Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bloody War Hawks


That's "Bloody War Hawks" from September 30, 2007. And if you've forgotten what was going on:

Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "Bloody War Hawks." Pictured are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards declaring, as blood drips from their grinning mouths, "Through 2013! 2013!" Isaiah writes, "The Front Runners reveal their plan for 'withdrawal'." That's in reference to last week's MSNBC 'debate' where the three refused to promise that, if elected president, they would pull bring all US troops home by the end of their first term (2013). See Rebecca's "craven dems and disgusting peter pace," Kat's "Obama, Edwards & Clinton okay with US trops in Iraq until 2013" and this"Iraq snapshot" for more

And now we know that Barack is president and that there will be no end at the end of this year.

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, protests take place in Ramadi, Camp Ashraf finds some new supporters, and more.
AP reports the US military has announced another death -- this one "in southern Iraq in a non-combat related incident" -- which, no doubt, is currently under investigation. Meanwhile Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports that a suicide bomber in Diyala Province targeted a Shi'ite mosque and a police source counts 12 dead and forty more injured. Chin Zhi (Xinhua) reports that yesterday in Kirkuk, Sa'ad Abid Mutlak al-Jubouri, "son of Iraqi former deputy prime minister," was kidnapped. AFP reports "a senior Iraqi general" was shot dead in Baghdad today. Reuters adds a Hawija car bombing claimed the lives of 4 police officers, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life, a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, and, dropping back to yesterday for the last two, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three people injured and a second Baghdad roadside bombing injured four people. The Hawija car bombing took place near Kirkuk and Aswat al-Iraq notes twelve people were wounded in the blast.
Nizar Latif (UAE's National Newspaper) reports "Demonstrators in Iraq are being tortured and intimidated by the security services into shopping anti-government protests, political activists say. In recent weeks, those organising public rallies claim to have been targeted in a campaign of repression by security units, carrying out illegal arrests and abusive interrogations. Among the allegations made by civil-rights activists are that government forces have beaten, shocked with electrical devices and fabricated criminal evidence against protesters involved in peaceful street rallies."
Yesterday's snapshot noted former DNC chair Howard Dean declared Tuesday of Nouri al-Maliki, "The truth is the prime minister of Iraq is a mass murderer." " Dean was referring to the most recent assault on Camp Ashraf. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California. The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom released the following statement yesterday:
MPs and Peers on Wednesday accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of committing a 'Gestapo-style massacre' at Camp Ashraf which led to the death of 35 Iranian dissidents and caused hundreds to be injured.
At a press conference, the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom disclosed new video footage of the 8 April attack, showing direct shooting at camp residents and the various military weaponry used.
Committee chair Lord Corbett of Castle Vale (Labour Peer), said: 'The attack on Camp Ashraf was an organized military massacre on the orders of Nuri al-Maliki who is publicly committed to erasing the camp from the face of the earth.'
Medical practitioner Hoda Hosseini pointed to photographic evidence of the injuries sustained by the wounded which clearly indicated that a targeted shoot-to-kill policy was used by Iraqi forces. 'Traces left in the bodies of those killed and the wounded, and a study of the wounds and x-rays show that the Iraqi forces used automatic Kalashnikov machine guns with live, tracer and armour-piercing bullets as well as firing sonic grenades directly at the heads and chests of the civilian population at Camp Ashraf.'
Former Home Secretary Lord Waddington demanded a UN investigation into the attack to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice, while Lord Maginnis of Drumglass said: 'Prime Minister Cameron and President Barack Obama must use the appropriate language in describing this attack as a massacre.'
Mark Williams MP (Liberal Democrat) demanded that Iraqi forces immediately withdraw from Camp Ashraf and that the United Nations take over protection of the camp as part of their mandate.
Malcolm Fowler, a solicitor and member of the Law Society's human rights committee, said that the Law Society, which represented more than 130,000 solicitors, had issued a statement urging the UN to help protect the residents.
Pointing to video footage evidencing the continued menacing presence of Iraqi armed forces in and around Camp Ashraf, on behalf of the Committee Lord Corbett urged the UN to establish a permanent monitoring team at the camp and take over responsibility for protection of the residents to prevent a further such 'Gestapo-style massacre'.
Camp Ashraf, 60 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, is home to 3,400 members of the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), who are 'protected persons' under the 4th Geneva Convention.

British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom
27 April 2011
In addition, Jonathan Rayner (Law Gazette) notes the April 8th assault has been condemned by the UK Law Society's human rights committee whose chair Tony Fisher states, "We call on Iraqi security forces immediately to cease all violence against the residents of Camp Ashraf and immediately withdraw from the camp. Furthermore, the relevant UN bodies, lawyers and the press must be given immediate access to the residents." Until the end of last year, James L. Jones, retired US General, was the current US administration's National Security Advisor until last November. Paul Taylor (Reuters) reports he's declared "he knew of no evidence that the People's Mujahideen were involved in terrorism" and that they should be removed from the US terror list becase "we should be more in synch with the Europeans, who have already de-listed them." Jones also shared his thoughts April 14th at the Near East Human Rights Inititiative on this issue where others speaking out against the assault including retired Gen Wesley Clark, former US Senator Evan Bayh (disclosure, I know Evan), former US Senator Bill Bradley, for CIA director Porter Goss, Barack's former DNI Denni Blair, the last spokesperson for the Bush White House Dana Perino, retired Gen Richard Myers and former AG Michael Mukasey. We'll quote Wesley Clark, "When I look at what happened at Camp Ashraf over this past weekend I find it absolutely deplorable and inexplicable. We did make a promise they would be protected persons. That's the word of the United States of America. That's important, it's time. We talk about American credibility, there it is."
Also weighing in is Reza Pahlavi whose late father was the Shah of Iran (Reza Pahlavi and the rest of his family left Iran when the Shah was overthrown in 1979's Iranian Revolution). He was interviewed by Radio Koocheh (link is text) and the topic of Camp Ashraf was raised:

Radio Koocheh: At first I would like to know about your position about what happened within recent days, as you know, based on an agreement between Iran and Iraq, there is the chance of extradition of MKO members to Iran. You have been one of the first to condemn the attack on Camp Ashraf. According to the policy of the government of the United States since 2009 that handed the Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government and their condition of undecided fate, What kind of problems do you think this extradition can bring to this Camp members and basically what kind of policy is followed?

Reza Pahlavi: At first, allow me to address my greetings to my compatriots inside and outside of Iran and to your audience and again thank you for the opportunity of this interview. I can not guess exactly the details of the policy of the Iraqi government associated with the members of MKO currently present in Iraq, or have any particular information about the conditions that you have already expressed. But in general, what I wanted to say is that from the perspective of human rights issues, today, to no one, especially to our compatriots, it is not complicated that these people have rights as humans.

Extradition of anyone who is publicly or indirectly in a struggle with this regime, will constitute a serious threat of torture, and a thousand kind of problems or even death. What unfortunately the Islamic Republic has always done to its own people all these years and still does. Therefore it is important that in this case, that all the governments concerned be aware of the terrible and serious consequences of such act. I think this will have a very negative effect not only on public opinion in the world but also especially on our compatriots opinion.

Where the freedom fighters, today, in all the countries of the region are busy fighting for their rights, expect support and above all protection. We see this today in Libya. If these things are not respected, it definitely indicates the lack of implementation of a clear policy and even worse, a kind of political hypocrisy. Especially this fact that goes back to human rights and protection of the natural rights of individuals regardless of their political views and thoughts.

Moving to the topic of protests. Yesterday's snapshot included the following: "You pretend to know, Tim Arango, how the protests started in Iraq -- well they re-started. They were enough last year to force the Minister of the Electricy out. But you weren't covering Iraq then and are apparently unfamiliar with that aspect of the protests. " That was incorrect.
I was wrong. My apologies. Tim Arango writes to inform that he was present in Iraq when the Minister of Electricity resigned following protests last year. I stand corrected. I was wrong. Arango was present for that.
A community member found this claim by Tim Arango: "Prior to the Sadrist protest against the Americans, that issue was not a defining aspect of the protests." That was during his exchange with Dan Hind at Hind's The Return of the Public. No, that is not correct. We noted that this morning and that if he had a comment on it before the snapshot went up, it would be included. He replied to Jim's e-mail, "I don't think i have a further comment other than to say that the protests that began in february here have been about a variety of issues: services, corruption, jobs, civil liberties, Bahrain, detainees (especially in Sunni areas) -- at some of them you can hear anti-american slogans, and there have been some smaller gatherings that speak about the american military, but the overall message is that they want to perfect and improve their fledgling democracy. Of course, the Sadrists held their big protest on April 9 against the troops, and demanding that they leave on time." (Jim and everyone who works the e-mails can write back or not, that's their decision. I can't engage in private conversations via e-mail with writers covered here -- critiqued here -- because that creates a layer of conflict of interest and we can take that up tonight in "I Hate The War.)
Again, that's not correct. The protests in Iraq can be seen a series of unconnected brush fires starting at the end of January. By Februray 3rd, connective tissue is beginning to form with all people-led demonstrations.
People-led? These are demonstrations by and for the people. There are no marching orders (though Nouri will claim they are being led from outside of Iraq, and he will claim they're backed by 'terrorists' and by 'al Qaeda'). People-led, people-driven. These are very different from the Moqtada al-Sadr let-me-order-my-merry-band-of-followers. February 25th is the first day of protest where you see real connections between the movements in Baghdad and the ones in Ninevah Province or elsewhere. In addition to previous snapshots, I went over this with 2 protesters in Baghdad this morning on i.m., on the phone with a community member in Mosul and via e-mail with a protester in Falluja. February 25th was dubbed "The Day Of Rage." Protests prior to the 25th were not 'national.' Meaning there might be one in Hawija and one in Baghdad and the two weren't coordinated for a specific day. The occupation and corruption were key issues in the protests, however, even when unrelated. The Baghdad protesters were surprised that there would be a claim that they occupation was not an issue since banners were present calling for US troops to be out of Iraq. And, in fact, the whole point of attempting to storm the US-created and occupied Green Zone had to do with reclaiming that section of Iraq for Iraq. Opposition to the US occupation has always been a part of the national protests.
What's going on is Tim Arango isn't present for protests outside of Baghdad (a comment Iraqi community members make loudly in the community newsletters and one that's already up here in a Saturday entry from weeks ago) and probably the paper was not present for most in Baghdad. That's certainly explains why Stephanie McCrummen and the Washington Post were owning the story of what happened on The Day of Rage (such as here) and the New York Times missed it. The New York Times embarrassed itself as journalistic organizations -- international ones -- and human rights organizations called out what happened on Feb. 25th but the Times?
Their deference to Nouri al-Maliki is rather sad when you consider that the paper had a few outstanding reporters in Iraq (including Damien Cave) and now they're just lackeys. If Tim doesn't like that judgment call on my part, try explaining why Nouri's trashing of protesters and telling people not to participate in the Day of Rage receives more prominence than the Day of Rage actions? In the article about the Day of Rage -- or allgedly about it -- Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt don't open with the attack on journalists or attacks on protesters. They do one setnence and then want to rush to "high-ranking Iraqi officials." And then it's time for paragraphs on Nouri and it's paragraph seven before we actually meet a protester -- in a story about the Day of Rage. Paragraph seven of a 16 paragraph story. And for some reason, we still have to meet the US military in the story. Don't think that the last nine paragraphs are about the protesters or -- and this goes to Dan Hind's issue -- explaing what brought to protesters out in the streets. Now let's contrast that with Stephanie McCrummen's article for the Post -- which is award-worthy. Here's the opening:
Iraqi security forces detained hundreds of people, including prominent journalists, artists and intellectuals, witnesses said Saturday, a day after nationwide demonstrations brought tens of thousands of Iraqis into the streets and ended with soldiers shooting into crowds.
Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
"It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."
Protesters mostly stayed home Saturday, following more than a dozen demonstrations across the country Friday that killed at least 29 people, as crowds stormed provincial buildings, forced local officials to resign, freed prisoners and otherwise demanded more from a government they only recently had a chance to elect.
And that's just the opening. And, as we've noted before, the New York Times editorial board has commented on these events . . . even though the paper's reporters never filed on it. Woops. This is what has so many people outraged about the bad coverage. In fairness to the reporters for the Times, the paper wasn't interested at all in Iraq. They were Cairo-obsessed and flooding the zone on that -- pushing Iraq right out of the paper during this very key time (one that you better believe will be in the history books) -- and then they did a brief withdrawal on Cairo before setting off to Libya. Somewhere in all of that, they tried to flood the zone on the Japan tsunami but only demonstrated that they do their best tsunami work when most of the staff is on vacation (see January 2005).
Show me where the Times took serious what the Post did? Again, from Stephanie's article:
Ssairi and his three colleagues, one of whom had been on the radio speaking in support of protesters, said about a dozen soldiers stormed into a restaurant where they were eating dinner Friday afternoon and began beating them as other diners looked on in silence. They drove them to a side street and beat them again.
Then, blindfolded, they were driven to the former Ministry of Defense building, which houses an intelligence unit of the Iraqi army's 11th Division, they said. Hadi al-Mahdi, a theater director and radio anchor who has been calling for reform, said he was blindfolded and beaten repeatedly with sticks, boots and fists. One soldier put a stick into Hadi's handcuffed hands and threatened to rape him with it, he said.
Where's the paper's coverage of that?
The Times has never known what was going on -- at least not judging by what's made it into the paper. (And it's falling back into its habit of rendering Iraqi women invisible.) Tim Arango overestimates the influence of Moqtada al-Sadr in my opinion (see April 19th snapshot and, as I noted then, that's in contrast with the State Dept so I will applaud Arango for refusing to go along with the State Dept's official line -- though I do think the State Dept is right in this case). He basically elevates Moqtada to officialdom and there is no higher status for the New York Times. So unless it's a small protest ordered by Moqtada (the April 8th one), the paper's really not interested. They'll serve up a ton of quotes from all the people who weren't at the protest and try to pretend that such an article actually covered the protests. Or they'll go ga-ga for Ahmed Chalabi all over again and treat his attempts at deflecting attention from protests against the Iraqi government as genuine protests.
Real protests are led by the people. They don't have to be ordered to show up. The Iraqi people have shown up for their events. And those events aren't connected to Moqtada or Chalabi so the paper's not interested. Real violence took place on February 25th but, to read the New York Times, it was the protesters who were violent -- they knocked over two of the barricade walls to the Green Zone!!!! The kidnapping and torturing of journalists and protesters never happened to read the New York Times' report. It's amazing that the paper not only took sides but took sides against the people. The paper's done a lousy job covering the protests. Dan Hind's criticism actually was on the mark. You do not learn about the protesters from the paper of record. Instead you learn what Nouri thinks or what some lying flack for the US military thanks -- and the spokesperson quoted about what a great job the Iraqi military was doing was a lying flack.
More importantly that's the end of Feburary. Where's the paper's coverage of the ongoing assault in Mosul? Where is that? Does Moqtada need to call a protest in Mosul for it to get attention from the New York Times?
These questions go beyond Tim Arango who is a reporter and not an editor for the paper. He's pitching ideas and many who covered Iraq for the paper can share their difficulties -- and many have shared them in e-mails to this site -- in convincing someone with the paper in the US that ____ is a story in Iraq and needs to be covered.

But a question he should be asking himself is: Where is the humanity? It took Sabrina Tavernise to bring the humanity onto the pages of the New York Times (Dexy and Burnsie appeared to see the whole thing as a video game). Others who followed her managed to keep that alive. It's gone now. And it's hard not to be reminded that this is the paper that reported on the murder (not the gang-rape) of Abeer in near real time but couldn't name her. This is the paper that when the truth came out that 14-year-old Abeer was gang-raped and murdered, that she was gang-raped as her five-year-old sister and her parents were killed in the next room, still couldn't name her. This is the paper that 'reported' on an Article 32 hearing on the crimes and the conspiracy (the murders and gang-rape were carried out by US soliders) and still couldn't name her. By contrast, Ellen Knickmeyer at the Post was reporting on Abeer from the minute the news came out that US soldiers might have been responsible for the crimes (and they were, and they either entered a plea of guilty or were convicted) and she had no problem providing a name.
Sabrina Tavernise provided Iraqi people with the dignity they deserve and gave them life on the pages of the New York Times. It's really sad that this accomplishment which Cara Buckley, Alissa J. Rubin, Damien Cave and so many others kept alive is now disappearing. That may be due to the fact that articles that do make the paper (as opposed to the ones that only show up on the paper's blog) have to be shorter and shorter and shorter. (It's always surprising when a paper comes to the conclusion that they're selling to non-readers.) But it's happening.
Happening tomorrow, according to Iraqi Revolution's al-Obeidi, "the sons of Mosul preparing for a major demonstration tomorrow". They note a sit-in took place at the Anbar University (link goes to video reports from Al Jazeera).
To the President of Iraqi Parliament
we condemns in our name and the name of all the civil society activists and Iraqi bloggers and on behalf of every Iraqi citizen who tries to exercise his the rights within Iraqi constitution, which went out to vote for under the threats of terrorism, we raise your condemnation of the ongoing attacks against demonstrators in tahreer Square and the failure of troops to secure their safety , but on the contrary troops supported
the infiltrators who tries to sabotage the demonstrations
Today one of the founding member of our site and civil society activists and free Iraqi citizen suffered brutal attack and was severely beaten in front of the eyes of army troops without your security forces try to move , is this our new and this democracy that we fight for it?
We invite you to stand and condemn and questions the security forces and to demands from the Government to implement the demands of demonstrators into a realistic, real way and to stop putting obstacles in front of them and trying to sabotage their free demonstrations , they are exercising their right to expression, and we remind you that their voices are the tools that got you
today to power ,
and it will remove of any institution Governor that can not fulfill
its duty to serve the nation,
democracy requires a national army and a Governor to serve the citizen wither they support or opposite their views ,
it is your responsibility either you fulfill it or leave it to those who can
media and the protesters and activists are part of the duty of any democratic institution plays its role effectively and freely is the responsibility and obligation your job to follow who performs them and guarantee to secure for all
For Iraq and for freedom and the Constitution
Condemn and call
Iraqi streets web site
collation of activists and bloggers from Iraq
Iraqis go up against outrageous odds and circumstances to protest and make their voices heard. Front Line notes:
Front Line expresses concern regarding the attack against Iraqi human rights defender and blogger Mr Hayder Hamzoz on 22 April as he was taking part in a regular Friday protest in Sahat Al -Tahrir, a public square in Baghdad. Hayder Hamzoz attends the protests at Al-Tahrir square every Friday and uses his mobile phone to record the events to put up on Twitter and Facebook.
On 22 April he was approached by young men who asked him about his Qalaxy mobile phone (a type of mobile that facilitates connection to social media networks) and then took the phone away. It is reported that he managed to take back his phone, but the group was then joined by more than 9 people at which point Hayder Hamzoz ran to escape the assault. The men reportedly grabbed him and beat him up using their hands and feet, causing him to bleed and almost faint. His phone was confiscated.
The security forces who were around at the time reportedly stopped protesters and friends of Hayder Hamzoz from rendering assistance to him. The attackers then made away with the phone under the watchful eye of the security forces who did not interfere. Following the attack, Hayder Hamzoz, along with human rights defender Hanaa Adwar, went to the army officer who was in charge of the surrounding area but he refused to listen to their story. Later that night the attackers called him on another number and told him not to record or post anything anymore.
Hayder Hamzoz was the only protester to be attacked by the assailants, a matter which casts doubt as to their real motives. It is suspected that the assailants are security men in plainclothes who apparently attacked him as a reprisal against his peaceful cyberactivism.
Hayder Hamzoz, aged in his early twenties, is a prominent blogger and documentalist who runs a popular blog titled Iraqi Streets 4 Change. He also organises the coverage of peaceful Iraqi protests over the internet and has set up along with others a short messaging service which does not require subscription to the internet. Along with his colleagues, he also utilises social media networks to mobilise and document peaceful mass protests to encourage the Iraqi government to expedite democratic reforms. It is believed that the attack on Hayder Hamzoz is related to his peaceful and legitimate work as a blogger.
And to the thug who encourages thuggery in Iraq, New Sabaah reports on Nouri's plan to turn failure into a take over. As noted yesterday, Nouri is claiming the right to call for new elections at the end of the 100 days to fix corruption. New Sabaah notes today that Nouri's talk of a majority government does not include Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya. Iraqiya, of course, won the most seats in Parliament in the March 2010 elections. Nouri is eager to cut out his opponents and that's why he's threatening the new elections. He hopes this could also get rid of the Speaker of Parliament (Osama al-Nujaifi). New elections called by Nouri do not include the possibility of his stepping down but, hey, the March 2010 elections didn't either, now did they? The Parliament can call a vote of no confidence at any time. They can remove Nouri and they may need to review the process for how that's done before the 100 days expire.
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports, "A leader in north Iraq's Kurdistan Alliance has demanded that a portion of the U.S. forces remain in the areas of dispute of eastern Iraq's Diala Province, due to what he described as non-readiness of the Iraqi forces to take over the security dossier in the province." They add, "The UN Secretary-General's Representative in Iraq, Ad Melkert, has said during a visit to north Iraq's city of Kirkuk on Wednesday that the United Nations does'nt intend to send "peace-keeping forces" to the conflict areas in the country, after the withdrawal of the U.S. troops by the end of the current year." David Ali (Al Mada) also notes the UN announcement and that Ban Ki-moon's special envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, insists there is a move towards holding elections in Kirkuk. Those elections, per the Constitution's Article 140, were supposed to have taken place by 2007. It's four years later and the UN pins their hopes on a 'move' towards elections? How very, very sad. New Sabaah explains that Melkert met Governor Najm al-Din Karim, Deputy Governor Rakan Saeed al-Joubouri and the provincial council's chair Hassan Turan.
Amira al Hussaini (Global Voices) reports on a rumor spreading throughout Iraq, "Saddam Hussein is making the rounds on social media, with a new recording claiming that the Iraqi dictator is alive and well and that his double Mikhail was the one executed on December 30, 2006. Many netizens are quick to describe the video as phoney and assure readers that Saddam is dead and gone. Had he been alive, the former Iraqi dictator would have turned 74 today." Al Rafidayn quotes Hassan Al-Alawi who received a phone call from someone claiming to be Hussein, "I was sure that the person who phoned me and said he was Saddam is not Saddam because Saddam died."

Read on ...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bully Boy On the Job


That's "Bully Boy On the Job" from September 23, 2007. And?

I had nothing. Bully Boy had attacked MoveOn for an ad it had ran two weeks prior. I wanted to spoof that so I tossed Bush back in the wedding dress and went with that. Not one of my better or even okay comics.

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

Thursday, April 21, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, a governor joins the protests, a historian and journalist seems unaware of pattern, and more.
Protests continue in Iraq. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "The notorious Nasser Al Ghannam could not put a stop to the Free of Mosul -- after imposing a curfew last night starting at 1.00 a.m. this morning he proceeded with his troops to cut off all bridges and roads as well as arrest people who were marching to the Square of the Free -- HOWEVER, Atheel Al Nujaifi joined a huge demonstrations to the Square of the Free and broke the blockade. Well done Atheel Al Nujaifi! I wonder whether he has started seeing the light!" That's major news. Atheel Al Nujaifi (also spelled Athil al-Nujaifi) is the brother of the Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi which, all by itself, would make his participation news worthy. But al-Nujaifi holds office himself -- he's Governor al-Nujaifi, governor of Nineveh. And Nasser Al Ghannam? He's the Iraqi Army's Second Division Chief. DPA explains the curfew which began at 1:00 was to then go on all day. Rizan Ahmed (AK News) reminds, "The governer of Nineveh Athiel al-Nujaifi announced last Tuesday that the Ahrar Square is opened for peaceful demonstrations and protests, in a direct escalation, despite the official appeals from the federal government to stop demonstrations and protests. Ahmed reports, "Director of Information department of Nineveh province said Thursday that a force of the Iraqi army clashed with the protection forces of the governor of Nineveh Athiel al-Nujaifi after the prevention of a demonstration led by the latter to Ahrar Square to join the protest organized by groups from Mosul since 12 days demanding of the departure of 'occupation' and the implementation of government promises and the release of detainees." In addition, Aswat al-Iraq reports attorneys demonstrated in Falluja with a sit-in calling for the release of 'detainees' and the departure of US troops from Iraqi soil.
Meanwhile Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports objections to "a government edict last week, restricting rallies in Baghdad to its two main sports stadiums, is being seen as unconstitutional and has raised questions over the government's ability to meet protesters' demands." 15th of March Movement activist Ali al-Fredawi is quoted stating, "The government is swing away from democracy. Banning protests and locking demonstrators inside a stadium is illegal and unconstitutional. The governement decision clearly shows its fear of mounting rage among Iraqis at the blundering performance of (Prime Minister Nuri)." From Michele Naar-Obed's "The least reported unarmed revolution in the Middle East" (Christian Peacemaker):
Daily, thousands of demonstrators flood the city center -- now dubbed "Freedom Square" -- of Suleimaniya, Iraq. There have been eight civilian deaths in Suleimaniya city and scores of injuries resulting from armed government forces opening fire with live ammunition into the crowds. Government security forces killed five unidentified people alleged to be terrorists outside of Suleimaniya. During the imposed curfew, government forces and armed militia positioned themselves throughout the city of Suleimaniya and surrounding Freedom Square. An independent television station was burned to the ground. Suleimaniya students studying in Erbil universities were sent back to Suleimaniyah and government authorities set up roadblocks around the city of Erbil to prevent Suleimaniya cars from entering. There have been assassination attempts against religious leaders advocating for this nonviolent revolution. The Kurdistan Regional Government's Parliament has held emergency sessions to negotiate the demands of the people, but no agreements have arisen from these sessions.
Michele Naar-Obed (CPT) also reported Tuesday about the ongoing demonstratons in Suleimaniya in the Kurdistan Region:
Day 61 of Suleimaniya's daily demonstrations against corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan started early this morning. The CPT team arrived at 11:00. Music was playing from the stage and small groups of people were gathering. Two CPTers decided to use the quiet time to grab a cup of coffee and juice in a cafe next to the square. A few of the demonstration organizers were doing the same.
[. . .]
Then the mayhem began, with the forces launching tear gas. The people who were closest to it came running back towards the square with swollen eyes and faces. Some could not breath. Ambulances were nearby and ready to treat them. News came that the soldiers were moving closer to the square. The stench of the tear gas permeated the streets. Demonstrators set up barricades on the street and began burning tires in order to keep the soldiers from breaking into the square.
The sound of gunfire was prolonged and getting closer to the square. Shops along the street began to close down. Pedestrians ran towards the square to get away from the worst of the tear gas and the shooting. The team made contact with the U.S. Consulate by phone and stayed in contact throughout the day.
IPA notes, "Michele Naar-Obed works with the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a human rights organization and has been based in Suleimaniya since 2006." And quotes her stating, "We are living in a military siege. Ten thousand troops are here occupying the city. … Arrests are ongoing. People are being beaten, gassed, and shot at. Now the troops have official permission to shoot in the legs. Yesterday, we heard that they could shoot to kill. This is for anyone that even remotely tries to form a demonstration anywhere. Last night there were official meetings with the U.S., PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, has been headed by Jalal Talabani, who is president of Iraq] and [an] opposition party."
An eyewitness account from Slemani yesterday:"A number of shopkeepers saw a boy of around 14 years of age being beaten by three armed men dressed in uniform. The shopkeepers watched on while the boy was defiant as he was beaten north of Msgawti Gawra (the Large mosque in Slemani) and was chanting down with the regime, down, down ... The attack by the security forces became more ferocious and the boy started bleeding. Then the boy realized he could no longer take the beatings, he started crying begging them to stop. The shop keepers went into the boys aid by this time he was about to lose consciousness. The men managed to persuade the militiamen to let him go, and brought the boy back to one of the a shop. They gave him some water and let him rest away from the hands of the thugs. Half an hour later, although the boy has regained some composure but could clearly notice the anguish in his eyes. He said that he wants to go home to his mum and change his close as his shirt was torn and blood stained. He even forgot to thank the men who saved him and went on his way, but soon another group of around five armed security forces picked on him as they saw his blood stained shirt concluding he was protester. The boy this time was begging not to be beaten, but the heartless thugs twice his age set on him and started to beat him violently. This all happened very quickly and this time more shopkeepers and businessmen went to his aid. They managed to stop the beatings and eventually send the boy safely home. One of the businessmen who told the story was once a staunch PUK supporter and said:" Since I was a young man until today I have supported this party, but this is the beyond acceptable and they disgust me"."
We'll note the following paragraph from yesterday's snapshot:
This morning Nizar Latif (National Newspaper) weighed in on the proposed Baghdad summit for the Arab league, "The Iraqi government continues to insist the Arab League summit, scheduled for Baghdad next month, must go ahead. In reality however, few Iraqis expect their capital to host the meeting. Militant attacks, including recent car bombs in the heart of Baghdad, are a reminder of Iraq's persistent danger and the dogged insurgency that years of warfare and billions of dollars have failed to defeat." The summit was supposed to take place in March. It wasn't secure enough then. People pretend it is now. For how much longer or if the summit will be held next month in Baghdad is unknown. Press TV states Iraq may leave the Arab League. While that's in part, Iran's state media working off a grudge against its Arab neighbors, it's also true that Iran has a lot of pull in the puppet government out of Baghdad. AFP reports that the summit has been postponed -- again. It was supposed to be held March 29th but got delayed and then rescheduled to May 10th. The postponement was not a surprise to everyone. Aswat al-Iraq released their reader poll results this morning which found, "76.68% of the total 491 voters believed that the Arab Summit won't be held in Baghdad in its scheduled time, due to the current challenges facing the Arab Region." Alsumaria TV reports, "The Arab League has scheduled an urgent meeting for Arab Foreign Ministers on May 15 to set a new date for the Arab Summit and appoint a new Arab League Secretary General as a successor for Amro Moussa, [deputy secretary Ahmed] Ben Hill said." UPI explains, "The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council expressed outrage over Baghdad's criticism of the minority Sunni leadership in Bahrain, calling for the cancellation of an Arab League summit scheduled next month in Iraq. The tiny island kingdom is under scrutiny for its response to a Shiite uprising." Arab News adds that an unnamed Arab "League official said the summit will probably be held in September. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. [. . .] The Arab League summit was considered by many Iraqi officials as an opportunity to show off the strides the country has made since the height of the US-led war, and they have spent millions of dollars refurbishing buildings and hotels in anticipation of the meeting." Earlier this month, Al Mada reported that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, has declared holding the Arab Summitt in Baghdad (May 10th through 11th) will cost the country $450 million in US dollars. Lost money and lost prestige at a time when Iraq's puppet government is attempting to ignore the violence and pretend they are a democratic oasis in otherwise dry region. Ahmed Eleiba (Ahram) reports, "Iraq's Permanent Ambassador to the Arab League Qais Al-Azzawi said that his country respects the decision to delay the Arab summit, scheduled to be held in May in Baghdad, due to the current uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria."
Before the announcement was made, Roads to Iraq noted that Moqtada was insisting that events in Bahrain and the summit were two different issues:
This comes as a big blow to Ahmad Chalabi's efforts on the Bahrain issue, which has taken a sec­tar­ian dimen­sion. Cha­l­abi threat­ened that Iraq will inter­vene in Bahrain.
It seemed that the National Alliance (state law and the National Coali­tion) are no longer able to deal with the Arab sum­mit cri­sis and this started a test of power between Maliki and Nujaifi. Par­lia­ment Speaker Osama Nujaifi took the ini­tia­tive, and has stepped up his con­tacts in recent days in order to cre­ate the appro­pri­ate atmos­phere to hold the Arab sum­mit sched­uled in Bagh­dad next month.
Aswat al-Iraq notes the speculation that the summit, when/if held, will not take place in Baghdad. Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that, on Sunday, the Nasser, an Iraqi ship, was anchored in a Bahrain port when the Bahraini military raided the ship, "attacking the crew" and holding them for hours. They maintain there was no justification for the attack. Ahlul Bayt News Agency adds, quoting a member of the Iraqi Parliament, "that a military force armed by the middle of the night last Sunday attacked the ship, which is carrying a crew Iraqis, taken at gunpoint to one of the parties in the dock and detained there for several hours and beaten severely humiliated." Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraq Ministry of Transportation said on Wednesday that Bahraini Security Forces attacked and knocked the crew of an Iraqi mercantile ship at Bahrain port and stressed that the attack was unjustified." Iraq's sea faring problems are usually with Iran. At this point, there are not a great deal of details and all the claims are coming from the Iraqi side. In addition, there's been no explanation for why a Sunday attack was not announced until Wednesday. This is the age of the internet, not the pony express. Nouri and some others in the government have a made a point to show solidarity with those protesting the government of Bahrain. Whether or not that factors into the assault or alleged assault remains open to speculation.

As do Nouri's dealings. Dar Addustour reports that Parliament's Integrity Commission cites Nouri al-Maliki in corrupt dealings such as obtaining commercial contracts -- urging them on a ministry -- which were a waste of money -- such as 2500 tons of milk which was rotten. That milk, by the way, came out of Iran. Alsumaria TV adds, "Iraq's parliamentary integrity committee announced early this month that it will refer to the Integrity Commission three corruption files concerning explosives detection devices, the construction of Sheala and Sadr cities and the Canadian planes issue. The files include more than 9000 documents that confirm the implication of ministers, deputy minsters, general directress and officers in corruption." Prior to the revelations, Nouri already had a difficult relationship with Parliament as he has attempted to take over committees that report them and has attempted to strip them of their right to write legislation (Nouri wants his Cabinet to write the legislation and hand it to Parliament only for a yes-or-no vote -- he wouldn't even allow amendments by the Parliament if he gets his way). Still on Iran, Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) reports that the Iraqi agencies are so far unable to prevent the water drainage from Iran. The high saline factor of the water has made this a concern to Iraq. Muhammad Aadi, Minster of Water Resources, states that they are in contact with Iranian counterparts and that there is talk of diverting water while agricultural engineer Adnan Saeb notes that the salty water is threatening Iraq's land and waters and that it will be difficult to reduce the saline in the coming years. Saeb states this is a problem that usually takes years to fix.

And though Nouri's been signing his success story since 2006, there's never been any evidence of success. He's now been prime minister for five of the eight years of the Iraq War. New Sabah reports that the Ministry of Human Rights has announced they have 6,000 documented cases of child kidnapping since 2003. All but three of those years took place under Nouri's 'leadership.' Monday saw two suicide bombings at the entrance of the Green Zone. Gus Taylor (Trend Lines) notes those and other recent violence:

The bombings --- likely carried out by Sunni groups linked to al-Qaida -- could allow Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to strengthen his hold on power, says J. Edward Conway, a World Politics Review contributor and former U.S. Defense Department analyst covering Iraq.
"With the ongoing attacks, he's basically allowed to play the security card," Conway told Trend Lines this morning.
"Some are worried that al-Maliki is acting more and more like an authoritarian leader," he added. "He's yet to appoint anyone to head the Ministries of Defense and Interior, so he's presently acting as the de facto head of both, along with the Iraqi Special Forces."
Tuesday oil as a motive for the Iraq War was back in the news as a result of a major scoop, Paul Bignell (Independent) reported:

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."

The response has been typical. It's bad news for New Labour so the Guardian pretends the revelations didn't take place the same way they did with the Downing St. Memos (which the Times of London first reported on). And in the United States, most daily papers have worked overtime to avoid the topic while 'left' institutions like Democracy Now! have reduced it to a headline -- and not even the first headline of the day. The Progressive has had no time for the news. The Nation magazine which used to grandstand on the Iraq War (cover editorials on how they wouldn't support any Democratic politician who didn't call for an end to the Iraq War, for example) can't find time for it. All those (bad) bloggers at The Nation and not one of them can write a piece on the issue. How very telling. As the Beatles once sang, "See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly, I'm crying" ("I Am The Walrus" -- credited to Lennon & McCartney, written by John.) Thomas Ferguson (Huffington Post) points out, "It's time the rest of the story came out -- not because it is history, but because it is not. The U.S. is still in Iraq. Major decisions about the continuing presence of U.S. troops there loom just ahead. The major U.S. media have done little or nothing to investigate the story, though journalists working the U.K., notably Greg Palast, produced execellent reports on the subject. The endless chain of books about the Green Zone and corruption has not really gotten to the heart of the matter. As the U.S. deliberates about its next steps in Iraq, it is time somebody does."
Yesterday Jonathan Brown, Paul Bignell and Andy McSmith (Independent) reported:

Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 starkly spell out the importance of the issue, stating: "The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest."
The latest disclosures follow the publication yesterday of minutes of meetings held between senior oil-industry executives and government ministers in the run-up to the war -- despite official claims that no such talks occurred. The first of three documents assessing the situation in the immediate aftermath of the invasion sets out what is described as "required action" resulting from a meeting attended by representatives from key government departments including the Foreign Office, the then Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for International Development and the Treasury.
Officials cite the oil industry as the "first main target" when asked to establish "where specific prospects for British industry exist and ensure we are properly placed to take them". The group was also urged to consider when a "senior British oil industry person should go out to Iraq to survey the ground and, if appropriate, participate in [for example] the emerging Oil Advisory Board".
Two weeks later, London officials outlined a "desirable" outcome for Iraqi's crippled oil industry as "an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields".
Unlike The Nation, has covered it and Justin Raimondo combined it with the newly started Libyan War to note:
A recent report issued by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets [Ofgem], the corporatist entity that regulates energy-related commerce in the UK, warns British consumers:
"Radical steps must be taken to safeguard UK power supplies and prevent
growing numbers of people being hit with energy bills they cannot afford, a watchdog has warned.
"Ofgem said failure to reform the energy system to free up the £200billion
investment needed to secure future supplies might lead to power shortages after
2015. Staying with the current market model was 'not an option', it said, due to
the unprecedented pressures of the financial crisis, environmental targets, dependency on imported gas and closure of aging power stations. "In a report,
the power watchdog said consumers would suffer unless urgent action was taken to free up investment in new power generation, such as renewables and nuclear energy. Ofgem made five suggestions, which all involve moving away from privatized energy markets towards a system giving the government greater control."
Projected rate hikes of 60 percent would hit consumers hard: in tandem with the government's much-hated austerity budget, this could be the spark that sets off a political and social conflagration. Faced with a combination of the oil truckers' protests that paralyzed Europe in 2000, and the "anti-cuts" riots of more recent vintage, the Conservative-LibDem government -- and, conceivably, the entire British political establishment -- would face certain demise.
The privatisation of its oil industry was central to the post-invasion plan for the country, according to previously unseen Whitehall documents. Certainly the U.S. tried to do this but was unsuccessful. Recall that while looters were allowed free sway to vandalise and steal objects from a Baghdad museum the oil ministry was guarded .
The Iraqis put up such a resistance to privatization that they U.S. backed off and tried to pass an oil law that would open up Iraqi oil to foreign investment. That did not work either. This law was one of the benchmarks of progress. There still is no oil law although the Kurds have signed their own agreements with foreign oil. Only PSA Production sharing agreements were put up for auction.

At WSWS, Robert Stevens explores the topic:

The mass of official documents confirm that, eight years on and following the death of an estimated 1 million civilians, the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq was indeed a war for oil.
The documents came to light only due to Freedom of Information requests over a period of five years by Greg Muttitt, an expert on Iraqi oil policy, who works for the British charity Platform. Muttitt has written a book, Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, published this week.
The documents illustrate the imperialist character of the war. The Independent notes: "BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf's existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world's leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take 'big risks' to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world."

In some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes 1 police officer was wounded in a Baghdad shootings, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people, 6 corpses were discovered in Samarra, 1 person was shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to yesterday for the last two, Mosul's head of products for the Ministry of Oil distribution was injured in a Mosul shooting and 3 people were injured when a Baghdad liquor store was attacked.
Gareth Porter appears on Scott Horton's Antiwar Radio. I'm not quoting from it. There's another interview that I hope to carry over to Third on Sunday. We had to walk away from Porter in 2008 because, yes, he was a big Kool-Aid drinker and remained one over and over. I believe I pissed off Real News Network by refusing to link to various interviews they did with Porter. (Fine, I really don't care if they were pissed.) But those interviews were not fact based, they were complete fantasies. Reality slapped Gareth upside the head and brought him back down. We were glad to have him back here on earth.
But he's orbiting again.
I want to believe
If you tell me so
I want to believe
'Cause you oughta know
That kicking is hard
But the bottom's harder
So I'm taking your card
But I cannot get my head around it, baby
I cannot get my head around it, baby
'Cause that's just not the way
You make me feel
-- "I Can't Get My Head Around It," written by Aimee Mann, from her album The Forgotten Arm
Gareth comes across very needy and what do the needy need? Usually a Daddy to worship. Right now, that appears to be Moqtada al-Sadr. Gareth's convinced that Moqtada rules Iraq. I disagree (as do many governments' analysis) but I could bite my tongue and state that obviously I can be wrong. And often am. But I'm not in the mood for The Daddy Fairy Tales of 2008 again.
'Nouri forced concessions!!!! The SOFA would have been different!!!! Nouri pushed Bush around!!!!!' I'm so sick of those damn lies. I heard about the SOFA from friends in the State Dept throughout 2008. What I heard jibed with what the SOFA said when finally released by the White House. I've never understood where the demented fantasy of powerful puppet Nouri took root unless it was in the fact that Ryan Crocker was saying kind things about Nouri to the press. (Crocker was then-US Ambassador to Iraq.) Even with those comments out there, everyone knows Crocker is not a push over. The idea that he would be representing the US government and not able to hold his own is rather ridiculous. (Ryan Crocker was the first US official to sign the SOFA -- a fact that apparently was lost on Gareth -- and did so in November 2008. Not December 15th -- that signing ceremony was a photo op -- one I was told was going to be huge at the George W. Bush Library because, at that late date, according to friends in the State Dept, the White House still believed Iraq was going to go down as an "eventual success" and be the thing that polished Bush's reputation.)
Nouri had no "power" in the negotiations, especially not by the fall of 2008. Nouri was facing threats of a no-confidence vote in Parliament, he had massive defections in his Cabinet, had Gareth's all-powerful Moqtada pissed at him (due to the assaults on Basra and the Sadr City section of Baghdad in 2008) and wasn't delivering on any promises. Nouri had no power at all and if the US military left January 1, 2009, Nouri's government would have toppled (the opinion of the US State Dept and one that concerned Nouri as well). Concessions had been made to Nouri in the 2008 negotiation process early on. The three year aspect of the agreement being one of the big ones.
Why was that made? Until Gareth Porter can address that reality, he needs to stop speaking about the 2008 negotiations. The SOFA replaces the UN mandate for the occupation. The UN mandate covered one year. Nouri became prime minister in spring 2006. As 2006 wound down, he wanted to continue the occupation. He signed off on another year (his first time signing off) and when Parliment found out they were furious. He swore it would never happen again and that he would bring any renewal before Parliament. But then 2007 wound down. And Parliament learned Nouri had signed on for another year and not brought them into the process. The SOFA was three years to allow Nouri wiggle room and avoid annual end of the year pressure.
Nouri couldn't survive without the US military in 2008 (may be true even now). This idea that Nouri was strong-arming the US is ridiculous because he had no power and either the SOFA went through or the US military left. It had already been stated publicly -- at a Senate hearing -- in the summer of 2008 that it was too late to begin working on a renewal of the UN mandate. That meant it was the SOFA or nothing. If the SOFA hadn't gone through? The what-ifs there were outlined in 2008 by the current US Vice President Joe Biden. Gareth doesn't know any of this -- even now. It was obvious he didn't know what he was talking and writing about the SOFA back in 2008 and 2009 and up until he finally awoke to reality. We didn't awake to reality here. We never fell for St. Barack Man Of Peace. We never fell for the lie that the SOFA couldn't be renewed. We noted from the beginning it is a three year contract which can be followed, which can be renewed (or replaced) or which can be broken. This is all in the SOFA if you know contract law. Gareth didn't and his sources must not be very good -- or else just interested in gossipy tidbits -- because year after year he got the SOFA wrong. We didn't. If we had been wrong about the SOFA, right now I would have to be writing, "My mistake, my error, my apologies." And I would. I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong and I'm fully aware that I can be wrong and often am. I wasn't wrong about the SOFA.
If Gareth Porter's sources were so informed and accurate, Gareth wouldn't have been so wrong about the SOFA. He's never admitted he was wrong. And his wrong hurt. He is the 'historian' and the 'journalist' and a 'truth teller.' So his being wrong was much worse than other people's lies. (I say Gareth was wrong, not that he lied. That is my opinion.) He had a reputation (a good one, a strong one) and when he insisted the SOFA meant the end of the Iraq War, it carried weight. And encouraged people to stop participating in calls to end the illegal war. I think Gareth was wrong, not lying. For that reason, I would prefer not to note his errors with the SOFA but when he goes on Antiwar Radio and starts telling us 'what really took place in 2008,' excuse the hell out of me, Gareth Porter, but you didn't know what you were talking about back then and you still haven't learned.
To say that Barack's election put pressure on Bush is ridiculous. (It's also ridiculous to credit Bush with the SOFA. Other than thinking some agreement -- any agreement -- would be a credit for him in the future, Bush had no real interest in this. In terms of leadership, Condi Rice and Robert Gates were the ones coming up with specifics for the SOFA. Crocker also had strong input. A State Dept-er who just visited Iraq was one of the on-the-ground leaders back then.) The pressure was on Nouri -- which is why Nouri joined US diplomatic staff in heavy lobbying of Iraqi MPs -- because the SOFA was it by then. It was take it or leave it. And if Nouri left it, there was no time for something that could replace it. Not after Nouri had made a big show about how this time the agreement would go before Parliament.
Not only is he wrong about his SOFA history today, he's also reaching to portray the 'great' Moqtada as the force that will save Iraq. It's why he praises Nouri. Here's reality that a historian should grasp: Most events -- especially the great events -- are not due to one person (not even a 'man'), they are the result of the efforts and contributions of many people. Quit looking for a poster boy to stand-in as your personal savior.
Gareth wants you to know that Moqtada's made it very clear that he objects to US troops staying past the end of this year so, Gareth insists, there will be no extension of the agreement. Moqtada has been making statements, yes.
Let's note one. "And I reject, condemn and renounce the presence of occupying forces and bases on our beloved land." Hamza Hendawi (AP) quoted Moqtada stating that and noted Moqtada "urged Iraq's parliament to reject a pact that would extend U.S. presence in Iraq" and that "his followers marched through Baghdad's streets Saturday to reinforce that demand." So clearly Gareth is right on this and I'm completely wrong and -- Ooops. The AP story, use the link. It's from October 18, 2008. Yeah, just as he's protesting any extension right now and just as he did his mediocre Saturday protests (that the Baghdad-based western media lapped up), he did the same thing three years ago. And it didn't make a damn bit of difference then. Maybe it's different now. Maybe it's Maybelline. But we do have his past statements and his past stances and we can see that -- repeatedly -- he caved over and over. It could be different now. But if you're going to make predictions, you should at least be saying, "Now, unlike in 2008 . . ." Otherwise, it appears you don't know the public record.
To claim that Nouri "needs" Moqtada is especially unrealistic. And Scott Horton was right to ask "and why is that very clear" when Gareth was insisting that "it's very clear that Moqtada al-Sadr's movement will try to unseat" Nouri. There's been nothing said by Moqtada indicating that and, again, we go to the record. Doesn't mean your predictions will be true but it does let you make an informed guess. Moqtada will pull support from Nouri? Based on what? March 7, 2010, Iraq held elections. Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc came out with the most votes but Nouri was determined to hold on to the prime minister post. In April, al-Sadr held his own elections to see who his bloc should vote. From the April 7th snapshot:
Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10% of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left).
And Moqtada said it was binding and would determine whom his bloc would support. But that didn't happen, did it? No. Moqtada's word went up against Tehran and Tehran won. Not only did his supporters not rank Nouri highly, Moqtada didn't. Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) from October 1st, "On Thursday, Sept. 30, the day before Iraq set a world record for a parliamentary system's delay between election day and the creation of a new government, al-Sadr finally reversed himself and accepted a new term for al-Maliki, whom his spokesmen have routinely denounced as an American puppet and worse." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times), also October 1st, noted, "Until days ago he [Moqtada] fiercely opposed Mr. Maliki's re-election." Moqtada was opposed to Nouri. Until the government in Iran gave him clear orders. Moqtada as independent actor and someone with a backbone is not supported by the public record.
Read on ...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baby War Hawks Dominate Horse Race


That's from September 16, 2007, "Baby War Hawks Dominate Horse Race." That's weird because I thought the next comic would be the one that did the pay off for all the comics of Bush in the wedding dress.

Just goes to show you how even if you draw the comics, you won't necessarily remember them in the right order.

But this is good because last month I had an e-mail whining that if Hillary were in the White House, I wouldn't be knocking her. I'd be praising her.

Uh, no.

The whole point of the comic is in the title: The World Today Just Nuts.

As a political cartoonist, it's my job to make fun of the powerful. Were Hillary the president, I'd be making fun of her as well.

That's actually the second comic making fun of Hillary.

But I also have a string coming up where I take on the sexist attacks on her.

If Barack had done a good job, I'd still be calling him out. I'd probably be doing lighter comics, about things like golfing. But I'd be calling him out because that is my role.

Of course, he's done a lousy job and been a real War Hawk, so it's never bothered me once to call him out.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, State Of Law walks out of Parliament, Iraq still has no vice presidents, the UN confirms 34 people were killed in last Friday's assault on Camp Ashraf, a Congressional Veterans Affairs Subcommittee finds out the VA is wasting tax dollars by not using a program that they needed and purchased for millions of dollars, and more.
At the top of the Facebook page for the Great Iraqi Revolution, this report appears, "Inspite of the fact that I am really feeling ill and awful I really felt that I have to come in for a mom and update you with some wonderful news despite the fact that there is so much black - the sit-ins in Mosul and the vigils have been added to - The brave and outspoken Shaikh Salim Al Thabbab from Nassiriya, Shaikh of Rabee'a and ...Shayban came to Mosul and joined the sit in with a large party - who were also joined by a large contingent of women fro Nassiriya to keep the women of Mosul company and they were all joined by Shyoukh from Basra, Diyala, Salah Eldeen and Kut and there are more to come - also joined by a large group of poets from Baghdad - Power to the People - I believe the tidal wave has really started gathering force - Thank you Uday Al Zaidi who also gave a wonderful slap to the Islamic Politicians who visited him telling him that he had no right to want the Occupation out! That what are they to do about Iran! The people of Mosul told them that they had no place at this gathering and they had to leave. Power to the Iraqi People. Watch this page and space. I promise, as soon as I get better I will keep you updated with everything that has been happening since Saturday - but before I stop, it was a carnival scene - flags flying, poetry reading, chanting and dancing - I will post videos - I have been recording everything - Uday, a few days ago told me that they would have to kill him and his group before they stop the sitins - now I thin k it will be impossible to stop anything - Fallujah also had a very large demo today anti occupation and ruling gang. Pray for Iraq and for us everybody - support us." Today Tim Arango (New York Times) provides a look at Iraq's young protesters:
A common sentiment from nearly three dozen interviews with young Iraqis around the country recently is a persistent disenchantment with both their political leaders and the way democracy has played out here. "The youth is the excluded class in the Iraqi community," said Swash Ahmed, a 19-year-old law student in Kirkuk. "So they've started to unify through Facebook or the Internet or through demonstrations and evenings in cafes, symposiums and in universities. But they don't have power."
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, "AFP reports that Baghdad security forces have announced that protests in the capital from now on will only be allowed in one of three football stadiums. The excuse being offered is complaints from shop keepers about traffic issues but the reality is this is yet another effort to hide the protests away." The latest assault on democracy from Nouri al-Maliki is getting some attention (here and here, for example). Another US-installed despot is conducting a power-grab and herding people into stadium's in the nation's capital. Does it end like the National Stadium in Santiago back in 1973? Or are we all still pretending that Nouri's not a despot?
Last week, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, ordered attacks on Camp Ashraf. The United Nations now has observers in the camp. Louis Charbonneau and Bill Trott (Reuters) report the UN has confirmed that 34 people were killed and the reporters note, "The fatality count was the same number of deaths Ashraf residents had reported." They note that the death toll had been reduced to three in claims made by Nouri's officials. Yesterday Lara Jakes (AP) reported that at least 17 injured residents of Camp Ashraf were "forcibly removed from their hospital beds" by Iraqi forces and left/dumped at Camp Ashraf. Jakes explained, "Three women were among the patients, many of whom were bandaged, according to the doctor and an ambulance driver who spoke on condition of anonymity because that were not authorized to speak to the media." Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Iran's Fars News Agency reported last week that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied -- this is the attack that the UN has now confirmed resulted in 34 deaths. AFP reports, "European parliamentarians on Thursday urged the United States and the United Nations to help protect residents of a camp housing Iranian dissidents in Iraq, which witnessed a deadly assault by government forces. A statement signed by more than 100 members of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe also called on the European Union to demand 'the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Camp Ashraf'."

The assault has been a big issue outside of the US media. You've had two members of England's upper house of Parliament (House of Lords) accuse the US of giving the okay for the Friday assault. Earlier this week, David Waddington (England's House of Lords) wrote at the Independent:

Last week Iraqi forces entered a camp in Iraq housing members of the Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI). Thirty three residents were killed and over 300 wounded. Were the US authorities, as it has been suggested, told of the intended attack by the Iraqi Government? If they were, then surely members of the US government were complicit in a crime against humanity. And of course it shows that the US administration is continuing to appease the regime in Tehran whose influence over the Iraq government grows and grows.

The raid which took place at 5am on Friday 8 April, involved 2,500 severely armed Iraqi forces entering the Camp in armoured vehicles and Humvees, with video footage filmed by the residents clearly showing Iraqi forces running over unarmed residents and firing indiscriminately at them. Under any parameter of international law such a massacre of unarmed civilians is a war crime and a crime against humanity.

Another David, David Alton who is also a member of England's House of Lords, issued his thoughts in the form of a column for The Hill calling on the US to protect Camp Ashraf and noting a similarity between Friday's attack and the July 28, 2009 attack: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq when both took place. Alton writes, "In fact the attacks both happened only hours after a meeting between Nuri al-Maliki and Secretary Gates. Although Secretary Gates may not have had any knowledge of what was in the making by al-Maliki, this can hardly be a coincidence. There are not so many options: either Nuri al-Maliki has received some kind of green light from the Secretary Gates or he wanted to demonstrate that he carries some sort of pre-arrangement with the US; or he is contemptuous of U.S. opinion." AFP notes that the residents are "protected under the Geneva Convetions" and explains, "A left-wing Islamic movement, the PMOI was founded in 1965 in opposition to the Shah of Iran and has subsequently fought to oust the clerical regime that took power in Tehran after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution."
Kate Allen (Guardian) sees the treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents as a way of measuring the level of human rights progress in Iraq:

Meanwhile, the Iraqi authorities are barely paying lip-service to their obligation to properly investigate these deeply troubling events. Nouri al-Maliki's government has said it will investigate last week's violence, but it said that in 2009 as well. In common with scores of other "investigations" in the country, nothing more has been heard of it.
And neither is Iraq coming under much international pressure over Camp Ashraf. The UK's foreign office minister Alistair Burt said he was "disturbed" by the loss of life and supported a UN monitoring mission to the camp, but generally there's been relatively little reaction. A letter in the Guardian bemoaned the "blanket of silence" surrounding it.
Drowned out by Libya, Syria and Ivory Coast, violence at Camp Ashraf is at risk of being all but ignored. Amnesty is calling for an independent investigation into Friday's blood-letting as well as assurances that no one at Ashraf is going to be forced out of Iraq if their lives are put in danger.
Camp Ashraf doesn't come close to fitting into the "Arab Spring" narrative (though meanwhile Iraq's own protests have in fact been well-attended, ruthlessly put down and almost totally unreported). But the world should start paying attention to this forgotten story. How Iraq treats the residents of Camp Ashraf will provide an important window into how far Iraq has come in respecting human rights.

In other violence, Reuters notes 2 Mahmudiya roadside bombings claimed 2 lives and left thirteen people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing left three Iraqi soldiers injured, a Taji roadside bombing left three people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Mosul sticky bombing ("bomb attached to the front door of a house") killed a husband and wife.
Today in the Parliament, Aswat al-Iraq reports 89 MPs with Dawlat al-Qanoon walked out in protest over a vote on the vice presidents. Dawlat al-Qanoon is also known as "State Of Law" -- Nouri's political slate. Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq's Parliament session held today in the presence of 240 lawmakers was supposed to vote on Iraq's three Vice Presidents namely Adel Abdul Mehdi, Tareq Al Hashemi and Khudair Al Khizali and carry out the first read out of the draft laws to cancel Resolution no. 456, 1985, and Resolution no 1194 of the Defunct Revolution Command Council, 1983. The session was expected to read out as well the draft laws of anti-smoking, foreigners' residence and the cancellation of defunct interim coalition authority order no 64, 3004. [. . .] Today's Parliament session failure was due to an incomplete secret deal between Iraqiya Party and the National Alliance that stipulates allocating the Sunni Endowment to the Dialogue Party led by Saleh Al Motlak in return for Iraqiya's support to the National Alliance candidate Khudair Al Khizaii for the position of Vice President, Al Wasat Alliance said." If you're scratching your head and thinking, "Wait, Adel Abdul Mehdi -- ??? didn't he pull his name from consideration and state he didn't want to be v.p. anymore?" You are correct. From the March 28th snapshot:
Al Rafidayn notes a development with regards to Iraq's still unnamed vice presidents, Iraq's current Shi'ite vice president Abdul-Mahdi has allegedly withdrawn his name from consideration. Alsumaria TV adds that he notified Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, of his decision yesterday and "Abdul Mehdi did not want to be nominated in the first place, however, he respected the will of PresidentTalabani, the adviser added." NINA explains, "The vice presidents have not yet assumed their posts because the post of a third Vice President has not been solved yet, after having the other two vice pesidents nominated, Adel Abdul and Tariq al-Hashimi; while the third has not yet been determined because of the debate over the rejection of nominating Khdayer al-Khuza'e, where other blocs prefer the third vice president be of a Turkman nationally."
But that changed, according to Alsumaria, when "President [Jalal] Talabani [. . .] persuaded Adel Abdul Mehdi not to refuse his candidature to the position of Vice President". Reidar Visser (Gulf Analysis) offers:
It should be stressed that as far as the legal aspect is concerned, State of Law seems to be right in insisting on a vote on the deputies in a single batch. The law on the deputies of the president simply refers to a nomination (tarshih) in the singular, which would require a minimum of consensus beforehand. A complicating factor has been added because of an alleged legal challenge by Fakhri Karim, an adviser to President Jalal Talabani, against Tareq al-Hashemi because of his use of the title of vice-president in the period after the end of the presidency council in November 2010. Whereas it is possible to appreciate the legal aspects of that challenge, it seems strange that it should come from someone so close to Talabani: According to another of the vice-presidential candidates, Adel Abd al-Mahdi, Talabani had personally ordered his deputies from the presidency council to continue as interim deputies for him in his new position as ordinary president of Iraq! (Some reports actually say the legal challenge by Karim is directed against two of the deputies, in which case one would assume that the other one is Adel Abd al-Mahdi, who has done the same thing as Hashemi in terms of continuing to use his vice-presidential title.)
Wednesday the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personell held a hearing. Yesterday's snapshot noted the first panel (Senator Bill Nelson was the first panel). There were two other panels. The second panel was Sgt Maj Raymond Chandler (Army), Master Chief Petty Officer Rick West (Navy), Sgt Maj Carlton Kent (Marines) and Chief Master Sgt James Roy (Air Force). This panel moved quickly and nothing new was offered with the exception of the Marine's Kent stating the Marines would like a one-stop shop where they could go to learn about and access their benefits. The third panel was composed of the Fleet Reserve Association's Joseph Barnes, the National Military Family Association's Kathleen Moakler, Miliary Officers Association of America's Steven Strobridge, the Association of the US Navy's Ike Puzon and Blue Star Families' Kathy Roth-Douquet. As the third panel speakers were taking their seats, the second panel flew out of the room as did the bulk of the press with them.
Col Steven Strobridge: Our primary concern is protection of military beneficiaries against dramatic budget-driven fluctuations in this vital element of service member's career compensation package. One example is the Defecit Commission's proposal to reduce the value of TRICARE for Life by $3,000 per year for a retiree; $6,000 for a couple; for older and disabled beneficiaries through deductable and co-payment increases. That would be a major about-face from what Congress saw as "earned coverage" when TRICARE for Life was enacted ten years ago. We hope this subcommittee would oppose inclusion of any such change in the budget resolution. We also urge this subcommittee to continue its ovesight of wounded warrior and caregiver issues. Although we believe that both DoD and VA are pursuing seemless transition initiatives in good face, we urge joint-hearings by the Armed Services and the Veterans Affairs Committees to track progress and any stumbling blocks on a wide variety of ongoing issues. The coaltion continues to be concerned about the adequacy of provider participation in TRICARE especially for TRICARE standard beneficiaries. We're grateful to the Subcommittee for establishing statutory surveys of participation adquacy. But that requirement expires this year. We hope you'll renew the requirement and establish more specific actions to ensure compliance with participation standards. On the issue of TRICARE fees, the coalition has a diversity of views but believes strongly that the DoD proposed indexing methodology is inappropriate. Speaking for MOA and the 13 other associations that endorsed our statement, we haven't take the position that TRICARE fees should never rise but that Congress should establish principals in that regard to explicitly recognize that the bulk of what military people pay for their health care isn't paid in cash but is paid upfront through decades of service and sacrifice. We're encouraged that the new DoD proposal does a far better job of acknowledging that than did those of several years ago. Our principal objection is to DoD's plan to index future TRICARE Prime increases to some undetermined health care index they project to rise at 6.2% per year. In our view, the main problem is that current law leaves much of the fee setting process to the secretary's discretion. DoD went years proposing no changes, making beneficiaries believe there wouldn't be any. And then a new secretary with a new budget situation proposed tripling fees which upset beneficiaries and implied they hadn't earned their health care. We have statutory guidelines for setting and adjusting basic pay, retirement pay, survivor benefits and most other military compensation elements. We believe strongly that the law should specify several principals on military health care. First it should acknowledge, if only as a sense of Congress, military retirement and health care packages is the primary offset for the extraordinary demands and sacrifices inherent in a multi-decades military career.Second, it should acknowledge that those decades of service and sacrfice constitute a very large pre-paid premium for their health care and retirement over and above what they pay in cash. And finally it should explicitly acknowledge that extraordinary upfront premium in the adjustment process by limiting the percentage growth in TRICARE fees in any year to the percentage growth in military retired pay. In the meantime, MOA and the military coalition pledge our support to work with DoD and the Subcommittee to find other ways to hold down military health care cost growth. We believe much more can be done to encourage voluntary use of the mail-order pharmacy system, reduce costs of chronic conditions, reduce systemic duplications, and cut contract and procurement costs, to name a few.
That was an opening statement (verbal, written differed and the four witnesses had a joint-written statement). And the questions? None. Jim Webb feels the best way to chair a hearing is by boring everyone with tales of his father and tales of his own schooling. "I think we're doing everything we can for the people who serve," he insisted. The senator whose one term will be most distinguished by his attacks on the the victims of Agent Orange. The reason we're noting the above remarks is because they go back to the March 15th Armed Services Subcomittee hearing when Chair Joe Wilson explained:
The proposed TRICARE Prime fee increase for Fiscal Year 2012, while appearing to be modest, is a 13% increase over the current rate. The Dept of Defense proposes increasing the fee in the out years based on an inflation index. You suggest 6.2% but it is unclear exactly which index you are using? You plan to reduce the rate that TRICARE pays Sole Community Hospitals for inpatient care provided to our active duty, family members and retirees. Several of these hospitals are located very close to military bases -- in fact, some are right outside the front gates -- especially important for 24-hour emergency care. What analysis have you done to determine whether reducing these rates will affect access to care for our beneficiaries and in particular the readiness of our armed forces? I would also like our witnesses to discuss the range of efficiency options that were considered but not included in the President's budget.
At that hearing, Democrats and Republicans expressed their dismay and displeasure over what was being proposed. At this hearing, it was Jim Webb. And nothing else. And so the military and their families were out of luck.
Unless they'd showed up for the hearing in hopes of hearing the red headed wonder bore them. "I personally have been stuggling with this notion of increases, modest increases for the time being -- increases, the TRICARE like program [. . .]," Jim Webb yammered away, unable to find his point and after asking for view points, speaking and speaking and speaking and still speaking while claiming he wanted everyone's opinion on the issue.
That was yesterday afternoon. Yesterday morning the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing. Chair Bill Johnson explained in opening remarks that the hearing was entitled "Inspect What You Expect: Construction Contracting Practices at VA." Chair Johnson observed, "VA has acknowledged it could improve the quality of its contracting process through use of the Electronic Contract Management System, or 'eCMS.' In June of 2007, an Information Letter was issued by VA's Executive Director of the Office of Acquisition and Logistics mandating the use of eCMS. This database would record and track procurement actions of over $25,000, and the data could then be easily and comprehensively reviewed to determine the effectiveness of VA's contracting processes and make changes where necessary. Cost overruns could be identified and addressed early on, and perhaps even prevented in the first place. This sensible approach to overseeing the contracting process could prevent wasted funding, potential fraud, and reduce overall contract mismanagement. For some reason, despite its mandated usage, many supervisors and managers across VA chose to ignore eCMS, instead allowing the contracting system and runaway associated costs to continue as before. VA's Office of Inspector General found clear cases of missing and incomplete information, and in one test discovered that 83 percent of the transactions that should have gone into eCMS were left out."
The Subcomittee heard from two panels. The first was composed of Belinda Finn and Cherie Palmer of the Office of Inspector General, US Department of Veterans Affairs. The second panel was composed of VA's Glenn Haggstrom. Excerpt from the first panel.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney: One of your statements is that you have trained 14,000 VA employees annually and that's a pretty -- is that a factual -- I mean, that's a pretty big number of people to train effectively in a year.
Belinda Finn: Yes, sir. That's in fraud awareness. We provide regular briefings to people in VHA as well as the Benefits Administration on issues that they should be aware of, as, you know, managers and people on the front line who might see fraud situations.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney: How much effort is devoted to training people in the eCMS system?
Belinda Finn: From the OIG office, we don't provide that training, the department provides that training.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney: So you're not aware of how much training is involved in that?
Belinda Finn: No, sir, I'm not.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney: If we were to hold a hearing a month from now and ask you to provide names of managers that are fail-falling -- At the VA' they're -- so -- in terms of their employees complying with eCMS, could you do that?
Belinda Finn: A month might be a very short time in order to give you comprehensive information.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney: What would be an appropriate time frame?
Belinda Finn: Uhm, several months at least. I would think. I don't know because I don't know the scope of what we might need to look at it. If were trying to make a determination across the entire department that would take quite a quite a long time.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney: And in your determination, would that be something that would be effective in terms of enforcing compliance with eCMS?
Belinda Finn: It would certainly get their attention.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney: I think it would, yes.
Chair Johnson did not buy some of the excuses offered by VA for their inability to adapt to the computer program. He noted his own experience in IT and in government systems (Johnson served in the Air Force for over a quarter of a century).
Committee Chair Bill Johnson: Outside of the technical aspects of the system, and it's subjective whether that's cumbersome or not, depending on the user, every one of the other reasons for inconsistent use are management decisions, right? I mean that's -- that's what management is supposed to do. Is to provide training. Training is an integral part of the aquisition of a -- of a system like eCMS. Everybody has work loads to deal with and certainly time constraints. It seems to me, eCMS, that kind of system that does contract writing is designed to break down time constraints. So would -- would -- and I'd appreciate a response from both of you -- would you agree that the inconsistent use reasons given are primarily focused around management issues.
Belinda Finn: Yes, sir, I would agree that those are management issues. We obviously had a recommendation related to training from this report and VA did provide a great deal more training and address some of the other management issues such as having conflicted guidance as to what people were expected to do. As VA worked to obligate money from the recovery act, it mandated that every contract, no matter what size, funded with recovery act money, be completed in eCMS and as we looked at those contracts we-we didn't find any lapse with the contract for sure being there, but we did still find problems with some of the documentation being there. But, yes, these are management issues that will take continued attention in order to address.
Committee Chair Bill Johnson: Mrs. Palrmer, any comments on that?
Cherie Palmer: No, sir. I don't have anything to add.
And an excerpt from the second panel, the VA's Glenn Haggstrom.
Committee Chair Bill Johnson: What is the purpose of using eCMS?
Glenn Haggstrom: The purpose of eCMS is an electronic contract writing system. As the requirements of our contracting officers have increased over the years for reporting certain measures -- data -- up to the federal procurement data system, the federal complexities of the contracting business at large, the majority of our executive agencies have brought on these contract writing systems to have a central repository for our contracting officers to develop those contracts and do any modifications or keep track of what is happening with that specific contract. This information, if you will, then flows to what's called the procurement data system which is the system of record, if you will, for the federal government, the federal procurement data system. And it also tracks much of the same information that is resident in eCMS. eCMS, if you will, performs that backshop capability of the details that surround the contract.
Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson: Do you consider this eCMS an effective tool?
Glenn Haggstrom: There's always improvements that can be made to integrated systems. I believe it is. Uh, in my past, uh, workplace I was part of bringing online a very tool similar to this -- the integrated acquisition system. All of the federal agencies that I'm aware of, the large procuring offices have done this as part of the government's eprocurement initiative. And while each of the agencies uses different types of software and protocols, in general at electronic contract management systems across government, they're very similar in terms of the performance and capabilities that they have.
Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson: Do you -- do you consider eCMS as being properly used by the VA at this point?
Glenn Haggstrom: Mr. Chairman, we agree with what Ms. Finn was saying. eCMS is not used to the full capacity and we recognize that. And I believe there are two components to that. First is the technology component, if you will. And then I believe it's our responsibility as the headquarters and the providers of this system to ensure that what we have in terms of the system meets the performance requirements of our people. And that includes the training and the functionality and the response time. And all of these things were noted in Ms. Finn's testimony, that they looked at several years ago. The second piece of that is exactly what was discussed with the previous panel and that is the management and that is the accountability of our mid-level managers and our senior managers who are out in these contracting offices throughout the VA to ensure enforcement of this policy and work with their people to ensure that they're using the system as it has been mandated to be used.
Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson:When did the -- when did that management accountability process begin? I mean, you heard the testimony of the previous panel: 20 of 29 contracts written by the Office of Acquisitions, Logistics and Construction, totalling over $10 million were not correctly developed and entered into eCMS. You've heard figures of 87%. I've been a leader, I've been a commander, I've been a senior executive in business, how long does it take to address these managment issues?
Glenn Haggstrom: Unfortunately, in this particular case, it's taken much too long.
To put it mildly. And excuses about FY 2006 don't cut it though Jan Frye (also of the VA) tried to pretend it did and wanted to insist that, by July 2007, the VA was fully operational capable. It's 2011. As Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson observed, "Four years later, 20 million dollars of American tax payer dollars and we've got a system that's not being used -- for the most part, when you consider previous testimony, 83% of the data not being in the system. That's a long time and a lot of money being spent with very low return on investment by the American tax payers. Something's wrong here."
For Immediate Release

Contact: Ruth Benn, NWTRCC Coordinator
Brooklyn, New York
800-269-7464 (718-768-3420) or

Tax Day - Antiwar Protests
Public Demonstrations and Individual Refusal to Pay for War

On April 18 thousands of people across the United States will be refusing to pay some or all of their federal income tax to protest U.S. wars and escalating military spending. These tax refusers, who see themselves as responsible citizens, want their money used for peaceful purposes and often give taxes to social programs instead.

Monday, April 18, is the final day to file tax returns, and "war tax resisters" will be among those participating in events around the country to protest what they see as the skewed priorities of the U.S. government. Many hand out the pie chart produced by the War Resisters League, which calculates nearly 50% of federal income taxes pay for current or past wars.

Erica Weiland in Seattle, Washington, decided to refuse to pay for war in response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Our money and time are much better spent addressing the issues in the U.S. and around the world that cause wars in the first place," she says. Groups in Seattle are organizing leafleting with federal budget information at area post offices.

John K. Stoner, a retired Mennonite minister in Akron, Pennsylvania, says, "I keep wondering why people who say they oppose war continue to pay for it without a whimper of protest." He and others in his community have launched a campaign of symbolic protest called 1040 for Peace, to encourage U.S. taxpayers to express their opposition to U.S. military spending by refusing $10.40 of any taxes due, telling the government why, and giving that money to projects that promote peace or fund human needs.

War tax resistance has a long history in the U.S. and worldwide. The most famous case was Henry David Thoreau's refusal of $1 for the Mexican-American War. He spent a night in jail for this act of resistance. Today's resisters refuse to pay anything from $1 to thousands of dollars of federal income taxes, while risking collection from the Internal Revenue Service for their stand.

Patricia Tompkins, a farmer in Bakersville, North Carolina, speaks for many as she accepts the risks of confronting the IRS to stand up for her beliefs. "I made the decision to become a war tax resister in protest to our government's policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan. For me, the essence of life is connection to the land and to each other, because without the first we cannot live and without the second we cannot be fully human.

In St. Louis activists are taking their message to cut the military budget and fund human needs to Senator Roy Blunt's office and announcing grants to humanitarian groups. In Milwaukee, the protest will be in front of the Federal Courthouse. Lincoln Rice, a Milwaukee organizer, says, "My war tax resistance is grounded in my Catholic Christian spirituality. I cannot in good conscience pay my federal income taxes and contribute to the harming my Muslim brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere."

The list of events and contacts around the country can be found online at

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), founded in 1982, is a coalition of local, regional and national groups providing information and support to people who are conscientious objectors to paying taxes for war. NWTRCC initiated the War Tax Boycott, which includes a list of public war tax refusers at

- 30 –

Individual resisters are available for interviews. Please contact NWTRCC if you need contacts in your area.

Please see the list of actions at

Ruth Benn, Coordinator
National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC)
PO Box 150553
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 768-3420 * (800) 269-7464
Fax: (718) 768-4388

"Death and Taxes" – watch our 30-minute film about motivations, methods, risks, and rewards of war tax resistance

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