Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing


From June 18, 2008, that's "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing." If you've forgotten it, don't worry, 2012 is when he reminds you all over again. When it comes to campaigning, there's no one bitchier than Barack.

He will attack every thing and do so in a personal manner while insisting that he, his wife and his kids are off-limits.

He will be bitchy and catty and his collective will cheer him on while the media will pretend not to ever notice. That's how 2008 played out.

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri wants the US to fork over weapons to him quickly, an anonymous State Dept worker ridiculously claims they can protect human rights in Iraq, the State Dept looks like a national idiot in a press briefing today, the Turkish military bombs the border and kills 35, and more.
Well start with Paul Bremer who ran the immediate post-invasion phase of the occupation of Iraq. It was during this phase that Iraq's military was disbanded. This was his move and, contrary Colin Powell's attempts to spin (and the attempt of Collie's little media helpers to lie), he did with the approval of the Bush administration. It is seen by a number of vocal critics as one of the worst decisions of the occupation (British officials repeatedly cited it as a mistake during the Iraq Inquiry's public hearings in London). The argument goes that by disbanding the military, Bremer left all those people without jobs and income and they were easy pickings for opponents to the occupation who wanted to recruit people for violence. Guy Raz raised the issue earlier this month on All Things Considered (link is audio and text):
RAZ: As you know, many critics of you and of the war point to the decision to disband the Iraqi military in 2003 as a turning point and something that was directly linked to the rise of the insurgency. What do you make of that? I mean, do you think that was the right decision?
BREMER: Absolutely. And I think it's an incorrect analysis. I've never seen any persuasive evidence that suggests otherwise. The fact of the matter was there was no Iraqi military anywhere in place when I arrived in May about three weeks after the fall of Baghdad. So reconstituting the army would've meant several things. First of all, we would've had to take American troops of whom we already had too few and send them into villages and farms to force Shia conscripts back into an army they hated under Sunni officers who basically brutalized them. So the concept of reconstituting the army had virtually no political (unintelligible).
RAZ: But there was a salary for many people.
BREMER: We paid every single conscript a separation fee. We paid every single officer a pension. It's a little known and little reported fact. We paid those pensions all the way through our time in Iraq and they were continued by the subsequent two Iraqi governments. So the idea that suddenly, there were a bunch of people on the streets with no money is simply flat wrong.
People can make their own decisions on the above and whether or not a one-time pay off replaces a sense of purpose but money wasn't the only issue. In the Iraq Inquiry, British officials also raised the issue of the ongoing (this was at the end of 2009 and throughout 2010) attacks and demonization of Iraqis as "Ba'athists" and how Bremer set that in motion. That's not addressed in his remarks to Guy Raz. Nor did Raz raise that issue -- probably too complex of an issue for an NPR soundbyte. And the Bremer order? Raz ignored that it wasn't just the military. Technocrats, government workers, they were all Ba'athists and that's who the order went after. Whether they were guilty of anything or not. It's how Nouri is still able to hiss "Ba'athist" to this day and demonize someone.
In the Wall St. Journal this week, Bremer contributes a piece largely arguing that the US should have kept a military presence in Iraq and he insists:
But the most important reasons for a continued American military presence were always political. Such a presence would demonstrate to Iraq's neighbors -- and especially to Iran -- that America had a lasting interest in containing the Iranian quest for regional hegemony. It would also be a clear sign of American intent to stick with the Iraqis as they work to develop durable political institutions.
The benefits of a continued military presence were illustrated by the political conflagration that flared within 24 hours of our departure. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, issued an arrest warrant for the country's vice president, a Sunni, who then fled to the northern Kurdish area.
We'll come back to the US military issue in a moment, but Brememer seems incapable of taking responsibility for his actions. We call him out here for what he's done, we do not call him out for the actions of others. In other words, I was never one of Colin Powell's lowly assistants secretly drooling over the boss and now spending my entire life on MSNBC chat shows explaining how groovy and cool Collie is. We don't rewrite history here to give Colin Powell a clean slate by making Bremer the sole fall guy. Part of what Brememer needs to take accountability for is creating the problems
December 15, 2009, the British Ambassador to the US, Jeremy Greenstock, testified to the Iraq Inquiry that not only did Bremer ban all the Ba'athists (the dominant political party prior to the US invasion of Iraq) but he put Ahmed Chalibi in charge of the program which was also seen as a huge mistake. These actions were not minor. In 2010, the Justice and Accountability Commission would ban over 500 candidates and do so on the pretext that they were dangerous Ba'athists.
Chair John Chilcot: On the contrary, I was planning to offer you the opportunity
to make your final reflections on this very theme, and you have and thank you,
but are there other comments or observations you would like to offer before
we close?
General Michael Walker: Only ones that I -- to try and be helpful really. I think
the poor old Americans have come in for a lot of criticism, and my personal
belief was that the biggest mistake that was made over Iraq, notwithstanding
the decision that you may have made your own minds up about, but it was the
vice-regal nature of [Paul] Bremer's reign, and I think -- I mean, I don't want to
be personal about this but that particular six months, I think, set the scene for
Iraq in a way that we were never going to recover from.
The Inquiry has repeatedly heard from military and diplomatic witnesses that Paul
Bremer's decision to disband the Ba'ath Party and being de-Ba'athification was harmful
and too sweeping. were no longer allowed to work for the government. While some witnesses may (or may not have) been offering statements that benefitted from hindsight, certainly those who warned Bremer before the policy was implemented were able to foresee what eventually happened. John Sawers now heads England's MI6. In 2003, he was the UK's Special Representative in Baghdad. He shared his observations to the Iraq Inquiry in testimony given on December 10th:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You arrived on 8 May, [head of CPA, the US' L. Paul] Bremer on the 12th, and within Bremer's first two weeks he had promulgated two extremely important decisions on de-Ba'athification and on dissolving the former Iraqi army. Can we look at those two decisions? To what extent were they Bremer's decisions or -- how had they been pre-cooked in Washington? I see you have got the Rand Report there, and the Rand Report suggests there had been a certain interagnecy process in Washington leading to these decisions, albeit Rand is quite critical of that process. And, very importantly for us, was the United Kingdom consulted about these crucial decisions? Was the Prime Minister consulted? Were you consulted? It is pretty late in the day be then for you to have changed them. Can you take us through that story.
John Sawers: Can I separate them and deal with de-Ba'athification first.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.
John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and they were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy. At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary. And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.
The US government put exiles in charge and gave them the means to attack for every real and perceived injustice in the last decades. Of course, any real injustice would have been done in the early 80s since most of the exiles -- Nouri al-Malik among them -- fled to other countries then. And lived in hate and anger year after year, letting it fester and feed. Not everyone. Some people got on with their lives. But Nouri and Chalabi and so many others had nothing to offer modern day Iraq but hate. As soon as the US invaded, that's what those exiles brought back to Iraq and what they've been working since the US installed them into power.
And that's what the US government -- under Bush, under Barack -- allowed, encouraged and tried to work to their advantage. It's there in Bremer's column, it's in Barack's policies as well.
'If only the US military was still present,' Bremer is arguing, 'what we set in motion and fostered could be handled.' Handled, managed, not ended.
The US Congress became highly critical of he Iraq War during the Bush administration. As the American people made calls for the war to be de-funded, Congress began pressing the White House on where the 'progess' was? Other than spin, where were the claims of progress? So the White House devised a set of Benchmarks that the Congress and Nouri al-Maliki all signed off on in early 2007. The only one the government cared about was the one about an oil and gas law. It's the only one the press cared about as well, the US press, if we're going to be honest. It's not like the press did editorial afte editorial lamenting the failure to bring Ba'athists back into the political process. (One of the benchmarks was to revert Bremer's de-Ba'athification policy, call it de-de-Ba'athifcation.) So when a weak measure was proposed but never implemented, the press just focused on the proposal and refused to cover the lack of follow up.
Senator John McCain argues that Barack's administration purposely tanked the SOFA extension talks. That's his opinion and he can detail why he feels that way. That doesn't mean he's correct, only that he's thought it out. What the record indicates is that Barack's efforts failed. I don't see why you would jump to the conclusion that this failure was intentional (especially not when the administration continues negotiations). The pattern is over confidence and hubris on the part of the administration, and as Greek drama and folklore have long demonstrated, hubris is followed by a fall. Such as in the fall of 2009 when Barack thought a toothy smile and some oily Chicago charm mixed with his second-rate celebrity would wow them in Denmark and bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016. That didn't happen, did it? There are many other failed negotiations on record to indicate that the most recent failure by the administration was only the latest in a series of failures.
And the US government never believed that the US military would leave any time soon which is why, for example, Chris Hill wasted forever on an oil and draft law at the expense of elections -- Iraq needed help the elections. The March 2010 elections were supposed to take place in 2009. Chris Hill was of no use there. And when oever 500 candidates were banned in 2010, Hill wasn't leading on addressing that issue nor was the US government.
What the US created in Iraq was the appearance of a new government and the US military propped it up. As long as there was a strong US military force on the ground in Iraq, the US had a chance of managing it.
If the US military were to stay nine more years would Iraq be better off? That's not what the record indicates. The record indicates that the US government would continue to focus on the oil and gas issue (theft of Iraq's resources) and undermine democracy, prevent it from taking root.
Look at the State Dept's embarrassing plans. They're not trained for what they're actually doing. And they're not doing what they're trained in. But they're going to focus on the police and training the Iraq police. And they're not qualified. That has nothing to do with the tools of democracy that the State Dept supposedly has in their tool kit. The priority has never been the citizenry. It's never been about anything except the tools of a despot.
Nouri cannot be trusted. Take the issue of Camp Ashraf. Not only did he twice order attacks on the Camp after giving his word to the US government that he would protect it, he made a deal with the United Nations last week. The refugees were supposed to be moved to a new location. Yet even with that in place, there have been non-stop mortar attacks on the Camp. The Camp Nouri is supposed to protect and that is watched non-stop by Nouri's forces. Today Reuters reports that the United Nations is trumpeting the fact that the UN Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, spoke to Nouri today and got a promise that the mortar attacks would cease. Another promise. From Nouri. Oh, and Iran's Fars News Agency? They're quoting Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbaq is stating that there's been no change in the deadline for the MEK refugees to leave Iraq. That's very interesting. Not just because the deal with the United Nations was supposed to have changed that deadline but also because the original deadline -- the one the Iraqi goverment now says has not changed -- is this Saturday.
In that context, UPI's report, is all the more troubling: "The United States plans to go ahead with a nearly $11 billion sale of arms and training to Iraq despite concerns about the country's future, officials said." The Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman interviewed Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) about Iraq yesterday and we'll again note this section:

[Bernard Gwertzman]: You've been living in Iraq on and off since the war began in 2003. What's the United States' influence there since the departure of the troops?

[Ned Parker]: America has influence. Evidently, it's less, given that [the] troops have left, but America still has much soft power from the sales of weapons to Iraq, the need of Iraqi counterterrorism forces to work with U.S. Special Forces. Then there's the issue of America helping Iraq with investment, getting foreign companies in, and the issue of ending Iraq's Chapter Seven status at the UN, which prevents Iraq from having its full sovereignty because Iraq continues to pay reparations to Kuwait. So there are many ways that the United States can help Iraq. In terms of influence, it's a question of how America uses it and how it leverages it. Even when America had U.S. forces in Iraq, particularly in the last three years, America has been very reluctant to use its influence or clout to the maximum.

Despite all the turmoil Nouri is creating, the US immediately rushes forward to insist that the arms deal is still on. Even though it is one of the few levers they currently have over Nouri al-Maliki. Over the weekend, Nouri began insisting that the deal go through more quickly. What's changed since his trip to DC earlier this month? The political crisis he's created for one. He's charged Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with terrorism, he's asked that Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his office (Deputy Prime Minister) and this follows hundreds of arrests in recent weeks of various Sunni figures. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are both Sunni. They are also members of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the elections. Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) report that the weapons are alarming to some people:
[. . .] Iraqi politicians and analysts, while acknowledging that the American military withdrawal had left Iraq's borders, and airspace, vulnerable, said there were many reasons for concern.
Despite pronouncements from American and Iraqi officials that the Iraqi military is a nonsectarian force, they said, it had evolved into a hodgepodge of Shiite militias more interested in marginalizing the Sunnis than in protecting the country's sovereignty. Across the country, they said, Shiite flags -- not Iraq's national flag -- fluttered from tanks and military vehicles, evidence, many said, of the troops' sectarian allegiances.

Instead of using a tool for negotiations, the administration immediately rushes to assure, "Yes, despot, we will be granting you all the weapon power you need for a full-scale blood bath." In addition, there's the issue of why in the world would the US arm a questionable leader who appears to be demonizing and attacking 20% of his country's population or when three political blocs (Iraqiya, the Sadr bloc and the Kurdish bloc) are all calling for new elections and a withdrawal of confidence in the government.

Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist.

That's not me, that's Joe Biden, before he was vice president, back when he was in the Senate and chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, from an April 10, 2008 hearing on Iraq.

What else did he say in that hearing?

That the US was being asked "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out." And currently? Iraqiya is not attending Parliament meetings as a result of the abuses of Nouri al-Maliki.

Now the US government already made a huge mistake, the administration of Barack Obama, by refusing to honor the will of the Iraqi people as well as the Iraqi Constitution. March 2010, Iraqis showed up at the polls and voted. This followed Nouri demonizing Iraqiya and using the Justice and Accountability Commission to disqualify Iraqiya candidates, Nouri using his control of state media to ensure that no one received better coverage (soft and glossy) than did he himself and his political slate (State of Law).

Despite that and despite predictions that State of Law would win by a landslide, that didn't happen. The Iraqi people voted and their first choice was Iraqiya. That was true even after Nouri stamped his feet and demanded recounts. This was true even after the electoral commission tried to humor him by taking some votes away from Iraqiya.

Iraqiya was the winner. This was not in question, this was not in dispute.

Per the people and per the Constitution, April 2010 should have seen Iraqiya attempting to form a government, one most likely led by the head of Iraqiya, Ayad Allawi.

Instead, Nouri dug his heels in and for 8 months refused to budge. His term was over and the people had spoken. They were then choosing a national identity and rejecting sectarianism. It was a great moment for Iraqis. But the US refused to celebrate that moment, instead they worked to sabotage it by backing Nouri.
And this despite all they knew about the secret prisons he'd be running since 2006 -- plural, secret prisons, plural -- and they backed him despite knowing he was ordering torture. They backed him despite the February 2009 State Dept cable written by then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker which noted he was being seen as the "new Saddam" that he "tends to view everyone and everything with instinctive suspicion." Crocker noted, "The concentration of authority in Maliki's Office of the Commander in Chief (OCINC), the establishment of an elite security force - with its own judges and detention facilities - that reports directly to the PM, the creation of a security force command that short-circuits provincial authority, a willingness in some cases to use strong-arm tactics against political adversaries, and patronage networks to co-opt others all follow a very familiar pattern of Arab world leadership." Here's some foreshadowing from Crocker, "While responsibility for the lack of political consensus is broadly shared among Iraq's leaders from all groups, the PM needs to set the tone. Here, Maliki has shown
that he is either unwilling or unable to take the lead in the give-and-take needed to build broad consensus for the Government's policies among competing power blocs." And to demonstrate just how much the US government actively refuses to grasp what's at stake, we'll note this from Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor):
A top US military official still on the ground in Iraq, under the auspices of the State Department, discounts such concerns, saying safeguards are in place to prevent such an outcome – and that all military sales include monitoring "to make sure the [Iraqi] government isn't in violation of human rights."

That is laughable. As reporters have been tortured in Iraq this year, that is laughable. It also, pay attention, calls into question Iraq's supposed 'independence' if the US has that 'power.' But it was topped in today's State Dept press briefing by Victoria Nuland.
QUESTION: To Iraq -- weapons sales? Has there been discussion in this building with any Iraqi officials about whether or not they're meeting the conditions for these armed sales to go ahead?
MS. NULAND: I can't speak to that. As you know, our main focus has been in trying to encourage the Iraqi political groups to talk to each other and to create a broad national dialogue about the way forward. With regard to the arms sales, these, as you know, are long planned and they're part of the transition process for the Iraqis to manage their own security within their own resources.
QUESTION: Just -- wait. How are those efforts going to promote dialogue? It's been a few days that that's been the same message, yet there hasn't seemed to be a palpable effect yet in Iraq. Can you shed some light on how you're going about this and what tangible results that's producing?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Vice President has been active in his personal diplomacy with individual Iraqi leaders. Our Ambassador Jim Jeffrey has seen and talked to all of the major figures in Iraq. We're encouraging a process that a number of them have begun talking about, which is to have a sit down, to have a dialogue among themselves soon after the new year. And we have seen some encouraging public statements by a few of them over the last couple of days indicating they also believe that a national dialogue needs to take place soon after the new year.
QUESTION: Do you think -- okay. Do you think certain actions need to be taken before this -- to really kick-start this dialogue, such as withdrawing charges against rival politicians, things of this nature?
MS. NULAND: I think we're not going to get into the middle of this and dictate one way or the other. It -- clearly the Iraqi political groups need to sit down together and work this through in a manner that is consistent with Iraq's constitution and their commitments to each other.
QUESTION: I understand, but can certain -- for example, just logistically, can politicians -- certain leaders sit down when they're essentially wanted individuals? How does that work?
MS. NULAND: Well, I assume you're talking about one individual who's now the subject of charges. Again, we've said all along that we want to see any judicial process take place within the contest of the Iraqi constitution and meet international judicial standards. We need to get the main groups in Iraq talking to each other again about how they can move forward.
QUESTION: But in this case, you agree with the need for a judicial process to take place? You don't think that is not necessary?
MS. NULAND: Again, we're not the judge and jury here. This is an issue that needs to be settled by Iraqis within Iraqi constitutional processes.
QUESTION: You said you've seen encouraging signs. What are those signs?
MS. NULAND: We've had -- we've seen some Iraqis speak publicly about their desire for national dialogue, and a number of them are also expressing the same hope to us privately that soon after the New Year, they'll be able to sit down and settle this properly.
Comical and so sad. The US State Dept whoring for a despot. And pretending that those victimized by the despot calling for talks is a sign of progress. Nouri, the one who started the crisis, hasn't called for talks. But pretend not to notice anything that the US government doesn't want you to see, apparently.
Aswat al-Iraq quotes Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani stating that the political crisis is "the most dangerous among other crisis that took place in Iraq since 2003" and expressing his fear that civil war could break out. James Zogby (Middle East Online) notes a Zogby poll of Iraqis on their various political leaders:

We asked Iraqis to evaluate their leaders and found that most are polarizing figures. Iraqi List coalition Iyad Allawi has the best overall rating of any Iraqi political figure receiving strong support from Sunni Arabs and Kurds. He, however, is not viewed favorably by Shia Arabs. The current Prime Minister, Nuri al Maliki, is more polarizing with quite limited support from Sunni Iraqis and Kurds. In fact his numbers across the board are strikingly similar to those received by cleric, Moqtada al Sadr, except that al Sadr does better among Shia, and receives approximately the same ratings as al Maliki among Sunni Arabs and only slightly worse among Kurds.

Pinar Aydinli (Reuters) reports that Huseyin Celik, spokesperson for Turkey's ruling political party, has declared, "It has been determined from initial reports that these people were smugglers, not terrorists. [. . .] If mistakes were made, if there were flaws and if there were shortcomings in the incident that took place, by no means will these be covered up." That incident? A bombing that took place near the border Turkey shares with Iraq. BBC News (link has text and video) reports on last night's bombing, "An air strike by Turkish warplanes near a Kurdish village close to the border with Iraq has left 35 people dead, officials say. One report said that smugglers had been spotted by unmanned drones and were mistaken for Kurdish rebels." Reuters quotes Uludere Mayor Fehmi Yaman explaining that they have recovered 30 corpses, all smugglers, not PKK, and he declares, "This kind of incident is unacceptable. They were hit from the air." AFP adds, "Local security sources said the dead were among a group smuggling gas and sugar into Turkey from northern Iraq and may have been mistaken for Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels." Uludere is in the Turkish province of Sirnak which borders Iraq. CNN notes, "The [Turkish] military statement claimed the the strike was in the Sinat-Haftanin area of northern Iraq, where many militant training camps are situated and there are no civilian settlements." Peter Beaumont (Guardian) reports, "The donkeys had been sent across Turkey's south-eastern border with Iraq to ferry vats of smuggled diesel and cigarettes. On Thursday when they came back it was with bodies wrapped in carpets lashed to their sides: the victims of a Turkish air raid that killed up to 35 villagers from this remote region."

The attack demonstrates yet again how drones are not answers and how futile the Turkish government's response to the PKK has been. 35 people are dead, not one of them PKK. All were killed by the Turkish government in what the government insists (and believes) was a worthwhile action.

The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them 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." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Aaron Hess noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."

27 years of the Turkish government doing the same thing and getting no change in results. You really think the answer is better hardware? By refusing to grant Kurds full inclusion in Turkey, the government created the PKK. All the bullets and bombs in the world won't kill it. The only way you do away with the PKK is take away the reason they were created by bringing the Kurds in Turkey into the political process and making them citizens with full equality.

Read on ...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Queen Nancy Pelosi


That's "Queen Nancy Pelosi" from June 1, 2008. And why so many Democrats no longer give a damn about her tired ass. She was not about fairness, she was not about who got the most votes, she was about lying and deceit and she would prove that even more a month later at the DNC convention.

She'd call for a vote of the delegates and then stop the vote because it was never about voting, it was always about the backroom deals that forced Barack off on the party.

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, the White House talks Iraq 'progress,' and more.
Bagdad is slammed with bombings and Jay Carney has achieved a rare feat -- making people miss the White House spokesperson stylings of Robert Gibbs. "Attempts such as this," Carney said at the White House today of the bombings, "to derail Iraq's continued progress will fail."
Earlier this month, December 6th, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq Martin Kobler appeared before the UN Security Council discussed the situation in Iraq (link is streaming). Among his remarks?
SRSG Martin Kobler: Iraqi leaders should overcome the current standstill in the appointment of the security ministries and resolve other issues involving the government formation process. Some of the pressing details of yesterday remain the same today. They are covered in greater detail in the report of the Secretary-General and include wealth distribution and power sharing, delivery and access to basic services, strained relations between communities that have lived together in Iraq for centuries as well as unresolved issues between Iraq and Kuwait.
Someone needs to ask Jay Carney: What progress?
AFP explores women's status in Iraq and notes how it has fallen from a high for the region to a nightmare (my term) today. Excerpt:
Safia al-Souhail, an MP who ran in March 2010 elections on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law slate but has since defected and is now an independent, said US forces made some progress, but did not do enough in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
"They were always giving excuses that our society would not accept it," she said. "Our society is still wondering why the Americans did not support women leaders who were recognised by the Iraqi people."
She lamented that Maliki had completed a recent official visit to Washington without a single woman in his delegation, describing it as a "shame on Iraq". Indeed, only one woman sits in Maliki's national unity cabinet, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, the minister of state for women's affairs.

But no one in the press wanted to note that, did they? No one in the US press, all giddy like school girls in the audience of The Ed Sullivan Show as the Beatles take the stage, wanted to point out that reality or how it signified the decling status of women in Iraq. With very few exceptions, they wanted to treat thug Nouri as if he were Nelson Mandela instead of Augusto Pinochet reborn.
Want a big laugh? Appearing at the November 30th hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, the State Dept's Brooke Darby insisted that the State Dept needs billions of dollars -- and maybe for 8 years or more (she refused to answer US House Rep Gary Ackerman's question) -- because training the police was important . . . to women's rights.
That's laughable. It's especially laughable that the State Dept finally wants to weigh in on women's rights nearly nine years after the Iraq War started. And the key to women's rights, the State Dept appears to believe, is in how the Iraqi police are trained. Couldn't care about women's rights when the Iraqi Constitution was being written or when Iraqi women were in the streets protesting the attempts to strip them of their legal rights. But now, when they want to spend billions and billions of US tax payer dollars for years and years to train the Iraqi police, the US State Dept insists that this program is needed and it's needed to advance the rights of women.
Christians around the world prepare to celebrate one of their holy days but in Iraq, Catholic News Service reports, "Chaldean Catholic officials have canceled traditional Christmas Eve midnight Masses because of security risks. Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq told the agency Aid to the Church in Need that Christians will spend Christmas in 'great fear' because of the risk of new attacks."
What progress?
Robert Koehler (Newsday) observes, "The war is over, sort of, but the Big Lie marches on: that democracy is flowering in Iraq, that America is stronger and more secure than ever, that doing what's right is the prime motivator of all our military action."
Baghdad is slammed with bombings today leaving many dead and injured?
What progress?
Early today Ziad Tarek, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, was telling Alsumaria TV, "Baghdad hospitals received this morning bodies of 49 dead and 167 wounded, following explosions that occurred in different regions of Baghdad." Prashant Rao (AFP)explains in this France 24 video, "All over the city, both majority Sunni and majority Shia areas have been targeted in mostly bomb attacks [. . .] basically all over Baghdad, we've seen multiple attacks." Charlie D'Agata (The Early Show, CBS News) reports, "The first explosion rang out just after dawn. Then came another. And another. Iraqi officials counted at least 14 blasts throughout Baghdad during the morning rush hour. The targets were indiscriminate. Roadside bombs and car bombs struck everything from neighborhood markets to police stations. A suicide bomber in an ambulance killed 18 people alone."
Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) notes, "The worst single incident this morning was a suicide attack near a government office in which a stolen ambulance packed with explosives was detonated by its driver, sending debris into the air and into the grounds of a nearby kindergarten. Police said at least 18 people were killed in that bombing alone." Al Rafidayn reports that one Ali Abu Nailah, Iraqi Central Bank Consultant, is thought to have been targeted with a bombing on his convoy just outside of Baghdad (Nailah survived without injury but one of his bodyguards was injured). Sam Dagher and Ali Nabhan (Wall St. Journal) note, "The latest spasm of violence came one day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned his coalition partners that any moves to bring down the government would unravel the political system and lead to a situation where the majority Shiites decide the shape of the government on their own." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) offers, "The bombings may be linked more to the U.S. withdrawal than the political crisis, but all together the developments heighten fears of a new round of sectarian bloodshed like the one a few years ago that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war." Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The explosions occurred in a variety of locations around the Iraqi capital, some Shiite and others Sunni, giving no clear indication who was behind it. The casualties were believed to be almost entirely civilians." Dan Morse and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) count 17 bombings, 65 dead and 207 injured while Kareem Raheem (Reuters) notes the death toll has risen to 72.
In other violence, Reuters notes 1 bodyguard shot dead in Baquba, 1 corpse discovered in Mosul, a Mosul sticky bombing injured one police officer, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one woman, an attack on a Mosul checkpoint left a police officer injured, a Baquba home invasion resulted in 5 deaths (parents and three children), 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk, a Jurf al-Sakhar roadside bombing left three people injured and an attack on a Mussayab checkpoint left two Sahwa dead.
The dead in Baghdad were still being counted when Nouri al-Maliki attempted to make political hay out of the tragedy. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that Thursday's series of bomb attacks in Baghdad were politically motivated, pledging that the attacks will not pass without punishment." US Senator John McCain was already booked on The Early Show (CBS News) to talk about the payroll tax and the GOP's presidential nominee race. We'll note this from the opening of the segment.

Senator John McCain: Thank you, good to be with you and before we go on we are paying a very heavy price in Baghdad because of our failure to have a residual force there. It's unraveling. I'm deeply disturbed about events but not surprised.

Chris Wragge: Well that's what I wanted to ask you about -- we'll talk about the payroll tax in just a second but that was the first question I was going to pose to you this morning. When you heard about these cooridnated attacks in and around Baghdad was this a kind of I-told-you-so moment, did you feel in your estimation?

Senator John McCain: I'm afraid so. I'd hoped not. But it was pretty obvious that if we did not have a residual force there that things could unravel very quickly. All of us knew that. The president campaigned saying he would bring around the end of the war. They've already got propaganda out there called "Promises Kept." And he made some very interesting comments about we're leaving behind a stable Iraq which we know is obviously not true. We needed the residual force there. It's not there. Now things are unraveling tragically.

Chris Wragge: How big a mistake do you see this for the president?

Senator John McCain: Well I don't know about the president but I know the Iraqi people may be subject to the news reports that you just quoted this morning and it's tragic for them. And of course, as you mentioned on the lead-in, we did 4,474 young Americans died there. It's really sad the way that they have -- As General [John] Keane said, "We won the war and we're losing the peace."

I know McCain and I know and like Senator Lindsey Graham. The two of them issued a joint-statement on Iraq yesterday:

We are alarmed by recent developments in Iraq, most recently the warrant issued today by the Maliki government for the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tariq al Hashimi. This is a clear sign that the fragile political accommodation made possible by the surge of 2007, which ended large-scale sectarian violence in Iraq, is now unraveling. This crisis has been precipitated in large measure by the failure and unwillingness of the Obama Administration to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government for a residual presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, thereby depriving Iraq of the stabilizing influence of the U.S. military and diminishing the ability of the United States to support Iraq.
If Iraq slides back into sectarian violence, the consequences will be catastrophic for the Iraqi people and U.S. interests in the Middle East, and a clear victory for al Qaeda and Iran. A deterioration of the kind we are now witnessing in Iraq was not unforseen, and now the U.S. government must do whatever it can to help Iraq stabilize the situation. We call upon the Obama Administration and the Iraqi government to reopen negotiations with the goal of maintaining an effective residual U.S. military presence in Iraq before the situation deteriorates further.
I was asked if we could include that and I said yes because I had no idea the two had issued a statement and issued it yesterday. I would have thought it would have received some serious press attention. It didn't and I'm comfortable including it here. That is not my opinion, it is not this community's opinion. We believe the illegal war was wrong from the start and nothing good was ever going to come from it. And we've backed that up repeatedly over the years so it's not a threat to us to include a differening opinion. I do agree with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham that the administration blew it.
I say they blew it by refusing to immediately end the Iraq War. Had they done that, it wouldn't be Barack's war. He could say, "I campaigned on ending the war and I was elected so that's what the American people wanted. As a result, as I promised on the campaign trail, all US troops will be out of Iraq within ten months." He could and should have said that after he was sworn in. (And the withdrawal could have been done in less than 10 months but 10 months was the least amount of time he gave on the campaign trail.) Had he done that, it was Bush's war.
But he didn't do that. He continued the war. (And unlike McCain and Graham, I believe the Iraq War continues.) And he made promises. To Nouri al-Maliki. He made sure Nouri got what he wanted. Iraq's LGBT community was being targeted, tortured and murdered and the White House never said a word. Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities were forgotten by the White House. Resolving the Kirkuk issue was forgotten by the White House. When Nouri al-Maliki wanted something, he got it and that continues to this day. Let's again note Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer via San Jose Mercury News) on the multitude of mistakes by the Bush and Barack administrations in her latest column but we'll zoom in on her commentary about 2010:
The White House followed a hands-off policy on Iraqi politics, allowing Maliki to slip back into sectarianism and the eager embrace of Iran's ayatollahs.
When Maliki cracked down on Sunni candidates before March 2010 elections, a visiting Vice President Joe Biden gave him a pass. When a Sunni coalition called Iraqiya edged out Maliki's party and he used Iraq's politicized courts to nullify some Sunni seats, U.S. officials didn't push back.
When Maliki failed to honor a power-sharing deal the United States had brokered between his party and Iraqiya, we failed to press him.
That was a huge mistake. There was never a reason to back Nouri. The White House disgraced the country by backing Nouri whom they knew ran secret prisons, whom they knew used torture.
McCain and Graham may be right and I may be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. But I have thought out my position (as they have their position) and I can defend what I'm saying (as they can defend what they're saying). I'm comfortable including their take on this and I'm bothered that their take wasn't included by the press yesterday. I'm bothered that the same servile press that bowed to the will of one White House occupant (Bush) now goes out of their way to scrape and bow and carry water for President Barack Obama. (If you're late to the party, that's worded that way because I don't use the P-word with Bush. A direct quote from someone else? We don't alter it. But I made it through eight years never calling the Supreme Court appointed Bush the p-word and intend to make it to my grave. He was an occupant of the White House nothing more.)
I see a press that refuses to explore what's taking place in Iraq and who benefits?
An Oval Office occupant (President Obama, in this case) just like an Oval Office occupant (Bully Boy Bush) did at an earlier time. But not the public in the US or in Iraq.
As somone against the Iraq War before it started, I did not appreciate the press shutting out voices raising objections because they only cared about toeing the White House line. I don't have the need to shut anyone else out of the public debate. My position is the popular one now and that's because of a number of things including time has provided the evidence needed to call the war a disaster. But nothing's going to change public opinion more (turn back towards support for the war) than shutting out opposition views. John McCain and Lindsey Graham know what they're talking about.
They come to different conclusions than I do (and, again, they may be right and I may be wrong). And as long as these issues can be publicly debated, the American people can have a strong sense of where they stand. But when one side gets shut out of the conversation, you're creating a future backlash.
Now maybe that's what the press (owners) want because what's the United States without perpetual war? But it's not what I want (more wars is not what I want) and I also don't want to think of John McCain as a stronger supporter of free speech than those of us on the left. Meaning? He is pro-war and pro-Iraq War but he still called out Clear Channel's decision to ban the Dixie Chicks over statements against the war and he wondered where you draw the line the next time you decide to censor? Today, it appears you draw the line to prevent those with views different than the White House from being heard. Again, it feels lot like 2003 press wise and that is not a good thing.
Again, Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and thug of the continued occupation, took to the TV airwaves to proclaim the bombings political and to promise punishment. Little Saddam never misses a photo op in which he can expose his iron fist. Dar Addustour notes that Parliament's Finance Committee states the political crisis is negatively impacting the exchange rate of Iraq's currency. Apparently that doesn't worry Nouri even though Iraq's seen record inflation. For recap we'll note this from yesterday's NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, text and audio) so we're all on the same page (and to note that one network newscast is covering the crisis):

HARI SREENIVASAN: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded that Kurdish authorities hand over Iraq's vice president today. Tariq al-Hashemi is the highest-ranking Sunni figure in Iraq. He fled to the Kurdish north this week to escape an arrest warrant. The Shiite-dominated government charges he ran terror squads that targeted government officials. At a news conference in Baghdad today, Maliki rejected Hashemi's claim that the charges are politically motivated.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, Iraqi prime minister (through translator): I will not permit myself, others, or the relatives of martyrs to politicize this issue. There is only one path that will lead to the objective, and that is the path of the judiciary, nothing else. He should appear before court, either to be exonerated or to be convicted. The cause of al-Hashemi should not enter into political bargaining.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Later, a spokesman for the president of the Kurdish region rejected the demand. The political fight came as U.S. troops have finished their withdrawal from Iraq. Last night, Vice President Biden called Maliki and urged him to resolve the crisis.

Tony Karon (Time magazin) adds, "Vice President Joe Biden has been on the phone to Baghdad and Erbil this week, frantically trying to coax Iraq's main political players back from the brink of a new sectarian confrontation less than a week after the last U.S. troops departed. But Iraq's political leaders paid little heed to Washington's advice and entreaties when the U.S. had 140,000 troops there; they're even less likely to comply now. Biden reportedly sought to persuade Maliki to back away from a warrant issued by his government for the arrest of Iraq's most senior Sunni politician, Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, on allegations that he was involved in a bomb plot for which members of his security detail have been detained. But Iraq's Sunni leadership sees the warrant as part of Maliki's authoritarian crackdown against his opponents, with senior Sunni leaders systematically targeted for arrest by the Shi'ite-led government in recent months." Al Rafidayn quotes State of Law MP Omaima Younis stating that they welcome all input, including the US input, as long as it does not have to do with the charges Nouri has brought because that will be seen as an attempt to interfere with Iraq's judiciary.
It's not just Joe Biden that's been engaging in dialogue on behalf of the US. CIA Director David Petraeus has already made a trip to Iraq this week and now it's the man who followed Petraeus as top US commander in Iraq. AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:
Prashant Rao
prashantrao Prashant Rao
#Iraq PM's statement on meeting with #US Gen. Odierno: (Ar)
Prashant Rao
prashantrao Prashant Rao
#US Gen. Odierno's meeting with #Iraq PM comes shortly after CIA Director Petraeus visit to Baghdad
Prashant Rao
prashantrao Prashant Rao
#Iraq PM's office says Maliki met with #US army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno today
State of Law is Nouri's political slate. It came in second in the March 7, 2010 parliamentary elections, Iraqiya came in first and is headed by Ayad Allawi. Al Mada reports that Allawi declares that they are not Nouri's employees and that just because Nouri calls a meeting does not mean they have to attend. (Just as Moqtada al-Sadr calling in November for Nouri to appear before Parliament and answer questions about US forces has not meant that Nouri has appeared.) Allawi states that several polical bloc leaders -- including Allawi -- attended a meeting called by KRG President Massoud Barzani. In that meeting, it was called for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented and for the government go be the partnership it is supposed to be. But Nouri cannot call Parliament for this meeting or that because MPs are not employees of the authoritarian Nouri al-Maliki.

The bombings and the political situation were raised in today's US State Dept press briefing. Mark Toner took questions.
QUESTION: The Iraq bombing?
MR. TONER: Iraq bombing. Sorry. Well, we did see the -- as you saw, the attacks across Baghdad this morning -- desperate attempts by terrorist groups to undermine Iraq at this vulnerable juncture in the Iraqi political process. And these events, we believe, highlight just how critical it is that Iraq's leaders act quickly to resolve their differences and move forward as a united and inclusive government in accordance with the Iraqi constitutions and laws. So --
QUESTION: Do you regard this violence as linked in any way to the sectarian strife, or at least political discord that has erupted since the government issued the arrest warrant for Mr. Hashimi?
MR. TONER: I think we see it as linked clearly to this vulnerable period after U.S. forces have withdrawn, and the government is finding its feet and moving forward.
It's impossible to say in terms of coordination and planning -- and this appeared to have been a coordinated attack -- how many weeks or months this may have been planned in advance. But clearly it was timed for this point in time.
QUESTION: What I'm trying to get at --
MR. TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- and forgive me if I wasn't clear, but I think that what is interesting is to try to understand if you think that some faction within the Iraqi polity is trying to use violence now because they are angry at what has happened in the last week, particularly the targeting of Mr. Hashimi.
MR. TONER: Right. And I don't -- again, just -- forgive me if I wasn't being clear. The coordinated nature of this attack appears, to us at least at first blush, to have been something that was coordinated over a period of time and not necessarily tied to the events of the past week.
QUESTION: This week. Got it.
MR. TONER: That said, this is a vulnerable point or juncture in Iraq's history, so there's going to be groups that are trying to take advantage of it. But we don't know; there's been no claim of responsibility that I'm aware of, so we don't know at this point.
QUESTION: Vice President Hashimi, today, told Washington Times, that, quote, Iran definitely involved in move to arrest him. Do you have any evidence to support that?
MR. TONER: We do not. We continue to call on any legal or judicial process that goes forward with respects to Vice President Hashimi to be done in full accordance with the rule of law and full transparency. And we do note that Prime Minister Maliki did speak about the need to observe rule of law in judicial proceedings, and also that he's called for a meeting of the various political blocs. That's exactly what we want to see happen. We want to see all of the political blocs get together in an effort to -- through dialogue to resolve their difference.
And we'll close with this from the Washington Times interview (Ben Birnbaum is the reporter of the piece) referred to in the State Dept briefing:
Mr. al-Hashemi, who is staying in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, has vehemently denied the charges, but he told The Times that he believes he could never receive a fair trial from the Iraqi judiciary.
"All Iraqis are very much aware about the nature of our judicial system," he said. "It is not transparent, it is not neutral, it is not independent. It's become a puppet of the government and certainly al-Maliki."
Mr. al-Hashemi said he is willing to face trial before "a neutral and more transparent and more professional, independent court, which I think is available here" in the Kurdish region.
The charges against him have threatened the fragile unity government that Mr. al-Maliki formed after the 2009 elections, which gave his State of Law bloc two fewer seats than the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc to which Mr. al-Hashemi belongs.
Read on ...
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