Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Barack considers his options







Yesterday, an assault began on Camp Ashraf. We'll start by noting Amnesty International's statement which will also serve as a recap:

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT AI Index: MDE 14/021/2009 28 July 2009 Iraq: Camp Ashraf residents attacked Amnesty International is seriously concerned at today's attacks by Iraqi forces on unarmed residents of Camp Ashraf which left several people injured and led to the arrest of at least eight others. Hundreds of armed Iraqi security forces are said to have stormed the camp, north of Baghdad, at around 3pm local time. They used tear gas, water canons and batons against unarmed Iranian residents who tried to stop them from entering the camp. Video footage seen by Amnesty International clearly shows Iraqi forces beating people repeatedly on different parts of the body, including the head. Dozens of people are said to have been injured. Two of them, Reza Chelcheraqi and Mohammad-Reza Shahsavandi, are believed to be in serious condition. At least eight people, including Hasan Besharati, Humayoun Deyhim, Gholam Reza Behrouzi, Hosein Fili, Mehdi Zareh and Naser Nour Ebadian, were arrested and their current whereabouts are unknown.In the last few months the Iraqi government has publicly stated that it wants to take over full control of Camp Ashraf, in Diyala governorate, north of Baghdad. On 27 July government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh told an Iraqi satellite television channel that the government "will take over the responsibility of internal security affairs of Camp Ashraf". The authorities are reportedly planning to establish a police outpost inside the camp. Amnesty International calls on the Iraqi government to investigate the apparent excessive use of force by Iraqi security forces. The government should reveal the whereabouts of the eight people detained and ensure that they are protected from torture or other ill-treatment, as well as from forcible return to Iran. Background Around 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf are members or supporters of the People's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition organization whose members have been resident in Iraq for many years. Until recently the PMOI was listed as a "terrorist" organization by the European Union and other governments, but in most cases this designation has now been lifted on the grounds that the PMOI no longer advocates or engages in armed opposition to the government of Iran.The US forces provided protection for the camp and its residents, who were designated as "protected persons" following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but this situation was discontinued following the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Iraqi governments, although the SOFA makes no reference to Camp Ashraf or its residents. Public Document **************************************** For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email: International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) was reporting on the assault yesterday evening and this morning, he and Greg Jaffe report the assault continues and they note: "The operation, which caught U.S. officials off guard, coincided with a visit to Iraq by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Analysts said it appeared designed to send a message of Iraqi independence. " This morning, BBC also reports the assault is still ongoing: "Eyewitnesses say Iraqi police have surrounded the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) camp and clashes are continuing inside. Iran wants the camp closed. The exiles fear they will be forcibly repatriated." (They also quote a portion of the Amnesty International's statement.) Odierno told AP that "non-lethal force" was used and "We have had promises from the government of Iraq that they would deal with the [group] in a humane fashion." AP goes on to point out, "But a video provided by an exile group showed Iraqi forces using batons and water cannons against the residents gathered at the camp's gates. The group also released photos showing injured people and bloodied bodies, although the authencity of the images couldn't be independent verified." Alsumaria quotes an unnamed Iraqi security source stating "200 Iranian residents and 50 Iraqi security forces [were] wounded" and that Nouri ordered the assault. Charles Levinson and Yochi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal) note, "Residents of Camp ashraf said hundreds of Iraqi security forces tore down the camp's walls on Tuesday afternoon with bulldozers." Laith Hammoudi and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) offer more on that, "An Iraqi security official in Diyala told McClatchy that on government orders, security forces from the Ministry of Interior and riot police entered the camp Tuesday afternoon using bulldozers to tear down the walls." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports that Nouri's flunkies are insisting this was not done to please Iran and Sly notes the actions have other potential impacts as well, "The pledge to assert the right of Iraqi forces to extend their authority over all of Iraq has potentially profound implications for another simmering dispute, over territories claimed by the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan and currently controlled by Kurdish peshmerga forces." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reveals Iraq's Interior Ministry is admitting to 7 deaths -- MEK is stating they have lost 11 members. Aljazeera airs video of the assault here. Today at the US State Dept, CBS' Charlie Wolfson asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the assault. Her response follows with my snark in brackets.

Well first with respect to the MEK at Camp Ashraf, we are urging restraint on both sides. [Yes, MEK, please restrain yourself from yelling too loudly as your homes are bulldozed and you are assaulted.] The government of Iraq has stated that the residents of Camp Ashraf will be treated in accordance with Iraq's constitution, laws and international obligations. [Really? Well that would be a first for Nouri and his thugs.] The Iraqi govenrment has assumed security responsibility for Camp Ashraf and its residents which obviously largely consists of MEK members -- the full transfer from the coalition forces in Iraq to the Iraqi army forces occured on February 20, 2009. This is part of the turnover of responsibilities to a sovereign nation. [We washed our hands clean, in their blood, didn't we?] And although the US government remains engaged and concerned about this issue, it is a matter now for the government of Iraq to resolve in accordance with its laws. [No, she doesn't believe what she's saying. In fairness to Hillary, this issue was supposed to have been resolved before she was even confirmed and, in fact, she was kept out of the loop on it. She was not the person on this issue, assigned by Barack, back in November.] And we are very clear that we expect that the Government of Iraq, now that it has assumed this security responsibility, will fulfill its obligations to show restraint, will not forcibly transfer anyone to a country where such a transfer might result in the mistreatment or the death of that person based on their political affiliation and activities. But it is now the responsibility of the Government of Iraq. [In other words, MEK, don't fill out refugee applications for the US.]

Timothy Williams (New York Times) explains, "There is a permanent American military presence in the area in the form of a military police platoon, acting as observers and reporting directly to Gen. Ray Odierno in Baghdad, an American military officials said."
Over 130,000 US troops on the ground in Iraq for why? This is exactly what the current vice president warned about in April, in an April Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing when he noted the thug Nouri al-Maliki would attack the people and the US military -- if still on the ground -- would be put in a position of supporting the thug. That's exactly what's happening and it's one more reason all US troops need to be out of Iraq immediately.

[. . .]

Today the Los Angeles Times editorializes on the topic of the current government in Iraq's obligations (or not) to pay reparations for the violence of Saddam Hussein and concludes, "Kuwait should consider reducing reparations, and its proposal to reinvest some of the remaining debt in Iraq would benefit both countries. In return, Iraq should act quickly and decisively to resolve the other outstanding issues of concern to Kuwait, proving itself to be a good neighbor." Staying with LAT, yesterday's snapshot noted AFP's estimate of a Baghdad bank robbery resulting in $3.8 million dollars being stolen. Liz Sly and Usama Redha report that the figure was $7 million.

Turning to the US, local community is the key and so is word of mouth. Those were the two messages coming out of today's House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing entitled Meeting the Needs of Injured Veterans in the Military Paralympic Program. The hearing was divided into three panels. The first panel was composed of three veterans: Sgt. Kortney Clemons, Capt Nathan Waldon and Capt Mark Little. Panel two was composed of Disabled American Veterans' Adrian M. Atizado, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake. Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project's Julia Ray, National Recreation and Parks Association's David Stringer and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Carlos Leon. The third panel was composed of Dept of Defense's Dinah Cohen, United States Olympic Committee, Charlie Huebner and Dept of Veterans Affairs' Diane Hartmann.

"I think we have a very interesting and important hearing this morning," declared Chair Bob Filner as he brought the meeting to order. "I think you all know since the early years of our country, Congress has had to reassess programs created to care for our men and women in uniform, our veterans who have courageously answered our call to duty and their families who have joined in the military experience. For many service members and veterans who have been severely injured from service to our country, their rehabilitation can sometimes be quite disheartening. Many become concerned about having the same quality of life that they had prior to their injuries. This was known to be true in WWII and has held true today in the midst of our nation's commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan."

In his opening remarks, Ranking Member Steve Buyer noted, "I believe that sports are the most valuable rehabilitative tools that we can provide our wounded warriors." On the first panel, Clemons noted that he lost his right leg in a 2004 roadside bombing in Iraq and explained, "Paralympic sports has given me opportunities that I never thought would be possible. Prior to my injury, I was an athlete who absolutely loved sports. I played football, basketball and baseball in high school in Little Rock, Mississippi and played football at East Mississippi Community College before joining the army." Clemons was recovering in the Brooke Army Medical Center and learned of the Paralympic Military Program through word of mouth. He explained that John Register of the US Olympic Committee visited the medical center and explained the USOC's Paralympic Military Program and, Clemons explained, "his inspirational message made me realize that sports could give me the strength, courage and confidence to live a great life." Little also learned of programs by word of mouth. After losing both of his legs from the below the knee down in an IED attack in Iraq, Little went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Very similarly also, sports was huge in my identity being an almost pro-rollerball hokey player ice hockey player, rugby, tennis, golf, soccer, football, etc, I had similar concerns, now I'm missing both of my legs, how am I going to be an excellent sports star like I always knew I would be? And it was as I was expressing those concerns my first day of physical therapy a couple of weeks after returning home that Gunnery Sgt from the marine corps who is a double below the knee amputee walked in with his set of prosthetic roller blade inline skates, telling me that they had just custom made them for him He was the second person to ever receive that style and was already skating outside. Right then and there, competitive spirit took over and I knew exactly what I knew before in the military and even prior in sports, I have to be better than this man, I have to do one more. So I asked my physical therapist who ironically was also his physical therapist what-what records had he set? She said pretty much everything for a double amputee. So after getting a laundry list of those, I set out to beat every single one."

US House Rep Timothy Walz wondered about how to get the word out and what sort of events were needed? Little explained that it needed to be community based because most people don't live in DC and they will be interacting in their own communities. Clemons agreed with that and added that the word needed to be out there that "there are things to do when you get back home to move forward." Waldon spoke on the issue noting, "Pretty much the daily community programs. Just moving it down to a more, just like classroom size. The smaller the classroom, the more personal instruction can be for the students the same thing with this. The more one-on-one, one-on-three, one-on-four time you can really get with an instructor, someone to help you out, the better it will be and you know pretty much being everywhere. It's a far reaching goal but you at least have something in mind, like something to push towards. No reason to settle if we can achieve something else." On the second panel, Julia Ray noted, " I think what we're noticing from the most recent grop of injured veterans is the extreme diversity in what their needs and interests are. It's not your classic disabled sports that we began with back in the Vietnam era -- skiing and so forth. They're wanting to do the Iron Man in Hawaii. They all want to compete and train alongside the communities-- people with and without disabilities. All kinds of diffent things and that kind of support needs to be individualized, it needs to be adjusted according to the type of injury. With polytrauma, we're seeing the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury, multiple amputations and very severe injuries that require very individualized attention." Kat will cover some of the hearing at her site tonight and we need to wind down. We'll close on the hearing with these remarks by Little, "I would never have known half of what I do about being an amputee, being a returning disabled veteran and just getting around in life had it not been for people like my first snow board trip Captain [Nathan] Waldan who you may have met earlier teaching me how to properly fit my prosethetic in a snow board boot to get down the hill -- which I did sucessfully my first time. And then going on to be that person. There's someone out there right now that's going on about how Capt Little showed him how to do that the first time he was out there."

Finally, independent journalist David Bacon continues to report on labor issues. How did TARP -- the Big Business bail out -- help residents in Oakland? At In These Times, Bacon reveals that it didn't help them at all: "Tosha Alberty had just left for work, for her job as a transportation services coordinator for Alameda County. Her children were still at home, though. Sheriffs told her adopted son Christian, a nine-year-old with autism still in his undershorts, to get dressed. Alberty's daughter Sharquita rushed to collect the bottles and diapers she needed to take care of her nine-month-old baby Zmylan." And they were evicted, right then, right there. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST) and his latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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