Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 21, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, more troops will go to Kuwait at the end of the year, Gen Martin Dempsey goes to Baghdad, (and) gets lectured by Nouri, Mitt Romney's campaign appears asleep at the wheel, and more.
John Luciew (Patriot-News) reports on a send-off ceremony at Fort Indiantwon Gap for approximately 100 Pennsylvania National Guard troops who are headed to Afghanistan, "The National Anthem played through stereo speakers that made the song sound muffled, not the big, booming ode to a nation that we've come to know.  Even the commanders who rose to give the speeches seemed subdued.  Perhaps, it's from the repetition. A spokesman said the Pennsylvania National Guard is nearing its 30,000th service members deployments since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And there are more to come.  The next year will see another 2,000 make their way overseas, most likely to Afghanistan, the destination for this deployment, and Kuwait, Iraq's next-door neighbor."  Dropping back to the June 19th snapshot:
Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council." On page v., Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, notes, "Home to more than half of the world's oil reserves and over a third of its natural gas, the stability of the Persian Gulf is critical to the global economy."  Chair John Kerry has stated of the report, "The Gulf Region is strategically important to the United States economically, politically, and for security reasons.  This is a period of historic, but turbulent change in the Middle East. We need to be clear-eyed about what these interests are and how best to promote them.  This report provides a thoughtful set of recommendations designed to do exactly that."
 [. . .]
Page nine of the report:
A residual American military presence in the Gulf and increased burden-sharing with GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states are fundamental components of such a framework. However, the United States must also carefully shape its military footprint to protect the free-flow of critical natural resources and promote regional stability while not creating a popular backlash.
Page 12:
Kuwait is especially keen to maintain a significant U.S. military presence. In fact, the Kuwaiti public perception of the United States is more positive than any other Gulf country, dating back to the U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Kuwait paid over $16 billion to compensate coalition efforts for costs incurred during Desert Shield and Desert Storm and $350 million for Operation Southern Watch. In 2004, the Bush Administration designated Kuwait a major non-NATO ally.
* U.S. Military Presence: A U.S.-Kuwaiti defense agreement signed in 1991 and extended in 2001 provides a framework that guards the legal rights of American troops and promotes military cooperation. When U.S. troops departed Iraq at the end of 2011, Kuwait welcomed a more enduring American footprint. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 U.S. forces in Kuwait, but the number is likely to decrease to 13,500. Kuwaiti bases such as Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Field, and Camp Buehring offer the United States major staging hubs, training rages, and logistical support for regional operations. U.S. forces also operate Patriot missile batteries in Kuwait, which are vital to theater missile defense.
Yes, despite Barack Obama's claims otherwise, all US troops did not come home.  Nor are they coming home anytime soon.  But the shell game has always been a popular short-con because it's so easy to move things around and distract people.
Adam Schreck (AP) reports the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey met with officials today in Baghdad.   Al Manar quotes Dempsey stating, "We still retain significant investment and significant influence.  But now it's on the basis of a partnership and not on the basis of ownership."   The quote comes from an interview he gave to AFP's Dan De Luce.  Now its a partnership and not ownership?  When did the US own Iraq?  I know what Dempsey's trying to say.  I also know what he said.  And the plane had barely touched down, Alsumaria reports, before State of Law MP Mohammed Chihod was stating that the Iraqi forces are able to thwart plots against Iraq and that they do not need the US or any other country.  State of Law is Nouri's political slate.  And they're not smart.  They're sort of the rejects of Iraq.  All the better Shi'ites went to other groups.  This could have been a day when State of Law yet again looked ridiculous on the world stage but then Dempsey had to start using "ownership" to describe the US relationship with Iraq? 
The Defense Dept notes that Dempsey was scheduled to meet with US Lt Gen Robert Caslen (chief of the Office of Security Cooperation Iraq) and Nouri al-Maliki.  Alsumaria reports that he made nice with Nouri in a meeting in which Nouri demanded that the pace of supplying arms to Iraqi forces -- to protect, land, water and air -- must be accelerated.  There's an agreement, Nouri stated, the Strategic Framework Agreement, and they are monitoring the US' ability to complete what was agreed upon.  AFP's De Luce notes, "The four-star general said he would not press the Iraqi government on reports that it may be allowing Iran to ferry supplies to the Syrian regime through Iraqi territory or helping Tehran circumvent financial sanctions."
Sanctions?  The front page of Sunday's New York Times featured James Risen and Duraid Adnan's "U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran to Skirt Sanctions" about the White House's knowledge that Iraq is helping Iran "skirt economic sanctions."  And, the two reported, Barack was "not eager for a public showdown with Nouri."  So instead of being a leader and addressing it, Barack will live in denial?  He wanted the job, why's it so damn hard for him to do the work required?  If he can't go toe-to-toe with a flunky the US-installed under Bush and that he (Barack) made sure got a second term inspite of the vote count and the Constitution, what kind of leader is Barack? The US government sought the sanctions against Iran.  The US president knows they're being ignored and he's too chicken to confront Nouri?
Courage is not sending the US military into other countries or over -- Libya and Syria -- them.  Courage is being able to stand up and Barack doesn't have the courage to stand up to Nouri.
And what kind of idiots are on Team Romney that they can't call out Barack on this?  This is exactly a test of are-you-ready-for-the-office-or-not and, by the way he's dawdled and ignored it, Barack's still not ready to be president even after four years on the job.
Apparently the right-wing was just flapping their gums and pretending to be offended when Barack was scraping and bowing to foreign leaders.  I gave them the benefit of the doubt on that because they were right: the US President bows down before no one.  I believe that very firmly.  Apparently the right-wing was just looking for something to complain about that day because, otherwise, they'd be all over Barack for refusing to address this issue. 
Not only is he not laying down the law with Nouri, he's about to turn F-16s over to Nouri.  When the White House knows or 'knows' (believes at the very least) that Iraq is helping Iran get around economic sanctions?  AFP reports US officials are stating that the first of 36 F-16s will be delivered to Iraq in September 2014.
Truth telling in the press?  Not very often but today AKnews offers some truth:
The US government has not demanded the oil companies not to invest in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, said Kurdistan Natural Resourced Minister.

Ashti Hawrami made the remarks in response to some media reports which quoted the US State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland saying Washington has warned the oil companies not to sign any oil deals with Kurdistan without Baghdad's approval or Baghdad may take legal action against them.
He is correct.  Good for AKnews for reporting on his statements.
Turning to the topic of violence,  AKnews reports a 14-year-old boy was shot dead in front of his home Monday night and that a 23-year-old police officer has been arrested.  Alsumaria reports the PKK states today that they have killed 11 Turkish soldiers and 1 police officer on the Turkey-Iraq border and they report 1 police officer was shot dead outside his Mosul home and that one corpse was pulled out of the Tigris River.  Yesterday AFP reported "at least 409 people" died in the month of Ramadan with another 975 left injured.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) noted last night that the Antiwar.com count for July 21 to August 18th was 711 deaths with 1590 injured.
Since 2003, Iraq has become known as the land of widows and orphans.  All Iraq News reports today that MP Haifa Hilfi, who serves on the Women, Family and Children's Committee in Parliament, has publicly expressed surprise over what she calls the "neglect" on the part of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to provide widows and orphans with the support they need.  This is not a minor issue in Iraq.  Yesterday,  All Iraq News noted that the largest percent of orphans in the Arab world are in Iraq where over five million exist as a result of the violence.  The CIA estimates 38% of Iraqis are 14-years-old or younger and only 3.1% of the population is over the age of 65.  The median age is 21.1-years-old.

Ramzy Baroud (Tripoli Post) writes of Iraqi children:

I remember visiting a hospital that was attached to Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. The odour that filled its corridors was not the stench of medicine, but rather the aroma of death.
At a time of oppressive siege, the hospital lacked even basic aesthetic equipment and drugs. Children sat and stared at their visitors. Some wailed in inconceivable pain. Parents teetered between hope and the futility of hope, and at prayer times they duly prayed.
A young doctor gave a sweeping diagnosis: "No child that ever enters this place ever leaves alive." Being the young reporter I was at the time, I diligently made a note of his words before asking more questions. I didn't quite grasp the finality of death.
Several years later, Iraq's desolation continues. On August 16, 90 people were killed and more were wounded in attacks across the country. Media sources reported on the bloodbath (nearly 200 Iraqis were killed this month alone), but without much context. Are we meant to believe that violence in Iraq has transcended any level of reason? That Iraqis get blown up simply because it is their fate to live in perpetual fear and misery?
But the dead, before they were killed, were people with names and faces. They were fascinating individuals in their own right, deserving of life, rights and dignity. Many are children, who knew nothing of Iraq's political disputes, invited by US wars and occupation and fomented by those who feed on sectarianism.

AKnews reports a 14-year-old boy was shot dead in front of his home Monday night and that a 23-year-old police officer has been arrested. Alsumaria reports the PKK states today that they have killed 11 Turkish soldiers and 1 police officer on the Turkey-Iraq border.  Yesterday AFP reported "at least 409 people" died in the month of Ramadan with another 975 left injured.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) noted last night that the Antiwar.com count for July 21 to August 18th was 711 deaths with 1590 injured.

Today, Hayder al-Khoei (Guardian) looks at the propaganda/recruitment videos al Qaeda in Iraq groups are making:

Another propaganda video, uploaded in mid-August, demonstrates just how sophisticated the jihadi operations are. They have live-fire training exercises in broad daylight and rehearse their attacks on security targets. In one of their operations, they storm the city of Haditha, in the Anbar province, in disguise and go from checkpoint to checkpoint killing the security forces.
The al-Qaida militants wear interior ministry "Emergency Response" uniforms and casually drive around the city in official Swat vehicles. The jihadists are heavily armed, use night-vision goggles and sophisticated communications equipment. Though the group is a mix of both Iraqi and foreign Arab jihadists, the men who use the walkie-talkies speak in an Iraqi accent. They understand, and copycat, the security "speech" in Iraq. The al-Qaida militants are so well disguised as members of the Iraqi security forces that at one point they even mistook each other for the real deal. In a dramatic "friendly fire" incident, jihadists shouted at each to stand down – not realising they were on the same side. Two of them were killed.

Depending on the press outlet, Syria is either feeding fighters into Iraq or siphoning them off. 
An estimated 15,000 refugees have arrived in Iraq due to the ongoing conflict in Syria. Reuters notes a UNHCR and Iraqi government refugee camp for Syrian refugees in Qaim and quotes refugee Ayad al-Ali stating, "The children do not get healthy nutrition, they eat adults' food, they are suffering from diarrhea."  That camp, however, sounds like a Hilton Hotel when compared to the slum Rudaw reported on at the end of last week:
Iranian Kurdish refugees residing in Waleed camp suffer from lack of services such as drinking water, electricity and a medical center.
In addition, Iraq's Ministry of Interior is pressuring them to leave.
Waleed is located in Anbar province in the west, near the Syrian border. The camp -- which accommodates 120 Palestinian families, 24 Kurdish families and 19 Arab families from Ahwaz, Iran -- was established in June 2009.
For the past three months, the Iraqi government has been using various tactics to force the families to leave the camp, such as removing basic services like electricity and water. However, residents of the camp have been defying the government's decision.   

Nouri didn't even want to take in refugees.  He was only shamed into doing it when he realized how much damage his statements that Iraq couldn't take in refugees was doing to his world image.
This week's Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (now broadcasts over the airwaves at 4:00 pm EST Tuesday on the Progressive Radio Network),  the guests included Rosa Clemente.  Excerpt.
Glen Ford: Earlier this summer the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement released a report detailing the killings of Blacks by police, security guards or white vigilantes from New Year's Day through June 30thThe study found that 120 African-Americans were executed without trail, one every 36 hours.  Rosa Clemente, the former Green Party vice presidential candidate, was one of the authors of the study which was largely ignored by even the so-called progressive media.

Rosa Clemente:  Unfortunately, these progressive outlets and some mainstream outlets that we may see people that we may think would at least say that the report is out there whether it's MSNBC or Michael Eric Dyson filling in on the Ed Schultz Show or Rev Sharpton or Melissa Harris Parry.  No, they've chosen to ignore it because there's no way that they don't know this report exists.  There's no way they don't know or somebody hasn't brought it to their attention and we're dealing right now with an electoral political season that really doesn't want to talk about this issue. They don't want to deal with the issue of race or the systematic violence.  They don't want President Barack Obama or his Justice Department to be kind of put on blast as we would say in hip-hop. So they're purposely ignoring it which, to me, is more nefarious than CNN and Anderson Cooper saying they don't want to -- because these are folks that constistently say that there journalism that they're engaging in is community journalism and that there's a responsibility.  Well they're not at all being responsible about what they should be doing.  I don't know if they necessarily hold them just accountable or if we really need to understand that part of any organizing activist strategy moving forward will have to include now or we're really going to have to figure out how we are going to begin whatever Black or Brown kind of independent news network, however that looks, how we're going to create that. I think it's sad.  You know, and I think these folks are consistently back in communities of color because they are people of color.  I think it's for other like progressive outlets -- like Democracy Now or The Nation or In These Times or many other places we could cite -- that they haven't covered this either or it's just been a news headline.  I think this speaks about how this is not valued and how we're not valued when it comes to telling stories.
Glen Ford: Yes, it almost seems as if the only Black news that's thought of as news worthy is the Black president.
Rosa Clemente:  Yes, I would 100% agree and in fact when a friend tried to get it on MSNBC for me, the response I got was that they were doing nothing but covering the election.  And when I got that response, I said, "Well okay, I'd like to come on as a former vice presidential candidate and talk about some issues."  And they were very clear that they are focusing on the Democratic Party and that they would not be covering anything outside of that purview until maybe after the election.  As we know, we're looking at a murder every 36 hours of a Black [man], woman or child.  So how many more of these when the election happens and why would it be important after the election?  It's not important to the president now or, some of these journalists, I don't see them seeing it as important after the election is over.
All hail and observe a moment of silence -- a genius has vacated this space and left us here to remember her life and her work. I remember hearing her records as a child. My dad collected comedy records, and what I loved the most about her was her laugh. She was the only comic I saw who laughed at her own jokes, and I found that funnier than hell. I stole that from her, but she viewed it as more a tribute than a lift. The last several years I called my ex-husbands "Fang" on stage, too.
It was timeless, that wacky, tacky character she created; the cigarette holder was genius, paradoxically regal. She was a victorious loser hero, the female iteration of Chaplin's Little Tramp, replete with costume jewelry that would embarrass Rick Ross.
You could tell the character had a messy house, and she couldn't care less because she also had a dreadful husband and a world of shit. So? Hey, must be time for a gin martini and some laughs!
It wasn't until you saw her paintings or heard her play a concerto on the piano that you understood that this woman lived her life as a true artist and a revolutionary. She knew a woman's place was not in the home, at a time when everyone on earth regurgitated that canard every minute of every day.
While Roseanne remembers Phyllis Diller, Michael Kraft proves he doesn't know a damn thing at Charlotte ConservativeUsing a potty mouth that must make his mother proud, he attacks Cindy Sheehan for calling out Bully Boy Bush and for not calling out Barack.  The problem?
Cindy Sheehan has called out Barack.  She went to Martha's Vineyard to protest him.  The nickname she generally uses for him in her writing is "Obomber."  If he's going to call Cindy a piece of s**t, he should try to know what he's talking about and he doesn't.  He doesn't know a damn thing she's done in the last four years.  Get out of your bubble, Michael Kraft.  You've condemned Cindy for not doing things when she has done that, you've flaunted your ignorance.  Now find a way to salvage your reputation by having the ethics to correct your mistakes about Cindy.
Cindy's a lighting rod because she supports peace.  Imagine having a vice president who actually supported peace.  Third Party Politics posts video of Jill Stein speaking in Seattle at the Seattle Hempfest.  Excerpt.
Jill Stein:  We need to liberate cannabis right now.  And we need to stop attacking the medical marijuana industry and the consumers of medical marijuana who are not criminals.  They are patients who are using a very important medical substance. And I can say this because I'm here not only as the Green Party candidate for president but also as a medical doctor and a public health advocate.  In fact, as we all know, canabis is a drug which is dangerous because it is illegal.  It is not illegal on account of being dangerous because it's not dangerous at all.  The president, by the way, has enormous power to change all of this on day one of her administration if she so desires.  And how do we do that?   ["Vote!"]  Vote, yes. Go vote.  And go register to vote. [. . .]  Because on day one of a Green administration, we can put an end to all this reckless, immoral persecution.  And the way we can do that is by the president instructing the Drug Enforcement Agency to do a really radical thing.  You know what that is?  Use science in the classification of substances because the minute science is used, marijuana, cannabis and hemp are off the list of scheduled substances because there is no scientific reason to schedule them.  And that's not only good for jobs.  As we know, it's really good for the climate.  Hemp provides fuel, food, nutrition and energy all in a way that is really good for the climate that we badly need, that we urgently need, and we need it right now.  It also means that we can start to empty out the jails that are packed full of recreational, non-violent users of cannabis and other substances.  We need to legalize cannabis.  Get the users out of jail and start to treat substance abuse and addiction as a public health problem, not as a criminal act. 
We're not done with Jill yet.  She's doing something really stupid.  She's going to take part in protests at the GOP convention.  Fine and dandy, as long as she's going to do the same at the Democratic convention where, hopefully, she'll march from Obamaville.  What's that?  That the stupid part.  The useless cowards of the left -- there are so damn many -- are going to be doing a "Romneyville."  Jeremey Wallace (Herald Tribune) explains, "It's a play on Hoovervilles tent cities that spawned up during the Great Depression when Herbert Hoover was president."  I believe he means sprung up.  Regardless, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of today.  Times are bad for many people.  No question. But Mitt Romney's not been president for even a day and may never end up president.  Barack Obama is in the White House.  You want to send up Hooverville, you do it using Barack.  This is so stupid.  It doesn't even make for good political theater. 
In 2008, a group of lefties gave a pass to Democrats at their convention -- yes, they did -- and then headed on to Michigan where they wanted blood in the streets.  And it turned out very violent.  That's not a surprise, that's what so many went looking for.  You send out that vibe, you will attract it.  They wanted Michigan to bleed.  I support real and genuine protest.   I don't support liars and whores who set out to make someone look bad in order to try to scare up votes -- it's fear tactics and I don't play that game.