Saturday, June 08, 2013

Dog bombs in Iraq -- yes, dog bombs

In Iraq today, a new form of bomb: Dog bomb.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a bomb disposal expert died in Baquba today "while attempting to defuse a dog bomb" -- whether the dog died in the explosion or the bomb was attached to a dead dog is not reported.  In addition, they note a Falluja car bombing injured one personFadel Hadeed was assassinated in Mosul (his father is running for a seat on the Nineveh Provincial Council), a roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer in Mosul,  and a Mosul suicide car bomber left twenty people injured (including 12 Iraqi soldiers).  Alsumaria updates the toll with thirty-four injured and notes armed clashes in Tikrit left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured. .  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left twenty people injured.  Trend News Agency notes, "In the city of Baquba, a suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims on their way to Baghdad to visit Shiite shrines.  The blast, which took place in the city that is 57 kilometres north-east of Baghdad, killed two passengers and wounded seven."  Through Friday, Iraq Body Count counts 92 deaths from violence so far this month.

Dropping back to Wednesday's snapshot:

Alsumaria notes that an "ambush" in Nukhaib has left 14 security personnel dead and a Tikrit bombing has left two Iraqi soldiers injured.  Sahar was talking about the fake checkpoints.  Last week, part of Nouri's photo ops included going around Baghdad and insisting the fake check points do not exist.  We also heard Rami Ruhayem (BBC) dismiss the talk of fake checkpoints and dimiss the over one thousand deaths last month as important when speaking to Meghna Chakrabarti on Here and Now (NPR) -- (see last Friday's snapshot for transcript of those remarks).  They do exist, they've been reported by the Iraqi press many times over the last month and Sahar noted them today.  So does Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) -- the ambush noted above reports that the ambus was carried out "by gunmen pretending to be a military checkpoint on a central Iraq highway, police said in Ramadi."   Spain's Agencia EFE also reports it was a fake checkpoint.  And apparently the BBC has finally found their first fake checkpoint in Iraq.

Today, Alsumaria reports, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for the government to take responsibility for the violence in Nukhaib and the failure to provide security.  He called the attack a cowardly attack.  Nouri al-Maliki may feel he has little to worry about for now.  Alsumaria reports that State of Law has formed an alliance with outgoing Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurfi.  This is neither surprising or meaningful.

Let's deal with not meaningful first.  He's outgoing.  Not by choice.  Which means he didn't do too well in the election and that even a merger with Nouri's State of Law won't save his ass.  This time.

In 2009's provincial election, he wasn't able to win the post of governor either.  But teaming up with Nouri after the election gave him enough votes to take the position.  The party that actually earned it in the election that year was the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

And another thing, Al Mada reports Moqtada and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim have teamed up in Najaf.  Their alliance this year means they control 156 seats in the province.   Apparently the rumors that began Tuesday in Iraqi social media about Ammar and Nouri's tightness disappearing had some validity. 

Stephen Lendman (Mathaba) discusses the state of Iraq:

It's illegally occupied. It's colonized for capital. It's victimized by genocide. Vital infrastructure is absent.
Poverty is extreme. So are unemployment, malnutrition, repression, fear and human misery. Squatters struggle to survive. They live under bridges, alongside railroad tracks, and near garbage dumps. Others are externally displaced.
Over eight million Iraqis need humanitarian aid. Child mortality is horrific. Only around half of all primary-aged children attend school.
About five million orphans get by best they can. Around 70% of Iraqis have no potable water. Around 80% have no clean sanitation. Millions depend on food aid.
War crimes continue. Daily killing persists. Iraq's a virtual free-fire zone. Washington bears full responsibility. What Bush began, Obama continues.

The following community sites -- plus Ms. magazine's blog --  updated yesterday and today:


The e-mail address for this site is


iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq

I Hate The War

In Tuesday's snapshot, we addressed the xenophobia in the New York Times' "China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom"  and you can also see  Zachary Keck (The Diplomat) and  Ivan Eland ( for two others refuting the xenophobic claims.

The thing about xenophobic claims is that it makes some people want to call them out.  It makes others want to right the record.  Press TV went digging and came up with a report about some Americans profiting from the war and the oil.  They note Peter Galbraith but that's old news for most Americans.  Of greater interest would probably be this section:

A report by Kurdistan’s Lvin Magazine published in February documents the involvement of several retired US generals and politicians in Kurdish oil deals. Those named include Jay Garner, a retired US army lieutenant general. He was appointed in 2003 as the director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq. James Jones, a former US national security advisor and a retired US marine corps general. Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to the United Nations under President George Bush. He was also a US ambassador to Iraq. And former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. 

 Though little damage could be done to Zalmay Khalilzad's image -- at this rate a bust for kiddie porn would be a step up for Khalilzad -- but Jay Garner's never gotten the criticism many who did far less have.  In part because Jay's made himself so available for the fairy tale projects like Charles Ferguson's No End In Sight.  War Hawks (on the right and left) could -- and many did -- join hands over that documentary which doesn't argue the Iraq War was illegal or even wrong.  No, the film argues that the Iraq War just wasn't well planned -- it, in effect, advocates for more such wars, just better planned.  The one that's most uncomfortable for Barack is James Jones who served as his National Security Advisor from January 2009 to October 2010.

 It'll be interesting to see whether the same 'concern' results from this news.  Will there be a New York Times piece?  Will all the reactionaries from Donald Trump to Jon Stewart scream themselves silly as they did last week over China? 

Of course not.

The organization PEN e-mailed the following alert:

Back in 2002, John Poindexter proposed a "Total Information
Awareness" program to spy on everybody, including all American
citizens, complete with a creepy totalitarian logo. The American
people were repulsed, Congress defunded the idea in 2003, and they
dropped it, or so we thought.

Instead they just went ahead and did everything they planned on doing
anyway, except in total secrecy. There was another protest during the
Bush administration when it came to light that wiretaps capable of
capturing the totality of U.S. phone communications had been placed
in telecom switching centers. It did not even slow them down,
probably because most Republicans were too partisan to complain.

Now we learn that under the cheerleading of President Obama, these
eavedropping functions have been extended to virtually all the
biggest internet hubs.

Don't Spy On US Action Page:

The New York Times published a scathing editorial last night.

The New Yorker magazine made the critical point that capturing
so-called metadata is at least as bad as, and may be worse than,
listening to individual phone calls or reading individual emails. If
anything, metadata is a more efficient way to track every movement
and association of every American citizen without exception. Indeed,
the same datataps in place can listen to all the content as well, all
in total secrecy, and who's to stop them?

We are. If only you will speak out now. Demand that our government
stop its rampant abuse of government secrecy to perpetrate the most
pervasive eavesdropping outrage in American history.

Don't Spy On US Action Page:

And after you submit the action page above, we invite you to request
the beautiful, new "Don't Spy on US" bumper sticker we rush designed
overnight, and will get printed and shipped as fast as we can. As
with all our policy message stickers you can have one for no charge,
not even shipping, just by submitting the form.

"Don't Spy on Us" bumper stickers:

Of course, if you can make a donation of any amount, that is what
makes it possible for us to send free stickers to anyone who cannot
make a contribution right now.

Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed
to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.
Contributions to The People's Email Network are not tax-deductible
for federal income tax purposes.

You may know PEN  because of Suzanne Nossel.  (I actually have nothing to disclose.  I've never met Nossel.)

Suzanne's been targeted by whack jobs twice.  First up, Jodie Evans.  The gold digger from CODEPINK -- whom money will never wash clean -- attacked Suzanne for heading Amnesty because she  . . .

Well that's the problem with Jodie Evans.  When she's not lying, she's not coherent.  Madeline Albright had some idiotic campaign (I do know Mad Maddie) and Evans tried to link Nossel to it.   The charge was that Nossel was supporting the Afghanistan War.   Evans couldn't make a case for her charges but that was her allegation against Nossel.

Was Nossel right or wrong, what did she actually do, what was she actually saying?  Maybe Jodie can get sober and try writing again?

In the meantime, Jodie and CODEPINK pimped for the Iraq War.  Scott Horton (, October 8, 2009:

Imagine my shock at seeing this story in the Christian Science Monitor describing the new, post-trip-to-Afghanistan-position of Code Pink’s co-founder and most famous leader, Medea Benjamin.
"’We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline,’ says Benjamin. ‘That’s where we have opened ourselves, being here, to some other possibilities. We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, ‘If the U.S. troops left the country, would collapse. We’d go into civil war.’ A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that.’"
"Did you just read that right?" said one half of my brain to the other. Is this reporting accurate? Has Code Pink turned pro-war?
Well, the interview took place, as scheduled, and this is the result:

Use the link to hear the interview or read the transcript.  Then ask yourself why Jodie Evans thinks she has any high ground to stand on with regards to Afghanistan.

Reza Fiyouzat called Jodie and CODEPINK out at Dissident Voice in November 2008 for a number of reasons including the support of Barack which led Jodie to reply in the thread that they had criticized Hillary Clinton!  That's what whores do, they go after a Secretary of State and refuse to call out a sitting president.   Paola called her out quickly:

As regards Obama, code pink enthusiastically supported him and ecstatically hailed his election as a a victory for the peace movement:
These are your own words from your website:
Like the rest of the world, CODEPINK is emboldened by Sen. Barack Obama’s victory in a historic presidential election.
The victory came through the hard work of millions within the progressive peace and justice movement within the past six years, bolstered by a values shift among the majority of Americans and their growing demand and faith in change — including an end to war. It is a victory for the movement and inspiration for further change!
“Americans have stood up to say they know the cost of war in lives, dignity and money,” said Jodie Evans, CODEPINK cofounder. “Being against war is the winning decision. They are ready for change. War is so over.”
And this is obama’s official website:
Who are Senator Obama’s bundlers?
Raising from $50,000 to $100,000: [...]
Jodie Evans (Los Angeles, CA)

Well, you don’t like Clinton. So what? You supported Obama all the same.

I Need Attention Benjamin took 5 years to heckle Barack and then gave interviews where she never called him out.  Because I Need Attention needs a lot of attention.

More recently, Chris Hedges -- who put the false link between Iraq and 9-11 on the front page of the New York Times in October 2001 with a story that was laughable when it was published and has only exploded in his face since -- wrote one of the self-rightoeus columns he's so famous for doing when he can attack a woman.  He referred to her time at Amnesty and called her a pawn. (At least he got it right that she's not with Amnesty. The last week in May, Sarah Flounders went on Black Agenda Radio and was raging against Nossel and her position at Amnesty -- apparently unaware that Nossel left in January.)

Chris got nasty the way he does on women and raged that he was leaving PEN and not coming back, he was taking his toys and going home.

I don't know Suzanne Nossel.  But I do know she's got a strong column entitled "Obama's Surveillance State."  And note that it's "Obama's Surveillance State," not "the Obama administration" or "Hillary Clinton" or any of the other childish and immature tactics CODEPINK and Chris Hedges use. 

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.

The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, June 07, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Friday, June7, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, a sheikh reminds Nouri al-Maliki that Allah is watching, we look at confusing commentary about Iraq in the US, the spying on Americans by the federal government continues to lead to outrage, US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about "equality and dignity," and more.

Let's start with those offering  confusing commentary about Iraq.  Crazy Reider Vissar's buddy Joel Wing feels the need to post a video today.  It's entitled "A Decade in Iraq: Lessons and the Landscapes Ahead."  It's a bit of propaganda, to be sure.  I have no idea why you'd post an April event -- a bad April event -- in June?  But I have no idea why you'd pimp the War Hawk Mentality of Harvard and the John F. Kennedy School of Government to begin with?

If there was any value to including it, it would be to comment on how awful it is.  Or how ashamed Harvard should be for letting some of the criminals responsible for the destruction of Iraq -- Stephen J. Hadley (National Security Advisor from 2004 to 2008) and Meghan O'Sullivan -- pontificate on stage.

Meghan O'Sullivan has, from time to time, grasped one of the large themes in Iraq.  She's never been able to do specifics.  Which is how she comes to rave about Abdul Latif al-Rashid, in this event from last April, being the assistant to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

There are some who will shrug at that.  But there are some who follow Iraq that will grasp the problem immediately.  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

There are rumors that he's unable to move, there are rumors that he's near death, there are rumors that he'll be back in Iraq this month and is fine, but there aren't a lot of rumors -- in fact, there aren't any -- that he's meeting with his assistants.

Meghan O'Sullivan has often seemed to miss the finer details.

We could go through and explain bit by bit how wrong the American speakers are and how awful it is that those who pushed the illegal war -- those psychopaths -- are being given a stage to pontificate from. But I didn't post the video.  I wouldn't.  If you do, I think it's incumbent upon you to provide some sort of a commentary -- if only a brief paragraph noting how far from facts the presentation is.

"The police always come late, if they come at all," as Tracy Chapman so aptly noted in "Behind The Wall" (first appears on her self-titled debut album). True of the police, true of the media 'watchdog' FAIR.  Rebecca Hellmich has discovered "a new poll" about public perception in England on how many Iraqis have died in the Iraq War.  Rebecca seems unaware that the Iraq War continues but we'll set that to the side.  

Last Friday's snapshot noted Alex Thomson (Channel 4) summarizing a new poll on the British asking them about deaths in Iraq:

  • Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public estimate that 20,000 or fewer civilians and combatants have died as a consequence of the war in Iraq since 2003.
  • One in 10 (10 per cent) think that between 100,000 and 500,000 have died and one in 20 (6 per cent) think that more than 500,000 have died.
  • According to public estimates, the mean number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion is 189,530.
  • Women in Britain are more likely to underestimate the number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion than men. Half (53 per cent) of women think 5,000 or fewer deaths have occurred since the invasion compared to one-third (35 per cent) of men.
Perhaps that last figure is the most startling – a majority of women and more than a third of men polled say fewer than 5,000 deaths have occurred.

Guess what?  That's the same poll Rebecca and FAIR have discovered today.  AFP's Prashant Rao discovered it on Saturday, you may remember.   And, pay attention Rebecca and FAIR, we made that the topic of Third's "Editorial: Piss Ant Rao's Propaganda" last Sunday.  Former Bully Boy Bush official Fran Townsend was noting The Lancet study on the number of Iraqis killed in the war.  And 'independent' and 'objective' journalist Prashant showed up on Twitter to insist that The Lancet was bogus.  Right there, FAIR, that's where you show up as a media watchdog.  But of course, FAIR always forgets to bark.  Here's France's little War Monger Prashant bickering with a Bush official who trusts The Lancet study:

  1. Incredible that despite how violent Iraq has been for a decade, Syria has nearly caught up, in terms of death toll, in less than 2.5 years.
  2. Are you sure? 2.5 yrs into the Iraq war the British Lancet was claiming over 600K Iraqis dead
Yes, but Lancet figures have been called into question repeatedly. Widely accepted figures are closer to 110-120k.
Hide conversation

Prashant doesn't let it go.  He'll come back shortly with 'proof' that The Lancet study was wrong.  What's his proof?  Links to two pieces by, yes, nutty Joel Wing dismissing The Lancet Study.  See, it's a Circle Jerk of Death for these freaks.

We're not done yet.  Ground Report maintains today,  "Even though the American involvement in the war is over, news on Iraq continues to engage American audiences and the recent Memorial Day holiday prompted many Americans to reflect on the impact of recent wars. "

American involvement in the war is over?  Yesterday,  Mark Thompson (Time magazine) reported today on the $2 billion contract that the State Dept has with PAE Government Services, Inc., "That’s a million dollars a day over a five-year period, if the contract hits its ceiling. The down payment is $347,883,498 (don’t you just love such precision? It’s almost a prime number, for Pete’s sake)."   A million dollars doesn't sound 'over' to me.  There's also the Congressional Research Service's report issued June 3rd [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights:"

Heightened AQ-I and other insurgent activity has shaken the Iraqi leadership’s confidence in the ISF somewhat and apparently prompted the Iraqi government to reemphasize security cooperation with the United States. On August 19, 2012, en route to a visit to Iraq, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that “I think [Iraqi leaders] recognize their capabilities may require yet more additional development and I think they’re reaching out to us to see if we can help them with that.”39 Iraq reportedly has expressed interest in expanded U.S. training of the ISF, joint exercises, and accelerated delivery of U.S. arms to be sold, including radar, air defense systems, and border security equipment.40 Some refurbished air defense guns are being provided gratis as excess defense articles (EDA), but Iraq was said to lament that the guns would not arrive until June 2013. Iraq reportedly argued that the equipment was needed to help it enforce insistence that Iranian overflights to Syria land in Iraq for inspection.
After the Dempsey visit, reflecting the Iraqi decision to reengage intensively with the United States on security, it was reported that, at the request of Iraq, a unit of Army Special Operations forces had deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence, presumably against AQ-I.41 (These forces presumably are operating under a limited SOFA or related understanding crafted for this purpose.) Other reports suggest that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paramilitary forces have, as of late 2012, largely taken over some of the DOD mission of helping Iraqi counter-terrorism forces (Counter-Terrorism Service, CTS) against AQ-I in western Iraq.42 Part of the reported CIA mission is to also work against the AQ-I affiliate in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front, discussed above.
Reflecting an acceleration of the Iraqi move to reengage militarily with the United States, during December 5-6, 2012, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller and acting Under Secretary of State for International Security Rose Gottemoeller visited Iraq and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with acting Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaymi. The five year MOU provides for:

• high level U.S.-Iraq military exchanges 
• professional military education cooperation 
• counter-terrorism cooperation 
• the development of defense intelligence capabilities 
• joint exercises 

The MOU appears to address many of the issues that have hampered OSC-I from performing the its mission to its full potential. The MOU also reflects some of the more recent ideas put forward, such as joint exercises.

American involvement in the war is over?  Have you read the MoU?

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Read the MoU and then try to insist, with a straight face, that "American involvement in the war is over."

Friday in Iraq and the protests continue as they have since December 21st.   Iraqi Spring MC shares a photo of the Falluja protest todayNINA reports, "Thousands of people flocked since the early hours of the day to the sit-ins yards in Fallujah, Ramadi especially from the outskirts and areas near to the two cities to participate in Friday unified prayers."  They turned out in Tikrit, in Baghdad and in BaijiAl Mada notes that Sheikh Mishan al-Issawi declared today that the protesters are stating their goals and they must be listened to.  However, even when the government fails to respond, it is an accomplishment that the protesters made their voices heard and told the wrongdoer that he is unjust while the whole world saw the protesters demanding that the humiliation stops and that the government stop the rape of women in Iraqi prisons and that they stop abusing the male prisoners.   The Sheikh declared this is Allah's issue and the protests took place before the eyes of Allah.

Kitabat reports that protesters in Nasiriyah demanded better public services including electricity.  70-year-old Shiekh Abdul-Zahra Vest explains that Dhi Qar has been suffering from a lack of dependable public services since 2003.  He called on all citizens to participate in the protest and demand their rights, to wear the shroud during the protests so that the message is visible to the government. He also spoke of the need for the government to provide adequate rations in the ration card system and to provide jobs for the unemployed and housing for the poor.  This was the sixth day of a sit-in on this issue.  In another report, Kitabat notes the cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has expressed his support for the protesters and has called for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reconcile the political blocs before it's too late.

Wednesday was the UN's World Food Day.  The UN prepared this [PDF format warning] online booklet for the occasion.   The Iraq Times notes the UN has found that 6 million Iraqis are exposed to food insecurity and vulnerability.  That's a large number and no one should suffer from that in a world where there is so much food grown.  However, it's especially appalling in Iraq.

It's appalling because Iraq's population is estimated by the CIA to be around 30 million.  Which would mean 1/5 of Iraqis are now living with food insecurity and vulnerability.

That's appalling.

It's even more so when you grasp Iraq's budget.  As Seerwan Jafar (Niqash) reported last December, Iraq's 2013 budget is $118 billion.  People struggle to figure out what is going on and what it means.   Kanan Makiya (World Peace Foundation) has written a two-part essay on Iraq -- first part here, second part here.  From the second part:

Now you may have noticed I have not once used the word sectarianism or sectarian politics. This is the new bogeyman, so often introduced to explain the new forms of violence and abuse that have afflicted Iraqi politics since 2003. In actual fact, the term is rarely if ever an explanation; more often than not it is a word touted by politicians, lazy journalists, and some academics, that gives the false impression of an explanation for what is in fact a hard and very difficult thing to come to terms with. Use of the term is convenient for many because it evades the question of responsibility. I mean if these Sunnis and these Shiite Iraqis have been doing terrible things to one another since time immemorial, why hold me or anyone else responsible? In effect, this is what Iraq’s rulers and the Bush and Obama administrations say to their respective publics. And is it not my first duty to protect my own, say the Shiite leaders of the state as they send their soldiers to butcher around 100 innocent Sunni Iraqis in Hawija only a few short weeks ago. Perhaps there were Bathi remnants, and al-Qaeda terrorists, among them. Frankly, even I would be surprised if there weren’t.
The story of abuse in Iraq is about an extremely weak state with an even more bloated repressive apparatus than Saddam boasted at the height of the Iraq- Iran war; it is about settling of accounts; it is about treating the state that has so abused them as nothing more than a ghanima, a place to steal from as fast as one can because who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Tom Rogan (The Atlantic) offered his take on Iraq:

In the 2010 parliamentary elections, (the Sunni supported) Iraqi National Movement of Iyad Allawi won a plurality of seats. But Iraq's current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, didn't accept the outcome. Following in a troubling tradition of authoritarianism, he was unwilling to give up power. Instead, Maliki promised to form a unity government with Allawi. The idea was that this co-operation would cool tensions and build trust. It hasn't happened. In fact, the opposite has occurred; we've seen renewed arguments over oil sharing, serious disagreements over regional sovereignty, and allegations of high level political harassment. For Maliki it seems, after years of oppression under Saddam Hussein, the incentive for reconciliation isn't an abiding concern.
Then, in April, the crisis literally exploded. First, the Iraqi Government launched a bloody attack against a Sunni protest camp. Next, in a move that reeked of sectarian persecution, Maliki suspended the licenses of a number of media outlets, including Al Jazeera. On May 17, more than 75 Sunnis were killed in various terrorist massacres. Collectively, these actions have fed into a growing groundswell of sectarian anger. Trust is perishing and in the fear, extremists have found new roots of sympathy. With unrelenting ISI attacks, growing government crackdowns and resurgent Shia hardliners, the storm clouds of civil war are gathering.

We noted Rogan in Wednesday's snapshot.  We're noting Rogan again today because Al Mada's picked up his report.

In violence, Press TV reports a Baquba bombing has killed 16 pilgrims and left forty-five more injured.  AP notes the death toll has risen to 19.   Spain's EFE explains, "The blast occurred as the bus, which was part of a convoy, sat at a police checkpoint in Al Maqdadiya, 45 kilometers (28 miles) northeast of Baquba, the provincial capital." National Iraqi News Agency notes Rasheed Mayor Issa Kareem was assassinated today (car bombing), a Mosul bombing claimed 1 life and left two injured, a Shirqat roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured, a Khanaqin sticky bombing injured the Director of Saadiya and his son, and 2 suicide car bombers launched an attack on the International Highway (northeast of Ramadi on it) leaving 4 police officers and 4 civilians dead and injuring nine more people (six were police officers)All Iraq News reports 1 taxi driver was kidnapped in Tikrit.   Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 64 violent deaths so far this month.

World Tribune notes that western oil companies are bypassing the bulk of Iraq to head for the northern, semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government's provinces.   On Iraqi oil, Zachary Keck (The Diplomat) attempts to straighten out the issue of China:

But this misconstrues how global energy markets actually operate. Although China itself does actually seek to own some of partner nations’ oil resources, these deviations are not enough to change the fact that global oil markets operate according to the free-market principles of supply and demand. Therefore, a net increase in the global supplies of oil, no matter where it is exported, will result in a lower price of oil everywhere (all things being equal).

In Tuesday's snapshot, we addressed the xenophobia in the New York Times' "China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom" and the xenophobia among those screeching about the story.   Wednesday Ivan Eland ( took on the nonsense:

In any event, such Chinese commercial penetration is little threat to the United States and may actually be of some help. Because a worldwide oil market exists and any new petroleum being produced anywhere lowers the price for everyone, Chinese state-owned companies may be indirectly subsidizing U.S. oil consumers by bringing to market oil deposits that would be uneconomical for private firms to find and pump.
Of course, implicitly, a worldwide oil market would also obviate the need for the military forces of the United States, China, or any other nation to “secure” oil. In my award-winning book No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, I explain why it is cheaper to just pay higher prices caused by any disruption of Middle Eastern oil than to pay for forward-deployed military forces to attempt to prevent this rare occurrence.
In conclusion, the Chinese “threat” is being dragged out and hyped to attempt to forestall cuts in U.S. security budgets, not because it severely undermines American security.

Turning to the United States where new revelations keep coming on the government's spying on American citizens, the topic was addressed on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) this morning by Diane and her guests Susan Page (USA Today), Major Garrett (CBS News) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post).

Diane Rehm:  Good to see you all. Karen Tumulty, we've had 24 hours of dramatic disclosures starting with The Guardian and then The Washington Post picked it up. 

Karen Tumulty:  Yeah. This is the story, the extent of surveillance, that is, it's a real paradox because in some ways, it's shocking and some ways, it's totally unsurprising. You know, we have known that in the post-9/11 world that the government had been given a lot more authority to go after what is private information about people. We saw a couple of controversies in 2006, first over domestic warrantless eavesdropping, and then secondly, over the same thing which is getting phone -- people's phone records. But a couple of -- first of all, what is surprising about this story is the extent to which the Obama administration is doing this, and I do think that with -- particularly with the Internet, with the, you know, Google, Facebook, Apple being part of this, we now see the government is also looking not just at patterns of contacts, which is what they say they were doing with the phone records, but they are actually searching through the actual material. They are looking at emails. They are looking at, you know, Skype chats. They are looking at actual content. 

Diane Rehm:   And, Major, what are they looking for? 

Major Garrett:   They're looking for what counterterrorism experts describe as data that bumps into each other and suggest patterns that might be reflective of an emerging or an ongoing terrorist plot. The expert I spent time talking to the last two days about this say much of this data that is analytically sifted falls out, doesn't raise flags, doesn't go anywhere. To be clear, in the case of the phone tracking, it is not the listening-into-phone conversations that is going on.  The names attached to the numbers are not recorded, the numbers are. The location of the calls and the duration of the calls are collected. In the case of Internet traffic, its blogs, videos, chats, emails, all these sorts of things, much that data falls away. But the data that is flagged is then put through algorithms to see if it does bump ever closer to known, let us say, URLs, known email addresses, drop boxes that have been previously flagged as related to or held by terrorist suspects. [Deleting Garrett's claim that has been made by the government but not backed up, we're not trafficking in lies here]  all done through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, authorities created in the Patriot Act after 9/11, reauthorized in 2006 with different and more precise civil liberties, protections and guidelines which the Obama administration, which would have preferred all this to remain secret, says are being followed. 

Diane Rehm:  Susan. 

Susan Page:  Well, we should make it clear that there are two separate programs here. There's the PRISM program that involves email, Skype, those -- that's a program that targets foreigners. Now, it does, they say inadvertently or incidentally, pick up information about Americans, but that's really targeting foreign interest. The one that I think is more controversial, was gonna raise more eyebrows among Americans is this telephone surveillance.  This massive database of what sounds like almost every phone call you make in the United States is -- becomes part of a big government database that can be searched after the fact. If there's -- if you have a Boston bombing and you identify a suspect and he's got a phone, it enables them to go back and look at who he called, who called him, one step back from that, who called or was called by people with contact with him, second degree of separation. And that is, I think, a level of surveillance of Americans who have done nothing wrong, who are suspected of no wrongdoing that raises concerns, both among civil libertarians, kind of traditional liberals and also among conservative -- libertarians conservatives. 

Monday, The Diane Rehm Show will devote an hour to this topic.  And regarding my editing of Major Garrett, the government got caught and they made an assertion, a claim, to justify their actions.  They haven't backed up that claim.  Had Garrett presented it as a claim, his comments would have stayed in.  Instead, he took a government claim and presented it as fact.  That's not journalism.  Stephen Braun (AP) points out, "Top officials of the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly denied in recent years that the National Security Agency collected massive caches of phone and Internet data taken from millions of Americans." And then the American people repeatedly found out otherwise.  Which is why you can note a government claim -- but you note it's a claim.  You don't present it as fact if you can't verify it.  If that's still confusing to Major Garrett, he can refer to the New York Times' editorial board in today's paper:

Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights. 
Those reassurances have never been persuasive -- whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism -- especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.
The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.

Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) reports that Barack was pressed in San Jose today about the spying and he replied, "When I came into this office, I made two commitments that are more important than any commitment I make: number one to keep the American people safe, and number two to uphold the Constitution."  I'm sorry, there was no 'commitment.'  An oath was taken to uphold the Constitution.  A commitment is not the same as an oath.  You swear or affirm an oath when testifying in court.  You don't offer a commitment to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Barack understands the difference between a "commitment" and an "oath" and his effort to downgrade his oath to uphold the Constitution is worrisome.   To become President of the United States, you have to take the oath. When JFK was assassinated, before LBJ could be President, LBJ had to take the oath.  Here's the oath required by the Constitution (Article II, Section 1):

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

This isn't a personal promise or a goal, it is an oath.  The lies are becoming so thick, the administration is choking on them.  Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  When you have to deny that you are Big Brother, you've got a huge image problem even if it turns out you're not an Orwellian Big Brother.  Lauren Fox (US News and World Reports) notes reactions to the news of the spying:

After the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper revealed that the National Security Agency had been gobbling up millions of Verizon customers' phone records, the left-leaning Huffington Post, linked to a punchy splash page featuring "George W. Obama," – a composite photo of President Barack Obama and George W. Bush – invoking a time when many on the left were critical of the Bush Administration's national security practices.
Hours later, when news broke that Obama had signed off on a program that allowed the FBI and NSA to review emails, videos and social networks of foreign users, the conservative Drudge Report posted a link to the story under the headline "The Internet From Hell."
While conservatives have been quick to criticize their political opposition, the recent scandal puts liberals on Capitol Hill, some in the media, and even liberal advocates in an conflicted position.
During the Bush administration, many key Democrats were critical of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, but are now having a hard time criticizing a president in their own party who's seemingly doing the same thing.

BBC News notes that he said "no one is listening to your calls."  They fail to point out this is a lie.  Millions of calls are being listened to right now as part of investigations.  When Barack combines lies with other claims, it doesn't cheapen all of his pretty words, it makes them all appear to be lies.   Jason Ditz ( reports:

The most telling statements came from James Clapper, however, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Clapper confirmed the presentation’s authenticity, condemning the leak as “reprehensible,” and then insisting the program was important to “protect our nation.”
Clapper followed up a de facto admission of the authenticity of the Powerpoint document with lies of his own that totally contradict the presentation itself, insisting that the PRISM scheme is “subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” when the NSA file made it clear the whole point of PRISM was to allow broad surveillance of everybody without FISA getting in the way.

Philip Rucker and Juliet Eilperin (Washington Post) note Barack's devolution:

Laura Murphy, who directs the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, recalled meeting with Obama in 2005, shortly after he became a senator. She said Obama invited her and representatives from a half-dozen other civil liberties organizations to discuss how to scale back the USA Patriot Act, a sweeping security law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. “He thought it went too far,” Murphy said.
Obama ended up co-sponsoring legislation that would have constrained the ability of intelligence officials to get a court order to obtain records from U.S. companies in terrorism investigations. The bill failed.
Then in 2006, as he began weighing a run for the White House, Obama backed reauthorizing the Patriot Act with minor modifications. By 2009, occupying the Oval Office, Obama asked Congress for a clean reauthorization of the law.
“The president’s a political animal first and foremost,” Murphy said. “He has principles, but he doesn’t always stick with them.”

Glenn Greenwald broke the spying story.  Nancy Cordes (CBS News -- link is video and text) has an interview with him on the topic.     Monday, we'll include The Drone War, there's not room for it today.  Yesterday's snapshot noted some of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Justice Dept hearing (which I wrongly called a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, my mistake, my apologies for the error).  In addition, last night Kat covered the hearing with "Richard Shelby loves Caprice," Wally with "50 million reasons to reduce the federal prison population," Ava with "Known terrorists can fly on US commercial planes" and I filled in for Ann and noted it with "Yet another reason to set Lynne Stewart free."  I wasn't sure what everyone was grabbing other than Wally (before they started writing).  One thing that didn't get noted was the Ranking Member Richard Shelby asked Attorney General Eric Holder about investigating himself.  He wanted to know what sort of wrong doing he would have to find to cause him to step down as AG.  Holder gave a lengthy speech about how he is proud of his work and blah, blah, blah.  He avoided the question completely and then switched to the topic of "fatigue."  He noted that fatigue might make him step down as AG.

Added ten minutes after this went up.  A State Dept friend just called and asked why I didn't note Secretary of State John Kerry's comments on Pride Month?  Because that phone call was the first I'd heard of them.  I said send them and give me a link and I'll add them.  Here's the link -- use it to stream the remarks below.  It is important that these remarks are reported -- it's especially important in countries like Iraq where LGBT communities are regularly targeted.

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 7, 2013

Hello!  I wanted to take a moment to join people around the world in celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride month.  This month is about the assertion of equality and dignity.  It is about the affirmation of fundamental freedoms and human rights.  It is about people taking pride in who they are, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Protecting universal human rights is at the very heart of our diplomacy, and we remain committed to advancing human rights for all, including LGBT individuals.  We are committed to advancing these rights not just in the month of June, but year-round. 
As Secretary, I join with my colleagues at our embassies, consulates, and USAID missions around the world in saying, no matter where you are, and no matter who you love, we stand with you.
Across the globe – in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas – our diplomats are assisting local LGBT organizations and supporting local human rights advocates working to promote equality, create dialogue, and ensure protections for LGBT individuals.
Through the Global Equality Fund, the State Department has already provided critical emergency and long-term assistance to promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons in over twenty-five countries.  And our support will continue to grow, in cooperation with other equality-minded governments, foundations and corporations.
Forty-four years after Stonewall, we see incredible progress in the fight to advance the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBT people, both here in the United States and globally.  Unfortunately, our work is not done.  Recent events underscore that despite progress, we still have a long way to go.  There are LGBT people of all ages, all races, and all faiths – citizens of every country on Earth.  And in too many places, LGBT people and their supporters are being attacked and harassed for simply being who they are and for standing up for their rights.
The United States condemns all such violence, harassment, and discrimination.  As President Obama said, “the struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights.”  LGBT persons must be free to exercise their human rights – including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly and association – without fear of reprisal. 

It is my honor to reaffirm the State Department’s commitment to promoting the human rights of LGBT persons, and indeed all human beings, worldwide.
To those celebrating Pride in the United States and around the world, I wish you all a Happy Pride month.



the new york times
 bbc news

Protests continue, pilgrims are blown up and the people starve


Friday in Iraq and the protests continue as they have since December 21st.  Above is an Iraqi Spring MC photo of the Falluja protest todayNINA reports, "Thousands of people flocked since the early hours of the day to the sit-ins yeards in Fallujah, Ramadi especially from the outskirts and areas near to the two cities to participate in Friday unified prayers."  They turned out in Tikrit, in Baghdad and in Baiji.

Kitabat reports that protesters in Nasiriyah demanded better public services including electricity.  70-year-old Shiekh Abdul-Zahra Vest explains that Dhi Qar has been suffering from a lack of dependable public services since 2003.  He called on all citizens to participate in the protest and demand their rights, to wear the shroud during the protests so that the message is visible to the government. He also spoke of the need for the government to provide adequate rations in the ration card system and to provide jobs for the unemployed and housing for the poor.  This was the sixth day of a sit-in on this issue.  In another report, Kitabat notes the cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has expressed his support for the protesters and has called for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reconcile the political blocs before it's too late.

Wednesday was the UN's World Food Day.  The UN prepared this [PDF format warning] online booklet for the occasion.   The Iraq Times notes the UN has found that 6 million Iraqis are exposed to food insecurity and vulnerability.  That's a large number and no one should suffer from that in a world where there is so much food grown.  However, it's especially appalling in Iraq.

It's appalling because Iraq's population is estimated by the CIA to be around 30 million.  Which would mean 1/5 of Iraqis are now living with food insecurity and vulnerability.

That's appalling.

It's even more so when you grasp Iraq's budget.  As Seerwan Jafar (Niqash) reported last December, Iraq's 2013 budget is $118 billion.

Iraq's not a poor country.  It's oil rich and the oil's been turned back on after years of sanctions.  The oil brings in a ton of money for the government.  Many times during the 20th century, the oil riches meant some of the finest public services for the people of Iraq, meant some of the finest schools and colleges, meant some of the best hospitals in the region.  Today?  Today all these riches and the people of Iraq live in poverty.  A sixth of the population is uncertain where the next meal's coming from.  Nouri's been prime minister since 2006.

In 2006, the government's budget was 34 billion in US dollars.  In 2007, it lept to 41.1 billion in US dollars, then 82.6 billion and then, in 2012, 100 billion..  While a sixth of the population is uncertain of their next meal, the annual budget for the government has basically been multiplied by six since Nouri became prime minister.

$118.4 billion dollars and the people still don't have drinkable water, jobs, dependable electricity or even enough food.

Nouri al-Maliki has failed Iraq since 2006 when Bully Boy Bush installed him as prime minister.  The people of Iraq said no to a second term but Barack Obama overrode their votes and had US official negotiate The Erbil Agreement to go around the voters and Iraq's Constitution so that Nouri got his second term.

Back in the Bully Boy Bush days, the press (and certain elements of the left) treated Anthony Cordesman as if he were a god.  We didn't treat him like that.  But we have noted him before -- to disagree with, to agree with him or just to toss out some point he was raising.  This week he had a column entitled "Why Is Obama Ignoring Iraq?" (Real Clear World) and I think the following applies as much to the US press as it does to Barack:

 For all the current attention to Syria, Iraq is the larger and more important state. Iraq is a nation of 31.9 million and Syria is a nation of 22.5 million. Iraq has the larger economy: Iraq has a GDP of $155.4 billion, and Syria had a GDP of $107.6 billion in 2011, the last year for which there are useful data. Most important, Iraq is a critical petroleum state and Syria is a cypher. Iraq has some 143 billion barrels worth of oil reserves (9 percent of world reserves) and Syria has 2.5 billion (0.2 percent). Iraq has 126.7 has trillion cubic meters of gas, and Syria has 10.1. Iraq has a major impact on the overall security of the Gulf, and some 20 percent of the world oil and LNG exports go through the Gulf.
This does not mean the conflict in Syria is not tragic or that it is not important. But from a practical strategic viewpoint, Iraq divided Iran from the Arab Gulf states. Iraqi-Iranian tensions acted as a strategic buffer between Iran and the rest of the Middle East for half a century between the 1950s and 2003. Today, Iraq has s Shi'ite government with close links to Iran and is a military vacuum. Iraq's Shi'ite leaders treat its Sunnis and Kurds more as a threat than as countrymen. Its Arab neighbors treat Iraq's regime more as a threat than an ally, and the growing Sunni-Shi'ite tension in the rest of the region make things steadily worse in Iraq and drive it towards Iran.

In violence, Press TV reports a Baquba bombing has killed 16 pilgrims and left forty-five more injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 64 violent deaths so far this month.

Fred Kaplan has an essay on The Drone War at MIT Technology Review.  Here's an excerpt:

By the fall of 2009, toward the end of Barack Obama’s first year as president, the Air Force was training more drone-joystick pilots than airplane-cockpit pilots. It was the start of a new era, not only for Air Force culture but also for the American way of war.
That year, 2009, saw not just a surge in U.S. drone strikes—in part because more drones were available and the institutional resistance to them had evaporated—but also a shift in where those strikes took place. There was nothing politically provocative about drones in Iraq or Afghanistan. They were weapons of war, used mainly for close air support of U.S. ground troops in countries where those troops were fighting wars. The controversy—which persists today—began when drones started hunting and killing specific people in countries where the United States was not officially at war.
These strikes took place mainly in Pakistan and Yemen. Pakistan was serving as a sanctuary for Taliban fighters in neighboring Afghanistan; Yemen was emerging as the center of a new wing of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Bush had ordered a few strikes in those countries: in fact, the first drone strike outside a formal war zone took place in Yemen, on November 3, 2002, against an al-Qaeda leader who a few years earlier had helped plan the attack on the USS Cole. Bush also launched 48 drone strikes in the Waziristan region of Pakistan, along the mountainous border with Afghanistan—36 of them during his last year in office.
Obama, who had pledged during the 2008 presidential campaign to get out of Iraq and deeper into Afghanistan, accelerated this trend, launching 52 drone strikes on Pakistani territory just in his first year. In 2010 he more than doubled the number of these strikes, to 122. Then, the next year, the number fell off, to 73. In 2012 it declined further, to 48—which still equaled the total number of strikes in all eight years of Bush’s presidency. In a contrary shift, 2012 was also the year when the number of drone strikes soared in Yemen, from a mere handful to 54.

These strikes have provoked violent protest in those countries, alienating even those who’d previously felt no affection for jihadists and, in some cases, provided some support for the United States. At home, a political and legal debate rages over the wisdom and propriety of drone strikes as a tool in the war on terror.
Heightening the controversy is the fact that everything about these strikes outside war zones—including, until recently, their occurrence—is secret. Drone strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, like all other military operations, have been conducted by the Defense Department. But drone strikes elsewhere are covert operations conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency, which operates in the dark (even congressional oversight is limited to the members of the select intelligence committees) and under a different, more permissive legal authority (Title 50 of the U.S. Code, not the Defense Department’s Title 10).

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