The Common Ills


Monday, July 30, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot

Monday, July 30, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis compete in the Olympics, KRG President Massoud Barzani gives a major speech, violence continues in Iraq, peace advocate Cindy Sheehan has been named a running mate on a presidential ticket, and more.
 
Starting with the Summer Olympics.  They're taking place in London and the official website is hereThe NBC website for the Olympics is here and cluttered and poorly put together.  If you're looking for anything other than video (live or otherwise) go to the London site which is easier to navigate and more pleasing to the eye.  Apparently NBC spent so much on the rights to the Olympics, they didn't have any money left to design a solid website.
 
Iraq has sent 8 athletes to the Summer Olympics in London.  Dana Abdul Razak competed in the 2008 Olympics and this go round will run the 100 meter race.  The other seven are attending for the first time: Adnan Taess Akkar (800 meter race), Noor Amer al-Ameri (shooting), Mohanad Ahmed Dheyaa al-Azzawi (swimming), Safaa al-Jumaili (weightlifting), Rand al-Mashhadani (archery), Ali Nadhim Salman Salman (wrestling) and Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed (boxing).
 
Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed  boxed yesterday.  Click here for a Reuters photo of his match with South Africa's Siphiwe Lusizi (photo taken by Murad Sezer).  Scott Christ (Bad Left Hook) reports, "Siphiwe Lusizi (South Africa) def. Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed (Iraq), 17-13: Decent fight, and an admirable effort from Ahmed.  He gave it all he had, but Lusizi was better than him.  A lot of these fights are really as simple as that.  One guy is just better than the other guy in these early stages."  The official Olympics site notes that the first time Iraq ever competed in the Olympics were in the 1948 Olympics.  And that was also the last time, until this year, that the Summer Olympics were held in London.  Back then, Iraq sent an "11-man team" for basketball, L. Hasso for the 400 meter run and Ali Salman ran in the 100 meter and the 200 meter in addition to playing on the basketball team.
 
The second photo in the Toronto Sun's "Photos of the Week" is by Suhaib Salem (Reuters) and of Rand al-Mashhadani from Friday's ranking round for women's individual archery. 
After the awful opening musical numbers (see Ann's "6 men, 1 woman"), you might think some in London might show some humility.  That's not the case.  Alsumaria reports that the Telegraph of London has declared that Algeria and Iraq have the worst national anthems.  The unsigned article in the Telegraph of London, ranks what they call the ten worst anthems -- Iraq comes in at number seven:

Iraq's national song, "My Homeland," comes from a poem written by Ibrahim Touquan, a Palestinian poet, in 1934.  Reinstated in 2004 after a previous anthem reminded residents too much of Saddam Hussein's regime, the lyrics are rousing but the jaunty melody underplays the seriousness of the message. 

In actual Olympic news, AFP reports Noor Amer al-Ameri, competing in the shooting competition for Iraq, was prevented from taking her equpiment on the flight from Baghdad to Dubai, "Emirati authorities later gave the green light for the pistol to be transported to Dubai by plane on Wednesday, and pledged that it would arrive safely in London."   Al Mada notes Noor competed Sunday and came in 46 out of 55, that she was born in Karbala in 1994 and attends Baghdad University.  In the article, an Iraqi official -- Minister for Youth and Sports Jasim Mohammed Jaafar --  blathers on about how, five to ten years from now, Iraq will have heroes who compete.  That's really insulting.  Dana Abdul Razak, for example, has been shot at while training.  The eight who made it are making history.  Instead of Iraqi officials making insulting remarks about those competing, they might want to take a hard look at themselves and where they put the emphasis.  It wasn't on training.  People shouldn't have to leave their home country to train but that happened.   As is usual in Iraq, a lot of over 40 men were made officials -- some who look they should be forced to retire -- and they made themselves the focus.  I'm referring to Iraq's official Olympic Committee.  Go to the website and prepare to be insulted.  I thought three weeks ago (wrongly), that this website would provide bios of the athletes and photos.  Wrong.  Even now, with the Olympics underway, when you go to the photo exhibit what you get are a bunch of bald and balding old men, sitting around, congratulating themselves.  If anyone visits the site, it's to see the athletes, not the officials.  That they couldn't grasp that goes a long way towards explaining where the problem is.  It's not with the athletes competing, it's with the egos of the officials. And many, like Jasim Moahmmed Jaafar have on claim to sports (engineer) and are only serving on the Committee because they are exiles like Nouri (Jaafar was an exile from 1981 to 2003).
 
All 8 who made it to the Olympics have much to be proud of.  And maybe if the officials ever do their job, Iraq will be able to compete in a lot more events?  But don't trash the eight who made it to the Olympics.  They overcame a great deal to be there.
 
In Iraq conflicts continue between the KRG and the Baghdad-based central government.  Last week, Rudaw reported, "On Friday the minitry of Peshmerga said that the Iraqi government had sent troops to border strip between Syria and the Kurdistan Region and that 3,000 Peshmerga fighters stationed in the area had stopped their advance.  There was serious concern about armed classhes between both sides."   Xinhua added, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki criticized authorities of the country's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan for preventing Iraqi army soldiers sent by Baghdad from reaching a border point with Syria located at a disputed area controlled by Kurdish forces."  Al Mada noted that Jabbar Yawar, Secretary-General of the Peshmerga, states these are areas that the Peshmerga naturally patrols.  Al Mada also noted that the Kurdistan Alliance states Nouri is not able to move forces into the KRG without the consent of the Kurdish Regional Government.  Calling it "the most dangerous escalation and confrontation between the two sides," Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera) reported from Fishkhabur on the Iraq - Syria border.
 
Omar al-Saleh: What the Kurdish troops did is they prevented thes troops from advancing further this way.  They blocked it and they sent their own reinforcements.  We even saw some artillery, mortar, rockets and we've seen heavy -- heavy weapons.  And basically what the Iraqi government has said in a statement is that it's not aimed -- this move, this troops' movement -- is not aimed at the Kurdish Regional authority but it wants to prevent any infiltration or any security breaches from the borders with Syria.  Now what the Kurds will tell you is the prime minister of Iraq is trying to send his troops into a disputed area. 
 

Besides the usual turf wars universal to different security forces around the world, there iss also the fear that Nouri would use the issue of the border crossings in an attempt to install the Iraqi forces permanently in these areas.  That's a valid fear.  Considering other power grabs that he's made, it wouldn't be a stretch.  In addition, Nouri probably has a fear of his own.  It wasn't that long ago that Syrian 'rebels' seized control of the borders (July 19th).  Iraq's not had any cartography or survey done of that area in some time.  They have focused their concerns with regards to the border they share with Iran due to the fact that Iran insists that land Iraq considers to be Iraqi land is actually Iranian land.  With Syrian President Bashar Assad, this was not a concern or pressing issue.  That changed when the rebels seized up to four borders.  Nouri had no concern over 'securing the borders' until the 'rebels'
 
Alsumaria reported KRG President Massoud Barzanai gave a speech Saturday.
 
The speech was a clarification of the crisis between the KRG and Baghdad and Barzani states that he was compelled to address the basics and shine a light on the problems.   He argues it boils down to the fact that the Kurds have tried to live in a peaceful coexistence under the Iraqi Constitution but while some respect the rights and duties of the Constitution others disregard and dismiss the Constitution to compile a monopoly of power in their own hands.  He states the disagreement between Nouri al-Maliki and himself is not personal and that Nouri was a close friend many years ago when he lived in Kurdistan [presumably this is during Nouri's exile period which also includes stays in Iran and Syria].  But since 2008 when Nouri sent the Iraqi soldiers and tanks to Khanaqin in a face-off with the Peshmerga, dialogue has been harder and harder.  He notes that the Constitution's Article 140 has never been implemented.  [This is the Article about disputed territories such as oil-rich Kirkuk.  A census and referendum is supposed to be held.  By the end of 2007.  Nouri has refused, for six years now, to implement Article 140.  Nouri is in violation of the Constitution.  This issue, by the way, was seen by the RAND Corporation as the biggest once facing Iraq.]  In addition, Baghdad is not providing the budget for the Peshmerga, nor is it working on a draft oil and gas law.  He notes that the Erbil Agreement has been evaded and that a true partnership has been lost.  It is as though, he states, they hvae returned to a dictatorship, following all the ignored promises.  In violation of the rules and laws, he states, Nouri has attempted to grab absolute power over the administration issues, security issues, the military issues and the  economic ones.  This is in violation of the Constitution, he notes. 
 
He states in his speech that the oil contracts currently in dispute [ExxonMobil and Chevron] are about issues that have been spoken of for years and that, for years, there has been talk of the oil and gas law but still no passage.  The KRG will call for a special committee to review all of the government's files related to oil in the KRG and Iraq.  The Kurds have been patient and waited for issues to be resolved but they have not been.
 
On the political crisis, he states that the failure on Nouri's part to implement past agreements and Nouri's lack of commitment to the Constitution led to the move for a withdrawal of confidence in Nouri.  Barzani states he is willing to set that move aside if someone can put an end to the outstanding issues [seems to echo Moqtada al-Sadr's statement that all Nouri has to do to stop a vote of no-confidence is to return to the Erbil Agreement].  The vote can be tabled and Iraq can return to the right path that will prevent one person from amassing control and a monopoly of power.   That's my translation.  The speech was in Kurdish (which I don't speak or read) and the KRG translated it to Arabic.  There is no English translation provided by the KRG at present. 
 
Of the speech,  Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) notes:
 
The speech did not achieve the impact it should have, especially as the crisis escalated and Iraqi soldiers approached the Syrian border close to Kurdish territories.
As an observer, I was first of all surprised that the speech was not televised.  The second surprise was that it was in Kurdish.  Especially with the recent escalations of tensions, Iraqi Arab public opinion is very much against the Kurdish region.  The media in Baghad has been full of pro-Maliki voices to say the least, and they are all depicting Kurds as those who want everything. 
President Barzani's speech touched on many issues related to the future of Iraq as a whole, not just as pertains to the Kurds.  One of the key points in talks with Baghdad has been the vision of the country's federal future.  But this is not known to the Arab public.
In the absence of a strong Kurdish presence in Baghdad's media, a televised message from President Barzani in Arabic for the people of Iraq would have explained the Kurdish position to the rest of Iraq.  It would have also been a strong response to Maliki's NRT interview.
 
 
And possibly Barzani felt the same way and that's why he made a high profile TV appeareance over the weekend.  Barazni sat down with Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) for an interview.  Excerpt.
 
President Massoud Barzani:  There's no doubt that the Kurdish question has made a lot of progress.  But I cannot deny that we still face a lot of challenges.  I can however definitely say that the Kurds have passed the stage where their survival could be threatened.  It would be impossible for us as a people to give up everything we have achieved. 
 
Jane Arraf: There's a real crisis going on in Iraq and you warned just a few months ago that if it continues that the Kurdish region could seek its independence.  Are you still prepared to follow through on that?
 
President Massoud Barzani:  If I can make clear what exactly I said, it's this, that Iraq is facing a serious and genuine crisis and we have two kinds of problems.  One is a general problem for Iraq as a whole and the other is problems between the Kurdish region and Baghdad.  We've called for general reforms for the problems -- the Iraqi-wide problems and also the ones between the Kurdish region and Baghdad.  I call upon the Iraqi leaders, if they are ready and willing to come talk to us.  We are ready to do whatever we can to solve these problems.  If the other Iraqi factions are not ready to follow us, then I will go back to the Kurdish people and ask them to decide what needs to be done. And I am still saying the same thing.
 
Jane Arraf: And do you feel now, considering that there really hasn't been much progress between Baghdad and Erbil, do you feel now that you will go to the Kurdish people in September and ask them in a referendum whether they want independence?
 
President Massoud Barzani:  Frankly speaking, the current situation is not acceptable and we will not allow it to continue.  Our people cannot tolerate it and I'm sure the Iraqi people will not accept it either.  Certainly, at some point, I'd go back to the people but I'd first have to consult with the political parties in the region.  I have to consult with Parliament.  This is not a decision for me to make alone.  But certainly, the moment that we feel disappointed and lose hope of solving the problems and getting out of this crisis then I will go back to the people.  But before that, I have to consult with the political groups here and with Parliament. 
 
 
Nouri, who has thus far refused to appear before the Parliament for questioning (he's in violation of the Constitution) has several tricks he's attempting.  Al Rafidayn notes one, Nouri wants to question Barzani before the Parliament.
 

A 70-year-old man has been sentenced to 15 years in prsion.  That's the verdict handed down by the Iraqi 'legal' system after a 'hearing' that was shorter than a US traffic court appearance to appeal a speeding ticket.  Amnesty International issues the following alert:


'Grossly unfair' 15-minute court hearing in Ramze Shihab Amhed case relied on 'torture' evidence
Amnesty International has condemned the trial in Iraq of a 70-year-old British man who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after a hearing that lasted only 15 minutes.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 70-year-old dual Iraqi-UK national who has lived in the UK since 2002, was sentenced by a court in Baghdad on 20 June after being found guilty of "funding terrorist groups".
Amnesty has obtained and examined court documents and believes the trial proceedings were "grossly unfair". At his trial, the ninth in a series of trials (he had been acquitted in each of the earlier ones), Mr Ahmed's lawyer was not given the opportunity to challenge the prosecution's case, or to cross-examine prosecution witnesses or call his own witnesses.
The court also failed to exclude from the proceedings a "confession" of Ahmed's, despite longstanding allegations that this was extracted under torture. The court relied on information provided by a secret informant, with Ahmed's lawyer denied an opportunity to challenge this information. In addition, statements - also allegedly extracted from an individual under torture and other ill-treatment - were considered in the trial proceedings.
Earlier this month UK Foreign Secretary William Hague raised Ahmed's case with his counterpart, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, while the latter was on a trip to London. Amnesty has been running a campaign for justice for Ahmed (www.amnesty.org.uk/ramze) and over 6,000 Amnesty supporters have already contacted Mr Hague about Ahmed's plight.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"This is deeply disturbing news. Ramze seems to have been convicted partly on the basis of a confession that was allegedly beaten out of him.
"The sentence comes on the back of what has already been a living nightmare for Ramze - of secret detention, alleged torture and then a prolonged trial that was itself grossly unfair.
"We need to see this dubious verdict set aside and Ramze either given a proper appeal or for him to be released and allowed to return home."
In November 2009 Ahmed had travelled from the UK to Iraq in an effort to secure the release of his detained son 'Omar. However, he was himself arrested at a relative's house in the northern city of Mosul on 7 December 2009. For nearly four months he was held in a secret prison near Baghdad, during which time his whereabouts were completely unknown to his family. During this period Ahmed alleges he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags - into making a false "confession" to terrorist offences.
Ahmed "reappeared" in late March 2010 when he was able to make a phone call to his wife Rabiha al-Qassab - a 65-year-old former teaching assistant who lives in London - imploring her to seek help from the UK authorities. However, partly on the basis of his "confession", Ahmed was subsequently put on trial, including on various terrorism charges.
 
Last week,  Amnesty International issued an alert on the latest announced executions:
 
 
Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel
(New York) – Amnesty International today urged Iraqi authorities to commute all pending death sentences and impose a moratorium on executions with a view to abolish the death penalty after the chief of police in the Iraqi governorate of Anbar announced on Monday a Court of Cassation decision to uphold 196 death sentences in the region.
It is unclear if the sentences have been ratified by the Iraqi presidency yet.
The announcement gave no timeline for carrying out the executions but expressed a hope that it would be soon.
"After this alarming announcement, Iraqi authorities must move quickly to commute all death sentences and declare a moratorium on executions across the country," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
"If the Iraqi authorities carry out these death sentences, they would nearly quadruple Iraq's already shocking execution record so far this year."
In the first half of 2012 alone, Iraq executed at least 70 people, which is already more than the figure for all of last year.
According to Amnesty International's information, in 2011 a total of at least 68 people were executed in Iraq. Around the country, hundreds of others are believed to remain on death row.
The death penalty was suspended in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003 but restored in August 2004. Since then, hundreds of people have been sentenced to death and many have been executed.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty – the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment – in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever
justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
 
 
Thursday, the UN News Centre noted the UN Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, was also expressing his alarm and quoted him stating, "It is extremely disturbing that up to 196 individuals may be at imminent risk of execution, with a serious lack of public information on the cases.  And this is in a single province of the country."  They noted, "He supported the appeal, made in January 2012, by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, for the establishment of a moratorium on the death penalty."  Speaking to the United Nations Security-Council earlier this month, Martin Kobler (UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq) noted:
 
 
Mr. President, Iraq retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes.  I therefore reiterate the call by the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] and the High Commissioner of Human Rights for the government of Iraq to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to their abolition.  I welcome that the authorities of the Kurdistan Region continue to implement a moratorium on carrying out executions which has been in place since 2007. 
 
 
However, instead of a moratorium on executions, the Iraqi government appears determined to increase the number executed.  Amnesty International noted that Iraq executed at least 68 people in 2011.
 
 
Staying with violence,  Dar Addustour notes that the Pope has called out the attacks in Iraq last Monday which resulted in over a hundred deaths.  Independent Catholic News reports that Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal for peace in Iraq yesterday, "The Holy Father prayed, 'That this great country find once again the path toward stability, reconciliation and peace'."
 
 
Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "The Islamic State in Iraq, a Sunni militant group that describes itself as affiliated with Al Qaeda, has been seeking to reassert its presence in the cities it plagued during the height of Iraq's civil war. Local officials have long been targeted by insurgents in Iraq, and it's a problem that really never went away. How many have been murdered over the years? The number is almost certainly in the thousands, though it doesn't appear there's ever been a systematic effort to track assassinations of politicians and local government officials." The International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann writes at CNN:
 
It's easy to be distracted by an uptick in violence in Iraq and ignore the larger political crisis in which al Qaeda, however diminished in its capabilities, can operate with apparent impunity. Despite last week's events, violence has been at a steady level since 2008 – too high for sure to those caught up in the spasms that occur, but sufficiently low to nonetheless convey a general sense of stability – a vast improvement over the days of sectarian fighting some years ago. Spectacular attacks have punctuated a pattern of declining violent incidents, causing mass casualties even as overall casualty levels have gone down. Shia militias, which mainly targeted the U.S. presence, put their guns back under their beds after the military component of that presence came to an end late last year.
Violent actors such as al Qaeda are likely to be around for some time, but without a political crisis, they could be contained. Iraqi security forces are still in the early stages of their development (after the Bush administration disposed of the former regime's army wholesale), and still exhibit clear vulnerabilities, especially in intelligence gathering and coordination that could prevent violent attacks, as well as in their explosives-detection capacity at checkpoints. (Security officers employ a piece of equipment that Western experts and journalists have referred to as a "divining rod" or "magic wand" for its inability to detect anything.) Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will be Iraq, nor its security forces. Yet by and large, these forces have been able to prevent a serious resurgence of violence.
What matters in Iraq today isn't so much its sporadic violence, however spectacular in nature, as the total absence of basic consensus over how the country should be run, as deepening discord could trigger a new round of civil war.
 
Still on violence, Matthew Russell Lee (Inner City Press) reports the UN's use of private contractors in Iraq and quotes Martin Kobler stating in an e-mail to him, "I would like to add that UNAMI is spending approximately USD 1.73 million in 2012 on static security provided by private security companies in Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait. The contract for the SAIT training, which is conducted by a private security company, is for up to USD 1,182,771.50 in 2012."
 
An issue we'll note tomorrow is covered by Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times).  I'm not interested in the story today.  We dealt with it last week and the headline from Huffington Post and AP?  We covered that aspect in the June 29th snapshot when we reported on a House Oversight subcommittee hearing:
 

 Acting Chair Blake Farenthold:  I just have one more question so we'll just do a quick
 second round of questions. Ambassador Kennedy, you mentioned the Baghdad police  college annex facility as one of the facilities.  It's my understanding that the United States' taxpayers have invested more than $100 million in improvements on that site. It was intended to house the police department program -- a multi-billion dollar effort that's currently being downsized.  And as a result of the State Dept's failure to secure land use rights the entire facility is being turned over to the Iraqis at no cost. 
 
 
We've covered it already a month ago.  It will wait until tomorrow.  Emily Alpert gets a link because she's hard working and two friends at the paper asked for it.
 
 
Turning to the US presidential election, as we noted in "Roundtable" at Third, there was big news over the weekend.  Roseanne Barr, who  is making an independent run for the presidency, announced her running mate.  Cindy Sheehan, probably the most famous peace advocate in this country in the last decade, is Rosanne's choice. 
 
Roseanne earlier made a run for the Green Party presidential nomination.  There's a good chance she would have won if people had known she was serious about it.  (She declared at the start of her run that she was just running to garner attention for the Green Party and that she would support Jill Stein.)  During her run, at some point, she decided she needed to make a real run because she obviously believes she can make a difference (whether that's in the race and in office or just in the race, I don't know).  She's not alone in feeling that way.  Cindy Sheehan has had supportive words for Jill Stein in the past.  So has Green Party member Cat Woods.  But if you check the press release announcing Cindy is Roseanne's running mate, you'll see Cat Woods is the contact person.
 
Jill Stein has the Green Party nomination.  She also has several obstacles against her that she has placed in her own path this month.  No one's to blame for that except for her as we explained in "Touring the online campaign offices."   Roseanne is not her 'problem.'  Roseanne is running for public office and is Jill Stein's rival, Mitt Romney's rival, Barack Obama's rival, Jerry White's rival and Gary Johnson's rival.  None of them own anyone's vote.  Every vote should be up for grabs and go to the person a voter feels will best represent them.
 
Jill Stein needs a campaign blogger.  She doesn't have one.  She might want to consider Ian Wilder (On The Wilder Side) who writes with passion and clarity and is supporting her campaign.  Yesterday Ian noted:
 
It's a leap year, so CODEPink/UFPJ's* Tom Hayden must be shilling for a warmonger again.  Obama has opposed any Wall Street reform, and his Homeland Security Department coordinated the shutdown of Occupy in the US just as Hayden & MoveOn helped coordinate the shutdown of the peace movement in 2008,  Hayden's new article gives Obama credit for Bush's plan to shut down the Iraq war.  Not surprising since Obama has followed the Bush path on so many issues, to the point of being called Bush's 3rd term. Tom Hayden totally misses the point.
 
 
Tom always misses the point.  And Ian Wilder has emerged as one of the stronger political voices in the up-is-down-drones-are-good world we've been stuck in since the White House flipped political party while changing no policies.   We'll close with the press release announcing Roseanne Barr has picked Cindy Sheehan for her running mate:
 
FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE    

Contacts: Cat Woods 415-218-8138 
David Josué djosue@yahoo.com
campaign@roseanneforpresident.org
July 29, 2012
ROSEANNE BARR ANNOUNCES RUNNING MATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
Roseanne Barr announced that Cindy Sheehan will be her running mate in her bid for the Peace and Freedom Party's nomination for President. Sheehan is an anti-war activist who first gained national attention for her protest camp outside then-President Bush's Texas ranch.
Barr said, "Cindy and I are the 'Throw the Bums Out' ticket and the 'Ballot Access' ticket. We want people to register in the Peace and Freedom Party so that the party can keep its ballot status in California." After the passage of the 'Top Two primary" in 2010, alternative political parties lost one of their ways of staying on the ballot. The Peace and Freedom Party needs approximately 40,000 more registrants to maintain its ballot status beyond 2014. "We also want people to start Peace and Freedom Parties in other states," added Barr.
Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who has been working closely with Barr on this campaign, commented, "Access to the ballot is a civil rights issue that needs attention across the country. If voters only have two choices, both of which represent the same interests, then we don't really have a democracy." McKinney went on to describe a higher standard of democracy, "When I was in Congress, I promoted proportional representation for legislatures. This is the only way to make our democracy representative of the people, rather than the corporate donors."
The Peace & Freedom Party nominating convention takes place on Saturday August 4th in Los Angeles. Cat Woods, an officer of the Peace & Freedom Party, echoed Barr on the party's emphasis on ballot access. She said that the party hoped to "draw attention to the ongoing erosion of alternative parties' access to the ballot and how this directly deprives voters of control of their government." 

When asked whether she supported the Barr ticket, Woods added, "Our party needs to reach a wider audience with its message of socialist solutions. Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan can bring that."
Responding to charges that she could "steal votes" from Obama or "spoil the election," Barr said, "The American people are sick and tired of this 'lesser evil' garbage they get fed every election year. Both the Democrats and the Republicans do the same evils once they're in office. I'm here to tell the voters: if you want to tell the government and the two domineering parties that you're sick and tired of all their evil, register in the Peace and Freedom Party and vote for me and Cindy."
To contact the Roseanne for President campaign, contact campaign@roseanneforpresident.org 
 
 
 
 

Posted at 05:27 pm by thecommonills
 

Tensions continue to mount between Baghdad and Erbil

Tensions continue to mount between Baghdad and Erbil

 Alsumaria reports an attack in Kirkuk today in which 2 brothers were shot dead while a Baghdad roadside bombing -- in the Abu Ghraib district -- has claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left three more injured and a Baghdad sticky bombing left one person injured.

Rami Ruhayem (BBC News) reports on Iraq's handling of Syrian refugees -- forcing them into abandoned and unused school and government buildings as opposed to allowing them to stay with their relatives in Iraq:

Some of them were so incensed at the treatment they said they would rather return to Syria.
"If they won't let us out of this prison, we will go back to al-Boukamal," said one toothless man with thick greying stubble.
The rage of the Syrian refugees confined to the sweltering playgrounds of schools was more than matched by that of their Iraqi relatives.
After Friday prayers, hundreds of Iraqis marched through al-Qaim to denounce their government's policy.


For video of the report, click hereJamal Hashim and Zhang Ning (Xinhua) report on the situation as well:


"I realized now that the hell of the shelling in my country ( Syria) is better than the promised paradise of living in schools and some government buildings," Abu Ahmed, 50, complained about the tight security measures in the Iraqi camps that left the Syrian refugees suffer from being treated like prisoners.
However, Abu Ahmed is very grateful to the residents of the city of al-Qaim and some humanitarian organizations, who are " doing their best to satisfy the needs of the refugees."
"Resorting to al-Qaim is our best choice because it is the nearest Iraqi city for us and because we have relatives in al-Qaim, " Abu Ahmed said, adding that he wish that the Iraqi authorities would let him live with his relatives.



Meanwhile AFP reports on the latest round of rumors Nouri and his cronies are spreading about others: KRG President Massoud Barzani has been caught attempting to buy weapons from "an unnamed foreign country."  Doesn't it all just reek of "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."?  Starting to understand why Bully Boy bush chose Nouri in the first place? 

Could it be true?  It could be.  Would it matter if it was?  The KRG can arm themselves.  That was established when Saddam Hussein was still the president of Iraq.  Nouri al-Maliki may not like it, but they've got that right and they established that right long before Baghdad fell in 2003 to foreign forces.  In other words, unlike Nouri and his chicken s**t exiles, the Kurds actually participated in their own liberation (1991).  Nouri and the other hens in his squawk party just bitched and moaned to get other countries to do what they were to chicken to do themselves and only returned to Iraq after Baghdad fell.  What a bunch of losers.  And now, on top of that, they're a bunch of backbiting gossips?

Naturally Iran's Press TV jumps all over the unsourced story and doesn't bother to weigh the veracity of the claims.  Press TV is almost as pathetic as the Chicken Hawk Exiles who now rule Iraq. They're not even noting -- nor is AFP -- that the weapons they reportedly made a deal on are defensive in nature.  The editorial board of The National goes over some of the conflicts between Baghdad and Erbil:


The tensions in recent days between Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region, tend to highlight the transnational narrative. A standoff at the weekend between Iraqi national forces and Kurdish peshmerga in the disputed Zimar area again raised the spectre of a disastrous - if unlikely - clash.
Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's government has, by all accounts, done a terrible job of mending Iraq's wounds, in particular since the American withdrawal last year. Partisan politics and the marginalisation of Sunni and Kurd political forces have crippled effective policy in Baghdad.
As a result, there has been no resolution on the governance of oil-rich, disputed Kirkuk, which remains a key flashpoint for Arab-Kurdish relations. So too, a policy vacuum on oil revenues has led to squabbling, and Chevron and Exxon's much-criticised deals with Irbil.

The editorial also lists what it feels are the KRG's mis-steps so use the link if you're new to the conflict. Some feel a speech Barzani gave on Saturday wasn't helpful.  Of the speech,  Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) notes:

The speech did not achieve the impact it should have, especially as the crisis escalated and Iraqi soldiers approached the Syrian border close to Kurdish territories.
As an observer, I was first of all surprised that the speech was not televised. The second surprise was that it was in Kurdish. Especially with the recent escalation of tensions, Iraqi Arab public opinion is very much against the Kurdish region. The media in Baghdad has been full of pro-Maliki voices to say the least, and they are all depicting Kurds as those who want everything.
President Barzani’s speech touched on many issues related to the future of Iraq as a whole, not just as pertains to the Kurds. One of the key points in talks with Baghdad has been the vision of the country's federal future. But this is not known to the Arab public.
In the absence of a strong Kurdish presence in Baghdad's media, a televised message from President Barzani in Arabic for the people of Iraq would have explained the Kurdish position to the rest of Iraq. It would have also been a strong response to Maliki's NRT interview.


And it's still not in English.  We noted reporting of the speech Saturday
krg

That's Arabic (above).  I don't read Kurdish (or speak Kurdish).   The speech was a clarification of the crisis between the KRG and Baghdad and Barzani states that he was compelled to address the basics and shine a light on the problems.   He argues it boils down to the fact that the Kurds have tried to live in a peaceful coexistence under the Iraqi Constitution but while some respect the rights and duties of the Constitution others disregard and dismiss the Constitution to compile a monopoly of power in their own hands.  He states the disagreement between Nouri al-Maliki and himself is not personal and that Nouri was a close friend many years ago when he lived in Kurdistan [presumably this is during Nouri's exile period which also includes stays in Iran and Syria].  But since 2008 when Nouri sent the Iraqi soldiers and tanks to Khanaqin in a face-off with the Peshmerga, dialogue has been harder and harder.  He notes that the Constitution's Article 140 has never been implemented.  [This is the Article about disputed territories such as oil-rich Kirkuk.  A census and referendum is supposed to be held.  By the end of 2007.  Nouri has refused, for six years now, to implement Article 140.  Nouri is in violation of the Constitution.  This issue, by the way, was seen by the RAND Corporation as the biggest once facing Iraq.]  In addition, Baghdad is not providing the budget for the Peshmerga, nor is it working on a draft oil and gas law.  He notes that the Erbil Agreement has been evaded and that a true partnership has been lost.  It is as though, he states, they hvae returned to a dictatorship, following all the ignored promises.  In violation of the rules and laws, he states, Nouri has attempted to grab absolute power over the administration issues, security issues, the military issues and the  economic ones.  This is in violation of the Constitution, he notes.   That's about half the speech.  In the next section he's launching into the oil issue and I want to speak to a friend before noting that section to make sure I'm interpreting a phrase in that section correctly.

You can click here for the English version of the KRG site.  Currently, the speech isn't up in English.  If it goes up today (or later this week) in English, we'll refer to their own translation which I'm sure will be superior to mine. (And repeating, the English above is based on the Arabic translation of the Kurdish speech.  I don't speak or read Kurdish.)





Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Dishonest Cheese Doodle" went up last night.  On this week's  Law and Disorder Radio, a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week , hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) the topics include political prisoner Lynne Stewart, dissent and protests, the National Lawyers Guild and, with guests Chris Hedges and Rick Wolff -- the Occupy Movement.
We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "US Needs to Replace Pentagon's Approach With Peace Corps" (As The World Sleeps):


If the United States attempted to “conquer” by love rather than force of arms, it might be respected, not reviled, globally.

If the White House took an altruistic approach in foreign affairs---that is, if it rejected greed, exploitation, and war in favor of fair play, charity, and humanitarian assistance---it might enjoy such prosperity as exists beyond the dreams of its misguided rulers.

It is no naïve suggestion to urge the Congress to transpose the budgets and numbers of personnel of the Pentagon and the Peace Corps. Naïve is how one would define the Pentagon's 10-year-long failure to conquer Afghanistan by force of arms. Naïve is how the Pentagon can claim the U.S. has improved Iraq when that country far is worse off today than when the Pentagon first bombarded it eight years ago.

The U.S. has invested 10 years and $3 trillion in attempting to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan and what does it have to show for it, apart from the increased hatred of peoples throughout the Middle East? Congress has taken the Pentagon's road and what's been achieved apart from massive slaughter and despoliation of those nations and a bankrupt Treasury at home? For President Obama to prosecute these criminal wars, based on a tissue of lies, and to initiate new wars is naïve as well as criminal.

No, the goal of American foreign policy must be to serve, not to rule. There is strength and dignity in serving others---in building infrastructure, in opening schools and educating, in ministering to the afflicted. That's the way to win friends and influence people.

What the military-industrial complex does not grasp is that time is running out for all of the creatures on this small blue planet. Global warming, significantly induced by the greenhouse emissions of the U.S. and other great consumer/polluter nations, is gathering momentum. Based on what we can already see happening elsewhere, as in Bangladesh, it appears that in the foreseeable future the streets of New York and Miami will be underwater and the nation's electric power grids overtaxed beyond blackout. Trying to keep cool and find a drink of fresh water may yet be the greatest challenges of this century.

For a preview of the future read Don Belt's excellent article in the May NationalGeographic titled “The Coming Storm” about the suffering (and, yes, resilience) of the 164 million people of Bangladesh.
They've watched sea levels rise, salinity infect their coastal aquifers, river flooding become more destructive, and cyclones batter their coast with increasing intensity---all changes associated with disruptions in the global climate,” Belt writes.


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.


Posted at 07:12 am by thecommonills
 

Nouri's Iraq

Nouri's Iraq


Dar Addustour notes that the Pope has called out the attacks in Iraq last Monday which resulted in over a hundred deaths.  Independent Catholic News reports that Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal for peace in Iraq yesterday, "The Holy Father prayed, 'That this great country find once again the path toward stability, reconciliation and peace'." Not much chance of that happening under Nouri al-Maliki. In fact, you'd have to be insane at this point to think it would. For six years, he has been prime minister of Iraq. Where is any improvement he can point to? No where to be found. Al Mada notes a new study the BBC reported on which finds that 23% of Iraqis are living below the poverty line. And that finding comes as Iraqis get some bad news. Al Mada reports the Minister of Finance Fadhil Nabi issued a statement declaring that the vast sums of money obtained through oil revenue is inadequate for distribution to the Iraqi people. Do you believe that? Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc doesn't. They've been raising serious questions about the surplus for some time.

A 70-year-old man has been sentenced to 15 years in prsion.  That's the verdict handed down by the Iraqi 'legal' system after a 'hearing' that was shorter than a US traffic court appearance to appeal a speeding ticket.  Amnesty International issues the following alert:


‘Grossly unfair’ 15-minute court hearing in Ramze Shihab Amhed case relied on ‘torture’ evidence
Amnesty International has condemned the trial in Iraq of a 70-year-old British man who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after a hearing that lasted only 15 minutes.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 70-year-old dual Iraqi-UK national who has lived in the UK since 2002, was sentenced by a court in Baghdad on 20 June after being found guilty of “funding terrorist groups”.
Amnesty has obtained and examined court documents and believes the trial proceedings were “grossly unfair”. At his trial, the ninth in a series of trials (he had been acquitted in each of the earlier ones), Mr Ahmed’s lawyer was not given the opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s case, or to cross-examine prosecution witnesses or call his own witnesses.
The court also failed to exclude from the proceedings a “confession” of Ahmed’s, despite longstanding allegations that this was extracted under torture. The court relied on information provided by a secret informant, with Ahmed’s lawyer denied an opportunity to challenge this information. In addition, statements - also allegedly extracted from an individual under torture and other ill-treatment - were considered in the trial proceedings.
Earlier this month UK Foreign Secretary William Hague raised Ahmed’s case with his counterpart, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, while the latter was on a trip to London. Amnesty has been running a campaign for justice for Ahmed (www.amnesty.org.uk/ramze) and over 6,000 Amnesty supporters have already contacted Mr Hague about Ahmed’s plight.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“This is deeply disturbing news. Ramze seems to have been convicted partly on the basis of a confession that was allegedly beaten out of him.
“The sentence comes on the back of what has already been a living nightmare for Ramze - of secret detention, alleged torture and then a prolonged trial that was itself grossly unfair.
“We need to see this dubious verdict set aside and Ramze either given a proper appeal or for him to be released and allowed to return home.”
In November 2009 Ahmed had travelled from the UK to Iraq in an effort to secure the release of his detained son ‘Omar. However, he was himself arrested at a relative’s house in the northern city of Mosul on 7 December 2009. For nearly four months he was held in a secret prison near Baghdad, during which time his whereabouts were completely unknown to his family. During this period Ahmed alleges he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags - into making a false “confession” to terrorist offences.
Ahmed “reappeared” in late March 2010 when he was able to make a phone call to his wife Rabiha al-Qassab - a 65-year-old former teaching assistant who lives in London - imploring her to seek help from the UK authorities. However, partly on the basis of his “confession”, Ahmed was subsequently put on trial, including on various terrorism charges.


It's Nouri's Iraq but it sounds a lot like Elvis Costello's hell.


This is hell
This is hell
I am sorry to tell you
It never gets better or worse 
-- "This Is Hell," written by Elvis Costello, first appears on his Brutal Youth

Six long years and no measurable improvement.  Zeynep Kosereisoglu (Journal of Turkish Weekly) offers these five recommendations:


 So, in the midst of this chaos, what shall be done?

1. The Shiite dominated government must go out of its way to prove to the rest of the Iraqis that they aren’t being marginalized.

2. The state must form concrete laws and regulations about energy production and distribution to end the disputes in both the Kurdish region and in the oil rich south.

3. Baghdad’s position about federalism and autonomous regions must be made clear. This might be for the better or the worse, but the Iraqis must move beyond such political disputes and on to more economic concerns.

4. If deals are made with foreign companies, the priority shall be clean water and electricity provision, [11] and rather than focusing only in the capital, they should expand throughout the entire country.

5. And the government shall reserve a good portion of its expenditures to the implementation of the rule of law, whether it be ensuring the security of towns or increasing the number of regional courts and improving the efficiency of the trials. Trust in the rule of law is the foundations of a stable and democratic society.


Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Dishonest Cheese Doodle" went up last night.  On this week's  Law and Disorder Radio, a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week (today on WBAI, Law and Disorder was a three hour live broadcast due to fund raising, we're dealing with the recorded program here), hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) the topics include political prisoner Lynne Stewart, dissent and protests, the National Lawyers Guild and, with guests Chris Hedges and Rick Wolff -- the Occupy Movement. We'll close with this from the Green Party of Michigan:




Green Party of Michigan
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
http://www.migreens.org/


** News Release **
** ------------ **
July 27, 2012


For More Information, Contact:
-----------------------------
John Anthony La Pietra, Elections Co-ordinator
jalp@triton.net
269-781-9478

Jennifer La Pietra, Media Co-ordinator
(508) 280-1360



Greens to Supreme Court: Let People Vote on Emergency-Manager Law
==================================================================



The Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) counts grassroots democracy among its core principles -- its Ten Key Values. And the party has been living that value quite a lot this year in supporting the petition drive to let the people of Michigan vote on Public Act 4 of 2011, the emergency-manager law.

It was almost five months ago that Stand Up for Democracy turned in many more valid signatures on referendum petitions than opponents could hope to challenge on the merits. And it's been three months since expert testimony and common sense joined to prove that the petition both substantially and actually complied with the requirements of Michigan's Election Code.

But anti-democratic legal maneuvers have so far blocked this exercise of the people's fundamental right to a voice in their government.

The matter reached the Michigan Supreme Court this Monday -- and now there is only one month left to put the issue on the November 6 general-election ballot. Or so says the state Bureau of Elections -- basing its timetable on a law which isn't constitutionally eligible to take effect yet.

Michigan Greens urge the Michigan Supreme Court to act quickly and decisively to end the unjust delay and confusion, and put the referendum on the ballot.

"We the people of Michigan understand what 14-point type is," commented GPMI's Elections Co-ordinator John Anthony La Pietra, an attorney with training and experience in election law and other aspects of civil rights and Constitutional law.

"And over 200,000 of us saw 14-point type when we read, understood, and signed the petition to end the emergency-manager law and revive the power of grassroots democracy -- which all Greens support.

"Michigan Greens call on the members of the Supreme Court to live up to their title, and give the people justice on this matter."

La Pietra, the Green candidate for Calhoun County Clerk and Register of Deeds, added that the Court needs to act soon -- to avoid entangling the referendum on PA 4 with another controversy, and another anti-democratic bill.

Part of Public Act 276 of 2012, signed by Governor Snyder two weeks ago, will remove a current eleven-day period for finalizing the language describing ballot questions. This will give future citizen initiatives and referendums less time to go through the legal hoops to get on the ballot.

But the new law can't apply to the emergency-manager referendum, La Pietra pointed out. "The enrolled Senate Bill 823, which became PA 276, says it is to take immediate effect -- and also says it is to take effect on August 16. But the House did not approve the bill by the 2/3 majority required in Michigan's Constitution. So PA 276 can't take effect until 90 days after this legislative session ends."

Despite this, La Pietra noted, the Bureau of Elections has declared that court action on the petition against PA 4 must be finalized by August 27 to get the referendum on the ballot. That is ten days earlier than the September 7 date (60 days before the November 6 general election) established by current sections of Michigan law which PA 276 would repeal.

"Maybe the Bureau's just playing it safe, and planning for an earlier process than is really necessary," La Pietra suggests. "That would be understandable -- but it could put liberty and justice at risk.

"Perhaps we can all agree to hope that the point becomes moot -- because the Supreme Court does the right thing, recognizes precedent and common sense, and acts promptly to put the question on the ballot for voters to decide."

For more information about the Green Party of Michigan, its values, and the candidates who will represent both on the November ballot, visit:

http://www.migreens.org/

Also check out the Green Party/Partido Verde of Michigan group on Facebook, and the party's Twitter feed @MIGreenParty.


References:
----------
Stand Up for Democracy, sponsor of the referendum on PA 4
www.standup4democracy.com/

Senate Bill 823, which became Public Act 276 of 2012
www.legislature.mi.gov/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=2011-SB-0823
shows Michigan House's 68-42 vote to approve the bill;
see also link to text of enrolled bill, which says both
that it will take effect immediately and
that it will take effect August 16

Michigan Constitution, Article IV, Section 27
www.legislature.mi.gov/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-Article-IV-27
shows a 2/3 majority in both houses is required for immediate effect

Michigan Supreme Court Webpage on _Stand Up for Democracy v Secretary of State_
courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/Clerk/07-12/145378/145387-Index.html
includes a summary of the case and links to briefs filed in it


# # #


created/distributed using donated labor


Green Party of Michigan
548 South Main Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
http://www.migreens.org/
734-663-3555

GPMI was formed in 1987 to address environmental
issues in Michigan politics. Greens are organized
in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each
state Green Party sets its own goals and creates its
own structure, but US Greens agree on Ten Key Values:

Ecological Wisdom
Grassroots Democracy
Social Justice
Non-Violence
Community Economics
Decentralization
Feminism
Respect for Diversity
Personal/Global Responsibility
Future Focus/Sustainability

Check out the Green Party/Partido Verde of Michigan group
on Facebook – and follow us at Twitter: @MIGreenParty


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.





Posted at 05:56 am by thecommonills
 

Sunday, July 29, 2012
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Dishonest Cheese Doodle"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Dishonest Cheese Doodle"

cheese
Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "The Dishonest Cheese Doodle."  Minor pundit Brent Budowsky declares, "Hey, it's me Brent Budowsky.  You should listen to me because I look like a cheese doodle with hair.  And because I used to work for War Monger Lloyd Bentsen.  Mainly though because I'm such a whore I write an entire column about Mitt Romney supposedly insulting England but I forget to ever tell you what he actually said.  I'm an old whore.  And a cheese doodle."  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.






the common ills

Posted at 10:47 pm by thecommonills
 

Hejira

Hejira

Peter Beinart's "The U.S. Started the War in Iraq. It's Time to Finish It" went up at The Daily Beast a little while ago.  Excerpt.


So why should we still care about Iraq? First, because although al Qaeda terrorists detonated this week’s bombs, it was our invasion that created the chaos that has allowed them sanctuary; the blood is partly on our hands. Hours after the bombs hit, President Obama addressed the National Convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars, where he bragged that “I pledged to end the war in Iraq honorably, and that’s what we’ve done ... We brought our troops home responsibly. They left with their heads held high, knowing they gave Iraqis a chance to forge their own future.” The crowd applauded. Imagine yourself as an Iraqi, hearing Obama’s banal, self-congratulatory words on CNN while living the blood-stained future that America’s invasion helped you forge. Or imagine you heard Mitt Romney’s speech the following day that barely mentioned Iraq but declared that “throughout history our power has brought justice where there was tyranny, peace where there was conflict, and hope where there was affliction and despair ... Our country is the greatest force for good the world has ever known.” Think how you’d feel about the United States.

It's an important piece and one you wouldn't expect from Beinart who even acknowledges his own error in judgment (he was among the press boosters of the Iraq War) in the column.  He offers a suggestion in his column that when politicians who supported the Iraq War talk about the need for other wars, they should be asked what they learned from the Iraq War.  Most of all he notes the Iraq War has not ended. 

And it hasn't. 

ibc




Through Saturday, Iraq Body Counts counts at least 385 people killed in violence.

AP notes 2 Falluja bombing and a Falluja shooting have left 7 Iraqi police officers dead.  In addition, Alsumaria notes a Baquba car bombing claimed 4 lives and left thirteen people injured. That's 11 reported deaths.  I'm sure there were more.  That's 396 dead -- at least -- going into Monday.  The UN counted 401 deaths in June.  July ends Tuesday.  It's very likely that the death toll for July will match or exceed the UN figure for June.

It'll be interesting to see what the press does on Wednesday and Thursday.  The Iraqi ministries -- controlled by Nouri -- have been undercounting the deaths.  That's clear if you compare the 'official' totals with the death toll the UN keeps or the one Iraq Body Count keeps.

That's something the press has refused to do. 

They've instead treated the Iraqi government figures as gospel.  Even when they were obviously 200 or so short.


As we've noted many times, it wasn't always this way.  The press used to treat IBC as gospel.  All the outlets cited it.  Even Bully Boy Bush cited it in a speech.  But these days, it's as though their editors have blocked Iraq Body Count from their computers.


The war hasn't ended and some may argue we should be grateful for the little US coverage that exists.  But bad press coverage helped start this war and bad coverage will never help end it.





I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

 The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4488.


New content at Third:



 Isaiah's latest goes up after this. 


 The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.




Posted at 10:41 pm by thecommonills
 

Friday, July 27, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot


Friday, July 27, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the US has wasted over 20 billion tax payer dollars on training Iraq security forces, as they refuse to address that the press and pundits push and push for more war, Hilton Worldwide's building a hotel in Iraq, and more. 
 
 
At the start of the week, an international hotel chain announced they were coming to Iraq. The press release opened:
 
 
Hilton Worldwide today announced expansion plans in Iraqi Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, with the signing of a management agreement with the Mihtab Group to develop the first Hilton Hotels & Resorts property in the rapidly growing city of Erbil, Iraq.
The 300-room Hilton Erbil Hotel & Spa, which is expected to open in 2016, will be the second Hilton Worldwide property in Erbil following the 2011 announcement to develop a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in the city.
Hilton Erbil Hotel & Spa will be set in extensive, landscaped grounds in an upscale residential and commercial district just North of Erbil, an area famous for its picturesque, mountainous landscape as well as its close proximity to the city's main access road. These key location benefits are attracting many new businesses to the area, including a number of foreign embassies planned within the next two years.
 
 
The KRG is not hurting for hotels. Already it has a ton including the Erbil Tower Hotel, Divan Erbil, Van Royal Hotel, Erbil Rotana (where this year's Miss Kurdistan competition was held), Yadi Hotel, Abu-Sana Hotel, etc. The KRG has 22 operating, internationally recognized hotels with more being built. Baghdad? Five operating and internationally recognized hotels -- including the Palestine International Hotel (where reporters stayed and where the US military infamously fired upon). No big construction going on. No big foreign investment rushing into the capitol. But the KRG? Hilton Worldwide becomes the latest to want to do business.
 
 
As we've noted repeatedly, Nouri's crazy scares them off. Nouri's tirades against Turkey, all the accusations and smears add in to the view of him as unhinged. His attacks on ExxonMobil and Chevron and so many others and his inability, as prime minister, to bring cohesion to Iraq, to provide real leadership to the region, hurts the country and harms the way others view the section of Iraq he has jurisdiction over. (The KRG -- Kurdistan Regional Government -- three northern provinces -- is semi-autonomous.)
 
 
After all this time, an argument could be made that Baghdad 'security' -- such as it is -- is as good as it's going to get and that the business community has taken note of that. Making that argument requires acknowleging how very little Nouri al-Maliki has accomplished in his six years as prime minister. Acknowledging that requires confronting how little Nouri has achieved as prime minister and how much the people continue to suffer.
 
 
Ahmed Hussein (Al Mada) reports that along with the continued lack of electritiy, you can add to that the scarcity of potable water in Baghdad -- specifically east Baghdad and South Baghdad. The situation has gotten so bad that Parliament will be questioning the governor of the province and the secretary of the city of Baghdad. The newspaper notes that, July 7th, officials pleaded "technical problems." That was 20 days ago.
The delivery of basic goods and services is a political issue and the potable water appears to have entered the same crisis level the political stalemate has. Al Mada reports on Ayad Allawi's statements yesterday. Allawi is the head of Iraqiya (the political slate that came in first in the elections, Nouri's State of Law came in second). Allawi notes that there is no need for a Reform Committee or for people to think up or adopt new reforms. The answer is to return to the Erbil Agreement which was already agreed upon.

 
Following the March 2010 elections, Political Stalemate I lasted for a little over eight months and this was the period where Nouri refused to allow things to move forward because he wanted a second term as prime minister; however, State of Law's showing didn't allow him -- per the law -- to be made prime minister-designate and given 30 days to assmble a Cabinet. So he pouted and threw his tantrum and the White House nursed him and refused to pull him off Barack's nipple. With the White House backing, Nouri was able to bring things in Iraq to a complete standstill. The White House then brokered the Erbil Agreement which was the way around the Constitution (it was extra-Constitutional, not unconstitutional) for Nouri to get his way.

 
That's not how the US government presented it. The political blocs were told to figure out what they wanted and this items were written into the agreement with the understanding that, in exchange for those, Nouri would get a second term. The agreement is a binding contract and was signed off on by all parties. Plus the US government assured the political blocs that the US was backing this agreement. That was November 2010. The next day, Parliament finally held a real session and Nouri was named prime minister-designate. When he became prime minister, he trashed the agreement and, since summer 2011, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds and Iraqiya have been calling for him to return to the Erbil Agreement.

 
He has refused.

 
That's what the current political stalemate is about. He is not only doing a power-grab, he is refusing to honor the contract he signed onto and used to get a second term as prime minister. He has further alarmed rival politicians by going back on his 'pledge' not to seek a third term.

 
So Allawi is calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. He sees Nouri's silly Reform Commission as a waste of time -- which it is. Why do they need weeks of meetings to figure out what to do?

 
Have we forgotten the months of meetings for the national conference that then fell apart as Nouri wanted it to? Before that fell apart in April, there had been months of meetings about this issue. So the Reform Commission shouldn't need a ton of meetings to figure out what to do.

 
But the reality is it exists solely to buy more time for Nouri. This is what he always does, stall, stall and stall. And hope people either get tired of waiting or just forget.

 
Due to backing from the Bush White House and then the Barack White House, this strategy has been highly effective for Nouri personally.

 
It's helped tear the country of Iraq further apart but, for Nouri, it's all about what Nouri al-Maliki wants. Further proof is in reporting today by Rod Nordland (New York Times) about 15 Baquba officials quitting their jobs because they state the government has failed to protect them from al Qaeda. Threat have made them fear for the safety of their families. This lack of security despite all the US tax dollars wasted in training Iraq's security forces.

 
"Status of Fixcal Years 2011-2012 Iraq Security Forces Fund (SIGIR 12-018)" [PDF format warning, click here] was released today by the Office of the Special Inspector General on Iraq Reconstruction and is a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillar Clinton which notes the money given (wasted) by US taxpayers for Iraq's security forces to be trained: "To date, Congress has appropriated $20.54 billion in ISFF. This includes $1.50 billion Congress appropriated in April 2011 for use in fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2012."
 
 
Over $20.54 billion US tax dollars sent out of the US to pay for the training of Iraq's security forces. You learn about how freely the government spent the taxpayer money. So freely, that they gave more than even they thought could be spent which is why: "Congress specified the period of time each ISFF appropriation could be used. In each case, Congress made the funds available for periods between 12 and 19 months, during which time funds would have to be obligated. Any funds not obligated with their designated period of availability would be considered expired and, therefore, not available for new obligations."

Nancy Pelosi kept using the "blank check" metaphor even after many of us thought the then-Speaker sounded ancient and ourselves were referring to it as the administration using Congress as its own personal ATM. But Pelosi ends up right and we (including me) end up wrong because it was indeed a blank check. And it was blank check under Bush and a blank check under Barack.

 
While Americans domestically struggled with historic levels of unemployment, with losing their houses and so much more, the Congress and the White House were so eager to give Iraq billions for 'security forces' that they realized they might be giving more than was needed so they tacked on that if the funds were not "obligated" within X number of months, the US would get them back.


 
And some may wrongly think that means, "Well, Iraq didn't spend X so we're getting that back. Yea!" Wrong. "Spent" is not "obligated."


 
"Obligated" means they say it will be spent on, for example, "forensic training."


 
Will be. Not has been spent.


 
This is made clear in the letter: "However, un-obligated funds can be used for up to five years after they expire to pay for authorized increases to existing obligations made from the same appropriation. Any un-obligated funds remaining after the five-year period must be returned to the U.S. Treasury."

 
So the White House and the Congress (then Democratically controlled, both houses) made the decision not only to give Iraq more money than was needed, they also said, "Hey, screw the American taxpayers and their needs, if you can't spend this money in the Fiscal Year, just say you will someday spend it on something and we'll let you have it for up to five years, interest free."

 
$20.54 billion US tax dollars wasted.

 
Wasted?

 
What do you see in Iraq in terms of security that justifies spending 20 billion dollars -- $20,000,000,000?

 
The CIA estimates the Iraqi population to be 31.1 million. (Iraq hasn't had a census since the 90s.) When the US government refers to Iraq's "security forces," they are only speaking of the number employed by the central government out of Baghdad. So all of this money has just spent on the national forces. In a country with an estimate population of 30 million, how many security forces are there?

 
By September 2007, according to Brookings, they had 359,700. In the same month, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post noted that then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus was using a higher figure of 445,000 at that same time and that this "suggest[s] he was including every person employed by the ministries in an effort to promote the size and capability of security forces that many experts say are plagued by absenteeism, attrition and sectarianism." Last December 7th, Luis Martinez (ABC News) reported US Lt Gen Frank Helmick had stated in the US military's "last briefing from Iraq" that Iraq's security forces number 700,000.
 
 
30 million population, nearly a million police officers. Iraq is not Malaysia. It's an oil rich country generating billions each year. How very fortunate for the US-installed puppet Nouri that these forces he's put under his own command -- not really how the Iraqi Constitution set it out -- were trained on the US tax payer dollar.

 
Please grasp that this figure doesn't include the $850 million that the US State Dept requested (and received) for Fiscal Year 2012 to, yes, train Iraq's security forces. And the 'good' news on that money? The letter explains that, after allocation, "the funds will be deposited into an Iraq FMF account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the GOI [Government Of Iraq] will decide how to use the funds."

 
And when you look over how that money's being allocated, you'll see that the US tax payer foots the bill for everything from night vision goggles to "training ammunition." Again, Iraq is not a struggling economy. It's not Ethiopia. It's an oil rich country that make billions every month in oil revenue.

 
But Nouri can't provide security and can't even pick up the bill for the security forces he has placed under his control. Who's safe in Iraq besides Nouri? Who's benefitted from all those billions spent on security?


 
On efforts to end -- or pretend to end -- the crisis Nouri started, Al Mada reports that the National Alliance is warning that the Reform Committee lacks "a magic wand." No one expected them to have a magic wand. People are more upset that they (a) have no teeth, (b) have no power and (c) are a for-show group. This evening, Alsumaria reported that State of Law was stating Deputy Prime Minister and Iraqiya member Saleh al-Mutlaq was supporting the Reform Commission. If true, this could be the most serious fracture Iraqiya has faced. They've written off the loss of members since the elections. This would be a high ranking member betraying them. Saleh al-Mutlaq, it should be remembered was tarred and feathered by Nouri's Justic and Accountability Commission in 2010 as a "Ba'athist." As such, he wasn't allowed to run in the elections. Iraqiya stood by him throughout that. In the second-half of December of last year, Nouri was attempting to strip al-Mutlaq of his position as a result of an interview al-Mutlaq gave CNN where he comapred Nouri to a dictator. Iraqiya stood behind him collectively and that was among the reasons he retained his office. So a defection like this -- even if he remained in Iraqiya -- would be a major turn -- and a major betrayal.
International leaders and the press betrayed Iraq and the citizens of the world by building a false case for the illegal war. Some of those international leaders never really leave the daily buzz. Take George W. Bush. PTI reports that the Dalai Lama has declared he and George W. Bush ad BFFs and, "Personally I love Bush but I have reservation on his policy towards Iraq." Personally, I was neutral on the Dalai Lama until a few years ago when he decided to let his homophobia run wild. After that, very little about the 'peaceful' Dalai Lama can surprise me -- not even his desire to be best friends with a War Criminal.
 
 
From Bush, who occupied the White House from January 2001 through January 2009. In England, the chief War Criminal was then-prime minister Tony Blair. Former British diplomat Craig Murray observes at his site, "Blair's latest attempt at rehabilitation is a discussion tomorrow at Westminister Central Hall with the Archbishop of Canterbury on the place of religion in society. A vexed question, but give that Blair believes God OK'd the invasion of Iraq and the resulting millions deaths, not one that can usefully be discussed by this charlatan." Meanwhile in England, Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports, efforts continue to hide evidence from the public about how Blair and Bush planned or 'planned' the illegal war:
 
 
The Foreign Office (FCO) is appealing against a judge's ruling that extracts of a conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush days before the invasion of Iraq must be disclosed.
It argues that revealing Blair's comments to Bush on the telephone on 12 March 2003 would present a "significant danger" to UK-US relations. It would lead to the US withholding information from Britain in the future, damaging Britain's security and diplomatic interests, the FCO says.
 
 
Those two War Criminals may not be able to lead nations into illegal war today but there are so many other of the original helpers still hungry with War Lust. The Atlantic was a big War Cheerleader back then. Today you can find John Hudson pondering, "Did Syria Receive Its Chemical Weapons from Saddam?" What a stupid War Whore. As Kirs Alenxander (Wired) notes, "No, Syria Doesn't Have Saddam's Chemical Weapons." Excerpt:
 
 
I’ve already debunked one of the rumors about Iraq’s WMD. I’m not buying this one. Here’s why.
First: Think about it for a second. Strategically and militarily, it made no sense for Saddam to transfer his weapons of mass destruction to Syria. Saddam worked on acquiring WMD for a reason: to stave off an invasion and hold on to power.
Just listen to a defeated Saddam for a second. In a post-invasion interview, Saddam admitted that he had been bluffing about his WMD. This is actually case-closed for the conspiracy theories about his weapons transfers.
But for a moment, let’s suppose that Saddam circumvented the most intrusive sanction regime the world has ever known and rebuilt his WMD programs after inspectors (and Israeli jets) destroyed them. His reasoning would have been deterrence — as Thomas Schelling put it, Saddam would have given his enemies a “threat that leaves something to chance.” That’s why the Assad regime threatens on and off to use WMD: It keeps the foreign hordes at bay. So why, with U.S. massing forces on his border, would Saddam give up the one thing he had to raise the cost of invading to the Americans?
 
 
At Antiwar.com, John Glaser takes on the idiot and evil Seth Jones (evil? he taught counter-insurgency at the university level) and Jones' ridiculous attempts to build support for a Syrian War. Excerpt.
 
 
Well then genius, it might have been good not to have initiated regime change, no? US support for the rebel militias has emboldened the opposition, deepened the conflict, and allowed extremist insurgents to destabilize the Assad regime. Jones admits that one thing explaining al-Qaeda’s rise in Syria is “the draw of a new jihad—smack in the middle of the Arab world.” Like in Iraq, the US has helped create an al-Qaeda presence in Syria, which is now justifying even more military intervention.
Jones’s position is pitifully confused. Which policy is the US supposed to pursue in Syria – supporting the rebels in a proxy war against Assad, or fighting the rebels and eliminating the main threat to Assad’s regime? This isn’t quantum mechanics; we can’t exist in two different realities at once. Or are we just supposed to take any excuse to intervene at face value?
Jones is also contradictory: He admits al-Qaeda fighters are swarming to Syria because of the draw of jihad. Yet, he wants to “launch a covert campaign to ramp up intelligence-collection efforts against al Qaeda, capture or kill its senior leaders, and undermine its legitimacy.” Right, because nothing snuffs out al-Qaeda like an unprovoked US war in the Middle East.
 
 
Counter-insurgency is war on a native population through intimidation and deceit -- the US generally mixes in violence as well. So the question to ask is someone trained in deception should really be allowed to write opinion columns? Do we really need domestic psyops on the op-ed pages of our daily newspapers in this country?
 
 

 
Syria’s citizens are now another nation reduced to tragic turmoil resultant from being targeted in the post 11 September 2001 Pentagon plan to “take out seven countries in five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off with Iran”, as described by General Wesley Clark.
US planned carnage in sovereign Syria was a bit behind schedule, but now back on track -- if out of predicted sequence — with another wannabe Crusader in the White House, this one with a Nobel Peace Prize. Fact mirrors fiction’s wildest darknesses, and from the “Nile to the Euphrates” the regions’ residents increasingly have only the most uncertain and tenuous places to hide.
Syria, with population of under 23 million, is also host to nearly half a million Palestinian refugees and the largest influx of Iraqi refugees in the world, a minimum of 1.2 million, who fled the US-UK’s liberating bombs, bullets, kidnappings, rapes, murders, ethnic cleansing, looting and mayhem.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that “Syria has been a generous host to Iraqi refugees.”
The horrors they fled after the invasion are again stalking those who thought they were now safe.
 
 
As the War Hawks get their jollies, life is forever destroyed for the people on the ground -- the ones that an alleged humanitarian impulse is screaming must be saved. From IRIN:
 
 
Thousands of Iraqi refugees returning from Syria will face huge challenges reintegrating into a country with high rates of unemployment, dismal basic services and ongoing sectarian strife.
“I think we will face a humanitarian crisis regarding this issue,” said Yaseen Ahmed Abbas, the president of the Iraq Red Crescent (IRC). “You should expect pressure on everything in Iraq by having such a large number of people in a short time. It’s not easy.”
More than 15,000 Iraqis have returned to Iraq in the past nine days, after unprecedented fighting in the Syrian capital Damascus, according to Deputy Minister of Displacement and Migration Salam Dawod Al Khafagy. The government evacuated 4,000 by air, he said; the rest crossed by land. Tens of thousands of others have returned since the Syrian conflict started in March 2011.
Elham was one of them. After seven years in Syria, she and her son returned on 3 July to Iraq, where she says she has nothing: “I am like a stranger here.”
After a few nights in a hotel, her money has run out and she is now staying with friends, she told IRIN. Her family home, abandoned years ago, then occupied, and now empty, is “not fit for living”, she says, and she has no capital to rebuild it. Her parents have since died and transferring the home into her name is another hurdle, she said.

 
 
Rami Ruhayem (BBC News -- link is video) reports, "The Iraqi authorities crammed them together in local schools and government buildings and imposed strict restrictions on their movement. A Syrian refugee tells BBC, "Our main demand is to leave this prison and go to our relatives. If they don't let us out, we will return to our houses in Syria, whether they like it or not." Of the Syrian refugees, UNICEF notes:
 
 
Some people have taken displaced families into their own homes. One woman I know, Manal, who has two children of her own, has been hosting her extended family from Homs in her house for the past three months. Recently they all had to relocate, and took refuge in a school. Such generosity is becoming harder to sustain. Many shops are closed, so it is difficult for local residents to buy enough food and other basics to meet their own needs, let alone those of their guests.
Conditions in the schools are not easy, either. In one school in Masaken Barzeh, around 600 people are using just seven small toilets. The new residents do their best to keep the school clean. But they need cleaning supplies and awareness-raising about the importance of good hygiene. UNICEF is helping by supplying hygiene kits that contain detergents, shampoos, sanitary napkins, soap, towels and other personal hygiene items.
Sometimes the children themselves step up to help. I came across 14-year-old Maya who, along with seven other family members, had been relocated twice. She calls herself a “hygiene expert.” Volunteers were so impressed with her knowledge that it was agreed that Naya would be the school’s focal point for hygiene awareness. Naya promised to spend her free time going around telling other children about proper hygiene. “Younger kids listen to me, but I’m not sure about the grown-ups,” Naya laughed.
Another problem is keeping the children occupied. It is too hot to run around in the yard, and there is nothing to play with. UNICEF is providing the schools with recreational kits and sports kits through its local partners.
 
 
 
Violence continues in Iraq. With only a few days remaining in the month, Iraq Body Count notes that at least 376 people have been killed from violence in Iraq through yesterday. The United Nations counted 401 deaths last month. Iraq is on track to meet that figure or even surpass it. (The official Iraqi government numbers -- which the press ran with -- were much lower.) Today Alsumaria reports a Baghdad sticky bombing has claimed 1 life. It has been a very violent month in Iraq.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) adds, "Twelve more militants were killed in clashes in Hadid. Yesterday, gunmen had managed to kill 12 security members, including one person on a helicopter that was forced to make a hard landing. "  Rudaw notes, "On Friday the ministry of Peshmerga said that the Iraqi government had sent troops to the border strip between Syria and the Kurdistan Region and that 3,000 Peshmerga fighters stationed in the area had stopped their advance.
There was serious concern about armed clashes between both sides."
 
 
On the violence, Deutsche Welle observes:



 
Intelligence sources say the Islamic State of Iraq terror network is in dire financial straits and that attacks are increasingly become contract killings. "Terror in Iraq is politically motivated," says Yonadam Kanna, one of the few Christian members of the Iraqi parliament. The government has been in a perpetual state of crisis since the US withdrew its troops at the end of 2011. In vain, the opposition has for months tried to enforce a vote of no-confidence against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. They accuse him of assuming too much power while trying to keep Sunni Muslims at bay. Maliki's State of Law party is the second-strongest party in parliament; the bloc headed by his opponent Iyad Allawi has one seat more but failed to form a governing majority.
Two years ago, Maliki signed a coalition treaty for a "government of national unity" with various Shiite parties and Kurds. The agreement promised key ministries to Allawi, who was also to head a new security and surveillance agency. But none of the above ever materialized. Maliki is acting head of the interior and defense ministries and talk of a new security agency has ceased. Like Maliki, Allawi is a Shiite, but he enjoys the support of most Sunni parties. Tensions between the two politicians have for months paralyzed development in Iraq - everything but the oil sector has ground to a halt. The country has reached an economic and political standstill spelling disaster for the population.
 
 
 
Notice how the topic circles back to the stalemate. It has to because Nouri's inability to honor his agreements has left many in Iraq feeling disenfranchised and not willing to trust him anymore. That goes a long way towards explaining the present violence.


 
 

Posted at 09:32 pm by thecommonills
 

At least 376 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month

At least 376 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month

Today Alsumaria reports a Baghdad sticky bombing has claimed 1 life.  It has been a very violent month in Iraq.

iraqbodyc

With only a few days remaining in the month, Iraq Body Count notes that at least 376 people have been killed from violence in Iraq through yesterday.  On the violence,  Deutsche Welle observes:



Intelligence sources say the Islamic State of Iraq terror network is in dire financial straits and that attacks are increasingly become contract killings. "Terror in Iraq is politically motivated," says Yonadam Kanna, one of the few Christian members of the Iraqi parliament. The government has been in a perpetual state of crisis since the US withdrew its troops at the end of 2011. In vain, the opposition has for months tried to enforce a vote of no-confidence against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. They accuse him of assuming too much power while trying to keep Sunni Muslims at bay. Maliki's State of Law party is the second-strongest party in parliament; the bloc headed by his opponent Iyad Allawi has one seat more but failed to form a governing majority.
Two years ago, Maliki signed a coalition treaty for a "government of national unity" with various Shiite parties and Kurds. The agreement promised key ministries to Allawi, who was also to head a new security and surveillance agency. But none of the above ever materialized. Maliki is acting head of the interior and defense ministries and talk of a new security agency has ceased. Like Maliki, Allawi is a Shiite, but he enjoys the support of most Sunni parties. Tensions between the two politicians have for months paralyzed development in Iraq - everything but the oil sector has ground to a halt. The country has reached an economic and political standstill spelling disaster for the population.

On the political stalemate, Al Mada reports on Ayad Allawi's statements yesterday.  Allawi is the head of Iraqiya (the political slate that came in first in the elections, Nouri's State of Law came in second).  Allawi notes that there is no need for a Reform Committee or for people to think up or adopt new reforms.  The answer is to return to the Erbil Agreement which was already agreed upon.

Following the March 2010 elections, Political Stalemate I lasted for a little over eight months and this was the period where Nouri refused to allow things to move forward because he wanted a second term as prime minister; however, State of Law's showing didn't allow him -- per the law -- to be made prime minister-designate and given 30 days to assmble a Cabinet.  So he pouted and threw his tantrum and the White House nursed him and refused to pull him off Barack's nipple.  With the White House backing, Nouri was able to bring things in Iraq to a complete standstill.  The White House then brokered the Erbil Agreement which was the way around the Constitution (it was extra-Constitutional, not unconstitutional) for Nouri to get his way.

That's not how the US government presented it.  The political blocs were told to figure out what they wanted and this items were written into the agreement with the understanding that, in exchange for those, Nouri would get a second term.  The agreement is a binding contract and was signed off on by all parties.  Plus the US government assured the political blocs that the US was backing this agreement.  That was November 2010.  The next day, Parliament finally held a real session and Nouri was named prime minister-designate.  When he became prime minister, he trashed the agreement and, since summer 2011, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds and Iraqiya have been calling for him to return to the Erbil Agreement.

He has refused.

That's what the current political stalemate is about.  He is not only doing a power-grab, he is refusing to honor the contract he signed onto and used to get a second term as prime minister.  He has further alarmed rival politicians by going back on his 'pledge' not to seek a third term.

So Allawi is calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.  He sees Nouri's silly Reform Commission as a waste of time -- which it is.  Why do they need weeks of meetings to figure out what to do?

Have we forgotten the months of meetings for the national conference that then fell apart as Nouri wanted it to?  Before that fell apart in April, there had been months of meetings about this issue.  So the Reform Commission shouldn't need a ton of meetings to figure out what to do.

But the reality is it exists solely to buy more time for Nouri.  This is what he always does, stall, stall and stall.  And hope people either get tired of waiting or just forget.

Due to backing from the Bush White House and then the Barack White House, this strategy has been highly effective for Nouri personally.

It's helped tear the country of Iraq further apart but, for Nouri, it's all about what Nouri al-Maliki wants. 

Al Mada reports that the National Alliance is warning that the Reform Committee lacks "a magic wand."  No one expected them to have a magic wand.  People are more upset that they (a) have no teeth, (b) have no power and (c) are a for show group.



Dania Hussein



That's Dania Hussein above.  She's competing in the Summer Olympics in London in the 100 meter race.  This is her second Olympics.  In 2008, she was the only Iraqi competing.  This year, she is one of 8.   Al Mada notes she was to carry the Iraqi flag today at the opening ceremony. 

My apologies for the long delay.  The problem with speaking in the morning to groups is that the exchange can go on longer than you plan.  I'd thought I'd have a solid 30 minutes between the two groups but that didn't happen.  Again, my apologies for the long delay.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.




 

Posted at 09:12 am by thecommonills
 

Did the US government have 1.5 billion to throw away?

Did the US government have 1.5 billion to throw away?

As noted July 24th,   Reuters quoted  the ridiculous White House flack Jay Carney declaring, "The fact that there remains violence in Iraq is certainly the case, and we condemn these attacks, but it is also the case that the Iraqi security forces have been trained up and do have the capacity to handle their own security,"  And we asked then why so much money was being wasted.


Today the press suddenly cares about lives.


When the press cares about lives, be very concerned.  When the press that's ignored the dead repeatedly -- including the US deaths -- suddenly cares about human life, be very concerned.  They didn't give a damn when Carl Hall III died earlier this month, from wounds received while serving in Iraq ("Another US service member dead from the Iraq War").  Now all the sudden, they can't shut up about the number of deaths in Iraq through reconstruction based on something the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued -- and they rush so that they actually misreport his findings?


What's with their sudden concern for human life?




"Status of Fixcal Years 2011-2012 Iraq Security Forces Fund (SIGIR 12-018)" [PDF format warning, click here] may have something to do with it.  Released today by the SIGIR, this letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillar Clinton notes the money given (wasted) by US taxpayers for Iraq's security forces to be trained: "To date, Congress has appropriated $20.54 billion in ISFF.  This includes $1.50 billion Congress appropriated in April 2011 for use in fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2012."  


You learn about how freely the government spent the taxpayer money.  So freely, that they gave more than even they thought could be spent which is why: "Congress specified the period of time each ISFF appropriation could be used.  In each case, Congress made the funds available for periods between 12 and 19 months, during which time funds would have to be obligated.  Any funds not obligated with their designated period of availability would be considered expired and, therefore, not available for new obligations."

Nancy Pelosi kept using the "blank check" metaphor even after many of us thought the then-Speaker sounded ancient and ourselves were referring to it as the administration using Congress as its own personal ATM.  But Pelosi ends up right and we (including me) end up wrong because it was indeed a blank check.  And it was blank check under Bush and a blank check under Barack.  

While Americans domestically struggled with historic levels of unemployment, with losing their houses and so much more,  the Congress and the White House were so eager to give Iraq billions for 'security forces' that they realized they might be giving more than was needed so they tacked on that if the funds were not "obligated" within X number of months, the US would get them back.


And some may wrongly think that means, "Well, Iraq didn't spend X so we're getting that back.  Yea!"  Wrong.  "Spent" is not "obligated."  


"Obligated" means they say it will be spent on, for example, "forensic training."  


Will be.  Not has been spent.


This is made clear in the letter:  "However, un-obligated funds can be used for up to five years after they expire to pay for authorized increases to existing obligations made from the same appropriation.  Any un-obligated funds remaining after the five-year period must be returned to the U.S. Treasury."

So the White House and the Congress (then Democratically controlled, both houses) made the decision not only to give Iraq more money than was needed, they also said, "Hey, screw the American taxpayers and their needs, if you can't spend this money in the Fiscal Year, just say you will someday spend it on something and we'll let you have it for up to five years, interest free."

$20.54 billion US tax dollars wasted.

Wasted?

That's my call.

Not just because, clearly, there is no security in Iraq.

But $20 billion dollars?  Do we not get how outrageous that figure is?

The CIA estimates the Iraqi population to be 31.1 million.  (Iraq hasn't had a census since the 90s.)  Let's make this really simple so no one struggles with the math.  But to make it really simple, let's pretend that 11.1 million Iraqis are not security forces which would mean 20 million were.

If they had that large number, that would mean that one billion dollars -- $1,000,000,000 -- was spent on each member of the Iraqi security force.

Iraq has much, much less tha 20 million security forces.

When the US government refers to Iraq's "security forces," they are only speaking of the number employed by the central government out of Baghdad. So all of this money has just spent on the national forces.

How many people are we talking about when we refer to Iraq's security forces?

By September 2007, according to Brookings, they had 359,700.  Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post noted that then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus was using a higher figure of 445,000 at that same time and that this "suggest[s] he was including every person employed by the ministries in an effort to promote the size and capability of security forces that many experts say are plagued by absenteeism, attrition and sectarianism."  Last December 7th, Luis Martinez (ABC News) reported US Lt Gen Frank Helmick had stated in the US military's "last briefing from Iraq" that Iraq's security forces number 700,000.

Not even a million.

Since the start of US tax payers footing the bill to train Iraq security forces, 20.54 billion has been spent for what is now a force of 700,000.

Being generous, let's say 300,000 left -- through death or other interests -- and kick that number up to one million.  That would mean $20 billion was spent to train one million.

Iraq is not Malaysia.  It's an oil rich country generating billions each year.  How very fortunate for the US-installed puppet Nouri that these forces he's put under his own command -- not really how the Iraqi Constitution set it out -- were trained on the US tax payer dollar.

Please grasp that this doesn't include the $850 million that the US State Dept requested (and received) for Fiscal Year 2012 to, yes, train Iraq's security forces. And the 'good' news on that money?  The letter explains that, after allocation, "the funds will be deposited into an Iraq FMF account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the GOI [Government Of Iraq] will decide how to use the funds."

And when you look over how that money's being allocated, you'll see that the US tax payer foots the bill for everything from night vision goggles to "training ammunition."

In other news of the US government wasting tax payer monies, Bahrain News Agency reported yesterday, "Iraq has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), outlining American support for Iraqi efforts to reduce regulatory obstacles in Iraq's private sector."


Now the deaths?  719 people died in Iraq from reconstruction efforts.  Of those, 271 were Iraqis and 130 are 'unknown.'  318 are US deaths but 264 of those are US military deaths which have already been counted in the US military death toll.  Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) and Robert Burns (AP) cover the story.


The following community sites -- plus Susan's On The Edge, Pacifica Evening News, Cindy Sheehan, Antiwar.com and World Can't Wait -- updated last night and today:


The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.




 

Posted at 07:14 am by thecommonills
 

Thursday, July 26, 2012
Iraq snapshot

Iraq snapshot


Thursday, July 26, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis and Baghdad's oil stand off with the KRG continue, the temperature reaches 52 degrees Celsius (125.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in Iraq, Paul Bremer makes a questionable assertion, again on the joint-hearing of the House Armed Services and House Veterans Affairs Committeess, and more.


Namo Abdulla (Rudaw) reports on Paul Bremer, the Bwana of Baghdad, the first US viceroy after the start of the illegal war in 2003. From May 2003 through June 2004, Bremer was the Administrator and among the most controversial orders he issued was Provisional Authority Order Number 1 which opens:


Recognizing that the Iraqi people have suffered large scale human rights abuses and depravations over many years at the hands of the Ba'ath Party,
Nothing the grave concern of Iraqi society regarding the threat posed by the continuation of Ba'ath Party networks and personnel in the administration of Iraq, and the intimidation of the people of Iraq by Ba'ath Party officals,
Conerned by the continuing threat to the security of the Coalition Forces posed by the Iraqi Ba'ath Party,
I hearby promulgate the following


Section 1 is "Disestablishment of the Ba'ath Party." Abdulla reports:


One of which was a decree drafted to outlaw the former Baath Party. It was called “de-Baathification” in English, but what Iraqis implemented was closer to the Arabic or Kurdish version of the word, "ijtithath - rishekeshkrdn" -- to uproot.
About the implementation of this, Bremer showed a little regret. "Of course," he said, "the de-Baathifcation decree was never intended to exclude Baathists from being in the government."
"It affected only 1 percent of the Baath Party, the top 1 percent. The mistake I made was turning the implementation of the decree over to Iraqi politicians, who then expanded the implementation far beyond what was written in the decree," Bremer said, adding that he should have turned the decree over to lawyers and judges who would have had a narrower, legal approach.
Bremer believes that de-Baathification itself was the correct decision and had been made long before he was appointed as Iraq's governor.


Now we've tried to be fair to Bremer on this issue. He has taken the blame on this in the press and that's largely because most of the reporters covering this were friends with or friendly with Colin Powell who tossed Bremer to the wolves to protect his own ass -- a little trick Collie's practiced for years. We'll allow that he did not go off on his own with this. He was acting on the White House's orders (Bush White House). But to go further and agree with him that only 1% were effected? Wrong. That's completely wrong to the point that it is a lie and he's smart enough to know how wrong it is so he is a liar who knows he's lying. His sudden 'I didn't know this would happen'? The British warned him against this and have testified in public to that fact. He also knew it was more than 1% and wanted it to be more than 1% according to John Sawers who is now the head of MI6 [England's secret service]. Let's revisit that in light of Bremer's claim today because he sure did come up a lot in testimony in London.


In fact, he may be cited in the testimony of the Iraq Inquiry more than any American except for George W. Bush. The Iraq Inquiry is a London inquiry by the UK government which has completed taking testimony but has still not released a report.

December 15, 2009, the British Ambassador to the US, Jeremy Greenstock, testified to the Iraq Inquiry that not only did Bremer ban all the Ba'athists (the dominant political party prior to the US invasion of Iraq) but he put Ahmed Chalibi in charge of the program which was also seen as a huge mistake. These actions were not minor. In 2010, the Justice and Accountability Commission would ban over 500 candidates and do so on the pretext that they were dangerous Ba'athists.


Chair John Chilcot: On the contrary, I was planning to offer you the opportunity
to make your final reflections on this very theme, and you have and thank you,
but are there other comments or observations you would like to offer before
we close?


General Michael Walker: Only ones that I -- to try and be helpful really. I think
the poor old Americans have come in for a lot of criticism, and my personal
belief was that the biggest mistake that was made over Iraq, notwithstanding
the decision that you may have made your own minds up about, but it was the
vice-regal nature of [Paul] Bremer's reign, and I think -- I mean, I don't want to
be personal about this but that particular six months, I think, set the scene for
Iraq in a way that we were never going to recover from.


The Inquiry repeatedly heard from military and diplomatic witnesses that Paul
Bremer's decision to disband the Ba'ath Party and being de-Ba'athification was harmful
and too sweeping. were no longer allowed to work for the government. While some witnesses may (or may not have) been offering statements that benefitted from hindsight, certainly those who warned Bremer before the policy was implemented were able to foresee what eventually happened. John Sawers now heads England's MI6. In 2003, he was the UK's Special Representative in Baghdad. He shared his observations to the Iraq Inquiry in testimony given on December 10th:


Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You arrived on 8 May, [head of CPA, the US' L. Paul] Bremer on the 12th, and within Bremer's first two weeks he had promulgated two extremely important decisions on de-Ba'athification and on dissolving the former Iraqi army. Can we look at those two decisions? To what extent were they Bremer's decisions or -- how had they been pre-cooked in Washington? I see you have got the Rand Report there, and the Rand Report suggests there had been a certain interagnecy process in Washington leading to these decisions, albeit Rand is quite critical of that process. And, very importantly for us, was the United Kingdom consulted about these crucial decisions? Was the Prime Minister consulted? Were you consulted? It is pretty late in the day be then for you to have changed them. Can you take us through that story.


John Sawers: Can I separate them and deal with de-Ba'athification first.


Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.


John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and they were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy. At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary. And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.


Despite Sawers' recommendation, Bremer wanted to expand it to four levels. He knew what he was doing and until Paul Bremer's willing to testify in public on the record about what happened, all we have is the British witnesses who (a) were all British officials and (b) seemed plausible in their comments about Bremer's actions.


Bremer's de-Ba'athifcation is still an issue today although some of that is not his fault. The Bush White House set as a benchmark in 2007 national reconciliation and Nouri al-Maliki signed off on it but that never happened. Due to the increased security problems -- little reported in the US press -- the decision was made last month to bring back the Ba'athist members of the former army. Former army? Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 2 [misspelled on the original government document as "COALITION PROVISIONAL SUTHORITY ORDER NUMBER 2"] disbanded the army. Some Shi'ite politicians have expressed concern over the decision but it is happening. Xinhua reports, "Hundreds of ex-army officers under the ousted president Saddam Hussein have gathered Wednesday at a Baghdad military base to sign up to return to the army, or to be pensioned off. On June 8, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered to reinstate the former army officers during a visit to the northern Iraqi Sunni province of Nineveh."


Turning to the oil issue, Aimee Duffy (The Motley Fool) explains Nouri's Baghdad-based government's annoyance over ExxonMobil and Chevron's contracts with the KRG:


Essentially, the Iraqi central government has a problem with the autonomy of the Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, when it comes to the oil business. At the heart of the matter is, naturally, money. Crude oil exports make up two-thirds of the country's GDP. As domestic demand increases, the importance of maintaining complete control of its reserves and production increases as well.
Part of maintaining that control means avoiding production-sharing contracts with foreign oil companies, which is exactly what Iraq has done. The central government signs service contracts instead.
But, production-sharing agreements are much more lucrative than the typical service contracts offered by many foreign governments with national oil companies. It is the reason, for example, that Exxon won't do business in Mexico; that country's constitution outlaws PSAs.
Naturally, when Kurdistan offered up production sharing contracts, the majors jumped at the chance.


One important aspect Duffy leaves out is the March auction Baghdad staged. It was a bust. We knew that going in. Check the February 22nd snapshot where we noted what was being offered by Baghdad was "a dingo dog with fleas." That's just one example. We explained repeatedly that what was being offered -- the fields themselves -- were considered substandard, that the issue raised above (the contracts themselves -- service contracts) and other issues. They don't appear in Duffy's analysis but let's go to the day after the May auction ended, from the May 31st snapshot:


Iraq's two day energy auction ended today. Yesterday brought one successful bid. W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) explain, "Iraq on Thursday closed a landmark auction of energy exploration blocks with just three contracts awarded out of a potential 12, dampening hopes the sale would cement its role as a key global supplier." The offerings weren't seen as desirable and the deals offered even less so. But big business began sending signals this auction would not go well over two months ago. (And we've noted that at least three times in previous months.) That's due to the instability in Iraq caused by Nouri -- and it is seen as caused by Nouri in the oil sector because he is the prime minister, he did pick a fight with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, he did order Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi arrested. All the instability in recent months have not helped. His attacks on ExxonMobil and their deal with the KRG has not helped. Nouri al-Maliki is bad for business. If Iraq had the arrangement they did under Saddam Hussein, Nouri could get away with that. But he's going to have to grasp real soon that state oil isn't what it was under Hussein. The economic model (imposed by the US) is mixed. And if Iraqis hadn't fought back, it would be strictly privatized. Nouri's not yet learned that his actions impact Iraq's business. (And, in fairness to Nouri, this is a new thing for Iraq. Saddam Hussein could do anything and it wasn't an issue unless the super powers decided it was. But, again, it's a mixed model now. Nouri might need to bring in some economic advisors from out of the country.) W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) report Iraq's response to the poor showing at the auction is to declare that they will hold another one.


Those issues do matter to businesses. The reason the KRG has a better business sector post-March-2003 invasion of Iraq is because it is seen as more stable and more calm and businesses feel safer -- both physically and in terms of stability -- doing business in the KRG. [If you dbout that, not only have you missed years and years of press on the KRG but you've also missed Priyanka Pradhan's article today for Kipp Report -- "Iraqi Kurdistan seems far removed from those stereotypical war torn, strife ridden images conjured up in the minds of people who've last heard of Iraq as one of the world's most dangerous places to visit." -- or yesterday's piece by Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program I for the Richmond Times Dispatch.] Also very importnat, Nouri's crazy does not play well for the business community and his inability to move Iraq forward after 6 years in the post does not go unnoticed by the international business community. Patrick Osgood (Arabian Oil and Gas) offers this view on the issue:


The confirmed entry of Chevron has also dealt Iraqi Prime Minister Nour Al-Maliki a blow in his campaign against Exxon’s Kurdish contracts, and further highlights the attractiveness of the terms on offer from the KRG relative to those from the central government after the Oil Ministry's fourth fidding round fiasco in late May.
Chevron had a long-standing relationship with the Iraqi government, having started a technical assistance program in Iraq in 2003. The company had pre-qualified to bid in the fourth round auction, but declined to bid.
It is, however, easy to overplay the significance of the Chevron move.
Unlike Exxon, Chevron has no prior interests in south Iraq, save for a commitment to take liftings of Iraqi crude, which the Oil Ministry did not mention. The blocks are not in disputed territory, unlike three of the six blocks awarded to Exxon, which have tied Rex Tillerson’s company to Kurdish territorial maximalism as well as the dispute over oil policy.


Trend News Agency notes, "The Kurdistan administration in nothern Iraq has oil reserves of 45 billion barrels." Sunday, Nasiriyah reported the National Alliance MP Abdul Salam al-Mliki was telling the press that the National Alliance would file a lawsuit against the KRG becuase of exports to Turkey as well as contracts with ExxonMobil and Chevron. An on the record threat of a lawsuit. That's among the many things that makes AKnews assertion, "An Iraqi legal expert said he is counting on the results of the efforts of the parliamentary committee responsible for monitoring the oil disputes between Baghdad and Erbil after visiting and meeting with officials in the Ministry of Natural Resources in the Kurdistan Region, adding that the crisis will be resolved during the next two days," so questionable.


Questionable is also reporting or 'reporting.' Rod Nordland (New York Times) writes today, "Al Qaeda insurgents in Iraq clashed with the country's security forces on Thursday, the second attack this week in what Al Qaeda in Iraq's leader has depicted as a new offensive aimed at recapturing lost ground." Considering the paper's 'reporting' on Iraq since 2001 (days after 9-11 they ran a front page story falsely connecting Iraq to 9-11 and, no, Judith Miller wasn't the writer), you'd think the paper would try sticking to what they know when detailing 'facts.' The group is the Islamic State of Iraq. Their leader is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Nordland and his paper may believe (today) that al-Baghdadi is the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq but they do not know that and they can't prove it. His group is affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq. Again, with all they've gotten wrong in the not-so-distant past on Iraq, you'd think they'd tread very carefully when offering 'facts' on Iraq. Prashant Rao (AFP) notes of the Islamic State of Iraq, "Last weekend, the group said it would look to retake territory, and appealed for Sunni tribes to provide support and send fighters, in an Internet audio message purportedly left by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi." The Islamic State of Iraq issued a public statement on Sunday which included a threat of attacks on US soil.

Brian Bennett (Los Angeles Times) reports that the House Homeland Security Commission held a hearing to assess the threat.   Janet Napolitano, the Secretary on Homeland Security, appeared before the Committee.


Secretary Janet Napolitano: While the United States has made significant progress, threats from terrorists -- including, but not limited to al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda affiliated groups -- persist and continually evolve, and the demands on DHS continue to grow. Today's threats are not limited to any one individual group or ideology and are not defined or contained by international borders. Terrorists tactics can be as simple as a homemade bomb and as sophisticated as a biological threat or coordinated cyber attack.


I wasn't at the hearing, that's from her opening statement. You can read it [PDF format warning] here. Matthew Olsen of the National Counterterrorism Center also testified. You can read his opening statement here.


Matthew Olsen: [. . .] we remain at war with al-Qa'ida, and we face an evolving threat from its affiliates and adherents. America's campaign against terrorism did not end with the mission at Bin Ladin's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Indeed, the threats we face have become more diverse. As al-Qa'ida's core leadership struggles to remain relevant, the group has turned to its affiliates and adherents to carry out attacks and to advance its ideology. These groups are from an array of countries, including Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq and Iran. To varying degrees, these groups coordinate their activities and follow the direction of al-Qa'ida leaders in Pakistan. Many of the extremist groups themselves are multidimensional, blurring the lines between terrorist group, insurgency and criminal gang.


If there is a threat, it's important that the press identify it correctly. It's also important that the press report it. As a whole the American press is failing at both objectives.


Violence continues in Iraq. Xinhua notes this late Wednesday violence, "As many as seven al-Qaida fighters and five security members were killed in clashes at a former al-Qaida stronghold in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a provincial police told Xinhua on Thursday." AP notes that 11 police officers were killed late last night and early this morning and "Diyala provincial spokesman Salih Ebressim Khalil said militants targeted the Iraqi army helicopter, killing one soldier, wounding another and forcing it to make an emergency landing." Al Rafidayn reports that a Tikrit car bombing has left 5 people dead and ten injured.

Like violence, the political crisis continues. The Economist offers their take on the political crisis today:

But Mr Maliki, who has been in charge since 2006, is opposed not just by Sunni jihadists. Many moderate Iraqis, both Shias and Sunnis, fear he is heading down a path to dictatorship. The political atmosphere is toxic. No meaningful legislation, apart from an annual budget, has been passed for several years. One of the country’s two vice-presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, is being tried in absentia for alleged links to terrorism. Iraq’s Kurds are increasingly divorced from the rest of the country: their regional government has now signed 48 oil contracts without the consent of the national government in Baghdad, which is infuriated. Meanwhile people in the capital and other towns, suffering sweltering temperatures during the fasting month of Ramadan, are frequently bereft of electricity. There have been angry mass protests in Basra, the main town of the south, against dire public services.
However, Mr Maliki is still managing to shore up support, mainly among his fellow Shias, who make up a good 60% of the population. One of the Kurds’ two main leaders, Jalal Talabani, the country’s president, who wants to sustain the status quo by keeping Mr Maliki in place, has ensured that parliament does not have a chance to vote on a no-confidence motion.


Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. al-Mutlaq belongs to Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections while Nouri belongs to State of Law which came in second. Dar Addustour reports that the two discussed the stalemate, upcoming provincial elections and the election commission. Alsumaria notes that Ayad Allawi (head of Iraqiya) has stated today that the need to question Nouri before Parliament continues and needs to be speeded up. Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya which should have ended any hopes Nouri had for a second term as prime minister. But the White House backed Nouri -- and spat on the Iraqi voters and the Iraqi Constitution -- allowing Nouri to create Political Stalemate I which lasted for 8 months. It was ended when the all parties -- including Nouri -- agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement. It gave the Kurds this, Iraqiya that, etc. Nouri? It gave him a second term as prime minister. He used the Erbil Agreement to get that, pretended he was going to honor the contract but, as soon as he was named prime minister, he tossed it aside. Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been publicly calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. This is Political Stalemate II. Currently, there is a move -- and it's Constitutional -- to call Nouri before the Parliament and question him. After questioning, a vote could be taken to determine whether or not the answers he provided restored confidence in him or meant that the MPs registered a no-confidence vote.

Alsumaria notes that Ayad Allawi stated he was reviewing the strategy for the next move. All Iraq News adds that he restated, in the press statement, his opinion that the Reform Commission was a waste of time. Back on December 21st, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi (a member of Iraqiya) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd) began calling for a national conference to address the ongoing stalemate and/or crisis. Nouri threw every road block he could think of to delay and stop that from happening. In June, suddenly he wanted a Reform Commission to 'solve' the problem. The Reform Commission is a joke. It's always been a joke. It's Nouri's pets declaring what they want for him and it has no teeth so even if the other political players had full participation, nothing would come from it. Allawi notes that the Erbil Agreement needs to be reinstated and that a series of 'reforms' prepared by (Nouri's) National Alliance isn't going to change that. He notes the demands remain the same as they've been all along.

In a sign of what a tool the National Alliance is becoming for Nouri (largely Ammar al-Hakim and Ibrahim al-Jafaari's segment of the National Alliance) on Saturday, Nasiriyah reported that the National Alliance was vowing to refuse to allow the bill to pass that would limit a prime minister to two terms (it would also put a two-term limit on the presidency and on the Speaker of Parliament but the National Alliance is only concerned with Nouri).


The Khaleej Times' editorial board notes, "While politicians squabble for control in the Iraqi parliament, the roads and streets of the country are stained with blood of innocent people. If the country’s politicians don’t realise the gravity of the situation and reach a compromise, there’s a possibility that Iraq might become ungovernable again."


Today the Parliament was supposed to pass an Election Law which would allow for provincial elections in March of next year. Nasiriyah reports that the vote has been postponed. Also today, Alsumaria notes, the temperature was expected to reach 49 degrees Celsius. That's 120 degrees Farehnheit (actually 120.2 degrees). Al Rafidayn notes that today's been declared a holiday as a result of the heat. AFP notes that it actually reached 52 degrees Celsius (125.6 degrees Farehnheit) and they report:


Hunched over, Yaqub mutters softly, "It's Ramadan, and I am fasting," as if to justify his actions, before he steps underneath an outdoor shower in central Baghdad to cool off in the boiling heat.
"It's hard," the delivery man admits, referring to the temperatures across Iraq which have topped 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in recent days, spurring authorities to declare Thursday a holiday for all government workers.
"This feels good," Yaqub, 53, says after a refreshing splash of water.


Yesterday's snapshot covered the joint-hearing of the US House Armed Services Committee and House Veterans Affairs Committee. I stated, "Sequestration was discussed. This is an automatic measure that will kick in if the buget is not balanced. Established in the hearing is the Veterans Affairs will not be effected but the Defense Dept will be." A community member noted Michael Levine's Honolulu Civil Beat who quotes VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stating VA "is exempt from sequestration -- except for administrative costs." Which is it? Levine's correct in his quote. But that's not what we've been covering or that veterans have been worried about. Their concern and what we've been covering is health care, etc. That will not be effected. Sequestration will not touch that. Administrative efforts? Though hard for many to believe, the VA could get slower. But if sequestration kicks in (automatic budget cuts), VA will not be effected in terms of what it supplies veterans. Senators Patty Murray and Richard Burr and House Reps Jeff Miller and Bob Filner -- among others -- worked very hard on addressing this: Veterans will not be effected. The White House is very clear on how bad that would look for them if veterans benefits were cut. Barack Obama already has enough problems with veterans issues as Reuters pointes out:


His 2013 budget request for the VA is more than $40 billion, or 41 percent, bigger than the one he inherited when he took office, helping to cover construction of hospitals and clinics, staff increases, and expanded disability benefits. That has come despite the warning from some in the outgoing George W. Bush administration that the VA apparatus "is broken, just play defense," according to a member of Obama's transition team.
Yet, based on interviews with veterans, their advocates, and VA and other administration officials, as well as a review of available data, life for many veterans has grown more challenging under Obama's watch.
Veterans returning home today join lines for disability payments much longer than those Obama called intolerable in 2008. Their chances of finding jobs in a bleak economy are worse than those of most other Americans. Veterans' complaints of employment discrimination by the federal government have actually risen.
Veterans remain more likely to be homeless than the general population. The VA estimates more than 67,000 sleep in shelters and on the streets or are otherwise considered homeless, a figure that is only slightly better than in 2009.


In the hearing yesterday, Shinseki and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were the two witnesses offering testimony. Ranking Member Bob Filner spoke of how he felt there should be an exit boot camp to address various issues that can come up in civilian life. Last night, Ava's covered that in "The joint Armed Service and House Veterans hearing (Ava)." On the continued lack of interface between VA and DoD, Steve Vogel (Washington Post) notes this morning, "The Washington Post reported in November that despite the recommendations of the Dole-Shalala commission in 2007 to create a single point of contact to cut red tape for the most severely wounded service members, DoD and VA had instead created at least a dozen programs to coordinate the care." Esther Carey (Federal News Radio) reports today, "The two departments signed a roadmap agreement that will let them develop a future integrated system under a common technology framework. Shinseki said a key difference between the current effort and other failures over the past 10 years was that the way ahead envisions an open-architecture system rather than one that hinges on closed, proprietary systems." Shinseki said a lot. A lot of hot air, a lot of justifications, a lot of nonsense. We'll note two members who called this happy talk out.


US House Rep Ann Marie Buerkle: My question has to do with -- and you've heard some references to it -- the Dole - Shalala Commission and the fact that now, five years later, after they issued this urgent call to streamline, to make sure that we have a single point of reference for the care and service and benefits of our military we have to very distinct entities. We've had multiple hearings trying to get assurance from DoD and the VA as to how you're going to get this together so we can make sure that our veterans get the services without being overwhelmed by an extremely complex system. So I would ask you both today, please, how specifically -- what are the goals, what is the plan, to get these two entitites under one roof so that you're complying with the Dole - Shalala Commission and their recommendations for our veterans. I thank you both.


Secretary Eric Shinseki: The program, the Federal Recovery Coordination Program, in existence since 2007, and I think as Secretary Panetta indicated earlier, two good Departments launched and essentially developed good programs that don't quite harmonize. We have a task force with the specific direction to study and bring harmony to these programs, where are we being -- duplicating one another? Where are we not doing things that we should be doing? So it's going to get a good look here. And I'd say in the next couple of months. And I'd be happy -- and I think 

Secretary Panetta would be as well -- to make our people available to provide the results of that.


Secretary Leon Panetta: You know, we -- Look, we -- I think -- Secretary Shinseki and I share the same frustration. I mean, I -- We've been working on this and frankly we've been pushing on this to say why can't we get faster results? Why can't we get this done on a faster track? And, you know, bottom line is: Frankly, we're just going to have to kick ass and try to make it happen and that's what we're going to do.


US House Rep Ann Marie Buerkle: I would suggest in your opening statement, Mr. Panetta, you mentioned commitment and we look to the military, their commitment, as an example to our country. We should be that committed to them to make sure that we get this job done. I thank you both very much.


Though he spoke several people before Buerkle, US House Rep Bill Johnson's comments really fit with her remarks .


US House Rep Bill Johnson: I understand that you can't account for the last 10 years, Mr. Secretary [Shinseki] and I understand that you've got two bureaucracies that don't necessarily like to be told what to do and get along all the time. But I'll submit to you that another five years is-is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to me and, gentlemen, it ought to be unacceptable to you. This is not a matter of can-do or should-do. This is a matter of want-to and will-do. This is 2012. And one of the underlying issues, Mr. Secretary, quite honestly is the VA's lack of an overall technology architecture. You and I have talked about this before and it still doesn't exist today as far as I know. I've pointed that out. My Committee has pointed that out. Organizations outside that have looked at the VA's IT Dept have pointed that out. You know, I'm just not convinced that five years from now -- given that I don't know where you two will be -- but my fear is that we're going to be sitting right here talking about this same issue again because we're not going about it with the discipline that's needed. I come from an information techonology career of over 30 years. I worked at US Special Operations Command as the Director of the CIO staff. I know what it takes to get this stuff done and five years, gentlemen, is totallly unacceptable. And I don't really have a question for you I just want you to fix this for crying out loud.

Those are some pretty important statements even before you factor in that they came from someone with an Information and Technology (IT) background.  We'll close out on Wednesday's hearing by including this section where US House Rep Niki Tsongas is noting the documentary The Invisible War:


US House Rep Niki Tsongas: As you [Shinseki] say, "That which starts during military service ends up in the VA." And that movie so painfully highlights the multiple bureaucratic hurdles survivors of such assualts -- which are all too frequent across all the services -- must endure to prove that their physical or their psychiatric symptoms are connected to an incident of Military Sexual Trauma. And shows that too often, victims are unsuccessful in pursuing their claims for assistance. To address one aspect of this problem, the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Authorization Act included language that required the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to develop a comprehensive policy for the Dept of Defense on the retention of access to evidence and records relating to sexual assault involving members of the Armed Services. This policy is to be in place by October 1, 2012. Can you both comment on the status of this policy? I'd also welcome any further thoughts you may have on how these claims can be processed faster and more accurately.


Secretary Leon Panetta: It's a -- It's a very important issue for me. I'm not going to wait for the legislation to put that policy in place because I think it ought to take place in providing that kind of guidance and assistance to those that have been the victims of sexual assault so that they get the kind of support that they need in order to get not only the care they need but, if they want to continue their career, to get the support system that would allow them to continue their career. And I think it's fair to say that Secretary Shinseki and I are going to work together on to make sure that we can -- we can deal with this on both sides -- not only on the Defense side, but on the Veterans side for those that ultimately move in that direction.


US House Rep Niki Tsongas: Thank you both. I look forward to seeing that policy in effect.




Posted at 06:10 pm by thecommonills
 

Iraqi fighters down a helicopter and more

Iraqi fighters down a helicopter and more

Violence continues in Iraq.  Xinhua notes this late Wednesday violence, "As many as seven al-Qaida fighters and five security members were killed in clashes at a former al-Qaida stronghold in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a provincial police told Xinhua on Thursday."  AP notes that 11 police officers were killed late last night and early this morning and "Diyala provincial spokesman Salih Ebressim Khalil said militants targeted the Iraqi army helicopter, killing one soldier, wounding another and forcing it to make an emergency landing."  Al Rafidayn reports that a Tikrit car bombing has left 5 people dead and ten injured.

Like violence, the political crisis continues.  Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  al-Mutlaq belongs to Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections while Nouri belongs to State of Law which came in second.  Dar Addustour reports that the two discussed the stalemate, upcoming provincial elections and the election commission.  Alsumaria notes that Ayad Allawi (head of Iraqiya) has stated today that the need to question Nouri before Parliament continues and needs to be speeded up.  Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya which should have ended any hopes Nouri had for a second term as prime minister.  But the White House backed Nouri -- and spat on the Iraqi voters and the Iraqi Constitution -- allowing Nouri to create Political Stalemate I which lasted for 8 months.  It was ended when the all parties -- including Nouri -- agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  It gave the Kurds this, Iraqiya that, etc.  Nouri?  It gave him a second term as prime minister. He used the Erbil Agreement to get that, pretended he was going to honor the contract but, as soon as he was named prime minister, he tossed it aside.  Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been publicly calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.  This is Political Stalemate II.  Currently, there is a move -- and it's Constitutional -- to call Nouri before the Parliament and question him.  After questioning,  a vote could be taken to determine whether or not the answers he provided restored confidence in him or meant that the MPs registered a no-confidence vote.

Alsumaria notes that Ayad Allawi stated he was reviewing the strategy for the next move.   All Iraq News adds that he restated, in the press statement, his opinion that the Reform Commission was a waste of time.  Back on December 21st, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi (a member of Iraqiya) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd) began calling for a national conference to address the ongoing stalemate and/or crisis.  Nouri threw every road block he could think of to delay and stop that from happening.  In June, suddenly he wanted a Reform Commission to 'solve' the problem.  The Reform Commission is a joke.  It's always been a joke. It's Nouri's pets declaring what they want for him and it has no teeth so even if the other political players had full participation, nothing would come from it.  Allawi notes that the Erbil Agreement needs to be reinstated and that a series of 'reforms' prepared by (Nouri's) National Alliance isn't going to change that.  He notes the demands remain the same as they've been all along. 

In a sign of what a tool the National Alliance is becoming for Nouri (largely Ammar al-Hakim and Ibrahim al-Jafaari's segment of the National Alliance) on Saturday, Nasiriyah reported that the National Alliance was vowing to refuse to allow the bill to pass that would limit a prime minister to two terms (it would also put a two-term limit on the presidency and on the Speaker of Parliament but the National Alliance is only concerned with Nouri).

Today the Parliament was supposed to pass an Election Law which would allow for provincial elections in March of next year.  Nasiriyah reports that the vote has been postponed. Also today, Alsumaria notes, the temperature is expected to reach 49 degrees Celsius. That's 120 degrees Farehnheit (actually 120.2 degrees).   Al Rafidayn notes that today's been declared a holiday as a result of the heat.



Iraq has the attention of some.  At the right-wing Commentary, Max Boot weighed in on the topic yesterday including this:



But there are still things we can do to try to prevent Prime Minister Maliki from alienating Sunnis even more than he already has. The fact that the Iraqis are counting on major weapons sales from the U.S. (the Pentagon has just placed an initial order for 16 F-16s) gives us a certain amount of leverage, albeit limited leverage–the Iraqis are rich enough to buy weapons elsewhere if we refuse to sell them. But we can at least try to condition our weapons deliveries on continued Iraqi progress on governance and human rights.
To do that effectively, however, we need high-level attention focused on Iraq. That has been totally lacking in the Obama White House, which has handed off the Iraq portfolio to Vice President Biden–only he has a multitude of other responsibilities and doesn’t seem to be particularly focused on Iraq. The president, meanwhile, appears to be totally disengaged, treating Iraq as if it were his predecessor’s problem, not his. This helps to explain why we couldn’t get the status of forces agreement and why we are not able to exert much leverage at the moment to counteract strong Iranian and sectarian influence in Baghdad.


Max Boot is not an idiot -- even though we're on opposite sides of the political fence, I don't think he's an idiot.  But it bothers me that he rightly suggests non-US troops on the ground things the US can do when The Nation magazine (see the July 9th snapshot) falsely presented the choices as troops on the ground or nothing at all.  Good for Max Boot for knowing that.  Sad for The Nation for not having a clue.  Also weighing in on Iraq is China Daily's editorial board which notes:


The wave of violence across 19 Iraqi cities on Monday, which left 111 people dead and at least 235 injured, has shocked the international community. The heaviest death toll in two years in Iraq highlights the after-effects of the Iraq War, and should be a message of caution for those who are still keen on forcing another regime change in the Middle East.
Monday's violence, which came after al-Qaida had warned that it would try to retake lost territory, carries the stamp of the terrorist group. But it is not enough to just condemn the cruelty of terrorists and remind the world community of the daunting task of uprooting terrorism.
In fact, Iraq has been in a quagmire of political instability, sectarian rift and violence ever since the United States pulled its troops out of it in December.

And, again, I want to note that Dan Murphy has a very comprehensive overview of the current situation in Iraq at the Christian Science Monitor




The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.




 




Posted at 07:51 am by thecommonills
 


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