Saturday, June 02, 2012

al-Mutlaq calls Nouri a dictator again, the crisis continues

AFP files what's probably the best English language report about Iraq's ongoing political crisis.  Excerpt:

The protracted drama has seen Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s deputy revert to decrying him as a ‘dictator’ and the leader of the autonomous Kurdish region call for him to go on one side, while the premier insists he has sufficient backing to stay on the other. “The political crisis has reached its highest level since its beginning, but it is still running within the framework of the democratic game,” Iraqi political analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said.

“The country is paralysed on all levels; there is a clear political paralysis paralleled by governmental negligence and a failure of the legislative authority, while the people are disappointed and afraid of the security consequences,” Shammari said. The trouble began in earnest in mid-December, when the secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc began a boycott of parliament and the cabinet over what it said was Maliki’s centralisation of power.

And that's byline-less report was written by Mohamad Ali Harissi.  In it, we learn that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq has again called Nouri a dictator.  For those who have forgotten, when al-Mutlaq said that to CNN in December, Nouri responded by spending months in an a failed effort to have al-Mutlaq stripped of his post. A lot is happening, a lot very quickly, a great deal confusing and the American media is really not interested.  For example, Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, gave a written resignation to KRG President Massoud Barzani, for Barzani to hold. As we noted May 25th, "What was Jalal Talabani handing his resignation to KRG President Massoud Barzani about?  It's amazing how little interest there is in the Kurds these days from the American press that was always so eager to report on 'the other Iraq'."  Rebwar Karim Wali (Rudaw) tries to make sense of that move:

PUK’s media outlets portrayed that event as a patriotic step by Talabani, but on both Iraqi and Kurdistan levels it was an unexpected event, to a degree that dragged Maliki and Talabani to a meeting on Friday that is a holiday in Iraq. Perhaps it was the same thing that made Talabani release a statement the next day and call for “brotherly and constructive” dialogue between all sides.
President Barzani’s efforts to remove Maliki, Talabani’s call for brotherly and constructive talks, the outcome of the Erbil and Najaf meetings do not go in line with each other.

There is a move towards a no-confidence vote in Nouri al-Maliki and his political slate is attempting everything to stop it.  Alsumaria reports that State of Law's Izzat Shabandar has declared that there are forged signatures on the call to withdraw confidence.


That's from their report on Iraqiya's response.  The woman is Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon al-Damluji.  We've noted her many times and there's been a few curious e-mails over the last month so we're putting a face to the name.  I've noted she is the most heavily featured Iraqi woman in the news and she's heavily featured being the spokesperson for Iraqiya.  I've also shared that it was a very smart move to choose a woman because it goes to the message the political slate Iraqiya is attempting to convey: We are all Iraqis.  That's why they're not bound by one sect.  And it's that message that had people respond so strongly in the March 2010 elections that the brand new political slate, which is headed by Ayad Allawi, emerged the winner.  Saleh al-Mutlaq, mentioned above, is also a member of Iraqiya.  He's been repeatedly targeted by Nouri.  While Allawi is a Shi'ite, al-Mutlaq is a Sunni.  While Nouri repeatedly works out grudges against Sunnis in public, Allawi and al-Mutlaq (and others) attempt to build a party of unity that can translate to the nation.  That's the message of unity that Iraqiya tries to convey.  And al-Damluji denied reports of forged signatures.

If signatures were forged, I doubt they were, it's nothing for State of Law to worry about.  The vote would be what counts and if an MP's signature was forged on the call for the vote, certainly he or she would be so outraged that he or she might vote in favor of Nouri as a protest.  It's nothing for State of Law to worry about and so you're left with the impression that the purpose of airing the charge in public is that, yet again, State of Law has nothing to do but spread rumors about their political rivals.

That's not really a message of unity but unity's never been Nouri's thing.

Meanwhile Moqtada al-Sadr has issued a public pledge that there will be positions for State of Law in a new government if the no-confidence vote is taken and Nouri is ousted as a result.

In today's violence, Alsumaria notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one Iraqi solider and that a Falluja police raid resulted in one police officer being injured while in Diawaniya, police fired on a government group and injured an engineerAl Rafidayn adds that a farmer was shot dead outside his home to the northeast of Baquba (assailants used machine guns).

Ali Mussa Daqduq is a citizen of Lebanon currently held by Iraqi authorities.  He is alleged to have assisted the League of Righteous (an Iraqi group) in many actions including one that resulted in the deaths of 5 US service members.  In the summer of 2009, the US military still held the leader and high ranking members of the League of Righteous in US prisons in Iraq until Barack gave orders to release them.  let's drop back we'll drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot with the realization that some who looked the other way in real time will now be outraged:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

Barack never answered for it.  No reporters even put the question to him -- trained and neutered dogs know not to bark, after all.  As the White House pulled out most of the US forces from Iraq at the end of 2011, the issue was what to do with the Lebanese citizen they still held.  For months, US Senators had been raising concerns over turning him over to Iraqi authorities, insisting that Nouri's close ties to Iran would mean that Ali Mussa Daqduq.  Some argued he needed to be put into Guantanamo.  Some argued he needed to be kept in US military custody and brought to the US for a trial.  The White House insisted Nouri would ensure justice.  Dropping back to May 18th of this year:

We'll cover what Reuters is calling Nouri's "charm offensive" next week (Monday).  Right now, we'll note the shocked reaction of a widow whose husband died serving in Iraq and who can't believe that the man said to be responsible for the death of her husband and at least four other US soldiers will apparently walk away free.  Dropping back to earlier violence,  Christine Show (Daily Mail) reports, "The wife of a U.S. Army captain who was killed while deployed in Iraq is stunned that the person named responsible for his death will be freed.  Charlotte Freeman of Temecula, California expressed her dismay when she learned on Wednesday night that Ali Mussa Daqduq was cleared of all charges in the 2007 attack that killed Brian Freeman, 31, and four other U.S. soldiers."

On May 7th, Suadad-al Salhy, Patrick Markey and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) reported that Iraq's 'justice' system has cleared Ali Mussa Daqdug of all charges related to the "2007 kidnapping attack that killed five U.S. troops."  This was actually the second time that those said to be responsible for the five deaths.  Ali Mussa Daqduq is alleged to have been working with the League of Righteous (once known as "the Special Groups network") and the US had the leader and high ranking members in a US prison in Iraq.

Dar Addustour and Stars & Stripes carry brief items noting that Reuters reported Friday that the US has officially requested that Ali Mussa Daqduq be turned over to the US government.

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I Hate The War

Yesterday we noted Peter Kenyon's Morning Edition report (link is audio and transcript) Baghdad report.  We did it in the morning and in the snapshot.  Thankfully a CPB friend (see morning entry) did not call to gripe, however, six visitors e-mailed the public account insisting that the following is just so unfair:

It's great that NPR had time for bitchy but exactly when did they intend to explain the political crisis to listeners?
They are aware that they never did that, right?
That never once in the report did they mention the Erbil Agreement or the 2010 elections or anything of real substance.  But, hey, we got a bitchy supporter of Nouri's and didn't that make everything worthwhile?

The six argue that the American people know what the political crisis is over.  Do they?  Because reporters can't even get it correct.  Even when NGOs and think tanks they cite are very clear what's caused the crisis.  But here's the basic on NPR reporting, they are not supposed to assume, even if they're reporting on something that's been in the news every broadcast, that listeners know what they're talking about.  They are supposed to provide the basic set up.  Saying a political crisis is going on in Iraq is not a set up.  But it does let Nouri off -- and isn't that the point of all the bad reporting? -- because then no one holds his feet to the fire on the Erbil Agreement which he used to become prime minister but refused to honor in terms of the promises he made in exchange for a second term.

It's funny because I don't remember, for example, news outlets being kind to Suzanne Somers  during the final season of ABC's Three's Company and refering to it as a "network crisis."  I remember every story mentioning -- and usually trashing her for --  what they saw as her breaking her contract.  The same with Farrah Fawcett (who did not break her contract with ABC -- a detail most 'news' outlets ignored, Farrah never signed the contract and what was in it wasn't honored -- she was supposed to be off the set each day by a certain time and was not).  In both cases, contracts mattered and were repeated over and over.  That's because the press takes its cues from the power structure and decides who'll they treat fairly and who'll they'll attack.  That's an issue Ava and I may address at Third tomorrow.  For example, I know Jon Voight and if he's acting like an ass, I'll say so.  (And have.  Even here.  Not just in my personal life.)  But I wouldn't ridicule him as a 'has been' (he's not) or anything else so stupid.  But some 'news' outlets are ridiculing him because they don't care for his political views.  It's actually worse than ridicule because what they're doing is dishonest.  Voight has a thriving career -- especially for a 73-year-old -- with one film about to be released and two to be filmed this year.  I'd love to see these little boot lickers have any kind of a career when they're 73.

When a contract is agreed to and signed off on and actually reported by the press (in November 2010) and then it's broken and that leads to a political crisis, you can't vanish that from the story and be considered an honest news outlet.

In fact, Kenyon's refusal to include the Erbil Agreement is probably the most pertinent detail about his report.

So that takes care of the six.  But they really aren't the point of this entry.  The point is that a number of community members want "I Hate The War" as an entry.  It's not going to be a Thursday night entry.  As I noted Sunday, I'm pretty much done with that and have other things to do.  But we can turn one of the Saturday entries into that and have more of a talking entry.  If you're a community member and that works, let me know.  If you're a community member and that doesn't work, let me know that too.

If you're fine with it, it'll be like the above. Nothing major.  It'll be whatever's prompting comments or questions in the e-mails.  We'll clarify a few things, that sort of thing.

We'll preview a few possible things for Third if they're known.  Right now, all that's known is nothing.  Ava and I aren't sure what media we're covering.  We're currently fast fowarding through entertainment public affairs programs on disc and reading over transcripts in hopes of finding something.  We'll layer things into it -- such as a White House spokesperson's 'drama' on TV last week that no one apparently caught or else everyone averted their eyes to it -- but we don't know what we're covering at this point.   Rebecca's pitching a piece on sexism and pitching it as both a group piece (most pieces at Third are group pieces) or, if time runs out, a piece that Ava and I would write.  Ty's pushing for a roundtable.  Nothing's fixed at this point. Which isn't that surprising at this point.  And Ava and I are doing PBS.  They've slanted a program to rewrite history yet again.  I'm not particularly fond of the person we'll be defending but the truth is the truth.  (And shame of them for arguing that an individual has no right to go out on there own and seek better employment but owes someone who won't even promote them their professional life.)

Isaiah's "The Jobs Report" went up this morning.  A few are wondering if that's the Sunday comic or a bonus one?  That's a bonus.  He'll have another one up Sunday morning.  He'd like to have one up Sunday night but that's probably not happening unless something comes up news wise.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489.

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Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Jobs Report"

The Jobs Report

Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "The Jobs Report."  Standing before a backdrop noting the May jobs report found unemployment increased to 8.2% and standing amidst a broken truck with "ECONOMY" on its side and a battered bunny with "JOBS" on its chest, Barack insists, "It's Congress' fault! Congress!"  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Friday, June 1, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, Nouri stands with two buddies, Iraqi women continue to suffer, a court gives the US State Dept four months to comply with an order, and more.
Like a nightmare version of Charlie's Angels, Ammar al-Hakim, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki stood side by side to announce their solidarity.  Alsumaria reports that the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the head of the National Alliance and the Prime minister of Iraq met to discuss the latest political developments in Iraq and how to address them.  Al Rafidayn has an article where Ammar's dropping terms like "sin" and "big sin" and talking about "the street" and it all sounds like a lover in the grip of passion.
So let flow the hydrants
And we'll dance in the spray
And we'll wash out all our dirty laundry
In the alleyway
Put your love out in the street
Put your love out in the street
Put your love out in the street
Put your love
Out in the street tonight
-- "Love Out In The Street," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her Playing Possum
While Ammar de amour works himself into a frenzy, Kitabat reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's followers have rejected the notion that chaos follows a no-confidence vote in Nouri.
KENYON: On paper it looks like a serious threat to Maliki's rule. But if you ask the prime minister's supporters about a no confidence motion, they tend to laugh and say bring it on.
SAAD MUTTALIBI: Oh, definitely. Just go ahead. You know, we will sit there and laugh at the puny numbers that you will gain in the parliament.
KENYON: Businessman and Maliki backer Saad Muttalibi says those who have actually tried to add up the votes say the opposition is well short at the moment. He says pro-Maliki forces are mounting a counterattack, collecting votes for a no confidence motion against the anti-Maliki speaker of the parliament. And Muttalibi says Sadr is jeopardizing his future in the governing National Alliance by cozying up to the Kurds and Sunnis.
It's great that NPR had time for bitchy but exactly when did they intend to explain the political crisis to listeners?
They are aware that they never did that, right?
That never once in the report did they mention the Erbil Agreement or the 2010 elections or anything of real substance.  But, hey, we got a bitchy supporter of Nouri's and didn't that make everything worthwhile?
Earlier this year,   Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) reviewed events and noted:

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.

The agreement was the Erbil Agreement.  March 7, 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya came in first ahead of Nouri's State of Law.  Nouri refused to give up the post of prime minister.  What followed were eight months of political stalemate.  The White House and the Iranian government were backing Nouri so he knew he could dig in his heels and did just that.  Finally, in November, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was reached.  Nouri could have a second term as prime minister provided he made concessions on other issues.

Nouri used the agreement to get his second term and then trashed the agreement refusing to honor it.  Until last week, he and his supporters had taken to (wrongly) calling the agreement unconstitutional.  And though the KRG, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for the Erbil Agreement to be fully implemented since summer 2011, it took last month for State of Law to finally discover that themselves loved the Erbil Agreement.  Needless to say, the sudden attraction to the deal is seen as mere lip service especially when Nouri refused to implement it.
In violence Al Rafidayn notes that 1 traffice police officer was shot dead in Mosul as was his driver.  In addition, Alsumaria notes a captain in the Ministry of Interior's intelligence division was shot dead in Falluja today.  AFP adds a Baghdad roadside bombing targeting a market claimed 1 life and left three more people injured and 1 police colonel was shot dead in Baghdad.
This week the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011."   In Wednesday's snapshot we noted the highly superficial section on Iraq's LGBTs.  The report does a better job with the issue of the rights of Iraqi women.  That section opens with:
UNAMI continues to monitor the status and rights of women in Iraq, including gender based violence such as so-called 'honour' crimes, trafficking and domestic violence.  Due to the security situation, UNAMI is uanble to collect first hand data on the situation of women in some parts of Iraq outside of the Kurdistan Region.
Grasp that.  'Violence is down!!!!'  We hear that stupidity over and over from the press.  No, it's not really down.  2006 and 2007 were years of ethnic cleansing -- encouraged and (I would say) aided by the US government.  Those death figures are huge.  I'm not really sure why the years of ethnic cleansing are treated as natural or normal figures with which to compare everything to?  Iraq remains violent.  And UNAMI tells us that it's so violent that they can't even collect basic data. 
But the press moved on, didn't they?  They press that largely mocked, ridiculed or ignored war resisters fled Iraq.  There's the US wire service AP.  There's the New York Times staff.  There's Jane Arraf. There's the Wall St. Journal (led by Sam Dagher).  There's CNN. That's it.  Imagine if that was it in 2002 and 2003?  If that were it in those years, only those outlets and the others ignored Iraq, it would have been so much more difficult to sell the illegal war to the American public (a public with a significant amount of resistance even at the start).
Valerie Gauriat:  We're in Iraq this month to meet women in Baghdad, Najaf and Iraqi Kurdistan who are fighting their own kind of war.  A human rights activist, two war widwos and a female soldier to regain the rights Iraqi women have lost.  Every month in Women and War we bring you the stories of women who are fighting across the world.
And Iraqi women have lost so much due to the Iraq War.  They've lost husbands and fathers and sons and brothers and uncles and mothers and daughters and sisters and aunts.  They've lost friends.  Most of all, they've gone from  living in one of the most advanced Middle East nation-states for women to a country where they have to regularly fight for basic dignities.  And fight they do.  They know what's at stake and they know the US government isn't helping them, has never helped them.  The  US State Dept's Anne C. Richard writes with all the enthusiasm that historical ignorance and optimism can provide.  We'll note this from her post today at the State Dept blog about her new job working with Iraqis:

Estimates of the numbers of widows in Iraq range from 750,000 to 1.5 million, or between 2.4 percent and 5 percent of the population -- no one knows for sure as there has not been a recent census. In Iraqi society, women traditionally do not work outside of the home. However, the women at this site emphasized that they needed jobs to provide for their children.
Iraq remains a dangerous place and our visit was not announced in advance but the visit was eye opening and well worth the effort it takes to get out and meet ordinary Iraqis.
Later, I raised the plight of the widows with senior Iraqi officials. They were determined to make progress on housing issues and acknowledged problems with registrations -- although they also expressed concerns about the squatters occupying government land.
We'll continue to follow Anne C. Richard's posts.  She's got energy and optimism and her ability to either ignore or not learn what came before may allow her to pull off some small miracles.  I wish her the best because Iraqi women could use a miracle or two.  But the issue of the widows, their plight, that's been raised with the Iraqi government for years now.  There's been no significant improvement or real plans from the government.  At one point they were suggesting that the answer was for the widows to remarry. 
The illegal war did not help Iraqi women nor has their government made any real strides on their own to help Iraqi women.  Last month the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice explained:
But for Iraqi citizens, especially women, the ongoing violence caused by the U.S. invasion is not the only consequence that has become part of the everyday struggle to rebuild their country. Before the U.S. invasion, 75% of Iraqi women had college degrees, and 31% of Iraqi women had graduate degrees (compared to 35% of European and U.S. women). Only 10% of women in Iraq now continue to work in their professions, and they have to contend with the thousands of more experience and better-educated Iraqi women who fled Iraq at the onset of the war and are now returning. However most women stay away from their work, schools, and universities due to extreme safety concerns: Since the beginning of the war, rates of abductions and kidnappings targeting women and girls, most often related to sex trafficking, female suicides and honor killings have increased.
It was beneficial to the US government's aims to scare the Iraqi people into submission.  It would be easier to push through various policies and programs on a people too scared to fight back.  So the US backed thugs, turned their heads the other way not just to looting but to rape and so much more.  And Iraqi women could have thrown in the towel and said, "Forget it, my safety is what's most important."  Instead, these brave women regularly take to the streets and protest for their rights.  Even since Nouri's squad of thugs began beating protesters and arresting them and torturing them in custody, Iraqi women refuse to hide and refuse to give up on their country or let Iraq be turned into something that they're no longer a part of.  The US shut the women out of the process from the start.  They had to take to the streets when the US was writing their rights out of Iraq's new Constitution (in 2005) and they've done that during the continued violence and during the periods of the most violence.  Last month, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Iraq noted:
The rights of women in post war Iraq is clear following reports that they are victims of human trafficking to and fro Iraq and even within the outskirts of the cities with cases of forced prostitution. Women are trafficked from Southern Iraq and transported to the Gulf States by rich cartels who promise to marry them and give them a good life only to use the as servants and sex workers in their well-managed deals.
Most of the 'unveiled' women in Iraq have had their rights violated. There are groups that are making it hard for this woman to have freedom in and around Iraq and creating an atmosphere where they are intimidated. For instance, Fatwas encourages the crowd to throw rotten eggs and tomatoes to any woman around the streets who passes by without a veil. This has made it hard for the professional Iraqi woman to work or get education unless they wear the hijab.
It has to be noted that Islamic leaders from the Shi'ite and the Sunni have strong condemnation against women in Iraq without the hijab, this means trouble for the rights of women in Iraq. Since the war started, the Iraqi women have been attacked, kidnapped and even intimidated in a way that bars them from participating in any role with the society.
Again to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011" this time for Camp Ashraf:
During the reporting period, UNAMI continued monitoring the situation of over 3,000 residents affiliated with the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) in Camp New Iraq (commonly known as Camp Ashraf) and documented a number of measures of which Iraqi authorities aimed at tightening control over the Camp and its residents with the ultimate objective of closing it down by the end of 2011, as declared in the Council of Ministers' decision of 17 June 2008. 
On 8 April, in an operation that lasted approximately 7 hours, the Iraqi army moved into the Camp and occupied its northern part, comprising some 40 percent of its total surface area.  The Iraqi authorities described the operation as a law enforcement action to restore privately owned land in Ashraf to its legitimate owners.  It resulted in the deaths of 36 and injuing of more than 300 residents who protested against, and resisted, the operation.  On 13, April, a UNAMI delegation was authorized to visit the Camp.  The UNAMI physician counted 28 bodies in a makeshift morgue.  The apparent cause of death in most cases was bullets and shapnel wounds.  Another 6 residents were confirmed dead among those injured who had been rushed to Ba'quba hospital.  Two more died later from their injuries.  The Iraqi authorities admitted that their forces caused 3 fatalities, which they described as 'accidental'.
In a statement made public on 15 April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the Iraqi military were well aware of the risks attached to launching an operation like this in Ashraf and added: "There is no possible excuse for this number of casualties.  There must be a full, independent and transparent inquiry, and any person found responsible for use of excessive force should be prosecuted."  On the same day, UNAMI issued a similar statement requesting a thorough investigation through an independent commission.  During the reporting period, no action was taken by the Government of Iraq to establish such an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the incident.  The 8 April operation was the second occasion, after clashes on 28/29 July 2009, when Iraqi forces appear to have used excessive restraint in conformity with international human rights law in asserting its legitimate authority over the camp and its residents
After this incident, the Iraqi Government reaffirmed the deadline of 31 December 2011 for the residents to evacuate Camp Ashraf.  UNAMI continued working closely with the Government of Iraq, the diplomatic commmunity, UNHCR and the residents' representatives in order to find durable solutions.  In late 2011, consultations between UNAMI and the Government of Iraq led to a Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed by both parties on 25 December.  In it, the United Nations offered its services as an impartial facilitator and observer in a process that would see the residents of Camp Ashraf move to a temporary transit location at Camp Liberty (a former US military base near Baghdad International Airport), undergo individual refugee status determination by UNHCR, and eventually either their voluntary return to their countries of nationality or if eligible, resettlement in third countries, subject to the availablility of receiving countries. In an open letter of 28 December 2011 to the residents of Camp Ashraf, UNAMI SRSG, Martin Kobler, affirmed that the United Nations desired to "prevent violence and confrontation" a permanent solution for the residents.  He pledged that UN staff would monitor the situation at Camp Liberty 24/7 until the last resident had left Iraq. 
By 31 December, the Prime Minister Al-Maliki announced the extension of the deadline for the departure from Iraq of Ashraf residents till the end of April 2012.  At time of publishing this report 29 May 2012, 1996 residents have relocated from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty (Camp Hurriya). 
UNAMI reminds the Government of Iraq to abide by its legal obligations, reaffirmed in the Memorandum of Understanding, to fully respect its human rights obligations under international law in dealing with the residents of Camp Ashraf.  It also calls upon the residents and their representatives to obey the laws of Iraq, and to voluntarily participate in the process offered by the UN and agreed to by the Government of Iraq aimed at resolving the issue peacefully.
Which takes us into legal news, it's a shock to the administration but most others saw the ruling coming.  Jamie Crawford (CNN) reports, "A federal appeals court has ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make a prompt decision on whether to remove an Iranian dissident group from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations."  This was a unanimous decision handed down by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Why was it unanimous?  Because the administration has been in violation for some time now.  James Vicini (Reuters) reminds, "The appeals court ruled nearly two years ago that Clinton had violated the group's rights and instructed her to 'review and rebut' unclassified parts of the record she initially relied on and say if she regards the sources as sufficiently credible.  It said Clinton had yet to make a final decision."  The administration was in contempt.  The courts and the executive branch were in conflict.  (They still are.)  What generally happens there is the court of appeals makes a united front because this is now a court issue (as opposed to the merits of the case from when it was heard earlier).  Unlike the executive branch, the judicial branch has no security forces.  So they want to send a message but they also want to do so without looking weak if the administration ignores them.  So since two months was the target date for the State Dept to finish a review on the MEK, they gave State four months which, they hope, is more than enough time. However, the two months (as the judges know) was a guideline, not a promise.  State made very clear before the court that they were not promising two months.  So it could go on past four months.  Four months carries them into October.  If they're not complying by then, there's a good chance they won't.  Whether Barack Obama wins a second term as US President or not, Hillary Clinton has already stated she was only doing one term as Secretary of State.  So when November arrives, if there's no decision, there won't be a rush for one.  If Barack wins re-election, he'll state that he has to find someone to oversee the department first.  If Barack loses, they've already blown off the appeals court for over two years now, continuing to blow them off for sixty more days will be a breeze.
There should be outrage over this but faux activists like you know who only pretend to give a damn about the rule of law.  The administration has refused to comply with a court order.  If it were on any other topic, you could expect yet another shrill column; however, he doens't like the MEK so rule of law gets tossed out the window. 
Turning to veterans issues,  yesterday we noted the Dept of Labor is holding a Veterans Hiring Fair next week on Wednesday, June 6th.  It will be at the Great Hall of the Frances Perkins US Dept of Labor Building on 200 Constitution Ave. starting at ten in the morning and ending at one in the afternoon.  You will need veteran i.d. to enter the job fair.  And it is open to all adult veterans.   Repeating, that's next week on Wednesday.   Tara Merrigan (Austin American-Statesman) reports, "Austin will honor Iraq War veterans in a July 7 parade and job fair, city leaders announced Thursday."
Michael Oros:  I would suggest that the very broad definition of "prosethetics" can lead to confusion and, worse, application of policies that are inappropriate to replacement limbs and orthotics.  The result: inappropriate barriers to care for veterans with limb loss who need timely access to high quality prosthetics in order to go to work, care for their families, and live their everyday lives.  In fact, the Health Subcommittee saw that confusion on display in its hearing in this very room only two weeks ago.  Chairwoman Buerkle held a hearing on "Optimmizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics" on May 16th.  During the hearing, she clarified multiple times that the topic of the hearing was prosthetics as traditionally understood and defined.  During that hearing, the VA's Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer told the Subcommittee that because changes in procurement policies applied only to items that cost $3,000 or more, those charges would not apply to 97% of the prosthetics budget. I'm sure that statement is accurate for everything included in the billion-dollar-plus line item described by the VA as "prosthetics." However, for the approximately $58 million portion of that line item spent on replacement limbs and orthoses, that statement is confusing and unhelpful.  Virtually every part of even a fairly low-tech prosthetic limb costs more than $3,000.  So adopting procurement policies with the understanding that the policy does not apply to 97% of prosthetic purchases can lead to decisions that delay specialized and vitally needed care for veterans with limb loss or limb impairment.  The veterans we see have already sacrificed enough.  They are working hard to put their personal, family and professional lives back together.  This task should not be made more difficult by the application of overly broad policies that do not take into consideration the very specialized and unique nature of prosthetics and orthotics.
Buerkle is US House Rep Ann Marie Buerkle who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.  The hearing he's referring to was May 16th (we covered it in the May 16th, May 17th and May 18th snapshots).  Oros was speaking at Wednesday's House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on VA's purchasing of prosthetics.  The Subcommittee Chair is Bill Johnson and US House Rep Joe Donnelly is the Ranking Member.  There were three panels.  The first was made up by the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association's Michael Oros (quoted above) and Academy Medical LLC's Daniel Shaw.  The second panel was DoD's Charles Scoville who is the Chief of Amputee Patient Care Service at Walter Reed and rom the VA's Office of Inspector General's Linda Halliday (accompanied by Nick Dahl and Kent Wrathall).   The third panel was VA's Philip Matkovsky (accompanied by Dr. Lucille Beck, Norbert Doyle and C. Ford Heard). 
Chair Bill Johnson noted the VA's defintion of prosthetics at the start of the hearing:
All aids, devices, parts or accessories which patients require to replace, support, or substitute for impaired or missing anatomical parts of the body.  The items include artifical limbs, terminal devices, stump socks, braces, hearing aids and batteries, cosmetic facial or body restorations, optical devices, manual or motorized wheelchairs, orthopedic shoes, and similar items.
Now let's go back to one segment of  Michael Oros' testimony from earlier.
In fact, the Health Subcommittee saw that confusion on display in its hearing in this very room only two weeks ago. Chairwoman Buerkle held a hearing on "Optimmizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics" on May 16th. During the hearing, she clarified multiple times that the topic of the hearing was prosthetics as traditionally understood and defined. During that hearing, the VA's Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer told the Subcommittee that because changes in procurement policies applied only to items that cost $3,000 or more, those charges would not apply to 97% of the prosthetics budget. I'm sure that statement is accurate for everything included in the billion-dollar-plus line item described by the VA as "prosthetics." However, for the approximately $58 million portion of that line item spent on replacement limbs and orthoses, that statement is confusing and unhelpful. Virtually every part of even a fairly low-tech prosthetic limb costs more than $3,000. So adopting procurement policies with the understanding that the policy does not apply to 97% of prosthetic purchases can lead to decisions that delay specialized and vitally needed care for veterans with limb loss or limb impairment.
The person Oros was referring to is Norbert Doyle.  He avoided speaking on Wednesday, instead
Chair Bill Johnson:  You note the VA's new policy for purchases over $3,000.  Approximately 5% of biologics cost more than $3,000 so your policy will have minimal bearing on 95% of biologics purchased.  Can you describe how your policy will effect the other 95% of biologics purchased? 
Philip Matovsky: Uhm.  Well I don't actually have the specific cost break out for the biologics themselves.  But the, uh, three thousand dollar threshold was noted that it was 97% of the cost would be below $3,000.  Actually the number is a little bit north of 50, 55% of all of the prosthetic purchases are greater than $3,000 in cost. It's the number of transactions is the 3% number.  In terms of the biologics themselves, uhm, our expectation is that we're asking in this policy moving forward that we document, uh, that a waiver from FSS was requested and that part of what we hope to achieve from this and that we expect to achieve from this is that we'll collect information about why FSS is actually not being selected as the source for biologics or for other items or national contracts for that matter.  And be able to attenuate practice through education,communication in the field as well.
Why is that VA can't use terms accurately?  In the hearing on Wednesday, it was about definitions.  The conflict in what the Subcommittees were told has to do with VA using a figure and then saying, "Wait, wait, we testified about this 97% on $3,000 orders and you thought we meant cost, we meant number of orders!"  Why is it so damn difficult for the VA officials to speak in a straight forward manner?  (And remember that they try to dismiss the IG's report by claiming the IG is using one set of terms while they're using another.)  VA needs to get with the rest of the government.  The prosthetic issue, for example.  VA ges its own definition?  It doesn't match with the Defense Dept's definition.  Why is so hard for the VA to utilize the same terms and same definitions as the rest of the executive branch?  That really needs to be addressed.
If you doubt it, this confusion never stops.  In his opening remarks, Chair Bill Johnson touched on this:
Among my follow-up questions was a request for a copy of the VA's guidance in how it would ensure purchasing agents followed the VAAR [VA Acquisition Regulations].  Just yesterday, a response to that and the other questions was provided.  It is interesting that only now is the VA working to ensure that purchasers using Section 8123 are documented and in line with the FAR and VAAR.  After all, the VA has had nearly three decades to work on this.  Failing to document purchases under 8123, as acknowledged in the answers I received yesterday, is a reckless use of taxpayer dollars.  To us on this Committee, it appears as though the VA operates as it sees fit until attention is called to its operation. 
The VA was worthless in terms of witnesses.  Matkovsky wanted everyone to know that purchases under Section 8123 in the future would be auditable.  Johnson's question was can they go back and audit past purchases under that number.  In a long meandering answer about 'from this point forward,' Matkovsky implies that they've never been able to audit Section 8123 purchases in thae past.  That would be over 30 years worth of purchases.  Is the VA not able to speak English? 
Something as simple as Chair Johnson attempting to find about the hows and whens of the definition VA is using for prosthetic and when it was last updated required a song and dance until Matkovsky finally passed off to Dr. Beck who had to flip through a manual to find out (2001 was the answer for when it was last updated).  But after finally providing an answer, all the sudden it's there's-an-internal-review-going-on-now (with many more words than that).  I would assume if you're part of an update review, you would know what you were updating especially if the manual hadn't been updated in over a decade.
VA officials can't answer a straight question.  So we'll drop back to earlier in the hearing to wrap up our coverage of it here.  Excerpt.
Chair Bill Johnson: And maybe you've already answered this in some of your comments but, if you were going to design a system, Mr. Oros, for the VA to evaluate the quality of care provided to veterans, what would you do? What provisions would you put in that system to improve the quality of care that veterans receive?
Michael Oros: I would start to look at implementation of some functional outcome measurements at the time of the original prescription and then follow it throughout that veteran's care so that you see that there has been restoration of function.  And that can be done with validated instruments and there's also technology available that can support that kind of measurements. 
Chair Bill Johnson:  Okay.  As one of the elements of quality you describe the need to educate veterans about their right to choose a provider of prosthetic care the Committee is starting to hear more and more stories about veterans who say that the VA is creating barriers to their selection of non-VA care.  What has been your experience?  Have you heard from veterans that this is a growing problem?  
Michael Oros: I've seen it locally.  I think that's what I could probably speak most directly to is locally we no longer have access -- it's been at least two years that our company, while we've had a VA contract, has not been invited to that amputee clinic that I referred to previously -- where really, those referals are -- and the veterans ability to communicate with a prosthetist as well as the referring VA physician are kind of present in the same building. 
Chair Bill Johnson:  Here's that word again, from your point of view what barriers are preventing veterans from selecting a prosthetist of their own choice? Is it just that veterans don't know their rights?
Michael Oros: I think its their unfamiliarity with their rights. 
Chair Bill Johnson:  Okay. You talked in your written testimony specifically about older veterans at your practice complaining that there appears to be new administrative hurdles to prevent their continuing to receive care in non-VA facilities.  Can you give us some examples?
Michael Oros:  We've seen in our own facility where veterans who received care from our company for a number of years -- and actually I've heard similar stories from other providers too -- where they've gone back to the VA for other services, prescriptions, etc. and the patient has been -- I'll use the word "discovered" to be an amputee and they've been directed to receive their care within the VA system versus, again, that outside provider. 
Yesterday's snapshot covered the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the Vow to Hire Heroes Act and efforts at raising awareness on the program.  We'll close with the news release the Committee issued after the hearing:
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held an oversight hearing entitled "Reviewing the Implementation of Major Provisions of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011." The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 is the signature veterans' legislation of the 112th Congress. Officials from the departments of Labor (DoL) and Veterans Affairs (VA) testified on the implementation of the law to date.
The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) was the main focus of the hearing. The cornerstone of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, VRAP will provide up to one-year of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to unemployed veterans, ages 35-60, for in-demand jobs and careers. The Committee applauded efforts by the departments at the program staff-level, but cautioned that more needed to be done to promote VRAP.
"I am pleased to see that over 11,000 applications have been received so far, meaning that we are well on our way to filling all of the 45,000 slots paid for in the VOW Act for the remainder of this fiscal year," stated Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "But I am concerned that not enough is being done by either department, or the President himself, to promote this benefit. Getting the message out about this opportunity is critically important to putting unemployed veterans on a path to a job in a high-demand field."
In addition, Committee Members also expressed concern that DoL and VA were not taking the appropriate steps to ensure that veterans were aware VRAP existed. Allison Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits at VA, noted some of the challenges facing the two departments to effectively reach out to veterans about VRAP were that "a centralized system to identify eligible veterans does not exist."
Few Members had seen any outreach in their local communities, leading the Committee to ask if a plan was in place to reach unemployed veterans in non-metropolitan areas, specifically through TV advertising.
"Despite having had ample time to come forth with one, VA has failed to deliver an advertising budget," Miller said. "Advertising is a quick, effective way to control the message in order to reach a large number of veterans in a very short period of time. That is the level of promotion for VRAP that our unemployed veterans deserve. We cannot afford to let even one training slot go unfilled. I encourage all eligible veterans to sign up for this opportunity at their local one stop career center or online."

How to turn your back on an ally

How bad are things in Iraq?  NPR finally finds it for a fleeting moment.  Peter Kenyon shows up with a report today for Morning Edition (link will be audio shortly and a transcript will be up by this afternoon).

There are many problems with the report from a left perspective and from a journalistic one as well.  I'm going to waive Kenyon through on all that (and before a CPB friend calls -- when was this report filed, it wasn't filed today, it wasn't filed this week -- let's agree to just leave it at what I said about "many problems" and don't make me back them up because I can without breaking a sweat).  The reason being there is so little in the US on Iraq.  Once was a time Diane Rehm would squeeze in six or so minutes for the Friday international round up.  And that might be all you heard in late 2010 and early 2011 about Iraq on NPR (other than violence briefly noted in the hourly headlines).  Now you don't even get that.

Peter Kenyon: Baghdad analyst Ahmad al-Abyadh says Maliki has a host of political enemies.  The Kurds are convinced he's ready to attack them as soon as the Americans deliver promised F-16 fighter jets to the Iraqi air force. The Sadrists are convinced he's planning to evict them from the ruling coalition, and Abyadh believes another Shiite group in Maliki's bloc, known by the acronym ISKI [Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq -- headed by Ammar al-Hakim], could be wavering.

Of greater concern to the Kurds -- who I don't believe are trembling at the F-16s, though they are concerned -- and should be and when the Vice President of the United States was still Senator Joe Biden he had that same concern about giving Nouri F-16s and how they would be used -- is the US 'friendship.'  This isn't in Kenyon's report, I don't believe any US outlet has noted it, I know about it via friends at the State Dept.  The US government, through Ambassador James Jeffrey, has conveyed that they support and are friends with the KRG . . . as long as it remains part of Iraq.

Here's a bit of reality, if you put a conditional on it, you're not my friend.

The same US government that has regularly explored a federation -- Joe pitched that all the time and would get so angry when people said he was proposing breaking up Iraq -- is now insisting that the KRG cannot declare independence.

If it wants to remain 'friends,' it can't declare independence.

That's part of why Russia is now ready to begin courting KRG President Massoud Barzani.  The strained relationship between the US government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (three provinces in northern Iraq, semi-autonomous since the 90s) has come on Barack Obama's watch.  The US has a long relationship with the KRG and that was if Bully Boy Bush was occupying the White House, or when Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush were serving their elected terms.  Political party didn't matter.  Now the KRG feels the US has turned its back on them.

We noted that feeling repeatedly.  It's been emerging for some time.  Had outlets bothered to seriously report on the April 5th DC speech Barzani gave, that might have been more obvious.  But most instead chose to ignore it.

The US has a serious problem with the Kurds.  The State Dept is aware of it.  One friend told me that I was wrong (not the first time) and that Chris Hill's ignorance on the Kurdish issue wasn't overlooked by the administration when they nominated the manic-depressive idiot to be US Ambassador to Iraq, that the reality is that's what made him so attractive to the administration.  (Again, that may be the reality.  If so, I was wrong about the White House overlooking Hill's ignorance -- glaring ignorance as demonstrated in the confirmation hearing.)

That person and another swore that the only one who could peacefully straighten things out now is Ryan Crocker but, of course, he's getting out and getting out for good reasons (which the press has not been interested in reporting either -- I find it really hard to believe that I can visit the State Dept and hear talk about this in the halls, not offices, as I walk through and the press can't find this story?).  I asked what about Joe because Joe Biden has a historical relationship with the Kurds that goes back decades.  That's why they put so much trust in him.  But the feeling in the State Dept is that he was countermanded too many times and the KRG doesn't feel he can deliver a promise now as a result.  They don't think he's dishonest, they just don't feel that he has any real power on the issue of Iraq.

At some point in the near future, columns will be written with titles like "How Did We Lose The Kurds?" and while that will be the fault of this administration (unless they address this quickly), it's equally true that the silence from various opinion writers has helped that loss along.  I have nothing against the Kurds or KRG and try to give them a fair hearing and try to slap down nonsense when I feel p.r.'s being spun by the press about the KRG.  But that slapping down?  Hasn't really been required in years?  All of the KRG's many friends in the US press have seemingly all fallen silent.  When they suddenly discover what's taken place, it might be worth asking them why they didn't notice it as it was happening?

The KRG is not heaven.  It is not even heaven in Iraq.  It has many problems.  (As does the United States.)  But what it does have is a people well vested in their country.  I don't mean the longing for a Kurdish homeland though that's a bond for those in the KRG and for Kurds throughout the world.  I'm talking about their elections which they were not introduced to last decade.  They do have free and fair elections.  They are criticized because there are two main parties -- Talabani controls one, Barzani the other.  And a lot of people take that criticism very seriously. I don't because we have the same situation in the US (two main political parties dominate everything). There are human rights issues, freedom of the press issues and more.  But if the point is the spread of democracy (though often stated, that is rarely the US government's goal), you maintain ties to the Kurds because that's the only place where there's a model for democracy in Iraq.

If a KRG election had been overturned by the US government the way the March 7, 2010 parliamentary elections were, you'd have Kurds in the street.  Instead, you just have Iraqis talking about what hypocrites Americans are talking about the importance of democracy and elections until their puppet loses one and they demand he gets a second term anyway (Nouri al-Maliki).

As Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, gets closer to the KRG, you'd think the White House would rethink their KRG strategy.  But Putin's already shamed Barack once in recent weeks.

baracks shrinking stature

From May 13, that's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack's Shrinking Stature" about Putin blowing off Barack's big G8 meet-up.

 Turning to the issue of Julian Assange.  John Pilger needs to stop lying.  That I even need to point that out is appalling.  If you are a supporter of Julian Assange, stop lying.  It doesn't help him.  What it does is make him look guilty by the fact that you're lying.  Pilger declares in an interview ZNet -- a glorified clip job web site apparently -- felt was worth posting:

Assange tried to "sort things out", as you put it. Right from the beginning, he offered repeatedly to be questioned -- first in Sweden, then in the UK. He sought and received permission to leave Sweden - which makes a nonsense of the claim that he has avoided questioning. The prosecutor who has since pursued him has refused to give any explanation about why she will not use standard procedures, which Sweden and the UK have signed up to.

That's not what happened.  It is the lie.  And a ton of liars will repeat it.  They certainly did when Assange's problems first surfaced.  But many of us paid attention and we know reality.  So stop lying.

Julian Assange left Sweden without permission. This came out in the trial, it's in the judge's findings.  We covered this in the February 24, 2011 snapshot.  And you can read Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle's ruling [PDF format warning] here in full.  The ruling calls out the idiot Sven-Eric Alhem -- who we said was an idiot and didn't know what he was doing when the trial was ongoing and people wanted to insist, "Oh, he's so smart!" Smart attorneys do not get called out for lying in judicial rulings.  Smart attorneys do not try to sneak reality into written testimony while saying something different in oral testimony.  All of that's in the verdict.  The government of Sweden wants to question Assange.  They contacted Hurtig telling him that they needed to question Assange. From the ruling:

In summary the lawyer was unable to tell me what attempts he made to contact his client, and whether he definitely left a message.  It was put that he had a professional duty to tell his client, and whether he definitely left a message. It was put that he had a professional duty to tell his client of the risk of detention.  He did not appear to accept that the risk was substantial or the need to contact his client was urgent.

Assange left.  Hurtig may or may not have told him.  I hope he didn't, and unless we learn otherwise, I will assume he didn't convey to Assange that they wanted to question him.

In the ruling, the judge notes that lie and calls it out repeatedly.  "Mr Hurtig was asked why he told Brita Sunderberg-Wietman that Ms Nye had made no effort . . ."  This is at the heart of the ruling, that Hurtig lied repeatedly and was caught lying.  That on September 22nd, days before Julian Assange left Sweden, Ny informed him that they were ready to question Assange (the delay was caused -- as Hurtig had to admit when confronted by the judge -- by an officer being sick).  Five days before Julian Assange left Sweden, his attorney was informed that they were ready to question Assange.

Hurtig then entered into negotiations about when and what time.  But he (apparently) never informed Julian Assange who left Sweden thinking he wasn't wanted for questioning.

That's not the only lie Assange's attorney was caught in.  He was caught lying repeatedly.  That's why they had to change attorneys because you can't continue to be represented by a known liar and have any chance with appeals.

Pilger needs to stop hurting Julian Assange's case by repeating lies.  The biggest lies about Assange's case come from Hurtig.  Read the decision, he's a proven liar.  The judge finds one lie after another including -- pay attention, John Pilger -- about Hutrig's repeated mischaracterizations of the prosecutor's role and powers.  John Pilger needs to sit his ass down and learn the facts.  If that's too hard for him, he needs to keep his damn mouth shut.

Julian Assange is not helped by people spreading known lies.  And ZNet should be ashamed of itself for posting that ridiculous and fact-free interview.  As Rebecca noted last night, the assumption will be: "if john pilger has to lie in order to make you feel for julian assange, then assange must be guilty."  So Pilger needs to STOP LYING. He is hurting Julian Assange's case, not helping it. 

The following community sites -- plus Adam Kokesh,, POLITICO, KPFK, Pacifica Evening News and LA Times -- updated last night and this morning:

And we do it again -- and include Jane Fonda, Cindy Sheehan and Diane Rehm -- because everyone's not showing up:

 We'll close with this from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

May 31, 2012, Oakland – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. The legal action is part of a larger movement to reform inhumane conditions in California prisons’ Security Housing Units (SHU), a movement dramatized by a 2011 hunger strike by thousands of SHU prisoners; the named plaintiffs include hunger strikers, among them several of the principal negotiators for the hunger strike. The class action suit, which is being jointly filed by CCR and several advocate and legal organizations in California, alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eight Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the absence of meaningful review for SHU placement violates the prisoners’ right to due process.  
“The prolonged conditions of brutal confinement and isolation such as those at Pelican Bay have rightly been condemned as torture by the international community,” said CCR President Jules Lobel. “These conditions strip prisoners of their basic humanity and cross the line between humane treatment and barbarity.” Advocates hope that the suit will strike a blow against the increasingly routine use of solitary confinement in American prisons.
SHU prisoners spent 22 ½ to 24 hours every day in a cramped, concrete, windowless cell. They are denied telephone calls, contact visits, and vocational, recreational or educational programming. Food is often rotten and barely edible, and medical care is frequently withheld. More than 500 Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have been isolated under these conditions for over 10 years, more than 200 of them for over 15 years; and 78 have been isolated in the SHU for more than 20 years. Today’s suit claims that prolonged confinement under these conditions has caused “harmful and predictable psychological deterioration” among SHU prisoners. Solitary confinement for as little as 15 days is now widely recognized to cause lasting psychological damage to human beings and is analyzed under international law as torture.
Additionally, the suit alleges that SHU prisoners are denied any meaningful review of their SHU placement, rendering their isolation “effectively permanent.” SHU assignment is an administrative act, condemning prisoners to a prison within a prison; it is not part of a person’s court-ordered sentence for his or her crime. California, alone among all fifty states and most other jurisdictions in the world, imposes extremely prolonged solitary confinement based merely on a prisoner’s alleged association with a prison gang. Gang affiliation is assessed without considering whether a prisoner has ever undertaken an act on behalf of a gang or whether he is – or ever was – actually involved in gang activity. Moreover, SHU assignments disproportionately affect Latinos. The percentage of Latino prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU was 85% in 2011, far higher than their representation in the general prison population, which was 41%. The only way out of SHU isolation alive and sane is to “debrief,” to inform on other prisoners, placing those who do so and their families in significant danger of retaliation and providing those who are unable to debrief effectively no way out of SHU isolation.
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone are co-counsel on the case.    
The case is Ruiz v. Brown, and it seeks to amend an earlier pro se lawsuit filed by Pelican Bay SHU prisoners Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell. The case is before Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Click here to read the complaint. 
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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