Monday, January 07, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Monday, January 7, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, US President Barack Obama nomintes Chuck Hagel and John Brennan for posts, protests continue in Iraq, the Iraqi military attacks Mosul protesters, both State of Law and Iraqiya walk away from talk of dissolving Parliament, and more.
Today US President Barack Obama nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense.  Right-winger Andrew Sullivan is frothing at the mouth in joy.  Of course he would, Andrew Sullivan was an Iraq War cheerleader.  He believes in rewriting history just like Hagel.  So he portrays Hagel as some sort of brave leader.  David Corn (Mother Jones) notes reality and does so by dropping back to a 2006 piece he wrote about Hagel where Corn noted:
Of all the senators eyeing the White House in 2008, this Nebraskan [Hagel]  was the only one to express deep reservations about the resolution -- while still voting for it. "America -- including the Congress -- and the world, must speak with one voice about Iraqi disarmament, as it must continue to do so in the war on terrorism," Hagel said in explaining his vote. But he was prescient: "If disarmament in Iraq requires the use of force, we need to consider carefully the implications and consequences of our actions. The future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein is also an open question. Some of my colleagues and some American analysts now speak authoritatively of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, and how Iraq can be a test case for democracy in the Arab world. How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq, the country, the history, the people, the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution, realism and a bit more humility." He added, "Imposing democracy through force in Iraq is a roll of the dice. A democratic effort cannot be maintained without building durable Iraqi political institutions and developing a regional and international commitment to Iraq's reconstruction. No small task."
Hagel was disappointed in the discourse within the Senate: "We should spend more time debating the cost and extent of this commitment, the risks we may face in military engagement with Iraq, the implications of the precedent of United States military action for regime change and the likely character and challenges of a post-Saddam Iraq. We have heard precious little from the President, his team, as well as from this Congress, with a few notable exceptions, about these most difficult and critical questions." And he cautioned humility: "I share the hope of a better world without Saddam Hussein, but we do not really know if our intervention in Iraq will lead to democracy in either Iraq or elsewhere in the Arab world." Bottom line: Hagel feared the resolution would lead to a war that would go badly but didn't have the guts to say no to the leader of his party.
That's an honest appraisal of someone who did nothing.  If you doubt how little Hagel did grasp that he's also falsely praised for being against Bully Boy Bush's so-called 'surge.'  Yet, if you visit Senator Tom Coburn's website, you find this:
Nebraska's senators voted opposite each other, even though both are co-sponsors of the proposed Senate resolution that "disagrees" with Bush's troop buildup.
GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel voted with his party to filibuster his own resolution disapproving of the president's plan, even though he has been the most outspoken Republican in Congress opposing Bush's troop escalation.
At a recent Senate hearing, for example, Hagel wagged his finger and chided senators hesitant about debating the war. "If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes," he said then. Hagel's spokesman, Mike Buttry, said Hagel voted for the filibuster Monday to preserve the minority party's rights.
So Hagel gets a ton of press attention for being against the 'surge' and proposes co-proposes a resolution against the 'surge' to get even more attention but when it's time to vote, he votes against the resolution he co-sponsored -- meaning he got all the press for a popular position among the public but he didn't actually take that position on the record February 7, 2007.   It's a cute little con game.   Sort of like an insincere 'apology' offered to circumvent valid criticism.  Wayne Anderson offers "2013: The Year of the Anti-Gay Non-Apology" (Huffington Post) which includes Hagel's nonsense on the list:

And last but certainly not least, we have President Obama's apparently favored choice for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, offering up one of the most, if not the most, blatantly unbelievable non-apologies when he decided, after 14 years of silence, to finally apologize for his repulsive anti-gay remarks about the first openly gay American ambassador, James Hormel, but only after President Obama started floating his name as a potential Secretary of Defense. And even then Hagel couldn't actually admit that his comments were wrong, saying that he just feels that they were "insensitive."
Hagel apologists like to excuse away the attack on Hormel as oh-so-long-ago.  But it's not that simple.  Michelangelo Signorile (Huffington Post) explains, "Hagel scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign's Senate scorecard between 2001 and 2006 (which is not that long ago), voting against pro-gay initiatives and for anti-gay ones, and was on record as opposing allowing gays to serve openly in the military (calling it a 'social experiment'), let alone representing this country as ambassadors."
October 3rd, the Defense Dept announced that three US soldiers had died October 1st in Afghanistan following a suicide bombing.  The dead were Wilmington, North Carolina's Sgt Thomas J. Butler IV, Maysville, North Carolina's Sgt Jeremy F. Hardison and Raeford, North Caroline's Sgt Donna R. Johnson.  All three were under the age of 30, all three were married.   Sgt Donna R. Johnson was an Iraq War veteran having also served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.  Michael Futch (Fayetteville Observer) reported on her October funeral service:
A U.S. flag draped Sgt. Johnson's casket, and a framed photograph of the soldier wearing an Army duty uniform was nearby, along with a table displaying a number of her military medals.
Throughout the service, Sgt. Johnson's spouse, Tracy Joe Dice, sat with her head bowed.
"I can say when God took Donna, he took one of the best," Jessica Rivera, a lifelong friend, said during the service.
Dee Charles, another close friend, called Sgt. Johnson a confidante and someone she trusted.
"Most importantly," Charles said, "she loved all of us."
Like her father, Philas, a great basketball player, Donna Johnson was athletic.
Like her mother, Sandra, a teacher for 35 years, she excelled in the classroom. Donna Johnson had been an honors student.
Donna Johnson's spouse was not treated in the same fashion the other two spouses were because Johnson was in a same-sex marriage.  Her spouse was Staff Sgt Tracy Dice.  Colin Kelly (Military Times) produced a video of an interview with widow Staff Sgt Racy Die and Donna's mother Sandra.  Transcript:
Staff Sgt Tracy Dice:  I told her I didn't want her to go.  I was honest with her.  But I knew that, had I asked her not to go, it probably would have been one of those things that surfaced later on.  It seemed like we had finally gotten to the point in our relationship that we had perfected it.  It was just going so well.  It was going so perfect.    You know, whether you're deployed or you're waiting on someone to come home, it's very easy to just bury yourself into a pillow and sleep the day away because it makes things go by so much quicker.  So I was home that day.  And I thought, "You know, I'm going to sleep in because I don't have to get up and go to work."  And I was just going to wait for her to call and -- uh -- after the time -- which was like the latest time that I thought she would be calling, I -- uh -- I got up and I -- I started to panic.  Her sister called me back and told me that the military was at her house and that I needed to come there.  There Casualty Assistance Officer, CAO, yeah, he's got to work within the confines of the law and stuff like that and he did everything that he possibly could for me.  I mean it's a sad statement that three soldiers lost their lives and all three of them were married.  But one of the soldier's spouses wasn't treated -- She was treated as if she was single.  If someone else had another gay spouse is to through this and they don't have any of that -- if they don't have family support and they are not in the military, it's too easy for them to get shut out and not have any rights whatsoever.  The military can't do anything with DOMA [Defense Of Marriage Act] being changed.  That's just the bottom line.
Sandra Johnson: They gave their life for their country.  They served their country.  Man, woman, it doesn't matter.   They served their country.
Staff Sgt Tracy Dice:  It's a sad state of affairs that America would let one of their soldiers fall and not take care of the soldier's spouse.  Regardless of who that spouse is. And that is a sad statement.  We gay soldiers have been here the entire time.  And we're not going to go away.  Everybody just knows about us now.
Tracy Dice is thought to be the first widow from a same-sex marriage since Don't Ask, Don't Tell was lifted.  Who's going to implement policies in favor of Dice and others in similar situations?  Who's going to advocate for them?  They are part of today's military and they serve with honor.  Will a homophobe like Chuck Hagel be able to honor their service?  It's a valid question.  As Mark Thompson (Time magazine) observed last month, "With the end of 'Don't ask, don't tell' and the growing legalization of same-sex marriages come the challenges of adopting military life to new mores."  And Hagel can provide leadership on that issue?
Who will they look to
In whose hands will their future lie
Who's going to tell them, "Stand up again.
Why not, why not give it one more try?"
-- "Who Will They Look To" written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, first appears on their classic Street Opera
One of the two biggest issues facing the military right now is the rate of rape and assault in the ranks.  Laura Bassett (Huffington Post) notes that Hagel's "past opposition to abortion rights for rape victims in the military does not seem to be a sticking point for progressives."  It's cute the way the media ignores left criticism of the choice of Hagel.  I thought Daily Kos was supposed to be the home of 21st century progressivism?  As FloraLine pointed out at Daily Kos:

 He voted six times for banning servicewomen from being able to get an abortion in military medical facilities WITH THEIR OWN MONEY even if they are stationed in countries where abortion is forbidden for civilians (and he succeeded). In twelve years' time. He also thinks pregnancies caused by rape are "irrelevant" when talking about his no-exceptions-anti-choice position because they don't happen a lot - while fully knowing that a servicewoman is twice as likely to be raped by a fellow American than a civilian is, even, and that the majority of abortions in the military are performed because the subject was raped. Hagel's past has had more than serious consequences for hundreds, if not thousands, of valuable people in the military. Many people got fired for returning home to be able to get an abortion, while many others' careers were terminated because (surprise!) literally forcing unwanted pregnancies to continue creates single moms.
Emily Bockrath has started a petition at entitled "Protect America's Servicewomen: Don't Appoint Anti-Choice Senator to Defense Secretary Position."  In September, NOW was calling out US House Rep Todd Akin and insisting that all rape must be taken seriously.  They have no comment for the record on Chuck Hagel.  That's our 'feminist' media.  Martha left a comment at Ms which she copied and pasted to me.  We'll see if it makes it up at the site but we'll include it here.  Martha's commenting in response to the post "Who needs feminist media? Answers from short-essay contest winner:"
Martha says:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
I need feminist media. Please let me know when one emerges. Seeing that Ms. is silent as Chuck Hagel is named the Secretary of Defense nominee indicates we can't count on Ms. Too bad for our sisters in the military considering Hagel's record. But don't worry, the junior Senator from New Hampshire just knows everything's going to work out fine and Hagel's a blessing.
Point of fact, he's anti-choice don't tell me that won't impact the way resources are allotted, the way the command responds to rape and so much more.
I long for Ms. to stop being the kid sister of the Democratic Party and start being the voice of feminism.
Every year Martha and Shirley do the community book review, the most recent being "2012 In Books."  Meanwhile the whoring never ends as those who should stand up stay silent or go along.  There is no strength or honesty in our political 'leaders.'  Tune them out and listen to One Direction's "Kiss You" (written by Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk, Savan Kotecha, Shellback, Kristian Lundin, Albin Nedle and Kristoffer Fogelmark) which has more passion, strength and guts then anything you'll find in Congress and might actually help you through the day -- something our Congress no longer cares about doing.  If that seems harsh, I'm not expecting them to lead on Barack's other nominee today, John Brennan to be CIA Director.  Drone Warrior Brennan should be behind bars.  For more on Drone Warrior Brennan, read Howard LaFranchi's piece for the Christian Science Monitor.  This is from Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London):
A career spy who served as CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, Mr Brennan was also accused of being complicit in the agency's torture of terror suspects under former president George W. Bush.
Controversy over his involvement in the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" is believed to have prevented Mr Obama from nominating Mr Brennan to lead the CIA after his 2008 election win.
He promised to ensure the work of the CIA "always reflects the liberties, the freedoms, and the values that we all hold dear".
Remember, if you broke the law and/or showed shoddy judgment, you're a perfect Cabinet fit for Barack.  One outlet that didn't ignore left objections to both nominations was Free Speech Radio News today which featured a report by Alice Ollstein.  We'll note this on Brennan.
Alice Ollstein:  Yet many legal rights and human rights experts including the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International  are critical of Brennan's involvement in and support for the Bush era torture program, the NSA's wiretapping and ongoing drone strikes overseas.  Some of these concerns stymied Brennan's nomination for the same job in Obama's first term.  Brennan was the first Obama administration official to speak openly about the targeted drone killing program.  Yet he and that agency refused to disclose to Congress or the public who was on the so-called 'kill list' and why as well as the legal justification for signature strikes that target anyone in a certain area with certain characteristics. Because of this, Zeke Johnson with Amnesty International questioned Obama's praise of Brennan's transparency values.
Zeke Johnson:  So much is still shrouded in secrecy that the government -- sorry, the public still doesn't have enough information to even fully know what's happening in our names.
At the US State Dept today, Victoria Nuland briefed the press on the day's nonsense.  She avoided Iraq and the declawed tabbys that pass for the press allowed it.  It's strange that Icky Vicky, poster girl for the neocons and Dick Cheney's former Deputy National Security Advisor, finds time to falsely attack Iraqi protesters and accuse them of violence but when the Iraqi military attacks protesters, she has nothing to say.
Protests continued today in Iraq and they were injured in Mosul.  All Iraq News reports the Iraqi military attacked the protesters today.  First they fired shots in the air and second they attacked the protesters with batons.  The army then closed the public square.  Alsumaria counts at least four wounded demonstrators.   Al Sharqiya reports that soldiers using batons beat protesters.   They add that they protesters had been taking part in a sit-in when the miliatry attacked with batons and at least three people were injured (they have a photo of at least two people on stretchers).   Reuters quotes Nineveh Province Governor Atheel (Ethel) al-Nujaifi declaring, "Security forces opened fire and used batons to disperse demonstrators."  This assault was in contrast to the wishes of the Nineveh government (Mosul is in Nineveh Province).  As Alsumaria notes, the provincial government had ordered that the square be open to the protesters.  Alsumaria notes that Nineveh Council has announced they are opening an investigation as a result of the military crackdown on the protesters. 
Despite the military crackdown, Al Sharqiya reports that Nineveh Governor Atheel (Ethel) al-Nujaifiand Sheikh Abdullah al-Yawar declared the public square open in defiance of the military closure.  This was not the first time the provincial government had order the public square opened.   Saturday security forces attempted to prevent protesters from entering Liberal Square in Mosul, Alsumaria reported; however,  Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi (also spelled Ethyl) ordered that the square be opened and that protesters be allowed to demonstrate thereAll Iraq News added that al-Nujaifi and other Iraiqya deputies took part in a demonstration in Liberal Square last Sunday. 

Sunday, students demonstrated in Anbar Province, Al Mada reports, and planned for the Ramadi sit-in to cotninue today on the 92nd anniversary of the establishment of the Iraqi army.

December 20th, Nouri ordered the arrest of 150 workers (including bodyguards) of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.   Daniel R. DePetris (CNN) explains:
Late last month, apparently with no notice from Iraq's security ministries or the prime minister's office, Iraqi police scrambled into the Finance Ministry building and detained roughly 150 bodyguards who worked for Rafa al-Issawi, al-Maliki's chief minister for financial affairs.  Dozens of those guards were later released upon further questioning, but police kept nine and charged them with terrorist-related offenses.
Issawi is not only a member of a staunch anti-al-Maliki party, Iraqiya, led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, but also happens to be one of the government's top Sunni officials.  Predictably, Issawi reacted to the arrests with complete shock and some understandable anger, arguing that he was not even consulted about the sweep.
But Issawi was not the only one angry over the operation.  After news broke that the Shia-led government was once again targeting the staff of a top Sunni politician, tens of thousands of Iraqis from the country's Sunni heartland flocked to the streets in protest.  The protests were so large that the major highway connecting Baghdad to Jordan and Syria was blocked, sending a symbolic message to al-Maliki that his support among the Sunni community, particularly in Anbar Province, has hit new lows.
The next day, December 21st, the protests start --  from that day's snapshot:

After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki.  They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest.  Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin.  Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad.  Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.

Alsumaria notes that along with the arrests of al-Issawi's staff, the protests are fueled by the cry for the release of innocent detainees and prisoners and the treatment of women in prisons and detetion centers plus those who have tortured and raped women have not been punished.   All Iraq News notes Iraqiya MP Shaalan Karim called out the treatment of women in prisons and detention centers yesterday and that he decried the lack of accountability for the crimes and the refusal to punish security forces who have raped.
The weeks of protest have not resulted in good press for Nouri.  The National notes Shamlan Al Essa's Al Ittiahd column which includes, "Iraqi analysts say stability and harmony are highly unlikely in Iraq, and so is economic welfare. Some opine that the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, will not succeed in introducing reform, facing corruption and establishing the rule of law, amid an environment fraught with mistrust and bickering."  Abdullah Al Shayji (Gulf News) states, "Iraq has descended by the end of 2012 and early 2013 into a dysfunctional, sectarian, divided society with a real fear of civil war rearing its ugly head again. "   The editorial board of Gulf News weighs in with:

The current government has been unable to bring about much-needed stability in Iraq. In addition, it has failed dramatically in bringing all the various groups together, thereby creating a national unity platform that envisions a stable future for the country.
The voices of protests against the Al Maliki government have been steadily getting louder as was witnessed recently and many parties have come together to highlight their dismay at the manner in which the country's affairs are being run.

More negative assessments are easy to find.  The Middle East North Africa Financial Network notes:

Al-Maliki's main concern is only to stay in power, but he faces several obstacles, primarily that this is his second and last term as prime minister. Although he has sought to amend the constitution to allow himself a third term, he has not yet succeeded. Al-Maliki may not complete his current term and thus now seeks alternative measures such as the dissolution of Parliament before it votes against him, and holding early elections.
Recent protests may mark the beginning of the first battle. Al-Maliki, who failed to collect enough votes in the elections, was appointed through a coalition and was given votes by the Shiite and Sunni Kurd parties.
However, this coalition's alliance equation has changed. As such, now he is open to an alliance with his opponents, whether it is the Shiite Sadrists or Sunni Arabs that are grouping against him through demonstrations and statements that surfaced in the last few days following the pursuit of another Sunni leader, Finance Minister Rafa Al-Essawi. Al-Maliki removed almost all the Sunni leaders and got involved in a confrontation with the Kurds in northern Iraq for reasons that seem to be linked to Iran's desire to make way for Syria to save the beleaguered Assad regime.
Al-Maliki marginalized Shiite leaders such as Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, who had more right to the premiership, and sensible politicians such as Adel Abdul Mahdi. He is getting closer to Iran, and willing to do anything it demands to stay in power.

Dar Addustour notes that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is meeting with the heads of various blocks -- including the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, Iraqiya, the Yazidis -- to discuss calling Nouri before Parliament for questioning.  Among the topics supposedly being discussed are a vote to withdraw confidence in Nouri.  Sunday, Prashant Rao (AFP) reported on the continued call for early elections (parlimentary, not the provincial ones that are set for April).   Nouri's used that as a threat throughout 2012.  When Ayad Allawi called him on it last week, Nouri was caught off balance.  All Iraq News notes that State of Law is now saying that dissolving the government is something they will resort to only after exhuasting all other options.
Nouri's apparently not the only one with hesitation.  Wael Grace and Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) report that dissolving the Parliament will increase Nouri's power.  Al Sharquiya reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi is stating if Parliament were to be dissolved, this would destroy Iraq because it is the only body that represents the people.
Turning to the topic of violence, Iraq Body Count counts 70 people killed in Iraq since the start of the month.   Alsumaria reports that a Mosul bombing today left two members of the military injured.  All Iraq News adds that 1 Christian woman was discovered in her Mosul apartment stabbed to death and an armed attack in Mosul left 2 police officers dead and three more injured.
For the record, I'm not a 'progressive.'  I'm a liberal and I'm a feminist.
GetEQUAL issued the following Friday:
Media Contact: Heather Cronk,, (202) 505-5217

LGBT Civil Rights Organization Calls on President Obama to Abandon Hagel as Nominee for Secretary of Defense

WASHINGTON, DC — Below is a statement from GetEQUAL — a national civil rights organization working for the full federal equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans — about the possible nomination of Chuck Hagel to the position of Secretary of Defense. The statement should be attributed to Tanya Domi, chair of GetEQUAL's board and a former Army officer who served honorably for 15 years:
GetEQUAL strongly opposes the potential nomination of Chuck Hagel to become the next Secretary of Defense. Hagel has, time and time again, taken every opportunity to lambast and denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans, and the Cabinet is no place for this kind of disrespect.
Hagel's recent apology for his insulting comments about the nomination of James Hormel as U.S. Ambassador to Luxemborg was hollow, politically expedient, and nakedly gratuitous. The Defense Department has made important strides toward creating an inclusive Armed Forces, but has miles left to go — nominating Hagel to lead the Defense Department would be a staggering step backward for the LGBT community and an upheaval of President Obama's past support for the LGBT community.
During his years in Congress, Hagel consistently opposed the advancement of civil rights for LGBT Americans. A Hagel nomination would throw President Obama's support for LGBT civil rights into deep suspicion. Following yesterday's signing of an NDAA that includes a new "conscience clause" designed to permit discrimination in the military by chaplains, the LGBT community is looking for leadership at the Defense Department that will remove discriminatory practices from the Armed Forces -- not cement those practices.
GetEQUAL strongly recommends that President Obama nominate a new leader at the Pentagon who will fully and fairly implement the Military Readiness Enhancement Act and who will provide leadership to create anti-discrimination policies that will extend respect and dignity for LGBT service members and their families, extend benefits to same-sex partners of service members, and provide a pathway for transgender service members to finally serve their country openly and honestly.