Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, March 20, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed with bombings (refuting all of the claims made by Antony Winken Blinken and Nod -- see yesterday's snapshot), Kurdish President Massoud Barzani delivers a speech and the press notes the message to Nouri but misses the message to the US, Cindy Sheehan continues her war tax resistance, the US State Dept pretends to be 'concerned' about events in Iraq, and more.
Today Iraq was slammed with bombings. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "Tuesday's violence was surprisingly widespread, striking not just the capital, but locations to the east, west, north and south. Medical authorities predicted the death toll would rise because many of the wounded are in serious condition."  In a text, photo and video essay, ITV's Bill Neely explains, "They are snapshots of a forgotten conflict; one that most people can't bear to read or think about any more.  This is Iraq.  And this is carnage.  Another day of slaughter in the land many in the West like to argue is better, safer, calmer now."
Early on, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) counted "at least 38 dead and 171 injured" as violence exploded "in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Karbala, Hilla, Tikrit, Baiji, Ramadi, and Falluja." AKI noted the bombings "killed 13 in Kirkuk, 13 in Karbala, 6 in Baghdad, 2 in Ramadi and 2 in Mahmudiya." Patrick J. McDonnell and an unnamed Iraqi correspondent (Los Angeles Times) note, "The attacks were apparently aimed at a range of targets: Shiite Muslim pilgrims, Iraqi police, an army patrol, government officials and guards outside a Christian church in Baghdad."  Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London -- link is text and video) notes, "In most of the cases, the targets seem to have been civilians and police, but a motorcade carrying the governor of Anbar province, a Sunni heartland west of Baghdad stretching to the Syrian border, and long a haven for al-Qaeda, was also hit. A bodyguard was killed."  Governor Qassim Fahdawi,. Al Rafidayn reports, is the Anbar Province governor who survived an assassination attempt in Ramadi (car bombing).  AGI notes the claim that Baghdad security forces "managed to defuse 6 car bombs" before they went off.  Salam Faraj (AFP) notes that in addition to bombings -- including one "in the center of the capital" -- a Baghdad church was attacked with 3 people shot dead.  Catholic Culture explains it was the St. Matthew Baghdad Church, a Syrian Orthodox Church. The Telegraph of London offers video of the aftermath of the Kirkuk bombings. Lindsey Tugman (CBS News -- link is text and video) reports on the Kirkuk bombing, "Security teams, backed by ambulances and fire engines, who rushed to the scene in southern Kirkuk, examined the vast damage and wrecked vehicles, some still smoldering." The Australian quotes Kirkuk police officer Mohammed Sobheh stating, "We lost everything.  Not one of my colleagues is alive; they were all killed.  I will never forget their screams as long as I live." Sky News runs Sammer N. Yacoub's AP report quoting wounded cameraman Saman Majid explaining of the Kirkuk attack, "I quickly got out of my car to see burned bodies trapped inside the cars.  Dozens of cars were on fire.  It was a scene from hell, where there is only a huge fire and dead people and nothing else." A Kirkuk shop keeper tells Peter Biles (BBC News -- link is video) that, "A car parked here.  We shouted for security because it looked suspicious.  But no one from the police responded.  A few minutes later it exploded."  BBC News offers a photo essay of the aftermath in various cities.
Alice Fordham (Washington Post) provides this context, "The violence followed the mass killing of more than 20 police officers in Anbar provinces this month and an attack on police cadets in February.  The wave of attacks is worrying Iraqi and Western officials alike."  Late in the day, Trend News Agency was noting, "At least 56 people died in bombings in seven Iraqi cities on Tuesday, on the ninth anniversary of the United States-led invasion. Nearly 150 people were wounded, dpa reported."  Jill Reilly (Daily Mail) notes of Karbala provincial council member Shadhan al-Aboudi, "Mr al-Aboudi immediately blamed the attacks on al Qaida, the terror network which officials believe is behind the recent violence with the aim of forcing the Arab League's summit in Baghdad next week to be cancelled for the second year in a row."  Remember, when you have a ready-made 'bad guy' that you can always rush to blame, you never have to examine what it is that keeps courting these attacks.  Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) speaks with someone who wants to look a little further than al Qaeda in Mesopotamia:
A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, told McClatchy that while the attacks had the hallmarks of al Qaida, they also could be the result of infighting among Iraqi political parties trying to undermine one another's credibility just before the summit meetings.
"It seems they (the political parties) will never stop. They will continue this war for supremacy until the very end. So until political issues are resolved at the top level, we will see no peace." he said.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/03/20/142574/bombings-in-iraq-kill-50-heighten.html#storylink=rss#storylink=cpy
In addition to the above, AFP adds, "Separate gun and bomb attacks in Salaheddin province, north of the capital, killed four people, including a city councillor, police said. Gunmen also killed a member of the Shabak minority in the main northern city of Mosul."  BBC News' Peter Biles (link is video) notes today's attacks were "an attempt to undermined confidence" ahead of the Arab Summit.  On The World (PRI) today, anchor Lisa Mullins spoke with McClatchy News Service's Sahar Issa. Excerpt.
Sahar Issa:  [. . .] And I think insurgents want to remind people that although nine years have passed, everything in Iraqi politics today stems from an occupation of the country.
Lisa Mullins: The fact that the explosions are continuing now in such large numbers, what's the potential that this will derail the Arab League Summit next week?
Sahar Issa: The Iraqi government has taken this into consideration, I believe, because they have given two days holiday and there is a high possibility -- in fact, it is expected --  that a curfew will be announced.  In which case, if people want to arrange bombings, it is going to be very difficult.  But I don't believe it will be derailed, I believe it will take place.  The Iraqi government looks to the summit to give it legitimacy in the Arab world.  I doubt very much that it is going to let this opportunity slip between its fingers. 
Lisa Mullins: Even if it has to embrace this opportunity and hold the summit against a backdrop of bombings?
Sahar Issa: They will want to keep it.  It remains for the guests to decide whether they want to come to the site of bombings or not.
A week ago, we noted, "Dar Addustour notes that the Cabinet has agreed to foot the bill for the Summit which, according to Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh, will cost $100 billion dinars. That would be $86,073,447.54 in US dollars."  Today Jack Healy (New York Times) reports, "Iraq is spending about $500 million on the meeting, for extensive security plus everything from hotel renovations and overtime to catering, stationery and new sod and palm trees on the road fromt he airport.  Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called the price tag 'an investment for the country'." I'm sure his figure is correct -- and not just because the cost has increased as the government has added this closure and that.   Al Bawaba News adds, "The government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, announced a week-long holiday in Baghdad, from 25 to 31 March, during which government offices will be closed. A curfew will be imposed on March 29 in some areas of the capital to secure the arrival of Arab leaders. The roads near the fortified Green Zone where the summit is to take place will be barred and the residents will be encouraged to stay home."    Al Rafidayn notes that, after today's wave of attacks, the government decided to stop work this Sunday and declare a holiday beginning March 25th (the Summit is scheduled to run the 27th through the 29th) and that the move comes as Iraqis are already complaining about "security measures" for the summit which are already causing big traffic news.  Prior to today's decision to impose a week long holiday, barricades were already going up throughout Baghdad, it had already been announced that Baghdad International Airport would be closed and Baghdad was already set to be closed to non-official vehicular traffic.  Sam Dagher, Munaf Ammar, Ali A. Nabhan and Jabbar Yaseen (Wall St. Journal) quote cab driver Ashraf Mohammed delcaring today, "The Arab summit is worth nothing as long as the people continue to pay the price."

Response to the attacks came from around the world.  France's Foreign Ministry issued the following statement:

France utterly condemns the attacks perpetrated this morning in several cities in Iraq which left several dozen people dead and around a hundred injured.

It extends its condolences to the Iraqi people and to the families of the victims and expresses its solidarity with the Iraqi authorities in their fight against terrorism.

In this context, we urge all Iraqi political actors to engage in dialogue in order to safeguard the country's national unity and stability.

France stands alongside Iraq and reaffirms its full support for all democratic political forces and the Iraqi government engaged in the efforts to ensure the recovery, stability and security of Iraq.


Press TV reported, "Iran's Foreign Ministry has vehemently condemned terrorist attacks in a number of Iraqi cities which have claimed the lives of many people, including a number of Iranian pilgrims.  Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast noted that the bomb attacks in Baghdad and several other Iraqi cities were in continuation of certain parties' enmity which have targeted independence, peace, stability, and peace in Iraq."

Of course, the US government pretended to give a damn as well.  Jay Carney was forced to note -- when asked -- Iraq in the White House press briefing today while Victoria Nuland was more somber at the start of her State Dept press briefing in that she was telling jokes about her shoes (that would be yesterday -- don't we love how they have fun on our tax dollars?).
The State Dept, please remember, gets $6 billion a year just for the "mission" in Iraq.  And yet they no longer produce the weekly reports that they did before they got the $6 billion yearly, they don't give press briefings just on Iraq, and they don't feel that they have to answer to either the Congress or the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction as to how they spend the money.  They don't feel they have to answer to anybody.  They just spend your money and pretend to give a damn.
Like today, when Victoria lies and said "we strongly condemn terrorism of any kind.  We condemn today's attacks in Iraq."  Let's leave aside the laughable assertion that the US government condemns terrorism and note some reality for hacks in the press department -- was it all that long ago that Vicky was working for Dick Cheney? (oh, my bad, her "makeover" includes the new nickname "Toria").
When you condemn something strongly?  You do it immediately.  At the start of your press briefing.  Not over nine minutes into a press breifing and then only when asked.
The State Dept needs to have the $6 billion pulled, they are not just ill-equipped to lead anything, they're incompetent and they are arrogant.  They also appear to believe that they are not accountable to the people.  Why the wife of a neo-con, why this woman who worked for Dick Cheney in whoring for the Iraq War in the lead up was brought into the State Dept by Hillary Clinton is a question the White House needs to answer.  The administration is still -- whether they like it or not -- accountable to the people.  Their desire to bring little Vicky into the fold is something they need to answer to.  Again, there is no difference in the Bully Boy Bush administration and the Baby Barack administration -- two War Hawks whoring for the same destruction, with partners from the same dance card.  Two wings of the same War Party.
Cindy Sheehan:  You know the United States president said today -- he didn't say it today, but the one that we have in office today -- said back in 2002 that the Iraq War was a stupid war but yesterday he made March 19th  a Day of Honor because the US did such great things in Iraq.  I want to put their wars on trial, Joyce.  If I have to go on trial to do that then that's what I've been wanting to do. You know, to me, it just blows my mind that George Bush and Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of those War Criminals and international War Criminals -- and not just crimes abroad, but crimes in our own country -- they can run around free making all kinds of money with their books and their appearances and their consulting jobs for the war machine when they're prosecuting me somebody whose son was killed for their crimes.  So, you know what, Joyce, I hate to use the term of George Bush but I think, "Bring it on."
That's Cindy Sheehan speaking with Joyce Riley on The Power Hour today about her war tax resistance.  We may note more of that tomorrow but we've noted repeatedly that Iraqiya needs to wise up to the empty promises coming from US Vice President Joe Biden's office and that the Kurds already have wised up to how empty those promises are. 
Today this was demonstrated yet again.  Prasnant Rao (AFP) reports, "Kurd leader Massud Barzani hinted on Tuesday at a possible break with Iraq's unity government, complaining that premier Nuri al-Maliki was monopolising power and building an army loyal only to him."  This press release is from the Kurdistan Regional Government (sent to the public e-mail account):
Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRP.org) – In his annual message on the occasion of Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, President Barzani said that power-sharing in Iraq and commitment to the Iraqi Constitution are under threat and that the Kurds will decide their own course of action if these two principles are abandoned.

"Iraq is facing a serious crisis. We have tried our utmost to prevent Iraq from descending into a sectarian conflict and we have consistently avoided taking sides in this conflict. The Kurds have played a pivotal role in bringing about the new Iraq, particularly two years ago when our initiative resulted in the formation of the current government. Had it not been for our role, one can only guess what an unknown fate would have beset Iraq. It is very unfortunate that a small number of people in Baghdad have imposed themselves and monopolized power," said the President.

He said there are a number of main disputes with the Baghdad government.
"Power-sharing and partnership between Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and others is now completely non-existent and has become meaningless. The Iraqi Constitution is constantly violated and the Erbil agreement, which was the basis upon which the current government was formed, has been completely ignored. As soon as they came to power, they disregarded the Constitution, the previous agreements that we had, and the principle of power-sharing."

On disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, the President said: "The resolution of the status of Kirkuk and other disputed areas has constantly been evaded. We have shown utmost flexibility and patience and here I want to thank our people for their patience. We have opted for a resolution based on legal and constitutional means but others have reneged on their pledges. It is impossible for us to abandon this issue because for us it is extremely significant and more than being a mere matter of principle."

He said the other main issue is allocation of funds for the Kurdistan Region Peshmerga forces which the Iraqi government has consistently refused to address, saying, "for the last five or six years funding for Peshmerga forces has been embezzled."

On the dispute regarding oil and gas exploration and management, the President defended the legality of the oil and gas contracts that the KRG has signed.

"None of the KRG contracts with foreign oil companies is unconstitutional. The main reason behind this dispute with Baghdad is not a question of legality of the contracts; rather it is that they don't want to see the KRG make progress and stride forward. "

On monopolization of power in Baghdad, the President stated that power is being concentrated in the hands of a few people and others in the political process are being marginalized, including Shiites.
"There is an attempt to establish a one-million strong army whose loyalty is only to a single person. Where in the world can the same person be the prime minister, the chief of staff of the armed forces, the minister of defense, the minister of interior, the chief of intelligence and the head of the national security council. "

The President dismissed statements that the Kurdish-Shiite alliance is close to collapse, saying, "We are committed to our alliance with the Shiites but not with this group of people who have monopolized power and with their policies have even marginalized other Shiites. The Kurds and the followers of Ammar Al-Hakim and Muqtada Al-Sadr have always shown solidarity with each other."

"It is time to say enough is enough. The current status of affairs in unacceptable to us and I call on all Iraqi political leaders to urgently try and find a solution otherwise we will return to our people and will decide on whatever course of action that our people deem appropriate."
Doesn't Joe Biden's little boy Antony Blinken look like an idiot today?  He really does.  And, Joe, the Kurds don't trust your boy Antony.  Nor did the recent reshuffle in power -- which strengthened Massoud Barzani and weakend Jalal Talabani -- improve US relations with the Kurds.  Most importnatly, now that the US is arming Baghdad, don't ever expect the Kurds -- which the US won't arm for fear of offending the government of Turkey -- to return to seeing the US as an honest power broker.  There have been too many lies and too many broken promises.  Consider the Kurds today's Native Americans, offered beads and blankets -- blankets with small pox -- while the US government repeatedly took from them.
Turning to a functioning branch of the US government, the Congress.  First, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
TOMORROW: Senator Murry to Question Army's Top Brass on their Handling of the Mental Wounds of War
At Hearing of Defense Appropriations Subcommitte, Veterans Chairman Murray will press Army Secretary and Chief of Staff on troubled PTSD unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and whether similar problems exist at other bases
(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will question Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno on recent shortcomings in the Army's efforts to properly diagnose and treat the invisible wounds of war.  Specifically, Murray will discuss the forensic psyhciatry unit at Madigan Army medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord that is under investigation for taking the cost of PTSD into consideration when making diagnosing decisions.  The Army is currently reevaluating nearly 300 service members and veterans who have had their PTSD diagnoses changed by that unit since 2007.
WHO:      U.S. Senator Patty Murray
WHAT:     Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing

When:      TOMORROW -- Wednesday, March 21, 2012
                10:30 AM EST/ 7:30 AM PST -- Hearing start time
Where      Dirkensen 192

Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct


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We'll note that in some way but I believe there's another hearing tomorrow at the same time.  The House Veterans Affairs Committee has issued "Setting the Record Straight: Veterans and the Path to Prosperity" and we'll close with that:

The Path to Prosperity
increases America's funding for services and benefits earned by veterans. Of the $6.2 trillion in spending reductions included in The Path to Prosperity, not a single dollar comes from veterans programs or services.  Under the House-passed budget, spending for veterans will increase from $128.3 billion in FY2012 to $164.4 billion in FY2021, providing $155 million more than the President has requested. This is the only area of discretionary spending in the House-passed budget to see significant growth across the budget window.
Myth: The House-passed budget seeks to end advance appropriations for veterans programs.
Fact: The Budget Resolution passed by the House authorizes $52.5 billion in advance appropriations for FY 2013, a record level of funding for veterans health programs. The House recently passed an appropriations bill providing that full amount.
Veterans health programs are not the programs referred to on page 37 of The Path to Prosperity, because these advance appropriations are specifically authorized in law, namely the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009.
There are no savings from veterans programs assumed in the $6.2 trillion in spending reductions under The Path to Prosperity and no proposals for changing how appropriations for those programs are handled.
Myth: The House-passed budget seeks to end enrollment in veterans health programs for Priority Group 7 and 8 veterans.
Fact: The Path to Prosperity provides full funding, including authorization for advance appropriations, for the Veterans Health Administration. This will allow VA to provide medical care for a record number of veterans and eligible dependents. The budget proposes no restrictions on any priority groups' access to VHA and it assumes no savings from changes to veterans benefits or programs.
Sorry, one more thing.  Feminist Gloria Feldt, author most recently of No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, is hosting an online discussion this Sunday:
Join me for a No Excuses Facebook chat on my fanpage Sunday, March 25, at 3pm eastern, 2pm central, 1pm mountain, noon pacific, etc. I'll be on video, you'll be able to ask questions and talk with others via chat box. It's easy. Really. And there will be giveaways! Let me know if you're coming here.
Tweet: Mark your calendar: Next Sunday No Excuses "Power To You" Virtual Book Chat ... please join us! http://ow.ly/9w9qq

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Gloria Feldt
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