Friday, February 08, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Friday, February 8, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, protesters call for an end to tyranny, bombings are condemned, War Criminal Colin Powell remains in focus, and more.

All week long we've been noting the 10th anniversary of War Criminal Colin Powell presenting lies to the United Nation (February 5, 2003) to justify the war on Iraq.  Simon Black (Sovereign Man) remembers he was stationed in Kuwait when Powell lied:

It all came crashing down ten years ago today. On February 5, 2003 Colin Powell, four-star general turned US Secretary of State, made a case to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Now, I won’t bother delving into the inaccuracies of the intelligence he presented. In Powell’s own words, making that presentation to the UN was “the lowest point in [his] life” and a “lasting blot on his record.”
For me, it was pivotal. At that instant, I knew without doubt that my government had reprehensibly lied through its teeth. And if they were lying about this… what else were they lying about?
Everything, it turned out.

Norman Solomon has been addressing Powell's lies all week (including this column).  He is a guest on FAIR's CounterSpin which began airing today.

Norman Solomon:  I would contend that Powell's speech at the UN was perhaps the most mendacious speech by a UN diplomat in the last several decades.  And its power was only manifested because, with very few exceptions, the corporate US mass media fell all over themselves to praise it as a brilliant tour de force

Janine Jackson:  Well a couple of days ago, you debated the man who prepared that UN speech, Colin Powell's former aid Lawrence Wilkerson, on Democracy Now! and it was fascinating.  Even now --  Wilkerson has, I know, renounced or walked back his feelings on that speech -- but even now, he still insists, you know, that it's terribly lamentable but we were all wrong.  And when you said, 'No, everyone wasn't wrong. You know, the Institute for Public Accuracy, Scott Ritter, other folks including FAIR weren't wrong," Wilkerson's argument in his defense was to say, "When I said 'we,' I meant those in government -- not people like him" -- meaning you -- "or Scott Ritter or anybody else who were protesting that Iraq didn't have WMD at the time."  That sounds to me like he's saying only people in government have standing to think about policy or be heard on policy. 

Norman Solomon: The reality was that not only did the Bush administration and many of their go-to-war allies among Democrats in Congress ignore the information and critique from Scott Ritter and Hans von Sponeck and other UN weapons inspectors as well as many independent progressive media outlets and protesters in the United States.  And they trashed us to be honest and cast all sorts of aspersions and said that we were ignorant and disloyal and all the rest of it.  So when, ten years later, we have the Chief of Staff for Colin Powell during the lead up to the war and when it was going on now telling me on live national television on Democracy Now! that I had failed to call him and inform him that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq?  I mean, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It's just I felt that I had been pulled down Alice In Wonderland's rabbit hole.

Janine Jackson:  Yes, exactly.  He wouldn't have listened to you and yet somehow you were meant to alert him to the realities of the -- of the holes in that evidence.  It was a kind of bizarre line of argument.  And it seems as though there's really no sanction.  Not only has being right about Iraq's lack of WMDs not encouraged journalists to grant legitimacy  to those groups that were right -- they've stayed on the margins --  there really also seems to be no sanction in journalism for being so wrong about something that was so devastating and so horrific.  And we see that because the same way of approaching official claims seems to be in place, intact.

International Law and Human Rights expert, professor Francis A. Boyle addressed Powell's lies on this week's Global Research News Hour (link is audio).

Francis A. Boyle:  These were all lies.  Everyone knew it at the time.  Powell knew it.  Right now, Powell is just shedding some imperial crocodile tears over his report.  Powell aided and abetted a Nuremberg crime against against peace, against Iraq, for which we unanimously convicted [former Supreme Court appointee to the US Oval Office Bully Boy] Bush and [former UK Prime Minister Tony] Blair at the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal.  The two of them are international criminals -- Bush, Blair and I would say Powell too for aiding and abetting.  And they should be apprehended and prosecuted by any state that gets a hold of the three of them.

Michael Welch:  Yes.  And it's interesting because the major media, they held at the time, Mr. Powell -- and I suppose continue to hold these individuals in high reverence and seem to be just allowing that meme of "well it was just a mistake" to continue.  So is there --

Francis A. Boyle:  Well this is a joke too.  This is a joke too in that it's well known that when he was a Major in Vietnam in the army, Powell helped cover up the My Lai Massacre.  So there's nothing, I mean this guy was a bootlicker from the beginning -- which is  how he got his position.  I think he wanted to work for Al Hague and then bootlicked his way up the bureaucracy  there.  So he's been a sycophant and a boot licker and now a War Criminal. 

Iraq has been slammed today with multiple car bombings resulting in what Sinan Salaheddin (AP) calls "the bloodiest day in more than two months" while Duraid Adnan (New York Times) emphasizes that Iraq has "witnessed bombings now on seven consecutive Fridays."   CBS and AP count at least 30 dead.  BBC News notes over 80 injured, two bombings in Baghdad and two in Hilla.  Press TV explains of the Baghdad assualt, "Iraqi security and medical sources reported that bombings targeted a crowded bird market in the Kadhimiyah neighborhood of the capital, Baghdad, just after 9:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) on Friday."  In another filing, Press TV notes, "Security sources say the first bomb exploded at the main entrance to the market, and as panicked crowds tried to flee the area, the second device went off. " On the Baghdad assault, AFP reports, "Glass and shrapnel was scattered across the scene, an AFP journalist said, while pools of blood had formed on the ground and a chain-link fence was badly mangled. Several nearby cars were completely destroyed, and while passers-by scanned the wreckage, security forces tried to bar journalists from interviewing people in the area or taking pictures or videos."  Before they were stopped from filming, AFP's Ali al-Saadi and Khalil al-Murshidi filmed this video of the aftermath.   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "That type of market tends to be very busy on Fridays, part of the weekend in Iraq, and have been targeted in the past by attackers."  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) notes, "An official with the local police station told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the area is a Shiite Muslim community and has seen many attacks launched by the Sunni insurgents."

Turning to the Hilla assault,  RTE notes, "A further 13 people were killed in two car bomb explosions at a vegetable market in the Shia city of Hilla, 100km south of Baghdad."  Kareem Raheem, Ali al-Rubaie, Suadad al-Salhy, Isabel Coles and Jon Hemming (Reuters) quote eye witness Habib al-Murshidi stating, "I was shopping when I heard the first explosion.  I was scared and tried to reach my car to run away but before I got in the second explosion went off.  I saw many people, women and old men lying on the ground which was covered with blood and scattered fruit and vegetables."  All Iraq News reports of the two car bombs that one car was paked in a garage and the other near the market

Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI's Jane Arraf Tweets on another bombing:

  1. Blast near Karbala near Dawa headquarters, PM Maliki's party, kills 2, police say. At least 31 dead in three Friday attacks.

Another car bomb - near Karbala. At least 2 dead, 6 wounded in latest bombing of Shias. Demos in Sunni areas rail against PM Maliki.

Of the Karbala bombing, Alsumaria notes it took place at noon local time and also damaged cars and buildings.

Foreign Office Minister : 'Deeply saddened' to learn of today’s terrorist attacks in

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following:
Baghdad, 8 February 2013Following the series of bombings that today hit popular and crowded places in Baghdad’s Khadimiya neighbourhood and in Shomali in Babel province, killing and injuring dozens of innocent victims, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Martin Kobler said that “perpetrators of these heinous and horrible acts are ruthless criminals whose sole goal is to push the country back to sectarian violence”.
  The SRSG appealed to the Iraqi leaders to unite and work together in order to stop once and for all the language of violence from spreading. “It is their duty and responsibility to sit together to see what can be put in place to stop this heinous, horrible violence,” he added. “It is the duty of the Iraqi leaders to find a solution to the current political stalemate in the country.”

Ken Hanly (Digital Journal) quotes Omar al-Faruq stating, "I have been here for 45 days waiting for my dream to become a reality.  I dream that Maliki will be tried, the same way as Saddam."  He was protesting in Ramadi and he is only one of the many protesters taking to the streets of late.   Iraqi Spring shares photos of the Ramadi protest.

  1. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار
  2. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار
  3. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار

 Alsumaria notes that Anbar Province demonstrators have condemned the bombing and are calling for the government to implement their demands or resign.  Al-Shorfa adds that the spokesperson for the Mosul protesters, Ghanem al-Abd, also condemned the attacks.  World Bulletin explains,  "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is facing mass protests by disenchanted Sunni Muslims and is at loggerheads with ethnic Kurds who run their northern region autonomously from Baghdad."  For the seventh week, protests continue in Iraq with today being dubbed "NO to the Tyrannical Ruler."  Morning Star quotes Samarra's Sheik Mohammed Jumaa declaring, "Stop tyranny and oppression.  We want our rights.  You will witness what other tyrants have witnessed before you."    Kitabat reports protests today in Anbar, Mosul, Salahuddin, Kirkuk, Diyala and Baghdad and that protesters are calling Nouri the Pharaoh of Iraq (it's not a compliment) and noting that his State of Law didn't win the 2010 parliamentary elections but he used the Erbil Agreement to grab the post of prime minister then disregarded the partnership agreement.  Najaf demonstrators called this morning for Article IV of the Constitution to be gutted ('terrorists' arrests -- if you can't find your suspect, arrest a relative).  Alsumaria notes "hundreds" demonstrating in Kirkuk and demanding that Nouri's government resign if they are unable to meet the demands of the protesters.  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) notes protesters in Falluja and Ramadi again "blocked the main highway to Jordan."   On the Ramadi protests, Omar al-Shaher (Al-Monitor) reports:

Amid the clamor caused by the ongoing protests in Anbar province in western Iraq, which are nearing their 50th day, demonstrators have pitched huge tents and blocked traffic on the highway linking Iraq to Jordan and Syria. The protest organizers said that the main square was attracting a million people each Friday, including many participants from thousands of miles away, who require food and a place to sleep.
On one such Friday, 200 sheep were slaughtered to provide demonstrators with food. On another Friday, ​​the city of Hit, located 50 miles west of Ramadi, served demonstrators 2,000 dishes of meat and rice for lunch. The demonstration’s organizers said that Friday lunch meals can cost upwards of $60,000.
Qusay Zain, a spokesman for the protest, said that tribal leaders in Ramadi compete to serve lunch to protesters, despite the exorbitant costs. "This time, many tribal leaders in Anbar have taken honorable stances,” he said.

Liz Sly (Washington Post) observes, "With their huge turnouts, these largely peaceful demonstrations have the potential to present a far bigger challenge to Maliki’s hold on power than the violent and still stubbornly persistent insurgency, which continues to claim scores of lives every month without any discernible impact on the political process."   Neoconservatives Kimberly and Frederick W. Kagan have written an opinion piece on the protests for the Washington Post:

Eighteen days of protests in Egypt in 2011 electrified the world. But more than twice that many days of protest in Iraq have gone almost unnoticed in the United States. Iraqi army troops killed five Sunni protesters in Fallujah on Jan. 25, after a month of anti-government protests in Anbar, Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces and elsewhere for which thousands turned out. Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are re-mobilizing. Iraq teeters on the brink of renewed insurgency and, potentially, civil war.
This crisis matters for America. U.S. vital interests that have been undermined over the past year include preventing Iraq from becoming a haven for al-Qaeda and destabilizing the region by becoming a security vacuum or a dictatorship that inflames sectarian civil war; containing Iranian influence in the region; and ensuring the free flow of oil to the global market.
While tensions have risen over the past two years, the triggers for recent eruptions are clear. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, had the bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, who is Sunni, arrested for alleged terrorist activities on Dec. 20 — almost exactly one year after he ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi’ssecurity detail. Hashimi fled to Turkey and is unlikely to return soon to Iraq, where he was sentenced to death after Maliki demanded his trial in absentia for murder and financing terrorism.
The threat to Issawi, a moderate technocrat from Anbar, galvanized Iraqi Sunnis, who rightly saw Maliki’s move as sectarian and an assault on government participation by Sunnis not under the prime minister’s thumb. Three days after the arrests, demonstrations broke out in Ramadi, Fallujah and Samarra. Three days after that, a large protest closed the highwayfrom Baghdad to Syria and Jordan. The popular resistance spread to Mosul on Dec. 27.

Meanwhile Iraqi President Jalal Talabani remains out of the country.  Late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot), Jalal Talabani had a stroke and was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently. [Saad Abedine (CNN) reported talk that it was a stroke the day the news broke (December 18th) and January 9th, the Office of President Talabani confirmed it had been a stroke.]  The January 30th snapshot noted that Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani visited Talabani in the Germany -- Barzani was enroute to Davos -- with Barzani stating that Jalal's health was improving.  Talabani's website explains the the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, conveyed congratulations on Tuesday, noting Jalal's progress and that his health had stabilized.

Turning to the United States, yesterday saw John Brennnen appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee in his pursuit of the post to be Director of the CIA.  It was covered in "Iraq snapshot," "Thoughts on today's Senate Intell hearing (C.I.),"  Ava's  "The disgraceful Dianne Feinstein (Ava)," Wally's "Brennan likes torture (Wally)" AND Kat's "Brennan tries to weasel."  On that hearing, Jon Schwarz Tweets:

As you listen to the Brennan hearing, remember 6 years ago Jay Rockefeller explained senators have no power vs the CIA:

 In addition, Ruth reported on a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in "If Leon Panetta told the truth . . .."  And, still on the Senate, Senator Patty Murray's office notes the following on veterans' spouses:

Friday, February 8th, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office

Murray Discusses Challenges for Military Spouses at Symposium in Tacoma
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) discussed employment challenges and opportunities for military spouses at the 2013 Military Officers Association of America's Military Spouse Symposium in Tacoma.  The event, titled "Keeping a Career on the Move," brought service members, veterans, and military spouses together with local business experts and employers.  Senator Murray's remarks focused on the challenges that military spouses face to support their loved ones and her personal experiences from growing up in a military family.  As the former Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Senator Murray is a leader in Washington on issues to service members, veterans and their families. 
The full text of Senator Murray's speech follows:
Thank you Admiral Ryan for that kind introduction.
“I’m so pleased to be here today as part of this important event, and I have to say that it is so great to see that so many of you came out today to access the resources, advice, and experts that MOAA has made available to help you all in what I know can be trying times.
“So of course I want to thank MOAA and all the people who have volunteered their time and energy to make this event possible.
“But first and foremost, I want to thank all of you.
“Now, often times when I thank the spouses of service members I get the same modest answers back.
“I hear – “oh don’t thank me, thank my husband or thank my wife” - or I hear “it’s not that big of a deal.”
“But the truth is - it is a big deal.
“So I do want to start by thanking all of you for the unprecedented sacrifices that you – and all military spouses – have made over the last decade.
“Thank you for picking up and moving your family – time and time again – in every corner of the country in order to be with your loved one.
“Thank you for braving the uncertainty that every new day brings when a spouse is in harm’s way.
“Thank you for not only being Mom or Dad - but for sometimes being either, or both, when the situation calls for it.
“Thank you for juggling schedules, and practices, and homework when there is so little time in the day, and for making ends meet when money is tight.
“And finally thank you for being courageous enough, and self-assured enough to ask for help when you need it.
“For coming to an event like this to figure out how the country that your family is sacrificing for can help provide you with the skills and training to find work or to get into school.
“I know it’s not easy.
“But I also know from my own life that reaching out can really pay off in the long run.
“As some of you may know, I grew up in a military family.
“My father fought in World War II, was one of the first on the beaches of Okinawa, received a Purple Heart, and came home from war to start a big family in Bothell.
“Growing up, I was not only a twin, but I was one of seven children…..
“So as you can imagine, personal space among us kids was a concept we didn’t quite grasp.
“But we were a close family - not only because we slept and ate elbow-to-elbow - but also because we were a loving family that had food on the table and lived a relatively secure life.
“But when I was 15, things for my family changed.
“My father, who had up until that point run a five and dime store on Main Street in Bothell, fell ill, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and within a few short years he could no longer work.
“Suddenly everything fell to my mother.
“My mother who now found herself with 7 children, a husband whose medical bills were mounting, and very few of the skills she needed to go out and find a job that would actually pay her well enough to support our family.
“For a little while we relied on food stamps.
“For even longer my siblings and I thought there was no way we would be able to leave our family and go off to college.
“But my mother was brave enough to reach out for help – and thankfully the country her husband had sacrificed for was there to answer her calls.
“Through a program established by the federal government my mom was able to enroll in courses at Lake Washington Vocational School where she got a two year degree in accounting that helped her find work that would support our family.
“It allowed us get back on our feet.
“It got us through a very difficult time.
“And because that support was there for my mom and for our family, today those seven kids have grown up to be a school teacher, a lawyer, a homemaker, a computer programmer, a sports writer, a firefighter, and a US Senator.
“So these days, whenever I talk to military spouses - who not only faces similar difficulties, but who also must constantly worry about the safety of their loved one.
“It forces me to ask – are we as a nation there for today’s families the way we were there for mine?
“What are we doing to keep today’s military spouses and their children above water?
“The answer is that we are doing some, but not nearly enough.
“I’m happy that in recent years we have expanded many of our employment efforts so that they don’t just focus on veterans and active-duty military members, but also on military spouses.
“In some instances this has worked well.
“We have seen many spouses take advantage of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, an Army program that works with Fortune 500 companies that pledge to hire our military spouses.
“And now that we have expanded it to the spouses of servicemembers in the Air Force, Navy, and Marines - it is having an even greater impact.
“We have also seen spouses utilize the Military Spouse Career Center which has centralized many important resources online.
“But for other programs, like the Transition Assistance Program that I helped expand, we still have to get the word out that military spouses can also take advantage of the training program.
“And for other federal programs like MyCAA we have been able to attract many military spouses, only to see the government cut back benefits because of limited resources.
“So the truth is that our response to the hardships and the unique situation that you all find yourselves in has been uneven at best.
“And there are still many things that can be done.
“For one, I believe that we need to do a better job of reaching out to corporate America on the benefits of hiring military spouses.
“We talk a lot about, and I authored legislation on, how to help employers understand the skills your spouses gained through their military service.
“But we also have to do more to help them understand what you bring to the table.
“Like your spouses, you are all used to the sacrifices and compromises that come with being a team player, you understand hard work and the day-to-day discipline it takes to succeed both at home and on the job, and importantly, you are resilient and resourceful in ways that I’m sure few other job candidates are.
“These are qualities we have to get across to companies large and small.
“Second, we need to do more to provide opportunities and support for the children of military families.
“One area that I have been working on is in helping military families with children who have disabilities.
“Believe it or not, today many of the behavioral therapies for children with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities are not covered by TRICARE. I’m fighting to change that.
“I’m also working to ensure that school districts like the ones here in the Tacoma area that are at a disadvantage because they are on or near federal land – and don’t have the tax base that other schools have – get the support they need.
“Over the years, I have worked to get millions for the Clover Park school district here which has faced these challenges and has been affected by steep declines in enrollment due to parents moving and long-deployments.
“These school districts are in every part of the country – and they need federal support.
“And finally, we need to offer more opportunities like this one today.
“Opportunities for you to join with your peers to swap stories about everything from help wanted ads to help finding a babysitter.
“And to meet with experts on how you can translate your diverse and sometimes even disorganized work history into a resume that will get noticed.
“To learn more about interview techniques and tips.
“To hear about workforce training programs and the skills needed to find a job in the in-demand careers in your communities.
“And to come together the way only our nation’s military community can to ensure that everyone has someone to lean on.
“I applaud you all again for your determination to keep your families and your careers going in what are often difficult days.
“And I promise all of you that I will continue to fight for federal programs that help military spouses, that create opportunities for you to succeed, and that ensure that we as a nation are there for you and your family, just like it was there for my own family.
“Thank you for having me today.”

Sean Coit
Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray