Friday, May 04, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Friday, May 4, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis continue to be targeted in their own country, Nouri's suddenly declaring he's fine with the call for a national conference, Iraqiya says the Erbil Agreement must be implemented, Ibrahim al-Jaafari says the conference must take place next week, Tareq al-Hashemi hold a press conference and more.
Starting in the US with news of the latest faux left move.  The Coalition to Protest at the DNC talked a good game and got some support.  We didn't support it because they were so obviously fake.  But they fooled a number of people.  Today the organization posted a statement which begins: "It is with great enthusiasm that we announce that the Coalition to Protest at the DNC is changing its name to the Coalition to March on Wall Street South -- Building People's Power during the DNC.  This decision was made unanimously by the steering committee of the coalition, made up of representatives from more than 60 organizations."
Michael Cooper (New York Times) reports on the name change and includes this:
"It shows a real lack of integrity, I think, to let Democrats off the hook," said Cindy Sheehan, the well-known antiwar protester whose son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, adding that the name change was making her rethink her plans to attend protests in Charolotte.  "They are as much the party of war as the Republicans, the party of Wall Street."
Cooper also quotes "veteran antiwar activist" John Penley who wrote "What a sellout!" online.  Penely also wrote:

Listen my OWS friends if you are going to support the Democratic Party and vote for Obama for president and encourage people not to protest at the DNC in Charlotte and only protest the Republicans in Tampa well lets leave as friends I still love ya but please defriend me so I can make room for those who have not joined team Obama or the GD Republicans.
What Penely fears is exactly what took place in 2008.  Here's a few things that would-be sell outs on the left should consider in the future.
1) A Democrat who can't speak up for what's right during the campaign out of fear that he or she will lose the race is not one that normally ever speaks up after the race is won. Because there's always another race and when there's not -- say you've two-termed it out of the White House -- there's still so much corporate dollars to be made.
Right now in Arizona, there's a ridiculous woman running for public office.  She's a War Hawk and a number of left voters (we were in the state on Monday and Tuesday) are kidding themselves that, because when Bully Boy Bush was in office, when she gets into office, she'll suddenly become Dennis Kucinich.  She won't.  She was in peace groups in 2003.  If she wanted to be a part of that, she still would be.  She left those to cheer on War Hawk Barack and that's where she's at now.  She's not playing voters for fools and pretending to be something she's not but a number of voters are willingly playing the fool as they rush to convince themselves that she's really a secret peace vote.
2) If you can't hold someone's feet to the fire right now at this moment, chances are you never will.  In 2007 and 2008, Tom Hayden, Laura Flanders and others made repeated claims that they would hold Barack's feet to the fire but not yet, you understand, he had to win the primary first.  But, buster, once he did, step back because they were going to hold his feet to the fire.
It never happened.  And as they look back, I would hope Tom and Laura both now realize that they were wrong to stay silent when Barack utilized homophobia in 2007 to solidify the primary vote in South Carolina.  (If you missed this in real time, refer to Kevin Alexander Gray and Marshall Derks' "Obama's Big Gay and Black Problem.") If a candidate who wants your vote, who needs your vote, is someone you're not comfortable pressing on issues that matter today, that's someone's feet you'll never hold to the fire.
3) Refusing to make demands and hold accountable someone running for public office leads not to a stronger spine (for you or your candidate of choice) but to more craven actions.  Doubt that?  From 2008's "Editorial: Raw emotions (Ava and C.I.):"

Now maybe everyone's decided to take Katha Pollitt's stated oath which she revealed when she felt 'forced' to call out Tom Hayden's latest sexism last April: "I want to do my bit for Obama, so I vowed I would give up attacking Obama-supporting progressives for the duration of the presidential campaign." Guess what, Katha, we don't do our "bit for" feminism by staying silent. That was in April that she broke (and announced) her vow -- one she's gone back to. So, basically, at the start of the year, Pollitt's admitting, she decided to let sexist attacks from Barack's campaign and his supporters slide until after the election. Wow.
See how quickly doing her part went from not calling out a politician to not calling out his supporters?  Here's reality:  Free speech is meant to be used.  It's not a snazzy little Chanel number that you hide in the closet while you wait for just the right occasion to sport it.
4) Though you're an adult, always grasp that there are people just coming of age and there are children watching.  Remember that when you want to preach silence and not accountability.  And grasp that a large part of the reason Barack is still not held accountable has to do with the behavior you moldeled for others.
Think of the above as guidelines.  There will always be exceptions.  As Betty noted last night, one of the loudest members of the Cult of St. Barack was able to break free.  David Lindorff most recently has compiled a list of the crimes for which Barack should be impeached.  Again, those who self-censor to 'help' candidates create the climate in which hypocrisy regins supreme.  As Glenn Greenwald notes:
One last point: for the full eight years of the Bush administration, Bush, Cheney and scores of other political and media supporters of their militarism who had not served in the military were routinely derided by Democrats and progressives as "chickenhawks" (an accusation, which, with some caveats and modifications, I supported). What happened to that? Now we have a President whom Bergen hails as "one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades" despite having not served a day in the military, and hordes of non-military-serving Democrats who cheer him as he does so. Similarly, George Bush was mercilessly mocked for declaring himself a "war President," yet here is Bergen -- writing under the headline "Warrior in Chief" --  twice christening the non-serving Obama as our "Warrior President." Did the concept of chickenhawkism, like so many other ostensible political beliefs, cease to exist on January 20, 2009?
Early today, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted that Tareq al-Hashemi had announced a press conference in Turkey for later in the day. When he faced the reporters, AFP reports, he declared he had "no faith in the Iraqi justice system and fears for his life." Nouri has been calling for al-Hashemi to be tried on charges of terrorism.  Nouri al-Maliki's political slate State of Law came in second to al-Hashemi's Iraqiya. 
The political crisis was already in effect when December 2011 rolled around.  Iraqiya announced a  boycott of the council and the Parliament, that's in the December 16th snapshot and again in a December 17th entry.  Tareq al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya but he's not in the news at that point.  Later, we'll learn that Nouri -- just returned from DC where he met with Barack Obama -- has ordered tanks to surround the homes of high ranking members of Iraqiya. Saturday, December 17th, Liz Sly (Washington Post) reported, "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders."  December 18th is when al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq are pulled from a Baghdad flight to the KRG but then allowed to reboard the plane. December 19th is when the arrest warrant is issued for Tareq al-Hashemi by Nouri al-Maliki who claims the vice president is a 'terrorist.' .  With the permission and blessing of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani, al-Hashemi remained in the KRG.  At the start of April, he left the KRG on a diplomatic tour that took him to Qatar, then Saudi Arabia and finally Turkey where he remains currently.
The Journal of Turkish Weekly quotes him stating today, "I booked a ticket to retun to Irbil last Tuesday after completing my schedule in Turkey, but a colleague called in the last minute and asked me to delay my return for a few days and wait for a more suitable dialogue atmosphere in Iraq."  This delay may have something to do with the current push for a national conference in Iraq.  What is known is that his trial -- in absentia -- was supposed to start yesterday in Baghdad; however, it was delayed until next Thursday.  al-Hashemi believes he can't receive a fair trial in Baghdad.  He's right.
This was demonstrated February 16th though the press wanted to play dumb.  From that day's snapshot, this is where we take the various details and demonstrate how the press could have reported it:
After many claims that he could not receive a fair trial, Tareq al-Hashemi's
assertions were backed up today by the Iraqi judiciary.
BAGHDAD -- Today a nine-member Iraqi judiciary panel released results of an investigation they conducted which found the Sunni Vice President of Iraq was guilty of terrorism.  Monday, December 19th, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki swore out an arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi who had arrived in the KRG the previous day.  Mr. al-Hashemi refused to return to Baghdad insisting he would not receive a fair trial.  Instead, he was the guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani.
During the weeks since the arrest warrant was issued, Mr. al-Hashemi has repeatedly attempted to get the trial moved to another venue stating that Prime Minister al-Maliki controlled the Baghdad judiciary.  Mr. al-Maliki insisted that the vice president return and that he would get a fair trial.
Today's events demonstrate that Mr. al-Hashemi was correct and there is no chance of a fair trial in Iraq.  This was made clear by the judiciary's announcement today.
A judiciary hears charges in a trial and determines guilt; however, what the Baghdad judiciary did today was to declare Tareq al-Hashemi guilt of the charges and to do so before a trial was held. 
Not only do the events offer a frightening glimpse at the realities of the Iraqi legal system, they also back up the claims Mr. al-Hashemi has long made.
That is not how the Iraqi courts work, not according to the country's Constitution.  Judges are impartial.  Judges do not declare guilt outside of a courtroom and no one is guilty in Iraq until convicted in a courtroom.  The fact that the judges felt no need to follow the Constitution, the fact that they held a press conference to announce the guilt of someone in a case they knew wouldn't appear on their docket until May goes to the fact that they are not impartial and that Tareq al-Hashemi would not have received a fair trial.
In addition, it appears that one of his bodyguards who 'confessed' was tortured to death.  March 21st, al-Hashemi made that charge publicly.  From the March 22nd snapshot:
Since December, those working for Tareq al-Hashemi have been rounded up by Nouri's forces.  At the end of January, Amnesty International was calling for the Baghdad government "to reveal the whereabouts of two women arrested earlier this month, apparently for their connection to the country's vice-president.  Rasha Nameer Jaafer al-Hussain and Bassima Saleem Kiryakos were arrested by security forces at their homes on 1 January.  Both women work in the media team of Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted by the Iraqi authorities on terrorism-related charges."  Yesterday, al-Hashemi noted that his bodyguard had died and stated that it appeared he had died as a result of torture.
 Alsumaria notes Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is calling for the international community to call out the death of his bodyguard, Amer Sarbut Zeidan al-Batawi, who died after being imprisoned for three months. al-Hashemi has stated the man was tortured to death. The photo Alsumaria runs of the man's legs (only the man's legs) appear to indicate he was tortured, welts and bruises and scars. 

March 23rd, Human Rights Watch is calling for an investigation into the death:
(Beirut) – Iraqi authorities should order a criminal investigation into allegations that security forces tortured to death a bodyguard of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Human Rights Watch said today.

Iraqi authorities released Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi's body to his family on March 20, 2012, about three months after arresting him for terrorism. His family told Human Rights Watch that his body displayed signs of torture, including in several sensitive areas. Photographs taken by the family and seen by Human Rights Watch show what appear to be a burn mark and wounds on various parts of his body.

"The statements we heard and photos we saw indicate that Iraqi security officers may have tortured Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi to death while he was in their custody," said
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "It's essential for the Iraqi government to investigate his death and report publicly what they find."

The family said that al-Batawi's death certificate listed no cause of death. They said that before his arrest, the 33-year-old married father of three was in excellent health.

"I could barely recognize him," a close relative told Human Rights Watch on March 22. "There were horrible marks and signs of torture all over his body. He had lost about 17 kilos [37.5 pounds] from the day they arrested him."

Iraqi authorities have denied the torture allegations. On March 22, Lt. Gen. Hassan al-Baydhani, chief of staff of Baghdad's security command center and a judicial spokesman, said al-Batawi died of kidney failure and other conditions after refusing treatment. When asked by reporters about the photographic evidence that al-Batawi had been tortured, Baydhani replied, "It is easy for Photoshop to show anything," referring to a digital photo-editing software.

As the United States was pulling its last remaining troops from Iraq in December 2011, Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi on charges he was running death squads. Al-Hashemi has taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan and refused to return to Baghdad, saying he cannot receive a fair trial. Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have so far declined to hand him over.

An unknown number of other members of al- Hashemi's security and office staff have been arrested since late December and are also in custody, including two women. On March 22, al-Hashemi told Human Rights Watch, "I have made repeated requests to the government to find out who else in my staff has been arrested and where they are being held, but they have not responded."

Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government to release the names of all those detained and the charges against them, and to ensure that they have access to lawyers and medical care.
Nouri's shown no concern about any of that.
Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) notes the events since mid-December:

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.

That potential may -- the fear of it -- may be prompting some efforts at action.  Though, as usual, Jalal Talabani tries to wall paper over it.  Today he tells Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor), "We Iraqis had experiences many times on the brink of civil war -- we retreated from that and we came back to dialogue and national unity."   Al Rafidayn reports that National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari stated today that it's important to hold the national conference within a week and for all political blocs to participate.  Yesterday, Ipek Yezdani (Hurriyet) reported that Kurdistan Democratic Party spokesperson Cafer Ibrahim states that if things can't be worked out with Nouri, Ibrahim al-Jaafari becomes the choice for the new nominee.  Dar Addustour notes that Nouri is now echoing the cry for all political blocs to participate.  Al Mada notes that Nouri released that statement after meeting with Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.  Alsumaria explains that the statement also included accusations by Nouri that unnamed others were attempting to break up the National Alliance. 

The National Alliance is a Shi'ite grouping which includes Nouri's State of Law, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, ISCI and others.  Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections, is a mixed sect political slate led by Shi'ite Ayad Allawi.  Other prominent members include Sunnis Osama al-Nujaifi, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  Alsumaria reports Iraqiya announced today that they will not attend the national conference unless it is agreed that the Erbil Agreement will be implemented.  Saturday, Allawi, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Osama al-Nujaifi, Moqtada al-Sadr and others met in Erbil and one of the things they all agreed to was that the Erbil Agreement would be re-instated.

Iraqiya states that if Nouri is serious about resolving the political crisis, he will implement the Erbil Agreement.  Their spokesperson Haider Mulla further notes that they are used to Nouri's promises but they are frustrated by his inability to follow words with actions.

Meanwhile Ammar al-Hakim has released a statement.  Al Mada notes that he states that Iraq needs a strategic vision that all can agree to, that they need to commit to implementing agreementts , that there needs to be successful soltions that serve the citizens; and that there needs to be transparency.  
How serious is Nouri?  He's given 'support' before.  For example, at the end of February 2011, he gave lip service to the protests and the Iraqi people being important and, give him 100 days, and he'd clean up corruption and meet the protesters demands.   He was given 100 days and did nothing.  He's now been given over 400 days and still done nothing.  Ali Issa (Jadaliyya -- links is text and audio) interviews Hashmey Muhsin al-Saadawi who is the Electrical Workers Union in Iraq and "the first woman vice-president of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers in Basra." (IVAW's Executive Director Jose Vasquez noted the interview.) Excerpt:
AI: What is your opinion of the Arab uprising-style movement in Iraq that started 25 February 2011, and has been called by some " the forgotten uprising ?" Did unions participate in the mobilizations? Since recently they have been smaller in number do you think they will come back? Finally, do you have any explanation for the lack of media coverage, even in the Arabic-language media?

HMS: Iraq has seen successive waves of sit-ins, demonstrations, and protest activities. They have been the result of the continued hardships in daily life and lack of services for people, as well as the deterioration of security since April 2003 that I described. On top of all that, are the efforts to limit civil liberties and silence people, while cementing the hated ethno-sectarian-quota system; we consider all this an open and direct violation of the constitution. Many sectors of society have participated in these protests: youth, women, civil society groups, unions, and the newer pro-democracy formations.
The right of citizens to demonstrate, express opinions and take positions is a constitutional right, and the government and its apparatuses should provide the necessary amount of security to whoever is exercising it. It should also listen closely to people's legal demands and seek to satisfy them. As well as pay attention to their calls for reform of the political process, and correct its course on the path to building a civil, democratic state, based on the text of the constitution that citizens voted for in October 2005.
It should be obvious that our Iraq is not isolated from what is happening, in the countries of the region, though it might differ in its internal dynamics and specifics. The storms of change around us have also energized our people to break the wall of silence and take the streets. The role of the youth in this movement has been especially key, with them taking advantage of new social media technology.
But the way the Iraqi government and its apparatuses have treated the protest movements is a serious violation of the constitutional right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest, and an attempt to stifle the citizens' practicing of that right. That is when the people understood that the first and last concern of influential ruling political blocs is to look after their own interests, struggle with each other over power, and divide the pie among themselves, without any regard for ordinary people living under cruel conditions in a country whose yearly budget exceeds 100 billion dollars.
The protest actions of 25 February 2011 were a great success, as were the actions preceding and following, in expressing the clear and just demands of the people, despite being exposed to attempts to distort the depth of the movement and its goals. Then there has been the intrusion of the Prime Minister's cabinet, with all its influence, to try to stop it, the attempts of the government as a whole to abort it, and all the surveillance and incarceration that followed.  
Whether to expect the return of the protests depends on the reasons that lead to them breaking out. To this day, none of the protesters' demands have been met, so if the government continues on its present path, disregarding people's rights, it is very likely the protests will return.
As for media coverage, there had been coverage from several TV stations, but the government put pressure on them, and shut down some of their offices. In addition, a good number of journalists were beaten by infiltrators at the protests—thugs--while others were arrested and detained. And of course there have been assassinations of journalists – those brave, honorable people– including the writer and poet, Hadi al-Mahdi.
Hadi al-Mahdi is among the targeted in Iraq.  The journalist was assassinated in his home September 7, 2011.  He was shot in the head in his home.  No sign of a break in.  And the killer has still not been found.  Earlier this week,  The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory released the report covering the last twelve months and they've found an increase in violence and restrictions and attempted restrictions on journalists.   They note an American journalist was arrested and held for five days without any legal justification while Iraqi journalists were detained in various ways and also attacked and kidnapped by armed groups.   At least 3 journalists were killed in the 12 months and at least 31 were beaten  -- usually by military and security forces who were sometimes in civilian clothes.  65 journalists were arrested.
As bad as that is, journalists aren't the only ones targeted.  In February, Iraqi youth began to be targeted for being or being thought to be gay or Emo. Alana Marchant (UCA Journalism News) provides this summary: 
Iraq's Moral Police have targeted the 'phenomenon', releasing a statement on the interior ministry's website declaring their intent to 'eliminate' the trend. This has resulted in over 100 young people being stoned to death, simply for their appearance and the music they listen to. In Iraq, he 'emo phenomenon' is being linked to devil worshipping, homosexuality, even being a vampire. In a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim, wearing 'strange, tight clothes with skulls on' and having nose and tongue piercings is being viewed as a danger to society, and signs of 'satanism'.
After being granted approval by the Ministry of Education, Iraq's Moral Police entered schools in Baghdad and pinpointed students with 'emo' appearances, according to the interior ministry's statement.
'A group armed men dressed in civilian clothing led dozens of teenagers to secluded areas…stoned them to death, and then disposed their bodies on garbage dumpsters…' is what activists told the Cairo-based al-Akhbar website. These armed men are said to be 'one of the most extremist religious groups' in Iraq.
LGBT campaign group AllOut and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) have made an emergency appeal for cash to save the lives of gay Iraqis.
The organizations say they want to help 30 Iraqis 'marked for death' because they are 'perceived to be gay'.
QUESTION: In Stockholm, according to my memorandas, you answered on a question from me: "I promise you, if the USA left Iraq, the Iranians and their militias in the police and the army will directly do the same!" Now, when the United States of America nearly has left Iraq, and Iran's influens in Iraq augments day after day, will your promise hold?

ANSWER: I still hold to my promise, but I said "If the United States of America left Iraq", and in truth it has not left. Should the collapse that happened to America in Vietnam happen to America in Iraq, all its allies and agents would have collapsed with it, and at their forefront, Iran.

But the situation in Iraq differs for USA. When the troops sensed the dangers of its situation, words from Bush was leaked, expressing the size of their fears:

"we promoted claims of victory in order to capture the spirit of fears of defeat in the hearts of our soldiers, and when Bush realized that the end in Iraq may be the same as that in Vietnam, he proceeded to withdraw from Iraq in a novel manner, a quiet, slow and unannounced withdrawal."

The withdrawal of most of its troops has taken nearly two years.

In order to avoid the bitterness of defeat to split the American psyche, America came up with the so called Strategic Framework Agreement with its client authority, that enables it to maintain a concentrated and capabel presence.

According to confirmed information available to us, there are now 6 American bases with air and missile forces; armed security companies made up of nearly 50,000 personnel, and a giant embassy and consulates with no less than 13,000 officials and security. In addition there is the government's police and security services that are still subject to the will and orders of the Occupier through the latter's domination of Iraqi senior officers and officials who receive orders directly from the Americans.

To all this comes the presence of the allied Iranian influence and queues of its agents, spies and traitors, gangs and militias.

The New York Times mentioned that the special extended period for the presence of the American Army in Iraq will be prolonged onwards into the unknown, pointing to the existence of a secret agreement between the government of PM Nourie Maliki and American officials for the presence of American Forces beyond the specified time limit.

By the way, in spite of America's concern to convince world public opinion of its withdrawal, as well as its strict observance of secrecy concerning its soldier`s and security companie`s activities, some accidents and incidents took place that exposed their activities and embarrassed the Americans.

For example, the forced emergency landing of an American army helicopter near the Tigris River in Baghdad on 26.1.2012, and the positioning of several checkpoints by the Americans on 18. 1. 2012, carrying out questioning of ordinary citizens in the Shomali District, south of Babil Province, as well as the Drones (the unmanned spying aircraft) that roam Iraqi airspace all the time. All this has been written about by the American press such as The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times, after the supposed withdrawal. They also reported about American military aircraft that inspected and secured Iraq's air space during the Arab Summit Meeting in Baghdad on 29.4.2012.

The coming days will reveal even more in this respect, because of observer`s preliminary estimations concerning the size of remaining American troops. They will point to the fact that there is no less than a quarter of their original size before the announcement for their withdrawal.

So who so ever states that the American Occupation has gone is very much mistaken, and the Association of Muslim Scholars in the person of its Secretary General had warned the Iraqi People in an open letter, after Obama's announcement of the withdrawal, that the Americans are untruthful and that they have not completely withdrawn and that they continue to occupy Iraq.