Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why does Eric Holder need a listening tour?

Lou asked me (a) had I seen a Tweet by Jake Tapper and (b) could I note it?

this is actually the spokesman for the Democratic National Committee >
POTUS asked AG to review how leak investigations are done but some in the media refuse to meet with him. Kind of forfeits your right gripe.

That is outrageous.  The DNC is saying if you don't attend the off-the-record meet-up with Eric Holder (AP and NYT announced they wouldn't, Ruth covered this last night in "AP and NYT have more guts than CCR") then you have no right to 'gripe.'

That's offensive on two levels.  First of all, the First Amendment does not require that a news outlet attend any governmental meeting -- on the record or off.  Second of all, that if you won't sit down with the abuser, you have no right to complain?

Eric Holder's the abuser.

Why does he need a listening tour on the First Amendment, anyway?

He's the Attorney General.  If he doesn't understand the First Amendment, he needs to resign.

He's doing a listening tour to find out how to better interact with the press.  I'm sorry, he's in his fifth year as Attorney General.  If he doesn't understand the law -- and the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land -- he needs to resign.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, 872 violent deaths so far this month, Moqtada al-Sadr calls for Iraq to get a new president, rumors about President Jalal Talabani's health move from Arab social media to the Arab press, the United Nations warns of "systemic violence" and "mayhem" in Iraq, Iraq's oil production drops for the month of May, CNN closes shop in Baghdad, US Senator Patty Murray gears up for a press event to raise awareness of rape and assault in the military, the IRS scandal continues to bubble with 76% of Americans wanting a special prosecutor to be appointed, and more.

Thursday, May 30th, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
 (202) 224-2834

TOMORROW: MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: SEATTLE: Murray to Meet with Survivors of Military Sexual Assault, Discuss Her Bill to Protect Victims

Of the estimated 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012, only 3,374 were reported
Murray bill would provide greater victim resources while improving current prevention programs

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, Friday, May 31st, 2013, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault and advocates in Seattle.  Last month, Senator Murray introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013, which would reduce sexual assaults within the military and address a number of gaps within current law and policy. One provision in Senator Murray’s bill would provide victims with a dedicated counsel to guide them through the difficult process of reporting sexual assault. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2010 alone. Of these, 3,192 were reported, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. That number rose to 26,000 cases in 2012 with less than 3,400 of those cases being reported. Murray will use the stories she hears Friday to continue fighting for victims of military sexual assault in Washington, D.C.  More about Senator Murray’s bill HERE.


WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
         Survivors of military sexual assault
         Charles Swift, former Navy JAG, MSA advocate
         Dr. Joyce Wipf, Professor of Medicine and Director of VA Puget Sound’s Women's Program
         Bridget Cantrell, PTSD & MSA expert
         Jackie McLean, Director, King County Department of Community & Human Services
WHAT:        Senator Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault, discuss ways her legislation will protect victims
WHEN:        TOMORROW: Friday, May 31st, 2013
          10:00 AM PT
WHERE:    UW Medicine at South Lake Union
         850 Republican Street, Conference Room C359
                     Seattle, WA 98109
Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Last night, filling in for Ann, I noted 30-year-old Anthony K. Mastrogiovanni had "pleaded guilty today to the sexual exploitation of minors to produce child pornography" as a Justice Dept press release noted and it also noted:

According to filed court documents and proceedings, between 2006 and 2012, Mastrogiovanni was a U.S. Navy reservist who sexually exploited more than 30 male juveniles, ranging from 9 to 16 years of age, in Maryland and Louisiana to produce child pornography.  During that time period, Mastrogiovanni met and befriended his victims through his involvement in civic organizations or his military affiliation.  Mastrogiovanni captured sexually explicit video of the victims on cameras hidden in his residences in Louisiana and Maryland.

These crimes are not about sex, they're about power, they're about harm and they're not being addressed.  That's why Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte have proposed their bill,  "Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013."  This is only one bill trying to address the issue.  Karisa King and Gary Martin (San Antonio Express-News) reported yesterday on five other bills:

* Senators Barbara Boxer and Kirsten Gillibrand have a bill (Military Justice Improvement Act) to prevent military commanders from overturning verdicts (to allow those convicted or rape and/or assault to be stuck with those convictions the way they would in the civilian world)

* US House Rep Jackie Speier has a bill (reintroduced) to create an independent oversight office to handle investigations and prosecutions of assault and rape.

* Senator Amy Klobuchar has a bill to keep convicted sex offenders from entering the military

* Senator Klobuchar and Senator Claire McCaskill have a bill to establish standards for those over the assault prevention programs.

* US House Rep Niki Tsongas and US House Rep Mike Turner have a bill where if you're convicted of rape or assault you end up kicked out of the service.

These bills are needed because despite all the talk from the Defense Dept over the last ten years, they've failed to create policies that addressed the issues the bills cover.  I'm really hoping the Murray event gets coverage because the range and scope of her bill and the five above go just how much work needs to be done to combat assault and rape within the military.

Today the United Nations News Centre notes that Martin Kobler declared, "Systemic violence is ready to explode at any moment if all Iraqi leaders do not engage immediately to pull the country out of this mayhem."  Kobler is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq and heads the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 839 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month -- two days left in the month, today and tomorrow.  Today National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left six people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left three people injured, 2 Iraqi border guards in Anbar Province were killed by men "wearing police uniforms," a Mosul suicide car bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left eight more injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Karrada district) claimed 1 life and left nine people injured2 Baghdad car bombings (Binooq neighborhood and one "near the Mission Complex") left 6 people dead and nineteen injured, and a Ramadi bombing assassination attempt on Anbar Province Governor Qassim Mohammed al-Fahdawi left the governor unscathed but injured four of his bodyguards. Al Rafidayn notes that motorcycles and vehicles have been banned in Baghdad today and tomorrow.  Adam Schreck, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) count 33 dead in today's violence.  Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna (CNN) note that "since Monday alone, at least 120 people have been killed."  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Iraq Body Count, 161 people were killed in violence.  If you add AP's 33 death toll for today to that you 194 violent deaths since Monday morning.

UNAMI issued the following on Wednesday:

Baghdad, 30 May 2013 – On 29 May, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Martin Kobler, briefed the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (AFET) on the current developments in Iraq.

In his exchange of views with the parliamentarians, Mr. Kobler expressed serious concerns over the heightened level of violence in Iraq and the danger that the country falls back into sectarian strife, if decisive action is not taken by its political leaders. “The country stands at a crossroads,” the UN Envoy said, calling for a stronger EU role in dealing with the developments unfolding in the country, and for increased interaction with the Iraqi Council of Representatives. 
Mr. Kobler also briefed AFET on UNAMI’s efforts to resettle the former residents of Camp Ashraf to third countries. He deplored the lack of cooperation of the residents and of their leadership with the UNHCR and UN monitors, and urged them to accept concrete resettlement offers. Stressing that “resettlement to safe countries is the only durable option”, he called again on European Union member states to accept former Camp Ashraf residents into their countries.

 On violence in Iraq, let's move to the US.  First, of all the times to leave -- from a journalistic stand point, now is when you leave Iraq?

To be the last to leave, the last to be gone,
stolen from the ones who hung on to it.

To be the last in line, the ones that live on,
silhouette of a dream, treasured by the ones 
. . . who hung on to it.
-- "Fireflies," written by Stevie Nicks, first appears on Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac Live.

Erik Hayden (Hollywood Reporter) reports today that the last US TV network with a news bureau in Baghdad, CNN, has announced they are closing it.  They quote a spokesperson for CNN (nameless because this is so embarrassing would you want your name attached?) stating, "While CNN is departing its current brick-and-mortar location in Baghdad, the network continues to maintain an editorial presence in Iraq through a dedicated team of CNN stringers and correspondent assignments as news warrants."   This is when CNN pulls out?  And no one thought how this would hurt their news image just when they're rebuilding and gaining viewers by supposedly focusing on news?  Hayden explains,  "Fox News confirmed to THR that, after the recent closure of their own bureau this year, they rely on stringers and correspondents based in Iraq for their coverage. ABC News and NBC News have one full-time producer based in the capital city."

The violence is at a five year high as CNN closes its bureau?  It might be interesting here to note Noam Chomsky's remarks about what happened to the world press when the violence increased in East Timor.   CNBC's Pozner and Donahue had Chomsky as a guest for the full hour on the April 20, 1993 and April 22, 1993 episodes.  Excerpt.

Noam Chomsky:  It's as if history set up a controlled experiment.  There were two major atrocities at the same time, same part of the world, roughly comparable in scale.  One of them was an Indonesian invasion and annexation, East Timor.  The other was Pol Pot atrocities internal to Cambodia.  The coverage -- The coverage was dramatically different.  The coverage of East Timor declined sharply as the atrocities continued.  The coverage of East Timor was pretty high before the Indonesian invasion.  It then declined and hit zero in both the United States and Canada -- and most of the western world -- in 1978 when the atrocities really reached genocidal proportions.  In Cambodia, on the other hand, there was huge publicity. Within a few weeks of the Khmer Rouge takeover, the New York Times was already denouncing genocide and probably a few hundred or thousand people had been killed.  Well what was the difference?   The difference was in one case the United States was directly behind it.  It was providing 90% of the arms.  It was providing crucial diplomatic support.

Phil Donahue:  East Timor.  The Indonesian invasion of  East Timor.

Noam Chomsky:  The US provided critical diplomatic support.  Daniel Moynihan took pride in the fact that he prevented the United Nations from doing any action -- he writes about it with great pride.  The US gave them new offers of arms.  As the attack peaked, Carter sent more arms.  And Cambodia was an enemy.  You can be very moral about the atrocities committed by an enemy.

And it's safer, career wise, to 'cover' Syria (call for war on Syria) than it is to cover Iraq.  The US is arming Nouri, they've sent more US troops back in.  No one wants to tell the truth.  Dropping back to the April 30th snapshot:

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."

No other media outlet amplified Tim Arango's NYT report.  No media outlet covered the Memorandum of Understanding.  The White House backs Nouri al-Maliki and so you get no honesty and now you get even less coverage.  But war on Syria is wanted so Deborah Amos and others with NPR end up in that country.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen as an 'enemy' by the US government so McClatchy has someone covering it and the New York Times has a whole squadron -- in fact their star reporter would probably be alive today if he'd stuck to covering Iraq but Syria was 'fresh meat' for the cannons of war and off he rushed.  Turn on the evening news on commercial US broadcast networks (CBS, ABC and NBC) and you'll find reports from Syria.  You won't find Iraq.

The US State Dept today issued "Country Reports on Terrorism 2012."  The annual report focuses on terrorism or 'terrorism' around the world.  The Iraq section includes these claims:

Iraqi security forces made progress combating al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) and other Sunni insurgent organizations in 2012. While there has been clear and measurable success against AQI over the years, the group still remains a dangerous threat to the Iraqi people. In 2012, there were no significant attacks on U.S. interests or U.S. fatalities. The Iraqi government succeeded in securing multiple large public religious gatherings and government events – most notably the Arab League Summit in late March and P5+1 talks in May in Baghdad – but terrorist bombings and other attacks continued to occur.
The Government of Iraq concentrated its counterterrorism efforts against AQI and other Sunni-affiliated terrorist organizations. AQI remained capable of large-scale coordinated attacks and conducted numerous high-profile suicide and car bombings on government and civilian targets, aiming to increase tensions among Iraqi sectarian groups and ethnic minorities, and undercut public perceptions of the government’s capacity to provide security. Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (JRTN), a Sunni nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath Party, also continued attacks during the year. JRTN largely targeted Iraqi and U.S. interests in northern Iraq. Shia militant groups Kata’ib Hizballah, Asa’ib Ahl Haqq, and the Sadrist Promised Day Brigades adhered to the cease-fire they declared in the latter half of 2011 and early 2012. Some former Shia militant leaders began engaging in the political process and competing for political influence.
Terrorist tactics and weapons remained largely unchanged from 2011, as AQI and other terrorists relied predominantly on suicide bombings and car and roadside bombs and to a lesser extent on gunmen using assault rifles or silenced weapons to assassinate government and security officials.
Iraq-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation remained strong, particularly in training, advisory, and intelligence-sharing programs.
The Iraqi Security Forces proved capable of working together to find, arrest, and charge terrorism suspects. In November, the Iraqi Police, Federal Police, and Iraqi Army – at times working together – arrested over 350 people on terrorism charges and seized several weapon and rocket caches, as part of a major counterterrorism operation. Iraq’s Counterterrorism Services (CTS) also conducted approximately 1,600 terrorism related arrests in 2012.

 We're not going to spend a lot of time on the above because, first of all, it's almost June 2013.  Iraq's far too fluid for a look at 2012 violence to offer a great deal of insight.  Second of all, it's a dishonest report.  When you're praising the ability to 'secure' the Arab League Summit and you're not noting that Baghdad shut down the week before the Summit? You're not being honest.  If you can shut down Baghdad for the week before and the week of a Summit, it's not a surprise that there's no violence in Baghdad.  Was it worth it to the Iraqi people?  Was it worth it to them for all that money for security (and painting and prettying Baghdad) and for the inconvenience of the city shutting down for two weeks?  Probably not.  But that's not even considered in the report which fails to note any of the details of the Arab League Summit -- which was a huge failure and avoided by the leaders of all the major countries in the region.  So we'll note the ridiculous claims but we're not going to focus on them.  And the 'international' meet-ups in Baghdad continue to be a laugh.

May 7th, Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Ministry of Higher Education will hold tomorrow its International Conference on Sustainable Development in Iraq with the participation of Arab and foreign universities."  Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research issued a statement trying to play it as a big success.  Then they issued this statement which buries reality in the final paragraph:

While inaugurating the International Conference to achieve sustainable development in Iraq which was organized by the Ministry, His Excellency Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Mr. Ali Al-Adeeb, called on researchers and faculty members in the educational institutions to follow  new methods to liberate man from the extremist ideology which became one of obstacles to the development in Iraq.

Mr. Al-Adeeb said that the sustainable development in Iraq needs basic steps represented by the liberation of man from extremist behaviors and providing security, justice and equality, adding that the universities can prepare studies that contribute to the integration of Iraq with the countries of the developed world.

Al-Adeeb added that the Iraqi universities should take their vital and prominent role in establishing a knowledge base that contributes in building a contemporary educational system, able to adapt the revolution of knowledge witnessed by the world, indicating that human freedom is an important issue, allows everyone to think away from the exploitation, launching the energies and capabilities to create life and guiding community to its correct identity.

Mr. Al-Adeeb pointed out that we cannot benefit from the science in an environment that lacks security and stability, and the variety in the community represents an important factor that leads to the integration in achieving development, adding that the universities and the educational institutions are the first and the effective factors in speeding up the development of society in all fields.

It is worthy mentioning that the conference was attended by researchers from Bahrain, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

The 'international conference' was supposed to have participation from Arab universities.  See any major players there?  Bahrain, Sudan, Yemen and Libya?  Nope.  Bahrain's government is hated by two-thirds of the Iraqi population (and protested regularly in Basra and Baghdad by Moqtada al-Sadr's Shi'ite supporters).  And that's the most prominent of the four.  The best excuse is that violence scared the major players from attending.

In this current climate of violence in Iraq, fears are swirling.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

[T]he death squads were the most ambiguous aspect of the war. They carried out kidnappings and killings by wearing Iraqi police uniforms, and traveling in official and military vehicles in 2006-2007 — while an evening curfew was in place (from midnight to 6 a.m.) — to hunt for their victims.
This term goes back to before the civil war, when The Washington Post used it on Dec. 4, 2005, while criticizing the way the Iraqi police forces were formed and infiltrated by militias. 
Remarkably, the term has re-emerged after eight years. As news reports in Baghdad talked about the return of militants and killings carried out by armed militias in broad daylight, the Sunni Mutahidoun bloc held the Iraqi authorities responsible for this matter and accused them of bringing back the civil war.

These Shi'ite militias have alarmed many including cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.  AFP notes, " Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr criticized the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, accusing the Premier of waging a sectarian war and urging him to end the oppression of minorities. [. . .]  The government must hold accountable and sack those who are manipulating the intelligence and security services, Sadr said in a statement. He also urged the authorities to work hard in order to defuse sectarian tension ravaging Iraq."

Dillon Clancy (New Europe) observes, "Tension has erupted over the perception that prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is actively working to marginalise Sunnis and concentrate power in his own hands. Over the past year the Maliki government has arrested or exiled a number of high level Sunni officials, most notably vice president Tareq al-Hashemi and finance minister Rafi al-Issawi, provoking widespread protests CNN has reported."    The violence has been increasing for some time.  A smart move would have been to have filled the security ministries with people to head them.  That was supposed to happen in 2010.  All these years later, it still hasn't.   All Iraq News notes MP Yousif al-Taai, with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, "stressed the necessity of nominating the security ministers rather than running the security ministries by acting ministers."  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."

As the turmoil swirls, where is Iraq's president?  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  At the start of the month, there were new rumors swirling about his health and, this past week,  Nouri al-Maliki attempted to have Jalal stripped of his post this month.  (Parliament rejected the notion.) Following that,  Al Mada ran a photo of Jalal Talabani seated outdoors with his medical team and noted the team states the Iraqi President's health has continued to improve and he will return to Iraq shortly. 

Arabic social media has been referring to the photos and the video as having a Weekend At Bernie's type feel to it.  (In Weekend At Bernie's, two young men prop up the corpse of dead Bernie to trick people into believing he's alive.)  The fact that Jalal's only seen in the photos from his right side have people speculating about what the left side shows -- the after-effects of a stroke? Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram) notes:

Rumours have been abundant about Talabani’s health condition as his convalescence coincides with one of Iraq’s most serious political crises and its deadliest period of ethno-sectarian strife since the United States pullout in 2011.
Some reports have suggested that Talabani is clinically dead in the Berlin hospital where he is treated, others said the enfeebled president has handed his will to one of the leaders of his party.
Regardless of the furious speculations among Iraqis about Talabani’s health conditions, his prolonged absence has sparked a debate about whether he will be physically able to resume official duties.
According to various medical studies, persons who had strokes mostly develop serious physical and emotional problems occurring after recovery and they will need prolonged treatment.

Abdel Hamid Zerbari (Al-Monitor) adds:

Some political observers are skeptical of the photographs, in which Talabani appears seated in only one position. They stress that the photos were released after the prosecutor general of the Iraqi Council of Representatives issued a statement, on May 13, calling on the head of the council to take legal action pursuant to the provisions of Article 72.II.c of the Iraqi constitution in the event of a vacancy in the office of the president. The request is also based on provisions of Article 1 of amended Public Prosecution Law no. 159 of 1979.
Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr supported this request and said in a statement, "It is necessary to take the necessary steps to appoint a new president of the republic to replace President Jalal Talabani." Sadr also thanked the public prosecutor and asked him to "be independent."
But the Legal Committee in parliament responded via Kurdish MP Khaled Shawani, deeming this request illegal and saying "Article 72 of the constitution talks about the vacancy in the post of president of the republic, not an absence. Vice President [Khodair al-Khozaei] has assumed the responsibilities of the presidency." He continued, "Parliament is not obliged to implement this request."
A popular rumor in Arabic social media for the last two weeks has been that Nouri al-Maliki has asked Hero Ibrahim Ahmed to become Iraq's new president.  She is the wife of Jalal Talabani.

Omar al-Shaher (Al-Monitor) reports:

Concerns about the possibility of Iraq sliding toward the abyss of sectarian war once again have strongly affected commercial activities in Baghdad. Wholesalers in many provinces shifted to the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, which enjoys security and stability, to obtain goods. Also, real-estate prices in the capital dropped significantly due to a considerable rise in supply.
Traders of food products and construction materials in the predominantly Sunni city of Ramadi, in the west of Iraq, told Al-Monitor that they decided to shift to the wholesale markets in the city of Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, out of fear of going to the Iraqi capital following news that Shiite militias set up checkpoints in the western entrances to Baghdad in search of Sunni men arriving at the capital.
Although the Iraqi security institution denied the news, the transit station for those traveling to Baghdad in Ramadi and Tikrit, in the predominantly Sunni Salahuddin province, has been almost empty in the past few days.

So regionally, violence is effecting Iraq's commerce at a time when everyone -- from NGOs to the IMF -- have warned Nouri al-Maliki's government that Iraq needs to diversify its economy.  But it struggles to do that because of Nouri.  His failure to keep agreements -- even signed contracts like The Erbil Agreement -- that he makes within Iraq with political blocs helps prevent the international business community from actively working with Iraq.  They don't trust him.  He lies and he lies publicly.  Whether it's promising to power share, promising to meet the demands of Iraqi protesters (in 2011, not the ongoing protests right now), promising not to seek a third term, over and over there are lies.  That's on him, he's harming business.  For example, October 9th, with much fanfare, and wall-to-wall press coverage, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  He made a spectacle of himself which might have been okay if the deal had gone forward.  Instead, it immediately fell apart.  Every other week there's news that the deal is back on . . . then it's not.  It doesn't matter if tomorrow, over seven months later, the deal is implemented.  The fact of the matter is Nouri drew attention to himself over a huge deal that made him look like a minor player on the world's stage and then the deal immediately fell apart.

The lesson for businesses?  Nouri's word is dirt, he can't get along with other Iraqis and even a signed contract doesn't matter.  The new "Iraq Defence & Security Report Q3 2013" from Business Monitor International finds, "Internally, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has worsened sectarian tensions by failing to deliver on a promise to implement a power-sharing agreement designed to safeguard the rights of the country's different ethnic and religious groups."

There's also ExxonMobil?  Dropping back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot:

In Iraq, things are heating up over an oil deal. Hassan Hafidh and James Herron (Wall St. Journal) report, "ExxonMobil Corp. could lose its current contract to develop the West Qurna oil field in Iraq if it proceeds with an agreement to explore for oil in the Kurdistan region of the country, an Iraqi official said. The spat highlights the political challenges for foreign companies operating in Iraq" as Nouri's Baghdad-based 'national' government attempts to rewrite the oil law over the objection of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Tom Bergin and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) offer, "Exxon declined to comment, and experts speculated the move could indicate Baghdad and the Kurdish leaders are nearing agreement on new rules for oil companies seeking to tap into Iraq's vast oil reserves." UPI declares, "The breakaway move into Kurdistan, the first by any of the oil majors operating in Iraq under 20-year production contract signed in 2009, could cost Exxon Mobil its stake in the giant West Qurna Phase One mega-oil field in southern Iraq." Salam Faraj (AFP) speaks with Abdelmahdi al-Amidi (in Iraq's Ministry of Oil) declares that the Exxon contract means that Exxon would lose a contract it had previously signed with Baghdad for the West Qurna-1 field.  Faraj sketches out the deal with the KRG beginning last month with Exxon being notified that they had "48 hours to make a decision on investing in an oil field in the region."  Exxon was interested but sought an okay from the Baghdad government only to be denied.

The shortest version of this ongoing soap opera is that in the two-years-plus since that day, Nouri and his flunkies have threatened ExxonMobil, have stated the White House was going to stop the deal (a State Dept press briefing cleared that up), have said they would ban ExxonMobil, they would punish it, they would . . .  ExxonMobil and the KRG are doing nothing illegal.  There's no national oil and gas law.  That's on Nouri.  In 2007, the White House wrote "benchmarks" for success in Iraq.  These were to keep Congress from defunding the illegal war.  Iraq would meet these benchmarks and that was how it would be demonstrated that there was progress.  On his end, Nouri signed off on the benchmarks.  These goals were really supposed to be for a year, but when Iraq couldn't meet them, the Bully Boy Bush White House re-set the clock and started saying that progress on these benchmarks (just talking about them counted as progress, in the new 'understanding') was progress.  One of the benchmarks was to pass an oil and gas law.  That never happened.  Six years after Nouri signed off on those benchmarks to keep US dollars flowing into Iraq, it still hasn't happened.  If there was a law, there's a chance the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government could be violating it.  But there's no law and that's Nouri's fault.  Just last year (June 2012),  April Yee (The National) was pointing out, "A hydrocarbon law remains a mirage in Baghdad and the reality is dawning that Iraq's plans to become one of the world's top-five oil producers are jeopardised by the legal deadlock." But that didn't wake Nouri up and nothing ever does.

In March, Reuters reported that although ExxonMobil has been willing to sell off "its stake in the southern Iraq West Qurna-1 oil field" and just focus on the Kurdistan Regional Government's opportunities, "now Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is working to keep the U.S. oil giant on side, industry sources say, offering much sweeter terms at West Qurna-1 – a $50-billion (U.S.) investment project and a greater potential prize than the Kurdish blocks if Baghdad structures the contract closer to the more lucrative Kurdish model." 

UPI reports that Genel Energy (United Kingdom and Turkey) has "confirmed the presence of a commercial oil discovery" in the KRG.  The KRG has oil and is has a history that predates the 2003 invasion.  That history includes keeping its word with businesses.  That's among the reasons businesses flock to the KRG.  Yes, it's also safer but the Green Zone in Baghdad remains one of the safest places in Iraq and business hasn't boomed there.

While Nouri stomps his feet and obsesses over the KRG and its deals, he can't even manage Iraq's only moneymaker at present: Oil.  There have been very few attacks on oil factories or pipelines this month.  Instead, the violence focused on people.  Upstream (The International Oil and Gas Newspaper) reports:

Opec crude output has fallen in May due to lower exports from Iraq and disruptions in some African producers, as improving compliance with an Opec output ceiling is expected to be maintained at a meeting this week, a report said. 
[. . .]
 Iraq has shipped about 200,000 bpd less from its southern and northern ports, according to shipping data. Exports of Kirkuk crude remain restrained by a dispute between the central government and the Kurdistan region over payments.

Amena Bakr and Reem Shamseddine (Reuters) report that in Vienna today, ahead of OPEC's planned meet-up tomorrow,  Iraq's Minister of Oil Abdel-Kareem Luaibi told the press, "We are looking to increase our exports and we aim to make our crude more competitive in the market."  These fumbled steps, by the way, are coming as Iraq's trying to win the post of Secretary-General of OPEC and these fumbles don't help with that.  April Yee (The National) explains, "Other decisions, such as selecting a new secretary general - a position held by Libya's Abdalla El Badri - that Saudi, Iranian and Iraqi candidates are vying for are so contentious they are likely to be left alone."  Just ahead of Friday's meet-up, All Iraq News reports that Minster of Oil Abudl Karim Luaibi also declared today, "Baghdad decreased rates of the production planned at the basic oil fields in the south of Iraq in line with more realistic target level which is nine million barrel per day instead of 12 million barrel daily that was planned to be achieved by 2017."

Turning to The Drone War, from yesterday's Free Speech Radio News:

Shannon Young: A drone strike in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan killed at least four people today. The number two leader of Pakistan's Taliban, Wali ur-Rehman, is reportedly among the dead, although the group's official spokesperson has not confirmed the death. The drone strike comes less than a week after President Barack Obama pledged in a major counterrorism speech to limit the use of weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles. The CIA drone program is a sensitive issue in Pakistan. A politician who has criticized the use of drones there will take office as prime minister next Wednesday.

Last Thursday, at Fort McNair, US President Barack Obama attempted to defend his ongoing Drone War with remarks such as, "From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation -- and world -- that we leave to our children."  And The Drone War is something people should be proud of and want to pass on?   The Bureau of Investigative Journalism notes Barack has ordered 317 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, resulting in the deaths of at least 197 children.   In a speech of nearly 6,500 words (I count 6,494),  he never noted what Alice K. Ross (Bureau of Investigative Journalism) reported earlier this month, that a Pakistan Peshawar High Court had ruled that these Drone Strikes were "criminal offences," a "war crime," a "blatant violation of basic human rights" and that the judge called for the United Nations Security Council to step in.   John Knefel (Rolling Stone) points out:
One week after President Obama's much-touted speech on national security, many experts are more confused than ever about what rules govern the U.S. government's overseas killing program and where those rules apply. While the speech left many viewers with the impression that Obama planned to reform or even end this program, his administration's practices tell a different story. On Wednesday, anonymous Pakistan security officials said that a CIA drone strike had killed the Pakistani Taliban's deputy leader, Wali ur-Rehman, in North Waziristan. A pair of additional reported strikes in Yemen – both officially unconfirmed by the U.S. – raise even more questions about how and why the American government kills people in other countries.

Of yesterday's strike in Pakistan, Jason Ditz ( observes:

 White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted that the promise of transparency had been fulfilled by delivering the speech in which the promise was made itself, and then went on insist that they would not comment on specific anti-terrorism operations.
The only comment that even hinted at a pretext for the attack was Carney reiterating President Obama’s comment that the US was obliged to continue operations in and around Afghanistan during the NATO occupation.

Where does The Drone War lead?  To Killer Robots apparently.  Australia's ABC explains:

The technology is being developed in the United States, Britain and Israel, although none have actually used it yet.
During a debate at the UN Human Rights Council, special rapporteur Professor Christof Heyns said machines lacking morality should not have life-and-death powers over humans.

Ed Pilkington (Guardian) adds:

"Killer robots" that could attack targets autonomously without a human pulling the trigger pose a threat to international stability and should be banned before they come into existence, the United Nations will be told by its human rights investigator this week.
Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday and call for a worldwide moratorium on what he calls "lethal autonomous robotics" – weapons systems that, once activated, can lock on and kill targets without further involvement of human handlers.

The Guardian uses an illustration that is what everyone will immediately think of: a machine from the Terminator film series.  Nick Miller (Sydney Morning Herald) notes:

During the debate Pakistan's council delegate Mariam Aftab – speaking on behalf of 56 Islamic states – said the international community should consider a complete ban, not just national moratoria. 
Lethal autonomous robots would fundamentally change the nature of war, she said.
Pakistan has been the focus for anti-terrorism drone strikes. "The experience with drones shows that once such weapons are in use, it is impossible to stop them," said Ms Aftab.
Most of the delegates said they found the report interesting and worthy of further debate, though several said it would be better negotiated outside of a human rights forum.

Finally, the issue of the IRS.  The US agency responsible for collecting federal taxes within the United States was caught targeting political groups.  The activity was known to the IRS and known to be wrong as early as May 2010.  One official, Lois Lerner, got a friend to ask her a question (planted a question with a friend) earlier this month so she could (finally) bring up the scandal.  She only did so to get ahead of the news that the Treasury Dept's Inspector General over the IRS had a damaging report about to be released.  Conservative groups were largely targeted.  They were not the only ones.  Yes, "Tea Party" and "Patriot" were 'flag words' as the IRS illegally entered into political speech, but left groups critical of the administration were also targeted.  This fact has come out in the hearings but has largely been ignored by the press.  Today Elizabeth Flock (US News and World Reports) notes that a third of the groups were not conservative groups.

If you're late to the story, community coverage has included this "Iraq snapshot," Ava's "Sir, I gave you the wrong information (Ava)," Wally's "Time for a special prosecutor (Wally)," Kat's "It was like Steel Magnolias at one point during the hearing," Dona's "Report on Congress" and Cedric's "Future employment opportunities for Lois Lerner" and  Wally's "THIS JUST IN! A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR LOIS LERNER!,"; and this "Iraq snapshot," "IRS: 'Not corrupt, just incompetent'," Ava's "Guacamole and the IRS (Ava)," Wally's "Big lie revealed at House Ways and Means hearing," Kat's "The other Steve Miller appears before Congress, Marcia's "No accountability for the IRS scandal," and Dona's "Report on Congress."
We've noted that churches and right-to-life groups were also among the targeted -- that the IRS even inquired about prayers.  Today David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall (McClatchy Newspapers) report:

While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.
The emerging stories from real people raise questions about whether the IRS scrutiny extended beyond applicants for tax-exempt status and whether individuals who donated to these tax-exempt organizations or to conservative causes also were targeted.

Read more here:

Jill Jackson and Stephanie Haven (CBS News) report that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee plan to question Cincinnati workers "in the next two weeks."  Were they responsible?  The Committees haven't gotten clear answers from IRS officials such as Lois Lerner, Acting Commissioner Steve Miller (he is now out of that job, he was in it when appearing before Congress in the last weeks), former Commissioner Douglas Shulman.  Local media in Cincinnati has been reporting for several weeks now that workers at that office were following orders and were not rogue employees.  Reuters notes, "The names of low-level officials who carried out the practice have been closely guarded by IRS higher-ups and agency's inspector general. No criminal charges have been filed."  They then offer a cautionary note that the low-levels may not be responsible.  Agreed.  That's why we haven't taken that position here.  The people blaming them?  That's been Lerner (who took the Fifth while sitting before Congress last week and refused to testify), Shulman and Miller.  And Miller revealed that one of the two 'local' people punished (the one who got an oral warning) might not have even been involved.  That's the kind of detail you determine before you hand out an oral warning.

As Cedric's "Bring on the Special Prosecutor" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! TIME FOR A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR!" pointed out this morning:

the associated press


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beyonce's says hands at your sides during the lapdance

eric investigates eric 001

Above is   Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts  "Eric Investigates Eric" which went up Monday.

Monday was not a good day for Beyonce.  ET reports:

As she performed Monday at the Forum Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark, the 31-year-old singer was slapped on the derriere by a male fan, which evoked a fiery reaction from her.
"I will have you escorted out right now, alright?" Beyonce responded after the man spanked her.
The incident occurred while she was playfully interacting with fans in the front row as she performed her No. 1 single "Irreplaceable." The fan then overstepped the boundaries and slapped her on the behind as she walked away.

No one should be touched without wanting to be.  But let's be honest, Beyonce little more than a stripper.  She teases pud in her videos. 

Her voice isn't really impressive and so she's marketed her body.

But she's failed to convey to fans that it's a look-but-don't-touch policy.  That she's giving a lap dance and if you grab her during it, you'll be kicked out of the champagne room.

It was after "Hurt So Good," probably during "Pink Houses," that I saw John Mellencamp with a group of friends.  I remember being shocked that they grabbed his ass (some girls in the audience) when he was moving around the stage.  But he didn't have a hissy fit.  And later, I saw a Bryan Adams concert video where he gets his ass grabbed and he didn't have a fit.  Courtney Love's talked about crowd diving from the stage and what can happen and she's never felt the need to have a hissy fit.

Here's a thought for Beyonce in the future, if it's a serious affront to you, stop selling sex all the time.  Of course, if she did that, she'd never have a career.

I've never heard of Madonna having a fit over this.  And you know that's had to have happened to her repeatedly.

Diana Ross?  Eddie Murphy and Dick Cavett are friends.  They went on Letterman's show on NBC (so this was years ago, Letterman's on CBS now) and explained how they did pranks when they went out together.  One time, they stole some money from a diner.  Another time, they were at a Diana Ross concert and snuck on stage and Eddie dared Dick to grab Diana's ass.  He did, while she was singing, and she whirled around ready to explode but saw Dick and, Eddie Murphy did this in a Diana voice, "Everybody!  Everybody! It's Dick Cavette!  Look, Dick Cavette!" 

It's really not the end of the world and you just don't go over to that section of the stage again if it bothers you.

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, another protest organizer is killed in Iraq, the number of Iraqis killed this month in violence passes 800, were Moqtada's remarks earlier this week a "final warning" to Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraq Inquiry continues to stall the release of a report, US Senator Patty Murray with survivors and advocates of assault and rape in the military, tomorrow is a national call-in day for Lynne Stewart, and more.

Let's start in the US.  There is an epidemic of assault and rape going on within the US military.  Despite a great deal of talk by Pentagon leaders, the Defense Dept has demonstrated it cannot address the issue by itself -- if at all.  Senator Patty Murray sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee where she has long addressed the issue and called for accountability.   Her office notes today:

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: SEATTLE: FRIDAY: Murray to Meet with Survivors of Military Sexual Assault, Discuss Her Bill to Protect Victims

Of the estimated 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012, only 3,374 were reported
Murray bill would provide greater victim resources while improving current prevention programs

(Washington, D.C.) – Friday, May 31st, 2013, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault and advocates in Seattle.  Last month, Senator Murray introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013, which would reduce sexual assaults within the military and address a number of gaps within current law and policy. One provision in Senator Murray’s bill would provide victims with a dedicated counsel to guide them through the difficult process of reporting sexual assault. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2010 alone. Of these, 3,192 were reported, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. That number rose to 26,000 cases in 2012 with less than 3,400 of those cases being reported. Murray will use the stories she hears Friday to continue fighting for victims of military sexual assault in Washington, D.C.  More about Senator Murray’s bill HERE.

WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
         Survivors of military sexual assault
         Charles Swift, former Navy JAG, MSA advocate
         Dr. Joyce Wipf, Professor of Medicine and Director of VA Puget Sound’s Women's Program
         Bridget Cantrell, PTSD & MSA expert
         Jackie McLean, Director, King County Department of Community & Human Services
WHAT:        Senator Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault, discuss ways her legislation will protect victims
WHEN:        Friday, May 31st, 2013
          10:00 AM PT
WHERE:    UW Medicine at South Lake Union
         850 Republican Street, Conference Room C359
                     Seattle, WA 98109
Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Monday, Ruth did another one of her outstanding "Ruth's Report"s and in this one she covered two radio documentaries on issues veterans and service members face.  Among the details she noted from Free Speech Radio News' Memorial Day documentary:  "Ms. [Alice] Ollstein noted that there were 3400 assault charges filed last year and that only 1300 were investigated while over 360 were just tossed out.  Of the 3400 complaints, only 600 went to a court-martial and, from that number, only 238 were convicted." Ruth also noted  Iraq War veteran and rape survivors advocate Sarah Plummer explaining how coming forward to report your rape can be used against you.

Sarah Plummer : Fear of retaliation -- both formal and informal -- what happens within the system.  I know for instance I did report my rape I was told by my command, "Oh it's a modern military, these counseling services are available, go ahead, you're not suicidal, you're not homicidal, you're not on any drugs go get counseling."  I did and was then later medically disqualified from continuing in flight school because I had sought counseling -- even though I was not having any problems.  I had to work years later to try to get a waiver for that which I did, but at that point had already gone on with my career.  Some people, especially with pilots, would say, "Oh, that ruined my career."  I mean, most people who want to be pilots to be their whole lives. So to be told you can't because of something somebody did to me and I sought the appropriate after action yet was punished?

This is not a minor issue. Sunday, at Third, in "Now they wonder?," we noted:

Today Mark Sappenfield and The Christian Science Monitor want to wonder, "How can Chuck Hagel fix military sexual assault epidemic?" Today they wonder? Today? Where were they back in January? From January 4th's "And people are pushing for Chuck Hagel?":

I'm not sure what they think a Secretary of Defense does. (The Foreign Policy in Focus pieces were written by two different people. We're being kind and not naming them.) The Secretary of Defense does not have sleep overs with the Israeli prime minister. The Secretary of Defense does not engage in heavy petting with the Israeli defense minister. 
When you hear about rates of suicide in the military?  That's something that the Secretary is supposed to address.  The same with assault and rape in the ranks.

It was an issue this community could and did raise.  Isaiah even did a comic.

But the press didn't want to treat it as a serious issue back then.  It should have been one of the two issues that Hagel was most pressed on and most reported on (the other being the suicide crisis and how he would address that).  We noted in the Third piece that we hope Hagel's up for it but it's a little late to be asking that question.  Are the press going be attending Friday's event or will they wait until the next assault and rape scandal to act shocked?  Either you treat the issue seriously or you don't.  And nothing's going to change until it's treated seriously.

Turning to the topic of Iraq and someone who provides unintended laughs.  Press TV  interviewed a parrot today.  The parrot was George Washington University's Nabil Mikhail who hasn't made such a fool of himself since he went on Press TV to talk about the 'film' that wasn't a film (the anti-Islamic YouTube video of last fall) and its large cast and so mcuh more.  It was a video, there was never a movie.  But gas bags fear silence and must fill all sapce with chatter.  Today Nabil Mikhail went on Press TV to utter the phrase he'd been taught for nearly a decade "counter-terrorism."  Mihail insisted, "Iraq needs a counter-terrorism strategy."  Someone give Polly her cracker and put her back in her cage.

Iraq has a counter-terrorism strategy.  As Tim Arango (New York Times) reported in September another "unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism" -- and this was done "at the request of the Iraqi government."  As we've repeatedly noted (such as here), this unit has trained Iraq's new SWAT forces.  How do we know that?  Stream any Alsumaria report on this issue and listen to the Arabic speaker say "SWAT."  SWAT is an American acronym for Special Weapons And Tactics.  Those four terms would not be used in Arabic and would not form the acronym SWAT.  After saying "SWAT," Iraqi anchors usually then begin referring to them with an Arabic phrase which translates as "rapid response teams."  SWAT not only fails the Arabic test, it's not native to Iraq.  It was introduced by outsiders.  So Nouri's recently created SWAT teams -- with the American name -- are the result of the US units counterterrorism training.

Have they done any good?

Nope.  And they won't.

The parrot knew all the phrases but lacked the ability to process.  At one point he even claimed "that there are no suicide attacks" these days and that this is due to the fact that "the terrorist know these neighborhoods well."  The 'terrorists' are Iraqis.  Of course they know the neighborhoods, but how uninformed must you be to not know that suicide attacks continue.  They're not often stressed as such -- it won't make a headline crawl at the bottom of a screen -- but they continue and have never ceased.  Just this week, there was the suicide tank bombing, to note just one example.

While most people are grasping that the violence stems from the continued repression of the Iraqi people, the parrot wants to pretend that what the country needs is more repression.

What an idiot.

The police training program the State Dept planned to oversee in Iraq failed and it failed primarily because there was no "buy-in" on the Iraqi side (as former US House Rep Gary Ackerman warned would end up happening).  There's no buy-in in Iraq of the government.

It's run by a man, Nouri al-Maliki, that Iraqis showed up in the 2010 elections to get out of office.  That's why 'sure thing' Nouri who abused his office, had many of his rivals purged from the list of candidates and tried to scare the Iraqi people into voting for him, saw his State of Law get bested by Iraqiya.  The Ayad Allawi headed political slate was where Iraq wanted to go.  Nouri was the bloody past, the divisions, the hatred and so much more that the last years had stood for.  Iraqiya was a way forward, an Iraq without sectarian warfare, where Shi'ite Allawi and Sunni Osama al-Nujaifi could be in the same political group and work together, where Iraqi women could reclaim the role the illegal US invasion and all that happened after stripped them of.  It was about forming a national identity, not having an identity thrust on them by foreign occupiers.

And as this was blossoming and taking root, US President Barack Obama (based on the crackpot advice of Samantha Power among others) didn't stand up for democracy, didn't stand up for the people or the sanctity of the ballot box.  Instead, he backed Nouri al-Maliki who refused to step down as prime minister and would refuse to do so for over eight months.  Not only did Barack back the thug -- who had already been repeatedly caught running secret prisons where torture took place --  he had US officials broker The Erbil Agreement, a contract, which went around the Iraqi Constitution and gave Nouri a second term.  (To get that second term, Nouri had to promise, in the contract, to give the political blocs various things.  Nouri never honored that contract but let's leave that aspect out of it today.)

So Iraqis are supposedly free in 2010 and able to do what they want, to express their voice and their dreams.  And there's this marvelous new gift of 'democracy' that's supposedly been given.  But in 2010, when they vote in a way that the White House doesn't like, they quickly find that their votes don't matter.  Isn't that what the US said happened under Saddam Hussein?

When a people vote out a leader and the leader remains in power, what message does that send?

Samantha Power is a deeply stupid woman.  She's one who never grasped the lessons of her own country (or how to bathe properly, hence the odors) but wants to speak as if she's an expert on Ireland and then wants to apply Ireland to Iraq.  Iraq was never Ireland and will never become Ireland (or vice versa). The traditions and cultures of each country are completely different and are often rooted in the lands themselves -- climate, proximity, etc.  But Samantha Power has never known a sweeping generalization she couldn't stretch to the breaking point and she made these ridiculous (and honestly offensive) comparisons between Ireland and Irish leaders and Iraq and Iraqi leaders.

What the White House did was trample democracy in Iraq.  It didn't have to be that way.  Gen Ray Odierno saw what was coming before the election and warned about it.  But the idiot Chris Hill, the US Ambassador to Iraq who would be fired from his job -- but fired too late, had the ear of the White House and worked to marginalize Odierno.  By the time then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could get the White House to listen to Odierno, the elections had taken place and eight month political stalemate had begun.  (To his credit, Barack did sack Chris Hill.)

If I invite you over to my home and tell you that you're going to be tasting the best cake ever and you show up and I never serve that cake, maybe toss out some dry crackers your way instead, you're going to feel cheated and wronged.  And that's exactly how the Iraqi people felt.  Go back to the press of November 2010 when the stalemate ended and Nouri became prime minister and listen to the Iraqis -- in western press because they still cover Iraq then -- telling reporters that they didn't know why they voted, telling reporters that despite their votes, things remained the same.

The White House trampled on democracy.  The Erbil Agreement spat on democracy and on the Iraqi Constitution -- the latter of which is most damning because the Constitution exists for a reason and if the US is going to go around it, why is it there?  It mandates, for example, that Nouri appear before Parliament when they want to question him.  But he's refused to do that over and over in his second term.  Why should he show respect for the Constitution when going around it got him a second term?

The damage that was done is immeasurable and that's why we called it out as it was happening, it's why the topic saddens me like few others.  The US government destroyed the country of Iraq and 'democracy' was the last promise to the Iraqi people that the US government hadn't broken.  But by overturning the results of a fair and free election, the US government broke that promise to.

So George Washington University parrots need to get it through their thick skulls that when you take away people's belief that they can change their government and that their votes actually matter, you don't leave them with a lot of processes or avenues.  That's especially true in the post-invasion Iraq where the US government rushed to overturn many of Saddam Hussein's laws but kept the ones attacking unions.  And Nouri's attacks on the unions are infamous.  So the ballot box doesn't matter, collective bargaining is attacked by the government, what is left?


When Iraqis took to the streets in 2011 -- protesting the 'disappeared' loved ones in Iraq's 'legal' system, protesting corruption, the lack of public services, the lack of jobs, the failure of Nouri al-Maliki to implement the power-sharing (Erbil Agreement), etc -- what happened?  He turned his forces on them and on the press.

Dropping back to the February 28th Iraqi snapshot:

Over the weekend, a number of journalists were detained during and after their coverage of the mass demonstrations that took place in central Baghdad's al-Tahrir Square. Simone Vecchiator (International Press Institute) notes:
["]During a news conference held on Sunday, four journalists -- Hussam Saraie of Al-Sabah Al-Jadid newspaper, Ali Abdul Sada of the Al-Mada daily, Ali al-Mussawi of Sabah newspaper and Hadi al-Mehdi of Demozee radio -- reported being handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened by security forces. They also claimed they were held in custody for nine hours and forced to sign a document, the contents of which were not revealed to them.
Aswat al Iraq news agency reported that the journalists will file a court case against the executive authority in response to the alleged violations of their civil rights.
This episode is the latest in a series of repressive measures adopted by security forces in order to stifle media reports about the current political and social

NPR's Kelly McEvers would interview Hadi for Morning Edition after he had been released and she noted he had been "beaten in the leg, eyes, and head." He explained that he was accused of attempting to "topple" Nouri al-Maliki's government -- accused by the soldiers under Nouri al-Maliki, the soldiers who beat him.  Excerpt:

Hadi al-Mahdi: I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed and the street in your area is unpaved and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.

Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.

Hadi al-Mahdi: I started hearing voices of other people.  So, for instance, one guy was crying, another was saying, "Where's my brother?" And a third one was saying, "For the sake of God, help me."

Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was shown lists of names and asked to reveal people's addresses.  He was forced to sign documents while blindfolded.  Eventually he was released.  Mahdi says the experience was worse than the times he was detained under Saddam Hussein.  He says the regime that's taken Sadam's place is no improvement on the past. This, he says, should serve as a cautionary tale for other Arab countries trying to oust dictators. 

Hadi al-Mahdi: They toppled the regime, but they brought the worst -- they brought a bunch of thieves, thugs, killers and corrupt people, stealers.

Yesterday, on Air Force One, White House spokesperson Jay Carney addressed the press and declared of Iraq, "We have an important and ongoing relationship with the government of Iraq and the Iraqi people.  We engage with the government on issues all the time.  And it’s something that we continue to monitor and continue to provide advice on both with Iraq and with countries in the region.  This is a matter that I know, from having worked with him on it, the Vice President remains concerned about and focused on."

Did you?  Did you have meaningful dialogue with Nouri?  Like you had with him when he was attacking the protesters in 2011 or the Emo kids in 2011?  As he terrorized the country did you really think your 'meaningful dialogue' meant one damn thing?  Because looking at it now, all you did was humor the tyrant.  He still won't follow the Constitution.  And  Tuesday, April 23rd his federal forces massacred a sit-in in Hawija.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.  That was last month.

Today the BRussells Tribunal offers an Al Rafidayn interview with the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq's Sheikh Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi.  February 25th refers to the kick off of the 2011 protests in Iraq.

What is your personal impression of the interesting momentum that Iraq is going through?

In the beginning, Bissmillah Al Rahman Al Raheem.  
We had a previous meeting during which we discussed our expectations of the revolution starting for a second time.  
It is possible that this revolution continues and it is also possible that it will not.  
But in any case in a future instant/moment, the revolution will continue.  
Based on our experience of the Iraqi People and on the first time on 25th February, the revolution was a trial run and when it was suppressed, the revolution was cut off at the time, but we knew that the idea of the revolution had remained in the psyche and conscious of the Iraqi People and that it is the sole means left for it to rid itself of this oppression.  
This second stage came, according to observers, and we too had people who followed the revolution’s activities in the interior, assurances that the people are living in a revolution of rage and that their insistence on continuing this time is greater than the previous time.  
In any case, we are watching the scene and we will make our own statements and comments about it as far as we are capable and as I said, it may well continue and it may not, but in any case it is a station (stage) not only important for us but it is also an advanced stage as far as the final target that we all wish for.

How much surprised were you with the suddenly change in January?

As far as I am concerned there is nothing there that causes surprise, because our reading of the scene and our public statements in the media has always been that this instant is coming and we have said more than once that the revolution that was put a stop previously was not ended and even  if you remember the expression I used  during my previous meeting with you, that it was “like the embers under the ash”, and this is an Arab trait that expresses the existence of rage and fury that is hidden (protected)- it exists but it is protected.
It is like a volcano that exists in America!   So, as far as we were concerned it was not a cause for amazement or surprise; on the contrary it is expected and we expect even more.   Yesterday, I also had a meeting with foreign press and I said to them that I predict a “tsunami” for Iraq, with all that this word entails.

Demonstrations have been ongoing since December 21st.  Despite calls from various political leaders for Nouri to heed the protesters demands, he has not done so.  As the editorial board of Gulf News notes today:

 So far, those demonstrating in the west of the country have done so largely peacefully, but their continued hopelessness in getting the government’s ear is bound to lead to further tensions. The responsibility for that, as well as the eventuality of Iraq’s splitting — as has been demanded — rests on the shoulders of Al Maliki and his government. The people of Iraq, and history, will never forgive them for it.

Nouri should be listening to them.  Instead he is attacking them verbally and physically and encouraging others to do the same.   Sunday, All Iraq News reported Nouri's SWAT forces raided the home of Anbar protesters spokesperson Sa'eed al-Lafi.  National Iraqi News Agency added that they also raided the home of protest spokesperson Qusay al-Zain in Ramadi.  Kitabat reported that after their failure to find al-Zain at his home, SWAT forces then raided a mosque that al-Zain prayed at.  They terrorized the people inside and nabbed one of al-Zain's bodyguards but al-Zain wasn't present.  Alsumaria noted there was a bounty on al-Lafi.  Al Mada reported that supporters say al-Lafi is being accused of crimes with no proof.   And today?  Iraqi Spring MC reports that Nouri's SWAT forces have arrested Sheikh Farhan al-Alwani, a Falluja preacher.  In adition, Nouri's forces arrested Sheikh Awil Fahdawi in the al-Amiriya section of BaghdadIraqi Spring MC notes that the outrage on that arrest was so intense and protests in the street so immediate that the authorities announced they will be releasing Sheikh Awil Fahdawi.  In the worst attack on those taking part in the ongoing protests, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna (CNN -- link is text and video) report:

Gunmen fatally shot Sunni activist Sheikh Hassan al-Jabouri with pistols equipped with silencers in central Mosul, a predominantly Sunni city, police said. No suspects have been announced.
Al-Jabouri was active in demonstrations demanding that the Shiite-led government stop what protesters call second-class treatment of Iraq's Sunni community. Since December, tens of thousands of such demonstrators have taken to the streets across Iraq.

The US government currently wants war in Syria, ground troops in Syria.  Why?  So they can hold hands with the tyrant they install?  That's all they do with Nouri.

The US government is ineffectual and unable and unwilling to help the Iraqi people.  They can't help journalist Hadi al-Mahdi now.  His 'mistake' was in beliving the US government lies.  He believed that Iraq was going to be different and that there would be freedom and that the press was one of the most important resources for a free Iraq.  The US government did nothing, the White House did nothing, to help him.  But they continued to provide Nouri with support and arms.   Hadi al-Mahdi was assassinated in his own Baghdad home September 8, 2011.  Like every other murder of a journalist in Iraq, Nouri's never been able to locate the killers.  Now let one of his soldiers get killed and he starts terrorizing an entire province, sending in helicopters and the SWAT teams and threatening collective punishment on all the residents of the province.  But Hadi's killer/killers runs/run free.

Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2013 Impunity Index:


Iraq has the world’s worst record on impunity. No convictions have been obtained in 93 journalist slayings in the past decade. The vast majority of the victims, 95 percent, were local journalists. They include freelance cameraman Tahrir Kadhim Jawad, who was killed on assignment outside Baghdad in 2010 when a bomb attached to his car exploded. Jawad was a “courageous cameraman” known for getting footage “where others had failed,” Mohammad al-Jamili, Baghdad bureau chief for the U.S. government-funded outlet Al-Hurra, said at the time. Police opened an investigation but made no arrests.
Impunity Index Rating: 2.818 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants
Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.906

And this is the government that the White House backs?

And this is the government who just needs to 'get tough' according to the parrot on Press TV?

You've taken away the ballot box, you've attacked the right to assemble, you've allowed murders of journalists to go unpunished and you attack the unions.

In that situation, what are a people to do other than rise up in violence?  What other avenues or opportunities have you left them?

But as Iraq veers ever closer to a complete breakdown, an idiot at George Washington University wants to insist that the answer is more oppression?  He also feels that Iraq needs to implement an anonymous tips phone line.  Really?  Because there aren't enough innocents locked away without charges in Iraq already?  What an idiot.

On the issue of the attack on the unions, US Labor Against the War notes:

In response to strikes in the oil sector, the Iraq government filed a criminal complaint against Federation of Oil Unions President Hassan Juma'a Awad, and has taken disciplinary actions against many others. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and stiff fines. Stand with Iraqi workers against a corrupt authoritarian government and greedy multinational oil companies. Demand the charges be dropped, repression of unions and labor activists cease, and that internationally recognized labor rights be respected, including the right to organize, bargain and strike in the union of choice without government interference.

Please  sign, like, share, forward
Twitter: Demand Iraq drop charges against oil union leader, end persecution of labor activists. Sign the petition:
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Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 789 violent deaths so far this month.  With three days left to count and only 11 deaths needed to hit 800, hitting 800 was pretty much a sure thing.  And it happened today with at least 44 reported deaths.  The assassination of Sheikh Hassan al-Jabouri in Mosul today was only one in a series of violent events across Iraq.   Alsumaria reports 1 police officer was shot dead today in Mosul.  BBC News notes that 3 Baghdad bombings left 25 people dead and fifty-five injured.  Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna (CNN) add that a Mosul suicide car bomber claimed the lives of 2 people with seven more injured, the federal forces in Mosul shot dead 4 people,  and that three corpses were pulled from the Tigris today -- signs of torture and they had been hanged to death.   National Iraqi News Agency reports that a bombing in Hibhib today has claimed 7 lives and left thirteen injured, and a home invasion in Abu Ghraib left 1 military officer dead.

Abu Ghraib wasn't only the location of a home invasion today, it was also, Alsumaria reports, where a Sunni male and a Shi'ite female married and declared their love a protest against sectarianism.  Kitabat calls them Iraq's Romeo and Juliet -- let's hope not, that didn't end pretty.  While the young couple tried to appeal to the Iraqi spirit, National Iraqi News Agency reports State of Law MP Hassan Sinead is screaming that terrorists and Ba'athists are terrorizing Iraq and doing so with the aid of Jordan and Turkey.  When everything is falling apart, always count on Nouri and his State of Law to make them worse.  Al Mada reports Nouri's insisting that the satellite channels are responsible for the violence.

Monday, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr issued some remarks.  Ali Abedl Sadah (Al-Monitor) weighs in today and sees this as Moqtada's "final warning to the government:"

However, Sadr’s statement clearly indicated that Maliki wants to engage in an internal war in the country. He said, "We have learned that the prime minister wants to declare the start of a sectarian war in Iraq."
Sadr called on the government to "unite [political forces], but not through banquets and economic forums attended by Israelis, but purely national meetings which I have called for and accepted to attend."
Sadr concluded his statement and calls for the people and government by saying: "This is the last call I make to the people on one hand, and the government on the other hand. Forewarned is forearmed. Oh God, I have warned."
Sadr's position coincided with security developments that followed a series of bombings. Armed men deployed in towns in central Baghdad and its suburbs. Eyewitnesses and security sources provided conflicting accounts regarding the identity of the gunmen, but some stated that they belong to the Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq is an insurgent group that defected from the Sadrist current about five years ago. Last year, Qais al-Khazali, the group’s leader, expressed [favorable] positions toward the prime minister and declared that [his group] was defending the Shiites in Iraq. This raised the concerns of Sunni parties in the government.
In his statement, Sadr gave Maliki an ultimatum, calling on him to withdraw the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants from the streets of Baghdad within 24 hours.
In England, a government inquiry's report on Iraq has long been due.  Peter Oborne (Telegraph of London) explains today:

Almost four years have passed since Sir John Chilcot called a press conference to launch his inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq War. He grimly acknowledged that “there have been inquiries which have taken very long periods of time: they are being held on a quite different basis from ours”. Sir John insisted that he was “determined to avoid… a long, drawn-out inquiry”. His would all be over within “a year and a half, maybe a bit more” – in other words, by the summer of 2011.
Sad to report, Sir John’s inquiry was (apparently) still at work in the summer of 2011. Then 2012 came and went. Earlier this year, there was a buzz around Whitehall that Sir John was due to announce his findings this summer, but this hope has also vanished. Eyes are now starting to turn, in the words of one senior figure very close to the inquiry, towards “the end of this year and maybe 2014”.
Comparisons are being made privately to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, which was published an unfeasible 12 years after being commissioned, and an outrageous 38 years after the events it investigated. Furthermore, just the faintest stench is starting to surround Sir John’s inquiry: there is talk of documents being withheld, perhaps because too many senior reputations are at stake.

Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) reported last week:

In February, I made a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request to the Cabinet Office concerning the Inquiry, specifically the statement in chairman John Chilcot’s July 2012 letter to David Cameron that the Inquiry would not “publish further information piecemeal and in advance of its report”, ie that it had decided to sit on large numbers of documents that it had been given permission to publish. My request asked the Cabinet Office what those documents were.
As I have previously documented on this site, the government has constantly used the Inquiry to to kick the issue of Iraq into the long grass, hiding behind the eventual publication of the Inquiry’s long overdue report. Also in February, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas asked Cameron to identify those documents whose declassification remained in dispute, including the dates of the declassification requests. Referring to Chilcot’s letter, Cameron said that he did not intend to undermine Chilcot’s intention “by publishing details of the incomplete declassification process.”
Unsurprisingly therefore, the Cabinet Office used an FOI exemption to block my request.

Attorney Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner.  She's also a very brave woman and a very caring woman.  The Bully Boy Bush administration used 9-11 to scare the country into war with Iraq and did so by falsely linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks.  The same administration scared up a conviction against Lynne -- who broke no law, there is no law that she broke -- by using 9-11 as a scare tactic, by falsely linking her (and her client) to 9-11.  There's no connection there.  There was never a connection.  But they played the same game with a bunch of jurors that they did with the American people.  They fooled a jury the same way they fooled a large number of Americans.

 Under Barack Obama, things did not get better for Lynne.  In fact, they got worse as Lynne, who'd been receiving treatments for her cancer, was suddenly thrown in prison even though her appeal hadn't been decided.  As bad as Bush, Ashcroft and Gonzalez were, they didn't throw Lynne in prison while she was appealing.  And it's under Barack that her sentence goes from 28 months to 10 years.

Lynne is a lawyer.  She took on the clients who needed her and she fought to give them the best defense she could.  Anyone who faults that doesn't understand the American judicial system.  Which is why I have never been surprised to encounter conservative attorneys or judges who get that Lynne was made an example of by the government in an attempt to scare defense attorneys.  Even people on the right grasp that.  The attack on Lynne was an attack on the principles of defense that are part of the America legal system -- and that attack came from the government that acts as prosecutor.  They wanted to intimidate and they wanted to tip the scales.

Lynne's cancer has returned.  She's over seventy-years-old.  She's never been accused of being violent to anyone.  She's never been accused of breaking any law.  (She released a press release to Reuters in violation of an agreement the Justice Dept had her sign.  She did that when Bill Clinton was President.  Bill and Attorney General Janet Reno were aware of it.  They didn't consider it a crime.  They didn't let her see her client until they had her sign another agreement, but that was it.  And, it should be argued that when the Clinton administration had her sign another agreement, that was the 'judgment' on the press release.  Meaning what Ashcroft and Bush put her through was double jeopardy.)   Lynne has released the following message:

May 28th, 2013
Dear Friends and Supporters:
One month ago I made a request for compassionate release which was honored by the warden at Carswell Federal Medical Center.  Today the papers are still on a desk in Washington, D.C. even though the terminal cancer that I have contracted requires expeditious action.
Although I requested immediate action by the  Bureau of Prisons, I find it necessary to again request immediate action from you, my  friends, comrades and supporters  to call the three numbers listed below on Thursday, May 30 and request action on my behalf.
This could result in my being able to access medical treatment at Sloan Kettering so that I can face the rest of my life with dignity surrounded by those I love and who love me.
Please do this.
Yours truly
Lynne Stewart  FMS CARSWELL-53504-054 & Ralph Poynter
Lynne Stewart Defense Organization


Attorney General  Eric Holder -  1 202 514 2001
White House President Obama – 1 202 456 1414
B.O.P. – Director  Charles Samuels – 1 202.307.3250

That's tomorrow.  Please make time for Lynne who's always made time for everyone else and call to ask that she be allowed to live out the remaining days surrounded by her family.