Friday, January 25, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Friday, January 25, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protesters turn out in Iraq, Iraqi forces fire on Falluja protesters, Nouri uncorks the crazy yet again, Nouri faces calls to back off as well as calls to listen to the protesters, Barack finds another pro-Iraq War man to elevate with a high profile job, and more.

Today Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces continued their assault on the Iraqi people who dared to exercise their Constitutional rights.  Yesterday Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital and that January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul.  And today?  In Falluja, Nouri's forces fired on protesters.  Kitabat reports Sheikh Abdul-Maliki al-Saadi accused Nouri of attempting to turn peaceful demonstrations into bloody attacks.  What happened?

There are various accounts.    Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "The shooting began, according to witnesses, after Iraqi soldiers ordered demonstrators to stop filming security force positions. Protesters, in turn, responded by the throwing tear gas and non-lethal explosive devices known as flashbangs, witnesses said." His is one of the strongest reports and a reminder that, even today, real reporting can be done.  And he Tweets.

Alsumaria reports that 5 protesters are dead and 31 more injured -- six of whom are children -- including 1 Alsumaria TV journalist.  They note that Mohammed Dulaimi used his sermon to call for the judiciary to protect the protesters from the military.  It also notes that the military first attempted to block the protesters from entering the square. Prensa Latina notes that there are accounts which state "that police officers surpassed a religious ceremony and sparked off protests." All Iraq News notes that the 5 killed were attempting to take part in a sit-in. AFP goes with, "The rally had been moving to an area in east Fallujah but was blocked off by soldiers, an army captain said. Protesters began throwing bottles of water at the troops who then opened fire, the officer said."  BBC News concurs, "The clashes erupted after the soldiers prevented people joining an anti-government demonstration in the mainly Sunni city after Friday prayers."   Reuters offers, "A local television channel showed demonstrators approaching the army vehicles and throwing stones and water bottles while troops tried to keep them away by firing in the air. But images also showed one soldier aiming his rifle at demonstrators."  Dar Addustour columnist As Sheik notes that the protesters and their demands have been repeatedly ignored and that it appears any pretext for aggravation has been seized upon by the security forces but that there must be no more Iraqi blood spilled at the hands of the military.  Kitabat explains that the violence is leading to growing chorus of calls for civil disobedience in Iraq.

Dr. Khaled Khalaf, with Falluja General Hospital, tells AFP that the death toll rose to six.  Al Mada reports that by 4:30 pm Iraqi time, Falluja General Hospital could count 6 dead and sixty injured -- all of the injured were protesters.  Hospital sources reveal to Al Mada that three of the dead died from gun shots to their heads.  The same sources state the death toll may increase because a number of the injured have vital injuries (including chest wounds, neck wounds and abdomen wounds).   The shootings did not end the protests, Al Mada reports, not even in Falluja.  A number of protesters stayed or returned in the afternoon and then they let the army know that they could throw stones.  Some of the video that's being pimped online, check the position of the sun in the video and note that it's a small number before you buy into the myth that poor, little Iraqi soldiers were attacked and then had to fire.

Who's the leader in Iraq?  Nouri al-Maliki holds the title of prime minister.  (Iraqi President Jalal Talabani remains in Germany seeking medical treatment after suffering a stroke a few weeks ago.)  But who offered leadership today and who offered clinical insanity?   All Iraq News notes that Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr denounced the violence in a statement and noted that the security forces are tasked with protecting Iraqi citizens and ensuring their safety.  Kitabat quotes the statement noting "We denounce and condemn today's armed assault on demonstrators in Falluja."  The events were a daily double for Nouri al-Maliki's paranoia.  All Iraq News notes his response was to immediately declare that the protesters in Falluja, the injured ones, were Ba'athists or al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. 

Amnesty International issued the following today:

Iraq must immediately investigate the killings of protestors in accordance with international standards, Amnesty International said today after several people died when troops in the city of Fallujah fired on anti-government demonstrators who had reportedly thrown stones at them.

Several others were said to be seriously injured during Friday's protest, the latest in an ongoing and largely peaceful campaign protesting against the government and its abusive treatment of detainees.

"The Iraqi authorities must ensure that the investigation they have announced into these killings is independent, impartial and that the methods and findings are made public.  Anyone found responsible for abuses – including anyone found to have used excessive force against protestors – must be brought to justice," said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

"The authorities should also ensure that security forces are trained and properly equipped to police demonstrations and other gatherings in a manner which respects human rights, including those where some protestors turn violent."

There were conflicting reports about what had caused the shooting by the Iraqi troops. However, subsequently further clashes erupted and army vehicles were burned. There have been claims that some Iraqi soldiers were also injured in the incident. 

The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials both lay down clear standards for the policing of demonstrations and the use of firearms, including by armed forces.

Since last December tens of thousands of mainly Sunni Muslim Iraqis have taken to the streets expressing discontent with the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'a Muslim, at the continuing discrimination against them in Iraq. The daily and largely peaceful demonstrations took place mainly in predominantly Sunni Muslim provinces, including Anbar, Mosul and Salah al-Din.

The protests were triggered by the detention of several bodyguards of the Finance Minister Rafi'e al-Issawi, a senior Sunni Muslim political leader, on terrorism charges. The move was thought by many Sunni Muslims to be politically motivated. There are concerns that increasing sectarian tensions may result in further violence. 

There continue to be frequent bomb attacks by armed groups targeting civilians. For example, dozens of pilgrims for Shi'a Muslim festival of Arba'een were killed at the end of last month; this week several people were killed by car bombs in Baghdad and more than 20 people were killed by a suicide bomber at a Shi'a Muslim mosque in Tuz Khurmato.

Protesters continue to call for respect for due process and legislative measures - including an amnesty law and a review of anti-terror legislation - and for an end to human rights violations against prisoners and detainees in Iraq.

For years Amnesty International has documented cases of torture during interrogations while held incommunicado; deaths in custody in circumstances suggesting that torture was the cause; detainees being coerced into making "confessions"; and unfair trials, sometimes resulting in the death penalty.

A few days before the protests started, Amnesty International contacted the Iraqi government about dozens of reported cases of human rights violations against detainees and prisoners. The Iraqi government has yet to reply.

In one such case in 2012, four men were reportedly tortured while held incommunicado for several weeks at the Directorate of Counter-Crime in Ramadi, Anbar Province before their release in April 2012. Their "confessions" were then broadcast on local television.

During their trial, they told the Anbar Criminal Court that their "confessions" had been extracted under torture. A medical examination presented to the court of one of the men's injuries indicated bruising and burning consistent with his allegations. 

"As far as we know, no official investigation into these allegations of  torture is known to have been held," said Harrison.

"It is imperative that investigations into this – and the dozens of other cases that we have raised with the Iraqi authorities – are carried out as a matter of urgency, particularly as these men are now on death row.

"Perpetrators of abuse need to know that they will face the consequences of their actions, and victims have a right to truth, justice and reparation."

The four men were sentenced to death on 3 December 2012, convicted of offences under Iraq's Anti-Terror Law.

Ban Ki-Moon is the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the UN issued the following today:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the recent wave of terrorist attacks across Iraq, which have killed hundreds of people and left many more wounded. He regrets the killing and injuring of a number of protestors today in Fallujah. Recognizing the right to peaceful assembly, he calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

The Secretary-General renews his call of last December to Iraqi political leaders and Members of the Council of Representatives to engage in an inclusive dialogue, so as to strengthen the unity and security of the country. The United Nations, through the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), remains committed and stands ready to assist the people and the Government of Iraq in building a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous country.

In addition, Al Mada notes that 16 Iraqi civil society organizations declared their support for the protesters and called on Nouri al-Maliki to listen to their demands.  Kitabat reports the Chair of the Iraqi Institute for Strategic Studies, Sheikh Khamis al-Dagger, has declared that members of parliament should launch a boycott on all sessions of Parliament until the demands of the protesters are heard and he termed today's events "the Falluja massacre."  Though it's not a boycott of Parliament, Kitabat reports that Yassin al-Mutlaq issued a statement today declaring the National Dialogue Front (whose leader is Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq) is withdrawing from provincial elections to protest the goverment's refusal to listen to the demands of the demonstrators.  Meanwhile at the US State Dept today, spokesperson Victoria Nuland continued her war on the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Staying in the region, Iraq?


QUESTION: A very quick question: According to reports, five protestors got killed today in Fallujah, Iraq. Have – are you able to confirm – during protests by the Iraqi security forces.

MS. NULAND: I'm not in a position to confirm numbers, but I will say that we are concerned about the use of deadly force during today's protests in Iraq. We understand that the Iraqi Government has now issued a statement indicating that they are initiating a very prompt investigation into the incidents, and that they have called for restraint by security forces. We obviously stand ready to assist in that investigation if asked, but we would also say that as the government and government forces show restraint, the demonstrators also have a responsibility to exercise their right to protest in a nonviolent manner, as well as to continue to press their demands through the political process.

Why have an investigation of any kind?  Didn't Nuland just declare from on high that the "government forces show restraint"?  She's a human rights nightmare.  Nouri and his wonderful forces?  Dar Addustur reports on the Lance Corporal just convicted in Basra for the rape and murder of a four-and-a-half-year-old girl?  Dar Addustour reports that Nouri imposed a curfew on Falluja and 'the Ministry of Defense' announced they would launch an investigation into what took place today.  The Ministry of the Defense?  I forget, who is the Minister of Defense?

Oh, that's right, Iraq doesn't have one.   Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  He was supposed to nominate them and have them confirmed by Parliament before December 2010 wrapped up but US President Barack Obama gifted Nouri with a second term via a contract (the Erbil Agreement) which meant Nouri didn't have to do the things -- like form a Cabinet -- that the Constitution demanded he do.  By not nominating someone to head the ministry, Nouri controls it.  That was his point in not nominating people to head the security ministries -- it was a power-grab. 

We'll note another Twet about what took place in Falljua today:

In case you forgot, Iraq is no better off than it was a decade ago: Iraqi Army opens fire on protesters throwing rocks. 

View summary

RT notes today was dubbed "Friday of No Retreat." Zhu Ningzhu (Xinhua) reminds, "Sunnis in Iraq have been protesting for a month, asking Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to quit, after Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi's security chief and bodyguards were arrested on terror charges."   Al Arabiya provides this context:

Demonstrators began by criticizing the alleged exploitation of anti-terror laws to detain Sunnis wrongfully, but have since moved on to calling for Maliki to quit.
They were sparked by the Dec. 20 arrest of at least nine of the guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi, a top Sunni politician.
The government has sought to curb the rallies by claiming to have released nearly 900 prisoners in recent weeks, with a senior minister publicly apologizing for holding detainees without charge.

The Washington Post's Liz Sly Tweets this observation:

  1. The Iraqi army firing at protesters in Fallujah tdy. It's Syria 2011; at risk of fastforwarding to Syria 2013 overnight 

Falluja wasn't the only site of protests.   The Voice of Russia notes, "Earlier today, a major protest rally was held in the city of Ramadi in western Iraq, where demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans."  SAPA and DPA note that protests also took place in Samarra, Kirkuk and Mosul.  On Mosul, Alsumaria reports that protesters continued their sit-in and have the backing of the tribes of Nineveh.  The demonstrators are prepared to cut off the road (with their bodies) linking Mosul with Baghdad if their demands are not met.  The demands include the release of innocent prisoners and detainees and the punishment of any who have tortured or raped women prisoners.   Kitabat notes that protests took place in Baghdad and Baquba as well with protesters chanting for a united Iraq and an end to sectarianism and many banners referring to the issues of the prisoners such as one that declared, "Enough! Break The Prison Door."  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

Pictures by @AFP photographers of anti-government demos in Baghdad, Ramadi, Kirkuk, Hawijah, Samarra:  #Iraq


  1. Pictures by @AFP photographers of today's protests in Baghdad, Ramadi and Kirkuk: 

  2. .@AFP photos of today's #Iraq protests, so from Ramadi and Kirkuk (with more coming): 

Nouri's popularity (and cash) managed a turn-out in support of him.  Alsumaria reports that Baghdad's Firdous Square saw "dozens" of Nouri's supporters marching and chanting.  If this was like previous turnouts by The Wives of Nouri al-Malliki, the area around the square was shut down and soldiers and police were present to protect the faux-protesters.

Elsewhere in Iraq, All Iraq News reports, one Mosul bombing injured one police officer while a second left one dead and two injured. and a Samarra operation found security forces killing 14 suspects.

All Iraq News notes 1 woman died from avian flu (bird flu) in Karbala Province.  She was fifty-years-old.  Province officials held an emergency meeting today to address the topic of the avian flu and prevention.

Best Tweet on Iraq this week?

Only realised now that in a few months we go into "the Iraq war, ten years on" mode. Should be as awful as we can dream it to be.

Nouri has sent his federal forces into the provinces and that's who's attacking these protesters.

In the United States, President Barack Obama has given a key administration position to another man.  This one has quite a history.  Rosie Gray (BuzzFeed) reports on the new White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough:

As the top foreign policy aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, he was crucially involved in crafting the legislation to authorize the use of force in Iraq. The resolution passed the Senate on Friday, Oct. 11, 2002, with 29 Democrats voting for it; many would later say they regretted the vote, or the way the Bush administration used it.

McDonough has not spoken publicly about a period many Democrats would like to forget, but people close to him say the episode was one that shaped his views, which include a firm attachment to "regular order" -- the consultative process that critics say the Bush administration ignored in the march to war.

Daschle, in an interview with BuzzFeed, recalled that McDonough played a lead role in hammering out the resolution.

"These were very, very tough calls and our caucus was almost evenly divided on the war," Daschle said in an interview with BuzzFeed. "It was a real challenge. I had many very serious reservations myself."

Yet again, Barack rewards the wrong on the Iraq War.  Yet again.  Another of Barack's nominees is Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State.  We attended the confirmation hearing yesterday and Kat reported on it at her site last night.  A CIA bagman is targeting the Kerry nomination and honestly thinks he's going to kill it.  He really is delusional.  (Kerry's confirmation is not in doubt.) Another nominee is War Hawk Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.  A large number of spinners and whores have rushed to prop up Hagel.  Last month, Charlie Davis had a great essay taking on these lies and the liars who tell him:

In this past election, Obama often ran to the right of Mitt Romney, his campaign frequently suggesting the latter would not have had the guts to kill Osama bin Laden. The DNC ridiculed Romney for suggesting he'd consider the war's legality before bombing Iran. "Romney Said He Would Talk To His Lawyers Before Deciding Whether To Use Military Force," read the press release, as if that's a bad thing. Obama, bomber of a half-dozen countries, never forgot to mention the "crippling" sanctions he's imposed.

And J Street, the group that just co-sponsored a rally with AIPAC backing the Israeli state's latest killing spree? Ask a resident of Gaza how "pro-peace" it is.
But, in order to create a sign-this-petition! narrative, one often can't do nuance. So Naiman doesn't. In another post, this one highlighting Hagel's establishment support, because antiwar activists care about that sort of thing, he casually refers to former ambassador Ryan Crocker as among the "diplomacy champions and war skeptics" backing the former senator. This would be the same Ryan Crocker appointed by George W. Buish who has said "it's simply not the case that Afghans would rather have US forces gone," and dismissed the killing of at least 25 people in Afghanistan, including children, as "not a very big deal."
That should give you a good idea of the obfuscation going on in the antiwar campaign for a Pentagon chief. This is a problem. If you're going to play the role of the savvy Washington activist and get involved in the inside baseball that is fights over cabinet appointments, ostensibly to reframe the debate more than anything we must defeat AIPAC! you ought not go about reinforcing adherence to orthodoxy and the perceived value of establishment support and credentials. And you ought not cast as heroes of the peace movement people that really shouldn't be. That's actually really dangerous.
Yet, some would rather play down Hagel's pro-war credentials for the all-important narrative. So we cast him as a staunch opponent of a war with Iran, ignoring his repeated assertions that we must "keep all options on the table" with respect to the Islamic Republic, including killing men, women and children. In a piece he coauthored with other establishment foreign policy figures, Hagel's opposition to war amounted merely to a call to consider its costs – and its benefits.

I'm being told that excerpt won't bold face, sorry.  Now we're winding down with some awful news.  The topic is political prisoner Lynn Stewart whom President Barack Obama could set free tomorrow.  She broke no law.  She issued a press release.  The Janet Reno Justice Department reviewed that action -- it was a violation of an agreement (not a law) -- and Reno wisely concluded there was no offense to prosecute, they asked Lynn not to do it again, end of story.  Then Bully Boy Bush was sent to the White House by the Supreme Court.  Lynn is the people's lawyer -- called that because poverty didn't make someone an unattractive client to her, notoriety didn't scare her off, nothing did.  If someone needed an attorney and no one wanted to take the case for whatever reason, Lynn would be interested.  For that reason, she's an 'enemy' in the minds of people like John Ashcroft.  Remember that when people like Arianna Huffington try to gloss over Ashcroft.  As Bush's Attorney General, Ashcroft made it his mission to go after Lynn.  The same 'offense' that she was 'tried' for under Reno was pulled up again -- that's known as double jeopardy and it's against the Constitution but when has a White House shown any respect for the Constitution lately?  He used 9-11 and fear to convict her, having the trial in lower Manhattan, constantly referencing 9-11.  The same way the Bush administration lied and falsely linked to sell the Iraq War, they lied and falsely linked to put Lynn behind bars.  "Constitutional professor" Barack didn't order Lynn released.  No, his Justice Department took Lynn back to court to get her sentence extended.  She had been sentenced to 28 months behind bars for these alleged 'crimes' but that wasn't good enough for Barack.  His Justice Dept asked for and received a ten year sentence. They have made a mockery out of the American legal system and out of the concept of justice.

She is a grandmother, she is a woman over 70-years-old, she has been a cancer survivor.  This week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network),  features Lynn's husband Ralph Poynter.

Glen Ford:  Imprisoned human rights lawyer Lynn Stewart is facing a grave health crisis.  Stewart was sentenced to ten years in prison in connection with her vigorous defense of one of her clients, the blind sheikh charged in alleged bomb threats in New York City in 1993.  Stewart has been imprisoned in Fort Worth, Texas.  Her husband, Ralph Poynter, says her cancer is spreading.

Ralph Poynter:  For months, we have been worried about a spot that's shown on Lynn's lung -- one of her lungs.  And we did not want to go public with it until we were sure what was happening.  What is happening is her breast cancer is spreading.  It has spread to the other lung and to parts of her back.  We feel that it is a death sentence in the prison.  We fought in the beginning to keep Lynn out of jail, to make them take her from a local hospital with the doctor's objection because we could see the hand writing on the wall.  This was not taken up as a legal issue and Lynn went to prison and now the other shoe has fallen.  Her cancer is spreading.  She is in Fort Worth, Texas subjected to the regulations of a prison between her and health care.  From the greatest center of health care probably in the world from New York to Fort Worth, Texas and we know cancer is spreading.  And as our daughter the doctor says, cancer has to be nipped in the bud.  But first it has to go through regulations of Fort Worth Texas -- not knowing when you go to the hospital, not knowing who's going to be there.  So we're working on that.  And getting Lynn to the hospital, the getting her treatment --

Mya Shone : Ralph, we should point out that when Lynn does go to the hospital they shackle her.

Ralph Poynter:  Yes, Lynn goes to the hospital as an inmate -- in total shackling of waist and feet and nothing is funny about it.  But Lynn says in her stories about what happens after she goes to the hospital  would be funny if it were a cartoon but her life is at stake -- and how she fell and the guards grabbed her and the guards were burly athletic type of guards and when the guards grabbed her and kept her from falling, they injured her and she had bruise marks for a month but she thanks the guards for grabbing her because she could have fallen flat on her face, out of the van, with shackles at her legs, waist and hands.  So this is the sort of thing that she is involved with and she has to endure.

Glen Ford:  Lynn Stewart's husband Ralph Poynter speaking with Mya Shone on the radio program Taking Aim.