Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 29, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Joe Biden arrives in Baghdad, Iraq's minorities get some attention, the Bradley Manning Support Network is linking to the publication that has misled on Bradley from the beginning, and more.
Mercer Consulting has released its 2011 Quality of Living survey and, out of 221 cities worldwide, Vienna is ranked first for quality of living.  And who came in last?  Baghdad.  Apparently unrelated to the findings, US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the Iraqi capital today.  AP notes, "During his visit, Biden is expected to hold meetings with Iraqi officials over what the future U.S.-Iraqi relationship will look like." Carol E. Lee, Julian E. Barnes and Jay Solomon (Wall St. Journal) add, "While in Iraq, Mr. Biden will chair a meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee of the Strategic Framework Agreement, a body that was launched to examine the non-security aspects of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship. Boosting Iraqi oil production is an ongoing part of U.S.-Iraqi discussions."  Mark Lander (New York Times) explains Nouri al-Maliki and Biden are co-chairs of that Higher Coordinating Committee and that this is Joe's eighth trip to Iraq since being sworn in as Vice President in January 2009. Lander notes reported surprise that Biden was put in charge of Iraq instead of Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State) or Robert Gates (Secretary of Defense until last July).  I have no idea who was surprised by the move.  It took place during the transition planning (after the election, before being sworn in).  Hillary wasn't considered because, at that point, her joining the administration was not a given.  Gates was a holdover from the Bush administration and it would have been an early slap in the face of Barack's supporters to put Gates in charge.  (The two also pointedly disagreed over the "surge.")  Joe had the best relationship with Iraq of any Democrat due to repeat visits to the region, reaching out to the various leaders while serving in the Senate (remember, he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and more.  He also had the strongest relationship with the Kurds of anyone in Barack's administration (during the transition phase or since). 
Maybe the persons who expressed surprise to Mark Lander are the same ones he refers to in this statement: "Analysts said the United States and Iraq are likely to resume negotiations next year for a small American force that would train a Western-style Iraqi officer corps, manage tensions with the Kurds, and help with counterterrorism operations."  Did "analysts" say that?  Did they whisper it?  Was it pillow talk? 
I have no idea.  I know that PUBLICLY it was stated by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, stated this month, that negotiations continue -- they haven't ended CNN, you stupid liar -- and that Panetta stated PUBLICLY that he expected a deal to emerge early next year.  I know that because we attended and covered the November 15th Senate Armed Services Committee hearing: see the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," the November 16th "Iraq snapshot" and the November 17th "Iraq snapshot" and other community reporting on the hearing included Ava's "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally's "The costs (Wally)" and Kat's "Who wanted what?" ].  And let's drop back to the November 15th snapshot for this exchange from that hearing:

Senator Joe Lieberman:  Let me, Secretary Panetta, pick up from that point. I've heard from friends in Iraq -- Iraqis -- that Prime Minister Maliki said at one point that he needed to stop the negotiations -- leave aside for one moment the reasons -- but he was prepared to begin negotiations again between two sovereign nations -- the US and Iraq -- about some troops being in Iraq after January 1st.  So that's what I've heard from there. But I want to ask you from the administration point of view. I know that Prime Minister Maliki is coming here in a few weeks to Washington. Is the administration planning to pursue further discussions with the Iraqi government about deploying at least some US forces in Iraq after the end of this year?
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: Senator, as I pointed out in my testimony, what we seek with Iraq is a normal relationship now and that does involve continuing negotiations with them as to what their needs are.  Uh, and I believe there will be continuing negotations.  We're in negotiations now with regards to the size of the security office that will be there and so there will be -- There aren't zero troops that are going to be there. We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be present by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there.  But I think that once we've completed the implementation of the security agreement that there will begin a series of negotiations about what exactly are additional areas where we can be of assistance? What level of trainers do they need? What can we do with regards to CT [Counter-Terrorism] operations? What will we do on exercises -- joint-exercises -- that work together?
When Panetta has testified publicly to the Senate Armed Services Committee this month that negotiations continue and that yhe expects additional negotiations, I have no idea why you have to go to "analysts."  Panetta's testimony was on the record.  Or at least, it was if you paid attention to it.  CNN might need to.
If they wish to call Leon a liar, have at it and hopefully they can establish why they're making that charge.  But until they've got the guts to do so, they need to stop LYING.  Negotiations continue, he testified.  In addition, many outlets need to catch this part of the testimony: "There aren't zero troops that are going to be there," Panetta testified.  "We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be peresent by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there."  CNN isn't stupid enough to claim zero US troops will be in Iraq or that all US troops in Iraq will return home.  But a lot of other outlets are doing it.  At Third Sunday, we took on The NewsHour and Judy Woodruff at the request of a woman who's brother will continue to serve in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011.  Since then, a lot of e-mails are coming in from the families of troops who are going to be stationed in countries surrounding Iraq and they are furious that the media keeps saying ALL are coming HOME.  I don't know how stupid the media is or if they're deliberately trying to be insensitive.  I can't imagine having a loved one who will remain in Iraq or move over to Kuwait, for example, and have to hear on PBS that ALL are coming HOME when I know damn well that my loved one is not coming home yet.  It's insulting and it goes to how shallow their pretense of caring about military families actually is.  If they gave a damn, they'd tell the truth.  They obviously don't give a damn.
Still on the silly, these claims of "surprise" visit.  That it's today is a surprise.  But the Iraqi press has been reporting that this visit was coming since October.  It's only the US press that's kept their lips sealed.  NBC's Shawna Thomas may be stupidist of all the press, not only does she claim "surprise," she also insists all troops are leaving.  What an idiot.  Someone might also want to tell her that a reporter does not say "He will also meet with . . ."  They say, "He is scheduled to meet . . ."  Will implies it will happen.  Life can alter events.  Reporters are not psychics, something they apparently need to be drilled on repeatedly.  Ann Currey (NBC's Today) Tweets:
Ann Curry
AnnCurry Landed Bagdad lights off, pilots in infrared goggles.
Ann Curry will have an interview with Joe Biden on Thursday's Today Show (NBC).  Biden arrives in Iraq on the day Al Sabaah reports that the Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defense Committee has declared it is close to making an agreement which will put NATO forces on the ground in Iraq, according to a statement read by the Security and Defense Committee Chair Hassan Sinead. Sinead states it will be a one-year agreement and that it can be renewed.
AFP is the only outlet that has any knowledge of Iraq apparently.  Only AFP notes, "Biden's visit comes after a bloody seven days for Iraq, during which at least 61 people were killed in a wave of attacks."  That's the kind of detail that the others should have included.  But missed.  Demonstrating how little they and their outlets pay attention to Iraq.  Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) noted yesterday that violence is on the rise in Iraq with over 100 recorded deaths this month in Baghdad alone. (Had McClatchy the wisdom to allow Sahar, Laith Hammoudi or any of their Baghdad correspondents to cover the visit, they might have had a story worth linking to instead of one that I delayed the snapshot for 30 minutes for at the request of a McClatchy friend only to be read the copy over the phone and ask, "Someone got paid to write that crap?"  Lesley Clark got paid to write that crap.  And, no, we're not linking to it.)

Al Rafidayn reports that yesterday's attack on a Taji prison is thought by sources in the Ministry of the Interior to have been carried out by a new al Qaeda splinter group (Eagles Paradise). The sources state the the group operates out of northern Baghdad.  Iraqi papers focused more on the Parliament attack than the prison attack.  Al Sabaah notes that Osama Nujaifi's office has stated that bombing was an attempted assassination (Nujaifi is the Speaker of Parliament) and that he was the target. They also maintain it was a suicide bomber and not mortars. The article notes a National Alliance insists it was a mortar while a police source states it was a suicide bomber. Sources tell Dar Addustour it was a suicide bomber in a car (black GMC) and that al-Nujaifi was the target. In addition, Dar Addustour reminds that following the April 16, 2007 attack on Parliament, security measures were beefed up. Dar Addustour's report indicates that had the man not raised suspicion by his actions, he would have gotten closer to the Parliament. Alsumaria TV picks up that thread as well, quoting al-Nujaifi's spokesperson Aidan Helmi stating, "The suicide bomber tried to join Parliament Speaker's convoy but Green Zone's guards suspected him and stopped his car. The driver changed his direction and slammed into a high sidewalk before the explosion." Aswat al-Iraq adds, "Northern Iraq's Kurdistan Alliance has expressed surprise towards a booby-trapped car being snuck into west Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, calling for an investigation to uncover 'those responsible' among the security bodies inside the Green Zone, according to a statement made by the Alliance and received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency on Tuesday."  Liz Sly's covered Iraq for a number of publications including the Los Angeles Times.  Currently her reporting is carried by the Washington Post.  On the Parliament attack, she Tweeted today:

lizsly Still disputed whether it was a car bomb or Katyusha that hit #Iraq parliament yesty. Mps competing to prove they were the real target.
Today's reported violence? Reuters notes a Baghdad attack in which a Ministry of Oil official was shot and injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which left four people injured, a Hit truck bombing which injured three people (two are Iraqi soldiers who were the apparent target), a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four people injured, a Mahmudiya sticky bombing which injured one Sahwa, a Tarmiya grenade attack which injured two Sahwas (the target) and three bystanders, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured, one police offer was injured in a Mosul shooting and, dropping back to Monday, 3 Kirkuk roadside bombings (apparently targeting a Turkman provincial council member) left 1 person dead and fifteen people injured.
Today Minority Rights Group International issued a new report by Preti Taneja entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq's Minorities: Participation in Public Life" and it notes, among other things, that "the situation for minority women is still largely ignored in policy and media."  The 32 page report comes with a list of recommendations for the Iraqi government, Parliament, the KRG and NGOs. Within the report are recommendations as well.  Chief among what is needed is "a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and amendments to various laws and policies that dscriminate against minorities, and minority women in particular."   Of minorities, the report notes:
The Iraqi population is extremely diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion.  The three largest groups are Shi'a Arbas, Sunni Arabs and Kurds.  In addition, Iraq is home to communities of Armenians, Baha'is, Black Iraqis, Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians, Circassians, Faili Kurds, Jews, Kaka'i, Palestinians, Roma, Sabean Mandaeans, Shabaks, Turkmen and Yezidis.  The last eight years of conflict have seen the numbers of minorities diminish as many have fled the country.  Others have abandoned their traditional  locations for new areas of the country.  Statistics on the number of people who have fled, or current populations of minority groups remaining in Iraq, are disputed.  Government treatment that set minorities apart under the old regime continues to have ramifications for these communities. Some restrictive legislation remains in force, such as limitations on Baha'is freedom to access basic rights. In other situations, such as in the case of Palestinian Iraqis, old resentments based on perceived favourable treatment by the Ba'ath regime continue to stoke current prejudice. 
Early on the report notes, "The research highlighted a number of concerns. It emerged that members of minorities are unable to access public services or employment because of ethnic or religious prejudice, or because they do not belong to the right political party."  Later in the report, it's noted, "Leading representatives of minority communities, including Christian, Sabean Mandaean, Shabak and Yezidis have reported that access to work, eeducation and employment, freedom of movement and freedom to worship, and access to resources and recreational services are high on their list of concerns.  Addressing discrimination, improving participation in and access to government, and achieving greater self-governance, which would all
For Iraqi Christians, 2010 was "the worst of years." There was the October 31st attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad (in which "56 Christian and 12 others were killed") prompting further displacement of Iraqi Christians with 4,000 to 8,000 Iraqi families fleeing Baghdad -- most for the Kurdistan Regional Government others for the Nineveh Plains and some leaving Iraq all together.  And while the minority groups are usually harmed by either the Shi'ite or the Sunni group (Kurds in disputed areas), they can also harm one another.  For example, the report notes that Shabak and Christians have long-standing tensions that predate the Iraq War.  A Shabak tells the researchers, "When trying to enter into the car park of the Hamdaniyah hospital, I was prevented from entering by the Christian guards and they allowed other Christians to enter."
The brain drain is noted -- the war and violence has caused many of Iraq's professional class to leave the country -- and that conditions in hospitals have gone down hill which effects all Iraqis; however, minorities face additional problems and minority women even more so.   One example noted, "Yezidis in Sinjar have claimed that there are no women's health services to be found in their area; they must travel to Dohuk in the Kurdistan Region." I believe that's approximately 61 miles (check my math) that they would have to travel. Like the conditions of hospital, the issue of potable water is one that effects all Iraqis; however, here too, minorities are more harshly impacted. 71% of the minorities surveyed "said they suffer from the absence of sufficient water in their area." In addition, there areas are not high priority when it comes to repairs as evidenced by the July 10th attack on the Shabak's Bazwaya village by the Harkia tribe which was attempting to take over "the water and electricity resources" but succeeded only in damaging the plant.  The report notes, "Around 12,000 Shabak people have been left without water and, at the time of writing, the authorities still have not addressed this issue."
Minorities suffer in terms of access to education.  The hardest hit is thought to be the Roma who, as a result, have "the highest rates of illiteracy (29 per cent) and only 7 per cent held a university degree." The areas they are concentrated in are without "primary or secondary schooling."  Minorities with access to 'Iraqi schools' suffer as well due to the bais in curriculum "towards 'a sect, nation or bloc, or a reference in favour of certain parties, or against them', according to 90 per cent of survey respondents."  I'm using the term 'Iraqi schools.'  The report has no term of that kind.  But they're referring to schools teaching the state curriculum -- whether they are public or private.  I'm calling those 'Iraqi schools' because some minorities -- such as Assyrian Christians -- have their own schools with their own curriculum.  Some, not all.  It's noted in the report that Human Rights Watch has interviewed "a Sabean-Mandaean elder in Basra [who stated] there are no schools that teach their children in their language, Mandaic."
The report notes how much easier life would be for many minorities in Iraq if the national ID card were not noting ethnicity and religion:

Some have argued that the Iraqi government should speed up development and issue of national identity cards that do not state religious or ethnic identity;113 ID cards that include this data can easily be used to discriminate in access to rights, and even to target people for violence. Including towns and villages of residence or birth on such cards can also be an indicator of religion or ethnicity.
The benefit of disaggregating data by minority in any research and evaluation of their situation cannot be underestimated. Only then can a clear picture of the situation for each group, and for women from those communities, emerge, and improvements pertinent to their particular history and present conditions begin to be found. Collecting disaggregated data does not require the existence of national ID cards stating religion or ethnicity and, as the survey conducted for this report shows, such material can be gathered anonymously.

Of course, women in Iraq are the majority of the population but they are a political minority when it comes to rights and representation.  Though they would benefit, as all Iraqis would, from the step proposed above, such a step would not conceal gender.  Women in Iraq face many problems, some covered by the report, some not covered.  We'll note the report with regards to women tomorrow as well as several other issues relating to Iraqi women's rights and status.

Turning to the US and the topic of  Bradley Manning who is finally headed for a military courtroom and an Article 32 hearing on December 16th at Fort Meade, Maryland.  
 Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US 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 Bradley Manning and he 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." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, 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. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.  
What's going on with Bradley is very important. Shirley passes on that a number of people have e-mailed the public account about an item at the Bradley Manning Support Network.  Note what we did there: Linked to the network, didn't link to the item.
Not interested.
Not interested for two big reasons.  We reported on the filings yesterday and, excuse me, but I did a damn better job of it than Wired did. (And thanks to my attorney who went over two points with me.)  There's no reason for us to repeat ourselves here after we've analyzed the filings by going to an inferior report on them.  That's (A).  (B)?  I don't like Wired.  If we link to it, we do so only because I have had a friend call in a favor.  Otherwise, we ignore them and you should be able to count on one hand the number of times we've linked to Wired since this site started in 2004.
Among the reasons I don't care for Wired?  They're very tight with paid government snitch Adrian Llamo.  They've misled in their coverage -- as Glenn Greenwald has established many times.  They've failed to release the alleged transcripts in full.  They've shaped the story -- the attack on Bradley -- from the start and it really appears they did so with US government help.
So why the hell the Bradley Manning Support Network would link to them is a question that needs to be asked of Kevin Zeese and everyone else involved.  If you're not getting, there is no DAMN reason for the support network to ever, EVER, link to Wired magazine after what Wired did to Bradley.  If that's still not clear, let's drop back one year.  This is Glenn Greenwald writing at Salon last December:
For more than six months, Wired's Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen has possessed -- but refuses to publish -- the key evidence in one of the year's most significant political stories:  the arrest of U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning for allegedly acting as WikiLeaks' source. In late May, Adrian Lamo -- at the same time he was working with the FBI as a government informant against Manning -- gave Poulsen what he purported to be the full chat logs between Manning and Lamo in which the Army Private allegedly confessed to having been the source for the various cables, documents and video that WikiLeaks released throughout this year. In interviews with me in June, both Poulsen and Lamo confirmed that Lamo placed no substantive restrictions on Poulsen with regard to the chat logs:  Wired was and remains free to publish the logs in their entirety.
Despite that, on June 10, Wired published what it said was only "about 25 percent" of those logs, excerpts that it hand-picked. For the last six months, Poulsen has not only steadfastly refused to release any further excerpts, but worse, has refused to answer questions about what those logs do and do not contain. This is easily one of the worst journalistic disgraces of the year:  it is just inconceivable that someone who claims to be a "journalist" -- or who wants to be regarded as one -- would actively conceal from the public, for months on end, the key evidence in a political story that has generated headlines around the world
You should read the piece in full but just the above should make it clear that there's no reason to link to Wired.  (That's not "Link to me!" Unlike Kevin Zeese, I don't write people asking them to link to me --  and I would prefer not to be linked to by what is striking me right now as the so-called Bradley Manning Support Network.  But POLITICO's Josh Gerstein and others have covered the topic as well and Wired was not the so-called BMSN's only option.)
Grasp that the Bradley Manning Support Network praising a Wired article is a bit like Iraq's Association of Muslim Scholars praising Judith Miller for her Iraq coverage in the lead-up to the Iraq War.  In other words, it just shouldn't happen.
How did it happen?  Most likely no one's paying attention. 
F**k mic check, reality check: You can't do everything, no one can. 
Meaning, in less than 20 days, Bradley has his Article 32 hearing.  If you're the Bradley Manning Support Network, you can't have any other focus right now.  I grasp that Kevin Zeese has half-assed his way through life but that has to end now.  If you're going to help Bradley that means you're going to stop whining about OWS and everything else under the sun.  That means you're going to stop defocusing from Bradley.
Every damn day between now and the Article 32 hearing, you're going to find some way to get people talking about Bradley.  If you're the "Bradley Manning Support Network," that's your job, that's your role.  Nothing else.
My personal opinion: The Article 32 hearing will be a rubber stamp as it was in Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing, as it was in Camilo Mejia's Article 32 hearing, as it was . . . But Barack Obama, US president, can, in his role as commander in chief, call a halt to everything.  He can do that before the Article 32 hearing, he can do it after.  He can do it in the midst of a military trial (which I believe the Article 32 hearing will lead to).  Would he call a stop to it?  Barack's nothing but vanity.  You have to be very vain to dress the way he does (and grasp this manner of dress is only after he's been repeatedly advised to "dress down").  You have to be very vain to write two books about your life -- when you've failed to even make partner at the law firm that employs you, let alone do anything monumental.  You have to be very vain to be completely unprepared for the US presidency but think, what the heck, you'll run anyway and, if you win, you can always learn as you go.  Barack's vanity is the only thing the might hold him in check.
Grasping that he's in danger of being a one-term president, grasping that what's being done to Bradly, the railroading of this young man, the torture of this young man, is outrageous to Americans today, he is smart enough to realize that what's outrageous today usually doesn't become acceptable tomorrow.  He's vain enough and aware enough to be worried about his historical meaning.  And, as he was saying recently to a group of people, he hopes he's going to be something "more than a symbolic president" when history is written.  Generate some outrage, make people aware, Barack just might pay attention especially at a time when he's already aware of just how much support he's lost.
What do I think the chances are?  I'd give it a single-digit percentage of happening.  But I have no faith in Barack, I haven't since I met him during his Senate run.  A lot of other people do or did have faith.  They voted for him.  They need to hold him accountable. 
And even if Barack doesn't do the right thing with regards to Bradley, the historical record needs to show objection to the railroading of Bradley, to the ignoring of the Sixth Amendment and his right to a speedy trial, to the failure of Barack to honor the most basic premise in the American judicial system: Innocent until proven guilty.  They don't have that in every country.  In many countries, the accused is assumed guilty and has to prove innocence.  In the United States, we have innocent until proven guilty.  When Barack took it upon himself to announce that Bradley was guilty, he crossed many lines.  Not just the lines of commander in chief -- though surely those lines were crossed.  How comfortable, for instance, is someone serving in the military going to be declaring Bradley innocent in a trial knowing that their commander in chief has stated Bradley is guilty?  That's a serious issue.  Even more troubling is that the president of the United States took a giant piss on the American legal system, showed complete ignorance of it and disregard for it.