Monday, May 05, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, May 5, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, accusations tarnish the supposedly 'fair' election last week, Iran's government learns just how unpopular Nouri al-Maliki is, one of the oldest Veterans Service Organizations in the country calls for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Marie Harf argues two wrongs will make a right, and more.

Barack Obama's administration continues its effort to circumvent oversight and accountability. The American Legion is calling for the resignations of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, VA's Dr. Robert Petzel and the VA's Allison Hickey.

In front of local media and a live Internet audience, American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger today called for the resignations of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Under Secretary of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey.
Dellinger cited poor oversight and failed leadership as the reason for calling for the resignations – something The American Legion hasn’t done regarding a public official in more than 30 years.
“Gen. Eric Shinseki has served his country well,” Dellinger said. “His patriotism and sacrifice for this nation are above reproach. However, his record as the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs tells a different story. The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks.”
Dellinger pointed to allegations from multiple whistleblowers of a secret waiting list at the Phoenix VA Health Care System that may have resulted in the death of approximately 40 veterans, that VA previously had acknowledged that 23 veterans throughout the health-care system have died as a result of delayed care in recent years, and a the findings of an investigation by VA’s Office of Medical Inspector that clerks at the VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., were instructed last year how to falsify appointment records so it appeared the small staff of doctors was seeing patients within the agency's goal of 14 days, according to the investigation.
“These disturbing reports are part of what appear to be a pattern of scandals that has infected the entire system,” said Dellinger, noting issues that have come up in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Augusta, Ga. “Those problems need addressed at the highest level – starting with new leadership. The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks.”
Dellinger said that the failure to disclose safety information or to cover up mistakes is unforgivable – as is fostering a culture of nondisclosure. “VA leadership has demonstrated its incompetence through preventable deaths of veterans, long wait times for medical care, a benefits claims backlog numbering in excess of 596,000, and the awarding of bonuses to senior executives who have overseen such operations,” he said. “Some veterans have waited years to have their claims decided. That same leadership has failed to provide answers to why these issues continue to occur.”
Dellinger said that while errors and lapses can occur in any system, “The American Legion expects when such errors and lapses are discovered, that they are dealt with swiftly and that the responsible parties are held accountable. This has not happened at the Department of Veterans Affairs. There needs to be a change, and that change needs to occur at the top. “
When asked by media what the Legion would do if the trio didn’t resign, Dellinger said a draft of the request was being sent to the White House. “This is a very serious situation,” he said. “The administration needs to take steps now. It’s long overdue. Whenever you’re talking about a patient’s life – a veteran’s life – in jeopardy, it’s always serious.”

Dellinger also wrote an op-ed piece calling for the resignations. Read it here

Though Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has not yet expressed an opinion on the call for a resignation, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) quotes IAVA's CEO Paul Rieckhoff stating,  "What everyone agrees is that there’s been a failure of leadership and accountability and oversight."

Meanwhile Marie Harf disgraced herself and her Department at today's State Dept press briefing:

And I would -- again, we talked a little bit about this on Friday, but I'm just going to read a little bit of quote for you from House Republican leader John Boehner. This is a quote from 2007 about a previous attempt to subpoena a Secretary of State. This was a subpoena to get information about prewar intelligence in Iraq. You’ll remember, I think, 4,500 Americans died in Iraq. This is the quote from John Boehner. Let me just read a little bit for you.  Quote, "This partisan show trial is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. By subpoenaing the Secretary of State, Democrats have revealed how beholden they are to leftwing activist groups while stealing the Secretary’s time away from critical diplomatic missions." It goes on. But Chairman Issa also opposed that subpoena for Secretary Rice. So what we would say is you don't get to have different rules for different administrations. And as Lindsey Graham this weekend said on a Sunday show, we shouldn’t play politics with Benghazi. Clearly, I think what we’re seeing now can be called nothing but that.

Clearly, what the country is seeing is a partisan hack.

I cannot believe this nonsense.

Marie never mentions the dead,does she?

This is about the September 12, 2012 attack in Benghazi which left four Americans dead: Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and US Ambassador Chris Stevens.

What happened sent a chill through the US diplomatic community.

And yet Marie can't explore that.  She's a hack, a political appointee, who will leave the State Dept with this administration.  But the American women and men who have made their career serving in the diplomatic service will remain and they're being betrayed by the political hacks in their own department.

She barked, she screeched, she did everything but her damn job.  She's an embarrassment to the Dept and if there was any sense of maturity and accountability in leadership at the State Dept, Marie Harf would be informed that she needed to seek other employment.

She's an idiot to being with who needs her cheat notebook to comment on nearly every topic and has to flip through it in one briefing after another.  How uniformed are you, Marie?

Let's go through Marie's latest nonsense.

And I would -- again, we talked a little bit about this on Friday, but I'm just going to read a little bit of quote for you from House Republican leader John Boehner. 

Why are you going to read a quote from Boehner?

Do you think it will sway many people?

I've never been a fan of the man so why would I slap my forehead now and exclaim, "Boehner's making sense!"?

I wouldn't.

This is a quote from 2007 about a previous attempt to subpoena a Secretary of State. 

Actually, it's not.

And when you stand at that podium, you need to know your facts.

Condi Rice was not subpoenaed because she was Secretary of State.  The subpoena covered her time as National Security Advisor.

How stupid is Marie Harf or is she just that much of a cheap liar?

This was a subpoena to get information about prewar intelligence in Iraq.

That subpoena was to get information regarding Bully Boy Bush's claim in the 2003 State of the Union address that, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

That's what Condi was being subpoenaed about.  It had nothing to do with the State Dept.  Colin Powell was the Secretary of State when Bully Boy Bush told that lie.  Colin wasn't subpoenaed.

From the April 25, 2007 snapshot:

In semi-related news, US Secretary of State and Anger Condi Rice has a subpoena with her name on it from the US House Judiciary Committee.  CBS News and AP report that she will be asked to testify (presumably under oath) about the lies that Iraq "was seeking uranium from Africa." On a 21-10 vote, the committee agreed to compell Rice's testimony.

What was at stake here?  That the remarks were wrong?  No.

As Time magazine noted July 9, 2003, four years before the subpoena, "So, the White House is not contesting the fact that the President made a false claim -- merely whether he, or those who prepared his speech, knew at the time that it was false. "

Marie then feels the need to offer:

You’ll remember, I think, 4,500 Americans died in Iraq. 

You think?

You're a government spokesperson and you can't get the figure right on an issue of grave importance to the country?

Recognize this?  "The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489."  It appears here at least twice a week and has throughout Barack's presidency.  We had used a website's statistics.  We dropped due to e-mails about how the number and the number went down and they never offered an explanation or a footnote.  I'm being kind and not noting the website by name.  So while Bully Boy Bush was still in office, I was informed that the Defense Dept had a running tally.  That's what the link goes to in this sentence: "The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489."  Is Marie too stupid to know that or is working a computer just too much for her?

Who knows but we've already gone over one key point: US soldiers who die in wars?  They're trained for combat.  They're considered heroic not because of their haircuts or the uniform.  They're considered heroic because these men and women go into combat zones prepared to fight and knowing one likely outcome is death.

The diplomatic corps?  They're not trained in combat.  The death of a soldier in combat is tragic.  It is not, however, shocking.  War means death.

That Marie can't understand the difference between soldiers and diplomats does not speak well of her comprehension abilities.

It should also be noted that this woman never sees fit to raise the issue of Iraq.  But now she wants to?

Kerry's State Dept is an embarrassment on this issue when contrasted with Hillary's State Dept which did regular briefings on Iraq -- and has covered for War Crimes wants to trot the American dead but can't even take the time to find out the number.  Talk about lazy.  Maybe Marie Harf should sign that next paycheck over to the American taxpayers since she's clearly struggling to do the most basic work she's paid to do.

This is the quote from John Boehner. Let me just read a little bit for you.  Quote, "This partisan show trial is a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. By subpoenaing the Secretary of State, Democrats have revealed how beholden they are to leftwing activist groups while stealing the Secretary’s time away from critical diplomatic missions." 

Big surprise that Boehner would attack those of us on the left.  What's Marie's point?

It goes on. 

As does Marie.

But Chairman Issa also opposed that subpoena for Secretary Rice. 

Oh, okay!  If Issa opposed it, a left-wing feminist like myself should fall in line, right?  Wrong.

So what we would say is you don't get to have different rules for different administrations.

Marie is so damn deeply stupid.

Her parents may have failed her or she just might be The Bad Seed but the reality is, most of us who were raised with parents early on learned this phrase:  "Two wrongs do not make a right."

Marie's most disappointing in her inability to stop whoring.  She is not paid by the Democratic Party, she is paid by the American people.

She forgets them, doesn't she?

Or maybe just ignores them.

Reality, the only time things happen in American politics is when the other side's trying to make political hay at the expense of the other.  Such is the fate in a two-party system.  But that is how Americans get the transparency a democracy is supposed to provide freely.

Here's the only rule: A democracy is supposed to be transparent.

What the dumb ass Marie's talking about are not "rules"?  They're not in the Constitution.

What it reminds me of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis marveling over all the money wasted digging up scandals on political rivals by both sides and no one ever exposes anything.

That's a practice, it's not a rule.

Nor is the nonsense Marie's spouting a rule.

But here's what's really interesting about Marie's stupidity.

She wants to argue that it is wrong for Kerry to be called before Congress.  I'm sorry, that's his damn job.  If he can't appear before Congress, he doesn't need to be in the administration.  If he can't be responsive to the people -- Congress is the body which acts as the people's representatives -- he's not fit for office.

But grasp that she's arguing Kerry shouldn't be forced to testify because Condi wasn't forced to testify.

Who is that argument supposed to appeal to?

When Condi was served -- over Republican objection -- we on the left were thrilled.  A typical response would be Jonathan Stein's "Ahh, Now for the Good Stuff:  Congress Subpoenas Condi Rice" (Mother Jones).

Marie is appealing to those of us who cheered Condi being subpoenaed to now hiss that John Kerry has been subpoenaed.  She's hoping we're all craven, whorish, unethical hypocrites the way she is.

Democrat Henry Waxman chaired the Committee that served Condi with the subpoena and he stated at the time, as reported by Thomas Ferraro (Reuters), "The American public was misled about the threat posed by Iraq, and this committee is going to do its part to find out why."

For whatever reasons, Waxman and others were doing the right thing.  They backed off and betrayed the American people.  It wasn't that much of a surprise and let's continue our practice of giving credit where it's due.  The day after Condi was subpoenaed and as part of other measures -- including a fake ass bill to 'end' the Iraq War -- Chris Toensing (Middle East Report) appeared on KPFA's The Morning Show and spoke with Andrea Lewis:

Chris Toensing: Well, I have never been able to shake the suspicion all along that the Democrats are engaged in an elaborate show of political theater -- that they do not really intend, in the end, to pass, to insist, that Bush sign legislation which would contain a binding timetable of any sorts. And that they are willing to water down those provisions even further to the point where it's entirely at the president's discretion -- it already almost is.  But they're willing, I think, to water it down even further in order to chip away some Republicans who will vote for something like that and then they can claim to the public that they're trying to tie Bush's hands and they're trying to assert their Constitutional oversight role in helping to end this disasterous war and yet not really have their finger prints on Iraq policy.  And I've never been able to shake this suspicion that that's really the Democrats game and I'm not speaking about the Progressive Caucus or the Out of Iraq Caucus who have a much clearer goal in mind and a much sounder political strategy in mind but I'm talking about the big national Democrats, the Emanuels and Pelosis in the House, the Schumers and Levins and so on in the Senate.  And I think the goal of this is - is to make sure that the war is solely Bush's albatross and solely the Republicans albatross rather than to bring the war to a speedy conclusion.   

Marie Harf, paid by the American taxpayers, wasted everyone's time spinning today to lodge an objection to a cabinet member being called before Congress.

Instead of flapping her gums, Harf needs to review the US Constitution.

Regardless of why -- or what 'soul reader' Marie thinks is the why -- Congress has the right to subpoena.  And if John Kerry doesn't show up, he's the problem, not Congress, not the Republican Party.

The State Dept needs to stop whoring and find a level maturity real damn quick.

Not only is this how it works, how the government was created to work, Barack Obama promised greater transparency -- than?  Greater than Bully Boy Bush.

I'm no fan of Barack's and I don't pretend to be.  But even I'm appalled by how Marie Harft's whorish stunt today at the State Dept undermines Barack's claims of greater transparency.

And she does that to make an incoherent and childish nah-nah-nah argument.

She's a disgrace and so is any US official who attempts to circumvent Congressional oversight.

"So let's all play by the same rules here," she stupidly stated.

Trashy Marie doesn't get to make the 'rules.'  They're found in the Constitution -- the document she needs to familiarize herself with.  She's not the only one who needs to be reading the Constitution.

Hassan did not expect that as a journalist he “would be treated in this manner.” He thought this kind of behavior “would be coming from people who do not believe in democracy,” not Americans. 

That's from Kevin Gosztola's "Al Jazeera Journalist Recounts Torture He Allegedly Experienced at Hands of CACI Contractors at Abu Ghraib" (Firedoglake).  The journalist is Salah Hassan.

Saturday was World Press Freedom Day and Axel Plathe (UNESCO Representative for Iraq) and Nickolay Mladenov (the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq) issued a joint-statement:

Baghdad, 3 May 2014 - Iraq together with the rest of the world today celebrate World Press Freedom Day. This year’s theme “Media Freedom for a Better Future” contains four themes, all of great relevance to Iraq: free media and their contribution to good governance; empowerment and eradication of poverty; the rule of law to ensure safety of journalists; and the sustainability and professionalism of journalism.
"I would like to extend my greetings to all journalists in Iraq who work tirelessly to uphold freedom of expression and the right to information. Many have lost their lives in defence of freedom of expression. I want to offer my condolences to their families. Regrettably, the number of media professionals suffering from violence, intimidation, harassment is steadily high. Too many cases of murders of journalists were never successfully prosecuted”, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov noted.
He added, "Despite all these challenges, I am encouraged to see a highly vibrant media environment in a country that is struggling with terrorism and violence. I pay tribute to all media professionals who continue promoting Iraq’s democratic transition and playing their role as a pillar of democracy and healthy governance."
"Freedom of expression and its underpinning human rights remain extremely fragile in Iraq and must be actively defended. This is why we will continue to raise our voice to condemn attacks against media professionals in Iraq”, Mr. Axel Plathe said. “On this day, we call upon the government, media professionals and the Iraqi civil society to come up with a national response that guarantees the basic right of freedom of expression, and ensures the journalists’ safety and dignity”, he further stated.
"The UN family stands with the Iraqi media in their defence of freedom of expression and press freedom. We are ready to help improve current legislation on the rights to press freedom and freedom of expression. These rights are essential parts of democracy, transparency, accountability and the rule of law. They are vital for human dignity, social progress and inclusive development”, both Mladenov and Plathe said. 

At Jonathan Turley's website, Darren Smith wrote about Word Press Freedom Day and included, "Iraq is the top of the list where murder cases of journalists who cause controversy are the least likely to be properly investigated."  AFP reported on World Press Freedom Day and noted:

"The most dangerous thing we face at this point is the government employing (legal) articles more aggressively than before," said Sarmad al-Taie, a columnist for Al-Mada newspaper and a frequent guest on current affairs television programmes.
A warrant was issued for Taie's arrest in January for criticising incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is seeking re-election after Wednesday's general election. 

The election.  Last Wednesday, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections.  Iraq Surveys and Dirk Adriaensens authored a report entitled "Fraudulent Elections In Iraq" (Brussells Tribunal):

High Risks &  Dangers on Personal Security of Voters in the recent Iraqi elections in 2014 Elections Security Breaches and Concerns by Iraq Surveys ISS
In recent elections held in Iraq and in Numerous Centres in Other countries ISS Concentrated on a few interesting procedures that were taken in 2014 in comparison to the previous elections in 2010. In this Short report we wish to express our high concern for the privacy and personal safety of citizens who chose to participate in these elections.
The General Environment
The 2014 Elections comes in a very critical time in Iraq where security is a major challenge. 6 of Iraq's 18 provinces are outside the control on Nouri Al Maliki and Battles are raging daily between Tribes that revolted to defend their rights and cities in retaliation to Maliki's Attack in January. Terror Groups also active giving Nouri the Media coverage he needs to request aid from international powers in the name of Fighting Terror. Southern Provinces are furious on failures of the Maliki Government to deliver services. Kurdish Provinces in serious conflict with Baghdad government on financial & Oil exporting Issues. Election Centres have been attacked or mortared in areas, and thousands of displaced Iraqis from the fighting in Anbar were forced to vote in provinces other than theirs mostly from Erbil. Unlike 2010 In which elections were previously held in a considerably safer environment, this 2014 elections was carried out not only in an environment that should have dictated Its postponement in the interest of voters safety and electoral process credibility but also several new & interesting procedures conclude that the persistence in pursuing the elections in these grave circumstances were the result of numerous pressures from within the installed political precess and from regional & international ones each for its own sets of reasons and interests.
The Voting Cards
Early March Iraq Surveys received an image of Voting cards that were issued to selected voters one classified and civilian and others Military. The problem was that cards belonged to the same person and only the serial numbers, addresses & Electoral centre were changed on Ids in order for it to go undetected by the electoral database search tool. This allows the person to elect any specified candidate more than once discrediting the hole implemented procedure altogether. Never-the-less, the electoral commission avoids commenting as it had no logical explanation to this issue leaked by us to local and international media at the time.

There are other issues -- including discarded ballots and questionable associations:

Interesting picture documenting the credibility of the Iraqi elections.
El Sábado 3 de Mayo de 2014 15:37, Iraq Films <> escribió:
Ballot Boxes filled with Votes found on Suqoor Street just in front of the Agriculture college in Mosul University

Judge Qassim Al Aboudi the formal spokesman of the So called independen​t electoral commission in Iraq posing proud in a picture with the Mulla Style Military Commander of the Asaaib Militia in Baghdad Now what is an election official doing with a militia commander in the first place ???

On Saturday, the Independent High Electoral Commission declared their intention to announce the results May 25th. Today, Ghassan Hamid and Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) report the IHEC has stated the large number of complaints alleging violations during the vote will delay the release of the votes.  Violations would be one way to word what State of Law MP Mahmoud al-Hassan is accused of.  All Iraq News notes MP Hussein al-Shirifi, of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, is calling for the IHEC to toss al-Hassan's eligibility as a result of al-Hassan's alleged voter intimidation to scare up votes for Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition.

Speaking of cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, NINA notes he made an unexpected trip to Tehran on Sunday.  This will lead to speculation that the visit has something to do with the vote.  Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) reports:

Al-Monitor learned from a source close to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad that [commander of the Quds Force] Qassem Soleimani came to Baghdad weeks prior to the elections to try to generate support for a consensus among Shiite party leaders — including those from Maliki's Dawa party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq led by Ammar al-Hakim and the Ahrar bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr — in support of Maliki, but the leaders of the other parties resisted the effort. 
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and other clerical leaders in Najaf have rejected an initiative to build consensus around Maliki serving a third term as prime minister, according to sources in Najaf. Follow-up meetings in Iran by Iraqi delegations from the Shiite parties were unsuccessful.
Iran started to show some flexibility about the next prime minister shortly before the election. The new Iranian website Tabnak, which is close to some powerful parties within the Revolutionary Guards and the Expediency Discernment Council of the System, issued a report on the status of the elections in Iraq on April 23.
The report, titled “Maliki is not accepted by anyone in Iraq,” highlighted the size of objections to a third term by the Shiite authority in Najaf, in addition to Shiites affiliated with Hakim and Sadr, Kurds, the secular forces, as well as many Sunnis.

On the elections, All Iraq News reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government states that a Kurd will have to occupy the presidency of Iraq.   The president of the KRG Massoud Barzani had a high profile meeting today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports, "Jordan's King Abdullah II received on Tuesday in Amman Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, who began an official visit to the Jordanian capital last several days."

Iraq's chief thug Nouri al-Maliki continues targeting civilians in Falluja by bombing the residential neighborhoods -- this despite the fact that this is collective punishment which has been defined as a War Crime for decades.  Today's criminal assault left many dead.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that a Falluja General Hospital source stated, "The bombing killed 15 civilians and wounded 11 others, and the number of victims could rise because the shelling is still continuing."  Saturday, National Iraqi News Agency reported Falluja Educational Hospital's Dr. Ahmed Shami stated the death toll has now reached 267 with another 1230 injured and that these include "women and children."  For four months this has been going on and where's the outcry?

These are War Crimes.  They have been taking place for over four months now and they have utilized weapons the US government has provided Nouri with.

These are crimes against humanity and the White House is up to their elbows in the human blood that runs through the streets of Falluja as Nouri al-Maliki continues to terrorize the innocent civilians.

In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person was shot dead "southwest of Baghdad," 1 employee of the Ministry of Industry was shot dead in eastern Baghdad, security sources say they shot dead 1 suicide bomber in Mosul, 2 Christians were kidnapped in Mosul, a Tuz Khurmatu car bombing claimed 3 lives and left seven other people injured, and Joint Operations Command announced they killed 11 suspects.  On the Tuz Khurmatu bombing, Alsumaria notes the number injured has increased to fifteen.  Alsumaria reports a car bombing to the north of Tikrit left four Iraqi soldiers injured, a Taji roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police member and left three more injured, and 1 corpse was discovered in Amarah (a man who was tortured and whose skull had been crushed).