Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, March 26, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's assault on Anbar continues, Barack lies about Iraq, Amnesty International reveals Iraq executed even more people in 2013 than in 2012, the Parliament moves to provide the election committee with more powers (and immunity) and much more.

Let's start with the big lie from US President Barack Obama today.  Speaking in Brussels today, as he attempted to sell war on Russia, Barack declared that what's going on in Ukraine is nothing like the illegal war in Iraq and the illegal war was benign and helpful:

It is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate – not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I happened to oppose our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.

It was not a subject of vigorous debate in the US.  Those of who spoke out were told to "shut up."  If you wanted to hear an argument against going to war on Iraq, your best chance was catching Janeane Garofalo or Michael Moore on Fox News. Fox would attack the guests, so praise for Janeane and Michael for going into the lion's den -- but they would allow the guests to express their views.

Elsewhere, people were just shut out.  And worse.  We've noted the journalist who left the Dallas Morning News and is at another daily today but remembers full well that orders went out to attack the anti-war critics. Sheryl Crow was attacked and slandered by the paper, said to be unworthy of her Grammy nomination.  Why did the music critic write that?  Why did she lie by arguing that instead of Sheryl being nominated a baby pop tart should have been nominated?  Pop tart wasn't even eligible for a nomination because she had nothing to be nominated for -- the Grammy rules aren't secret and that includes the eligibility time period.   She attacked Sheryl because she was under orders.  In the local pieces, others were under orders as well. Which is how the local columnist attacked protesters in Dallas and compared their actions to treason.  This was a hippie and a stoner.  But he marched to the orders he was given.

I can do that on seven other daily newspapers, we're using the Dallas Morning News because its actions were in part an effort to continue to have the government allow it to skirt FCC regulations over ownership in local markets.

Yeah, Big Business profited from the Iraq War.  The FCC was used to help sell the war and that is one of the many things that's buried today.

So Barack's a damn liar. There was no vigorous debate.  A month before it started, in fact, the day after liar Colin The Blot Powell lied to the United Nations, "case closed" was the phrase the media began using.

Aaron Blake (Washington Post) reports on Barack's remarks and we'll note two comments to Blake's article:

Then get out, as requested by the puppet governor we installed.



Sorry, but this has stunned me into speechlessness. Not one country sanctioned the US for invading a sovereign country on a phony pretext, destabilizing it, occupying it, setting up an American govt....

And not one country ever sanctioned the US for its torture of suspects.

The US doesn't need to annex that which it occupies and then controls through puppet regimes.

This was totally unwise. 

Jason Ditz ( is on a streak this week.  Yesterday he wrote something (we noted it in the snapshot) that I've already nominated for "Truest statement of the week" at Third and, writing today about Barack's nonsense remarks, Ditz cuts right through the nonsense:

“America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory,” Obama insisted, going on to praise Iraq as a “fully sovereign state” that “could make decisions about its own future.”
Which is to say the US forced a puppet government into power before it left, despite Prime Minister Maliki losing the last election, and put in place an election system so crooked that even the Maliki-appointed election commission resigned en masse yesterday rather than take part in April’s planned vote.

Barack's refusal to note the lies that the US government told to start the Iraq War is understandable when you think of all the lies he and others in the administration (Secretary of State John Kerry, for example) have told to try to sway the public to support a war with Russia.

Everything Barack said above was a lie.

It is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate – not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I happened to oppose our military intervention there. 

We've noted there was no vigorous debate.  Equally true, his claim to oppose the illegal war?  Only before it started.  Once it started, he was on board.  I know because he told Elaine and I that when he was running for the Senate (and we left the fundraiser immediately and didn't give his campaign a dime).

But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. 

Lie.  The United Nations provided no approval of starting a war.  The statement that a second resolution would be sought was dropped when the US government learned (by illegal spying on UN representatives) that they didn't have the votes necessary, they started the illegal war anyway.

We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. 

Actually, the US government did and does.  The illegal war was about markets -- that includes the oil market.  The illegal war 'opened' the oil wells in Iraq.  The country's being polluted as it tries to pump out as much oil as possible.  There are pools, lakes, of oil in Iraq, on the surface, polluting the land, ensuring that less and less of it can be used for farming.  Iraq's giving the world cheap oil and, in the process, destroying itself.

Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.

We already quoted Jason Ditz addressing the nonsense of a 'fully sovereign' nation.  So let's deal with 'we ended our war and left Iraq to its people' instead.

The US drawdown out of Iraq was completed by the end of December 2011.  The US military called it a drawdown, not a "withdrawal."  It wasn't a withdrawal.  Not only did every US service member not leave Iraq at that time (Ted Koppel was the only one to report this in December 2011), but approximately 15,000 US troops were re-positioned to Kuwait.  And, almost a year later, at the end of September 2012, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

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 General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

Barack's such a liar and he gets away with it because so many embrace lies.  We'll come back to that at the end of the snapshot.  Right now we'll note the immediate effect of Barack's latest nonsense.  Julianna Goldman and Mike Dorning (Bloomberg News) report, "As Obama spoke, U.S. stocks fell, erasing earlier gains, on investor concern that the conflict may escalate. The Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 0.3 percent to 1,859.76 at 3:19 p.m. in New York, after earlier climbing to within three points of its record closing level reached March 7. "

Let's note some Tweets on Barack's nonsense:

  • Anger, Disbelief as Obama Defends US Invasion of Iraq: President Barack Obama delivers ...

  • Barack Obama was against the Iraq war, before he was for it.

    1. When you didn't think Obama could get any worse, but then he did. Apologist for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

  • Anger, Disbelief as Obama Defends Bush's Iraq Invasion while denouncing Putin's invasion of Crimea-Ukraine

  • Today, Obama criticized Russia's invasion of Crimea, saying the US only "intervened" in Iraq and did not "annex" it. Two wrongs, no right.

  • Obama overlooks destruction US has wrought upon Iraq. "We ended our war & left Iraq to its people."

  • There's a lot to cover on Iraq today so let's move to "Death sentences and executions in 2013."  Amnesty International issued their latest report on executions.  Click here for an Amnesty video presentation.


    The report notes "an alarming rise in executions in Iran and Iraq."  Here's a section on Iraq:

    For the third year in a row, a stark rise in executions was reported in Iraq . At least 169 people were executed, an increase of more than 30% over the known total for 2012 (at least 129) and the highest figure since 2003. The vast majority of executions in recent years are believed to have followed convictions under Article 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, Law 13 of 2005. This includes a number of nationals of other predominantly Arab states. The law covers, in vague terms, acts such as provoking, planning, financing, committing or supporting others to commit terrorism. The government claims that the death penalty is needed to confront the high level of attacks by armed groups against civilians. There is no evidence to support the position that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime or attacks. The security situation in the country has actually worsened in recent years. No executions have taken place in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq since 2008.
    Amnesty international recorded at least 35 death sentences in Iraq, including one woman. Most were imposed for murder and other killings, but others for non - lethal crimes such as kidnapping or "belonging to a terrorist group". The real figure is likely to be much higher , as many death sentences are not reported. According to an Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights report published early in the year, criminal courts had pronounced more than 2,600 death sentences between 2004 and 2012, or more than 280 per year on average. Death sentences are often handed down after grossly unfair trials, during which prisoners do not have access to proper legal representation . "Confessions" are frequently extracted through torture or other ill-treatment, which according to credible reports can include electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, being suspended from handcuffs, beatings on the sole of the feet ( falaqa ) and with a cable or a pistol butt, and use of a drill.

    Grasp that this is the Iraq Barack was bragging about today.  Back to the report:

    In statements in September and October, the Iraqi Ministry of Justice stated that all death sentences were reviewed and confirmed by the Court of Cassation before executions took place. However, the generally paper-based procedure does not provide a genuine review, as defendants are limited to written submissions  and the court regularly fails to address t he issue of contested evidence such as "confessions" allegedly made following torture and other ill-treatment , and subsequently withdrawn . Hundreds of prisoners are on death row with their sentences ratified by the Presidency, the last formal step before implementation . Executions are often carried out in large groups, and at very short notice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated in reaction to the execution of 21 prisoners on the same day in April that the justice system in the country was "too seriously flawed to warrant even a limited application of the death penalty, let alone dozens of executions at a time. Executing people in batches like this is obscene. It is like processing animals in a slaughterhouse."

    The good news never really emerges out of Iraq.  Yesterday brought the news that the entire board of the Independent High Electoral Commission was submitting their resignations -- 35 days prior to expected parliamentary elections April 30th:

    Jason Ditz ( provides context,  "IHEC’s complaints roughly mirror those of the last election, that the Maliki government is trying to use the electoral law’s ban on candidates of “ill repute” to ban potential rivals en masse." 

    Ken Hanly (Digital Journal) observes, "The existing electoral law allows for candidates of 'ill repute' to be barred from running for office. The De-Baathification laws which prohibit candidates associated with Hussein's old political party are also used to disqualify candidates. Critics claim that the Maliki government is using these laws to ban any potential rivals particularly Sunnis. The Sunnis already feel marginalized in the Shia majority government and radical Sunni groups including some associated with Al Qaeda are rebelling against the government."  "Ill repute," by the way, also includes any candidate who is gay or suspected of being gay.

    All Iraq News notes the al-Ahra bloc's Mushriq Naji accused Nouri and his State of Law of having interfered with the work of the IHEC.  Alsumaria reports that, in his weekly speech today, Nouri al-Maliki blamed the Parliament.  He stated Parliament overstepped its bound and said the UNHCR did as well.  He declared the board's resignation should be immediately accepted.  By contrast, Nihad Qais (Alsumaria) reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for the commissioners to reconsider their resignations. Iraq Times notes he conveyed this message today in a meeting with the IHEC board chair.

    So where do things stand currently?    All Iraq News notes that the planned press conference the IHEC was supposed to hold today was postponed.  But apparently, the meeting with Osama al-Nujaifi was productive.  Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports:

    Iraq’s parliament is set to issue a resolution giving the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) judicial immunity following its decision to resign this week, in a bid to preserve its independence and impartiality.
    In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Iraqi parliamentary rapporteur Mohamed Al-Khalidi said: “Parliament is moving to pass a resolution granting judicial immunity to the IHEC,” adding, “This will put it in a comfortable position, particularly following the council of commissioners’ decision to resign en masse.” 

    The US Embassy in Baghdad released the following today:

    March 26, 2014
    The United States fully supports Iraq’s democracy and democratic institutions as defined and established in the Iraqi Constitution, specifically Article 102, which provides for the independence and neutrality of the Independent High Electoral Commission.

    Ensuring that upcoming parliamentary elections are held on schedule is of the utmost importance and we commend the IHEC for its work in preparing for these elections under difficult circumstances. These preparations have ensured that there is no basis for any delay in the elections as scheduled for April 30. We urge the commissioners to continue this important work, to ensure elections proceed as scheduled, and affirm that the United States will stand behind the full independence of IHEC over the weeks and months ahead.

    Did you catch it?

    The IHEC announces their resignations and cite interference.  The US Embassy issues a statement . . . urging the IHEC "to continue this important work" but fails to call out those who have undermined the IHEC.

    The Arab Summit wrapped up today in Kuwait.  Sylvia Westall, Amena Bakr, Rania El Gamal, Sami Aboudi and Kevin Liffey (Reuters) note, "Arab leaders, at loggerheads over inter-Arab issues including Egypt and Syria, offered little evidence of progress after a two-day summit in Kuwait on Wednesday."

    Last night, Elaine noted the first day of the summit:

    As Sylvia Westall and Amena Bakr (Reuters) report the Arab Summit kicked off in Kuwait. Among those attending were Qatar's Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.
    March 12th, Thug and Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki gave an interview to France24 in which, among other things, he attacked Qatar saying it was responsible for terrorism in Iraq.
    Gulf News notes:  "Without naming Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, he criticized what he says were attempts to sideline entire segments of that Arab nation."
    Hamza Hendawi (AP) elaborates

    Tamim criticized the Iraqi government for discrimination against the country's Sunni minority, which often complains of being excluded from power amid domination by the Shiite majority. Iraq saw a wave of Sunni protests the past year, and Sunni extremists have seized control of the western city of Fallujah.
    "It's about time for Iraq to emerge from the vicious circle of violence and differences," Tamim said. "That cannot come about through the sidelining of entire segments of society or accusing them of terrorism if they demand equality and inclusion."

    Read more here:

    It must be hard for Nouri to be so incompetent and unloved.
    He thinks he can steal a third term.  Maybe he can.  Barack helped him steal the second term.
    But the Iraqi people don't want him.
    Eight years and he's failed to improve the lives of Iraqis.
    It's time to send him packing.

    Nouri's assault on Anbar Province continues.  He's had a little new 'success' with regards to targeting civilians.  NINA reports the military's shelling targeting Falluja not only left five people injured but also set afire a power plant -- burning over 50% of the plant.

    In other violence,  National Iraqi News Agency reports Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 2 suspects,  then Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 6 more suspects1 person was shot dead in south Baghdad (Mada'in), former Brigadier General Fa'iz Abdu al-Rahman was shot dead in Baghdad,  3 grenades thrown in Mosul left thirty people injured, a Mosul battle left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead,  and 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad ("riddled with bullet holes in his head").  Alsumaria notes a Tikrit car bombing left 3 people dead and six injured, and 1 elderly man was shot dead in Mosul.

    March 8, 2014, International Women's Day, Iraqi women protested in Baghdad against Nouri al-Maliki's proposed bill which would allow father's to marry off daughters as young as nine-years-old, strip away the need for consent to sex,  and would strip custodial rights from mothers.  The State Dept only commented when pressed during a briefing.  The White House -- despite pretending to support women -- has still had no public statement.  Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers explains:

    Reaction from a wide cross-section of Iraqi society has been swift and scathing, with many protests on International Women’s Day and a plethora of criticism from journalists, members of Parliament and even Shia religious leaders. Resistance has in part been driven by anger over what many Iraqis see as yet another sectarian measure but also by a deep, if too often ignored, concern over deteriorating women’s rights—and the fear that the bill is just the tip of the iceberg.
    The Council of Ministers’passage of the Jaafari law highlighted the short shrift Iraq’s government has given to women’s eroding rights, amid political instability and mounting sectarian violence. Some have also claimed that the uproar over the proposal is a distraction from Iraq’s “real” problems. But given that violence, absence of the rule of law and political sectarianism show no sign of waning in Iraq, when would be the “right” time to talk about the abysmal state of women’s rights in the country?

    Isobel Coleman (Foreign Affairs) writes about the bill today:

    In some respects, the timing of the bill is curious. When it was first introduced last October, the Council of Ministers seemed likely to table it until after the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for April 30. But the council’s approval of the bill on February 25, and the introduction of companion legislation establishing special religious courts, can be viewed only as political pandering to conservative Shia parties and voters in the run-up to the vote. Parliament must still approve the bill for it to become law, but the move has added sectarian tinder to a highly volatile, and increasingly violent, political situation.
    But sectarianism is not the only problem. The shocking prospects of Iraqi child brides as young as nine, legally sanctioned marital rape, and restrictions on a woman’s ability to leave her own home have also caught headlines around the world. UN officials have denounced the legislation, as have civil society groups such as Human Rights Watch. And they should continue to do so. International bodies, including the United Nations and the World Bank, which recently signed a loan agreement with Iraq to finance important infrastructure improvements, should express their unambiguous concerns. The United States should also be unequivocal in denouncing the bill. Nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch should continue to track the issue closely.

    In the US, Jonathan Schell passed away today.  His passing should give many pause.  The journalist accomplished a great deal during the Vietnam era.  AP writes about his death here. Jonathan died long ago.  Sorry.  I knew him.  He was coward in the '00s.  He 'protested' the Iraq War.  But he wouldn't write about it.  He tried, he was knocked down.  He didn't pursue it then, he just whined.  As a writer of his stature, he could have pushed back against the power structure.  He didn't.  His output was embarrassing for the last 14 years.

    Probably time for the elderly to wake the hell up.  What you did during Vietnam?  You can't coast on it through life.  There are serious issues going on right now and if you're too much of coward to speak out, then just take your tired ass of the public stage.  If you can't find your voice in the midst of  The Drone War, with manufactured efforts to attack Syria, the effort to manufacture consent for war on Ukraine, the illegal spying and so much more, you have nothing to say.  You're just a coward sitting on a past that helps no one today.  I know the excuses, the justifications.  Guess what?  Class of Vietnam?  You're most likely not going to outlive your excuses.

    Jonathan's death should be a wake up call to all 70 and above who consider themselves leftits or an 'activst, author and actress' because you will be dead soon and you will be remembered not for something you did 40 or more years ago but for the coward you went out as.

    I knew Jonathan very well.  I'm personally sad that he passed away.  I'm sadder that he made his life so useless by cooperating with the Katrina vanden Heuvel faction which puts electing Democrats above humanity and justice.  I knew Tony Benn and we spent a long time on his death.  Because he fought to the end.  He wasn't a coward.  Tony Benn's death was a real loss.

    In The Russia House, Michelle Pfeiffer's Katya declares, "I hope you are not being frivolous with me, Barley.  My life now only has room for truth."  It's a shame so many on the left over 70 seem to think they've got 50 or more years ahead of them and can lay low until a Republican's in the White House and then emerge to pretend they care about the Constitution, human rights and so much more.

    Vietnam Generation (and others on the left), should read closely what Glenn Greenwald's wrote yesterday at First Look about how Barack announced he would release photos of detainee abuse and the 'left' applauded but then he retreated from that position and the 'left' applauded:

    Now, obviously, the people who had been defending Obama’s original pro-transparency position (which included the ACLU, human rights groups, and civil liberties writers including me) changed course and criticized him. That’s what rational people, by definition, do: if a political official takes a position you agree with, then you support him, but when he does a 180-degree reversal and takes the exact position that you’ve been disagreeing with, then you oppose him. That’s just basic. Thus, those of us who originally defended Obama’s decision to release the photos turned into critics once he took the opposite position – the one we disagreed with all along – and announced that he would try to suppress the photos.
    But that’s not what large numbers of Democrats did. Many of them first sided with Obama when his administration originally announced he’d release the photos. But then, with equal vigor, they also sided with Obama when – a mere two weeks later – he took the exact opposition position, the very anti-transparency view these Democrats had been attacking all along when voiced by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney.
    At least for me, back then, that was astonishing to watch. It’s one thing to strongly suspect that people are simply adopting whatever views their party’s leader takes. But this was like the perfect laboratory experiment to prove that: Obama literally took exact opposition positions in a heated debate within a three week period and many Democrats defended him when he was on one side of the debate and then again when he switched to the other side.
    [. . .]
    That’s when I fully internalized that many Democrats literally had no actual political beliefs other than we support Obama in everything that he does, even when he takes precisely opposite positions in a three week period [. . .].