Saturday, August 29, 2009

Barry from behind the frosted window







Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – Two 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldiers died of wounds suffered following an improvised explosive device in eastern Baghdad Aug. 28 at approximately 2:30 a.m. The Soldiers names are being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is currently under investigation." The deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4336.

Before Steven Lee Myers wrote his dumb ass blog post at the New York Times website, I thought we could wait on unpacking the violence this month until, golly, the month ended. But whores are always lying and Steven's no reporter. August 1st, McClatchy reported 1 soldier dead in Mosul. August 2nd, 8 people were reported killed and twenty injured. August 3rd, 23 were reported dead and sixty-five wounded (these include late reporting of the day before's violence -- these are the deaths reported that day -- also note that we will not include Swine Flu deaths and that US military deaths and contractors will not be noted in this count). August 4th, 2 dead and nine wounded. August 5th, 9 reported dead and twelve reported injured. August 6th, 8 dead and thirty-two injured. August 7th, 59 dead and injured one-hundred and ninety-eight wounded. August 8th, 1 death was reported and two people injured. Because there is an UNDERCOUNT every month of the reported dead and because ICCC's count is WAY OFF each month on civilians, we've started monitoring the reported toll at Third. Third noted August 16th, there were 122 reported deaths in Iraq the previous week and 414 reported wounded ("Last Sunday found the press reporting 6 deaths and 12 people injured. Monday saw 61 deaths reported and 252 injuries. Tuesday saw 11 dead and 57 wounded. Wednesday's numbers were 11 dead and 21 injured. Thursday 25 lives were claimed and 51 people were wounded. Friday there were 2 reported deaths and 6 reported injured. Saturday saw 6 dead and 15 injured.") Third noted August 23rd resulted in 211 reported deaths and 950 wounded. ("Last Sunday saw 13 reported dead and 41 reported injured. Monday saw 24 dead 59 wounded. Tuesday the reported death toll was 5 and 24 were reported injured. Wednesday 102 were reported dead and 572 wounded. By Thursday evening, 22 were reported dead with 67 injured. Thursday night 33 more deaths were reported and 145 wounded. Friday saw 8 deaths reported and 31 people wounded. Saturday saw 4 dead 11.") This week? August 23rd 4 dead and eleven injured. August 24th, 11 dead, twenty-nine wounded. August 25th, 4 dead, nineteen injured. August 26th, 4 dead and ten wounded. August 27th, 4 dead and fifty-one wounded. Leaving out today, that's 27 dead and 120 wounded this week. ICCC shows 413 dead. That's incorrect. Use the links, there have been 471 reported deaths -- not including today -- in August and 1,822 reported injured. That's Reuters and McClatchy with one inclusion of Xinhau. Use the links. So Steven Lee Myers, you stupid liar, ICCC's count is not "invaluable" -- it's not even correct, you stupid moron. That the New York Times can't do their own count tells how damn little Iraq and Iraqis matter to them. So Steven Lee shows up whoring again and hoping we're all so stupid we mistake it for reporting. He not only whores on the civilian count, he whores on the number of US service members killed.

"In Iraq," Steven types, "fewer American soliders have died this month -- seven, including two in a roadside bombing early Friday -- than any other month of the war, a figure that . . ." The month isn't over. How many damn times do we have to point that out each year? Hmm. And how many were reported dead in July in the first days of August? 7. 7 were reported dead. The same damn number that outlets like the New York Times trumpted at the start of August as "lowest!!!!!"

He can't tell you that. From the August 4th snapshot:

Late yesterday, DoD announced: "Staff Sgt. Johnny R. Polk, 39, of Gulfport, Miss., died July 25 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was struck by anti-tank grenade on July 23 in Kirkuk, Iraq." That July 25th death was never reported by M-NF and, again, was only announced late yesterday -- long after the outlets had done their 'end of the month' pieces. This happens over and over and the press falls for it everytime -- like saps, like suckers.

Yeah, they fell for it at the start of the month and, late August 3rd (after all the outlets had done their month-in-review pieces on July), the US military finally, FINALLY, announced a July death.

I'm not in the mood for nonsense. We are talking numbers, they are not supposed to be fluid, they are supposed to be fixed. That's why they are numbers and not ranges. Do you get the difference you damn glorified general studies major or that just beyond your highly limited education? I'm not in the mood.

Steven Lee Myers did an early roll-out on how the military wants August spun: Low deaths for civilians! Lowest month evah for US military! Evah! In fact, the whole thing reads like Maj Gen John Johnson wrote it. He gave a press briefing yesterday at the Pentagon (he appeared via videolink from Baghdad) and about the only thing of interest there was that he was asked about the 135,000 US troops in Iraq and didn't correct on that number. We'll come back to his briefing later in the snapshot.

Steven Lee Myers' cluelessness reminds me of two friends. One is a producer, the other is a singer. The singer wanted an arrangment in B flat. The singer then insisted that the arrangement was in some other key and the producer replied that the singer wouldn't know a car key from a music key "but let's go over to the piano right now and I will teach you a musical key." The singer let it go and sang the arrangement as arranged. I'm reminded of that story when I think of Steven. Who was right? The song was recorded as the producer wanted. The singer hit number one with it and it's also gave the singer the longest number of weeks in the Hot 100 -- more than any of the singer's other hits. (Yeah, I'm avoiding gender and trying to keep this very much a blind item.) Like the singer, Steven Lee Myers doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. And yet he's doing the early roll out and this is what we'll have to put up with because the press never self-corrects. (Nor does the press have a good beat that you can dance too.)

This was the month the the Project for Excellence in Journalism noted a 92% drop in Iraq coverage took place from the first part of 2007 "to the middle of 2009." So we get less coverage and, thanks to the likes of Steven Lee Myers, we get worse coverage.

One of the few outlets -- the very few media outlets -- which has not forgotten Iraq is NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. Diane Rehm tripped last Thursday and while she recovers from her fall, guest hosts are filling in. USA Today's Susan Page filled in for her today and Iraq was addressed during the second hour (the international hour) with panelists David Ignatius (Washington Post), Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) and Janine Zacharia (Bloomberg News).

Susan Page: Lots of developments in Iraq this week, including the death of a Shi'ite leader. Tell us what's happening there, Barbara.

Barbara Slavin: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim headed something which used to be called the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI. It changed it's name to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, taking out "Revolution." But it's a very important organization it was essentially created in Iran by Iran's Revolutionary Guard corps in the 1980s, after the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War. The Hakims returned to Iraq after the US overthrew Saddam. And Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has had lung cancer for some time and so this is not unexpected. But it still happens at a very delicate phase where we are anticipating elections in Iraq next year and there is a reorganization going on among the Shi'ite parties. His party, others affialiated with Moqtada al-Sadr -- a militant leader, with Ahmed Chalabi whom we'll talk about in a little bit have formed an alliance that excludes the prime minister who is a Shi'ite, Nouri al-Maliki. And they are all manuevering to see who will take power as the US withdraws from Iraq.

Susan Page: How important is this situation, David? And how perilous for US interests?

David Ignatius: Well as the US now withdraws its forces in ernest from Iraq -- we've pulled back from the cities and are really not a factor in day-to-day security -- we are seeing an increase in violence and in political chaos in the country. The death of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim a figurehead for the Shi'ite religious parties, is an example of this but in every direction I look in Iraq, I see similar uncertainty. Maliki is increasingly cocky about his own role as prime minister and I-I think has decided he can go it alone separating himself from the other Shi'ite parties. He's got his own complicated dealings with Iran. You've got the Kurds who are pushing for their own interests ever more stridently. I think the question that we need to think about is: Going forward in Iraq, is this project of the new Iraqi state that was created in 2003, after the United States invasion, do Iraqis think it's going to continue? And are they going to buy into it? And are they going to make the deals that would be part of having some kind of viable country and democracy? And right now it's really tough to be confident about that.

Susan Page: Janine?

Janine Zacharia: Just to follow up on what David was saying, I think the August 19th co-ordinated attacks where nearly 100 people were killed and 600 were wounded and US forces who were pulled back on June 30th were sitting on the outskirts and couldn't get in there because the Iraqis had not invited them, I think that this is something the US is going to be looking closely at going forward and we have to see how that's going to effect Obama's promises of doing a complete US pullout by the end of 2011. Just quickly on al-Hakim, some people have said that he's been, because of his illness, as Barbara said, he hasn't been as important day-to-day in Shi'ite politics right now and one US diplomat I spoke to said they're hoping actually this will clear the way for fresh Shia leadership within that party who can challenge Moqtada al-Sadr who is the more radical concern for them.

Susan Page: David.

David Ignatius: I've met Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's son Ammar who's the new leader of this party. We had a long and very interesting breakfast conversation and he's the sort of young man who, you know, when you meet him and talk to him, you think, "Gee, maybe things are really going to work out in this country." He is surrounded by some of the toughest, meanest politicians and I think of this nice, young man, this cleric from Najaf, getting eaten alive by the -- by the wolves of Baghdad.

Susan Page: You mentioned, Barbara, Chalabi, a familiar name to Americans from the very beginning of the Iraq War. What happened this week to an aid of his?

Barbara Slavin: Yeah, well, the twists and turns involving Ahmed Chalabi are just incredible. This is the guy, to remind people, who led Iraqi exiles after the Gulf War, who lobbied so hard to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who presented information to the media about alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction that didn't turn out to actually exist in Iraq once the US got there and he also, throughout this time, had maintained good relations with Iran -- which makes sense if you're an Iraqi Shia, since Iran is the neighbor and the biggest Shi'ite country. And what we have now is more evidence that his connection with the Iranians are closer perhaps than we even thought. The Washington Times has a front page story today about the arrest of a top aide to Chalabi on charges that he was a liason to an Iraqi Shi'ite militant group called the League of the Righteous which, among other things, is believed responsible for the execution-style murder of five US marines in 2007. And Chalabi, of course, denies it, the aide denise it, but, uh, senior US military officials say that, indeed, Chalabi's links and the links to this group are-are documented and that Chalabi has been playing both sides of the fence.

The article Barbara Slavin's referring to was written by Eli Lake who notes, "Mr. Chalabi is a top Iraqi politician best known in the West for helping to persuade the Bush administration to go to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. In 2004, he sat with first lady Laura Bush during Mr. Bush's State of the Union address to Congress." Lake quotes anonymice US officials (three). The aide's name is Ali Faisal al-Lami.

For those late to the party on who the League of Righteous is, we'll drop back to the June 9th snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

That's what Barbara Slavin was referring to and she noted that she was only citing one example of the group. Another involves British citizens. From the August 6th snapshot:

Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell, Alec Maclachlan, Alan McMenemy and Peter Moore, all British citizens, were kidnapped in Baghdad May 29, 2007. Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell were dead when their bodies were turned over to the British authorities after the two leaders of the group bragging about having done the kidnappings were released from US custody. (The same group, and why the brothers had been imprisoned originally by the US, bragged about their actions in assaulting a US base and killing 5 American soldiers.) The British government considers Alec and Alan to be dead (the families remain hopeful) and it is thought (by the British government) that Peter Moore is alive. The group taking credit for the kidnappings and for the deaths of 5 US soldiers is alternately called the Righteous League or the League of Righteous by the press. The press? They got press this week, see Monday's snapshot, because Nouri met with them to bring them back into the government. As noted in the Tuesday snapshot, the press spin that the group has given up violence is false. Their spokesperson says they will not attack Iraqis but that they will continue to go after US service members.

Recapping: the League of Righteous has claimed credit for the deaths of 5 US soldiers and credit for kidnapping 5 British citizens, at least 2 of whom are known to be dead. In addition, British outlets noted last month that the Iraqi government appeared to be involved in the kidnappings (see the July 31st snapshot if you're late on this story). Gareth Porter (Asia Times) reported in August that recent developments demonstrate how Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation and US-installed thug, has long been working with the League of Righteous:

The history of the new agreement confirms what was evident from existing information: the League of the Righteous was actually the underground wing of the Mahdi Army all along, and the Sadrist insurgents were secretly working closely with the Maliki regime against the Americans and the British - even as it was at war with armed elements within the regime. The contradictory nature of the relationship between Maliki and the Sadrists reflects the tensions between pro-Sadrist elements within the regime - including Maliki's Da'wa Party - and the anti-Sadrist elements led by the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The relationship between Maliki and the US was also marked by contradictions. Even though he was ostensibly cooperating with the US against the Sadrists in 2007 and 2008, the Maliki regime was also cooperating secretly with the Sadrist forces against the Americans. And Maliki - with the encouragement of Iran -- was working on a strategy for achieving the complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq through diplomatic means, which he did not reveal to the Americans until summer 2008.

That was earlier this month and no one really followed up on what Gareth Porter was reporting. But that is the League of Righteous. Nouri has some ties to it and now the Washington Times is stating that three US government officials (who may or may not be telling the truth) are stating that Ahmed Chalabi also has a relationship with them. On The Diane Rehm Show, Steve Roberts has also been filling in for Diane and Monday's show featured him with a panel discussing Iraq and Afghanistan with three people. I'll provide a link to it and note that Steve did a strong job filling in but the guests were decidely unimpressive and that's why we didn't note it.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

He's just not that smart






Starting in the US, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan's on Martha's Vineyard. She is protesting an occupant of the White House. (For those confused, we now have President Barack Obama. I have never used the p word to describe George W. Bush and will not start now.) She is demonstarting against the continuation of the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and attempting to raise attention. Justin Raimondo ( observed this week:

There was a time when Cindy Sheehan couldn't go anywhere without having a microphone and a TV camera stuck in front of her. As she camped out in front of George W. Bush's Crawford ranch, mourning the death of her son Casey in Iraq and calling attention to an unjust, unnecessary, and unwinnable war, the media created in her a symbolic figure whose public agony epitomized a growing backlash against the militarism and unmitigated arrogance of the Bush administration. It was a powerful image: a lone woman standing up to the most powerful man on earth in memory of her fallen son.

Karen Travers (ABC News) reports today, "Sheehan said today she wanted to tell Mr. Obama that even if he goes on vacation, her group will not take a break from spreading their message of peace. . . . The scene outside the Oak Bluffs School on Martha's Vineyard today was a far cry from those massive rallies aimed at Bush. Only a dozen people showed up to hear her speak, and about half of them were part of her contingent." NBC's Alicia Jennings quotes Cindy stating today, "The facade has changed but policies remain the same. Integrity in our movement means we have to do same for Obama as we did for Bush. We're here to make wars unpopular again. Because if we were right to oppose it under Bush, we're right to oppose it under Obama. While the Obamas are here on vacation, people are still dying. There's no vacation from body bags. And the families of dead soldiers will never be able to truly enjoy a vacation again." Mark Silva (Chicago Tribune) quotes Cindy stating, "We have to realize, it is not the president who is [in] power, it is not the party that is in power, it is the system that stays the same, no matter who is in charge." Patricia Zengerle (Reuters) adds, "Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004, set up a small "Camp Casey," named for her late child, near Blue Heron Farm, the compound on the Massachusetts island Martha's Vineyard where Obama and his family are spending a weeklong holiday."

That's Real Media. What about beggar media? What about the Queen of Panhandle Media Amy Goodman, The Nation and The Progresive? Not one damn word. At some point when Amy, Matty Rothschild and Katrina vanden Heuvel take their tongues out of Barack's asshole, what they'll be tasting is their own hypocrisy and don't think the right wing's not pointing out and don't think the general population isn't registering it.

Victor Davis Hanson, of the right-wing Hoover Institute, is laughing at the left:The war in Iraq is scarcely in the news any longer, despite the fact that 141,000 American soldiers are still protecting the fragile Iraqi democracy, and 114, as of this writing, have been lost this year in that effort.[. . .]As long as Barack Obama is commander-in-chief, and as long as casualties in Iraq are down, there will be no large public protests or much news about our sizable Iraq presence. The cost and the attendant politics -- not why we went there -- always determined how the Iraq war was covered.The left better grasp that we are not huge. We are not this bulge in the population. The biggest section of the population is the group that does not obsess over politics. And you better grasp that every time the right points to the hypocrisy of the left, it registers because the right's correct to point. "Cindy Sheehan protesting a president? It's something to cover!" That was the cry in 2005. In 2009? What's changed? The White House now has a Democratic occupant.You better grasp the message you send and how you look like a liar operating under situational ethics and how you say to the middle and the non-identifying crowd that the left has no ethics and no standards. But they aren't journalists. Would a journalist do what Katha's done? Write a little bit about a town hall she didn't attend but her friend told her about? That's journalism? What high huge standards. Meanwhile Patricia J. Williams sounds like such a raging loon ("America's own Weimer moment"!) that you start realizing that they have nothing to offer. They really have nothing. So they're running with fear and propaganda and trying to outrage a public. A few years back, we called those people right-wing pundits. Today we call them Panhandle Media. A bunch of beggars who couldn't work a real job -- even in journalism -- if their life depended upon it. So instead they're political evangilists, the Jerry Fallwells of today, unwilling to work but thrilled to beg, "Send money! Send money!" They'll happily fleece your pockets. They have no ethics. They have nothing but the greed and the hate. And these are people who want to influence you. That last one may be the saddest of all. But grasp that they'll fleece you and they'll make money off of you and then they will abandon you. The are no ethics among these so-called leaders. The left needs real leaders. One of those people is Cindy Sheehan who could be vacationing right now. She could be doing a number of things. She doesn't the hate aimed at her or the silence from supposed allies. Cindy doesn't want to be the face of the movement but she also knows that the movement is fading very quickly and that no one is stepping forward. So she's yet again offering leadership.

Someone has to. Cowards like the self-loathing lesbian Laura Flanders won't. This is the woman who never called Barack out for homophobia. Not during the primaries, not during the general, not at the inauguration, not ever. The woman's a lesbian. She won't fight for herself how the hell can she fight for anyone else? Answer: She can't. We were asked to note her crappy show. And I considered it. She's got an interview with two women about Iraqi women. It's not worth noting. It's not saying anything. And certainly the self-loathing lesbian can't say anything. Here's Laura at Information Clearing House, "But President Obama has a problem. Every American military commanders want more troops but maybe, someday, the president's anti-war base will get restive." But without you, Whora Flanders. You're the liar in 2008 who claimed the left needed to hold Barack's feet to the fire and you would, you said. But you never did. You're just a liar with a chalky face (apparently covering a hundred facial eruptions -- those aren't pimples, I have no idea what they are). Her guests are from the laughable MADRE. The liars of MADRE. MADRE gave up the high ground when they refused to call Barack out for his silence during the January assault on Gaza. Not only were they silent about that, they were raving over him. They were drooling over him. Life's too short to be willfully stupid and it's too precious to be silent. Cindy Sheehan's doing a brave thing and you better believe people are absorbing what's going on, they are taking a measure of the left gas bags and noticing how silent they are. You better believe that will effect the left in the next 15 years more than anything else. Laura doesn't know it because she doesn't know America. But anyone with any history in this country knows where this leads for the left 'leaders.'

For the peace movement, if no one turns out for Cindy, it's not bad. (People have turned out and more are planning to.) Because Cindy's standing up. She's standing up and she's making a difference and she's putting it on the line. Forget the right-wing pundits, but people on the right who didn't understand her and thought she was just some 'anti-Bush' person are seeing that's not the case. It doesn't mean they agree with her (though some may), but it does mean that they're willing to reconsider their original thoughts of her. And in the center and, more importantly, in the mass of Americans who are not politically obsessed, the message is being sent that we protest war, regardless of who is in the White House. And the message is being sent that despite so many self-appointed leaders being massive hypocrites, Cindy Sheehan's the real deal. She is planting seeds. And she deserves applause for what she's doing. Instead those who were happy to beg her to show up for their magazine's benefit to raise more money (these magazines cannot support themselves because so few people read them) now act like they don't know her.

The Iraq War has not ended. This morning Emily Nipps (St. Petersurg Times) reported, "Family and friends said farewell Thursday morning to an Army Reserve military police battalion heading to Iraq." Among those present was Caleb Dawson's wife, Patrice Dawson: "Patrice just got out of the military after her own stint in Iraq, and another with deatinees in Cuba. Every deployment is a little different, she said. This time, too, the couple's son C.J., a restless 4-year with a mohawk, understands his 'Daddy's going to work with the Army,' she said."

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Failure is a factory option







Abdul Aziz al-Hakim passed away from lung cancer today. He was fifty-nine-years-old. Liz Sly and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) hail him as "a towering figure in the post-U.S.-invasion political landscape." His stature was such that even Iraq's prime minister paid homage to al-Hakim in recent months. As noted June 3rd on Nouri's trip to Iran:Iran's Press TV reported he flew to "Hakim's bedside in Tehran" this weekend because Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is receiving treatments for cancer. al-Hakim, like Nouri, is an Iraqi chicken who ran to exile, stayed in exile for decades and then, after the US invasion, was a 'respected' Iraqi . . . in the eyes of the US. al-Hakim grew up in Najaf and left Iraq in 1980 for Iran. Robin Wright (Washington Post) reported May 19, 2007 that al-Hakim had gone to Houston due to lung cancer: "Vice President Cheney played a role in arranging for Hakim to see U.S. military doctors in Baghdad, who made the original diagnosis, and for the current medical treatment in Houston, the sources said."The Tehran Times reports, "Mourners will hold a funeral procession in Tehran on Thursday which will start in front of the Iraqi Embassy. Later his body will be transferred to Najaf for burial." CNN notes, "Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim spent years in Iran as an exile, but returned to Iraq in 2003 following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He had been an ally of both the United States and Iran." BBC observes of his political party Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC and ISCI), "The party has several senior cabinet members, and its militia - the Badr Brigade - wields considerable influence in Iraq's security establishment." Marc Santora (New York Times) notes that "Supreme Council Members hold positions atop important ministries and in Parliament. The group runs charitable organizations, libraries and schools and has a large network of support that stretches back to when Mr. Hakim's father, Grand Ayatollah Mohsen al-Hakim, was one of the top Shiite spiritual leaders in the world." Iran's Press TV calls SIIC "Iraq's most powerful party" and adds, "The death of Hakim will add to political uncertainty ahead of national polls in January and after a series of devastating bombings. " China's People's Daily Online (link has text and audio -- audio is in English) notes al-Hakim "became a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and served as its rotating presidency in December 2003." Iran's Fars News Agency adds, "Mohsen Hakim announced that the body of his father will be transferred to the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq for funeral processions, reminding that the time and location of the ceremony for the Iraqi leader will be announced later. " The Iranian Students News Agency explains, "Since his hospitalization in Tehran, his elder son Ammar Hakim has taken control of the SIIC." Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters)reports that Ammar al-Hakim is expected to be his "likely successor as party leader" and adds:Although ISCI lost ground to Maliki's Dawa in provincial elections last January, the well-organized and well-funded party has major clout and will be a formidable competitor in January.ISCI has several members in top ministerial posts, and has influence in Iraq's security forces, which include members of ISCI's armed affiliate, the Badr Organization.ISCI derives much of its support from the Hakim family name, revered among Shi'ites for its lineage of scholars and sacrifice in the face of assaults by Saddam and later by Sunni insurgents during the bloodshed that raged after the U.S. invasion.Hakim's son Ammar appears to have been groomed for succession, given his regular appearances on behalf of and next to his father, but there are other key figures in the party.The death will leave ripples throughout the political community in Iraq and raises many issues. Yesterday's snapshot covered the new Shi'ite coalition and noted Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report on the new political coalition: "The 10-party Iraqi National Alliance includes two groups whose leaders are both in Iran -- the country's largest Shiite party, cleric Abdul Azis al-Hakim's Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and the bloc of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr." Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) was also noted in yesterday's snapshot and we'll note the opening paragraph to his "'Iraq Will Be A Colony of Iran':"Iraq's Shiite religious parties, most with ties to Iran, have reestablished a political bloc called the Iraqi National Alliance. Among its founders are Ahmad Chalabi, the revered darling of US neoconservatives such as Richard Perle and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute; Muqtada al-Sadr, the brooding, mercurial mullah who has mysteriously retreated to Qom, Iran's religious capital, for quick-study lessons on how to become an ayatollah; and, of course, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, one of the founders of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which has changed its name but not its spots. SCIRI, the anchor of the new coalition, is now called the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), but it still acts as an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which founded it in 1982, and its paramilitary Badr Brigade -- also a part of the new Iraqi alliance -- is a terrorist unit that operates pro-Iran death squads in Iraq.

The Angola Press observes, "Correspondents say the death of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) leader adds further uncertainty ahead of national elections next January." Chip Cummins (Wall St. Journal) offers that his death threatens "more tumult among Shiite politicians attempting to unite ahead of January elections" and quotes the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs' Reider Vissar who states, "It's potentially a destabilizing factor (for ISCI) because the succession issue is very much open at the moment." Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes Nouri stating, "Sayed al Hakim was a bigger brother and a strong support during the period of fighting the former regime and a fundamental corner in the process of building the new Iraq. His departure at this sensitive phase that we are going through is considered a great loss for Iraq." Marc Santora adds, "The American ambassador, Christopher R. Hill, and the Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of American forces in Iraq, issued a joint statement praising his 'courage and fortitude' in 'building a new Iraq'." Ali Sheikholeslami and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) call him "a power broker who insisted on Iraq's sovereignty and said it must end the country's conflict independently. Al-Hakim had close ties to neighboring Iran, while working to enhance relations between his native Iraq and the U.S. He met with then-president George W. Bush in Washington in October." Liz Sly and Raheem Salman notes his close ties to the Bush administration and point out, "A theologian who always wore the black turban and flowing robes of a senior Shiite cleric, he was seen as a divisive figure by many Sunnis. Many associated him with the killings of Sunnis by the Supreme Council's military wing, the Badr Organization, in the aftermath of the fall of Hussein and with the ascendant influence of Iran in Iraqi politics." On the news of the new alliance, Oliver August (Times of London) noted that with Nouri (currently) out of the running for prime minister if the alliance secures a majority, his "potential successors are Adel Abdul Mehdi, the Vice-president and a senior leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq's first elected prime minister. Also on the slate is Ahmed Chalabi, the enigmatic former ally of the American neocons. Mr Chalabi helped to build the case for the American invasion but is now a Shia nationalist. Further in the shadows, but no less plausible as prime minister, stand Jawad al-Bolani, the Interior Minister, and Qassim Daoud, the former national security adviser."

The death will have implactions for the future of Iraq including the prolonged and no-time-soon ending US coccupation. In the US Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan is demonstrating on Martha's Vineyard through August 29th since War Hawk in Chief Barack Obama has decided it's the perfect spot for a vacation. (See Trina last night and she's correct to wonder. My place was booked up for this summer before 2008 ended and that's with friends and family and I don't charge rent. To squeeze in at the last minute does mean the White House pulled strings and that does raise the issue of favors owed. And last minute to get a place -- if you don't own one -- on the Vineyard for summer 2009 was anytime after Labor Day in 2008.) John V. Walsh has a must read at CounterPunch and here's a lenghty excerpt that still doesn't do justice to the passion and honesty of his column:

A funny thing has happened on Cindy Sheehan's long road from Crawford, Texas, to Martha's Vineyard. Many of those who claim to lead the peace movement and who so volubly praised her actions in Crawford, TX, are not to be seen. Nor heard. The silence in fact is deafening, or as Cindy put it in an email to this writer, "crashingly deafening." Where are the email appeals to join Cindy from The Nation or from AFSC or Peace Action or "Progressive" Democrats of America (PDA) or even Code Pink? Or United for Peace and Justice. (No wonder UFPJ is essentially closing shop, bereft of most of their contributions and shriveling up following the thinly veiled protest behind the "retirement" of Leslie Cagan.) And what about MoveOn although it was long ago thoroughly discredited as principled opponents of war or principled in any way shape or form except slavish loyalty to the "other" War Party. And of course sundry "socialist" organizations are also missing in action since their particular dogma will not be front and center. These worthies and many others have vanished into the fog of Obama's wars.
Just to be sure, this writer contacted several of the "leaders" of the "official" peace movement in the Boston area -- AFSC, Peace Action, Green Party of MA (aka Green Rainbow Party) and some others. Not so much as the courtesy of a reply resulted from this effort - although the GRP at least posted a notice of the action. (It is entirely possible that some of these organizations might mention Cindy's action late enough and quickly enough so as to cover their derrieres while ensuring that Obama will not be embarrassed by protesting crowds.) We here in the vicinity of Beantown are but a hop, skip and cheap ferry ride from Martha's Vineyard. Same for NYC. So we have a special obligation to respond to Cindy's call.
However, not everyone has failed to publicize the event. The Libertarians at are on the job, and its editor in chief Justin Raimondo wrote a superb column Monday on the hypocritical treatment of Sheehan by the "liberal" establishment. (1) As Raimondo pointed out, Rush Limbaugh captured the hypocrisy of the liberal left in his commentary, thus:
"Now that she's headed to Martha's Vineyard, the State-Controlled Media, Charlie Gibson, State-Controlled Anchor, ABC: 'Enough already.' Cindy, leave it alone, get out, we're not interested, we're not going to cover you going to Martha's Vineyard because our guy is president now and you're just a hassle. You're just a problem. To these people, they never had any true, genuine emotional interest in her. She was just a pawn. She was just a woman to be used and then thrown overboard once they're through with her and they're through with her. They don't want any part of Cindy Sheehan protesting against any war when Obama happens to be president."
The Green Party isn't promoting her demonstration? The same Green Party that needed her to turn out a crowd for their 2008 presidential debate? And now they can't promote a demonstration against the ongoing wars? (In fairness to them, they just needed her to bring out a crowd. The Nation profitted off of Cindy back in the day.) Mattt Viser (Boston Globe) reports, "High-profile protester Cindy Sheehan arrived last night and was whisked to a 34-foot wooden sloop on Lake Tashmoo, kicking off a four-day visit that will include a series of peace activities. She will be staying in homes of her supporters, some not far from Obama's 28-acre retreat in Chilmark." Julia Rappaport (Boston Herald) quotes Cindy stating, "No matter who's president, we still have to keep our end of our democracy going. Even though Bush is no longer in office, these policies are still continuing. In many areas, they're escalating -- the occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and now the horrible fightings in tribal regions. The killing of innocent people in the name of corporate welfare, or whatever this war is for, is certainly not about freedom or democracy or keeping us safe here at home."

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Monday, August 24, 2009

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Today in Iraq, the media's attention is drawn to Kut. Outside the city, two bus bombings took place. Reuters says 11 are dead and, citing police sources, that the number may be 20. Al Jazeera gives the number wounded as twenty-five. BBC says the police are now insisting the death toll is 11. Marc Santora (New York Times) quotes bus passenger, Minem Salman stating, "I managed to get out from the window but all the others were burning. I couldn't help them." AFP states that the bombings took place "within half an hour of each other" and quotes police Lt Mohammed Fadhil stating they were sticky bombs. CBS and AP have the bombs exploding "minutes apart". Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) adds that a Baghdad roadside bombing left four police officers wounded.

Sunday the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier died Aug. 23, from combat-related injuries while conducting a patrol in Baghdad. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of service members killed in action are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at The announcements are made on the website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the Department of Defense. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brought the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4334.

This follows last week's violence which Third pointed out resulted in 211 reported deaths and 950 wounded. ("Last Sunday saw 13 reported dead and 41 reported injured. Monday saw 24 dead 59 wounded. Tuesday the reported death toll was 5 and 24 were reported injured. Wednesday 102 were reported dead and 572 wounded. By Thursday evening, 22 were reported dead with 67 injured. Thursday night 33 more deaths were reported and 145 wounded. Friday saw 8 deaths reported and 31 people wounded. Saturday saw 4 dead 11." Note that the US military announced the deaths of two US service members last week and they aren't included in the daily counts for last week in this parenthetical.) Wednesday's deaths were mainly from the Baghdad bombings which were largely an attack on the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry. Today Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister of Iraq, "held meetings [Saturday] in a makeshift reception room with plastic sheeting for walls. Iraqi officials with their heads bandaged walked the halls exchanging news of more servely wounded colleagues" and that "10 percent of the ministry staff [was] injured or killed." She also notes, "Iraqi officials, who almost instantly announced arrests after the attacks, have given conflicting reports about how it was carried out, but all have blamed Baath Party loyalists for planning the bombing and Al Qaeda operatives for carrying it out." Saturday, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, appeared on Iraqi TV. Reuters quotes him stating, "I want to tell the Iraqi people we are still in an open war against them. I reassure the Iraqi people that the security forces can still keep up the battle and achieve victory despite breaches here and there." Reuters states "them" in the first sentence was supposed to refer to "terrorists." Zebari was also making public statements on Saturday. Khalid al-Ansary, Muhanad Mohammed, Michael Christie and Andrew Roche (Reuters) explained he denounced Nouri's previous decision (now on hold) to take down the Bremer walls throughout Baghdad and that he noted how it appeared to him that there was collaboration between whomever planned Wednesday's bombing attacks in Baghdad and Iraqi security forces. He is quoted stating, "According to our information, there has even been collaboration between security officers and the murderers and killers." While that was taking place, Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) reported on the Baghdad govenment announcing arrests which allegedlly took place "hours after the attacks Wednesday". Chip Cummins and Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) reported that leaders of Parliament met on Firday (the press was kept out and the meeting was not televised). Meanwhile an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy (at Inside Iraq) pointed out the obvious, "Several people I talked to in Fallujah and Baghdad are full of doubt. They wonder how a truck loaded with more than one ton of explosives could escape more than 200 checkpoints throughout Baghdad?! If you are driving your car in Baghdad there will be one way to escape checkpoints without being searched properly, I mean after the explosive detectors point to your car, and that way is to show them a badge. A badge of an officer will be the perfect way. The fact that there were officers of the presidential guards involved in a bank theft and killing eight guards at the end of last month made people suspect anything." It's being called "Iraq's 9-11" by Iraqi officials and by US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill while others are referring to it as "Black Wednesday." Click here for CNN video on Wednesday's attack. Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) spoke with Haider Chasibi whose home is near the Foreign Ministry and has experienced damages from three bombings on the Foreign Ministry in the last four years. He tells Ashton, "Next time it will fall on our heads and kill us. It cannot take another explosion."

Yesterday, the Baghdad-based government trotted out a suspect with the latest in their televised 'confessions'. This morning Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) serves up "Iraq Military Broadcasts Confession on Bombing" because Myers and the Times love forced confessions and are working overtime to become state media in Iraq. Real news outlets are less quick to swallow. Reuters headlined their story "Iraq shows video it says is confession of bomber." BBC goes with "Iraqi 'bomber confession' aired." Myers pants: "In brief, edited excerpts of videotaped remarks, the man, identified as Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim, calmly explained how he had organized one of the two bombings, which killed almost 100 people on Wednesday and wounded hundreds more." In the best Judy Miller style, it waits until paragraph five to point out that the 'testimony' cannot "be confirmed independently". Big surprise, the likely forced confession fingers Ba'athists (in Syria!!!!) for the attack. But here's the thing, if the confession was genuine, wasn't it stupid to air it? Iraq's not announced any other ringleaders and presumably were the 'confessor' telling the truth and doing so of his own accord, he would have supplied the names of all involved. Or are we not supposed to notice that? So shouldn't the 'confession' have been kept under wraps until after the Iraqi government announced a series of arrests? Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports that "many Iraqis expressed skepticism about the claims to CNN, asking why the government had the intelligence to make the arrests so quickly but was unable to prevent the attacks. In some previous incidents, the Iraqi government has announced arrests and aired confessions that did not hold up. In April, it claimed it had captured Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq's umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq denied it, and the capture was never confirmed by the U.S. military." Of the 'confessor,' Jane Arraf notes he "appeared strangely composed" and she also notes reports that some Sunni MPs may be arrested shortly. Oliver August (Times of London) adds, "Opposition politicians voiced doubt last night that the real perpetrators had been caught and asked if the confession was made under torture."

Meanwhile Alsumaria reports, "In a meeting with ministers, MPs, scholars and tribal Sheikhs, Prime Minister Al Maliki noted that some politicians cashing on Iraq attacks saps national interest of the country." Cashing in? On security? Nouri wants to play that card? Really? Who rushed to take credit for security previously? I believe that was Nouri. Now that the situation is different, suddenly he's concerned that some might make political hay out of 'security'. Now he's concerned. Poor Nouri. Ernesto Londono reports at the Washington Post that a Shi'ite coalition of politcal parties does not include Nouri. Apparently, they didn't want him to play in their reindeer games. This was made clear when they refused to promise that they'd re-appoint Nouri as Prime Minister should they secure the needed majority in the January 2010 elections. The New York Times repeately fails to grasp that last part: the prime minister is not elected by the people. Londono reports that the new coalition is thought to have closer ties with Iran.

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