there a reason that a division charged with nothing more than issuing press release can't do their damn job? Or is that they're being told not to?

You might think with deaths down compared to previous years, their jobs would be eaiser. But they seem to have a real problem these days doing the jobs that the US tax payers foot the bill for.

Spc Morganne McBeth, Sgt Johnny W. Lumpkin and Sgt Jordan E. Tuttle died on Friday in Iraq. It shouldn't be that difficult in this day and age for the US military to announce that there were 3 deaths. All USF does is announce deaths (and issue happy spin). The Defense Dept is the one who identifies the fallen. All they have to do is issue an announcement of a death. Why is so hard for them? This has been repeated issue for USF all year long. You might think at some point Congress would ask one of the many generals parading before it what the deal is.

4412 is the current number of US service members killed in the Iraq War -- at least that's the current number as far as we know.
Staying with violence, yesterday at least 6 pilgrims were reported dead and 37 wounded. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) explained the pilgrimage is "to commemorate the martyrdom of Iman Musa al Kathim on July 8."  It continued today -- both the pilgrimage and the violence. Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) notes 28 dead today from a suicide bomber and sixty-three more injured.   Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) supplies the details explaining a bomber took his/her own life in Adhamiyah and 38 pilgrims (eight-one injured) and that a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of police Maj Abdulrahman Sabeeh, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three Iraqi soldiers, a Baghdad suicide bomber took his/her own life and that of 1 police officer (two civilians injured and two soldiers injured), two Baghdad roadside bombings claimed the lives of 5 pilgrims (thirty-five more wounded) and another Baghdad roadside bombing wounded six pilgrims, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 6 lives and left forty-five wounded, and two other Baghdad roadside bombings injured eleven.  Timothy Williams and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) report, "Shiite pilgrims are frequent targets of Sunni insurgent groups, and this year Iraqi security forces ordered several major roads and bridges closed and banned bicycles and motorcycles in the capital to try to safeguard the marchers.  Some 200,000 security force members had been assigned to patrol streets, check cars and search pilgrims at they walked along streets to the shrine."  Note that the pilgrimage has not ended, it continues tomorrow.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) explains,  "About 1 million pilgrims from many parts of Baghdad and other provinces are expected to gather near the Imam Mussa al-Kadhim shrine in Baghdad's northern district of Kadhmiyah for the annual commemoration of the death of the seventh of the most sacred 12 Shiite Imams." BBC News offers a photo essay on the pilgrimage.  And what do the pilgrims talk about?  Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) reports:
But conversation along the pilgrims' path has centered on how bickering between Iraq's politicians since the March 7 election has damaged expectations, and raised fears of greater insecurity.                       
"It's the daily talk of the people: politicians and forming a government. Every day," says Mr. Jassim, sitting on the floor of the tent, as volunteers offered him cold packets of juice, bottles of water, and a plastic dish of rice with orange-brown sauce.
Ned Parker and Nadeem Hamid (Los Angeles Times) add an attack on a Falluja police checkpoint left 2 police officers dead.
The war the world never wanted (as evidenced by the massive protests before the start of the illegal war), the illegal war that was sold on lies, continues.  And so do the lies.  Press flacks with bars on their shoulders hassle the press, an Oval Office Occupant rushes to assure the people that things are better than before and the corner has been turned.  All the Dems once in congress who scorned and sneered at "success" in Iraq now, from the White House, promote the laughable claim that there is "success" in Iraq.
If the people were confused by all the smoke and mirrors, it would not be at all surprising.  However, yesterday Rasmussen Reports released results from a poll (plus/minus 3%) where Americans were asked whether or not they believed that the US military ended
combat operations at the end of August? 33% of respondents -- snorting hope,
apparently -- say yes. 59% -- that would be a clear majority -- say no. They were
also asked how history will view the Iraq War. 36% say as a failure, 33% say as a
success and 31% just don't know. The 33% figure took a hard hit from March when
41% were saying the illegal war would be seen as "a success."  This isn't surprising because, as Thomas E. Ricks has long pointed out, the military does not have a pacifist wing.  And Saturday Tim Arango (New York Times) explained US combat missions in Iraq will not be ending in August.  He spoke with a group of US soldiers in Mosul currently "hunting terrorists and covertly watching an Iraqi checkpoint staffed by police officers whom the soldiers say they do not trust." Arango explains that combat missions ("hunting insurgents, joint raids between Iraqi security forces and United States Special Forces to kill or arrest militants") will be renamed "stability operations." Michael Gordon (of the Times) attempted to point out to then-candidate Barack Obama that these were indeed combat missions.  But apparently pretty didn't come with brains.  The International Herald Tribune featured an important letter Tuesday:

Former President George W. Bush sent U.S. troops streaming into Afghanistan supposedly in "hot pursuit" of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. It didn't take long, however, for him to recast the war as a much more general fight for the forces of good.                                
Then Iraq caught his eye, and he lost interest in either winning the Afghan war or ending it via diplomacy.         
Unfortunately, that left the U.S. military stuck there.                             
Even more unfortunately, the Democrats haven't found the fortitude to fight for an end to the increasingly pointless conflict.                  
Already there are hints that President Barack Obama's much-touted 2011 withdrawal date may slip. If that happens we can forget about withdrawal before January 2013; after all, there'll be an election to consider.               
And by 2013, who knows what other reasons will have been found by Mr. Obama, or by his successor, to stay.                               
If America's political leadership won't find a way to end the fighting, the children and grandchildren of today's U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan may be serving there as well.                            
Eric B. Lipps, New York               

In related news, Lara Jakes (AP) interviewed the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, yesterday and, "Gen. Ray Odierno brought up the possibility of a U.N. force
during an interview with The Associated Press. He observed that there is no immediate end in sight to the yearslong dispute between Arabs and Kurds, who have managed an uneasy political dance under American supervision since the fall of Saddam Hussein."
Meanwhile the Latin American Herald Tribune reports that Spain's Supreme Court was reopening the case in which US troops killed journalist Jose Couso, a cameraman for Telecino, April 8, 2003 when they fired on Bagdhad's Palestine Hotel. Also killed in the attack on civilians was Reuters journalist Taras Protsyuk. Three journalists were wounded in the attack. From Joel Campagna and Rhonda Roumani's "Permission to Fire?" (Committee to Protect Journalists):

A Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) investigation into the incident--based on interviews with about a dozen reporters who were at the scene, including two embedded journalists who monitored the military radio traffic before and after the shelling occurred--suggests that attack on the journalists, while not deliberate, was avoidable. CPJ has learned that Pentagon officials, as well as commanders on the ground in Baghdad, knew that the Palestine Hotel was full of international journalists and were intent on not hitting it.
In London, the Iraq Inquiry continues. Today they heard from the UK Ambassador to
Iran from 2003 to 2006 Richard Dalton and the UK Ambassador to Iran from 2006
to 2009 Geoffrey Adams
 (link goes to transcript and video options). Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) emphasizes Dalton's exchange with Committee Member Martin Gilbert who brings up Tony Blair's testimony to the Inquiry earlier this year claiming Iran was supporting al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Dalton replied, "From what I saw of his evidence, I thought he very much exaggerated this factor."  Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) also emphasizes this section of the testimony. We'll emphasize another point.
As the hearing wound down, Committee Member Lawrence Freedman had a few questions and used part of his time to clarify the relationship between Iran and Iraq and truth and Tony Blair's remarks.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Can I just ask a final question to you, Sir Richard? After we had Tony Blair giving evidence here, you were quoted in the Daily Telegraph to the effect that he had been misreading Iran. Now, part of this was, looking back at it, about actions that might be taken in the future against Iran because of its nuclear programme. But I would just like your view as to whether you felt he was misreading Iran in terms of the role that Iran played in the development of instability within Iraq, and whether this is retrospective or whether you were concerned at the time that he was misreading the role of Iran.
Ambassador Richard Dalton: I think I have already answered that question at different points in my evidence so far, to recall what I think I said, I did believe at the time, particularly in 2003, that there was a misreading of Iran as inevitably hostile to the success of the coalition mission to replace Saddam with an Iraqi regime that would be democratic. Secondly, I felt that, at the time that the -- legitimate criticism and justified criticisim of Iran was sometimes used with too broad a brush; in other words, much more of the coalition difficulties were attributed to Iran than was the case, and I pointed out, for example, in some of my reporting that -- reporting that it would be very helpful if we could have more chapter and verse. If we were so sure of our case, then why weren't we showing captured intercepts or Iranian funds, given  the sources at our disposal to counter subversion generally? There were several occasion on which we did present evidence of  shoulder-launched missiles or IED technology that we felt originated in Iran and sought explanations, but those opportunities that we had weren't, I thought at the time, commensurate with the scale of our outrage at what Iran was doing. I also felt, at the time of Mr Blair's testimony to you, that he was seeking to cast a retrospectively benign light on a series of very bad decisions taken about the legality of the attack on Iraq by saying it was not only right to do it, but that we might have to do it again -- we, the UK, might have to do it again -- and I felt strongly then, and I do now, that a military adventure against Iran pre-emptively, supposedly against its nuclear programmes would be illegal in the absence of an imminent and real threat to any country from Iran and that no such nuclear threat exists at present, and that it was not a sufficient answer to the doubts about the way in which the decisions in 2003 had been taken to simply say that it is a dangerous world, other countries are dangerous and an action might be conceivable in future against those countries.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: So your concern was in all three of the areas that I mentioned?
Ambassador Richard Dalton: Yes.
Flying over to the other area ruled by Queen Elizabeth II, Canada.  War resisters best chance currently is the court system.  The legislative body's upper house is not inclined to vote into being a law in support of war resisters and all of Canada's laws are signed off on by the Queen of England who has already seen British soldiers prosecuted for refusing to take part in the illegal war.  Jeremy Hinzman is the first war resister seeking asylum in Canada to go public.  His efforts would spread the word and concept of war resistance to others. Philip Ling (Canwest News Service) reports, "In a unanimous decision Tuesday by the three-judge panel, the court ruled that an immigration officer's decision rejecting Jeremy Hinzman's application for permanent residence in Canada was 'significantly flawed and therefore unreasonable'." His attorney, Alyssa Manning argued convincingly that the immigration officer had refused to consider Jeremy's reasons for opposition to the Iraq War.  Wendy Gillis (Toronto Star) explains, "That means officials must another look at Hinzman's application to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds."

Moving over to the US, the Kansas City office of the FBI released the following today:

Former Congressman Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Justice, Acting as Unregistered Foreign Agent
IARA Fundraiser Also Pleads Guilty to Conspiring with Former Congressman, Others

KANSAS CITY, MO -- A former congressman and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations pleaded guilty in federal court today to obstruction of justice and to acting as an unregistered foreign agent related to his work for an Islamic charity with ties to international terrorism, announced Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.                          
Mark Deli Siljander, 59, of Great Falls, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to one charge contained in an Oct. 21, 2008, federal indictment, and an additional charge filed today, involving his work for the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA) of Columbia, Mo. Siljander was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan and was a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations General Assembly.                                 
Co-defendant Abdel Azim El-Siddig, of Chicago, Ill., a former IARA fundraiser, also pleaded guilty today to conspiring with Siljander and others to hire Siljander to lobby for IARA's removal from a Senate Finance Committee list of charities suspected of having terrorist ties, while concealing this advocacy and not registering with the proper authorities.               
"A former congressman engaged in illegal lobbying for a charity suspected of funding international terrorism. He then used his own charities to hide the payments for his criminal activities," U.S. Attorney Phillips said.  "Siljander repeatedly lied to FBI agents and prosecutors investigating serious crimes related to national security. With today's guilty pleas, all of the defendants in this case have admitted their guilt and will be held accountable for their actions."
Siljander operated a Washington, D.C., consulting business called Global Strategies, Inc. IARA was an Islamic charity in Columbia, Mo., that served as the U.S. office of an international organization headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan. IARA was closed in October 2004, after being identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist organization, for the support its international offices provided to Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. The executive director of IARA, co-defendant Mubarak Hamed, 53, of Columbia, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Sudan, has pleaded guilty in connection with this case.
According to today's plea agreements, between March and May 2004, Hamed and El-Siddig hired Siljander to lobby for IARA's removal from a U.S. Senate Finance Committee list of charities suspected of funding international terrorism, and its reinstatement as an approved government contractor. IARA lost its status as an approved government contractor in 1999, when the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) terminated grants for two relief projects in Mali, Africa. USAID informed the organization that the grants were not in the national security interest of the United States.               
Siljander, El-Siddig, and Hamed each knew that IARA was part of a large international organization controlled by its headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, and agreed with each other to conceal Siljander's efforts on IARA's behalf. In order to do so, Siljander instructed El-Siddig and Hamed to transfer $75,000 of IARA's funds to him by funnelling them through non-profit entities. El-Siddig carried at least three checks issued to Siljander's charities from Chicago to Washington, D.C., and gave them to Siljander.
In exchange for the payments, during the Summer of 2004, Siljander acted as an agent for IARA by contacting persons at the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, USAID, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Army, in an effort to have IARA removed from the USAID list of debarred entities, and to remove IARA from the Senate Finance Committee's list of charities suspected of funding terrorism. Federal law requires anyone who serves as an agent of a foreign entity, including an organization, to register with the U.S. Attorney General.
In pleading guilty, Siljander admitted that in two separate interviews he repeatedly lied to FBI agents and prosecutors acting on behalf of a federal grand jury. Siljander obstructed justice by falsely denying that he was hired to advocate for IARA, and by falsely claiming that the payments from IARA were charitable donations intended to assist him in writing a book about bridging the gap between Islam and Christianity.                    
Under federal statutes, Siljander is subject to a sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $500,000. El-Siddig is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the U.S. Probation Office.             
Siljander and El-Siddig were the final defendants facing trial next week in Kansas City, Mo.                   
Hamed pleaded guilty on June 25, 2010, to conspiring to illegally transfer more than $1 million to Iraq in violation of federal sanctions, and to obstructing the administration of the laws governing tax-exempt charities. Hamed used IARA to solicit charitable contributions throughout the United States, taking in between $1 million and $3 million in contributions annually from 1991 to 2003, and then illegally transferred funds to Iraq, with the assistance of a Jordanian identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a specially designated global terrorist. Hamed also impaired and impeded the administration of the Internal Revenue laws by misusing IARA's tax-exempt status, providing false information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and lying to federal agents.              
Co-defendant Ali Mohamed Bagegni, 56, a native of Libya who is a naturalized U.S. citizen and former resident of Columbia, pleaded guilty on April 6, 2010, to his role in the conspiracy. Bagegni was a member of the board of directors of IARA.                      
Co-defendant Ahmad Mustafa, 57, of Columbia, a citizen of Iraq and a lawful permanent resident alien, pleaded guilty on Dec. 17, 2009, to illegally transferring funds to Iraq in violation of federal sanctions. Mustafa worked as a fund-raiser for IARA and traveled throughout the United States soliciting charitable contributions. Further, in 1999, 2000, and 2001, at Hamed's behest, Mustafa traveled to Iraq on IARA business. In 2001, he visited Iraq for several weeks and met with numerous officials to discuss the process of opening an IARA office in Iraq. Among the officials with whom Mustafa met was Hushyar Zibari, who was at the time a leader in the Patriotic Democratic Party of Kurdistan and is currently the foreign minister of Iraq. Mustafa also looked to find a building suitable for an IARA office in the Kurdish provinces of Iraq.              
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony P. Gonzalez, Steven M. Mohlhenrich, Dan Stewart and Brian Casey from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri, and Trial Attorney Paul G. Casey from the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of the Inspector General.
Mark Siljander served in the US Congress from 1981 to 1987.  He is a Republican and firmly against abortion rights, equal rights and basically any rights other than, apparently, the rights of foreign agents on US soil. Ronald Reagan made him a represenative to the UN (alternative representative) in 1987 (a one-year term).
Lastly, Francis A. Boyle is a professor of law and an international human rights expert.  He is also the attorney for the Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinja and, on their behalf, releases this statement:
The Dutch National Team will be playing for the World Cup upon the fifteenth anniversary of the genocidal massacre at Srebrenica for which the Dutch National Government is jointly and severally responsible  under international law. Furthermore, for the past 15 years the Dutch National Government has lied about, covered up, whitewashed, and stonewalled the fact that it cooperated in the massacre of 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, also rendering the Dutch National Government an Accessory After the Fact to the "genocide" at Srebrenica, as determined by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the so-called World Court.. For these reasons, the Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinja call upon all people of good faith and good will around the World, especially those at the World Cup Stadium in South Africa, to publicly root against the Dutch National Team in sympathy with the Victims at  Srebrenica.           
We will not rest until Justice is done!