Thursday, November 29, 2012

Barry & Bully

Barry & Bully

From June 28, 2009, that's "Barry & Bully."  That's when Barack decided to buy in publicly on indefinite detention.  He looks in the mirror and sees Bully Boy Bush looking back.  They are two of the same.

And that only became more true as his first term progressed.

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

Thursday, November 29, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's management skills take
another hit, more death sentence are handed out by the government, Nouri's disprespect for the Constitution is noted, Nouri claims his own commanders are shutting him out of the process, a fight breaks out in the halls of Parliament, Martin Kobler testifies to the UN Security Council, and more.
Today Martin Kobler addressed the United Nations Security Council in New York.  Kobler is the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq and heads United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  As usual when we note the report on Iraq to the Security Council, we do it in two snapshots.  It was a presentation that lasted over 20 minutes.  It is important enough -- how the UN officially views Iraq for public consumption -- to be included in full.  So we spread it out over two snapshots.
Martin Kobler:  Mr. President, as 2012 draws to a close, it is pertinent to take stock of progress Iraq has made during the last twelve months.  During that time, Iraq has made committed efforts to enforce law and order following the withdrawal of United States forces.  Reclaiming its rightful place at the diplomatic table, it successfully hosted the 23rd Arab Summit in Baghdad in April, and, in May, it hosted talks between Iran and the permanent members of the [Security] Council plus Germany.  In terms of strengthening state institutions, the Human Rights Commission was established in April  and a new board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission was elected in September.   The latter resulted in an agreement on the date for government council elections in April next year.  This progress, however, is in danger by two factors.  First, the stalemate between Iraq's political leaders and, second, developments in the region.  Mr. President, I regret to report to the Council that estranged relations between Iraq's political leaders have endured throughout the year.   One manifestation of this is the Arab-Kurdish rift.  The lack of trust stems from a number of pending issues of contention, including power-sharing, security and tense relations between the central government and the region of Kurdistan.  The resulting political deadlock is preventing the progress and reform necessary to consolidate Iraq's transition.  Attempts to defuse the stalemate have most recently focused on a package of political reforms which appears stalled.  The government of Iraq's decision to establish the Tigris Command Operations Command responsible for overall security in Kirkuk, Salahuddin and the Diyala Govern-ates has been highly criticized by members of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  A military stand-off ensued, incorporating the armed forces of the respective governments.  The militarization of the situation has resulted in the regrettable death of one civilian.  I should like to take this opportunity to call on the parties to exercise all due restraint at this time of increased tensions.  I count on the leadership of the politicians of Iraq to resolve their differences through political dialog in accordance with the Constitution.  In that regard, I welcome the recent efforts of Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and I also welcome the convening of a meeting between the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga at the technical level earlier this week in Baghdad.  It is a step in the right direction.  And I do encourage both sides to keep the door open -- of dialog open -- and implement the understandings reached.  UNAMI stands ready to implement any possible agreement reached that would de-escalate the situation and promote confidence among the various communities.  Over the past few days, Mr. President, dozens of Iraqi security personnel and civilians -- including worshipers -- have been killed and many other dozens injured in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Karbala and Falluja.  Extremists use the political differences of the leaders to ignite either sectarian or ethnic violence and tensions in Iraq.  Immediate resolutions and compromise by all political leaders should be the response to these attempts.  The tense political standoff is thus testing Iraq's internal fault-lines.  August and September were the deadliest months in the last two years.  A particular atrocious series of attacks on October 27th targeted pilgrims during holy Eid al-Adha observance.  Left unaddressed, the political impasse will leave Iraq vulnerable to the sectarists of Iraq's ability, mainly from the spillover of violence in the wider region.  Mr. President, Iraq finds itself in an increasingly unstable region environment generated by the Syrian Civil War.  The Syrian conflict has exposed a complex web on interconnected and conflicting interests that threatens to engulf the region in violent conflict.  With no immediate solution to the crisis in sight, there are real risks of spillover, violence and destabilization.  At the domestic level, the conflict across Iraq's borders has had a significant humanitarian impact on Iraq.  The crisis also impacts on Iraq's relations with her neighbors. Iraq's relationship with Turkey has also grown increasingly tense in recent months with an escalation in the rhetoric exchanged on both sides. The divergent positions between Iraq and other states in the region on how to address the Syrian crisis have also further strained their relations.  Within this challenging context, however, it is possible to identify opportunities for UNAMI to continue to assist Iraq's transition process. Indeed, not withstanding the lack of progress between Iraq's political leaders, in resolving their differences, Iraq's expectations on UNAMI continues to grow.  UNAMI's assistance, pursuant to its Council mandate, is focusing on two priority tracks:  First, advancing national reconciliation and dialog and, second, tackling regional issues.  Since my last briefing to the Council, UNAMI has continued to encourage political leaders to engage in inclusive dialog to resolve their differences in the spirit and framework of the Constitution.  I've continued to conduct frequent visits to Erbil and Sulamaniyah to promote such a dialog.  I've also conducted intensive discussions both in Baghdad and in Kirkuk focusing on the holding of the long overdue governate council elections in Kirkuk.  UNAMI's support to the Council of Representatives on the basis of sustained facilitation and technical advice contributed to the selection of the IHEC's new board of commissioners in September -- a proficient and a genuinely and truly independent IHEC board is essential at this juncture as Iraq prepares for nationwide governor council elections on 20th of April next year and legislative elections in 2014.
Factually, we should note that the Arab League Summit was March 29th and not in April. and that it was a failure as judged by who attended. From that day's snapshot:
Who were the notable no-shows?  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report that the no-shows included rulers from "Saudi Arabia, Qatar and most other Gulf countries, as well as Morocco and Jordan -- all of them headed by Sunni monarchs who deeply distrust the close ties between Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government and their top regional rival, Iran." The Belfast Telegraph notes, "The only ruler from the Gulf to attend was the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah."
With regards to IHEC . . .
I like Chris Hedges.  He is someone who tries to tell his truth and I'm always willing to consider what he says.  So let's drop back to election night in the US.  There's Hedges on a really bad program that he really shouldn't have been on but was.  Ava and I debated whether or not to cover this in real time but decided not to.  Hedges offered his belief that the world itself was in danger and that the world was being destroyed, to the point that it would be uninhabitable.  He said that in the face of that, other issues were less important.  Other issues identified by him?  He immediately went to women's rights.  Isn't that the knee jerk for lefty males every time?
And Ava and I were watching and giving him consideration because it is true that planet going down in flames might trump other things.  However, Chris Hedges then remained silent as a dumb ass with a stupid organization then piped in that he agreed and, by the way, what was really important and what needed to be focused on was all the enthusiasm it was building among people of color.
We waited for Hedges to object.
There was no objection and we felt Punk'd.
You want us to set aside women's rights -- the basic rights of over half the planet and a group that represents every race and ethnicity known to humankind -- and yet you're okay with some crap about the 'importance' of happy thoughts  for a certain segment of people?  That trumps whether or not human life can be supported by the planet?  An abstract feeling trumps the basic legal rights of over half the population?
Does Heges believe that happy thoughts trump the survival of the planet?  I doubt it.  But he wasn't willing to object.  These conversations happen over and over.  In the US, it's usually a bunch of male Democrats saying the party could get more votes if they dropped their support for abortion.  (That would of course drive women voters away but the 'brains' making that proposal don't consider women 'real voters' anyway.)  On the left (I'll let the right talk about itself), in the abstract, the disabled and challenged are treated with respect, men of color are treated with respect, men of certain ethnicites are treated with respect, all these groupings get respect and no one's asking that their rights be ignored or chipped away at.  But time and again, women -- who don't even make up half the Senate in our 'advanced' United States -- are asked to sacrifice.  It's past time for the left to get honest about what it really thinks about women and how little women are valued.  These continual attacks on women, these continual slights would not repeatedly happen were women not so devalued.  And hats off to Ruth for her great catch last night where she noted George Mitrovich reduced a strong Senator to arm candy because of his own sexism and that he did so while trying to pretend he's appalled by sexism.  to decry sexism. Let's also note that his crap appeared at The Huffington Post.  Time and again, certain women sell all women out so that they can advance on their own.  (The term is "queen bee.")
And time and again, women have to sacrifice and we're so damn sick of it.  Women's rights, their basic rights, Hedges was willing to toss aside for survival of the planet but not a feel-good mood about an election.  That was important and valid.  But the right to self-determination, to control one's own body, to own property, etc, these were unimportant.
What does this have to do with the above?
Kobler's bragging and boasting about IHEC -- Independent High Electoral Commission -- was embarrassing.
There is only one woman on the Commission.  The law requires women to be a third of the Commission.  The woman was added days after the others and probably wouldn't have been if even the Iraqi judges weren't publicly calling out the lack of women on the Commission.
Time and again, women are made to wait.  We're made to wait by Chris Hedges because it's all about survival, we're made to wait some other reason at some other time.  If Iraq, as it stands currently, cannot follow the law and cannot appoint three women to IHEC (appoint, not elect, what a joke that was from Kobler), then exactly when the hell will the law be followed?
Nouri al-Maliki has one female minister in his Cabinet.  All the rest -- even the so-called 'acting' ministers -- are men.  Women continues to be eliminated from positions of power, women continue to not be seated at the table.  Iraq's female politicians -- especially female members of Iraqiya -- loudly and publicly decried the IHEC board for not having the three women required by law.  But Kobler can't even note that.  Kobler happy stamps it and we're all supposed to accept that?
At what point is Nouri's government held accountable for its failure to follow the law?  At what point does the United Nations finally find the guts to call out the disenfranchisement of women?  Oh, yes, women were mentioned -- much later in the speech -- and we'll get to that tomorrow.  As their own little island.  As though they're not also Iraqis, as though Iraq is not also their country, as though they don't have a right to participate and as though 'success' in Iraq can be judged without considering what's happened to Iraq women.
How very sad.
Today Iraq was slammed with multiple bombings and shootings leading to dub it a "bloodbath."  Margaret Gtiffis ( counts 54 dead and 237 injured in the day's cycle of violence.  RT notes, "Two roadside bombs in the city of Hilla blew up a group of Shiite pilgrims, leaving at least 26 people dead and several dozen wounded. The bombs struck a commercial area of the city during a busy period.  Another attack happened in the shrine city of Karbala, 90 kilometers to the south of Baghdad. A car bomb killed 6 civilians and wounded 20, some of them police officers.­"  And RT has three Reuters photos of the aftermath of those two bombings.  Today's violence continues the week's trend of attacks.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "Attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday left at least 38 people dead and more than 130 wounded."

In Hilla, AFP notes, "Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area of the blasts and set up checkpoints in the city to search cars, an AFP correspondent said, adding that shops near the site were shuttered after the attack."  Ali al-Rubaie (Reuters) quotes teacher Ihsan al-Khalidi explaining, "We started to stop civilian cars asking them to take the wounded to hospital since there were not enough ambulances to transfer them."   Sinan Salaheddin (AP) provides these details on the Hilla aftermath, "Twisted and charred remains of vehicles were seen outside damaged shops as shop owners collected their strewn merchandise from the bloodstained pavement, littered with debris."  On the Karbala attack, Al Jazeera explains,  "In the shrine city of Karbala, a car bomb killed four and left another 16 people wounded. The bomber parked the vehicle near the entrance of the Imam Abbas shrine. Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghad, said the holy site made for a 'very daring' attack in Karbala."  Xinhua adds, "Iraqi security forces blocked the roads to central Karbala which leads to the shrine of Imam Hussein, one of the 12 most Shiite revered Imams."   Al Bawaba notes that Shi'ites were the targets in the attacks on those two cities while other bombs today were targeting security forces.

The above is getting most of the focus from the western media; however, those are not the only attacks carried out in Iraq today. All Iraq News notes a Falluja suicide car bombing targeting a checkpoint which left 2 security forces dead (five more injured and two civilians injured as well).  Xinhua has the attacker on foot in an explosive vest.  Alsumaria adds that a double bombing in Kirkuk's Hawija left one Iraqi soldier injured and  1 person was shot dead outside his Baghdad home (machine gun).   All Iraq News notes a bombing just outside Baghdad targeting a Sahwa restaurant which left 2 people dead and eleven injured.  Among the other violence Margaret Griffis ( notes is, "Gunmen blew up two homes in Kirkuk.  One belonged to a doctor, the other to a businessman."

In addition, the Voice of Russia notes that Turkish warplanes bombed northern Iraq: "A fleet of F-16 bombers with Turkey's Second Tactical Air Force based in southeastern Diyarbakir province raided Iraq's Avashin, Zap, Haftanin and Metina regions, Dogan news agency reports."  The war planes were targeting the PKK.  Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." Trend News Agency adds, "The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has lasted for over 25 years." 
On the continued violence, Duraid Adnan (New York Times) wisely observes, "Each time a period of calm sets in, it is shattered by more violence." 
 Violence didn't just happen out in the streets of Iraq and during home invasions today. 

All Iraq News reports an "altercation" took place in Parliament today between several deputies and led Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to immediately adjourn the session and postpone the next session until Saturday.  Thrown fists have not been uncommon in the Iraqi Parliament in the last seven years but it has been some time since there were any reports of physical violence among MPs.  Whatever happened, All Iraq News notes it took place in the hallway.  Alsumaria also terms it an "altercation" and notes that prior to that, the Parliament had read six bills and was discussing the allegations of torture in Iraqi prisons and detention centers.  Though no one has yet to take responsibility for the altercation, you can be sure State of Law will insist it was caused by 'Ba'athists' who've been hiding out in Syria (since that is the group they tend to blame for everything).

The Ministry of the Interior (headed by Nouri since he never nominated anyone to be Minister of Interior -- in violation of the Constitution) issued a statement today.  Dar Addustour reports that statement strongly denies that any women are being held illegally or tortured in detention centers.  That is the wording of the statement.  I point that out because the accusation is women are being tortured in detention centers and prisons and the statement issued only covers detention centers.  Kitabat notes that before the altercation, the Parliament was discussing the denial by the Ministry of the Interior.  Lending credence to the belief that the altercation was about women prisoners being tortured, Alsumaria reports that the National Alliance is up in arms and saying that what happened today is Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's fault as a result of his 'bias' by allowing this issue to be addressed. 

Nouri had hoped for a different image to be projected today.  All Iraq News notes that the prime minister visited the International Book Fair in Baghdad today and posed for photos.  Not only did the bombings and shootings and whatever happened in the hallways of Parliament overwhelm that photo op, the Russian arms deal just will not go away.

October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  After taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  It's not going away.

The deal has been rife with rumors of corruption from the moment that it was announced.  Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh has twice had to publicly issue statements insisting he was not involved in the deal.  In addition, there are allegations that Nouri's son received a kickback from the deal.

Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) notes that al-Dabbagh has left Baghdad and arrived in the UAE and that someone is whispering Russian President Vladimir Putin personally provided Nouri with proof that al-Dabbagh was involved in backroom deals to benefit from the contract.  If the point of that rumor is to create sympathy for Nouri, it doesn't.  It just makes him look incompetent if it's true.  True or not, it's very hard to believe that Putin (or any leader) would provide evidence of corruption knowing it would tank a multi-billion dollar deal.

Al Rafidayn notes that Parliament's Integrity Commission is said to have the names of 14 officials who were to profit from the corrupt deal.  Kitabat explains one of the names is Ali al-Dabbagh and the Parliament was attempting to call on him to appear before them.  That's now in doubt since he's fled to the UAE.   Kitabat notes the other names are said to be those who accompanied Nouri to Russia.

Adding to the view of Nouri as an incompetent on the world stage are the issues emerging over another big contract.  Dar Addustour reports that Rotana Arabia, a cell phone company, signed a contract with Iraq woth as much as $30 million.  The contract was brokered by Saadoun al-Dulaimi who is the Minister of Culture.  Nouri's calling for the contract to be cancelled, citing corruption.  He wants the Ministry to cancel the contract.  Not the Minister.  He can't ask Minister of Culture Saadoun al-Dulaimi to do anything because no one can find him and he's reportedly fled the country. 

Tensions continue between the KRG and the Baghdad-based central government over Nouri sending in the Tigris Operation Command forces into disputed regions, as Martin Kobler noted today when addressing the UN Security Council.  In an interesting development, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports Nouri is said to be angry because his generals are not providing him with details and summeries of the ongoing negotiations with the Kurdish Peshmerga officials.  If Nouri is really being kept out of the loop, that says a great deal about how much his power has faded in the last weeks.  Even more surprising since the Peshmerga has published the main points the two sides agreed upon:
1. Forming an operational mechanism, principles of cooperation and joint committees in the disputed regions. The joint operations in the disputed regions of Kurdistan will remain unchanged but the mechanism of operation will be revitalized between the federal forces and the forces of the Kurdistan Region.
2. The meetings of all the joint operations committees will be rescheduled to once a month. This will be increased if deemed necessary, especially for meetings of the SAC.
3. The location of the meetings and coordination for the meetings will be organized by the command of the Iraqi Armed Forces who will work as a coordinator for the work of the committees, especially the SAC.
4. A follow-up procedure will be conducted for the work and the decisions of the joint committees and punitive measures will be taken against any defaulting party or individual.
5. Any party or individual will be punished in case of reporting misleading information to their superiors in order to create problems and crisis at any level.
6. The SAC must be immediately informed about any problems that arise in the disputed areas in order to immediately work on solving them.
7. The agreements must be honored and the commanders, officials and individuals who violate the terms of the agreements will be punished.
8. Forming a quick mechanism to pull out all the forces of both sides that were mobilized to the region after Nov. 16, 2012. Pulling out these forces must be transparent, truthful and supervised by the supreme committee members after the consent of the SMC.
9. Reconsidering the decision of forming operations command in the region, especially the Tigris Operations Command, and giving back the authority of security in Kirkuk to the police, Asayish and internal forces.
Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani met today with a Kurdish deglation that had been engaged with negotiations over the Operation Tigris forces and they told him that Nouri al-Maliki will not agree to withdraw the forces.
To explain what's going on, Nouri al-Maliki was installed by the US in 2006 as prime minister of Iraq.  (The Parliament's choice had been Ibrahim al-Jaafari whom the Bush White House felt was too close to Iran.)  The 2005 Constitution of Iraq called for Article 140 to be implemented by the end of 2007.  Article 140 outlines how disputed regions will be resolved: census and referendum.  Kirkuk is the most well known disputed area because it is oil-rich.  The Kurds claim it as does the central-government out of Baghdad.  How do you resolve the dispute?
You implement Article 140.  Nouri refused to do so throughout his first term.  To get a second term after his political slate came in second in the March 2010 elections, the US government brokered a contract known as the Erbil Agreement.  If Nouri made certain concessions (including that he would finally implement Article 140 -- implementation that he's required to do -- this isn't optional, this is Iraq's Constitution), then he could have a second term as prime minister despite the results of the election. 
That should have settled it.  It didn't.  All this time later, he's still not implemented Article 140.  But he has now sent in security forces he controls into these disputed areas.  The Kurds see this as an attempt by Nouri to grab the areas for Baghdad in violation of the Iraqi Constitution.
And that's only one of the Constitutional issues Nouri's in violation of.  The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is the political party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.  PUK's Adnan Mufti tells Rudaw:
As the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani is responsible for overseeing the constitution. He will warn anybody who violates the constitution. On Nov. 19, Ali Ghedan, the commander of the Iraqi infantry units, sent a letter to certain units and ordered their mobilization. Talabani, acting in his constitutional powers, sent a letter to Ghedan right away. Talabani told Ghedan that his orders were unconstitutional, because Article 67 says the army is not allowed to interfere in political matters.
Talabani also told Ghedan that he had been unconstitutionally appointed to command the infantry units, because the commanders of all of such units have to be appointed by parliament. In the case of Ghedan, this was not done. Therefore, Ghedan does not hold any constitutional powers. Talabani asked Ghedan to annul his orders right away, otherwise he would be taken to court.
Under the Iraqi Constituion, Prime Minister Maliki is the Commander in Chief and enjoys the right to create and deploy such a force, of course.  The Constitution also requires him, via Article 61, to get the approval of parliament for the appointment of any high-ranking military commanders, such as Lieutenant General Abdul-amir Zaidi.  I doubt anyone in Iraq can remember the last time Maliki sought parliamentary approval for such appointments, of course.  Perhaps referring to the Constitution has become passe and quaint, as Prime Minister ignores more provisions of Iraq's highest law than I can adequately list here.  I'll still go ahead and cite a few of Mr. Maliki's constitutional transgressions, perhaps out of nostalgia for the document: Refusing provinces their constitutional right to become regions (Article 119), denying Kurdistan's right to exploit new oil fields in its Region (Articles 112 and 115), failing to create a Federacy Council (Articles 48 and 65), compromising the independence of Iraq's High Commission for Human Rights, Independent Electoral Commission, and Commission on Public Integrity (Article 102), and reneging on promise after promise to finally allow a census and referendum to settle the fate of the disputed territories (Article 140). 
Haider Hassan Jalil Rahim, an MP from Mr. Maliki's ironically named State of Law Coalition, seems to think that the likes of the Dijla forces should even occupy Kurdistan and to hell with the federal system that was agreed to in 2005.  Recently he told Rudaw that "The government should impose its prestige and authority over the entire Iraqi territory, but the conflict will not reach that stage of intensity."  Iraq's Constitution requires that the Kurdistan Region's Parliament give its permission before any Iraqi federal army units enter its territory, but I won't even bother to look up the number of the article in question.  The country seems to be quickly moving past the stage of promises on a piece of paper actually mattering, you see.  Instead, Iraq increasingly slides back to the old pattern of confrontation between a leader in Baghdad's personal army units and the Kurds' peshmerga, all amred to the teeth.  Although the conflict may "not reach that stage of intensity" this month, the pressure seems to build every year.  With American military forces now out of the country, the chances of an unfortunate explosion between the Kurds and Mr. Maliki's Republican Guards (whatever he actually calls each unit) grow everyday.
In related news, a political rival of Nouri's visited the KRG.   Al Mada reports that the head of the Supreme Council, Adel Abdul-Mahdi al-Muntafiki, went to Erbil yesterday and met with Massoud Barzani to discuss how to resolve the issues and how to achieve constructive dialogue between all parties.  He is a former vice president.  He and Tareq al-Hashemi became the vice presidents of Iraq in 2005 and Adel continued in that role until the protests of 2011 against government corruption, lack of jobs, lack of basic public services and more.  After Nouri stalled for his infamous '100 days' (promising to solve the issue if Iraqis would give him 100 days and then, at the end of those 100 days, doing nothing), Adel announced he was stepping down as vice president in protest of the ongoing corruption.    Tareq al-Hashemi remains a Vice President.  He's currently in Qatar, having left Turkey recently.  As soon as the bulk of US forces left Iraq in December 2011, Nouri targeted Sunnis and members of his political rival group Iraqiya.  He declared Tareq, the vice president of the country, to be a terrorist.  Even before the for-show trial took place, the Baghdad judges Nouri controls had already held a press conference to announce Tareq was guilty.  That's not how it works under the Iraqi Constitution, no.  That is how it works under Nouri's oppresive thumb.  Tareq was found guilty in absentia. 
He is the only known sitting vice president of a country to be convicted of terrorism.  He is also the only known sitting vice president of a country to be sentenced to execution (three sentences).   Today AFP reports, "Four of fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's bodyguards were sentenced to death on Thursday for killing a civil defense officer and his wife, judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar said." Xinhua quotes Abdul-Sattar al-Biraqdar, Supreme Judicial Council spokesperson, stating, "The Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) on Thursday issued verdicts of penalties by hanging against four bodyguards of Hashimi for their involvement in the killing of an Iraqi civil defense major and his wife along with wounding their son in al- Jamia district (in western Baghdad) in 2011."

In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Yesterday her office issued the following:

Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: November 28, 2012
Wednesday December 12, 2012 10:00am
Hearing: Nomination of Keith Kelly to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training.
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk / System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

The plan for tomorrow's snapshot is to finish up Kobler's speech to the Security Council (with more criticism than what we offered today) and to cover a Wednesday Congressional hearing that there's not room for today (and that I wasn't willing to cover yesterday -- associating it with the morning vomitting made me unwilling to cover it Thursday, sorry -- that's not a reflection on the hearing).
Read on ...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

CIA Diva

"CIA Diva"

From June 4, 2009, that's "CIA Diva" about Leon Panetta. Leon's only been two comics (that I remember, anyway).  C.I. knows Leon.  Each comic caused me a panic.  In the other, I'm comparing Leon Panetta to a pig.

I was really worried about both comics.  I thought there was a point to them but this was a friend of C.I.'s and was I "sh**ting where I eat" as the phrase goes?

C.I. didn't care.  I never heard anything about this comic other than, "Wow, you really nailed his face."  On the second one, I was talking about it and saying I might not do it.  It got back to C.I. and she called and said, "Isaiah, as I hear of your planned comic, it's not only funny, it really has a needed point.  Don't worry about it.  Your comics make fun, that's what editorial comics do.  Everyone will be fine, everything will be fine."

So I went ahead and drew it.  And waited for the explosion.  The only comment I got was, "I loved it.  It was very cute."

So, no, C.I.'s not using the site to give her friends a break.  She also doesn't edit or interfere with what I write.  If I'm doubting myself, she's the one who calls and says, "You have to do it."

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's State of Law continues spreading rumors, Nouri's State of Law continues not to grasp what a constitution is (let alone what it says),  Moqtada sums up what Nouri's attempts to end  the ration card system really meant, and more.
Let's start with Benghazi because, like Elaine, I'm getting real damn tired of Our Liar Of The Left.  Today OLOFL calls out CNN's Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, ABC's Jake Tapper, PBS' Kwame Holman and others.  Could they all be wrong?
Certainly.  Anyone can be wrong.  I'm wrong all the time.  That's part of life. 
I'm also not concerned with 'tone' -- with one exception -- because you should call people out in your own voice and not someone elses, we need more voices hitting more notes not a choir of tenors all hitting the same damn note.  My exception?  OLOFL's sexism is well known and  I did notice that Erin Burnett gets a special kind of attack different from the men. 
Today OLOTL accuses the journalists of many things including "cherry picking."  He's the one who's cherry picking.  Susan Rice went on television six days after the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.  She went on multiple programs.   Journalists have to condense.  That is not the same thing as "cherry picking."  They're dealing with the totality of Susan Rice's presentation.
Some try to argue she's the messenger.  Yes, I believe she was confirmed to be that.  I believe that's what an ambassador does.  But the American people don't give a damn if she was just the messenger or not.  She went on television and spoke about Benghazi.  She was flat out wrong.  Now if  anyone wants to argue that Susan Rice is incompetent, he might get some takers.  But to argue that she couldn't help it and blah blah blah?  No.  That ship sailed a long time ago.  She was going on every network Sunday morning.
CBS' Face The Nation, NBC's Meet The Press, ABC's This Week, CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday -- am I missing one?  All links go to transcripts -- Fox News was smart enough to put their video and transcript together.   She presented the same bad talking points over and over.  Five live interviews that morning? She should have known her facts before she gave the first one, she should have known her facts and been up to date before the first interview (which dismisses the claim that Saturday evening a new view emerged and poor Susan Rice woke up Sunday morning, took out her curlers and stepped in front of the camera).  She used "spontaneous" in every interview (Somerby attacks Anderson for noting "spontaneous").  Susan Rice was the messenger because the State Dept wasn't going to lie.  Susan Rice shouldn't have been on TV.  It should have been Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or someone else at the State Dept,  Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, etc.  Susan Rice?  Please.  The US Ambassador to the United Nations?
That was above her head.  If she's stupid enough to think she can ace it, then she's stupid enough to earn the blame for her idiotic statements which -- even in the official White House timeline -- are now out of date and wrong.
I've done press junkets.  As I go from interview to interview, I have someone telling me if any information has changed and I'm revising my remarks to include that -- and that's the entertainment industry.  Susan Rice should have known the information that came in on Saturday before she spoke on Sunday.  If no one bothered to inform her, that's also on her because she should have demanded it when she agreed to do the programs, "I need to know every update that comes in between now and when I step on camera."
Is that hard? Well so is life.  And if you're going to go on TV to speak about an attack that claimed the lives of 4 Americans (Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Chris Stevens) and speak on behalf of the US government, your job is to be prepared.
She wasn't or she lied.  She was incompetent or she lied. 
Actually, she may have been incompetent and a liar. 
I see this as a lie, ". . . what we understand to be the assessment at present" (Face The Nation, similar words used on other programs).  That's a lie.  That's, according to the White House, the assessment early Saturday afternoon as she got a briefing.  It wasn't Saturday evening's assessment.  It certainly wasn't Sunday morning's assessment.
Again, if you're going on TV to do live interviews and you are representing the US government, you need the most current information.  She didn't do the work required.  Maybe she wasn't smart enough to know what work was required?  Maybe her personal time Saturday and Sunday was more important to her?  I have no idea.  But she went on TV Sunday morning and gave out-of-date information according to the White House's version of events.
She should have cared a little less about protecting the White House and a little more about serving the American people.  Barack Obama is not paying her, the American people are.  She works for the American people and she takes an oath to the Constitution, not to a office, not to a person.
She wants to be Secretary of State and Barack wants her to as well.  If nominated, she'll be jumping over Senator John Kerry which should raise eyebrows considering her awful record in the last four years in terms of public diplomacy.  And that's the only record she has.  Yet she's going to be put in charge of the US State Dept which is in charge of Iraq?  This liar or incompetent or both is going to be put over the billions of dollars the US is still pouring into Iraq?  America needs someone trustworthy in that position.  Susan Rice is a joke to many American people.  She's not up to the job and she comes in as a joke.  This is how Barack Obama wants to waste his time post-election? 
I thought the second term was going to be about getting things done.  I thought this was the term Barack was going to get to work.  So choosing between a qualified nominee (John Kerry) who is an automatic approved by the Senate nominee and between the unqualified Susan Rice who already has senators opposed to her, Barack's going to waste America's time with Susan Rice?  (Because he's a senator, John Kerry's an automatic confirmation.  That's how it goes historically.  The Senate rushes to confirm its current and former colleagues.)  So America's going to have to suffer through weeks of drama because Barack can't stop fixating on Susan Rice?  And let's be clear that, if Rice had any integrity, she'd look at the situation herself, realize what a liability she is and announce she was not interested in the post. 
The phrase the White House and its employees need to learn is "for the good of the country." 
It's a phrase many leaders and officials should use.  Take Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad-based government which, according to Alsumaria News, had to issue an announcement today that they are not holding any Saudi royals nor planning to execute them.  The message came via Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari who also stated that the Suadi prisoners don't necessarily give their real names when arrested in Iraq.  How they are then able to determine that no Saudi princes are in custody (the rumor circulating had been that Iraq was gearing up to execute a Saudi prince) is not addressed.  Of course, Nouri's screwed up the country so bad that it's not just rumors about foreigners but about Iraqis.  Dar Addustour reports that someone with the Supreme Judicial Council is stating this week that the judiciary has issued arrest warranges for two Iraqiya members of Parliament: Khalid al-Alwani and Adnan al-Janabi.  Both rumors speak to the distrust Nouri has sewn.  Iraq's relations with its Arab neighbors would seem terrible had Nouri not engaged in the lengthy verbal attack on Turkey for most of 2012.  Nouri's relations with political rivals is always shaky but more so with members of Iraqiya whom Nouri has repeatedly targeted. 
Iraq, after all, is the only country currently with a sitting vice president who's been convicted of terrorism.  Nouri swore an arrest warrant on Tareq al-Hashemi.  Nouri's kangaroo court convicted Tareq.  Not a surprise.  February 16th, a press conference was held and Baghdad judges explained Tareq was guilty of terrorism and one judge declared that Tareq had tried to kill him.  But, thing is,  the trial didn't even start until May.  Months before the trial started, the judiciary declared him guilty in a press conference.  That tells you the level of 'justice' in Iraq.  Even before you factor in the torture confessions, the abduction of Tareq's office staff, the refusal to allow him to call witnesses and so much more.
Though the verdict isn't taken seriously outside of Iraq (and Iran), al-Hashemi was convicted of terrorism and he remains Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi because he's never been removed from office.  Even now, Nouri doesn't have the votes required in the Parliament to remove him from office. The editorial board of the Saudi Gazette notes today:
Unfortunately Maliki robbed his government of much Sunni support when he decided to prosecute leading Sunni politician and vice-president Tariq Al-Hashemi for running death squads.
Hashemi fled, perhaps significantly first to Kurdish Iraq and then abroad.
The Sunni leader has since been tried in his absence and sentenced to death.
In Iraq, the political crisis has not ended.  The March 2010 elections were followed by Political Stalemate I as Nouri stomped his feet because Iraqiya beat his own State of Law meaning someone from Iraqiya should be prime minister-designate.  But Nouri had the White House on his side.  So after eigh months of nothing happening, the political blocs signed off on the US-negotiated contract entitled the Erbil Agreement.  Nouri used it to grab his second term and then refused to honor the contract.  Since the summer of 2011, Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented.  This is Political Stalemate II which Nouri turned into a political crisis when he began targeting Sunnis and/or members of Iraqiya. 
 All Iraq News reports Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement yesterday where he explained that the effort to cancel the ration cards was an effort to control the markets, that it was not about addressing corruption and that it was the start of an attempt to rig the upcoming elections.  That's a very strong statement from Moqtada and part of the efforts to draw a line between him and Nouri and to set him up to be the next prime minister.  It's the sort of leadership Jalal Talabani fails to exhibit repeatedly.   Background on the food-rations card system, from Monday's snapshot:

Last Tuesday, Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh announced the cancellation of the program. There was a huge pushback that grew and grew -- from politicians, from clerics, from the people until Friday when it really couldn't be ignored. The program has been in place since 1991 meaning that it is all over half of Iraqis know (Iraq has a very young population, the median age has now risen to 21). It allowed Iraqis to get basic staples such as flour sugar, rice, etc. As the clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, noted, this move would hurt the people who are already struggling economically. It was also an idiotic political move to make. In April, provinicial elections will be held. Nouri's already in campaign mode and this very unpopular move did not help him there. The smartest thing politically would have been to go into a full retreat on the proposal and announce that you had heard the people, to flatter them and make it appear you listened. 
Saturday, there was a moment when it looked like Nouri might grasp that. All Iraq News reportedAlsumaria reported Dawa announced that they had nothing to do with the decision and they're also tried to insist at the same time that it wasn't Nouri's decision. Kurdistan Alliance MP Sharif Soliman told All Iraq News that those responsible for the decision are trying to make up excuses and push the blame elsewhere. The Kurdistan Alliance's Mohsen Saadoun told Alsumaria that Nouri is responsible for this decision. the Cabinet of Ministers will hold an emergency meeting on the issue. Nouri's political slate is State of Law, his political party is Dawa. How unpopular is the move to cancel the food-ration program?
Today Alsumaria reports that the food program is not getting the axe. Instead, the people will be able to decide if they would like to remain on the existing system or receive cash. When you tell people they can remain on the ration card system or they can get cash, when you tell that to people in a bad economy with many bills, they will be tempted to go for the cash. The ration card is the better system. But there are bills owed that have to be paid and there is the hope in people that things have to get better. So they will tell themselves that they can make it right now with the cash and that, in a few months or a year, fate will provide and things will be better. In the meantime, they've been moved off the progam and the prices -- as Sistani, politicans and the people have noted -- will sky rocket. So the money will be of little use to them then.

Al Mada reports that a poll found 69.5% of Iraqis surveyed felt that cancellation of the ration cards would negatively effect their families' standard of living and 81% opposed doing away with the ration cards.  Hassan Latif al-Zubaidi (Niqash) reports:

Various reports from as far back as 2004 have concluded that scrapping the ration card system would lead to lower living standards in Iraq in general.  There are a large number of food-insecure individuals in Iraq -- early estimates range from between 11 and 16 percent of the population -- and analysts have suggested that that number could double or even triple should the ration card system be scrapped.
So for the time being, the Iraqi government, haveing rescinded its earlier decision to get rid of the system altogether, has decided that citizens may now have a choice -- choose the ration card which allegedly supplies around ICD12,000 worth of goods or a cash payout of IQD15,000 per month. 
Of course there are no guarantees that the cash will be used by the needy to buy the food they need and there's obviously still plenty of room for social welfare fraud and for corruption.  Only one thing seems certain when it comes to the ration card: with elections coming up in Iraq soon -- they're planned for early 2013 -- it also seems highly unlikely there will be any further major "improvements" made to the ration card system in the near future.
Shaeen Mufti (Rudaw) quotes MP SHorsh Haji who serves on Iraq's Economic Committee in Parliament, "Making decisions one day and revising them the next proves that the government is without a plan and doesn't know what is best for the people."
Following the idiotic decision to cancel the program, Nouri made other questionable decisions.  For example, taking an axe to a contract with another country.  October 9th, Nouri was strutting across the world stage as he inked a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia. Then something happened 30 days later and the status of the deal became in question. Was it all just buyer's remorse over a big-ticket item? Saturday, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) reported:

Iraq's prime minister has canceled a recently signed arms deal with Russia after "suspicions over corruption" surfaced, his spokesman told CNN on Saturday.
Under the $4.2 billion deal forged last month, Russia would deliver attack helicopters and mobile air-defense systems to Iraq.

Amani Aziz (Al Mada) reported that there are senior Iraqi government officials who are involved with a brother of Russian President Vladimir Putin. All Iraq News noted there are calls for Nouri to step forward and clear his name. Al Rafidayn added Nouri spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi announced that the deal is off. New contracts may be needed, he said, because weapons are, but the deal is off. AP hedged the bets  going with language about the deal being "reconsidered" and in "turnaround." Reuters spent the day providing constant updates and in their third one they noted, "In a confusing exchange, the announcement by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office was immediately contradicted by the acting defence minister who denied the corruption charges and said the Russian arms deals were still valid." RIA Novosti reminded, "At the time the deal was announced in October, the Russian press had hailed it as the country's largest since 2006. Under the contract, Moscow is to supply 30 Mil Mi-28NE night/all-weather capable attack helicopters, and 50 Pantsir-S1 gun-missile short-range air defense systems."
On Monday,  Al Mada reported today that Iraqiya is demanding Nouri provide a report to Parliament explaining the details of the weapons deal with Russia.  Alsumaria reports today that Nouri is insisting that these "defensive" weapons are needed to protect Iraq.  Also today, All Iraq News reports State of Law MP Abudl Salam al-Maliki has accused Abdul Aziz Narowi, Iraq's Ambassador to Russia, of working with the Russian Defense Minister in the interest of the KRG and not Baghdad.  There's a full-on push to salvage Nouri's image after the mess that the $4.2 billion deal between Russia and Iraq has become.  They might need to worry also about how the crumbling deal appears in Russia.  Kitabat reports that the Russian government is outraged over the accusations being made which include that Russian President Vladimir Putin took bribes and kickbacks.
Alsumaria also reports that Basra Province has purchased 10 trained dogs for the Basra Police Command.  The dogs have been trained to sniff out bombs.  This may remind many of all the money Nouri wasted on bomb detecting 'techonlogy' -- a wand that the US military ridiculed and that the British government ended up outlawing.  You hold the expensive stick and run in place behind a car and it's 'activated.'  But it doesn't do anything.  It was a con job.  Instead of demanding a refund, Nouri chose to eat the costs in an attempt to salvage his own reputation. 
The Baghdad Trade Fair just concluded and it wasn't a boost for Nouri's image either.  AFP reports:

Excessive red tape, rampant corruption, an unreliable judicial system and still-inadequate security, as well as a poorly trained workforce and a state-dominated economy all continue to plague Iraq, which completed its biggest trade fair in 20 years last week to much domestic acclaim.
The various difficulties of doing business in Iraq cast doubt on efforts to raise $1-trillion in investment income over the coming decade that officials say is needed to rebuild its battered economy.
Maybe Nouri thought he'd get a ribbon just for showing up?  The last week of March, Nouri oversaw the Arab League Summitt in Baghdad.  It was a bust, but damned if the press didn't try to play it as a success.  From the March 30th snapshot:
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) wants you to know that, as Sly Stone once sang, everybody is a star, that we're all winners.   Probably Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin were closer to the truth with, "We're all dreamers, we're all whores" ("This Town," first appears on  the Go-Gos' Beauty and the Beat). Journalists are supposed to be critical thinkers not advance men for the company. The Arab League Summit was only a success if we're all toddlers and everyone gets a trophy for showing up.  Or if you're stupid enough to think something's true just because a two-bit thug like Nouri al-Maliki says it is.
There are 22 countries in the Arab League.  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story."  That's reality.
[. . .]
There are 22 countries in the Arab League.  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explains that Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar) declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq' majority Shiites to stop what he called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Yussef Hamza (The National) offers, "Iraq has looked to the summit, the first it has hosted in a generation, to signal its emergence from years of turmoil, American occupation and isolation. It wanted the summit to herald its return to the Arab fold. But the large number of absentees told a different story."  That's reality.

That's reality and AFP reported reality on the Baghdad Trade Fair.
Nouri's a disaster and yet he wants a third term as prime minister.  The parliamentary elections planned for 2014 are supposed to determine that.   Members of Parliament are elected, the bloc with the most seats is supposed to get first crack at forming a govenrment so the president names someone from that bloc to be prime minister-designate and that person then has 30 days to form a complete Cabinet or someone else is named prime minister-designate.

The 2014 election is supposed to determine that.  Supposed to.  Iraq's had parliamentary elections twice now -- 2005 and 2010.  In both instances, the United States government determined the outcome.  First, the Bush administration installed Nouri in 2006 (Ibrahim al-Jafaari was the choice of Parliament).  Second, the Barack administration gave second place Nouri a second term in 2010 via an extra-Constitutional contract known as the Erbil Agreement.

If the White House plans to again pick the Iraqi prime minister in 2014, could they let Iraq know now before money's spent printing ballots and adding security to the various polling places?

Al Mada notes the efforts to pass a bill that would limit the prime minister post to two terms only.   Some reports have said there are 150 backers in Parliament, some say 130.  A simple majority is needed.  That's half-plus-one of the MPs (there are 325 members of Parliament).   So that's already very close to the target number.  Press TV adds: "Maliki's supporters also say that they will try to split support for the term limit campaign by adjusting the law to include other posts such as Kurdistan Regional Government president and parliament speaker."

I am sure that they did that say that.  I don't doubt Press TV's accuracy.  Mainly because the members of State of Law repeatedly demonstrate stupidity.

It might help State of Law to read the Iraqi Constitution at some point.  Familiarizing themselves with something they swear an oath to would be a good idea and it would also help them look a little less stupid in public.  The first clause of Article 117 would probably be most helpful to State of Law at this point along with the first and second clauses of Article 121.

There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Baghdad-based government the right to declare anything about the KRG president or prime minister.  

State of Law MP Sami al-Askari has been talking trash about political rivals for the last  few days.  From Tuesday's snapshot:

Yesterday,  Alsumaria reported that State of Law MP Sami al-Askari is calling Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi a failure and he told Alsumaria that the Kurds are playing up the Sunni - Shi'ite divide.  Today Kurdistan Alliance MP and leader Muhsin al-Sadoun tells Alsumaria that al-Askari's remarks are not helpful and that the suffering that has taken place has been under Nouri al-Maliki's leadership as people have increasingly lost confidence in the government's ability to provide as a result of the vast corruption and the failure to provide security.   al-Askari hasn't stopped trashing politicians.  Al Rafidayn reports he went on Alsumaria television tonight and trashed Iraqiya's Osama al-Nujaifi who is the Speaker of Parliament.  He stated that al-Nujaifi is indebted to the Kurds who pushed for him to be Speaker of Parliament, implying that he does their bidding.  Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections.  After Nouri refused to honor the Constitution and give up the post of prime minister and Jalal was bound and determined to remain prime minister, that only left one post for the political bloc that got the most votes.  Iraqiya was always going to get the spot and al-Askari knows that, he's just attempting to inflame tensions with his bitchy nature.

It's so bad that finally, today, President Jalal Talabani speaks.  Alsumaria reports Jalal said he could no longer remain silent in light of all the accusations al-Askari has been making.  Talabani states that whether al-Askari meant to or not, the statements drive a wedge and break the bonds between the political blocs.
Al Mada reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc doesn't expect the crisis to end anytime soon and feels that even the meetings President Jalal Talabani has been holding are not going to be enough to resolve the crisis.  All Iraq News notes National Alliance MP Fawzi Akram Tarzi is stating that the only way to resolve the crisis is to create a supreme body tasked with that goal.  Al Mada informs that Jalal himself says that they need to respect the Constitution and to honor signed agreements (which most likely means the Erbil Agreement).  All Iraq News notes that the Kurdistan Democratic Party is saying the fact that Talabani has remained at his home in Sulaimaniya and not traveling around Iraq.  Sheikh Aziz Shair is predicting that the issue will not be resolved naturally and will instead continue until 2014 when parliamentary elections are again held.

Finally, Alsumaria reports that an armed attack in Sulaymaniyah Province left one person dead and another injured, a Diyala Province roadside bombing left two people injured and 18 people were arrested for 'terrorism' today as mass arrests continued.
Read on ...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lowering the Brand

Lowering the Brand

From June 7, 2009, that's "Lowering the Brand."  The more he tries to look cool, the more She-Hulk defeats his purpose.

That says it all, doesn't it?

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Dan Murphy hates spokespersons but loves War Starters, the World Bank sniffs around Iraq, the Ministry of Oil announces new deals, the BRussells Tribunal accuses Moqtada al-Sadr, and more.

Let's start with Dan Murphy -- and sadly I don't mean Soul Asylum.  No, we're talking about world class liar Dan Murphy.  The Christian Science Monitor needs to declare him a columnist -- not a good one either -- and he's about as honest as William Safire was.  But on the left we're supposed to cheer because he lies for 'our side.'  He writes crap that reads like, "I have the hots for Campbell Brown but Dan Senor married her so I hate his guts." 

What the election says to nit-wit Dan Murphy is that another Dan (Senor) will have "no more influence in the White House today than he did yesterday."  Dan Senor advised Mitt Romney and Dan Senor is evil, evil, evil.  Dan The Nit Wit Murphy explains, "Mr. Senor was a key political player for the Bush administration in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, advising Paul Bremer on how to run the country in 2003 and 2004."  I would ask, "How does this crap make it into print"  -- but crap like this is why the Christian Science Monitor is no longer a daily paper. 

Dan Senor may be many things.  I casually know Campbell Brown, I do not know Dan Senor.  And I remember being surprised by that pairing and being told that Dan's basically media anyway.  Meaning he's PR.  That's something I heard repeatedly over the years.  Yet Murphy's explaining that Senor was basically running the CPA.  How strange because I spent hours, during the Iraqi Inquiry, pouring over each day's testimony, on the phone with friends who were covering the Inquiry or who were attending it for other reasons, and never did I encounter Dan Senor's name.  Paul Bremer?  Over and over.  Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, generals, etc and etc.  No Dan Senor.  But Dan Murphy wants us to know that "Senor was a key political player for the Bush administration in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, advising Paul Bremer on how to run the country in 2003 and 2004."

Well I can be wrong and often am.  And were Dan Murphy correct, I would be writing, "Stupid me . . ."  I have no problem owning my mistakes.  But I wasn't wrong.  September 12th, Chris Good and Shushannah Walshe (ABC News) reported:

Senor is the former spokesman for the American government in Iraq (the Coalition Provisional Authority at the beginning of the Iraq war under George W. Bush) and is a particularly close adviser to Romney on the Middle East.

Oh, he was a spokesperson.  Yeah, that jibes with what I was told years ago.  It also goes with what's been reported over and over and over.  Now unless I'm remembering wong -- and I can be wrong and often am --  Dahr Jamail's Beyond The Green Zone: Dispatches From An Unembedded Journalist In Occupied Iraq mentions Dan Senor on exactly one page.  Now I haven't picked up the book in years (not an insult, it's a great book, I recommend it highly) but I believe that's page 68, I'm seeing it in my mental picture as bottom of that page and the sentence starts "Coalition spokesman Dan Senor . . ."

Am I wrong on that?  Could be but don't think so.

So a spokesperson is what we're talking about.  And Dan Murphy's inflated him to what?  Cabinet-level planner of the Iraq War?  He's as nutty as the other partisan Democrats passing talking points off as facts and he's certainly not a journalist.

Dan Murphy refers you to a piece US House Rep Adam Smith wrote for Foreign Policy about how 24 foreign policy advisers to Romney worked in the Bully Boy Bush administration.  That's shocking?  Like it's shocking that so many of the Clinton White House people quickly drifted to Barack or Hillary in 2007 and 2008?

Dan Senor's not mentioned in Adam Smith's article. But Senor's the topic of Murphy's first four paragraphs and a photo of Senor (with Paul Ryan) is used to illustrate the article.  Dan Senor was a spokesperson.  Dan Murphy needs to dial back the crazy.

Dan Murphy's attack and distortion of Dan Senor wouldn't rate inclusion normally were it not that fact that the Christian Science Monitor wants to advise in their little intro to Kurt Shillinger's column on civility that, to bring it back to politics, "It starts with citizens." 

Really?  I kind of think it's starts with reporters or 'reporters' who think they can lie and distort.  What the hell did Dan Senor do to rate him being called out the day after the election?  And that question from someone who doesn't say "The Iraq War was wrong."  Hell no.  I say the Iraq War is a criminal war.  Not wrong, criminal. 

But even more reason for calling out Murphy's crap is Howard LaFranchi's garabage today that's Howard basically saying, 'I jizzed my shorts, I'm so happy!'  Over what?  Over Colin Powell possibly joining the administration in Barack's second term.

Oh.  Okay.  The rag calls out Dan Senor who was a spokesperson but it gets giddy over Collie The Blot Powell?  The man who lied to the United Nations, who helped sell the damn war?  There are no ethics and there are no standards, that is painfully clear.

I realize that when it comes to the press, no one gives head like Colin.  Please, I saw him stab Bush I in the back to journalists in the mid-90s.  He was entertaining three on background two tables over.  No one self-promotes better than Colin Powell.  The term "press whore" was invented to define him. 

But if you're going to call out someone for being a spokesperson for the US government in Iraq then you damn well can't applaud the person who stood before the United Nations spouting one lie after another to justify an illegal war.

And before Dan Murphy whines that he was talking about neocons and how they won't be advising Barack, grab a damn clue with both hands.  From the October 24th snapshot:

Barack's had necons throughout his administration.  We regularly call out Victoria Nuland who is better known as Mrs. Robert Kagan and who is even better known as Dick Cheney's National Security Adivsor (2003 to 2005).   In February 2011, whistle blower Sibel Edmonds (Boiling Frogs) noted some of the many neocons serving in Barack's administration: Marc Grossman, Dennis Ross and Frederick Kagan (that would be Victoria Nuland's brother-in-law).  In 2010,  Kristine Frazao (Russia Today -- link is video and text) thought Kagan's addition was so important, she did a report on just that, opening with, "They're ba-a-a-ck!  The US government may be done with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld but another neoconservative is returning to the government payroll.  That same year, Allen McDuffee (ThinkTanked) observed, "Because we overinflated the impact of neoconservatives during the Bush administration and paid little attention to them before that, we're missing the fact that neocons are having the same influence in the Obama administration they've always had, according to a report issued by the Brookings Institution." And if we drop back another year, we can land on
This morning leading neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan held a meeting at the Mayflower Hotel -- in support of President Obama's Afghanistan policy. Kristol and Kagan, as Foreign Policy's Laura Rozen has reported, have formed a successor organization to the Project for the New American Century, which came into disrepute for its advocacy of the Iraq War. The new one is called the Foreign Policy Initiative. Its contention is that America remains, in the words of Madeleine Albright, the "indispensable nation"and, furthermore, that neocons can play a valuable role in coming years in ensuring that it remains one.

So Dan Murphy's thrilled that Barack's administration is pure and protected from the neocons -- the ones who've already made their way in.  But don't tell Dan Murphy.  In the meantime, you can click here for a piece by Campbell Brown at Slate from August on journalism, politics and disclosures. And Dan Murphy can click there too because it's got a great photo of Campbell and he can obsess over her one more time.

While Dan Murphy foolishly believes there will be and has been no necons fluttering around Barack, you can find more honesty at the Libertarian Reason where Ed Krayewski observes:

Is there a charitable interpretation of much of the left's silence about Barack Obama's war policies? Either they don't know about them, they don't care about them or they find building the welfare state a more urgent cause than dismantling the warfare state. Maybe they assume he wouldn't be a Nobel Peace Prize laureate if he weren't a peacemakrer? You can suggest other interpretations in the comments.
Nevertheless, while Barack Obama built a name for himself on his 2002 opposition to the Iraq War (as a state senator out of Hyde Park, Chicago, mind you, where supporting the Iraq War would have been political suicide), he made it clear on the campaign trail he wasn't a non-interventionist. He promised if there was information on Osama bin Laden's whereabouts in Pakistan and the Pakistani government didn't act on it, he would. You couldn't get through the campaign season without hearing at least one Obama booster (or even the president himself) trumpeting that kept promise. Ending the war in Iraq was another promise Obama ran on in 2008. He claims he's kept it and campaigned on ending the Iraq war. Obama, of course, actually tried to renege on the status of forces agreement negotiated under President Bush and extend the war in Iraq.

It's a good commentary but, like too many, he seems unaware of what Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence. 

On the elections, language warning, Susan (On the Edge) offers her observations of just re-elected US President Barack Obama hereVia Jane Fonda, you can check out Peggy Simpson's piece for Women's Media Center about how female candidates faired in Tuesday's election.  At Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford and Bruce A. Dixon weigh in on the results of the presidential election and the meaning of the results.  Ruth asked that we note Dennis Loo's World Can't Wait piece about the ongoing Drone War and the

When host Joe Scarborough raised the criticism on his show Scarborough Country on October 23, 2012 that Obama's drone attacks are killing a lot of innocents, including 4 year old children, guest Joe Klein, Time Magazine's political columnist, an ardent Obama partisan, defended the drone attacks with these words:
"the bottom line in the end is - whose 4-year-old get killed? What we're doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror."
Whose 4-year-old gets killed? This stunningly naked xenophobic and reactionary statement by Joe Klein topped an earlier comment of his in this same show in which he described the virtue of drone warfare:
KLEIN: It has been remarkably successful" --
SCARBOROUGH: "at killing people" –
KLEIN: "At decimating bad people, taking out a lot of bad people - and saving Americans lives as well, because our troops don't have to do this . . . You don't need pilots any more because you do it with a joystick in California."
This is one of the most prominent political columnists in America speaking, an ardent Democratic supporter: "You don't need pilots anymore because you do it with a joystick in California."

Iraq is slammed with violence yet again today but remember, kids, Barack 'ended' the war.  They didn't get the memo in Hilla.  Press TV says it was a car bombing and that 4 are dead and eleven injured.  Security forces tell All Iraq News that the car was parked next to a gas station (which amplified the bombing) and that 7 people were killed and fifteen injured.   AFP focuses on two bombgs in Mohoudiya -- the first, a car bombing, claimed 2 lives and left two injured while the second bombing ("seconds later") claimed 1 life and left three people injured.  All Iraq News also notes that a Shirqat sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and that an attorney was shot dead outside his Mosul homeXinhua adds that the al-Shiqat bombing also left one person injured and that "a civilian was killed and his won wounded when gunmen opened fire on them in the town of al-Hadeed."  Press TV notes 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead a Mosul checkpoint.

A couple of days ago, the Baghdad Operations Headquarter stated that they found the remains of tens of Iraqi academics that were kidnapped from the Ministry of Higher Education – Department of Missions -in 14 November 2006.They were buried in the Al-Sada Area in Sadr City. The bodies were found after one of the militia members (who is arrested by the Iraqi authorities) confessed and told about the place where the victims were buried, their number, the details of how the militias carried out the kidnapping, why they did it and who is behind all this. (2)
The Iraqi people always ask themselves when such "incidents" occur, like a kidnapping or a blast or a car bomb:"who is behind this?"
Everyone in Iraq knows that the Ministry of Higher Education kidnapping was the work of sectarian militias, more specifically the ones that are politically linked to the government.
When the Iraqi people ask about the names of these militias, and the reasons behind the secrecy of the Iraqi government, theyare surprised that no one wants to talk and no one dares to name names.The Iraqi government,the Army, the Ministry of Interior, the Parliament members,the human rights organizations, even the TV channels and media,all of them avoid to mention the names of those militias as if it was a sacred talisman or a taboo!
Do these militias consider the blood of their victims as the cheapest thing in the world, and are their crimes all sacred?
Everyone knows that the Al-Mahdi Militia, led by Muqtada Al-Sadr, is among those who committed such disgusting crimes. Some of the media dared to mention the details of this crime saying that Hakim Al-Zamili, one of the leaders of the Al-Mahdi Militia,was responsible for this crime that took the lives of more than 150 Iraqis, some of them Iraq's best academics. Al-Zamili is a prominent member of the Iraqi Parliament, representative of the Al-Sadr Party. Many Iraqis know it, but the government and parliament representatives keep silent and never mention the name of the murderers of the academics in November 2006.

The United States government caused the violence.  Car bombings did not roll Iraq prior to the US invasion.  They continued to cause it even after Bully Boy Bush left the White House.  By refusing to honor the election results, by backing Nouri al-Maliki for a second term as prime minister even though his State of Law came in second.  They didn't just back him during the eight month political stalemate when he refused to allow the winner of the election to form a government, no, the United States also negotiated a contract: The Erbil Agreement.  Weary political blocs, desperate to end the stalemate went along with contractual promises.

Nouri made various concessions in the contract and the political blocs agreed he could have a second term as prime minister.  The US brokered the contract and promised that it was legal, binding and that it would have the full support of the US government.  Nouri used it to become prime minister and then refused to honor the contract.  He took what he wanted and then broke the contract.  And the US government that had sworn they would back this contract acted like they'd never heard of the Erbil Agreement.

When votes don't matter, when the Iraqi Constitution doesn't matter, you not only destroy faith in any prospect of democracy, you also set up an illegitimate government that does not have any authority.  That breeds violence and it also ensures that the political stalemate continues.

All Iraq News notes that  the talk is President Jalal Talabani is reportedly going to try another attempt to address the political crisis.   Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports there was a push in Parliament to limit the three presidencies to two terms.  The three presidencies are the posts of President of Iraq, Prime Minister of Iraq and Speaker of Parliament.  This move is, in part, to prevent Nouri al-Maliki from having a third term.  Jalal Talabani is also serving a second term.  Grace notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc favors the limitation and has spoken publicly previously about how it is needed to avoid a new dictatorship from emerging in Iraq.  As was to be expected, State of Law stamped their feet and said no such law was needed and they worry about the legality.

State of Law is 'known' for respecting the Constitution.  (That was sarcasm.)  As further proof of their lack of respect for the law, Alsumaria reports that State of Law MP Abbas al-Bayati is stating that State of Law feels the solution for disputed Kirkuk is for it to become an 'independent' province.  He's a liar. First off, the Constitution addresses this in Article 140.  Nouri has refused to implement Article 140.  Second, they're not suggesting something like the KRG that is semi-autonomous.  They're saying it's a province.  One of many provinces in Iraq.  It will not be independent, no more so than any other province that is not in the Kurdistan Regional Government.  What that means is the the issue was not resolved -- as outlined in the Constitution -- by a referendum and census but instead Kirkuk would become part of the central government out of Baghdad.  Kirkuk is oil rich.  It is disputed for that reason.  It is also disputed because of its history with various groups claiming they were displaced at various points in history.  The Constitution addressed this because it is a serious dispute.  That's why Article 140 was written.  State of Law continues to subvert and ignore the Constitution.  This is how the second place political slate that the US put into place again in 2010 rules Iraq and sews tension and distrust when not breeding violence.

Meanwhile AP reports that the Ministry of Oil has announced a deal with Bashneft.  Russian Oil Net describes Bashneft as "the unique large Russian oil company which is not incorporating oil refining factories. [. . .]  The production association 'Bashneft' has been created in 1932. In January, 1995 the production association has been renamed to open joint-stock company 'Bashneft'. As a result of privatization about 63 % of actions remained in the Republic Bashkortostan property, 28,3 % have been distributed on the closed subscription among the labor collective, 5 % have got the administration."  AFP notes the contract is with Premier Oil as well as Bashneft and "Under the contract, the two firms must invest at least $120 million to explore the 8,000-square-kilometre (3,100 square mile) block covering the provinces of Muthanna and Najaf in south Iraq."  The British company describes itself on its website, "Premier is a growing FTSE 250 oil and gas exploration and production company with current interests in eight countries around the world."  Live Trading News notes that yesterday the Ministry of oil issued an announcement, "The Iraqi Oil Ministry signed the final service contract with a consortium comprising Russia's Lukoil and Japan's Inpex to explore for oil reserves in Iraq's southern provinces of Muthanna and Dhi-Qar." 

While it can make oil deals it can't rebuild the country for the people.  AFP reports that Iraq's "investment chief" Sami al-Araji declared today that $1 trillion was needed to rebuild the country over "the next 10 years" and that oil will not be enough, "some [money] will have to come from foreign and domestic direct investment."  This as the World Bank is sure that Iraq can start providing it with money.   Dina al-Shibeeb (Al Arabiya) reports:

Deputy head of Iraq's Central Bank said last week that the World Bank asked Iraq to become a donor state by 2014.
But with the myriad challenges facing a country ravaged by years of war, Iraq is likely still far from being able to help others.
"Poverty is still rife in Iraq. Iraq continues to be a potential conflict zone. There are regular bombings in the country," Paul Sullivan, professor of economics at the National Defense University (NDU), told Al Arabiya.
Sullivan, also an adjunct professor of security studies at Georgetown University, added that while Iraq needs to rebuild its infrastructure, education, health and more, "Iraqis do have a pile of oil revenues sitting around, but poor governance, corruption, weak rule of law and more militate against the proper use of it."
He said "the World Bank is less than clueless if they think Iraq is ready to be a donor state."

Iraq has more than enough money to take care of Iraqis if it cared to do that.  But you've got a government that dreams parading across the world stage while taking a lot of the public's money and putting it into their own personal pockets.  For that reason more than anything else, the Iraqi government wants money from other countries.  If the US goverment provides it -- and it currently does -- people in government (besides just Senator John Kerry and his Senate Foreign Relations Committee) need to grasp that this is a tool of soft power.  For months, the White House whined about wanting Iranian planes searched that were enroute to Syria.  Only after Kerry and the Committee stated publicly that money could be cut did Nouri al-Maliki order the searching of the planes.  The answer that Barack (like Bush before him) repeatedly falls back on is "war."  There are many other levers of power. It's a shame even the US Ambassador to the United Nations was unaware of that but Susan Rice is a crazed War Hawk as well as public joke. 

The decision was made to not try terror suspects in federal courts. Terror suspects believed to have been involved in the 9/11 attacks and others imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, which Obama failed to close, are now going through a military tribunal process—a second-class justice system where one is not allowed to testify in court about torture experienced at the hands of CIA interrogators because the government claims it controls the thoughts and memories of detainees.
Warrantless surveillance escalated sharply under Obama. The ACLU obtained Justice Department documents that showed federal law enforcement agencies were "increasingly monitoring Americans' electronic communications, and doing so without warrants, sufficient oversight, or meaningful accountability." Now, the Supreme Court is deciding whether to hear a challenge against the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which allowed telecommunications companies to be granted retroactive immunity for warrantless wiretapping under Bush. The act also allowed for the expansion of dragnet surveillance. Obama Justice Department lawyers have argued it does not have to tell plaintiffs challenging the law they have been unlawfully monitored and, even if they did violate their privacy, it would not matter because the surveillance state is here to stay.
Obama refused to prosecute war criminals. Not a single person was prosecuted and convicted of torture. Even though he signed an executive order as president that prohibited "enhanced interrogation techniques" used under Bush, torture was effectively decriminalized. The "state secrets" privilege was invoked when torture victims tried to sue government for torture, effectively preventing justice. Moreover, former CIA agent John Kiriakou was prosecuted for allegedly leaking the name of a covert officer, who had been a kidnapper in the CIA's Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program. It was believed that various individuals in human rights organizations knew this officer's identity, and it was largely suspected the government was prosecuting Kiriakou because he was one of the first in government to say on television the CIA had an official policy of torture while Bush was president. The prosecution destroyed his life, took a tremendous toll on his wife and his five children so he ended up taking a plea deal.
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