Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Revolution airs Monday nights on NBC.  Annie Wershing is my only complaint about last night's episode.

She played Renee on the last season of 24 and was great.  I saw her this season in a single episode of Touch.  Last night she was on Revolution and killed the same episode.

She is too good of an actress to bring her on once and then kill her off.

She knew Miles and Monroe before things went dark.  Both men love her.  Monroe shows up at the town he grew up in to terrorize the people, force them into the courthouse and set it on fire all in an attempt to force Miles to show up so they can kill Miles (Monroe and the army he leads).

Annie Wershing plays Emma.  She says that she knows Monroe's not like this but he tells her that's who he is now and orders her tossed in the courthouse with the rest.

Miles arrives and, with help from Charlie, Norah and others (remember he now heads the Georgian army), manages to provide cover to get the people out of the burning courthouse; however, Monroe grabs Emma as she leaves.

She tells him that he needs to stop and, you might have seen this coming (I didn't), he's got a child.  She had his child.  He was off at the military academy and her parents wouldn't let her tell him then came the end of everything.  Where is his son?  One of Miles' people shoots Emma in an attempt to kill Monroe.  Miles said not to fire but this one man ignored him.  Miles spins around and shoots the man dead.

Monroe is wounded but not dying.  The army loads him on the helicopter and flies out.

Miles runs to Emma's corpse and vows vengeance.

Aaron and Rachel continue their trek. They're headed to the tower to turn on the power.  So Rachel's reading the notebook Jane gave her (last episode) that outlines how.  Aaron's more concerned with the town they're in -- specifically with one person: his wife.

Remember how, after the power went off, Aaron thought he couldn't protect his wife so he left her with a group?  Now he sees her.  She tells him she's married to the man sitting next to her.  SOmething's wrong there.  Rachel doesn't see it but Aaron does. You did too, right?

Me too.  I thought that the man was her abusive husband.

It wasn't.

He actually captured Aaron's wife.  She's a fugitive.  Someone tried to hurt her daughter and she killed him.

Aaron finds this out after he helps her escape from the man.

She leaves him for Texas where her family has already gone. 

And at the end?  We found out that President Foster has given a military post to Tom Neville.  He's gone to her and ratted out everything he knows on Monroe.  But can he be trusted?  I don't think so.  Remember, he's "Nate"'s father -- now known as Jason and he turned on his son when he found his son was with the rebels fighting Monroe.  Now we're supposed to believe he's going to side against Monroe himself?  Not sure about that.

It was a different kind of episode in that it didn't really move any of the plotlines forward, but it still satisifed.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, April 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, SWAT helped with last week's massacre in Hawija, who trained SWAT, Nouri blames Parliament for his failures to provide security, whispers that Iraq is being split up continue, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations condemn the efforts to close 10 satellite channels, and more.

 Last week, Nouri al-Maliki's forces stormed a sit-in in Hawija (Kirkuk Province) killing 50 and injuing 110.  Though barely covered by US outlets (exceptions being the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and AP), the assault was shocking to the rest of the world.  On Inside Story (Al Jazeera), a panel discussed the attacks after yet another distorted report from Jane Arraf who is so eager to enable Nouri that she wrongly got the purpose of a commission wrong (the commission supposed to find out about the attack on the protesters, she really needs to try to tamp down on her obvious bias).

Salah Hashimi:  First of all, let me disagree with your introduction that this will lead to a sectarian strife.  There is absolutely no indication that this is a sectarian issue. It is between peaceful demonstrators and a government which happens to be dominated by Shia elements in Iraq. The Sunni community and the Shia community remain to be at peace with one another.  In fact, early reports suggest that plenty of messages have been received from the southern regions of Iraq in support of the demonstrators and in support of the peacefulness of the demonstrations. That's number one.  With regards to a massacre, I think early reports suggest that there was a scuffle between Iraqi soldiers, slightly away from the demonstrations in Hawija and that scuffle resulted in one of them being dead.  Because of the media blackout on the area, the government suggested that the demonstrators were armed and they were violent and that they were the ones who killed the soldier -- as a result of which, troops massed on the demonstrations in Hawija and subsequently raided them by not only army forces but by so-called SWAT teams.  Those teams are completely anonymous, their faces are not shown, no one knows where they come from and no one knows who trained them.  So we have peaceful demonstrators  -- and I say peaceful because, until now, we haven't had any evidence, a shred of evidence presented by the government that those demonstrators were armed or that they fired at anybody.  They've been there for many, many months and nothing has happened.  So why now? 

Let's stop the discussion to zoom in on an element noted but not addressed: SWAT forces.   Saturday,  Wael Grace (Al Mada) reported that SWAT forces are under the command of Nouri and take orders from him. When "SWAT" forces are noted in the US, people have a basic understanding of the Special Weapons And Tactics forces.  They came up in the sixties and had a bad image for many reasons which was why the TV series SWAT was created and aired (briefly -- two seasons) on ABC. The show was crap but people loved the instrumental theme song which made it to number one on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1976.  In the US, people are also familiar with it due to the bad movie released in 2003.

On Inside Story, panelst Abudlmunaem Almula will speak of SWAT and of the Operation Tigris Command forces.  However, he will use the term "SWAT" for the former but refer to the latter as "Tigris Operational Army."  That's not me saying Almula's wrong in his terms.  There are various terms used for the Tigris forces, some of it having to do with translation issues.  Iraq is an Arabic speaking culture, conversations in English will not always be as precise with terms.  The US created a force under General David Petraeus.  You may remember it and its numerous names.  In Iraq, it is known as "Sahwa."  In English language outlets, they are known as "Awakenings" or "Sons of Iraq" (or "Daughters of Iraq").  Iraqis appearing on English language programs generally refer to them as "Sahwa."  That's not strange.  It's perfectly understandable.

So someone explain "SWAT" and why it's being used in English and Arabic.

These are new forces.  Wael Grace made that clear in the Al Mada report and so did Almula.  These just emerged.  Why are they called SWAT?

It was not a term you'd encounter naturally in Arabic as we'll go into.

So why is it being used?  Why is it being used in Iraq?

Are you getting the point here?

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

The SWAT forces are a new development in Iraq.  They emerge after the new agreement -- new training agreement -- is signed with the DoD in December.  They are new forces with an American name.  SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics.  In English, that's what it stands for.  Even if you translated the four words into Arabic, you wouldn't end up with the acronym "SWAT."  It's a US term. 

Were Bully Boy Bush still occupying the White House and US House Rep Nancy Pelois Speaker of the House, she'd be calling for an investigation into the Hawija slaughter to find out what the US involvement was.  Clearly, it includes training.  If it didn't, the SWAT forces wouldn't be dubbed "SWAT."

The forces that stormed Hawija and killed protesters are forces that were trained by the US and their training was supported by US tax dollars.  This killing, this slaughter, would be the topic of Congressional hearings if we had a functioning US Congress.  Clearly, we don't.

50 protesters were killed for the 'crime' of taking part in a sit-in.  110 more people were injured.  The US government backed Augusto Pinochet and his war crimes.  Apparently the US government now backs attacks on peaceful protesters in Iraq.  What's at question now is did the US just train them or were they involved in planning the slaughter?  In carrying out the slaughter?

The refusal to ask these questions is a sickness.  And the US has left behind sickness in Iraq.  Not just in terms of birth defects and cancers.  Today Doctors Without Borders released [PDF format warning] "Healing Iraqis."

Mental health disorders and emotional distress are as debilitating and agonizing as physical health problems.  According to The World Health Organisation, mental health disorders are the fourth leading cause of ill health in Iraqis over the age of 5 years.  There is little doubt that years of political and social repression, punctuated by wars, and followed by a post-war period characterised by interrupted and insufficient basic services have taken their toll on the Iraqi people. 

The report notes that with a death toll you also have "the number of people impacted by these deaths, through injury, losing loved ones, and/or witnessing violent events in many times higher."   There are many case studies in the report.  We'll note one:

A young boy developed a speech impediment and started becoming aggressive towards his siblings and school friends after he witnessed the death of several people in a bombing in his neighborhood.  The boy avoids going to areas close to where the bombing took place and says that he can still smell the odor of burning bodies.  The boy is receiving focused trauma therapy, the use of drawing aids to help the boy articulate his feelings and fears and it's hoped that this will help address his stammer and social anxiety issues.

And the violence has not ceased, so Iraqis continued to be effected.   Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 547 violent deaths in Iraq this month.  Today's the last day of April and violence continues. National Iraqi News Agency reports a suicide bomber killed himself in Sulaiman Beg and claimed 2 others lives while also leaving five people injured, and a Kirkuk bombing leaves two Peshmerga injured.  NINA also notes an armed clash in Mosul left three Iraqi soldiers injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left 2 police officers dead, an armed clash in Tikrit left 3 rebels dead and three more injured, a Falluja roadside bombing left one person injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing left one police officer injured, 2 Baghdad bombings claimed 3 lives and left seven people injured,  and Ismail Flaiyih was assassinated in Ramadi.  He was a "member of the Coordinating Committee of the Organization of Anbar sit-in Square" and he was shot dead.

 In other news on protesters, NINA reports, "Military force arrested on Tuesday afternoon, Apr. 30, the organizer of Samarra protest, Sheikh Mohammed Taha a-Hamdoun."  He was arrested on his way to the protest and later released.

  Russia Today interviews Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi.  Excerpt:

RT: There are those in the political establishment who accuse Prime Minister al-Maliki of all the disasters going on in the country, though in fact these people are also part of the executive, legislative and judiciary. So why are they trying to shift the blame onto the Prime Minister?

AA: Because it’s the leader and the ruling party that bears the bulk of the responsibility. Now, why is exactly Mr. al-Maliki to blame? The matter is, he’s not only Prime Minister; he is also Commander-in-Chief, Defense Minister, Minister of the Interior, Director of the National Security Council of Iraq, and he is also in charge of security and intelligence services. These agencies have been involved in operations nicknamed ‘Baghdad’, ‘Tigris’, ‘Euphrates’, and others. He is the one who defines the nation’s policies and goals. Of course, he is the one with the most responsibility. His bloc, his party are the ones in charge. He is the head of the state, he controls everything. Unfortunately, the cooperation that we sought so eagerly didn’t take place. Yes indeed, there is a degree of cooperation when it comes to distributing and sharing powers in the executive branch. We have ministers with all the paraphernalia typical of a minister, but do they have any real power? Are they part of policy-making? No, they are not.

Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  If Barack hadn't given Nouri a second term via The Erbil Agreement, the prime minister of Iraq in 2010 would have had to have formed a full Cabinet -- no empty spaces.  Nouri's failure to form a full Cabinet means he's responsible for those empty positions.  That means any security failures  rest squarely on his shoulders.

Today Nouri tried to deflect that blame.  All Iraq News notes he told them, "The parliament's bad performance led to the security problems." 

Yesterday NINA noted Nouri met with a Kurdish delegation in Baghdad to discuss the ongoing crises between Erbil and Baghdad.  They also note that Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman stated any negotiations  "will be based on the previous agreements" -- he's referring to The Erbil Agreement.  Kitabat reports that also being discussed is dividing Iraq -- the topic Patrick Cockburn (Independent via CounterPunch) frets over here.

Sunday, Nouri's government announced they were pulling the licenses for Al Jazeera, al-Sharqiya, al-Sharqiya News, Babeliya, Salahuddin, Anwar 2, Taghyeer, Baghdad and Fallujah.  Linda S. Heard (Arab News) offers this:

On Sunday, the Iraqi authorities pronounced the death knell on even any pretence that the government is adhering to democratic principles such as freedom of the media. The powers that be have chosen to shoot — or rather shut-down — the messenger by revoking the licenses of 10 television stations, including Qatar’s Al Jazeera that have been punished for “sectarian bias” which translated means “critical of the Shiite-dominated regime.” Whoever took that fascist-type decision is delusional if they thought that by doing so sectarian violence would be quelled. It is not only anti-democratic, it is provocative, guaranteed to incite anti-government elements. Moreover, in an era of satellite television and the Internet, closing people’s eyes and ears to news is simply unworkable. The authorities have also crushed another of democracy’s staples by using a heavy hand on protesters peacefully demonstrating.

The move's already been condemnded by Ayad Allawi, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraq's Journalistic Freedom Observatory, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.  Today,  Human Rights Watch condemns the decision:

“The authorities have admitted that there was no legal basis for their decision, which looks more suspicious given the government's history of cracking down on opposition media, particularly during protests,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If the Iraqi government is truly committed to ending violence and sectarianism, it should reform the criminal justice system, hold the security forces accountable for attacks on protesters, and stop blocking elections in provinces in which it has little support.”

Mujahid Abu al-Hail, who heads the media commission’s Department of Audiovisual Media Regulation, told Human Rights Watch that the commission suspended the licenses after concluding that the ten stations were “promoting violence and sectarianism.” The stations are: Al-Jazeera, Al-Sharqiya, Al-Sharqiya News, Al-Anwar al-Thany, Al-Fallujah, Al-Tagheer, Al-Garbhiya, Salah al-Din, Babeliya, and Baghdad TV.

Al-Hail told Human Rights Watch that he recommended the license suspensions because the commission’s “Monitoring Department” had concluded, after tracking the stations’ output for three months, that their “messages” encouraged violence and sectarianism. He admitted that he did not make the decision “on a legal basis” but said it was on national security grounds because the stations had “broadcast speeches and fatwas from extremist sheikhs that encouraged violence.”

Al-Hail was unable to provide Human Rights Watch with details of any occasions when the suspended stations’ broadcasting output amounted to actual incitement to particular and imminent acts of sectarian or other violence. Both international law and the Iraqi constitution would require similar incitement for the broadcasts to fall within the ambit of permissible content-based restrictions on freedom of expression. He said the commission had documented examples of such incitement in a report that it would make available to Human Rights Watch, although it has not yet done so. It has also not provided this report to the affected channels.

“At a time when the security forces are attacking protesters without punishment, it’s hard to believe the government’s claims that it canceled these channels’ licenses out of its concern to protect citizens from violence,” Whitson said. “The authorities have a responsibility to protect citizens, but also to protect their free speech and access to information. The media commission’s inability to cite any specific examples of incitement to violence by these ten TV stations it has decided to shut down is telling.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq released the following today:

Baghdad, 30 April 2013 - The United Nations today urged the Communication and Media Commission (CMC) to reconsider its decision to suspend the licenses of several TV stations in Iraq. كوردى

"Press freedom is a fundamental pillar of democracy, one that the United Nations takes very seriously," said Mr. Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq. “This decision comes at a critical time for Iraq,” the UN envoy added. “I urge the Commission to fully respect its commitment to press freedom and at the same time I urge all media to exercise integrity and professional ethics in their daily work.”

The Director of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Office in Iraq, Ms. Louise Haxthausen, urged the Iraqi authorities to consider that these radical measures "might have adverse effects on stability efforts, as responsible media have a vital role to play in ensuring dialogue based on freedom of expression as a means to resolve differences."

"We request the Iraqi authorities to revise the decision carefully and quickly," said Ms. Haxthausen.
 I would suggest, like my friend has just said, that there is a hidden agenda

Yesterday, Iraq War veteran Kim Rivera (above with son Gabriel from Amnesty International's website) faced a court-martial in Colorado.  The war resister self-checked out and went to Canada with her family (husband and two children then; she's now a mother of four) when she couldn't continue to participate in the illegal war. War Resisters Support Campaign announced yesterday Kim "was sentenced to 14 months in military prison and a dishonourable discharge after publicly expressing her conscientious objection to the Iraq War while in Canada.  A pre-trial agreement capped the sentence at 10 months of confinement and a bad conduct discharge."

Erin Prater (Colorado Springs Gazette) reports on the court-martial.  We discussed Prater's report this morning and there's no correction so we'll assume Prater reported accurately which would mean a government witness took the stand a lied about Kim's blog.

If Prater was accurate, Will C. Holden (KDVR) wallows in ignorance.  His attack -- don't call it a report -- include the lie that Kim would "become the first woman to desert the war in Iraq."  No.  No, you stupid idiot, she's just the first woman you heard of.  I can name three that went to Canada before Kim.  She's the first one Holden's heard of because he's an idiot.  You don't even have to include Canada.  And if you don't know the names you can still look at the military's yearly desertion figures.  Kim was the first woman Holden had heard of so he rushed to 'report' and did so badly.  He also repeats the false claim of  "She was denied to the dismay of 19,000 people who signed an online petition in protest."  Yesterday afternoon, a friend at AP called to say the 19,000 remark had been picked up and carried all over.  That was from a September entry here. In September when I wrote that, it was 19,000.  In yesterday's snapshot, we included the final number ("In the weeks before she was deported, 20,391 people signed a petition calling for the government to allow Kim to remain in Canada."). It's not 19,000.  Holden probably shouldn't be cribbing from other people's reports and should probably do a little work himself.

NPR has (a) apparently spent through all the McBucks Joan Kroc left them and (b) has no 'partner stations' in Colorado since Edyer Peralta has to do a write up on Kim and can't cite any NPR reporting or any NPR 'partner stations' reporting.  To Peralta's credit, he has no big mistake.  The same can't be said for BBC:

During the Vietnam War, more than 50,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid conscription and were welcomed by Canadian authorities. Most returned to the US following President Jimmy Carter's offer of amnesty to the so-called "draft dodgers".

Are we back to this crap again?  Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter both offered programs.  Carter only for those who fled to Canada before they were deployed.  Ford allowed for both those avoiding the draft and those checking out of the service.  During that time, Canada didn't care.  Canada welcomed both and the term "war resister" was used because it included both categories, those who were avoiding the draft and those who were already in the military (regardless of whether they had been drafted or enlisted on their own).

RT notes, "The young mother is the third Iraq war resister that was deported from Canada and now faces a jail sentence. Robert Long and Clifford Cornell, both deserters of the Iraq war, were dishonorably discharged and deported from Canada. Long was sentenced to 15 months in military prison in 2008."  And the young mother of four is pregnant, due in December.  So for refusing to participate in an illegal war, a pregnant woman will be behind bars.  Under 'anti-war' Barack Obama.  And  of course, there's blame for the Canadian government which deported Kim as well.  Matthew Coutts (Daily Brew) writes about this noting:

The War Resisters Support Campaign said that she was ordered to return to the U.S. because the idea that she would be arrested and detained was “speculative.” And, of course, that is what happened.
Spokesperson Michelle Robidoux said she has remained in contact with Rivera since she left and says she has been forced serve on a Colorado Springs military base,separated from her family in Texas.
“The Canadian government is entirely culpable for what has happened to that family,”she told Yahoo! Canada News. “We were asking that she be allowed to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds and that was dismissed. She has two Canadian-born children and was quite established in that community.
“The Harper government, by sending her back to military custody and now to jail, has completely torn apart that family’s existence. There was no reason they could not have agreed to look at the humanitarian and compassionate application other than their own ideological opposition to war resisters being allowed to stay in Canada.”

Lastly, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following today:

April 30, 2013, New York – Today, President Obama spoke about Guantanamo at a press conference and said, among other things, "Now Congress determined that they would not let us close it and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country. . . . And so I'm going to -- as I've said before, we're -- examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue. But ultimately, we're also going to need some help from Congress." 
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement in response to the president’s comments. 
After representing men at Guantanamo whose hopes for justice have been raised and dashed so many times over the last eleven years, we praise the president for re-affirming his commitment to closing the base but take issue with the impression he strives to give that it is largely up to Congress. Here is a prescription for what he himself can begin to do today if he is really serious about closing the prison.

  • Congress is certainly responsible for imposing unprecedented restrictions on detainee transfers, but President Obama still has the power to transfer men right now. He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees, starting with the 86 men who have been cleared for release, including our client Djamel Ameziane.

  • Congress may have tied one hand behind his back, but he has tied the other: he should lift his self-imposed moratorium on transfers to Yemen regardless of a detainee's status.  It's collective punishment based on citizenship, and needs to be reevaluated now.

  • President Obama should appoint a senior government official to shepherd the process of closure, and should give that person sufficient authority to resolve inter-agency disputes.
  • The President must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantanamo or the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last 11 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.







Monday, April 29, 2013

Way to go, Jason Collins!

bride of iran 001

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Bride of Iran" is above.  It went up Sunday and so did Kat's "Kat's Korner: Holly Near, Go Away."

Today?  As Chocolate City notes, NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay.

So when did the 7 feet tall, 34-year-old retire?

Because that has been how it happens.  Oh, I'm retired and not playing anymore so let me announce I'm gay.  Because if you announce it while you're playing, you might get catcalls from the bleachers?

Jason Collins broke the mold.  The Washing Wizards' center has come out while he's still playing in the NBA.

He came out in Sports Illustrated with an article that opens:

I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.
My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.

Good.  Sports Illustrated means little kids will see it in the library.
Kids are curious.  I was.  When I was little, I used to go through those National Geographics in the school library looking for topless women.  I found an old Time magazine with Jessica Lange's boobs and I became obsessed with that.
It was for King Kong.  She had made that movie and Time included a series of photos that were like a film strip and you saw her top fall away in one.
I hid that Time (it was supposed to be in the back where kids couldn't go because it was a year or two old already and they only kept the new stuff out front).  And I'd go into the library and get it out of its hiding place and look and look and look.
Jessica Lange may have been my first crush, in fact.  I'm trying to think.  She's certainly the first actress I saw naked (or topless).   I was in first or second grade.

So hopefully, some little boy or girl will be reading it and realize that they're okay, Jason Collins is gay and he's doing fine.  They will too.

ESPN notes:

The reaction of other active players has always been a question when it comes to an athlete in a major sport coming out. Other players don't get any bigger than Kobe Bryant, who tweeted his support Monday.
"Proud of @jasoncollins34," the tweet read. "Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU"
While Bryant was accepting of Collins, NFL players Mike Wallace and Alphonso Smith, along with former Knick Larry Johnson, were among athletes to take a dissenting tone on Twitter.
Wallace deleted two tweets about the subject, then later wrote, "never said anything was right or wrong I just said I don't understand!! Deeply sorry for anyone that I offended."
Smith, meanwhile, wrote in a series of tweets that, "it's a shame I have to apologize for my TRUE feelings."
Johnson, the current basketball and business operations representative for the Knicks, tweeted: "I don't Jason Collins personally but he seems like a great guy. Me personally gay men in the locked room would make me uncomfortable."

I don't know if you know Larry Johnson but he's an idiot who's always embarrassing everyone.  No surprise, he embarrassed people again today.  He should really learn to shut his damn mouth.
I don't know Mike Wallace or Alphonso Smith, sorry.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, April 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri attacks the media, the world finally pays attention, over 500 violent deaths have taken place in Iraq, Turkey and the PKK may be walking away from decades of violence, US War Resister Kim Rivera is sentenced to a military prison, and more.

Starting with war resistance, from the April 7, 2008 snapshot:

"I guess the hardest thing for people to understand is the reason you join the military is not the reason you leave it," writes war resister Kimberly Rivera (Rivera Family).  Rivera is a US war resister in Canada.  Like war resisters Josh Randall and Brandon Hughey, Rivera is from Texas. February 18, 2007, she, her husband Mario Rivera entered Canada. Rivera is the first known female US war resister to apply for refugee status in Canada.

Earlier, Daniel Chacon (Colorado Springs Gazette) reports that Iraq War veteran Kim Rivera was scheduled for a court-martial today.  Patricia Collier (KOAA) adds, "Rivera faces a maximum sentence of reduction to E1, total forfeiture of pay and allowances, 5 years confinement and a dishonorable discharge."  War Resisters Support Campaign announces Kim "was sentenced to 14 months in military prison and a dishonourable discharge after publicly expressing her conscientious objection to the Iraq War while in Canada.  A pre-trial agreement capped the sentence at 10 months of confinement and a bad conduct discharge."

As Kim observed last September, "I don't regret refusing to participate and speaking out against what I felt was a completely unjust war.  Doing the right thing is not always the same as doing the easy thing."

Though the left outlets in the US spent the day ignoring Kim (The Nation has nothing online nor does The Progressive), the Libertarian Reason magazine does have a small write up.  Please grasp that as The Nation and The Progressive fail yet again, Al Arabiya is carrying a report on Kim.

How can that be?  How can our left media repeatedly and continuously fail We the People?  John Stauber explained Friday in an interview at  CounterPunch:

These big players -- the paid activists at CREDO, Greenpeace, 350.org, MoveOn, the paid pundits at Nation and Mother Jones -- they work for corporations who have their own agenda, a business agenda, and are primarily funded by wealthy Democrats and their foundations, or by “socially responsible companies” that these wealthy individuals and foundations invest in.
The real agenda of the Big Green groups, the Progressive Media and Progressive Think Tanks,  is raising money for themselves.  What they do is decided and directed by their small group of decision-makers who are funders or who play to the funders. The professional  Progressive Movement I criticize and critique does not ultimately represent or serve any real progressive movement at the grassroots.  It markets to them for followers and funding, and every two years votes for Democrats as the lesser of the evils.

If you missed his article last month, make a point to read it as well.  Kim Rivera stood up against a war that The Progressive and The Nation opposed in order to enrich their own coffers.  Opposing the illegal war allowed them to reach circulation highs (while the pro-war New Republic tanked).  But they stopped caring about being anti-war when a Democrat made it into the White House because that meant that they'd have to call out a Democrat and they're not going to risk the big money that comes in to have ethics or convictions.

Kim's a thorny issue for them.  She stood up while they cower.  Let's quote from John Stauber's column last month:

 After the 2004 flop of the Kerry/Edwards campaign, luck shone on the Democrats.  The over-reach of the neoconservatives, the failure to find those weapons of mass deception (sic),  the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, turned American public opinion,  especially among the young, against the Republicans.  Growing anti-war sentiment, which had little to do with the organized anti-war movement, delivered to the Democrats what Governor Mario Cuomo called “The Gift.”  The horrific Iraq war, he explained to a Democracy Alliance gathering, was the gift that allowed the Democrats to take control of the US Congress.
It was at this point in early 2007 that the truly dark and cynical agenda of the professional Progressive Movement and the Democratic Party revealed itself.  Under Pelosi the Democrats could have cut off funding for Bush’s unpopular wars and foreign policy.  Instead,  with PR cover provided by MoveOn and their lobbyist Tom Matzzie, the Democratic Congress gave George Bush all the money he wanted to continue his wars.  For the previous five years MoveOn had branded itself as the leader of the anti-war movement, building lists of millions of liberals, raising millions of dollars, and establishing itself in the eyes of the corporate media as leaders of the US peace movement.  Now they helped the Democrats fund the war,  both betting that the same public opposition to the wars that helped them win control of the House in 2006 could win the Presidency in 2008.

Kim faces a court-martial when a Democratic occupies the White House.  President Barack Obama, remember the myth they created, excuse me, the fairy tale (Bill Clinton was right), that Barack was anti-war.  If he really was anti-war, he would have offered some form of amnesty the way Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter did previously.  Grasp that.  Neither Ford nor Carter presented themselves as 'anti-war.'  But the Republican and the Democratic presidents both managed to do more than Barack.

Covering Kim now would be mean Barack might get called out.  Were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to face execution today, The Nation and The Progressive would gladly sell them out to protect Barack.  They've deluded themselves that the mission of a free press is the same as the mission of the Secret Service.

Last fall,  Yves Engler (iPolitics.ca) reported on Kim:

While Rivera expected to spend her time unloading equipment at a Colorado base she soon found herself guarding a foreign operating base in Iraq. It was from this vantage point that she became disillusioned with the war. Riviera was troubled by a two-year-old Iraqi girl who came to the base with her family to claim compensation after a bombing by U.S. forces. “She was just petrified”, Rivera explained. “She was crying, but there was no sound, just tears flowing out of her eyes. She was shaking. I have no idea what had happened in her little life. All I know is I wasn’t seeing her: I was seeing my own little girl. I could imagine my daughter being one of those kids throwing rocks at soldiers, because maybe someone she loved had been killed. That Iraqi girl haunts my soul.’”

Kim Rivera was deployed to Iraq.  She's an Iraq War veteran.  She came back to the US and couldn't continue to participate in the illegal war.  So she, her husband and two kids drove to Canada where she sought political asylum. (Once in Canada, Kim and Mario had two more children -- their children are Christian, Rebecca, Katie Marie and Gabriel.)

While the Canadian government couldn't offer her support, many others did.  Last SeptemberArchbishop Desmond Tutu joined the call to support Kim.  Erin Criger (City News) noted the support also included, "Amnesty International, the Canadian Labour Congress and the United Church of Canada have all supported Rivera."  In addition, many individual Canadians support her as well as organizations such as the United Steelworkers of Canada which issued a statement calling for the government of Canada to let Kim and her family stay  and  Canada's National Union of Public and General Employees which also issued a statement

Canada deported Kim and, September 21st, she was arrested as she turned herself into US authorities.  In the weeks before she was deported, 20,391 people signed a petition calling for the government to allow Kim to remain in CanadaKKTV reports, " She has been charged with two specifications of desertion under Article 85 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a dishonorable discharge."  She stood up and did so without any help from The Nation or The Progressive.  Kim's biggest 'mistake' was going to Canada after the 2006 mid-terms.  Had she gone before that, she could have been Ehren Watada.  The left outlets pretended to support Ehren.  In 2006.  Of course, after the 2006 mid-term elections, Ehren could -- and did -- receive more press from Rolling Stone magazine for his brave stand than he got from the 'left' outlets.  While a few went through the motions of covering Ehren only because they'd already started the coverage in the summer of 2006 (when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House), most pretended not to know who he was. Kim went public in March of 2007 -- by which point, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and, as Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observed, Democrats in office and The Nation magazine had other priorities:

Having won the leadership of both houses of Congress in the 2006 congressional elections thanks to a groundswell of antiwar sentiment, the Democratic Party leadership has now provided all the money and more that President Bush requested for the continuation and escalation of a criminal war, and it has done so under terms dictated by the White House.
[. . .]

In the six months since the November elections, the Democrats have sought to placate and deceive the voters who handed them the reins of power in the House and Senate by posturing as opponents of the war, while at the same time pledging to “support the troops” by funding that war and continuing to support the geo-strategic goals that underlay the March 2003 invasion in the first place.
On Thursday, this political balancing act fell apart in a cowardly and cynical capitulation to the White House. The inevitable result of this cave-in is massive anger among those who voted for the Democrats last November and a growing sense that none of the institutions or political parties of the ruling establishment reflect the democratic will of the people.
Countering such sentiments and attempting to resuscitate illusions in the Democrats is the specific task of a layer of the American “left” that is thoroughly integrated into the Democratic Party. Its political conceptions and aims—shared by a variety of protest groups, “left” think tanks and a smattering of elected officials—are expressed most clearly by the weekly Nation magazine.

We'll come back to the topic of war resistance later in the snapshot.  For now, we'll turn to Iraq where the illegal war did not bring democracy or safety or anything worthy of praise.  Ahmed Hussein and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) report that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi has expressed "serious concerns" regarding the attempt to pull the licenses on ten satellite channels.  Iraqiya is the political slate that bested Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law in the 2010 parliamentary elections.  NINA notes the statement from Iraqiya which pointed out the "blatantly sectarian" nature of the closures since they focused on any who covered "the demands of the people for their legitimate rights."   Yesterday, Nouri's government announced they were pulling the licenses for Al Jazeera, al-Sharqiya, al-Sharqiya News, Babeliya, Salahuddin, Anwar 2, Taghyeer, Baghdad and Fallujah.  All Iraq News quotes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declaring, "The decision is considered a clear threat for freedom of expression in Iraq and completely incompatible with the concept of democracy.  This decision will arouse many suspicions since Iraq is currently passing through a tense phase that requires all the media efforts to expose breaches and to follow up on the involvement of senior figures in corruption."  Iraq's Journalistic Freedom Observatory issued a statement calling for the government to clarify the justifications for pulling the licenses.

The cowardly Committee to Protect Journalists finds a little strength today, just a little, and issued a statement which includes:


New York, April 29, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Iraqi government's decision on Sunday to suspend the licenses of 10 mostly pro-Sunni satellite channels accused of sectarian incitement.
The Iraqi Commission of Media and Communications (CMC) in a statement accused the broadcasters of using a "sectarian tone" to incite against security forces and to promote "banned terrorist organizations."
The stations are Baghdad, Al-Sharqiyah, Al-Sharqiyah News, Al-Babiliya, Salah Al-Din, Anwar 2, Al-Taghir, Al-Fallujah, Al-Gharbiya, and international broadcaster Al-Jazeera. The local stations, with the exception of the Shia-affiliated Anwar 2, are pro-Sunni and criticize Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for disenfranchising the Sunni community.
In recent months, Iraq has witnessed significant Sunni-led demonstrations against the Shia-dominated federal government. Amid the instability, secular and Islamist Sunni militant groups have launched attacks against government forces. Last week, more than 20 people died after government forces attacked Sunni protesters in Hawija outside of Kirkuk in a purported attempt to pursue Sunni militants, according to news reports.

 More than 20?  Yes, 50 is more than 20.   And when you want to undercount the dead, be sure to grab the BBC's first article on Hawija which notes "more than 20" as opposed to a later BBC article that includes the final death toll "on Tuesday that left 50 people dead." Yes, CPJ, 50 is more than 20, it's thirty more.  And if BBC isn't good enough for CPJ (they're the ones citing BBC), then how about the International Crisis Group: "On 23 April, over 50 were killed and 110 wounded when security forces stormed a sit-in in the town of Hawija, in Kirkuk governorate."

 RT points out, "Iraq is often at the bottom of global press freedom rankings. In 2013, Reporters Without Borders placed it 150th in media rights on its annual World Press Freedom Index, trailing Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo."   Reporters Without Borders also condemned the pulling of licenses today with a statement which includes:

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns yesterday’s decision by Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission to suspend the licences of 10 foreign-based satellite TV channels for “inciting violence and sectarianism.”
“This draconian and disproportionate decision has seriously endangered freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Although the media must act responsibly, they are just doing their job when they cover Iraq’s current serious divisions and tension. "
“We urge the Media and Communications Commission to quickly rescind this decision and to allow the media to cover all developments of general interest throughout the country.”

If there's anything more cowardly than CPJ, it's the US State Dept today.  Jeanna Smialek and Zaid Sabah (Bloomberg News) quote "a State Department official" ("speaking on condition of anonymity") stating, "This action undermines confidence in the Iraqi government's ability to govern democratically and guarantee freedom of expression."

Good for Bloomberg for getting the quote but can someone explain why it has to be issued anonymously?

Maybe because billions of US taxpayer dollars are still going into Iraq for 'freedom' programs?  Ones that the US State Dept oversees?  It would be nice to get an on the record response; however, there was a State Dept press briefing but, as usual, what passes for a press corps worked overtime to avoid the issue of Iraq. 

Not all outlets plan to comply with the Iraqi government's order.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports:

A reporter from Al Sharqiya vowed to defy the government and said the company had already made arrangements that would allow it to send video to the channel's offices abroad, and broadcast from there into Iraq. The reporter, Minas Suhail, said he was in Hawija when he received a call from the Baghdad military command informing him of the commission's decision. Suhail told the officer he would keep working and said the officer warned him it was his own responsibility.
Suhail was unfazed by the prospect of being arrested. "I have been captured many times," Suhail said, "It's familiar for me to be captured."

Aseel Kami, Isabel Coles and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) add, "The watchdog is powerless to stop the channels broadcasting, but may make it harder for their local staff to cover events."  But the government has other ways of stopping coverage.  Mohammed Tawfeeq and Matt Smith (CNN) report that Baghdad Satellite TV plans to stop reporting unless the order is rescinded and quotes reporters Ahmed Saeed stating, "We cannot cover anything now.  Iraqi security forces will immediately arrest us."

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports the move has been criticized by MPs and media experts and that this is being tied into the media (the Iraqi media) reporting on Nouri's forces attacking the sit-in in Hawija last week.  An MP from Sadr's bloc notes that it is not the media's job to bury news that is bad for Nouri.  Dar Addustour also notes that this is about the attack on Hawija.  Geoffrey Ingersoll (Business Insider) observes:

There used to be a joke Iraqis told about television: There are only four channels, and Saddam is on every one of them.
Now Saddam's long dead, it's a decade later, and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has openly censored the media.
It's just one in a long line of steps Maliki has taken to consolidate power.

If Nouri doesn't want bad news reported, easiest way to stop killing peaceful protesters.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault last Tuesday. You kill 50 protesters and, believe it not, your problem isn't the media.  Nouri's failure to realize that goes a long, long way towards explaining why, in seven years as prime minister, he can't point to any accomplishments that's helped the Iraqi people.

 The International Crisis Group outlines some steps they feel need to be taken in "Iraq after Hawija: Recovery or Relapse?" --  excerpt.

Yet the government also resorted to other, more hazardous tactics. It has tried to rally support by claiming protesters are sponsored by Turkey and the Gulf monarchies, harbour terrorists, belong to the banned Baath party or are driven by sheer sectarian animus. The result has been to radicalise the Shiite community, many of whose members now consider this challenge to the status quo an existential threat. This, coupled with the expansion and strengthening of the security apparatus, might well have persuaded the government that it could physically eradicate the popular movement without having to deal with it politically. 
The Hawija operation is one indication. Extensive and seemingly well-planned, the purpose appears to have been to discourage any resort to violence on the part of protesters by hitting them directly – and hard. If this was the theory, it has proved deeply flawed. Already, retaliatory attacks have escalated. In a budding cycle of violence, protesters, anticipating further attacks from government forces, have threatened to ready themselves for more robust military resistance.
The most urgent task today is to tamp down the flames, and the burden for this lies above all with the government. Among pressing steps, it should withdraw its security forces from the Hawija square where the sit-in was organised; negotiate with Kirkuk’s authorities to compensate victims; refrain from provocative steps (raids, large-scale arrests, curfews) as well as from further deployment of security forces in provinces experiencing protests; and strengthen cooperation between national security forces and the local police so that security can be chiefly ensured by the latter.
Political steps to address underlying grievances are equally necessary. Unilateral, piecemeal concessions will not suffice; instead, meaningful negotiations with the protest movement – regarding the Justice and Accountability law, which Sunnis perceive as discriminatory; counter-terrorism legislation; and the make-up of security forces – are needed. In turn, this requires creating proper conditions for the emergence of a genuinely representative leadership in Sunni Arab populated governorates. Provincial elections in Anbar and Ninewa governorates have been postponed and rescheduled for July; they should be held as early as possible and without government interference.

Global Research carries an appeal from the Genevea International Centre for Justice:

In wake of the current attack and killing of demonstrators in Al-Hawija, GICJ has sent an urgent appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly requesting that immediate action be taken with regards to these new grave human rights violations perpetrated by the government of Nouri Al-Maliki.
For the last four days, 4,000 peaceful demonstrators in Hawija have been surrounded by army troops, sent by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who have prevented all access to food, water and medical aid. Access to all forms of media including journalists and news casters has also been prevented and anyone who was inside had their equipment confiscated.
 GICJ has informed UN officials that the army and militias stormed the demonstration area at about 5 a.m. Iraqi time, Tuesday, 23 April 2013, attacking protestors who have been demanding that their basic rights be respected. This was a direct attack where forces went in and began to shoot heavily and indiscriminately using live ammunition, tanks and helicopters. Forces also brought in trucks with water hoses and hosed demonstrators down using extremely hot water, causing serious burns and deaths. According to our direct source in Hawija, at least 50 demonstrators have been killed, an additional 150 injured, and more than 400 have been arrested. Forces were also reported to have attacked the injured and set fire to civilian vehicles.
[. . .]
GICJ considers that every aspect of what has occurred in Hawija is in direct violation of international law and human rights law. We urgently request that all appropriate action be taken to ensure that the Iraqi authorities and their forces cease all attacks, threats and intimidation of peaceful demonstrators and that those who are responsible for these violations be brought to justice.
GICJ also urgently requested that an independent international mission be immediately established to thoroughly investigate the current attack in Hawija and all previous attacks and that a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iraq be appointed.

We'll continue Hawija coverage tomorrow including a discussion that a number of people are e-mailing to note.

For now,  April comes closer to concluding and the number killed in violent attacks in Iraq has already passed 500 (Iraq Body Count counts 513 deaths from violence so far this month through Sunday).  Today, National Iraqi News Agency notes a Karbala car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left twelve injured, there were mortar attacks in Ramadi and Falluja, rebels in Mosul clashed with soldiers leaving 2 soldiers dead, 2 Amara car bombings have left 7 dead and thirty-one injured., and a Diwaniyah car bombing has resulted in twenty-nine people being either injured or killedAll Iraq News reports 4 dead and twenty-five injured.  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) counts 36 dead ("dozens" injured) via 5 car bombings.  Ned Parker reports on the violence here, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling report on it here.

Over the weekend, MP Ali Muhsen al-Timimi, with the Sadr bloc, told All Iraq News the attack on Hawija is due to Nouri's psychological state which is under distress due to Nouri's political party (Dawa) doing so poorly in the elections.  In addition, Alsumaria noted that MP Iman al-Moussawi (also with the Sadr bloc) statement that Nouri pressured the Electoral Commission to change the votes. These charges were made during the 2010 recounts and there was validity to them. If a few votes were changed this go round, this is major because in all but one province State of Law won, it did not win huge majorities.  In Wasit, for example, it beat Amar al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq by 2% -- Wasit had charges of voter fraud and had a huge number of voters turned away when security forces were doing early voting.    There's even dispute as to whether State of Law comes in first in eight provinces.  Some outlets are claiming it's only seven.  If the IHEC would publish their totals -- as they were supposed to already do -- it would eliminate a great deal of confusion.  Deutsche Welle points out:

 There is a political North-South divide on the horizon for Iraq. The eight provinces that Maliki's rule-of-law-coalition won are all located south of Baghdad and include the capital. In the northern provinces, Maliki hardly has any supporters. On the contrary: protests against him have been raging there for months, but are beaten down violently by the army. In the village Hauwija, close to Kirkuk, almost 50 people were killed in one day, and 26 more two days later in Suleiman Beg.

IHEC still can't publish the results at their website but they did manage to post the following statement yesterday:

Recently, some Members of the Council of Representatives whose relatives were candidates in the recent elections have made public statements to discredit the IHEC and its work.
The IHEC will not be subject to pressures or threats of any kind. It is committed to its principles as a neutral and professional institution, a status confirmed by all international and local parties.
Should these attacks continue, the IHEC will not hesitate to make public all details concerning the perpetrators and their comments.
What in the world are they talking about?  They're threatening because they are accused of screwing up.  And they did screw up.  Voters were left confused and it appeared that people were not on the ballots.  They have insisted that they received less than 100,000 complaints on this.  So what?  The country only has 16 million eligible voters.  Do you think every one of them's going to call you?  Iraqis thought that, for example, if they wanted to vote for the Dulami tribe, they'd go by the last name and find the candidates on the ballot.  Instead, the names of all candidates were listed by the first letter of the candidate's first name.  This led people to leave the polling stations upset and convinced that there was an organized effort to disenfranchise them.  That the IHEC can't admit their mistake does not speak well of the body.  This was not Iraq's first election that the IHEC has overseen.  If changes in the way the candidates were to be listed on the ballots were going to take place, it was incumbent upon the IHEC to get the word out on that.  I don't care if less than 100,000 called.  They shouldn't have gotten one call on it. Instead of threatening, they should be apologizing and using this time to make clear how candidates will be listed on the parliamentary elections that are supposed to take place next year but that could take place this year (Nouri's called for early elections -- Iraqiya is fine with that provided that a caretaker government is set up so that Nouri can't again refuse to step down should his State of Law again lose).

In other news of Nouri's hurt feelings and deep shame, KUNA reports, "Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil Al-Araby is making consultations for choosing an Arab envoy for Iraq to act as a facilitator with all political leaders there, a diplomatic source said.  The Arab move mainly aims to ease out political tensions following an Iraqi army attack on a sit-in protest in southwest Kirkuk on Tuesday, which left scores of protesters and troops dead or wounded, the source, on anonymity, told reporters."  Alsumaria notes that Nouri's insulted by the fact that the Arab Leauge is making the decision and not the Iraq government.

Turning to northern Iraq, where the semi autonomous Kurdish region and where Iraq borders Turkey.  From Free Speech Radio News Thursday:

Dorian Merina:  Kurdish rebels announced today they will withdraw from Turkey next month as part of a peace initiative being negotiated with the central government.  FSRN's Jacob Resneck has more from Istanbul.  

Jacob Resneck:  Leaders of the Kurdistan Workers Party have set May 8th as the date for a phased withdrawal from their bases in Turkey's Kandil mountains that border Iraq.  The 30-year conflict between the PKK and military has killed more than 45,000 people since ethnic Kurds- estimated to be about a fifth of Turkey's population - took up arms in an effort to gain language rights and political autonomy. Some Turkish nationalists are critical of the government dealing directly with the PKK have been demonstrating in cities across Turkey.  A 23-year-old activist in central Istanbul is collecting petition signatures, protesting the government's dialogue with the PKK, which is listed by Turkey, the United States and European Union as a terror organization. But there is also optimism here.  Parliamentarian Altan Tan of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party told FSRN that armed struggle is finished.  He says lasting peace depends on whether the government's commitments are sincere.

Altan Tan:  Turkey is writing a new democratic constitution, which will guarantee Kurdish rights.  But, it's not certain that the Prime Minister will keep his promise to make a new democratic constitution that will fulfill the agreement.

Jacob Resneck:  The PKK has also warned the military to show restraint and said any fresh offensive against the group could scuttle the agreement to withdraw.  Jacob Resneck, FSRN, Istanbul.

Thursday, James Reynolds reported (link is video) for the BBC:

These Qandil mountains are the headquareters of the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK.  Normally, this area would be too dangerous to walk around in but we've been invited here by the PKK.  This is one of their soldiers here.  We've been invited in order to attend a news conference by the acting leader of the PKK Murat Karayilan.  Just have a look over there and see if you can see him, he's in the middle.   He's the acting leader because Abdullah Ocalan, the main leader of the PKK, is in prison.  He's been in prison since 1999. In late 2012, this movement, the PKK, and the Turkish government decided to begin a peace process.  A cease-fire was called in March of this year and now we've all come here to find out more details about the withdrawal of PKK forces from Turkey, here in their safe haven in northern Iraq.

Saturday, Hurriyet Daily News noted the withdrawal is supposed to begin May 8th.  Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) reported, "Turkish Prime Minister [Recep] Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday hailed the planned withdrawal of Kurdish rebel fights from Turkey as the end of a 'dark era' but warned against potential sabotage of a historic peace process."  World Bulletin added, "As part of measures taken to prevent any confrontation or clash between Turkish security forces and the members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) while the PKK is withdrawing from Turkey, thermal cameras will be turned off, military observation towers will be evacuated and Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will be deactivated, the Sabah daily reported on Thursday."  If it takes, this will be historic and credit will go not only to PKK leaders and Erdogan but also to the peace activists in Turkey who have called for years now for an end to the violence and to the leaders in the KRG who have not been properly credited by the press for their role in the dialogue. 

Now back to war resistance.  Today Kim River was sentenced to prison for refusing to participate in an illegal war.  She took a brave stand and deserves applause.  She is part of a movement and, elsewhere, there may be good news for a resister.   Steven Beardsley (Stars and Stripes) reports that Iraq War veteran Andre Shepherd who is seeking asylum in Germany: 

His personal life has settled in the meantime. Married to a German, finishing his education and working in an office outside Munich, Shepherd has come a long way from his life before the Army when, after failed efforts at school and work, he lived for a time out of the back of his car.
His attorney believes his current circumstances mean he’s unlikely to face deportation, even if he fails to win his case for political asylum.

We first noted Andre's case in the November 27, 2008 snapshot.  Andre self-checked out after serving in Iraq, while in Germany and he held a press conference explaining,  "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing.  I could not in good conscience continue to serve. . . . Here in Germany it was established that everyone, even a soldier, must take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter how many superiors are giving orders."   At the end of 2008, James Ewinger (Cleveland Plain Dealer) reported:
Shepherd said he grew up on East 94th Street in Cleveland, attended Lakewood High School and studied computer science at Kent State University until he ran out of money.
He enlisted in 2004 with the hope of flying the Apaches, but was urged to become a mechanic first.
Scharf said he doubts that Shepherd's expected order to return to Iraq would, by itself, constitute an unlawful order.
"His best argument would be that Apaches are used to kill civilians," Scharf said, but he still viewed it as a weak case.
The Military Counseling Network is among those who have been assisting Andre.  nd attorneys on that effort.  As AP's Patrick McGroarty observed in February 2009,  Andre is one of 71 US soldiers who has self-checked out from "European bases in 2008."   
So Germany may be able -- whether by intent or circumstance -- to help a US war resister but in America Kim has been betrayed by the governments of Canada and the United States and by the so-called 'free' and 'independent' US press outlets like The Nation magazine and The Progressive.








Friday, April 26, 2013

IVAW endores The Drone War

If you thought those whoring aspects on my left couldn't get worse, you don't know IVAW.  Iraq Veterans Against the War -- the group with the president who didn't serve in Iraq or Afghanistan but is a "Iraq Veteran Against the War."

So clearly, they struggle with the English language.  That's never more obvious than when you read the posts of Patrick McCarthy -- the Catholic who saw women as sinful, remember the last time I wrote about IVAW's Lenny?

Well he's back and probably breaking the neck of a puppy as I type.

Brother Barrack, I'm really proud of you sir! I was wavering for a moment because of the drone thing-(nightmare). Children being killed by American air assets is a touchy subject for me but, we've all done things we're not proud of; we just need to make amends for them, that's being a man. Y'all are making sure the bombing suspect gets a fair trial.

So now Iraq Veterans Against the War have endorsed The Drone War.

Good to know.

Another reason not to listen anything they have to offer.  Not that they offer much more than McCarthy's attacks on women anyway. 

You go to that site and you realize you're dealing with a lot of not just stupid men but a lot of men who think only of themselves.

Iraq's boiling over all week.  Nouri al-Maliki launched an attack on the peaceful sit-in in Hawija (Kirkuk) and over 50 were killed and over 100 injured at that sit-in.

But IVAW has no opinion on it.

They have no blog post on it.

They don't write a damn thing about Iraq.

But when it's time to wrap their lips around Barack's cock, they get down to it, down to the hairy root.  I guess this is The Suck A Cock Version of Iraq Veterans Against the War. 

Patrick's going to teach everyone how to deep throat Barack and to fall to sleep -- in the wet spot -- while dreaming of The Drone War. 

How pathetic they are.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, April 26, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the provincial elections are in for the press, protests continue in Iraq, State of Law offers smears for all (protesters, the US, Moqtada al-Sadr, everyone!), Shinseki gets confused over which lie he told and which he should tell to Congress, Chris Hedges supports Lynne Stewart, IVAW can't leave the sexism alone, and more.

Is Iraq Veterans Against the War doing parody?  I'm about to pull their link because of the crap that just went up under Patrick McCarthy's name. 

Brother Barrack, I'm really proud of you sir! I was wavering for a moment because of the drone thing-(nightmare). Children being killed by American air assets is a touchy subject for me but, we've all done things we're not proud of; we just need to make amends for them, that's being a man. Y'all are making sure the bombing suspect gets a fair trial. By maintaining the rights of all humans you can show the nay sayers what give me liberty or give me death means. Americans are supposed to be a people of peace that believe unconditionally in fairness and justice.
"Enemy combatants"- criminals-(Men) deserve a fair trial sir, lets retake the moral high ground with superior integrity not firepower and force.

Okay, Marcia's already called IVAW out recently for the sexism. "That's being a man"?  Oh the faux macho of those males who turn against war.  Not all but we're clearly miles from the 2008 IVAW.  I'm not supporting this crap.  Nor do I pretend that killing people with drones can be forgiven by anyone else getting a fair trial.

IVAW has wasted and withered in the last four years.  I've stood by them and avoided slamming them.  But they've lost many of the core members, people who haven't left no longer identify as IVAW in public and they're a nothing group.

Where were they on any damn issue to do with veterans?  I'm really sorry but if you want a make an impact, you start addressing veterans issues.  I speak to groups of veterans who can't stand me or my politics -- and I'm aware of that, that's fine -- but they will listen because I'm addressing veterans issues.  IVAW has failed to do so.  They do not lead on any health issue.  They have allowed IAVA to become the premiere and sole organization for today's young veterans.

When Marcia's post went up, I heard about it over and over. From female veterans who were tired of IVAW's "macho s**t" and tired of the fact that it  provides no leadership or advocacy on Military Sexual Trauma -- that includes a female veteran who was part of Winter Solider.  You are pissing off everyone who once supported you.  Today you allow a member to post that a fair trial for someone wipes away The Drone War.  Really?  Is that a gift from Barack Obama?  Because I kind of thought that was guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States of America -- or have you never heard of the Sixth Amendment?

I've already had three phone calls on this and has it even been up a half hour?  Four.  Ava's handing me a phone, hold on.  Okay.  Four IVAW members furious with the garbage that went up.  Can't say I blame them.

So now we praise people for following the Constitution -- as opposed to demanding that they do?  Oh, how low to the ground you crawl.

IVAW has made itself useless.  It has alienated women veterans, it has allowed itself to be ripped apart by arguments between Democratic members and Socialists (IVAW has members of all political stripes -- but in 2008 the fissure emerged between Democrats and Socialists and it never went away -- though it did leave many members to exit).  It has failed to lead on any issue.  It's failed to lead on veterans suicides, it's failed to engage with Congress, they couldn't even offer a statement on burn pits.  As the last months of 2012 saw Barack send in more US troops to Iraq, IVAW couldn't even acknowledge it -- not even a link to Tim Arango's first report on the issue in September of last year.  You've failed to get your house in order.   As Rebecca noted in March, when she dubbed them "the useless:"

but until they start standing for veterans, veterans have no use for them.
i'm sorry that no 1 ever explained p.r. to the group. 1st clue?  don't elect a 9-11 truther to be your leader. i'm not insulting 9-11 truthers.  i'm saying when your leader's 1, that's a distraction. they should have been working on disability issues, they should have been working on claims issues. instead, everything out of their mouth is political. do they not get how sick the country - and veterans in particular - has become with politics?

When they wrongly distanced themselves from Matthis Chiroux,  Jose Vasquez  issued a statement that ended with, "Our messaging is important and in the future we should all make an effort to reach consensus with those we organize with in an open way about how we represent IVAW." They may not be 'members in good standing,' but I've already heard from four IVAW members complaining about the crap that went up at the website tonight -- and that was less than 30 minutes ago -- stating it doesn't represent them.  Matthis was run out for burning a flag -- his own individual decision, representing only himself.  But you continue to put the half-baked 'wisdoms' of Patrick McCarthy up at your site including that now The Drone War is forgiven?  You've made yourself a joke.

On this week's Voices of the Middle East and North Africa (KPFA, Wednesday nights, 7:00 pm PST), the last segment featured Iraqi poet and Gallatin School of NYU professor Sinan Antoon reading his poetry.  He is a novelist and poet and, of his three books of poetry, the one widely available in the US is  The Baghdad Blues.  Excerpt.

I sit before one of those screens
Death in all languages.
The tower of Babel has disintegrated
Into a shore littered with corpses
My body is a tired boat
Silence is its mast.
I turn the channels
And corpses toss and turn.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 462 violent deaths in Iraq for April.  Over a fourth of those deaths have taken place this week (as of last Saturday, IBC's count was 328).

National Iraqi News Agency notes rebels clashed with Nouri's federal forces in Hadeetha and Kubaisa, 1 police officer was shot dead in Falluja, 5 Sahwa were shot dead outside of Tikrit,  a Baquba bombing left one person injured, a Mosul bombing left twelve people injured, one civilian was injured in a Falluja shooting, a Sadr City car bombing claimed 1 life and left seven others injured, a bombing in southern Baghdad left seven people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left twelve injured, and two Baghdad bombings -- both targeting mosques; Malik al-Ashter Mosque and al-Qubeisi Mosque  -- left 2 dead and thirty injuredNINA also notes "that all the units of federal police withdrew from inside the city of Falluja" and quotes a security source stating, "The withdrawal came in the wake of violent clashes between insurgents and police."

At Anbar University today, protesters condemned the Hawija massacre. National Iraqi News Agency reports that sit-ins took place in Falluja and Ramadi.  Alsumaria reports thousands turned out in Ramadi (look at the picture even if you don't read Arabic -- the size of the crowd is impressive)  and they decried the killing of peaceful protesters in Hawija.   NINA reports, "Preachers in Diyala denounced storming arenas of sit-in Haweeja by the army and the killing of protesters, strongly condemning the government for what happened in Hawija of Kirkuk province."   They quote a coordinating member of the Anbar demonstrations stating "the Maliki government has lost its legitimacy when ordered army to open fire against unarmed people."   Alsumaria covers the protesters in Mosul (check out the picture) noting the demonstration expressed its solidarity with the people of Hawija and called for one Iraq of one people where the people are safe from Nouri's forces.

On Tuesday, Nouri's forces took to the air in helicopters to shoot at them and rolled over them with military vehicles, shot at them, arrested them.  All for the 'crime' of taking part in a sit-in.   Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) quoted Anbar Salvation Council's Sheik Ahmed abu Risha stating, "Maliki should be prosecuted like Saddam Hussein for what he does to the people." Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) explores the Hawija attack, the 50 dead and 110 injured and offers:

Ultimately, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki might be to blame for what occurred in his capacity as head of the government, commander in chief of the armed forces and the official directly in charge of running the interior and defense ministries, as well as the national security and intelligence services, which have lacked directors for the past three years.

Nouri's State of Law crony Sa'ad al-Muttalibi took to Press TV today -- knowing that they would let him lie as Iranian government's Press TV always lets State of Law lie --  to smear the dead, "those who were killed in Hawijah, they were not civilians, they were armed groups belonging to the Nagshebendi organization or Ba'ath Party members and definitely they were not civilians."  He wasn't done smearing -- please remember Nouri al-Maliki only remains in power because the White House props him up -- al-Muttalibi also wanted to link the US to these events in Hawija, he then went on to smear cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and his supporters, "The Sadrists are definitely against Maliki, they are Shia but they are against the will of the Shia people in Iraq."  Also State of Law only holds 89 seats in Parliament, al-Muttalibi tries to fudge the issue and imply otherwise.

Iraqiya MP Liqaa Wardi speaks with NINA and states Nouri's reckless actions in Hawija have "created unprecedented reactions of anger." 

Tim Arango (New York Times) reports on the efforts of "Western diplomats" noting:

The continuing battles on Thursday, which by late afternoon had left nearly 50 people dead, most of them described by security official as militants, came as Western diplomats intensified efforts to persuade Mr. Maliki and his government to back away from a military solution to the Sunni uprising. The urgings were met with justifications for the heavy hand, partly out of fears that the situation would otherwise deteriorate into another Syria, according to one Western diplomat and an official close to Mr. Maliki, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity. Another diplomat, who also agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, said a fierce disagreement had erupted within the military command between Sunnis who opposed the military response and Shiite officers who directed it.

Yesterday on Free Speech Radio News, Dorian Merina spoke with Mohamed al-Obaidi about the week's events

Mohamed al-Obaidi:  Well we had protests a couple of years back here in Baghdad and elsewhere.  What I know of the Baghdad protests is that they've mainly been led by the educated elements of Baghdad like artists, NGOs, even maybe some college teachers and they're basically protesting against corruption and how corrupt the entire public sector was and how bad were the services, demanding change of the regime, but, again, based on corruption and not unlike the current sit-in and protests in mainly Sunni provinces.  These ones are mainly now led by tribal men -- and tribal leaders -- who are demanding equality between Sunnis and Shias in this country and are rejecting the oppression, the general oppression on the Sunnis and mistreatment by security forces.

Dorian Merina: And some of the protests have highlighted the issue of detentions and torture by security forces as a reason for their protests.  What about that?

Mohamed al-Obaidi:  Well I mean like I said it starts with illegal arrests.  If a security breach happens somewhere, say an explosion or an assassination of some soldiers, they round up people by tens or hundreds and they torture some of them.  One of the outrageous acts they do is that they take hostages and arrest women instead of their husbands or their brothers which is a great social taboo in our country.  And in particular [. . .] this is untolerable offense to the honor.  And again people have been held for years in prison and since the time of the American occupation of Iraq until now we have people spending years in prison without facing trial.  And then you have many cases where people pay hundreds or few thousand dollars and get released from any charges they are faced with.  And then you have cases where security forces arrest people and blackmail their families for money.  I mean, 'We either charge you for this, or you pay this.'  So it's -- They're dressed in uniforms but they're acting like gangsters.  So how do you hope to stop that?

Dorian Merina: Well, today Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned of sectarian civil war returning to Iraq.  [Omitting Dorian's citing of the Christian Science Monitor -- Arthur Bright is either extremely ignorant or a liar -- regardless, he religious baits in the piece.]  Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to withdraw ministers from Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet.  How far could this go?

Mohamed al-Obaidi:   Well a new civil war is a very possible reality.  Sunnis are very fed up with the way they're treated and the Shias have a great mistrust in Sunnis.  And with the current corruption and oppression that's going on, it's -- things can develop.  As a retaliation to the crush-down of the protesters in Hawija, Kirkuk, you had Sunni tribal men attacking police stations in nearby towns and even in Mosul city to the north.  So, you know, it could be just like an avalanche.  One event triggers another and the vengeance keeps going and you have a cycle of violence.

Dorian Merina:  Mohamed al-Obaidi is a shop owner in Baghdad, a longtime resident there.  He spoke to us about the government's response to protests, and deadly clashes this week in Iraq.

There's some indication

Last night, Betty wrote about the situation in Iraq:

He was imposed on them (first by Bush, then by Barack).  He is not responsive to them.  He has a multi-billion dollar yearly budget but Iraqis live in poverty without basic public services.  And Iraq doesn't have the US population.  They've got about 30 million people.  And its budget this year is $118 billion. Do you realize that comes to about 60 billion per person? But it's not spent on the people. Can you believe this? No wonder the Iraqi people are sick of it.  Can you blame them?  I can't.

Kat offered, "The White House needs to step [in].  It needs to be made clear that this can't happen again.  If we had a real leader in the White House, they might even be able to get Nouri to leave."  Meanwhile Ann caught the network news and wondered why Iraq didn't make it on the broadcast?  Marcia noted another outlet unable or unwilling to cover Iraq:

Iraq's on fire and where's McClatchy Newspapers? They sure get a lot of praise for Knight-Ridder work.  They're not Knight-Ridder.  But would they have done that if it was McClatchy then? I'm not insulting Jonathan S. Landy or Warren Strobel or others.  I'm asking would McClatchy have given them the same space and support that Knight-Ridder did.  I don't know. But I do know big bad McClatchy's not in Iraq. Iraq's on fire. Not only do they not have Adam Ashton, Nancy Youseff, Roy Gutman or anyone else in Iraq.  And they've obviously gotten rid of the Iraqis that used to work for them in country. So they have nothing. Point being, praise Landy, praise Strobel, praise Knight-Ridder but stop acting like McClatchy is Knight-Ridder.  It's not.

Earlier this week, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported, "In Anbar province, Sunni tribes were mobilizing Thursday to defend their cities against possible attacks by Iraqi security forces. They positioned gunmen and paraded in some of their cities, vowing to stop the military from entering their communities. Clashes were reported outside the city of Fallouja on Thursday night."   Today,
AFP notes, "The gunmen pulled out of Sulaiman Bek under a deal worked out by tribal leaders and government."  AFP could be more specific but choose not to be.  "Government" isn't Nouri.  NINA explains Salahuddin Province Governor Ahmed Abdullah al-Jabouri announced yesterday that he had met "with security commanders and local tribal leaders reaching an agreement by which the crisis will be solved tomorrow, and the military force to withdraw, according to the request of tribes' leaders, to be replaced with local police force."  Kitabat also makes it clear that the the peace agreement was made by the provincial government.

 Along with yesterday's defections, Iraqi Spring MC notes 25 have defected today in Kirkuk.  The defections may or may not be connected to the remarks of al-Saadi. Anytime the Iraqi forces have been used by Nouri to attack Iraqis, there have been defections.  This was most noticeable when Nouri attacked Basra in 2008 (and why the US military command was so outraged -- see the April 2008 appearances of then-Gen David Petraeus and then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker before the various committees in the US Congress --  that he jumped the gun on the planned invasion).  Earlier this week, Al Arabiya notes, "Abu Risha urged Iraqi army members, hailing from the mainly Shiite southern tribes in the country, to defect and not take part in the crackdown against their 'brethren' protesters."

AFP notes, "The gunmen pulled out of Sulaiman Bek under a deal worked out by tribal leaders and government."  AFP could be more specific but choose not to be.  "Government" isn't Nouri.  NINA explains Salahuddin Province Governor Ahmed Abdullah al-Jabouri announced yesterday that he had met "with security commanders and local tribal leaders reaching an agreement by which the crisis will be solved tomorrow, and the military force to withdraw, according to the request of tribes' leaders, to be replaced with local police force."  Kitabat also makes it clear that the the peace agreement was made by the provincial government.

Kitabat has an analysis of the provincial vote.  We'll wait for hard numbers before doing the same.  The IHEC still hasn't posted them.

What is known is that Nouri won 8 provinces.  It's a pity Iraq doesn't just have 8 provinces or even 12.  Then Nouri's pipe-dream of a majority government might be possible.  Iraq has six provinces that haven't voted.  Four that did didn't go for Nouri.  The six that haven't voted?  Five will absolutely not go for Nouri (Anbar, Nineveh and the KRG).  Kirkuk won't get to vote.  But that's 8 provinces for Nouri and 7 against.  That's not going to be a majority government when the parliamentary elections roll around.  Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports "educated Shi'ites" voted State of Law for just that reason, they though Nouri could deliver a majority government.   Equally true, there's been a flip-flop on parliamentary and provincial with one group turning out for one and another for the other.  It's a see-saw effect that goes with voters disgust.  There is nothing in the results that speaks well for 2012 and, as we noted before, these reflections did not and would not reflect on Nouri's own power.  These are local elections.  As Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) points out, "It should be noted here that winning one or even 20 seats in local governments does not allow the attainment of any of the above-mentioned goals because these governments have limited authority and primarily focus on providing basic services."  Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) notes:  "Sabah al-Sheikh, professor in politics in Baghdad University, told Xinhua despite that Maliki's State of Law Coalition has taken the lead in eight out of 12 provinces, he will not garner more seats in the provincial councils this time than in the previous polls."  How does that happen?  It happens because you didn't win by enough, you squeaked ahead of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc.

A win is a win.  But in terms of the meaning of the election, there's no overwhelming support for State of Law even in the eight provinces that went for State of Law.  So Nouri's a failure?

Nope.  We've said all along that provincial council elections are local issues.  This is not an indicator that Nouri is unpopular or less popular.  I would love for it to be so.  But Nouri's really not that much of a factor in these elections because people weren't voting for him, they were voting for locals. Hillary Clinton was at a big fundraiser this week and gave her first for-pay speech since she stepped down as Secretary of State.  She'll continue fundraising for the Democratic Party throughout the US.  She can do that because she can rally voters around the country.  She proved that repeatedly as Senator (and before as First Lady).  If you want to make a call based on the elections about Nouri, the best call -- but a still a shaky one, we're looking at one event only -- is that he can't rally people to his political slate (State of Law) regardless of his popularity or lack of it.

Niqash continues to do the strongest reporting on the elections.  We'll note this from Mustafa Habib (Niqash):

Voter turnout didn't seem so different from Iraq’s last elections. But now many Iraqis are boasting that they defaced their ballot papers instead of casting a real vote. Partly its political malaise, partly they did it to stop electoral fraud.

Young Baghdad man, Amjad Khudair, is pleased with the way he voted in the country’s provincial elections, held over the weekend. On his ballot paper he wrote: “I vote for Barcelona Football Club”. Barcelona were unsuccessful finalists in this week’s European Cup. But that’s beside the point. The point was that Khudair felt his vote was a waste of time.

“We see the same candidates and the same political parties in every electoral event,” Khudair explained. “So I refused to vote for them again because they always perform poorly and they are not able to manage Baghdad’s affairs the way they are supposed to.”

Nonetheless, Khudair decided to go his local polling station and claim his ballot paper so that it couldn’t be manipulated or used in any other way. He had heard that this was a possibility, especially in polling stations where there were no electoral observers. So he put a big X on his ballot paper and made his sarcastic joke. Then he went home.

Khudair was not the only Iraqi who felt this way. The latest reports suggest voter turnout of around 51 percent for the provincial elections – despite forecasts to the contrary, this is similar to the turnout for the last provincial elections in 2009. But it seems that plenty of the Iraqis who voted simply wanted to make sure their votes were not misused and turned up only to deface their ballot papers. Damaging or defacing the ballot papers meant that they could not be misused.

Their other election coverage this week includes Hiwa Barznjy's "iraqi kurdistan a dictatorship? current president will break law, run for election again"  and Daoud al-Ali's "election results so far: low voter turnout, more compromises needed."

Let's drop back to Tuesday's Senate Budget Committee hearing. Senator Patty Murray is Chair of the Committee.  Appearing before them was VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.  Senator Kelly Ayotte  made a strong case to Shinseki on why New Hampshire needs a full-service VA medical center to serve its population -- she noted over 10% of New Hampshire's population are veterans and that they are having to cross state lines to get most health care needs addressed.  She made a strong case and noted that she and New Hampshire's other US Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, are not going to drop this issue.

The biggest embarrassment at the hearing -- after VA -- was Senator Tim Kaine.  A first-term senator might want to keep his ignorance on the down low as opposed to flaunting in an open hearing.  Kaine lapped it up when Shineski whined about the VA being all paper and how hard he's had to work.  So what?

He's not working any harder than any of his predecessors.  And don't talk about 'overworkered,' the VA has never has never had as many employees as it does today (and yet the average hours for one worker to rate a single claim has gone up significantly).  Your ignorance of the VA, Senator Kaine, makes you look very stupid in open hearings.

In fairness, Kaine's often an idiot in public.  He's a homophobe who's against gay couples adopting and he's anti-abortion.  (Kaine is a Democrat, I probably should note that for those who aren't familiar with him.)  He's as weird as the man before him: Jim Webb.  Like Webb, he better get his act together because as one self-proclaimed "yellow dog Democrat" from Virginia told me after the hearing, if Kaine ever "acts the fool like that again" at a hearing about veterans, he'll rally support against Kaine in the veteran community.  For those who forgot or never knew, Jim Webb was a one-term senator who didn't seek re-election because the veterans community in Virginia turned on him.  And unlike Kaine, Webb was a veteran.  They will turn on Kaine much quicker.  Kaine may feel re-election is six years away but 2010 is when the veterans turned against Webb.  Kaine also, in the hearing, enabled Shinseki to lie about the 2009 scandal regarding GI's not getting their fall checks.  This was registered by the veteran I spoke to.  Again, Kaine better get his act together real quick.  He's damn lucky he doesn't serve on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  If he did, he'd have to speak on the issue more and the more he spoke in the hearing, the more he pisses off his veteran constituent.  Also true, no one likes a kiss-ass and Kaine's decision when the hearing should have been over to prolong it to offer some "compliments" might work at a social tea but it doesn't at a Congressional hearing.

Shinseki played the drama queen.  This is year five for Shinseki and his excuses get more and more ridiculous.  His complaints about the paper system also included whining about DoD records.  Before he was sworn in, January 2009, the VA and DoD were already tasked with coming up with an integrated record that would follow a service member from DoD to VA.  The biggest problem, already established before Shinseki was in the VA, was that DoD and VA's computer systems were not compatible.  As we learned this year, nothing has taken place on that issue for the entire four years of Shinseki's first term.  He whined about how he had to wait for Hagel.  Yeah, we heard that same whining when Leon Panetta replaced Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense.  I've already vouched for Panetta, he was willing to go along whatever had already been discussed and decided by Gates, but I've since been told by one of Gates' staff that Robert Gates wasn't an obstacle either.  Gates' attitude was, and this is a quote of what I was told, "Let's get it done, let's get it done quick."  He was willing to go along with whatever Shinseki thought would work best and willing to bend to VA because he believed VA would deal with medical issues -- especially serious medical issues and longterm ones -- much more than DoD.    Here he is yammering away in reply to Senator Angus King's questions about was the joint-electronic record place?

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  It is not.  And so for the past four years, two Secretaries, first Secretary Gates and then Secretary Panetta and now -- and I -- and Secretary [Chuck] Hagel and I will undertake dealing with the frustration you described.  And that is why don't we have a single, common, joint, integrated electronic health record.

Here's reality, Panetta retired and Gates retired.  People retire in all walks of life.  Shinseki can pretend like that excuses him but it doesn't, he didn't retire.  He was tasked with it four years ago and has no accomplishment on it to point to.  The first decision is which system will be used: VA's or DoD's?  Gates and Panetta told him to use VA's system because that's what Shiseki said he wanted.  For him to pretend, after four years on the job, that he's accomplished anything on this is ridiculous.  Equally true, Hagel could retire tomorrow, could be replaced tomorrow, could die tomorrow.  This decision should have been made four years ago and Shinseki needs to stop making excuses because I was told Gates would probably be happy to discuss how he thought this decision was made in Shinseki's first year as VA Secretary.  At the end of the hearing, Chair Patty Murray also touched on the issue.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:   Madam Chairman, I -- Let me just say, uh, like you, I am committed to what we have been asked to produce here.  And I would say that over my four years of working with Secretary Gates and Panetta and, uh, now Secretary Hagel, uh, that both Secretaries were committed to single, joint, common, integrated health record -- open in architecture and non-propriety in design -- which is what the -- the, uh, the President [Barack Obama] asked us to go to work on.  For Secretary Hagel, who, uh, arrived and was not familiar with, uh, the previous history on IHER [Integrated Health Electronic Record], he asked for time to get into it, I understand, where the program was so I await the next opportunity for, uh, the two of us to sit down here to ensure that the program is on track as we have committed to.

Chair Patty Murray:  Well I hope that is going forward and I will certainly push DoD to do the same.  There is a December 6, 2012 memo from the US Chief Information Officer and US Chief Technology Officer that requires DoD and VA to submit a number of documents regarding the status of the IHER program and I would ask that you provide us with a complete set of documents as well.

Oh, so he and Hagel just discussed it once -- apparently for Hagel to request time to review?  Hmm.  That is interesting.  It's always interesting how Eric Shinseki tells one story one day and another the next.  Specifically, April 11th, the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the VA budget:

US House Rep Phil Roe:  Another question I have is the integration between DoD and VA on the eletronic health records and the benefits. Should we have a joint meeting between VA and DoD -- and I realize that Senator -- that Defense Secretary Hagel has a lot on his plate with North Korea and the Middle East right now. 

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Yep.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  But this is one of my concerns when we changed was the fact that this would get a backburner again.  And are we going to be sitting here -- and you and I have spoken about this and that was a private conversation and it will remain that way but are we going to be sitting here a year from now or two years or three years because it's not a resources -- putting of money -- to be able to integrate these systems.  I mean, it's really become very frustrating to me to sit here year after year and, unless the voters have a different idea, I plan to be here in 2015 and see if we complete these things we say we're going to do.  Is it there.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Again, Congressman, Secretary Hagel and I have discussed this on at least two and maybe three occasions.  He is, again, putting into place, his system to assure the way ahead for him to make this decision and be the partner that we need here.  Uhm, he is committed to a, uh, integrated electronic health record between the two departments. 

So which is it?  He's had one discussion with Hagel on this or two or three?  Considering the importance placed on this and the fact that Barack tasked him with this four years ago, you'd think he'd know how often he'd discussed the issue with Hagel.  You'd also think he'd manage to give consistent answers in two hearings only 15 days apart.

Two veterans at the hearing (one is the one from Virginia noted earlier) there disgust when, in response to questions by Senator Jeff Merkley, Shinseki bragged that "suicide rates have remained flat" and "We think we have a program here that works."  A program that works does not have a high flat rate.  As for whether it's even flat? There's no empirical data to back that up.  Only due to Senator Patty Murray's efforts, while Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, are states reporting to the VA the suicides of veterans.  That's a recent development.  It doesn't cover half of Shinseki's first term.  He can call the rate "flat" but he can't prove any such thing.  Regardless, there are numerous suicides and the two veterans I spoke with did not find his self-praise ("We think we have a program here that works") comforting.

Senator Bill Nelson raised the issue of Orlando VA Hospital, It was supposed to be completed a year ago" and it still isn't but the target date is now for an August opening.  In January and this month Nelson received reports on it -- both stated that the medical center was 75% complete.  75% complete in January.  75% complete in April.  Shinseki offered that his number, right now, shows 79%.  So 4%, if he's being honest -- big if, in three months.  Repeating, it was supposed to open last year.  It not only is supposed to serve medical needs, it's also supposed to provide housing for at least 60 homeless veterans.

Senator Bill Nelson:  We can't just accept this.  It seems to me that from your office, you ought to suggest that some heads ought to roll so that people know we mean business when we set a contract and set some deadlines.  Are there financial -- Are there severe financial penalties in the contract for not completing in time?

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  I would say there are provisions for that. I-I-I wouldn't -- not knowledgeable enough to declare whether they're severe or not.  The-These are normal steps in the, uh contracting process.

Senator Bill Nelson:  Maybe that suggests that we ought to rethink how we contract if they're just provisions?

It's really sad that the Shinseki doesn't know about the contract.  You'd think, the minute a VA medical center failed to open last year, Shinseki would have been asking not just what was going on but what the contract specified.  Let's also point out that Nelson has raised this issue (repeatedly) with Shinseki outside of hearings.  And Shinseki showed up for this hearing without the basic information required.

Still on the US, Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner.  This week, Chris Hedges (Truth Dig) wrote about her:

Lynne Stewart, in the vindictive and hysterical world of the war on terror, is one of its martyrs. A 73-year-old lawyer who spent her life defending the poor, the marginalized and the despised, including blind cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, she fell afoul of the state apparatus because she dared to demand justice rather than acquiesce to state sponsored witch hunts. And now, with stage 4 cancer that has metastasized, spreading to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs, creating a grave threat to her life, she sits in a prison cell at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is serving a 10-year sentence. Stewart’s family is pleading with the state for “compassionate release” and numerous international human rights campaigners, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have signed a petition calling for her to be freed on medical grounds. It is not only a crime in the U.S. to be poor, to be a Muslim, to openly condemn the crimes committed in our name in the Muslim world, but to defend those who do. And the near total collapse of our judicial system, wrecked in the name of national security and “the war on terror,” is encapsulated in the saga of this courageous attorney—now disbarred because of her conviction.
“I hope that my imprisonment sends the wake up call that the government is prepared to imprison lawyers who do not conduct legal representation in a manner the government has ordained,” she told me when I reached her through email in prison. “My career of 30 plus years has always been client centered. My clients and I decided on the best legal course, without the interference of the government. Ethics require that the defense lawyer DEFEND, get the client off. We have no obligation to obey [the] ‘rules’ government lays down.
“I believe that since 9/11 the government has pursued Muslims with an ever heavier hand,” she wrote, all messages to her and from her being vetted by prison authorities. “However, cases such as the Sheikh’s in 1995 amply demonstrate that Muslims had been targeted even earlier as the new ENEMY—always suspect, always guilty. After 9/11, we discovered that the government prosecutors were ordered to try and get Osama Bin Laden into EVERY Muslim prosecution inducing in American Juries a Pavlovian response. Is it as bad as lynching and the Scottsboro Boys and the Pursuit of Black Panthers? Not as of yet, but getting close and of course the incipient racism that that colors—pun?—every action in the U.S. is ever present in these prosecutions.”
Stewart, as a young librarian in Harlem, got an early taste of the insidious forms of overt and covert racism that work to keep most people of color impoverished and trapped in their internal colonies or our prison complex. She went on to get her law degree and begin battling in the courts on behalf of those around her for whom justice was usually denied. By 1995, along with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Abdeen Jabara, she was the lead trial counsel for the sheik, who was convicted in September of that year. He received life in prison plus 65 years, a sentence Stewart called “outlandish.” The cleric, in poor health, is serving a life sentence in the medical wing of the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina. Stewart continued to see the sheik in jail after the sentence. Three years later the government severely curtailed his ability to communicate with the outside world, even through his lawyers, under special administrative measures or SAMs.
In 2000, during a visit with the sheik, he asked Stewart to release a statement from him to the press. The Clinton administration did not prosecute her for the press release, but the Bush administration in April 2002, the mood of the country altered by the attacks of 9/11, decided to go after her. Attorney General John Ashcroft came to New York in April 2002 to announce that the Justice Department had indicted Stewart, a paralegal and the interpreter on grounds of materially aiding a terrorist organization. That night he went on “Late Show with David Letterman” to tell the nation of the indictment and the Bush administration’s vaunted “war on terror.”

Two weeks ago on Law and Disorder Radio,  an 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) topics addressed include political prisoner Lynne Stewart.  We noted it last week and it's worth noting again -- plus it has all the information on the petition and on contacting the Bureau of Prisons.

Michael S. Smith:  Michael, we sorely miss our friend Lynne Stewart who's in prison serving a really unjust ten year sentence.  And, of course, as we've reminded our listeners over the last few weeks, Lynne has taken ill again.  And there's a petition for her and I know you want to talk about it and get as many active because we want to get Lynne out of prison on a compassionate release.  So tell our listeners how they can help and what the situation is now for Lynne.


Michael Ratner: Well we're going to link to how you can sign the petition.  Lynne's got Stage IV Cancer as a lot of you know.  That is, her initial cancer which was in remission when they put her in prison three years ago is now in full bloom.  It's spread to her bones.  It's spread to her legs. It's spread to her lungs.  It's spread to her lymph nodes.  And it really is fatal.  We all want to get her out and get her some better medical care that she can get.  She's in a seven person cell down in Fort Worth, Texas.  Get her up to New York, better medical care and be surrounded by her family and friends.  And in order to do that, the Bureau of Prisons, the people with the key have to make a motion to Judge Kotel to ask that she be given a compassionate release.  It's possible.  You can get that.  They don't do it very often.  But with all the friends and supporters that Lynne has, we're hopeful that we can accomplish that.  6,000 people have signed the petition so far.  And I want to read you what Lynne said in thank you to these people -- two of them were Dick Gregory and Desmond Tutu and I'll read you something that Tutu said also. But here's this from Lynne:  "I want you individually to know how grateful and happy it makes me to have your support.  It's uplifting to say the least.  And after a lifetime of organizing, it proves once again that the People can rise.  The acknowledgment of the life-political and solutions brought about by group unity and support, is important to all of us.  Equally, so is the courage to sign on to a demand for a person whom the Government has branded with the "T" word -- Terrorism.  Understanding that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client's desire for his or her case, I hope our effort can be a crack in the American bastion.  Thank you, Lynne."  Pete Seeger wrote her back and said, "Lynne Stewart should be out of jail."  And he signed the postcard "Old Pete Seeger" accompanied by a drawing of a banjo.  Bishop Desmond Tutu, this was his esprit de corps.  He said, "It is devastating.  Totally unbelievable.  In this democracy, the only superpower?  I am sad.  I will sign praying God's blessing on your reference. Desmond Tutu."  Let's hope Lynne gets out on compassionate release while she's still able to at least be part of her community.  And if you'll go to Law and Disorder.org, we'll put the link where you can sign the petition.  And if you'll grab a pencil, I'll give you the name and address of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons  because a well-aimed letter at him is not going to hurt.  His name is:

Charles E. Samuels Jr.
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534

Please send a letter.  Go to Law and Disorder.org -- our website -- sign the petition. We'll be updating you every week on how Lynne is doing.




law and disorder radio
michael s. smith
heidi boghosian
michael ratner