Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 24, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Amnesty International releases a report documenting abuses in Iraq, the media looks away as they did with the United Nations report on Monday, we note some of the US reporters who have really reported from Iraq, we (again) dispel the myth of McClatchy, and much more.

Today Amnesty International issued "Amnesty International Report 2014/15: The State of the World's Human Rights."  The section on Iraq opens with:

There was a marked deterioration in human rights as armed conflict intensified between government security forces and fighters of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) armed group, which gained control of large parts of central and northern Iraq. IS fighters committed widespread war crimes, including ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities through a campaign of mass killings of men and abduction and sexual and other abuse of women and girls. Government forces carried out indiscriminate bombing and shelling in IS-controlled areas, and government-backed Shi’a militias abducted and executed scores of Sunni men in areas under government control. The conflict caused the deaths of some 10,000 civilians between January and October, forcibly displaced almost 2 million people and created a humanitarian crisis. This was exacerbated by the continuing influx of thousands of refugees from Syria, mostly to Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region. The government continued to hold thousands of detainees without charge or trial, many of them in secret detention with no access to the outside world. Torture and other ill-treatment in detention remained rife, and many trials were unfair. Courts passed many death sentences, mostly on terrorism charges; more than 1,000 prisoners were on death row, and executions continued at a high rate.

That the Islamic State is committing crimes and overseeing horrors is not hard to discover in reports and 'reports' in the western media.

The fact that Iraq's government forces are doing the same?

Much harder to find reported in the western media.

For example, starting in January of 2014, then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki began bombing the civilian areas of Falluja -- a Sunni dominate city.  Bombing civilians areas as collective punishment?  Legally defined as War Crimes.  These bombings quickly became daily bombings.

The western press looked the other way until September 13, 2014 when new prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced these bombings had been stopped.

That the western press rushed to cover.

But, thing is, bombings continued the next day and ever since.  The bombing of the residential neighborhoods in Falluja has never stopped.

These bombings are acknowledged in a sentence in the Amnesty report:

Government forces used indiscriminate shelling to regain control over Fallujah and parts of Ramadi from ISIS, killing civilians and causing damage to civilian infrastructure. Anbar province remained in conflict throughout the year amid allegations that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had undermined efforts by tribal leaders to broker a solution.
The government’s failure to resolve the crisis, among other factors, left Anbar unable to stem the rapid military advance of ISIS, whose fighters seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June and then much of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninevah and Salah al-Din provinces. This sparked a dramatic resurgence in sectarian tensions and massive displacement of communities at risk from armed attacks by ISIS or government air strikes. Ethnic and religious minorities were particularly targeted by ISIS, which forced all non-Sunni and non-Muslims out of the areas under its control.

The report also notes:

Government forces and Shi’a militias armed and backed by the government committed war crimes and human rights violations, predominantly targeting Sunni communities. In Anbar, Mosul and other areas under IS control, government forces carried out indiscriminate air strikes in civilian areas, including with barrel bombs, that killed and injured civilians. In September, Prime Minister al-Abadi called on the security forces to cease all shelling of civilian areas, but air strikes in IS-controlled areas continued, with ensuing civilian casualties.
Security forces and Shi’a militias abducted or detained Sunnis and carried out scores of extrajudicial executions with impunity. In areas where they regained control from IS, they also destroyed homes and businesses of Sunni residents, in reprisal for the alleged support for IS by members of those communities. KRG Peshmerga forces also carried out reprisal destruction of homes of Sunni Arab residents in areas they recaptured from IS.

Will any of the above get serious attention from the western press?

Did the findings in the United Nations report issued on Monday get any serious western press attention?

No, they did not.

The reports was issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and is entitled [PDF format warning] "Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Iraq: 11 September - 10 December 2014."

The report notes:

During the reporting period UNAMI/OHCHR continued to receive reports alleging civilian casualties attributed to airstrikes and shelling by Government security forces and those supporting them -- that at times appear to have been carried out against civilian targets or heedless of the disproportionate effects of those operations on civilians, in which case it would amount to war crimes. Hundreds of civilians were reportedly killed (including at least 3 children) from airstrikes and shelling during the reporting period. However, in many cases, UNAMI/OHCHR has not been able to verify these reports nor the number of civilian casualties that may have caused . On 13 September, Prime Minister al - Abadi released a statement that he had ordered the Iraqi Air Force to s uspend bombardment in civilian areas, including those controlled by ISIL, and expressed his commitment to protect civilians. The statement was ostensibly in response to increasing concerns regarding civilian casualties stemming from airstrikes and shelling by Government forces,

Did CNN rush to cover the report?


Did the Washington Post, McClatchy or the New York Times?


Now it took forever for the report to get back to Falluja.

Because the United Nations is so cowardly -- especially UNAMI.

So you went from the bombing of civilian areas in Falluja to other bombings by forces -- Iraqi as well as the US-led foreign fighters -- before the report would (briefly) get back to Iraq.

ISF, and coalition forces 32 assisting the Government of Iraq, are bound to respect applicable humanitarian law in the conduct of military operations.  These norms include the principles of distinction and proportionality, and the requirement to take all reasonable precautions to avoid and minimize incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and damage to civilian objects. UNAMI/OHCHR notes one confirmed case (and there have been a few other similar reports cited in local media), where the Iraqi Air Force dropped leaflets from the Ministry of Defense advising civilians to evacuate areas occupied by ISIL that may be potential targets in military operations.
 As noted above, ISIL continues to deliberately position itself in civilian areas and within civilian infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, either to use the presence of civilians to shield their forces from attack or to cause civilian casualties in the event of attack.
Salah al-Din governorate reported the highest number of civilian casualties due to airstrikes, with allegedly 67 civilians killed during the reporting period. Subsequent to ISIL complex attack on the sub-district of Dhuluiya on 8 September, ISF began a series of airstrikes in defense of the area. Several aerial bombardments of the area during the remainder of September allegedly resulted in the deaths of at least 11 civilians , and the injury of two others. On 8 October, ISF shelling on Tikrit reportedly killed at least 14 civilians. On 9 and 10 November, shelling allegedly by ISF in al - Alam sub-district, including in a market area, reportedly killed at least seven civilians and wounded 14 more.
On 14 October, in the Kahrabaa area of Baiji district , an air strike reportedly hit two houses, killing 18 persons, most allegedly civilians. On 17 October, an airstrike in the Albo - Tuama area of Salah al - Din was alleged to have killed five people from one family, including one woman and three children. On 21 October, a building collapsed in the central part of Baiji district after it was targeted in an airstrike. According to one source, a second air strike killed at least five people and wounded at least 10 others who had gone to the site to retrieve those killed and injured by the first strike.
On 29 November, an airstrike allegedly targeted a vehicle in Yathrib sub-district, killing one civilian, with a second strike targeting a house where a family had allegedly gathered for a funeral. It was reported that at least 15 civilians (including four children) were killed and another 25 were injured in the attack. Local sources have reported that a predominately Sunni Arab area of Yathrib sub-district has been under regular attack by ISF and government-affiliated forces from Balad Air Base (formerly the al-Bakr Air Base) over the past several months. Approximately 15 - 20 villages have been affected, with the most severe impact on al-Jami’y a area, where it is alleged that almost half of the 600 homes were destroyed by shelling. Number of casualties could not be verified due to lack of access to the affected area. Residents have claimed that they are under threat of being shot if they entered their fields for agricultural purposes. It is alleged that the main actor conducting military operations in the area is the Asa’ib Ahl al - Haq (AAH).
Sources in Ninewa also alleged that the governorate had experienced a high number of air attacks during the reporting period. On the morning of 10 September, an air strike allegedly hit al-Majmoua area, north of Mosul, reportedly killing 11 civilians. In the afternoon of the same day, two additional air strikes in al - Shurta and Ba’aj areas allegedly killed at least seven civilians and wounded three more. Air strikes carried out on 17 October north of Mosul allegedly killed at least 26 civilians. It was further reported that on 7 November, two air strikes killed 10 civilians, including two children in Qayyara district.
UNAMI/OHCHR received several reports of air strikes in Anbar governorate, but due to the security situation was not able to verify these incidents or the casualties that are alleged to have resulted. On 6 October, an air strike allegedly hit civilian buildings in Heet, killing at least 18 civilians (including three women and eight children), with an undetermined number of wounded. Other sources, however, reported that the target of the air strike was ISIL, and that the three civilian houses had been hit with resulting civilian casualties in subsequent shelling of the area. It was also alleged that on 4 November, an air strike hit a market in al-Qaim, western Anbar, killing at least five civilians and wounding at least 27 more. Four days later on 8 November, another strike reportedly killed at least 13 civilians in the same area.
Sources in Fallujah General Hospital reported that 144 bodies (including 18 children) had been received during September, 398 (including 26 children) during October, and 2 94 bodies (including 8 children) during November. Sources in the hospital alleged that most of these casualties had resulted from shelling carried out by the Iraqi army and associated forces. UNAMI/OHCHR was not able to verify these figures.

Took them five paragraphs to get back to Falluja but eventually they did.

Again, did the western press rush to cover the UN's report?


Nor will they rush to cover Amnesty International's report.

There's nothing in it for them.

First off, it would require getting honest.

They've lied and whored for years now.  Nouri's crimes didn't happen cloaked in darkness.

He did what he did out in the open.

And most western reporters were like the Whore of Baghdad herself, Jane Arraf, willing to look the other way over and over and over.

Of course, Whore of Baghdad Jane Arraf spent the 90s doing the same thing, looking the other way while the Iraqi government carried out crimes against the citizens.  She did that throughout Saddam Hussein's tenure as ruler.

So it's no surprise that she would do the same under Nouri al-Maliki.

Now the attacks on civilian and civilian areas didn't stop when Nouri al-Maliki was replaced as prime minister.  The following from the UN report occurs once Haider al-Abadi takes over as prime minister:

Airstrikes were also reported from Kirkuk and Diyala governorates. On 18 September , in Diyala province, five mortar rounds reportedly impacted Dhubab village, killing three civilians and injuring seven others. According to a security source, the mortar rounds had bee n fired mistakenly by ISF and a militia. An airstrike on 19 November in Qara Tapa allegedly killed four civilians and wounded 15 more in an area where a large number of displaced persons from Jalawla had reportedly taken refuge.
According to applicable rules of international humanitarian law, civilian infrastructure remains immune from attack , unless and for such time as they are used by a party to the conflict for military objectives. UNAMI/OHCHR has received reports that ISIL and associated armed groups have deliberately positioned themselves in civilian buildings, including hospitals, in order to conduct operations and in an attempt to shield themselves from attack. On 6 September an airstrike reportedly struck Hawija hospital in Kirkuk governorate , killing two women and five children hospitalized in the children's ward and wounding two medical staff. As a result of the attack, the pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit was temporarily closed. On 13 September, an airstrike reportedly hit a storage shed containing oxygen cylinders in al-Salam Hospital, eastern Mosul, killing one worker and wounding six. UNAMI/OHCHR received unverified reports that on the evening of 29 October several rockets were fired on Fallujah General Hospital by the Iraqi army and associated armed forces, wounding one staff member and causing material damage to hospital equipment and infrastructure. On 22 November and 4 December, ISF and associated forces once again allegedly shelled Fallujah General Hospital. No casualties were reported, but the shelling allegedly resulted in material damage to the infrastructure, including the dialysis unit. On 5 November, an airstrike is alleged to have hit a gathering of people near a hospital in al-Qaim, western Anbar, killing three and wounding 14 others.

Falluja General Hospital has been repeatedly targeted -- under Nouri al-Maliki, under Haider al-Abadi.  It's not the only hospital in Falluja that has been.

And these attacks are either completely ignored by the western media or they are mentioned in passing and never called out.

They need to be called out.

I'm not the weak ass United Nations.  Bombing hospitals?  War Crimes.

Legally defined as such.

Not just 'against international law,' War Crimes -- considered to be the most outrageous of crimes.

The Amnesty report notes:

The authorities held thousands of detainees without charge or trial under provisions of the anti-terrorism law. In February, the head of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee alleged that around 40,000 detainees remained in prison awaiting investigations. Many were held in prisons and detention centres run by various government ministries.
A letter sent by the Central Investigation Court to the Head of the Supreme Judicial Council in 2013, published in April 2014, reported that authorities continued to carry out unlawful arrests using a list containing partial names of thousands of suspects that the Anti-terrorism General Directorate had sent to police stations in connection with sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007. This was believed to have led to the detention of the wrong people on the basis that part of their names corresponded to partial names on the list.

You may remember when the western press was interested in the above . . .

When Nouri made a for-show 'release' of a handful of detainees.

The western press didn't give a damn about it otherwise.

They were silent.

They looked the other way.

This is one of the factors in Iraq's ongoing political crises.

But the western press only covered it when Nouri did a for-show release.

The Amnesty International report notes:

Torture and other ill-treatment remained common and widespread in prisons and detention centres, particularly those controlled by the Ministries of the Interior and Defence, and were committed with impunity. These centres were blocked to inspection by the Independent High Commission for Human Rights. Interrogators tortured detainees to extract information and “confessions” for use against them at trial; sometimes detainees were tortured to death. Government representatives attending the Universal Periodic Review of Iraq at the UN Human Rights Council said the authorities had investigated 516 torture cases between 2008 and 2014, with many resulting in prosecutions, but provided no details and did not identify the security agencies responsible.
’Uday Taha Kurdi, a lawyer and father of two, died in June after 15 days of detention by Anti-terrorism General Directorate officials in Baghdad. In a letter to the Iraqi Lawyers’ Union in July, the Ministry of the Interior said that ’Uday Taha Kurdi had suffered a “health problem” in detention and had been taken to hospital, where he died. The Ministry also said that a judge had concluded that ’Uday Taha Kurdi, whose brother was held on terrorism charges, was “from the IS leadership” and belonged to “a terrorist family”, and that he had told the judge, when asked, that he had not been tortured. The Supreme Judicial Council said his death resulted from kidney failure, not torture as alleged. However, photographs of ’Uday Taha Kurdi’s body taken at the morgue and obtained by Amnesty International showed that he had sustained bruises, open wounds and burns - consistent with allegations of torture - prior to his death.

Again, the western press didn't give a damn.

They only really turned on Nouri after Barack did in June of 2014.

Two notable exceptions:  Ned Parker and Dexter Filkins.

Ned Parker's done the best western reporting out of Iraq -- first for the Los Angeles Times and now for Reuters.  Dexter Filkins was 'late to truth' -- I'm trying to be nice -- but in 2014 began a series of truth telling articles that surpass anything most outlets have done.  By the way, hallmark of an idiot talking about western reporting?

They compose sentences that include crap like this:

McClatchy - one of the few news outlets with a long record of skeptical war coverage - pointed to a mountain of evidence

I get it. Old whore Bill Moyers pimped the lie and it's all about repeating what some whore told you -- that is the modern western press -- as opposed to doing your own actual work.

McClatchy has no "long record of skeptical war coverage."

It did nothing to question war on Iraq in 2002 or 2003.

Now some idiot -- who probably viewed multiple episodes of programs hosted by Bill Moyers -- so blame PBS for letting him lie repeatedly -- will insist, "McClatchy was the only outlet who told the truth in the lead up to the Iraq War."

No, it did not.

And you're a damn liar or a damn fool if you repeat that claim.

McClatchy Newspapers has been around since 1857.

Find me the brave coverage in the 20th century?

It doesn't exist.

And they also weren't skeptical of the lies told to start the war on Iraq.

Knight-Ridder was.

And that's the real story of journalism in the US.

Tell the truth about Poppy Bush, for example, the way the Houston Press did?

You end up out of business, you end up bought out by the Houston Chronicle which has buried one Bush scandal after another over the years.

Tell the truth about Iraq?

Knight Ridder got bought by McClatchy in the middle of 2006.

McClatchy had numerous papers in 2002 and 2003.

They did not file skeptical coverage of the Iraq War.

Knight Ridder did.

So when someone like the Guardian's Trevor Trimm writes "McClatchy - one of the few news outlets with a long record of skeptical war coverage - [. . .]"?  They're confessing to being either a liar or an idiot.

Most of the Knight Ridder's reporters that worked on the Iraq coverage are gone.

The ones who mattered.

Warren Strobel, for example, is at Reuters. Margaret Talev is now with Bloomberg.

Jonathan S. Landay is really the only one who remains.

For awhile, Nancy A. Youssef was still there (she's now at The Daily Beast).

But Youssef wasn't important for the bulk of her career.  She filed one report that mattered -- it was published on Knight Ridder's last day.

But what Landay and Youssef did beginning in 2009 especially, would never have been allowed at Knight Ridder.

At Knight Ridder, their public devotion and embrace of Barack Obama -- in one Diane Rehm show appearance after another -- would have gotten them disciplinary action because as reporters they were supposed to be seen as objective.

Knight Ridder was about journalism.

McClatchy's really not.

There's been some good reporting from Iraq by McClatchy over the years.  Good, not great.  Leila Fadel's overall work -- especially originally -- was probably among the best.

Roy Gutman -- and his notorious chuckle on Diane Rehm's show -- was among the embarrassments.

So was the way McClatchy walked away from the Iraqi journalists who did the bulk of the work in Iraq -- often with no or little credit.  And, yes, Hannah loves to give speeches about not abandoning those reporters but she can't write about them, she can't even Tweet about them.

Which is why so many concerned about Iraqi refugees -- so many working on the issue in this country -- see Hannah's embarrassing little speeches as not really being about the Iraqi people but about selling herself as 'caring' and 'wonderful.'

And if that hurts Hannah Allam's feelings she can certainly prove me (and many others) wrong by at the very least using her Twitter account to get the word out on Iraqi refugees.

By the way, a real news outlet wouldn't let Hannah Tweet the way she does.

A real news outlet would object to the Circle Jerk.

In fact one did.

That's why Ezra Klein's at his laughable Vox (is it really about to go under?) after being 'freed' (fired) by the Washington Post.

Any day of Hannah's Circle Jerk Tweets demonstrate a liberal agenda.

Now it's a corporate liberal agenda to be sure.

But none the less, the bias is on full display in one Tweet after another.

Knight Ridder wouldn't have allowed it.

McClatchy's such a joke they don't even notice.

In fairness, the right wing media critics don't seem to notice either.

The Twitter feeds by individual MSM journalists are where to go to see the bias blatantly displayed.  But Newsbusters, et al, never seem to notice.

Once they do, news outlets might start clamping down -- as they should -- on so-called reporters who think they can act like columnists.

I could care less what a Paul Krugman or a Michelle Malkin Tweet on.  They're columnists, they're supposed to traffic in opinion.

But for so-called reporters to be Tweeting like their MSNBC hosts?

That's disturbing.

And it'll be disturbing when a Republican's in the White House because then they'll go back to sucking up to the GOP.

That's the thing about media whores -- look at Brian Williams -- they go to bed with whomever's in power.

Let's drop back to the December 30, 2013 snapshot:

Sunday, December 22nd, Nouri yet again called peaceful protesters 'terrorists' and announced he would stop the protests.

He wanted to attack last Tuesday but a last minute flurry of meetings by various officials and political blocs caused Nouri to withdraw the forces he had encircling the Ramadi protest square.  Then came Friday.  From that day's snapshot:

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports Nouri al-Maliki again threatened the protesters today.  He declared this will be their last Friday protest and that he will burn the tents in the protest squares down.  He declared that the protesters were guilty of sedition.  Sedition?  Nouri as William Bligh?  I can see it.  Kitabat notes that he made these remarks in a televised interview.  Kitabat also notes Nouri's been insisting 30 terrorist leaders are hiding in protest tents.  

We still can't get to today yet.

That's Falluja on Saturday as tons poured into the street to protest Nouri's latest stunt.

They were protesting the Saturday dawn raid that Nouri's forces carried out on an MP.  MP Ahmed al-Alwani was illegally arrested.  But there's more.  Alsumaria reported that his home was stormed by Nouri's SWAT forces at dawn and that 5 people (bodyguards and family) were killed (this included his brother) while ten family members (including children) were left injured.

By now, we all know the drill.

What is al-Alwani?

Yes, he's Sunni.

And he's also, we all know this, a member of Iraqiya.

If you're targeted by Nouri, then you are both things.

Or, as conservative Max Boot (Commentary) put it today, "If it’s the end of December or the beginning of January, it must be time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to arrest another prominent Sunni politician."

The people of Anbar did not respond well to Nouri breaking the law and arresting an MP.

I've often criticized and ridiculed Max Boot.

But I've also noted it any time I've seen him get it right.

While one outlet after another couldn't get their act together, Boot got it right (noted above).

From the November 24, 2014 snapshot:

Today,  All Iraq News reports it's been decided to put former MP Ahmed al-Alwani to death.  He was arrested December 29, 2013 the outlet notes.  His brother was killed in the arrest ordered by thug Nouri al-Maliki, an arrest that was actually a raid in the early, pre-dawn hours of the morning.
This will have huge implications.
For example, the tribe he belongs to is one of the key tribes in the fight against the Islamic State. Equally true, his arrest (and the murder of his brother) outraged the Sunni community.
This is the wrong time to be  executing a Sunni politician -- with the new prime minister Haider al-Abaidi having done nothing of significance to improve Sunni relations or to include them in the government.

We note that because Amnesty International's report notes the Iraqi 'justice' system and Ahmed al-Alwani:

The criminal justice system remained deeply flawed. The judiciary lacked independence. Judges and lawyers involved in trials of members of armed groups continued to be targets for killings, abductions and assaults by armed groups. Trials, particularly of defendants facing terrorism charges, were frequently unfair; courts returned guilty verdicts on the basis of torture-tainted “confessions”, which were often broadcast on the government-controlled al-Iraqiya TV channel. Other guilty verdicts were based on evidence from secret, unidentified informants, including in cases that resulted in death sentences.
In November, a Baghdad court sentenced former leading Sunni parliamentarian Ahmed al-‘Alwani to death on terrorism-related charges after a grossly unfair trial. Security forces had arrested him in December 2013 after they forcibly dispersed a year-long protest in Anbar.

Again Nouri's actions were public.  They weren't hidden.  They weren't covert.

The Iraqi press -- who had the most to risk -- were the ones who could and did report the truth: All Iraq News, National Iraqi News Agency, Alsumaria, Al Mada and Dar Addustour among them.

But the western press -- especially the US press -- can't make the same claim.

You can give credit to Liz Sly (Washington Post) and to Kelly McEvers (NPR) for some strong reporting on Iraq in the last years of Nouri's reign of terror.

But that's really about it.

And that's why there's no work on real solutions for Iraq today.

The American people are largely unaware of what Nouri spent his two terms -- especially his second term -- doing and how it tore apart Iraq.

They're unaware -- but not because they're 'stupid.'  They're unaware because the western media largely and repeatedly refused to tell the truth.

And for those who don't have the time to go back and research that coverage, grasp that United Nations released a report on Monday and Amnesty released one today and that both document Iraqi government attacks on the Iraqi people but the western media really doesn't see that as news or worthy of coverage.  The laughable SITE issues some 'alert' and the media runs with it.  Because SITE promotes war.  But anything that might complicate a rush to further war in Iraq?

The western media isn't interested as they make clear day after day.

At Foreign Policy, David Kenner interviews thug Nouri and others for a piece entitled "Nobody Puts Nouri in the Corner."  And Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes at least 197 violent deaths took place across Iraq today.