Thursday, January 27, 2011

Peter Pace and Robert Gates frolic in Operation Happy Talk


A lot of people liked this one from June 24, 2007, "Peter Pace and Robert Gates frolic in Operation Happy Talk." This was popular back then, this comic.

And I got some e-mail on it and had to repeatedly say, "It wasn't my idea."

Operation Happy Talk was the phrase C.I. came up with back in 2004 for what the US government was doing about Iraq, happy talking it. Wave after wave.

I had no idea that day what to do. The idea was actually C.I.'s. The Saturday before this, she did a post entitled "Peter Pace & Robert Gates splash Operation Happy Talk at each other while giggling" and all I did was take that title and illustrate it.

The Happy Talk continues, if you haven't noticed.

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

Thursday, January 27, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, a conference is held focusing on Iraqi women, more bad news for Tony Blair out of the Iraq Inquiry, the US government's mistreatment (torture) of Bradley Manning does not go unnoticed, and more.
Today Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Three people were killed and 14 others injured Thursday morning when three bombs exploded in different neighborhoods in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said." All three were roadside bombings and Hamid Ahmed (AP) also reported on those bombings. However, those bombings were soon dwarfed by another Baghdad bombing. BBC News reports a Baghdad car bombing "near a funeral ceremony" has claimed at least 30 lives and left approximately fifty more people injured. Last week, waves of bombings began targeting various cities in Iraq and that has continued this week (Baghdad, Tikrit, Karbala, etc). Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) provide this context, "The explosion was the fifth major attack in the last 10 days, leaving a death toll of nearly 200 people. The relentless pace of bombings was something the country has not seen in more than two years."
BBC, like many others, had to update the death toll throughout the day, including when it reached 37 and to note that, "Angry mourners attacked police who rushed to the scene, accusing them of failing to provide protection." Laith Hammoudi and Shashank Bangali (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Perhaps inspired by the protest movement that's sweeping the Arab world, demonstrators fired guns in the air, hurled stones and shouted curses at police officers who responed to the scene of the funeral attack, residents said." Al Mada notes that roads leading into that section of Baghdad (Shula) were immediately closed. Laith Hammoudi and Shashank Bangali (McClatchy Newspapers) note that before that happened the demonstrators made clear that their anger was "that Iraqi police had allowed the attack, because Shaula is relatively small and has only one entrance" and that the police, faced with the crowd, withdrew. Al Jazeera reports, "The military sent in soldiers to restore order." Jason Ditz ( adds, "Iraqi troops have since sealed off the area, and have ordered residents to stay in their homes. There is as yet no indication of the number of casualties in the post bombing clashes, nor any claim of responsibility for the bombing itself."
Of the funeral bombing, Reuters adds, "Iraq's deputy health minister Khamis al-Saad said 35 people were killed and 65 wounded. An official at a hospital gave the same death toll after the explosion in the Shula district, a former stronghold of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, but now thought to be controlled by a violent splinter group called Asaib al-Haq." Al Jazeera reports, "The military sent in soldiers to restore order." Ammar Karim (AFP) notes, "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of the area's security chief, army Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed al-Obeidi, in the immediate aftermath of the attack." Al Rafidayn calls it "the deadliest blast in the capital of Iraq for months" and they note, "Witnesses said the bomber blew himself up in a mourning tent filled with mourners and relatives [. . .] in the Shula district of Baghdad, which was formerly a stronghold of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is believed to be now under the control of the League of the Righteous splinter group that advocated violence." Al Mada states the Baghdad police released a press statement that the car bombing at the funeral had resulted in a death toll of 60 with ninety people injured.
Meanwhile Basaer News reports the "so-called Baghdad Operations Command" has declared that it will have completed construction on the Baghad security fence this year and that there will be "cameras and observation towers" throughout Baghdad. The newspaper notes the fence is constructed "under the pretext of control in a security situation which has remained uncontrollable" and is being rammed through "regradless of the problems it causes citizens." In other 'defense' news, Ahmed al-Zubaidi ( reports Nouri and his Cabinet have agreed to purchase 18 F16 fighter aircraft from the US in order to strengthen the air force fleet that they hope to be functioning within two to three years. The 18 are "part of a plan by the Iraqi Air Force to buy an estimated 96 F16 airplanes from the US over the next ten years."
Abdel Hamid Zebair ( reports that members of Iraq's Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government's Parliament are taking part in an international conference in Erbil which started today and focuses on "the role of women in peace-building, reconciliation and accountability in Iraq." Aswat al-Iraq adds that the conference ends tomorrow and is being attended by "international female personalities and a number of world activists in women affairs and representatives of international organizations." No Peace Without Justice explains:
The International Conference, which is the culmination of a long programme of reconciliation and accountability related advocacy and research undertaken by the organisers, both in Iraq and abroad, will be a major international event and represent a significant step towards securing Iraqi women an equitable voice within their country's political, judicial, economic, and other public institutions. Achieving these aims, and thereby promoting and mainstreaming gender equality within Iraq's ongoing reconciliation and accountability process, is one of the preconditions of its success.
The Conference aims to provide a venue for high-level political discussions involving Iraqi politicians, policy makers, civil society activists, and other opinion leaders, as well as international experts from across the world with first-hand experience of promoting women's rights and organising women's organisations in the pursuit of positive social change.
Most importantly, the Conference will provide a wide range of Iraqi women's groups and participants with a very significant opportunity to work together and organise in pursuit of their common goals of protecting and promoting the rights of women in Iraq, and leading their country's ongoing accountability and reconciliation process. The recommendations for institutional, legislative, and organisational reform that will emerge from the Conference will provide a crucial foundation for future initiatives promoting gender equality, and consolidate progress towards securing an inclusive democratic future for Iraq on the basis of comprehensive accountability and reconciliation. The organisers aim to repeat this event in Baghdad next year.
Abdulla Sabri (AK News) notes that the conference comes as Nouri al-Maliki faces criticism over "the lack of women" in his Cabinet. Iraq Daily Times points out, "Only one woman was named to Maliki's 42-member cabinet, sparking an outcry in a country that once was a beacon for women's rights in the Arab world and adding to an ongoing struggle over the identity of the new Iraq. Whether this fledgling nation becomes a liberal democracy or an Islamist-led patriarchy might well be judged by the place it affords its women."
Al Rafidayn reports on US State Department documents WikiLeaks has which state that the CIA helped officers of Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard leave Iraq via Turkey and resettle in the US in 2003. On the issue of WikiLeaks, John Wihbey (On Point with Tom Ashbrook, NPR) provides this news and link resource:
Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times and a past guest of ours, is publishing a detailed account in the Sunday magazine of the Times' relationship with Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. The Times was one of several news outlets that reported on diplomatic cables given to them by Wikileaks.
It's all part of a controversial new chapter in the history of the First Amendment and its limits. Some U.S. lawmakers have called for Assange's prosecution. The real-world blowback from the leaked cables stretches all the way to the Arab world, where anti-government sentiment in places like Tunisia and Yemen has been fomented by cables that were damning of their leaders. (See our memorable show in which John Perry Barlow and John Negroponte debated issues around secrecy.)
Listen back to our interview with Keller; see his very interesting On Point blog debate over coverage of Catholic issues [. . .]
Bill Keller appeared on The Takeaway today and spoke with John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee about WikiLeaks. Excerpt:
John Hockenberry: How has this relationship evolved to one of enough credibility for the Times and the Guardian to proceed?
Bill Keller: Uhm. Well, we -- We sort of knew from the get-go -- because WikiLeaks had already started to establish a profile -- that this was going to be a tricky relationship. You know, sources -- You don't get to pick your sources, they tend to come to you with complications, agendas of their own. So you -- You know what you really do is foces on the material. Is it -- Is it genuine? Is it legit? Is it newsworthy? And what he brought to the Guardian and the Times and Der Spiegel and a few other papers ultimately was the real deal. I mean -- And genuinely, I think, important.
Celeste Headlee: Bill Keller, there is a lot of talk -- and I imagine there will be studies to come over the motives and agendas of Julian Assange. This is a man who, obviously, seems to like privacy of his of his own in terms of his own address. But many people say he's motivated by an agenda against the US government. Does that change the motivations or the missions of WikiLeaks?
Bill Keller: I -- I mean, he clearly has a strong distaste for the US government, regards it as more a force for evil than for good in the world. And that's one factor in why he's developed such a kind of large, cult following -- particularly in parts of Europe where the United States is resented for throwing its weight around too much. And that's certainly added an extra layer of caution in dealing with WikiLeaks and the material. But you know I think he came into believing that one effect of all this transperancy would be to embarrass and compromise the United States. At one point he called for [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton to resign in shame. In fact, a lot of people have been surprised that particularly the documents that relate to the State Dept show diplomates behaving in pretty compentent and-and well motivated ways.
From WikiLeaks to Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." Amnesty International's Program Directo fo the Americas Regional Program, Susan Lee, sent the following open letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week:
I am writing to express concern about the conditions under which Private First Class (PFC) Bradley Manning is detained at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. We are informed that, since July 2010, PFC Manning has been confined for 23 hours a day to a single cell, measuring around 72 square feet (6.7 square metres) and equipped only with a bed, toilet and sink. There is no window to the outside, the only view being on to a corridor through the barred doors of his cell. All meals are taken in his cell, which we are told has no chair or table. He has no association or contact with other pre-trial detainees and he is allowed to exercise, alone, for just one hour a day, in a day-room or outside. He has access to a television which is placed in the corridor for limited periods of the day. However, he is reportedly not permitted to keep personal possessions in his
cell, apart from one book and magazine at a time. Although he may write and receive correspondence, writing is allowed only at an allotted time during the day and he is not allowed to keep such materials in his cell.
We understand that PFC Manning's restrictive conditions of confinement are due to his classification as a maximum custody detainee. This classification also means that -- unlike medium security detainees -- he is shackled at the hands and legs during approved social and family visits, despite all such visits at the facility being non-contact. He is also shackled during attorney visits at the facility. We further understand that PFC Manning, as a maximum custody detainee, is denied the opportunity for a work assignment which would allow him to be out of his cell for most of the day. The United Nations (UN)
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), which are internationally recognized guiding principles, provide inter alia that "Untried prisoners shall always be offered opportunity to work" should they wish to undertake such activity (SMR Section C, rule 89).
PFC Manning is also being held under a Prevention of Injury (POI) assignment, which means that he is subjected to further restrictions. These include checks by guards every five minutes and a bar on his sleeping during the day. He is required to remain visible at all times, including during night checks. His POI status has resulted in his being deprived of sheets and a separate pillow, causing uncomfortable sleeping conditions; his discomfort is reportedly exacerbated by the fact that he is required to sleep only in boxer shorts and has suffered chafing of his bare skin from the blankets.
We are concerned that no formal reasons have been provided to PFC Manning for either his maximux security classification or the POI assignment and that efforts by his counsel to challenge these assignments through administrative procedures have thus far failed to elicit a response. We are further concerned that he reportedly remains under POI despite a recommendation by the military psychiatrist overseeing his treatment that such an assignment is no longer necessary.
Amnesty International recognizes that it may sometimes be necessary to segregate prisoners for disciplinary or security purposes. However, the restrictions imposed in PFC Manning's case appear to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive, in view of the fact that he has no history of violence or disciplinary infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offence.
The conditions under which PFC Manning is held appear to breach the USA's obligations under international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the USA ratified in 1992 and which states that "all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person". The UN Human Rights Committee, the ICCPR monitoring body, has noted in its General Comment on Article 10 that persons deprived of their liberty may not be "subjected to any hardship or constraint other than that resulting from the deprivation of liberty; respect for the dignity of such persons must be guaranteed under the same conditions as for that of free persons . . . .".
The harsh conditions imposed on PFC Manning also undermine the principle of the presumption of innocence, which should be taken into account in the treatment of any person under arrest or awaiting trial. We are concerned that the effects of isolation and prolonged cellular confinement -- which evidence suggests can cause psychological impairment, including depression, anxiety and loss of oncentration -- may, further, undermine his ability to assist in his defence and thus his right to a fair trial.
In view of the concerns raised, we urge you to review the conditions under which PFC Manning is confined at the Quantico naval brig and take effective measures to ensure that he is no longer held in 23 hour cellular confinement or subjected to other undue restrictions.
Sherwood Ross (OpEdNews) notes this on Bradley's treatment:
The corrosive, solitary confinement being inflicted upon PFC Bradley Manning in the Quantico, Va., brig is no exceptional torture devised exclusively for him. Across the length and breadth of the Great American Prison State, the world's largest, with its 2.4-million captives stuffed into 5,000 overcrowded lock-ups, some 25,000 other inmates are suffering a like fate of sadistic isolation in so-called supermax prisons, where they are being systematically reduced to veritable human vegetables.
To destroy Manning as a human being, the Pentagon for the past seven months has barred him from exercising in his cell, and to inhibit his sleep denies him a pillow and sheet and allows him only a scratchy blanket, according to Heather Brooke of "Common Dreams" (January 26th.) He is awakened each day at five a.m. and may not sleep until 8 p.m. The lights of his cell are always on and he is harassed every five minutes by guards who ask him if he is okay and to which he must respond verbally. Stalin's goons called this sort of endless torture the "conveyor belt."
Still on the topic of Bradley, we'll note this event announcement from Iraq Veterans Against the War:

We regard Manning as an American hero and will celebrate his alleged actions, raise awareness of his condition, and challenge his shameless mistreatment at the hands of the United States Department of Defense by dedicating a spring bicycle tour through the American South to honor Bradley Manning, tell his story, and raise funds for his legal defense.

March 21st - April 8th: The Rebel With A Cause Bicycle Tour

On March 21, 2011, we will embark on a 444 mile bicycle ride along the Natchez Trace beginning in Natchez MS and arriving in Nashville TN on April 8, 2011. We will be speaking and performing at dozens of places along the Trace, focusing on Manning's narrative and raising money for his legal defense.

The Ride is public, and we invite veterans, artists, and other supporters to join us for however long they wish. Potential participants should have a suitable bicycle, appropriate clothing, resources for food, a personal tent and sleeping bag, and the time. We will average 50 miles each day we ride and take a couple of days off in-between longer jaunts. We will be camping primarily between cities in the beautiful parks along the Trace.

April 9th & 10th: Bradley Manning Solidarity Weekend

If you are unable to ride with us, we encourage you to produce an independent event in your community on April 9th and /or 10th, the same weekend we arrive in Nashville, as part of Bradley Manning Solidarity Weekend (BMSW)!

BMSW is a call to socially conscious artists and organizers across the country and world to propel Bradley Manning to pop-culture status through artistic expression before he goes to trial.

The State of the Union address was delivered Tuesday night by Barack Obama, US President. We noted some reactions to it and coverage of it -- trying to stay focused on the war issue of the speech -- in yesterday's snapshot. In that speech just two days ago, Barack laughable spoke of 'progress' in Iraq and the claim that violence was down. Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) observe today, "Violence has returned with a vengeance for the first time since November, when a deal was announced to form a new government ending months of political paralysis." Ruth Conniff (The Progressive) notes, "As the Media Consortium member Sam of GritTV pointed out on Twitter, Obama channeled Bush on Iraq and Afghanistan." Steve Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) weigh in on Barack's State of the Union speech sections that focused on Iraq and Afghanistan:

The war in Iraq occupied no more space in President Obama's State of the Union address than it has in his administration's foreign policy: not exactly a footnote, but no longer the contentious, consuming, convulsive center of all attention.

Iraq came up only briefly in the 46th minute of a speech that lasted just over an hour, but his five sentences and 72 words amounted to a declaration of victory, if a subdued one.

"Look to Iraq," he said, using the experience here under his presidency as an example of the restoration of American standing in the world, "where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high."

Nearly 50,000 troops remain, but American combat patrols have ended, he said, and violence is down, though the last week has seen a particularly bloody spike in bombings and violence that has killed scores of people across the country.

And Myers is taking Iraq questions from people leaving comments at the article. Military Families Speak Out's Sarah Fuhro weighs in on the speech in a letter to the Boston Globe:

When he finally got around to discussing the two wars that eat up billions of tax dollars and that have killed or maimed thousands of young men and women, he spoke as if these conflicts are just another wonderful American program for progress and peace.
He mentioned 100,000 troops returned from Iraq, but neglected to mention the 50,000 who remain. He mentioned how our civilians "will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,'' but did not explain that they can only move about the country in a military convoy. If, or when, we leave that devastated country, we will leave it with millions of unemployed, angry people who cannot possibly contribute to their own security, let alone ours.

On the issue of Barack and his wars, KPFA's Ann Garrison reported at Global Research that, "Two years ago, on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama [. . .] invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo, the heart of Africa, on his Inauguration Day. Most Americans, including those who campaigned hardest for Obama, would have a hard time making sense of this, or of the military forces involved." Garrison filed a report for KPFA's Weekend News Sunday where she intereviewed Keith Harmon Snow and has provided an audio link of that as well as a transcript that goes beyond the broadcast segment -- they are at San Francisco Bay View and Global Research. Excerpt:
KPFA/Ann Garrison: So what sense does it make to say that Barack Obama invaded Congo, the heart of Africa, on his Inauguration Day?
Keith Harmon Snow: The U.S.-backed military invasion of Jan. 20, 2009, included U.S. military commanders, special forces, military advisers, technicians and other U.S. military personnel, and it involved weaponry supplied by the U.S. and Britain.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Can you explain the CNDP militia and the significance of its integration into the Congolese army, the FARDC, on Jan. 20, 2009?
Keith Harmon Snow: First, the name CNDP -- Congress for the Defense of the People – couldn't be further from the truth. The CNDP was a Rwandan Tutsi-based militia that was created by Rwandan war criminals who had infiltrated Eastern Congo, infiltrated troops into Eastern Congo, and mobilized, armed and economically empowered Rwandan Tutsi civilians who had infiltrated Eastern Congo in recent years and in recent decades. There was a tripartite agreement between Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni, and the president of Congo -- another Rwandan, Joseph Kabila -- which worked behind the massive propaganda of "peace talks" to advance the military campaign to infiltrate and control Eastern Congo. By quote "integrating" these Rwandan militia elements into the Congolese National Army, the Rwandan program was advanced through a kind of Trojan horse operation.
And now we're moving over to England where the Iraq Inquiry continued to taking public testimony and heard today from Adm Michael Boyce who was UK Defense Chief from 2001 to 2003. The Committee members -- especially Usha Prashar -- hit upon a January 15, 2003 briefing repeatedly. As with 2002, he was led to believe that the plan for Iraq was not regime change and even March of 2003 -- shortly before the war began -- he didn't feel that was what Tony Blair was aiming for. He did plan for a possible invasion and testified that was drawn up as a possibility and he did so after Tony Blair and George W. Bush had their April 2002 meet-up in Crawford, Texas. This is in direct conflict with Tony Blair's testimony last week that his Cabinet knew the score.
In Iraq, Christians have been under assault throughout the war but the latest wave of attacks began October 31st with the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. We'll close with this from US House Rep Frank Wolf's office:
Washington, D.C. - In the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today introduced bipartisan legislation calling for the creation of a special envoy at the U.S. State Department for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.

Wolf, co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, is long recognized as a voice for the persecuted around the world. He said threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months and that the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in our broader foreign policy.

"If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak," Wolf said in introducing the bill. "President Ronald Reagan once said that the U.S. Constitution is a 'covenant that we have made not only with ourselves, but with all of mankind.'''

Last week, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing on the recent spate of attacks and the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iraq and Egypt. Commission members heard testimony about the increasing sectarian tensions in the two countries and the need for greater U.S. attention to the plight of religious minorities.

Iraq and Egypt are not an anomaly, Wolf said. Other religious minorities, including the Ahmadis, Baha'is, Zoroastrians and Jews, are under increasing pressure in the region. Last year the Pew Forum released a report on global restrictions on religion which found that "nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities."

Wolf, along with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), also co-chairs the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, and they have long pressed the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of the ancient ethno-religious faith communities in Iraq, a policy which recognizes that these indigenous communities are not simply the victims of generalized violence in Iraq but are facing targeted violence which is forcing them to flee the lands they've inhabited for centuries.

In addition to numerous letters to the State Department seeking to elevate these issues globally and ensure that U.S. embassies are "islands of freedom" in the midst of repression, Wolf has also written church leaders in the West urging them to speak out on behalf of the persecuted globally.

sherwood ross

Read on ...

Thursday, January 20, 2011



From June 5, 2007, that's "Bye-bye."

Pace was leaving, I did that one quickly.

One year and two months after he was nominated to his position, he was 'happily' leaving. No, it didn't make sense.

Not at all.

Be sure to watch the coverage of the Iraq Inquiry tomorrow. And watch to see who covers it and who doesn't.

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

Thursday, January 20, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, more deadly suicide bombings slam Iraq, Tony Blair prepares to again face the Inquiry, the Inquiry releases a page of testimony which states Blair declared he wanted to go to war and then it was declared that no notes would be kept on that session, calls continue for Tony to release his private correspondence with George W. Bush, a woman from the right wonders where feminists are on the war (and she's correct to wonder), an hour of finger-pointing offers no illumination, and more.
Once again this week, Iraq is slammed with suicide bombings. Despite that, as Mark Leon Goldberg (UN Dispatch) points out, "It hasn't quite made the top of the news here in the United States, but Iraqi is in the midst of a very violent week. On Tuesday, at least 49 people were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a line of police recruits in Tikrit. Yesterday, a suicide bomber driving an ambulance killed 15 people in Diyala. They were also lined up a recruiting station for security forces." And today? First up, Reuters notes a suicide bomber attacked a police station in Baquba. Counting 3 dead (plus suicide bomber) and twenty-seven wounded, Xinhua reports, "A suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into the checkpoint of the main entrance of the provincial headquarters of Diyala police and blew it up, causing severe damages to the surrounding buildings at the scene, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." Aseel Kami and Rania El Gamal (Reuters) add that "the attack took place in the centre of the city near government buildings, including police headquarters." Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) reports that 2 of the dead were police officers and the third was female Iraqi journalist "Wejdan Assad al-Juburi, [who] had been a reporter for the Iraq al-Mustaqal (Independent Iraq) newspaper.)" AFP adds, "A total of 255 journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, according to the Baghdad-based Journalism Freedoms Observatory." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains the death toll is now at 4 and the number injured at thirty-three and reports another bombing: "Separately, a Shiite pilgrim was killed and nine others were wounded in southern Baghdad's al-Dora district Thursday when a roadside bomb struck a procession of Shiite pilgrims, who were making a three-day trek by foot to Karbala for Arbaeen, police said."
However, those bombings were quickly overshadowed by suicide bombings in Karbala. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports twin suicide bombers took their own lives, one after the other, as well as the lives of 45 Shi'ite pilgrims with another one-hundred-and-ten people injured. AFP states the bombers were in cars. John Leland (New York Times) counts three cars. BBC News has a photo essay here. Salar Jaff and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) note that the death toll has risen to 56 and they quote survivor Ghassan Hashim explaining, "I turned and saw my wife covered with blood and she lost her leg! I lost control and fainted. I don't know where my wife is now. It was a mess and crowds were crying everywhere. It was like doomsday." Shashank Bengali and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy's Miami Herald) give the death toll as 63 and cite hospital officials and they observe, "The spate of attacks, which began Tuesday with a suicide bombing that killed 60 people outside a police recruitment center in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, mark the first major spike in violence since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unveiled a new government in December." Jim Muir (BBC News) warns, "The sudden flare-up of violence over the past three days is bad news for the fledging Iraqi government, for several reasons." Martin Chulov (Guardian) gets right to the point: "The sharp upswing in violence has happened as Iraq remains without ministers to fill the posts of defence, national security and the interior. They are regarded as the most critical positions in the government, yet the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is reluctant to name names more than three weeks after he formed a government and almost 11 months since a national election was held." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds, "Al-Maliki serves as acting defense, interior and national security minister." Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) attempts to offer analysis but something's missing in his article or something's missing in his observations. He's commenting on Iraq's civil war (ethnic cleansing) of 2006 and 2007.
Could today's attack have that kind of impact? Probably not by itself. As recently as July of 2009, five Shiite mosques were simultaneously bombed in Baghdad, claimed 29 lives, and it didn't prompt major reprisals.
Today, Iraq has a fully sovereign government, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a Shiite, and the party of the assassinated Ayatollah Hakim (since renamed the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) has a major voice in government. Militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militiamen committed many of the atrocities on Sunnis during the worst of Iraq's fighting, has muted his rhetoric. Last week, in his first major speech since returning home from religious schooling in Qom, Iran he denounced sectarian violence and is giving signs that he wants to focus on a political route to power, at least for now.
Still, the symbolic power of the time and place of this bombing can't be ignored. Millions of Shiite pilgrims are descending on Karbala for Arbain, the culmination of a 40-day mourning cycle for Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad [. . .]
Do you see what's missing? He's saying a renewed civil war is not possible. Why? Because Shi'ites are in control of the government? I'm confused. Who was in charge in 2006 and 2007? Oh, right, same groups. It's not as if Sunnis were in charge then. And, oh, yeah, Sunnis the ones he leaves out when explaining (or 'explaining') why a civil war can't take place today. (And, no, his second to the last paragraph in the article doesn't explain 'right' the article.)
In addition, Reuters notes a Kanaan roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 pilgrim and left two more injured while, overnight, Baghdad "celebratory gunfire" resulted in thirteen people being wounded and Kirkuk "celebratory gunfire" resulted in two people being wounded. "Celbratory gunfire"? Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) explains that Nouri's outlawed it -- but apparently it's not enforced -- and quotes Nael al-Aboid insisting, "It is our tradition, to shoot our guns at all celebrations. Guns and swords represent the power of the tribes and the person himself. It is showing happiness, with a touch of manhood." Maybe there's been a little too much touching of manhood in Iraq?
Still on macho posturing, in England on Friday, former prime minister, forever poodle and eternal War Hawk Tony Blair is set to reappear before the Iraq Inquiry to offer additional testimony after his testimony last year just didn't appear to add up.
Stop the War UK is organizing protests against War Criminal Tony Blair.

Reasons to protest when Tony Blair is recalled to give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry on 21 January:

QEII Conference Centre 8am-2pm
London SW1P 3EE

(Tube Westminster or St James's
Please publicise as widely as you can
Tim Shipman (Daily Mail) reports, "David Cameron yesterday called on the public to pressurise Tony Blair into disclosing his secret letters to George Bush from 2002 promising to go to war in Iraq. Downing Street insisted the former prime minister should drop his demands for secrecy when he testifies at the Iraq Inquiry tomorrow." From yesterday's snapshot:

Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) notes today that the letters are quoted in recent books by Alastair Campbell (his published diary) and Jonathan Powell and she notes: "Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, criticised the ban. He said: 'It is a bit thick that Mr Blair and Mr Bush have been able to draw on these documents for their own memoirs and to be entirely selective in the use to which they have put them'." Rosa Prince goes on to demonstrate just how much Bush and Blair have quoted from the (private) letters in their books.

David Cameron is the current Prime Minister. With Gordon Brown (who was prime minister between Blair and Cameron) in the office, Blair might have hoped for some cover. Without him, Cameron is making very clear that this is not a "state's secrets" issue and that there is no reason the documents should be hidden from the public. Nigel Morris (Independent of London) reports:

The questions facing Tony Blair at tomorrow's Iraq inquiry hearing are piling up. It emerged last night that parts of Mr Blair's conversations with the United States President George Bush in the build-up to war were expunged from Whitehall records.
Sir John Chilcot's team also heard yesterday from a senior civil servant that Downing Street ignored Foreign Office warnings over publishing the infamously exaggerated dossiers on the threat from Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons arsenal.
Mr Blair's private secretary at No 10 routinely deleted any mention of his correspondence with Mr Bush from the Government minutes, the inquiry has found out. The disclosure will fuel anger over the failure to release the memos between the two leaders in the run-up to war, which could fill in gaps for when Mr Blair took key decisions over the war. David Cameron, challenged over the refusal to publish the memos, said that he was powerless to order their release.
At 4:30 a.m. EST, Tony Blair will be testifying and CSPAN 2 is supposed to carry it live. Before that happens, there's another revelation. Tim Shipman reports, "Downing Street ordered a cover-up after Jack Straw made an 11th-hour attempt to stop Tony Blair going to war in Iraq, it was claimed last night [it's morning in the UK]. Explosive anonymous evidence given to the Chilcot Inquiry said Mr Blair responded to his Foreign Secretary by insisting that he wanted to go to war. Officials at Number 10 then allegedly ordered that no record was kept of the confrontation." PDF format warning, the document is here. And it is anonymous to the public but the Inquiry knows whose testimony it is.
In the US, Kelly B. Vlahos ( weighs in on the talk of a move towards women being in combat officially:
Combat is considered the "final frontier" for women in the military, though they have already been serving, albeit unofficially and off the books, in combat-related roles throughout the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will be interesting to see if it again it becomes a cause célèbre for feminists at the level of say, the 1990s, when women like Democratic Rep. Pat Schroeder and Sara Lister battled openly against the he-skeptics in the Republican Party over gender discrimination in the ranks. The debate became a mostly academic, glass ceiling affair, and eventually opened up many new military positions for women, but not combat.
But that was then -- peacetime -- and this is now -- wartime -- and the feminists have, up to now, been pretty distant from the issue of women in the Global War on Terror, though women now make up some 14 percent of the total Armed Forces and 255,000 of veterans who have served overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. Truth is, without a draft, the military would not have been able to fight the Long War without them. Women have been flying combat aircraft and serving as military police, gunners, interrogators and prison guards -- as close as it gets to the action.
"It's something whose time has come," said retired Navy Capt. Lory Manning of the Women's Research and Education Institute. She said ending the ban on women in combat would be "a logical outcome of what women have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Army and Marines have been essentially ducking the policy."
Indeed, everything looks "logical" on its face. Why wouldn't anybody want to be recognized and rewarded for the work they are already doing? No doubt women are missing out on valuable promotions and short changed in so many other areas. However, as the war zone has been going through a 10-year "shock integration" that they had themselves set into motion, feminists and many proponents of full combat equality for women have been rather quiet about all the bad things that have happened to women precisely because of their desire to be treated "just like men" in war.
Unlike Kelley B. Vlahos, I am a feminist. I have not advocated for full combat rights. If asked, I've stated of course women should be equal. Equality doesn't mean happiness. (Nor does it mean unhappiness. Happiness come from within.) Equality should mean fairness. Equality is a goal we should strive for. As Kelley notes in her title, combat is the "meat grinder." I don't know exactly what she wants feminist to have said or not said on this issue and that's not sarcasm. As she notes "feminists have, up to now, been pretty distant from the issue of women in the Global War on Terror". Off Our Backs did a great issue on these very issues and then, shortly afterwards, stopped publication. Once upon a time a number of feminists spoke out against the Iraq War. Robin Morgan, where did you go? Jane Fonda, am I wrong or did you say "Silence is no longer an option" when speaking in DC at the January 2007 rally? Did you not end with, "So thank you for being here and we'll continue to be here as long as necessary. God bless."? We'll continue to be here as long as necessary?
In less than a week 4 US soldiers have died in Iraq, another was injured, the way the week's shaping up the death toll for Iraqis could easily reach 200 or more by Saturday. Does that sound like the war ended? Because it doesn't from where I'm looking.
I'd love to be able to write, "Kelley, you're dead wrong." But when feminists -- especially when the very few that spoke out to begin with -- have nothing to say about the ongoing wars, they're abdicating a seat at the table that a lot of us marched, fought and suffered to have. So in the future, when you want to speak on an issue, how about letting us know if there's a sell-by-date? As in, "I'm saying 'you have me forever' in my speech because it's such a good line but I really just mean as long as a Republican's in the White House." Just give us a little truth in advocacy, please.
I can point to the strong feminists in this community and we're still outraged and calling out the wars. But outside of this community, where could I possibly point? CODEPINK? remembers their Afghan waffle and they won't take them seriously. Arianna Huffington doesn't claim to be a feminist (and I'll never forget when Cass Ellliot told Arianna how wrong she was on that issue) so we can't count her but she hasn't forgotten the Iraq War and hasn't stopped speaking out against it, to give her credit. Ms. magazine? Let's be kind and ignore the magazine (you're not missing anything -- except Ms. allowing a War Hawk-Council on Foreign Relations to preach what they're calling 'success' in Afghanistan) and turn instead to the tired magazine's very lively blog.
Here's one, Kelley! A feminist is writing at Ms. blog about this issue and her name . . . Well, his name. His name is Kyle Bachan. Good for you, Kyle and I firmly believe men can be feminists. But it is rather disappointing that a woman couldn't or wouldn't grab the topic.
We'll also give credit to Michaela A. Null. To the best of my knowledge, Michela doesn't sponsor or co-sponsor V-Day. She doesn't work with at risk young women. But she still found time -- while many who sponsor V-Day didn't -- to call out the nonsense attacks on the two women who may have been raped -- the nonsense attacks launched non-stop by Naomi Wolf these days. At the Ms. blog, Michaela A. Null rejects Naomi Wolf's latest which is to call for the names of rape victims to be circulated in the press:
Wolf suggests that shielding rape victims is outdated because, well, it's not like we live in the Victorian Era! This is a silencing argument that women hear all the time -- something to the tune of, "There has been so much progress for women. I mean, you can vote, what are you bitching about?" That would be like me saying to Naomi Wolf, "Worrying about government corruption is so outdated, it's not like we live in the McCarthy Era!" Of course, the McCarthy Era is a shameful piece of our history, but it does not mean the government never does anything wrong or unethical now and that people shouldn't be up in arms about wrongdoings.
So, according to Wolf-think, it's of little matter that those who make rape accusations are often re-victimized and harassed and vulnerable to further violence. To shield them from that is to treat them as though they are children! Equity, though -- as distinguished from equality -- is not about infantilizing a group of people and patting them on their heads: Equity is for grownups, based on the idea that in order to achieve a fair and just society, you have to account for the fact that some groups of people are oppressed, disadvantaged and do not have the same access to, say, bodily integrity, justice or safety that other groups of people have.
[. . .]
But for right now we don't live in that ideal world. We still live in a place where women's issues are seen as secondary and where victims of sexual assault are often treated dismissively, disdainfully and even violently. In order to do justice to women and to all victims of sexual assault, we must listen to them. Instead, Wolf is dead set on ignoring the voices of women and victims of sexual assault, publicly condescending to them and asserting over and over that her "23 years of experience" -- a phrase used so repetitiously it became the hashtag #23yrs on Twitter -- means she knows what's best for them and they don't.
I wrote at length about Katha Pollitt's ''Naomi Wolf: Wrong Again On Rape' (The Nation) in Polly's Brew. I'm not sure I ever noted it here. If not, Katha deserves credit -- big credit -- for that column. And for the previous one as well (which I did already note). But the reality is that, with very few exceptions (Katha being one of them), those that are supposed to be voices and leaders are no where to be found on these very important issues. In fact, Katha is the only "name" feminist to have called it out. (That is not meant as a slap in the face to Jill who does great work at Feministe or Jessica Valenti or Amanda Marcotte or any other strong women who became well known on the web and have not allowed their fame to silence them. When I say "name," I'm referring to the hiearchy roll call that exists in feminism -- which we usually pretend doesn't exist, but we all know does.) One publication that has not forgotten the wars or felt the need to fall silent because lefty men might not say nice things about you is Womens eNews and today they publish attorney and professor Wendy Murphy's analysis of what Naomi's calling for:
In a truly just world, no type of crime victim would have their name revealed without their consent. This would help redress growing concerns about threats and intimidation tactics from criminals who hope to escape responsibility for their violence by terrorizing victims into silence.
It's hardly a gender-specific problem, which disposes of Wolf's argument that concealing the identities of rape victims is a form of sexism.
But there is a valid reason to put a thumb on the scale for rape victims. The very nature of sexual violence, indeed the location of the "crime scene" on a woman's body, is such that a public trial is certain to reveal things that are not only highly personal but likely to be protected by statute, common law and even constitutionally-based privacy rights. Unlike robbery cases, rape prosecutions involve the revelation of things like whether the victim became infected by HIV or became pregnant or had an abortion. Because such facts are highly relevant, they must be revealed during the public trial.
Anonymity policies, therefore, are not about "protectionism" so much as due process. They make up for the fact that disclosure of private facts at trial involving a victim--who is not a party to the litigation and thus cannot even argue against disclosure--causes unavoidable harm to fundamental rights. Anonymity polices mitigate the harm by allowing disclosure of private facts without attaching those facts to a publicly-identifiable individual.
These are serious issues, they belong in the public sphere. But let's about the wasting of our public sphere. The polluting of it. On Morning Mix (KPFA's morning show), Mickey Huff and Adam Bessie kicked things off -- and into the gutter -- with a lot of huffing and finger pointing. Excerpt:
Adam Bessie: As you know, anyone with a thought and a connection to the computer can get onto the participatory networks -- Facebook, MySpace and so on. And what was fascinating in the research that we found, in a section called Junk Food News Feed is that [Bessie now yammers away about a male celebrity -- we're not interested] was covered less than the decision to pull out of Afghanistan by Obama [what decision was that Adam Bessie, you moron?] . However, when you looked at what people were talking and writing about on social networks and by the cooler, they were talking more about [male celebrity] according to a Pew study at that time. So basically what we found with the internet, again, was basically unprecious, anybody and everybody can get on there, is that people are really becoming what they eat and after years of consuming junk food news, now they go on social networks and you can create your own junkfood news. Instead of having to watch [female celebrity] on The Today Show, you can have your friend be [mispronounces female celebrity's name] or you can be [again mispronounces female celebrity's name] and write about the trials and travails of your own life or somebody else. And you can also write about celebrities. And so we're now -- The sea change I think we're seeing is that we're participating in this infotainment society.
You think? Adam Bessie surely is participating in it. First off, how is it news that many people are concerned with their own lives? Most people are concerned with their own lives. The Confessions was not Saint Augustine writing about Descartes, it was Augustine writing about himself. The idea that people would write about their own lives should not be shocking to an English professor -- even a junior college English professor. Second, Barack didn't announce he was pulling out of Afghanistan, he announced a troop "surge" into Afghanistan. Sorry professor, your example, which you bring up? You damn well better know what you're talking about. Third, the male celebrity? A sports star. Covered in the sports press during the 'scandal' but Adam Bessie forgets them, doesn't he?
Adam Bessie? Did he have anything to contribute other than a whiney voice and a lot of stupid? Nope. He and Mikey blathered away forever about Barack being compared to Hitler. They did this on January 20, 2011. Point? It was the exact same remarks and 'findings' Bessie already wrote about in this bad December 1, 2008 column at OpEdNews. Who's wasting time? Who's oversaturated with infotainment? (And, as usual, Bessie ignored that Bush was compared to Hitler during the eight years he occupied the White House.)
Then what did we get? Another junior college professor. This one couldn't pronounce "suggest" -- but for some reason included the term in the copy he wrote for himself to read aloud. Robert Abele offered commentary which was snide and ugly and his attempts to link Sarah Palin with the Tuscon shooting were appalling. He 'shaded' throughout. For example, he said right-wing radio is responsible for a number of Republicans believing Barack Obama is Muslim. But Abele didn't explain who was responsible for Democrats believing that. In fact, he didn't even acknowledge that the poll he was referring to found only 46% of Democrats stated Barack was a Christian. Take any of Abele's items and check Bob Somerby's archives at The Daily Howler -- you'll usually see how Abele shaded one thing after another with his half-the-story approach. And why the heck isn't Bob Somerby invited on the program to begin with? Oh, that's right, he's not condemning the people.
"It's so hard," huffed Kristina Borjesson, "to try and get these people to understand that there's a whole universe of information that they should be looking at . . ." And if you're feeling smug and thinking, "Yeah, Tina, sock it to those right-wingers!" . . . Well, you might want to pause. She was referring to the public. You know, "these people." So frustrating, so uninformed. Way to win people over, Borjesson. She then insisted she didn't watch TV news anymore because, in her opinion, "they've made themselves irrelevant with ranting [. . .] opinion journalism." Thanks for sharing your opinion which was opinion -- maybe even ranting? -- but wasn't news. Finger Pointer, condemn thyself.
"In the meantime," she called out from her high horse, "what's going on in Afghanistan? What's going on in Iraq?"
What is going on in either? You didn't find out from her or from the hour long Morning Mix. You know what? That's an hour of radio that we need. What you offered? We don't need that at all. Don't need it, don't want it. You had nothing to offer for a full hour. While slamming the MSM for wasting people's time, you had nothing to offer.
I can sit here all day and call out this outlet and that outlet for not covering Iraq but if I'm not covering it here, I'm a hypocrite because I'm in charge of what goes on here.
By the same token, they are in charge of what they do each Thursday on Morning Mix. Today they were full of themselves and how other people don't cover Iraq . . . as they refused to cover Iraq. Borjesson was insisting that even now we need to be covering the lies that got the US into Iraq. Well, Borjesson, where's that going to take place? You didn't go into those lies, Mickey didn't. But you finger wagged at everyone else, now didn't you?
Land of snap decisions
Land of short attention spans
Nothing is savored
Long enough to really understand
-- "Dog Eat Dog," words and music by Joni Mitchell, from her album of the same name
Which brings us to professional liar Greg Mitchell. (Liar? Changing your errors online after they're called out and 'forgetting' to note your changes makes you a liar.) Greggy wants credit for, well, let's let him tell it: "As I've done for more than seven weeks, I will be updating news and views on all things WikiLeaks all day, with new items added at the top." Oh, is he covering WikiLeaks' revelations? Writing about those?
He's not writing a damn thing. If you were generous, you'd call his bits and pieces "Tweets." It's basically a glorified gossip column with a dozen items.
Nothing is savored long enough
To really understand
Our focus is Iraq. When WikiLeaks did their Iraq release in October, we covered it for two weeks here (here and here) every day. At Third, Ava and I wrote "TV: The WikiLeaks reports" and "TV: Media of the absurd" on the media coverage in real time. The Nation and Greg Mitchell weren't interested in covering the Iraq leaks. Greg Mitchell's still not interested in actually covering anything. He's Louella Parsons offering chatty, breezy gossip items. Or, if you prefer, he's like a character in Heathers, rushing in insisting, "Did you hear? School's cancelled today because Kirk and Ram killed themselves in a repressed homosexual suicide pact."
Greg Mitchell showed up on Antiwar.Radio and the real decay of journalism is hearing the former Crawdaddy writer thinking his gossip blog on WikiLeaks is somehow covering something. He was bragging about how popular the tweets are. And that now he's turning "the live blog" into a book. How about you do something of value right now instead of finger pointing that "The media forgot about it" [WikiLeaks revelations]. And how awful that Scott Horton said that Greg was "doing great work." (In fairness to Scott Horton, he clearly hasn't read the "live blog" Greg Mitchell is doing.) What Mitchell does most days is a Julian Assange watch -- with the same whiff of sexism that was there in his Crawdaddy work and which he carried all through his career.
In every culture in decline
The watchful ones among the slaves
Know all that is genuine will be
Scorned and conned and cast away
-- "Dog Eat Dog"
And be sure that Greg will continue to scorn and con and cast away that which is genuine as he does his bad gossip column. (Which is not a "live blog." Someone explain the term to him. You live blog a trial. He could "live blog" the Iraq Inquiry. But just blogging during the day really doesn't count as "live blogging.") The interview with Mitchell is frightening for just what a condemnation it is of so-called independent media. Around the time Greg's confessing, "Frankly, I don't have time read everything I link to," you realize how little standards he ever had.
Since we're addressing Project Censored (the Morning Mix Thursdays on KPFA is a Project Censored broadcast), KPFA's Women's Magazine Blogspot outlined one of Project Censored's biggest problems back on January 3rd:
The Project Censored List of Top 25 Censored Stories of 2009-2010 includes not one story related to a women's or gender issue. NOT ONE! Does that mean women's issues get lots of attention? We don't think so. Instead, it points to the masculinist bias of even the progressive media and media watchdogs.
So producer Kate Raphael has produced her own quite inexhaustive list of censored or underreported stories related to women and gender in the last year. See what you think. If you want to comment on one of her choices or suggest one of your own, please email us at
Listen to the show, which also includes memorial tributes to Dorothy Height, Wilma Mankiller and Mary Daly.
The list below is not in ranked order, though Kate feels that Iraq does belong at the top.

-- The impact of 7 years of occupation on Iraqi women (Malihe Razazan of
Voices of the Middle East and North Africa comments)

Sexual assault in the military hits epidemic proportion (includes excerpt of report by Scott Shafer of KQED TV)
For the full list click here.

Read on ...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bully Boy's Immigration PLan


That's from June 3, 2007, "Bully Boy's Immigration Plan." Condi Rice and Xenophobia the War Princess.

This was a funny image. The thing about the War Hawk was that he needed all these baby sitters whereas our current War Hawk appears to use his own vanity as his night light.

And therefore needs less of a supporting cast.

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis continues and efforts to illuminate it by the under-informed do not help, the plight of Iraqi Christians receives some attention (leading to jealousy among the most petty), some in the press are still not getting the SOFA and more.
Starting out with refugees. Tuesday on NPR's All Things Considered (link has audio and text), Kelly McEvers noted Rasul whose grandfather purchased the family home in Baghdad approximately 40 years before -- a home that Rasul and the family had to all but abandon when a family member was kidnapped (later found dead). Now they're in danger of losing the family home because it's not safe for them to live in it. McEvers explained, "This is the dilemma of hundreds of thousands of Baghdad families who were forced to flee during the sectarian war. The value of the old house is going down, but rents are going up. That means the family's worth is disappearing. Pollster and sociologist Ahmed Qassim says more than half of the city's displaced families once identified themselves as upper or middle class. But 82 percent of a recent sampling of displaced Baghdadis said they were barely making ends meet. Qassim says one portion of Baghdad's middle is withering away, while another one -- the newly formed political class -- is taking its place."
The Iraq War created a refugee crisis -- internally and externally. A clod by the name of Nicholas Seeley has been popping up in a number of publications of late, the Christian Science Monitor last week. We're not interested in his creative fiction. For those who don't know, Seeley, like far too many, has a price. Slide your bills in his g-string and watch the potato head dance. After the appearane in Wilson's Quarterly, none of his reports on Jordan should be running in news sections. For those who don't read Wilson's Quarterly (consider yourself blessed and to be in the majority of the population), his article is used to argues that poor Bully Boy Bush was attacked by lying Democrats who were part of the inflation of a non-existant refugee crisis.
Little Nicky arrived in the MidEast some time ago, full of himself, if lacking in knowledge. As a general rule, a 'writer' who tells me that he ate at a Thai establishment where a Coldplay concert was on the television reminding him of America is one I puzzle over because Coldplay is, of course, a British band. Facts is hard for Nicky regardless of the topic. He's going around with claims that money's been wasted in Jordan -- US tax payer money. If true, he's the last one to make the case because he's not only a poor writer, he's a bad one.
First off, is money has been wasted why are you boring me with USAID (US Agency for International Development)? Only a know nothing on this topic would go there. Truly, if you're qualified remotely to speak on this, let alone write about it, you damn well know that the US money flowing into Jordan has primarily gone through the US State Dept's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Do you have figures on that, Little Nicky? No, you don't because from your bad writing, you've obviously never heard of them. Could money have been wasted? If it wasn't wasted it would be a first. Could a lot of money have been wasted? Possibly but we'd need someone who knows a thing or two about how US aid flows into foreign countries.
Little Nicky's trying to rewrite the refugee crisis (and save poor put-upon Bully Boy Bush) with his revisionary tactics. If Jordan's Iraq population was wrong, others would be calling out. Jordan's population has gone down somewhat (as has Syria's and Lebanon's) but that's due in part to the refugees leaving for other countries (and tiny sliver returning to Iraq). Equally true, the population is most often based on the registration figures -- Iraqi refugees who register with the United Nations. Not all register (many feel that register documents them making it easier for them to be forced out a country). Jordan, however, did a census. They did that with Fafo which is seen as a legitimate organization. Kristin Dalen, Marianne Daehlen, Jon Pedersen, Age A. Tiltnes and Akram Atallah were the Fafo researchers on that project and you can click here to review their work. As with any such survey, there will be detractors but the sampling method utilized is standard in the social sciences. (Among the detractors are a group that insists the government of Jordan used their influence to increase the numbers. Their influence, the rumors go, was in paying. However, most of the detractors are unaware that the census was sponsored by more than just the government of Jordan. See the foreword for a listing of all the funders.) The "study concludes that there are between 450,000 - 500,000 Iraqi residents in Jordan as of May 2007."
Depending upon the outlet he's publishing in, Little Nicky's feelings towards FAFO shift and change indicating we might need to ask Nicholas Seeley, "Which of your personalities are we speaking to?" Someone needs to ask the Christian Science Monitor if it's their job to waive through any freelance work submitted without a fact check?
Little Nicky types (for the Monitor), "A 2007 survey found only 161,000 Iraqis in Jordan, a fraction of whom appeared to be poor or persecuted. Other data have backed up the low estimate of the survey [. . .]" He's blathering on about the stud we're already discussing and he clearly has no grounding in the social sciences. He swipes the figure of 161,000 from page 7 of the report: "The sample survey conducted by the Norwegian research Institute of Fafo in cooperation with the Department of Statistics (DoS) estimated Iraqis at 161,000." Little Nicky doesn't understand methodology but someone at the Christian Science Monitor damn sure should have. He's fudging the figures and ignoring the model. He's an idiot and shouldn't be allowed to publish on any population model until he gets an advanced degree in that area.
When you don't understand projection models, when you fail to grasp the basics on who does and who does not register, when sampling is beyond your limited abilities, you don't need to be offering guesses about the number of refugees in any country. And when you repeatedly demonstrate that you're lost in nearly every other area no outlet should allow you to explore any area other than that Lizzie McGuire movie you love so much.
He has no idea whether funding was wasted or not because he also has no idea of the needs which, yes, did include improving the schools in Jordan. Unlike some host countries, Jordan admitted Iraqi children to their country's schools. When Nouri was making his promises -- that he never kept -- in his first term to use some of the profits from the Iraqi oil to send money to the neighboring countries hardest hit by the refugee crisis, that money would have gone into infrastructure as well (repeating, Nouri didn't keep his promise -- which is the default position for Nouri al-Maliki). One day after running Little Nicky's garbage, the Christian Science Monitor ran a piece by Tarek Fouda who did have a grasp on realities in Syria.
Yle reported last week, "Finland will no longer return Iraqi asylum seekers to Baghdad. The Supreme Administrative Court has decided that Baghdad is not safe place. In Finland, asylum seekers from Baghdad are therefore entitled to residence permits on the basis of subsidiary protection." Iraq is not safe and forced returns should not be taking place which is why the European Union has condemned the practice. Asia News notes, "The plight of Iraqi refugees immigrants in Northern Europe continues, where authorities are pressing ahead with forced returns. Britain, France, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, in different ways and forms, see this as the 'quick fix' to the drama of Iraqi asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. Now the Iraqi government seems intent on finding a solution."
We're back on people who don't know what the hell they're talking about. In this case Columbia professor Joseph Massad who can't hope for better than freebie 'publishing' at CounterPunch apparently. Massad supposedly's writing about Christians in Egypt but instead Joseph Nasty wants you to know that "Europe and America's media chracteristically feature with much fanfare the equally horrifying violence against Iraqi Christians, as if the latter are somehow specifically and solely targeted among Iraq's sects and ethnic groups for such violence." If no one's gotten it yet, the last thing in the world I want to ever write about (or dictate about -- these snapshots are dictated) is Christianity. I have no interest in public conversation on that topic. But it is people like Massad that especially make it necessary that the topic is covered here because their petty hatreds bleed through the page as they tell one lie after another. American media has not covered "with much fanfare" the attacks on Iraqi Christians. The only "fanfare" coverage out of Iraq in the last eight months has been Moqtada al-Sadr's return. American media doesn't cover the attacks on Iraqi Christians because American media IS NOT IN IRAQ for the most part. The New York Times has covered it (not nearly enough), the Los Angeles Times has, the Washington Post has and McClatchy's done even less than the New York Times. Those are the print outlets with people on the ground in Iraq. Broadcast? CNN is the only US TV outlet that has reporters in Iraq. Radio that has reporters on the ground in Iraq? That's NPR. Attacks on Christians do get noted frequently in the hourly news brief. But in terms of filing stories on them, actual reports, how many reports has NPR filed on this issue? Since October 31, 2010, NPR has filed three reports. That's it.
Joseph Massad and people like him need to get over their petty hatred of Christianity. It wouldn't have flown in the US in the sixties and we actually had real movements then. In Chris Hedges new book Death Of The Liberal Class a number of movement leaders from that period speak to him about the absence of a spiritual factor (I'm using the term "factor") to the movement and how the movement has become soul-less. These are leaders who have made the social justice movements their entire lives. Why are they seeing that? Maybe because people like Massad can't let go of their petty jealousies and covetry even when supposedly covering a subject. There was no reason for him to bring Iraqi Christians into the story. But he did and revealed how jealous he was. Three stories on NPR is not a great deal of reporting. Not at all. Sounds a lot like someone consumed with hatred and jealousy is speaking.
Iraqi Christians are now being targeted because they are Christians. That was made clear in the al-Qaeda linked group that claimed credit for the October 31st attack. You don't have to believe in Christianity or even like Christians to play fair. But you do have to play fair. October 31st, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked with approximately 70 people killed and approximately 70 people wounded. An attack on a place of worship will always be news. Attacks followed including, in November, eight to twelve bombings in Baghdad in one day injuring scores of Iraqis and killing two. Multiple bombs in Baghdad will be news. NPR's third story covered the exodus of Iraqi Christians from Baghdad and Mosul to the Kurdish territories (and some Iraqi Christians also went outside the country). NPR offered one story after the attack the Church, one after the bombings and one post-flight. That's is not "much fanfare." Your claiming that it is goes to your ignorance and your hatred and no one needs it. There are many different aspects we have to cover in the snapshots and sometimes I don't care for a group that's at risk. That doesn't mean I attack them. That doesn't mean I mock them and their personal struggles. Everytime someone like Joseph Massad gets to be bitchy on this subject without being called out, you draw a line -- intentionally or not -- between the left and those who believe in Christianity and you draw a line within the left between those who are left Christians and those who are not. It is counterproductive, it is hateful, it is bitchy and it needs to stop. And, if no one ever told you, Joseph Massad, you have neither the body nor the sex appeal to pull off a grudge f**k.
Far from the crazy, Daniel J. Gerstle (UN Dispatch) reported at the end of last month on Iraqi Christians how had gone to the Kurdistan Region, specifically in Erbil. He concluded, "While many governments, donors, and aid agencies have moved on from responding to crises like that of Iraq, troubles for local displaced families remain. As in the case of Ankawa, many host communities absorb the shock during the height of the crisis -- relieving the burden on governments and donors -- only to have their homes become overloaded and their pocketbooks, as well as those of their displaced guests, turn empty well after the crisis has climaxed in the media. The tragic flight of minorities from central Iraq to the north has not only been a larger crisis than anyone anticipated. It has also created a new, secondary crisis for host communities that governments, donors, and aid agencies are only beginning to figure out how to address." Reporting this week from Erbil, Hemin Baban (Rudaw) details how a "defense force" of Christians is being trained there per the Ministry of Defense and that Kirkuk's Archbishop Louis Sako calls the move a mistake. Still in the Kurdistan region, Rhodri Davies (Aljazeera) reported last week visited a Church in Ainkawa and found that it was staffed with "four guards carrying Kalashnikov rifles on the gates to the church compound." Human Rights First issued the following release by Jesse Bernstein and Sara Faust:
As religious minorities in the Middle East continue to face rising levels of violence, the U.S. should urgently undertake a series of reforms in its resettlement program to remove unnecessary processing delays which leave Iraqi Christians and members of other vulnerable groups who choose to flee stranded in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations. As Human Rights First outlined in a recent report Living in Limbo: Iraqi Refugees and U.S. Resettlement, religious minorities from Iraq are one of several groups who continue to face a heightened level of systematic violence and persecution despite a decrease in overall violence in Iraq.
Christians in Iraq remain at serious risk. In coordinated attacks in late December 2010, militants left bombs on the doorsteps of Iraqi Christian homes in different parts of Baghdad, killing an elderly couple and injuring at least thirteen people. This incident follows a wave of attacks directed at religious minorities in Iraq, including an attack on a Baghdad church in which approximately 50 individuals were killed, including priests and infants. The UN Refugee Agency – UNHCRreported that its offices in neighboring Syria, Jordan and Lebanon are registering an increasing number of Iraqi Christians arriving for assistance and help.
The recent bombing of a Christian Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt highlights the increased hostility and targeted violence of religious minorities in the region and an overall lack of protection for Christians who are targeted and/or forced to flee their homes in the face of mounting violence.
Despite the ongoing U.S. troop drawdown and the shift to a civilian-led operation in Iraq, many Iraqis, including religious and sexual minorities, Iraqis who are affiliated with the United States and women at risk of honor crimes, continue to face persecution and violence, circumstances that cause them to flee to different regions of Iraq or to seek refuge in countries such as Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. In 2010 alone, UNHCR registered just over 31,000 Iraqi refugees in the region. As of October 2010, a total of 195,428 Iraqi refugees are currently registered with UNHCR in the region, while an unknown number of additional refugees have not registered or let their registrations lapse. As documented through Human Rights First research in the region, lengthy delays in U.S. processing leave Iraqis slated for U.S. resettlement languishing for months -- even years -- in countries where they have limited opportunities to support their families and some -- particularly those within Iraq -- face life-threatening circumstances.
Human Rights First's report, based on independent research and interviews with Iraqi refugees as well as government officials and UN staff, offers a series of recommendations to strengthen the U.S. resettlement program, including by ensuring timely and effective processing. Our primary recommendations to the U.S. Government include:
* Reduce unnecessary delays in the security clearance process. The National Security Council should, together with the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies, improve the inter-agency security clearance procedure to enable security checks for refugees and U.S.-affiliated Iraqis to be completed accurately and without unnecessary delays within a set time period;
* Develop and implement an emergency resettlement procedure for refugees facing imminent danger. The Department of State should continue to work with other relevant federal agencies to develop and implement a formal and transparent resettlement procedure for refugees who face emergency or urgent circumstances;
* Remove other impediments which continue to delay the applications of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and Iraqi religious minorities. The Department of State, working with other agencies, should – in addition to addressing delays in security processing – continue to take other steps to eliminate case backlogs and address inefficiencies in the current Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) processing procedures; * Provide information necessary for refugees to submit meaningful Requests for Reconsideration. The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should implement reforms to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the resettlement process, including by revising the current Notice of Ineligibility for Resettlement to provide case-specific factual and legal reasons for denial.
Through implementing these reforms, the Obama administration will ensure its resettlement program offers safe and secure passage for religious minorities and others who face persecution and are left with no choice but to flee their home countries.
To review Human Rights First's full report, Living in Limbo: Iraqi Refugees
and U.S. Resettlement, click here.
To review the report's summary and key findings, click here.
To review a two page fact sheet, click here.
Meanwhile Lebanon's Daily Star reports, "A Hizubullah delegation offered 700 aid packages to displaced Iraqi Christians in Mount Lebanon during a visit Wednesday to the Archbishopric of Chaldean Assyrians." Reuters notes that a meet-up took place in Baghdad today among Iraq's Muslim and Christian leaders (this is not the Copenhagen summit which is also going on, they plan to hold a press conference tomorrow) and quotes Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai stating, "Iraqis are one body. If the Christian part suffers, he rest of the Muslim body will respond to it. Iraqi blood is sacred, you cannot cross a red line." And Madison's Capital Times features a column which touches on these subjects and more by United Church of Christ Pastor Phil Haslanger.
Yesterday US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad. This morning Aaron C. Davis' "Contours of a large and lasting American presence in Iraq starting to take shape" (Washington Post) captured reality better than any other article:
Despite Iraqi leaders' insistence that the United States meet its end-of-2011 deadline for withdrawing all troops, the contours of a large and lasting American presence here are starting to take shape.
Although a troop extension could still be negotiated, the politics of Iraq's new government make that increasingly unlikely, and the Obama administration has shown little interest in pushing the point.
Instead, planning is underway to turn over to the State Department some of the most prominent symbols of the U.S. role in the war - including several major bases and a significant portion of the Green Zone.
One outlet seems able to get it correct, Liz Sly (still Washington Post) notes Biden's visit was to discuss post-2011:

Maliki, embarking on his second term of office, publicly insists that he wants all the troops to leave on time, and the Obama administration also says it is planning to pull them out on schedule.
But Iraqi military commanders have said they would prefer at least some form of continued U.S. military presence to help deter external threats from Iraq's neighbors until Iraq has its own conventional defense capabilities.
Although Iraq's security forces have proved themselves able to sustain security gains since the formal end of American combat operations last August, they will also need help with training and logistics for several more years, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.
And then there are the ones who just can't get it right -- a theme threading through this snapshot. John Leland (New York Times) opens with the 'news' that Joe "told officials here Thursday that the United States remained committed to the agreement that calls for all American troops to leave Iraq by the end of the year." First, as Aaron C. Davis has already demonstrated, that's not happening. But Joe told officials that? Okay. Leland was present for this? No.
What is he talking about then? This single-sentence sixth paragraph of the article 'explains': "In a statement, Mr. Maliki said Mr. Biden assured him that the United States was 'serious about activating the strategic framework agreement,' which includes the deadline for troop withdrawal." I have no idea what Nouri said but, if he said that, he's as lost as John Leland. The Strategic Framework Agreement was signed off on November 17, 2008. It has no withdrawal date in it.
Go to the November 27, 2008 snapshot for the SOFA passing the Iraqi Parliament. That's the SOFA. That's November 27, 2008. Not only does the Strategic Framework Agreement not contain a withdrawal date -- how could it when it is signed off on before the SOFA? The SOFA is the Status Of Forces Agreement. The Strategic Framework Agreement is not the same thing and if, like Leland apparently, you've never read it, you can click here. Voice of America cannot broadcast over the US airwaves because it is a US government propaganda outlet. Therefore, we try to avoid them but please note that Meredith Buel (Voice of America) -- working for the US government -- doesn't make the mistake that Leland did. She quotes his speech and notes, "Biden said while Iraqi security forces, trained by American soldiers, are continuing to improve, they are likely to need U.S. assistance in the future.
On that Iraq military, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, "A bit more on the issue of weight, Al-Kala'a Weekly reports that 60% of Iraq's military officers and soldiers suffer from obesity according to an unnamed officer and that the Minister of Defense will be addressing the issue. Alsumaria TV notes the assertion that the country's 'security forces have been infiltrated and intellegence has been leaked'." Those would also impact Iraq's military readiness.
On Joe Biden's speech today, Karen Travers (ABC News) reports and also offers video.
Meanwhile, Aljazeera explains, "At least two people have been killed in bomb blasts in Iraq, shortly after the US vice-president arrived in the capital for talks about the future of American troops there. Three separate explosions shook the capital, Baghdad, on Thursday, Iraqi interior ministry officials said. One person was killed and at least two others wounded in the first attack near a Shia Muslim mosque in the Karrada neighbourhood, while a roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others near a Sunni mosque elsewhere in central Baghdad." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds, "At least two people were killed and 14 wounded when four roadside bombs exploded Thursday in different neighborhoods in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said. The attacks came the same day the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived on an unannounced visit. Iraq's Interior Ministry says the attacks appeared to be by members of al Qaeda and were related to an interfaith group that was trying to quell recent attacks against Christians in Iraq." In addition, Reuters notes a goldsmith was shot dead in Baghdad.
Lolita C. Baldor (AP) reports that a written exchange between the Pentagon's Michael Vickers and the Senate over the US military's use of cyber warfare. "Nowhere," Baldor reports, "does the brief Senate exchange obtained by The Associated Press detail the cyber activities that were not disclosed. But cyber experts suggest they may have involved secret operations against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and could possibly include other hotspots such as Yemen or Somalia."

Bradley Manning, a 22-year old US army private, is being tortured by the US state.

He is accused of leaking classified documents to the Wikileaks website. Manning has been held at the US Marine jail in Quantico, Virginia, for five months—and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait.

The US is torturing Manning to get him to say that he gave secret files to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. This will make it easier to prosecute Assange for espionage.

Assange is on bail in Britain as the Swedish government attempts to extradite him on charges of rape, which he strongly denies.

There were protests in defence of him and Wikileaks outside the court in London at the end of last year.

Manning is held as a "maximum custody detainee", which is the most repressive level of US military detention.

According to his lawyer, "He is being held in intensive solitary confinement.

"For 23 out of 24 hours every day—for seven straight months—he sits completely alone in his cell.

"Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred from exercising and is restrained if he attempts to exercise.

"He's being denied a pillow or sheets for his bed and access to news reports in any form.

"He is not allowed to have any personal items in his cell.

"If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.

"He does receive one hour of 'exercise' outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk.

"Private First Class (PFC) Manning normally just walks figure eights in the room for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell.

"When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards.

"His clothing is returned to him the next morning."

Manning is sleep deprived and is now taking anti-depressants.

He was arrested after allegedly confessing in an online chatroom to leaking a video of a US air raid in Iraq.


The graphic and disturbing video shows the events of 12 July 2007.

As a group of men stroll down a Baghdad street, two US army helicopters open fire, repeatedly shooting at them and gunning one down as he tries to flee.

They killed 12 people, including two journalists who worked for the Reuters news agency. Two children were wounded.

One shooter says, "Ha, ha, ha, I hit 'em." Another comments, "Look at those dead bastards."

"Nice," another responds.

Later a van comes past and Iraqis stop to try to help one of the wounded.

The helicopter opens fire again. Two children inside the van were wounded and their father was killed.

When US ground troops arrive they discover the children.

One of the crew says, "Well it's their fault for bringing kids into a battle."

The army claimed the dead were all insurgents and that they had been killed in battle.

But a supposed rocket-propelled grenade was in reality a camera lens. What the US claimed was an AK47 was in fact a camera.

This is just one example of the violence of US imperialism.

The US has committed countless atrocities during its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. But getting the information out has led to Bradley Manning being jailed.

The other information Manning is accused of leaking includes a video of a 2009 US airstrike in Granai, Afghanistan, which killed as many as 140 civilians.

The US suspects he leaked a cache of nearly 100,000 field reports from Afghanistan, about 260,000 diplomatic cables and as many as half a million documents relating to the Iraq war.

Politicians globally professed gradations of outrage at the publication of the material.

Some in the US even called for Wikileaks to be treated as a terrorist organisation.

The following should be read alongside this article:

Wikileaks reveals British government trained death squad

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