Saturday, April 06, 2013

Another Iraqiya candidate targeted for assassination

A major bombing targeted a political candidate today.  Why is it that western outlets can't tell you the political identification?

Raheem Salman, Isabel Coles and Alistair Lyon (Reuters) can write a ton about the Baquba suicide bombing targeting Muthanna al-Jorani's campaign event.  They just can't tell you al-Jorani's political identification.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) can tell you all about the open-air tent the event took place in and even throw the unreleated Syria into the mix but can't tell you the party identification of the candidate targeted.  BBC can add that it was a suicide bombing and a grenade attack, they can even get closer to the number of candidates murdered this campaign cycle (it's 12; BBC claims 11 and Reuters claims ten) but they can't tell you the party i.d. of the candidate targeted.

Is it really that difficult?

Not for Xinhua which reports, "The attack occurred around noon when a suicide bomber blew up his explosive vest at a rally of the election campaign of Muthanna al-Jourani, a candidate for the secular bloc of Iraqia, in Baquba, some 65 km northeast of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, the source said on condition of anonymity."  It's not hard for Press TV either: "He is running in provincial polls on the ticket of Iraqiya political bloc."

Dropping back to the April 4th snapshot:

The security situation isn't good for candidates -- not ones who are rivals of Nouri al-Maliki.  With elections scheduled for April 20th (provincial elections in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces),  Iraqiya is yet again targeted with death.  This happened in the March 2010 elections as well where Iraqiya candidates were repeatedly killed in the lead up to the election.  At least 12 candidates have been killed this campaign season, many from Iraqiya.  All Iraq News quotes Iraqiya MP Talal al-Zubayi stating, "The organized attacks for the candidates of the IS [Iraqiya Slate] are a part of the attempts of targeting [Iraqiya head Ayad] Allawi due to his Arabic, regional and international position."   Al Mada reports on the assassination of attorney Salah al-Obeidi who was a member of Iraqiya seeking election this month.  The 37-year-old male was one of 12 Sunni candidates killed this election cycle and 7 of the 12 were from Iraqiya.  Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 elections.  NINA notes that Moqtada al-Sadr today called for all Iraqis to participate in the elections while noting reasons for them to be less than eager after elections that appeared to produce little results.  He is quoted stating, "The reluctance in elections and no vote would be an injustice for Iraq and Iraqis, because it would be a prelude for muggers and secularists to take power in the councils and parliament."

12 candidates killed, all of them Sunni, 7 of them members of Iraqiya.  Today another member of Iraqiya was targeted but watch as the outlets rush to ignore that fact, watch as they undercut the number of candidates killed.

Iraqiya is a political slate.  It's made up of many components including Allawi's National Accord, Tareq al-Hashemi's Renewal List, the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, etc.  There is dispute in the press over whether al-Jorani belongs to one of the small components.   Former Speaker of Parliament Mahmoud Dawud al-Mashhadani has spoken on the matter.  All Iraq News reports al-Mashhadani states al-Jorani belongs to his party.  That might end the matter if al-Mashhadani had any credibility.  Rightly or wrongly, in April 2010, al-Mashhadani's image took a hit it's never recovered from with the rank and file.  That's when Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told the press that al-Mashhadani approached him to join Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law.  In exchange for bringing his bloc to State of Law, Nouri would make Saleh President of Iraq.

Whether the always dubious and questionable al-Mutlaq was telling the truth or not, this was seen as a major stab in the back to Sunnis on the part of al-Mashhadani.  Regardless of what took place between al-Mutlaq and al-Mashhadani, al-Mashhadani remains a part of Iraqiya and, when it appeared Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi would be stripped of his post (he wasn't), al-Mashhadani was Iraqiya's choice for a replacement.

All Iraq News reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for "an immediate investigation over the bombing that targeted an electoral gathering for the Iraqiya Slate's candidates in Baquba."

Watch the endless distraction that passes for information.

RT notes that 25 people are dead from the attack and another sixty are injured.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, MP Raad al-Saadi was targeted with assassination.  All Iraq News reports the Sadr bloc MP survived unknown assailants opening fire upon his motorcade but 3 of his bodyguards were killed and two more were "severly injured."   Strange isn't it, how it's always Nouri's political rivals who are targeted for assassination.  It would almost seem to suggest that State of Law is behind the assassination attempts.  Alsumaria adds that al-Saadi waas treated by medical staff for wounds.  They do not note whether the wounds were mild or severe.

Of course that's not all of the violence today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 Christian was shot dead in Mosul, a Falluja bombing left a police officer injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baquba, 1 Ministry of Commerce official was shot dead in Baquba, an armed clash in Mosul left two Iraqi soldiers injured, and 1 civilian was shot dead in MosulAll Iraq News adds a Tikrit bombing left two people injured, and a Shurqat bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi police officer and left two brothers injured. Alsumaria notes a doctor was shot dead in front of his Mosul home.

NINA notes that Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, gave a speech today where he said the way out of Iraq's current internal conflicts is for The Erbil Agreement to be implemented.  That's the contract the US-brokered that gave Nouri a second term as prime minister (as the White House wanted).  To get the leaders of the political blocs to sign off, the contract had to include promises from Nouri.  Nouri has refused to honor his promises and broke the contract -- this despite the US government swearing in November 2010 that they would stand by the contract and ensure it was enforced.  They never did and, as we noted in yesterday's snapshot, sicko, neocon and Barack's buddy Brett McGurk declared yesterday that the answer for Iraq was a 'majority government' not a power-sharing one.  The Erbil Agreement guarantees a power-sharing government.  So the Barack Obama lied to Iraqis again.  He can't be trusted anymore than Nouri al-Maliki.  Neither keeps their word.

Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Moqtada's bloc, the Kurdistan Alliance and Iraqiya are objecting to Nouri's claim that he will form a majority government.  Sadr's MPs consider this the creation of a "new [political] crisis" on top of the already existing ones.  The Kurds call it unrealistic and Iraqiya promises to oppose any such move.  Others are noting that Nouri still hasn't been able to create a Cabinet.   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." If Nouri's second term had been won and not crafted, he would be governed by the Constitution.  But he failed to win and the White House went around the Constitution and created The Erbil Agreement to give him a second term.  Had the Constitution applied, even if he'd won a second term in the elections, he still would have been stripped of the title because the Constitution only gives you 30 days to put together a full Cabinet.

For over 100 days now, approximately 10% of Iraqis have taken to the streets to protest Nouri.  Nouri's forces have attacked them, followed them, harassed them and, in Falluja and Mosul, openly killed them.  And the reaction from the White House has been silence because Barack must love it when innocents bleed to death.  A new twist showed up last week.  From Tuesday's snapshot: "National Iraqi News adds that FBS Lieutenant Walid al-Khshmani was arrested yesterday for participating in a sit-in in Tikrit."  All Iraq News reports today, "A security force arrested five security officers for participating and supporting demonstrations in Samarra."  And still the White House is silent because freedom doesn't mean a damn thing to Barack Obama.  He will support the tyrant Nouri as long as he can.

 In other news, look:

Iraq - Growing tribulations of Iraqi journalists
17 hours ago 

As noted in Tuesday's snapshot, Monday evening saw  Dar Addustour, Al-Parliament, Al-Mustaqbal and Al-Nas  attacked in Baghdad, their employees threatened (five people stabbed, more left with bruises and fractures), offices destroyed and cars set on fire (a fifth Baghdad newspaper, Al Mada, was threatened but not attacked).  Al Mada notes that the National Union of Iraq Journalists have condemned the attacks.  All Iraq News adds that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi denounced the attacks, "Nujaifi assured that targeting the journalists is a dangerous issue and against the dialogue and democracy in Iraq.  He stressed that the repetition of such attacks is a justification for the ignorant of the performance of the press in Iraq."

So on Saturday, Reporters Without Borders -- just informed of the attack by The Pony Express -- finds the words to call out the Monday attack:

Reporters Without Borders condemns the attacks that around 50 men armed with clubs and knives carried out on four Baghdad-based newspapers – Al-Nass, Al-Barlaman, Al-Dustour and Al-Mustaqbal Al-Iraqi ­– on 1 April. The assailants smashed computer equipment and furniture and assaulted employees. Six journalists were hospitalized. It is still not known for sure who was behind the attacks.
Various theories have been proposed. Al-Dustour editor Bassam Al-Sheikh said he thought the attackers were members of a radical Shiite militia led by Mahmoud Al-Hassani Al-Sarkhi, who had been criticized in all four newspapers in connection with his suspected ambition of controlling the Shiite holy city of Karbala. Al-Mustaqbal Al-Iraqi editor Ali Al-Darraji told Reporters Without Borders he thought the attacks were carried out with the aim of intimidating and “gagging independent voices.”
They are the latest and most serious in a string of cases of harassment and violence against journalists. While the interior ministry condemned this week’s attacks, Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the lack of concrete measures by the authorities to protect media personnel. “We deplore the increase in abuses targeting journalists and the fact that the Iraqi security forces are often involved in cases of reporters being harassed and prevented from doing their work,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Next week, Reporters Without Borders finds the strength to condemn the shooting death (by LA sheriff's dept) of Ruben Salazar, a journalist  killed August 29, 1970 while covering  the National Chicano Moratorium March.

Of course, in fairness to Reporters Without Borders, we should note that the so-called Committee to Protect Journalists has still not said one word about the Monday attack on four newspapers -- though they do have time to screeen in pain for the plight of the on television comedian.  They have their priorities -- they just aren't journalistic priorities.

Alsumaria reports that Ministry of the Interior senior agent Adnan al-Asadi declared today that they have photographs of the persons who attacked the four newspapers.  In the news conference, al-Asadi declared that the attacks were an attack on a free and independent press and that at least 50 assailants took part in those attacks.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan who interviews Nora Barrows-Friedman tomorrow, Ms. magazine's blog and the Pacifica Evening News -- updated last night and today:

Lastly, Jonathan Owen (Indepenent) reports:

Hitherto unseen evidence given to the Chilcot Inquiry by British intelligence has revealed that former prime minister Tony Blair was told that Iraq had, at most, only a trivial amount of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that Libya was in this respect a far greater threat.
Intelligence officers have disclosed that just the day before Mr Blair went to visit president George Bush in April 2002, he appeared to accept this but returned a "changed man" and subsequently ordered the production of dossiers to "find the intelligence" that he wanted to use to justify going to war.
This and other secret evidence (given in camera) to the inquiry will, The Independent on Sunday understands, be used as the basis for severe criticism of the former prime minister when the Chilcot report is published.

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qassim abdul-zahra 


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The No Drones Explosion by Joan Wile

As noted in Thursday's snapshot, Wednesday "in NYC, Joan Wile, the author of Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace and one of the Raging Grannies, joined others to protest The Drone War: "  Joan Wile reports on the protest and the need to stand up against The Drone War.  (This is Joan Wile's report, all rights belong to her.)

THE NO DRONES EXPLOSIONby Joan Wile, author,
Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up For Peace (Citadel Press)
Rockefeller Center No-Drone rally April 3, 2013

I got an idea a few weeks ago --once in a while I would read about these things called drones.  From what I could gather from the sparsity of information about them, they seemed to me to be immoral and vicious.  Not only did it appear that they were very dangerous for people all over the world but it occurred to me that eventually they would prove to be very dangerous to us in the U.S, too.  After all, many countries have the technology already, and some of them might launch them on us.  Although I had quit anti-war activism in late 2012, to which I had devoted myself for nine years since 2003, I decided to come out of retirement and have a rally opposing these indiscriminately-deployed nasty weapons.  I settled on Wednesday, April 3.  It was the kick-off event to what is billed as April Days of Action, which is planning anti-drone events all over the U.S. throughout April.
My timing turned out to be good, although I had no awareness at the time that there was a fast-building anti-drone sensibility developing among the public.  But, as I began to reach out to people I knew in the anti-war movement, it became apparent that lots of other people were outraged about these killer machines, too.  There was suddenly a lot of discussion in the media and demonstrations started to be scheduled all over the country.
I didn't know much about drones at all, but I was referred to some excellent sources of information, among them KnowDrones  (, an online publication full of drone data, and the Granny Peace Brigade, which has a lot of information on their website (
I became more and more horror-struck as I learned that many innocent people died from our Predator drones when so-called targeted killings turned out to be not so well-targeted -- it is estimated that over 3,000 non-combatant civilians have been killed by our killer drones, and many more injured.  These are not exact figures, of course, as drones are exploded in very remote places in such countries as Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan where there are no forensic experts to determine how many bodies were disintegrated in a hit.
This is totally unacceptable, but I learned of other negatives of our drone policy.  Although some small drones are used for surveillance, which can be useful in natural disasters, there are more and more plans afoot to use them to spy on us, turning us into more of a police state than we've already become.
Beyond these dreadful evils, though, is the sheer immorality of the drones.  Our Constitution stipulates that nobody can be declared guilty unless it is proven so in a court of law.  And yet, here we are, the supposed beacon of democracy, acting as accuser, judge, jury and executioner without a trial regarding people we are not officially at war with.
Our rally, in Rockefeller Center, was quite a success.  We billed it as a "granny" event, inasmuch as several peace granny groups were there.  However, many non-grannies were there, also -- members of the War Resisters League, World Can't Wait, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, various Peace Action groups, and others.  In all, there were probably at least 60 persons assembled on Fifth Avenue in front of Rockefeller Plaza.
Our wonderful speakers were Col. Ann Wright, who famously retired from the Diplomatic Corps the minute we attacked Iraq and has spent the intervening years traveling all over the world urging peace; Nick Mottern, journalist and Editor of KnowDrones; Bill Gilson, President of Veterans for Peace local Chapter 34. and Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait. 

A highlight was when the Granny Peace Brigade, in unison, talked of their Resolution (in progress) which they plan to present to the New York City Council urging that the City be a drone-free zone.  Another highlight was when the Raging Grannies sang some of their original anti-drone songs.
Grandmothers Against the War protest in New York on April 3.
                               Granny Peace Brigade reciting at Rockefeller Plaza anti-drone rally April 3, 2014
Although we didn't have any mainstream media, we had a lot of world-wide coverage from what you might call Main Street Media -- Radio Free Europe, Reuters, Russian RT, and lots more.  The story traveled all over the globe, and we are pleased that it was especially prevalent in the Middle East.
Says Nick Mottern, "These protests will not go away.  We will have a continual campaign from now on until our government confronts this issue and drastically alters its drone policy."

I Hate The War

In yesterday's snapshot, we noted Nouri al-Maliki was calling for early parliamentary elections.  I'm sorry but where is the New York Times report on that?  Where is CNN's coverage?  Prashant Rao (AFP) hasn't even Tweeted about it.

Maybe they'll be all over this story after this goes up?  Or maybe tomorrow?

Alsumaria reports today that Nouri's announced he wants parliamentary elections in three to four months.

Probably not.

Look at the targeting of Iraq's Emo youth.  We covered that for over two weeks here as the mainstream media ignored it.  I begged, badgered and bribed for coverage of that topic (going so far to turn over the Aspen place to one publisher and his boy toy for a full year ).  That's not how it's supposed to work.  I'm not supposed to be calling friends and aquaintences in the media, the press, and pitching them stories out of Iraq.

Friday, Nouri gave a speech in which he made the call for early parliamentary elections.  Where's the coverage?

Parliamentary elections are supposed to take place in March of 2014.  This month, April 20th, provincial elections are supposed to take place.  In only 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces, but they're supposed to take place.  Nouri's insisting that Anbar and Nineveh Province can't hold provincial elections April 20th because of violence (and ever shifting reasons).  He states they're going to have wait six months for elections.

So what does that mean for early parliamentary elections?

If Nouri gets his way, what does that mean for Nineveh and Anbar?

Around July, Iraq holds parliamentary elections -- or some provinces do.  If Anbar and Nineveh can't hold provincial elections until October, per Nouri's decree, then they can't participate in parliamentary elections, can they?

In the March 2010 elections, Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya.  Anbar and Nineveh are strong holds for Iraqiya.

Think that doesn't matter?

Think Nouri hasn't factored it in?

Yesterday, he returned to publicly claiming that the 2010 elections involved cheating.

No, he wasn't fessing up to the fact that he didn't earn a second term.  But he didn't.  Barack Obama saved his ass after the voters rejected him.  The US-brokered Erbil Agreement went around the Iraqi voters, the ballots, democracy and the country's constitution to award second place Nouri a second term as prime minister.

The whole thing is a joke at this point.

And I don't just mean 'elections' in Iraq.  I mean the hideous coverage -- or what passes for coverage -- from non-Iraqi outlets.

Protests have gone on for over one hundred days but most Americans have no idea because there is no American coverage.  Nothing inidcating 100 days-plus of protestes. 

There's no coverage of anything.

An e-mail to the public account asked what my biggest disappointment about the press and Iraq was?  The e-mailer went on to list several New York Times articles published before the start of the Iraq War.  That is so in the distant past.  I'm all for holding accountable, but I would love just a little bit of awareness that the press continues to ignore what is going on in Iraq.  Spare me the nostalgia trips or the false belief that the press got better.

I don't see it.  But them I'm now going to have to spend at least an hour on the phone calling social contacts in the media to beg for some coverage, to beg that they assign someone to this story or that they ask their token reporter in Baghdad to cover it or . . .

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] 4488.

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Friday, April 05, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Friday, April 5, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Brett McGurk returns to Iraq (pray for Iraqi women), the US stabs the Kurds, Iraqiya and others in the back, The Erbil Agreement is now officially shredded by McGurk, Nouri issues an arrest warrant for Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, protests continue, and more.

Never think Thug Nouri al-Maliki possesses any sanity. 
  World Bulletin News reports that a Baghdad court has "issued arrest warrants and inquiry against outgoing Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi on charges of 'involvement in issues of financial and administrative corruption'."  This is not something minor.  Protests have gone in Iraq for over 100 days.  They kicked off December 21st.  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.

So what happened yesterday?  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports:

Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.  Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.

Kitabat explains that these raids took place in the Green Zone, were carried out by the Iraqi military and that Nouri, yesterday evening, was insisting he knew nothing about them.    In another report, Tawfeeq quotes al-Essawi stating, "My message to the prime minister: You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people." BBC News adds, "Rafie al-Issawi, a prominent member of the al-Iraqiyya political bloc, said about 150 of his bodyguards and staff members had been arrested on Thursday."

That was day one of the protests.  The targeting of Rafie al-Issawi was the final straw.

The arrest has echoes and implications that go far beyond your average arrest warrant.  Not only will this likely impact the ongoing protests, there's the fact that provincial elections are supposed to be held in 15 days (in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces).  al-Issawi is a member of Iraqiya and a Sunni and this will be seen as yet another attempt by Nouri to influence the elections by painting his political rivals as crooked.  (Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law in the March 2010 parliamentary elections.)

In December 2011, when most (but not all) US troops left Iraq (15,000 remain in the surrounding area -- in addition to those in Iraq), you had something similar take place.  Dropping back to the December 19, 2011 snapshot:

CNN reported this afternoon that an arrest warrant had been issued for Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi by the Judicial Commitee with the charge of terrorism.  Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera) terms it a "poltical crisis" and states, "The government says this has nothing to do with the US withdrawal, that this has nothing to do with the prime minister consolidating his grip on power.  However, members of al-Iraqiya bloc, which Hashimis is a member of, say 'No, [Maliki] is trying to be a dictator."  Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) observes, "The arrest warrant puts Mr. Maliki on a possible collision course with the Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous region in the north and participate in the central government but have longstanding disputes with Baghdad over oil and land; and with Sunni Arabs in provinces like Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh and Salahuddin who have pressed in recent weeks for more autonomy from Baghdad with the backing of the Kurds."

What the hell is going on? 

Over the weekend, Nouri went for another power grab. 

It actually started before Saturday but the press was ga-ga over photo-ops.  'Last soldier out! No, really, last US soldier out! Except for the ones still there! Don't look behind the curtain!'   And apparently covering for Barack was more important than telling Americans what was taking place in Iraq.

Late Saturday night online (Sunday in print), Liz Sly (Washington Post) noted that the 'government' in Iraq is "unraveling faster than had been anticipated Saturday." Really?  All in one day.  Well,  no, not in one day.  She continued,  "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders."



"In recent days."  

Golly, seems to me if you know -- for even just one damn day -- that Nouri's goons -- in tanks, no less -- are 'ringing' his political opponents home, you report it then.  Yet even with Sly reporting this late Saturday -- by which point it was already all over the Iraqi media -- you had Jim Axlerod (CBS News) filing garbage and crap and pretending that was covering Iraq. 

The targeting of Tareq al-Hashemi only ensured that Nouri's power-grab became more obvious.  For months before that happened, you had Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr calling on Nouri to honor The Erbil Agreement and stating that he was ruling like a dictator --  Ayad Allawi said it outright to a British publication; Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN Nouri was the new Saddam.  We'll come back to The Erbil Agreement because the US government officially trashed it this week -- but the US press 'forgot' to report that.  Imagine that. 

May they cut off his cock and shove it down his throat.  Let's talk Iraqi women.  Sophie Ghaziri (Al Arabiya) explained last month how the US-led Iraq War destroyed the status of women in Iraq:

Women in the country once had a place in society; held prominent and important roles across the public and private sectors. But after two wars, an authoritarian administration and U.N. sanctions Iraq has been left crippled with most women struggling to meet their most basic needs; most living in poverty.
The daily life of ordinary, poor women in Iraq is tough as they are without income, social security and are constantly at risk of being abused. Not to mention the women who still remain locked up in Iraqi prisons for unspecified reasons, or as blackmail to get their male loved ones to hand themselves over to security forces and confess to charges the government has brought against them.
Those women are the ones that sparked protests in Iraq over the last couple of months. Those women are the ones who face daily abuse, torture and no respect. The plight of female detainees brought thousands onto to the streets carrying placards of those who still remain behind bars, looking for justice.

In Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale, fundamentalist militias take over the United States and women lose all rights and agency.  What was a brilliant but scary novel has become reality for Iraqi women. 

Symbolism matters in Iraq today and has mattered.  Canada deserves applause for their recent move.  Fan-Yee Suen (CTV News) reported Monday on Stephanie Duhaime:

Duhaime, a Sudbury native who is fluent in English, French and Arabic, was appointed as the charge d’affaires of Canada’s newly created diplomatic mission in Iraq on Monday.
The new one-woman semi-ambassadorial post -- the Canadian embassy in Jordan will continue to work full-time to restore diplomatic relations in Iraq -- is meant to expand Canada’s engagement with the country at a time of economic prosperity.

I don't care about (or know) Stephanie Duhaime's politics.  I do care about the fact that Iraqi officials are forced to interact with women in power and that the Iraqi people see this.  Iraqi women have great strength and are fighting their way back to equality.  The very least foreign countries can do is to make clear that women are forces within government. 

That was too much for the sexist in the White House.  US President Barack Obama can't be bothered with symbolism -- even though his own electoral victory was in large part due to symbolism.  Before he was sworn in, he was asked to appoint a woman to be the US Ambassador to Iraq.  He and his team chose to ignore that request.

In addition, Barack found four people he could support as US Ambassador to Iraq -- all were men.  He first nominated the idiot Chris Hill, then he nominated James Jeffrey, then he nominated Brett McGurk and then he nominated R. Stephen Beecroft.

Hill, Jeffrey and Beecroft were all confirmed.  No, three different Ambassadors to Iraq in one term does not make for stability and that's another criticism of the lack of consistency the US government has provided in dealings with Iraq.  But Brett McGurk went under for a reason.

He slept with Gina Chon when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.  He and Chon were both married to other people.  Some idiots in the US want to act like that doesn't matter.  It matters and we'll get to it.  Chon was a reporter, he was working for the US government.  Chon allowed him to vet her copy (he read it before her editors did) and that's so wrong.  It's also equally true, you're not supposed to sleep with your sources.  That is a major ethical lapse.  Because he was Barack's nominee when all this came out, Columbia 'Journalism' 'Review' and others wanted to dismiss this.

You had a government employee sleeping with a reporter covering the government's actions in Iraq and CJR wants to pretend it's a private matter?  There is whoring and then there is whoring.  They made themselves a joke (and we did the parody at Third).

Whores abound in the US and they like to pretend that Republicans killed Brett's nomination.  No, his penis killed his nomination.  Republicans couldn't block Hagel.  The White House was approached by three Democratic senators stating that they couldn't vote for McGurk.  That's why McGurk pulled his nomination.  The three senators were Democrats and they also had brains. 

I don't give a damn who sleeps with whom in the US.  I don't care.  I have no idea who's cheating, who's faithful, it really doesn't matter to me.  In the US.

Iraq isn't the US.  Iraq has been destroyed by the US.  You cannot send Brett McGurk back to Iraq and without him taking his baggage.  When the affair emerged last year, it didn't matter in the Iraqi press that Gina and Brett were married to each other now.  The scandal and his texts about "blue balls" were all the rage in Iraq -- in a way that even Rhianna's semi-nude outfits aren't (and every one of those outfits get tons of attention).

In Iraq, Brett McGurk is known now as a man who sleeps with married women.  Iraqi women could not have met with him if he'd been made Ambassador.  They would have been risking their own safety.

If it's not clear to you, you need to follow closely this excerpt from Jonathan Hiles (Harvard Record) report on a panel about the Iraq War:

Apart from damaging the environment, the war has also given rise to civil disorder and religious extremism, leading to great victimization of women. Ms. [Yanar] Mohammend [of Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq] said that many women and girls were trafficked abroad during the war’s first years and that growing numbers are now being been sold to "entertainment houses" frequented by government officials in Iraq. A large portion of victims are orphans of the war, and 65 percent are 17 years old or younger, she said.
The "honor killing" of women suspected of "immoral" conduct has also increased. OWFI estimates that at least 1,000 Iraqi women die annually in the "honor killings," which are often committed by family members. In 2010 an employee of the Baghdad morgue told OWFI that it receives 300 to 500 women each year whose bodies have the "signature" marks of an honor killing, "which could be like a hand chopped off."
Section 409 of the criminal code, written after the U.S. invasion, sets a three-year sentencing cap for a man who "surprises his wife or one of his female dependents…in a state of adultery…and kills her." According to Ms. Mohammed, the Iraqi government rarely enforces even this punishment. Iraq's Constitution, finalized in 2005, has expanded the role of Sharia Law, which allows polygamy and arranged marriages for minors, among other things. Ms. Mohammend claimed that the previous legal system involved a "more humane" combination of secular and religious law, while Iraq’s new Constitution "feels like it was written in the Middle Ages."
Ms. Mohammed argued that U.S. authorities are partly responsible, since they have supported religious zealots in order to lend an Islamic façade to neo-liberal economic reforms. "Policies against the working class, the new labor code that’s being written, the suppression that's going on against the labor demonstrations…it all goes hand in hand, it's not just the women."
Religious extremists outside of government have persecuted gay teenagers, murdering dozens in Baghdad alone. According to Ms. Mohammed, U.S. authorities, in conjunction with the Iraqi government, have chosen to obscure the true nature of the problem by referring to gay killings as "emo killings." The "emo" culture is generally associated with teen alienation, fashion and punk music. "You ask any Iraqi what's the meaning of emo, nobody knows."

Can you start to get it now?  The desire of the press to play stupid -- scary thought: It's not pretending to be stupid, it actually is that stupid -- and to whore for a president is appalling.  Sending Brett McGurk into Iraq as the US Ambassador to Iraq would mean Iraqi women were stripped from the political process or they were at risk of 'honor' killings because they associated with a man who came to Iraq earlier and slept with a married woman.  Americans are not held in high regard (for good reason) in Iraq as it is.  You bring in Mr. Can't Keep It In His Pants and you're kicking women out of the process because it is not safe for them to have been to have met with him.

And that's what the three Democratic senator based their object to McGurk on.

He withdrew his nomination.

That should have been the end of it.

But alas and alack, look who's back in Iraq.

The filth is back in Iraq.  Kitabat reports that Brett McGurk, a US State Dept advisor, dined with journalists at the American Embassy in Baghdad and declared that a majority government was fine and dandy.  We'll come back to that outrageous shift in policy in a moment.  We're going to stay focused on women.

Let's put a curse on Brett right now:  If even one woman is 'honor' killed because she interacted with Brett McGurk, may he be grabbed by Iraqis who cut off his cock and shove it down his throat.  He damn well knows the baggage he carries.  May he be cursed from the four corners of the earth.  While I don't myself practice witchcraft, I do have Pagan and Wiccan friends (hello, upstate New York) who do and, yes, they will work the spellcraft.  And hopefully it will take.  Because no Iraq woman should die due to Brett McGurk being unable to keep it in his pants or because Barack Obama cares so damn little about Iraqi women.

Not that he cares a great deal about Iraqi men or children either.

Where Barack Obama flips the middle finger to the Iraqi people.  Let's go back to Kitabat reports that Brett McGurk, a US State Dept advisor, dined with journalists at the American Embassy in Baghdad and declared that a majority government was fine and dandy. We mentioned The Erbil Agreement earlier.  It's amazingly important and so rarely reported on by the western press which appears to have mistaken a major in whoring for one in journalism.

In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  They have a parliamentary government and the person with the most members in their 'Congress' is named prime minister-designate and given 30 days to form a cabinet.  Not a partial cabinet.  A full cabinet.  You do that in 30 days or someone else named prime minister-designate.

The winner of the 2010 elections?  Iraqiya headed by Ayad Allawi.  It's a mixed political slate attempting to include of all Iraq.  Iraqiya offers and embraces a national 'we are all Iraqis' identity.  It is also the political slate that has female members of Parliament and not tokens.  (Al-Fadhila's Susan Sa'ad is not a MP I would want to represent me but she's also not a token.  One of the few non-Iraqiya female members who can make that claim.)  In the 2009 provincial elections a thread in those results was that it appeared Iraqis were moving away from a (US-imposed) Sunni-Shi'ite split and going for a national identity.  This was confirmed in the 2010 results when Nouri's State of Law was defeated by the new Iraqiya coalition (whose members were killed in the lead up to the election, whose members were barred from running by the Justice and Accountability Commission). 

Nouri stomped his feet and demanded a recount.  The results were the same.

It was now time for Nouri to step down and for a new prime minister to emerge via the process outlined in the Constitution.

But Nouri refused to allow that to happen.  It's as though, in January 2009, Bully boy Bush announced he wasn't leaving the White House and Barack Obama wasn't going to be named president.

Nouri kept the country of Iraq in an eight-month political stalemate while he refused to step down as prime minister.  He was only able to do that with the backing of the governments of Iran and the United States.  Nouri is a White House puppet.  He was first appointed by the Bush White House when they didn't want Ibrahim al-Jaafari to become prime minister in 2006.  By 2010, Nouri's secret prisons, torture cells, corruption and much more were well known and documented.  While Barack and others in the White House love to sneer at the Iranian government's alleged embrace of torture, their hands are just as dirty.

And the Iraqi people had gone to the polls.  They had expressed their wishes and the votes were counted and then recounted.  And yet the US that supposedly wanted to introduce 'democracy' to Iraq immediately pissed on democracy, pissed on the voters, pissed on the Iraqi Constitution.

During the eight month political stalemate, US officials repeatedly pressured the political blocs to let Nouri have a second term.  No surprise, most said no and said no repeatedly.  After it hit the eight month mark, US officials began telling the political leaders that Nouri was willing to go another eight months, that nothing would ever get done in Iraq.  So why not be the adult in the room, give Nouri a second term as prime minister and, in exchange, we'll put your concerns on paper in a legally binding contract that Nouri will have to follow. 

Their concerns?  One example.  Kirkuk is oil rich.  Because it's oil rich, it's disputed.  The semi-autonomous KRG in the north claims it and the Nouri's Baghdad-based government claims it.  How do you solve who gets it?  Well Iraq wrote and passed a Constitution in 2005.  Article 140 explained how this would be addressed: A census and a referendum.  Nouri took an oath in 2006 to obey the Constitution.  He never implemented Article 140.  Before you say, "Maybe he was busy," the Constitution mandates that Article 140 be instituted no later than December 2007.  Nouri ignored the Constitution.

It is thought that a vore would see Kirkuk go to the KRG.  So Nouri's delayed the vote, repeatedly ignoring the Constitution.

Okay, say US officials, we'll put it in writing, it'll be a binding contract and Nouri will have to honor it.  [He wasn't honoring the Iraqi Constitution but he was going to honor a contract?]  US officials did this with the leader of each political bloc to get them to agree that Nouri would get a second term.  This is the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.

It is extra-constitutional because it goes around the Constitution which clearly defines how someone becomes prime minister.  For example, Nouri never formed a full cabinet.  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."  Those positions were supposed to have been filled before the end of December 2010.  They were not.  They are still not filled.  Nouri refused to fill them because once the Iraqi Parliament confirms a nominee, that nominee is autonomous.  Nouri can't fire them, only the Parliament can.  (Which isn't easy.  Nouri's gotten Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi convicted of 'terrorism' and sentenced to death with the Baghdad courts he controls but he can't get Parliament to strip Tareq of his title.)

Because he was governed by The Erbil Agreement and not the Constitution, he didn't have to meet any requirements.  And he trashed The Erbil Agreement.  Immediately.  A census was supposed to take place in Kirkuk the first week of December 2010.  Nouri called it off, said it was postponed.  It's never been brought up again.  He was supposed to appoint Ayad Allawi to head an independent national security agency.  Immediately after President Jalal Talabani named Nouri prime minister-designate, Nouri told Parliament that Allawi's position would have to wait.  It's 'waited' ever since.

The US image in Iraq wasn't good before then.  For obvious reasons (an illegal war that destroyed Iraq).  Barack Obama's election meant that Iraqis thought a real change might be coming.  They were hopeful.  They no longer are.  They have seen through Barack Obama and his 'withdrawal' which is actually more counter-terrorism US troops in Iraq today than at the start of 2012.  (Not surprising because he told the New York Times he'd do that when he was first running for the presidency.) But what it mainly did was send the message to Iraqi political leaders that the US can't be trusted.  For example, there is so much damage in the trust that did exist among Kurdish leaders.  They now realize they will be screwed over every time.  It didn't have to be this way.

Barack could have supported the will of the Iraqi people, the votes, the attempt at democracy.  He refused to do so.  Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

What The Erbil-Agreement put forward was a power-sharing government.  This week, Brett McGurk announced that the US government now supports a majority-government.  that's what Nouri has been insisting on all along.  He couldn't accomplish that at the ballot box -- hell, he couldn't even win a term as prime minister at the ballot box -- but now the US is backing his power grab.  This is major news and will have huge implications on the way the Iraqi people see the US.

Nouri went to Karbala today.  Speaking alongside his political cronies, Nouri refused to take off his sunglasses.  None of the over 16 people standing beside him required sunglasses but Nouri had to hide his eyes.  He has to hide a lot.  Alsumaria reports that he accused other political parties and slates of being terrorists. And what is a reach around to Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, he declared that some political parties work to keep smaller ones from success.  (al-Mutlaq is currently the leader of the National Dialogue Front which is a part of Iraqiya.  al-Mutlaq and Nouri have gotten very tight as al-Mutlaq's leadership has fallen into question.)  He also pushed his desire for majority government -- again, something the voters did not sign off on -- and declared it was the only way to end the "political impasse." Kitabat notes that he declared this is what has kept Iraq from moving forward.  Parliamentary elections are currently supposed to take place in March of 2014.  Nouri called for early elections and said the 2010 elections were marred by vote rigging.  This is the piece of crap that the United States government has backed -- under Bush, under Barack.  There's not a damn bit of difference between Bush and Barack except Barack can speak properly and Bully Boy Bush knew how to come off human (and not like the first place winner in a Leonard Nimoy competition).

Alsumaria reports that Brett McGurk has announced he will be entering discussions with various political leaders on how to solve the political crisis.  Well it's "crises" -- not crisis.  And the roots go back to the failure of Nouri to honor The Erbil Agreement and the failure of the US to keep their promise that they would ensure The Erbil Agreement would be honored.  It's 2013.  It's a little damn late, even if the US was trying to strong arm Nouri, for the 2010 contract to be honored (because come 2014, new parliamentary elections will be held).  But why would any Iraqi politician expect either Nouri or the US government to be honest at this point?  With their track record of lying over and over, why should Nouri or the US government be trusted?

Chain smoking cigarettes
Enemies across the table
Wonderin' if I can ever trust anyone again

-- "Darkness 'Til Dawn," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, first appears on Carly's Another Passenger

Wonderin' if I can ever trust anyone again
Kitabat reports protesters in Kirkuk and Hawija today called out the "traitors" -- Cabinet ministers who returned to the Cabinet meetings -- as usual the list of the denounced included Saleh al-Mutlaq.  The people do not feel the government is representing them.  NINA reports that Hayde al-Mulla has declared today that Iraqiya wants the protesters' demands to be met before they return to Cabinet sessions.  NINA notes, "Thousands demonstrated in the protest squares in Ramadi and Falluja, on the international highway connecting Iraq with Syria and Jordan, carrying banners criticizing the Government for having double standards and demanding it put a stop to the executions and random arrests as well as not to discriminate between citizens."  Organizer Mohammed al-Dulaimi declared that Nouri's government refuses to listen to the demands of the people but instead to respond with "executions and random arrests."

Today they also protested in Jalawlaa, Baiji, Samarra, Tikirt, and Baquba.  They protested despite attempts to stop them. National Iraqi News Agency notes, "Security forces closed off all roads leading to the sit-in yard north of Ramadi before noon today."  Despite this, NINA notes that "thousands of people flocked to the main sit-in squares north of Ramadi and eastern Falluja."  Iraqi Spring MC reports that the Baghdad mosque was raided and one was raided in Nineveh ProvinceArbitrary arrests of activists are taking place in Diyala Province and Nouri's forces disrupted morning prayers in Muqdadiya.  In Samarra, NINA reports, Sheikh Hussein Ghazi declared that Iraq ranked "first in the world in human rights violations and corruption and criminality against the Iraqi people."  And the outlet notes that Sheikh Yunis al-Hamdani in Falluja observed that Nouri bears "responsibility for assassinations and executions against Sunnis" and called on the Kurds to join in the cry to stop the mass executions.  Iraqi Spring MC reports that the protesters in Falluja asked that the "BBC Make the Unmissable, Unmissable!!"  But the BBC didn't rush to provide coverage.

On the topic of violence,  National Iraqi News Agency notes that a Baquba bombing has left a number of people injured, a Hilla roadside bombing has claimed 5 lives and left two more people injured,  an armed attack outside Kirkuk left three Sahwa injured, an armed attack to the north of Tikrit left 2 Sahwa dead and one injured, a Hilla car bombing claimed 2 lives and left two more injured, and a Tikrit sticky bombing claimed 1 life.  All Iraq News adds that seven people were injured in the Baquba bombing, a Mahawil bombing claimed 3 lives and left seven more people injured, and, dropping back to last night, a farmer and his son were kidnapped from their Samarra farmQassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes that a Baghdad bombing (Abu Ghraib) claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers. Alsumaria notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.  In addition, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

. security message - 'Rocket casing discovered near the US consulate in Arbil' in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan

We noted the excavations yesterday.  Arwa Damon has a strong story at CNN on the topic

Now you tell me
Who you gonna get to do the dirty work
When all the slaves are free?

-- "Passion Play," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on Joni's Night Ride Home

When all the slaves are free.  In the US, Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner, tossed in prison not for breaking a law but for breaking an agreement.  Sentenced and then re-sentenced to even more time.  She's over 70, she's a grandmother and her cancer has returned.  If Barack had any compassion, he would move to release her immediately.  She's an attorney who used her degree to try to defend people, not to try to get rich.  She was the people's attorney and now she remains behind bars, the victim of Bully Boy Bush and Barack Obama.  There is a petition calling for a compassionate release of Lynne due to her health.  Ralph Poynter, her husband, notes:

5,600 and counting! Individuals are reaching out to their friends, family and colleagues. Organizations are reaching out to their members. People throughout the world are joining together in the effort to free Lynne Stewart.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu sent this Cri de Coeur: “It is devastating, totally unbelievable. Is this in a democracy, the only superpower? I am sad. I will sign. Praying God’s blessings on yr efforts.”
+Desmond Tutu
Pete Seeger declared: “Lynn Stewart should be outa jail!” on a postcard signed “old Pete Seeger” accompanied by a drawing of his banjo.
Your outpouring of support has lifted Lynne’s spirits as she undergoes the ravaging effects of chemotherapy. On March 20, she sent this message to each and every one of you from her seven-person cell in the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, Texas:
“I want you, individually, to know how gratifying and happy it makes me to have your support. It is uplifting, to say the least, and after a lifetime of organizing it proves once again that the People can rise.
“The acknowledgement of the life-political, and solutions brought about by group unity and support, is important to all of us. Equally, so is the courage to sign on to a demand for a person whom the Government has branded with the ‘T’ word — Terrorist. Understanding that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client’s desire for his or her case, I hope our effort can be a crack in the American bastion. Thank you.” — Lynne
Lynne Stewart devoted over 30 years of her life to helping others as a criminal defense lawyer. She defended the poor, the disadvantaged and those targeted by the police and the State. Such had been her reputation as a fearless lawyer, ready to challenge those in power, that judges assigned her routinely to act for defendants whom no attorney was willing to represent.
Now Lynne Stewart needs our urgent help or she may die in prison. Our determination can compel the Bureau of Prisons to file the motion for compassionate release that will free Lynne Stewart.
Check out the Justice for Lynne Stewart website to view the signatories (up to 03/31/13), the postcard from Pete Seeger, Archbishop Tutu’s message as well as Lynne Stewart’s letter back to him, and much more.
Remind your friends to sign the petition and to disseminate it to others. Ask each person to get five people to sign, and each of those five to ask five people of their own. In five stages, you will have reached another 3,000 people!
Ralph Poynter


the associated press
qassim abdul-zahra
arwa damon