Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From the crystal ball of John Dickerson






The US weapons industry, an industry responsible for so many dead and so many injured each year, announced December 24, 2012 "a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Iraq" -- a $125 million deal (they usually have cost overruns) of VSAT "operations and maintenance services" which, they insisted, "serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States."  An August 15, 2012 proposed sale, they insisted, would "contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country."  The July 20, 2012 sale was such a miracle, they insisted, that it would "improve the security of a friendly country" and "serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States."  And we can do this all day, in fact it might take several days to note all the arming of Nouri al-Maliki that the US has done, a thug who is unbalanced and whose "paranoia" (the term is repeatedly used) is even noted in US State Dept cables.

All of the above and the other weapon sales are why the slaughter in Hawija took place today.  And sending the exta-Constitutional Operation Tigris Command forces to close off the entrances of Ramadi, or having these thugs impose "a full curfew" in Muqdadiya,  or a curfew on Mosul, or banning traffic in Falluja, or even all these combined measures will not erase the slaughter, will not bring the dead back, will not wipe away the horror of the Iraqi people at seeing their fellow citizens mowed down by armed thugs working for Nouri al-Maliki.

The western press, the Whore Press Corps, failed to do their job.  It's no secret that the US government coddled Nouri al-Maliki under Bully Boy Bush and continues to do so under Barack Obama.  But the press can't hide behind that excuse.  The reason they are in Iraq, is to report for the world what is happening.

Friday, Nouri's forces attacked a Hawija sit-in killing 1 protester and wounding three others.  Hawija's sit-in is part of an ongoing series of protests across Iraq that have lasted over 100 days, first kicking off on December 21st.  As such, this should have been huge news.  But removing Hawija from the tapestry of national protests, turning it into a stand-alone event, when a sit-in is attacked, it's news.

News is not something you just Tweet about.

Protestor killed in clashes with army in Huwaijah near Kirkuk. Army says it was defending position. Witnesses say soldiers opened fire

So Arraf agreed on Friday, that a protester was killed.  That wasn't news?  Hell, it was only worth one Tweet to her.  Go check out her non-stop Tweets on the election which almost half of Iraq's eligible voters decided to boycott.

Arraf and others seem to think that they're in Iraq to cover officials. They hope they're court historians but they're really just court jesters.

Any sane person should be able to read Jane Arraf's Tweet and ask, "In what world, does the military show up at a sit-in?"

Now that issue has been raised.

By protesters.  By the Iraqi press.  But AFP, Jane Arraf and others have treated it as normal to dispatch the national military into areas where peaceful protests are taking place.  They've treated it as normal for Nouri to trash the Constitution, to ignore it, and create his own security body -- Operation Tigris Command -- without going through Parliament as the Constitution requires.

Thug Nouri created his own para-military forces, unrecognized by the Constitution, and sent them into areas -- often disputed areas like Kirkuk -- and they have attacked the protesters.

Repeatedly attacked.

January 24th,  Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital and that January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul. January 25th, his forces fired on Falluja protesters, killing and wounding many. March 8th, Nouri's force fired on protesters in Mosul killing three.

Here's Human Rights Watch on the attack on the Falluja protesters:

Iraqi authorities should complete promised investigations into the army killings of nine protesters in Fallujah on January 25, 2013, and make the results public. The authorities need to ensure that there will be independent investigations into the deaths, in addition to the promised inquiries by a parliamentary committee and the Defense Ministry, and that if there is evidence of unlawful killing, those responsible are prosecuted.'
In the January 25 incident, protesters threw stones at army troops, who responded with live fire.
“Iraqi authorities seem to think that announcing an investigation is all that’s required when security forces kill protesters,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to show it will not tolerate abuses by making public the results of the investigation and ensuring that those responsible are investigated and prosecuted for any unlawful use of lethal force.”

Click here for Human Rights Watch on the March 8th and other attacks.

This is not normal and it shouldn't be acceptable.  The US government has already given billions to Nouri and plans, in Fiscal Year 2014, to give billions more.  The US government should not be supporting a tyrant who greets peaceful protests by mowing down the protesters.

Instead, it's as though it's June 5, 1989, and the White House is on the phone to the government of China asking, "What can we give you?  Billions?  Weapons?  What'll help you with that pesky little protest in Tianamen Square?"

And the government can do this, the US government can get away with it, as long as the western press refuses to do their job.  When they treat as normal, or as an aisde, a government attacking its own people, they create the space for the Augusto Pinochets to terrorize and kill people.

This is not normal and this is not acceptable.  This didn't just happen, it's been taking place for months.  And today, it was a blood bath in Hawija.

Nouri al-Maliki used his extra-constitutional Operation Tigris Command forces to kill protesters in Hawija.  Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, "Iraqi security forces stormed a Sunni protest encampment in a village near the northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, sparking clashes between government forces and gunmen that left dozens dead and wounded and sharply raised the stakes in Iraq’s sectarian troubles."

Today's attack follows days of a military siege of Hawija.  A detail the western press wasn't too concerned with despite calls from Iraqi politicians for the military to leave and the UN to come in, despite the military refusing to allow food and aid to reach the protesters -- even when that aid was carried by members of Parliament.  See yesterday's snapshot if you're just learning of what's been going on.

Mohammed Tawfeeq and Saad Abedine (CNN) quote Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi stating that the military is being used as "a tool to suppress the people and not to defend them.  We condemn in the strongest words of condemnation and denunciation the unfortunate crime committed by the army against the demonstrators in Hawija," al-Nujaif is a member of Iraqiya, the political slate that bested Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 elections.  Al Mada notes that cleric and movement leader (and Nouri's main Shi'ite rival) Moqtada al-Sadr declared that the government's actions have opened the door to illegal violence.

Moqtada declared that Iraqis dream and speak of the days of violence as behind them, a door closed, but then the government acts in an illegal and excessive manner, opening the door to violence all over again.   Moqtada stressed that only days ago, Iraqis were being asked to participate in a democratic process (voting) and now, again, the sounds of violence are in their ears, the smell of innocent blood in the air.   He rightly terms what took place today in Hawija "a massacre."

Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani also condemned the assault stating "that the use of the Army in political disputes and domestic issues is a constitutional violation and [violates] the principles of state."  The KRG is the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq.

Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) quotes student Ahmed Hawija on what took place at the sit-in, "When special forces raided the square, we were not prepared and we had no weapons. They crushed some of us in their vehicles."

And Nouri's side of the argument? 

Matt Bradley and Ali A. Nabhan (Wall St. Journal) report 38 were killed in Hawija (plus 3 of Nouri's thugs) and then note Nouri's government insists that a soldier was killed on Friday (likely true -- we noted in Friday's snapshot, we also noted no one knew who the person was, he wasn't in the sit-in, he darted in out of streets and grabbed a gun from an empty, abandoned house).  Because of this a five-day military siege took place?  Because of this you send the military to kill protesters?

But to really get Nouri's spin on events, you'll have to leave Bradley and Nabhan's reporting and move to Marwan Ibrahim's propaganda for AFP --where he spends 8 paragraphs presenting the attackers view and only 3 presenting the protesters' view.  

Bradley and Nabhan are late to the game and may not know about that death, so let's recap.  Nouri's forces began attacking the sit-in on Friday.  One protester was killed, three were injured.  At which point, as the military implemented their siege, someone on the street, a male, not known to be part of the sit-in (or he would have been with the sit-in) began darting through the streets, an abandoned home his destination.   He went in there and emerged with a gun that he used to shoot dead one of Nouri's forces.

The Operation Tigris Command is not wanted in Kirkuk.  It is hated.  That was established long ago.  In fact, we were covering the outrage Iraqis felt over that force coming into their regions long before the western press paid attention.  It took a face off with the KRG's Peshmerga for the western press to finally notice what had been going on for months. (Among the reasons Nouri's force is not respected?  He's seen as using it to settle land disputes when the Constitution outlined in Article 140 how disputes would be handled.)

By Nouri's logic, the protesters should have surrounded and then stormed the military since one of their own was killed on Friday.   Nineveh Province has been asking for Nouri to hand over his Operation Tigris Command 'soldier' who raped a five-year-old girl in Mosul.  Nineveh Province has been asking for that for months.

So, Nouri's now shown us today, that what needs to happen is that Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi needs to order his province's forces to invade and occupy Baghdad and begin shooting at everyone because Nouri wouldn't turn over the rapist?

And, let's just note that one more time, Nouri's forces include a man who raped a five-year-old child.  Thugs attract thugs.  Nouri's protected the man, probably because he identifies with them.  (Nouri's been accused of forcing imprisoned Iraqi women into sexual relations.  The most recent accusation of that was made at the start of the year by MP Sabah al-Saadi -- the Iraq Times reported on it.)

Alsumaria reports Sahwa commander Abu Risha is calling for the military to leave the cities and stop harassing the protesters.  Risha sees even worse things resulting from the continued militarization of Iraq.  Kitabat notes that the attack on the protesters is, in kind words, termed a "folly." They also note that the dead are being smeared as "Ba'athists" and "terrorists" by the government to justify their deaths.  Kirkuk police (which are not Nouri's Tigris forces) say that the Operation Tigris Command made the decision to storm the sit-in and began firing.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that Minister of Education Mohammad Tamim has tendered his resignation over "the storming by army of the sit-in yard of Hawija and killing and wounding dozens of demonstrators."  That's right wounded.  In addition to the 20 killed, All Iraq News notes "dozens" injured.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has a special representative to Iraq, Martin Kobler.  NINA notes that Kobler arrived in Kirkuk this afternoon (Iraq time).  How wonderful.  Of course, yesterday Ayad Allawi was pleading, publicly pleading, for the UN to mediate for the safety of the protesters.  Kobler didn't think it was necessary.  Instead, he ran around Baghdad holding a series of meetings -- including with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi who also urged him to go to Kirkuk.  Today  innocents are dead and wounded and Kobler can finally make it there?   All Iraq News adds that Kobler is calling for people to show "self-control."  Armed forces storm a sit-in, kill 20 and wound dozens and Kobler's calling for people to show "self-control"?

The US Embassy in Iraq released the following statement:

Office of the Spokesman

The United States Condemns the Violence in Hawija

The United States strongly condemns the actions that resulted in the death and injury of civilians and security personnel in Hawija. We regret that this violence took place before ongoing efforts to reach a peaceful resolution of this situation were given sufficient time to succeed.

All sides should immediately refrain from further violence or provocative actions.

U.S. officials have been in contact with senior Iraqi leaders to help defuse political and sectarian tensions. We call for a transparent investigation with the broadest possible participation. Perpetrators of unlawful actions – whether from the government, security forces, or protestors – must be held accountable under Iraqi law.

The United States expresses its heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and urges all Iraqis to move beyond this tragedy and to work together to prevent any recurrence.


Nearly 40 participants in a sit-in are killed.  I really don't think the sit-in is the issue, I really don't see the 'both sides' aspect.

Let's give some praise.

Patrick Ventrell:  And lastly, I just want to draw your attention to a statement our Embassy in Baghdad put out just a few moments ago. In it, we highlight that the United States strongly condemns the actions that resulted in the death and injury of civilians and security personnel in Hawijah, Iraq. We regret that this violence took place before ongoing efforts to reach a peaceful resolution of the situation were given sufficient time to succeed. All sides should immediately refrain from further violence or provocative actions, and we call for a transparent investigation with the broadest possible participation.

That's US State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell at today's press conference.  And praise to Ventrell for bringing it up.  That's from his opening statements.   Iraq hasn't been mentioned in years in an opening statement at a daily press briefing by the State Dept.  So good for Ventrell and the Dept for realizing what happened today is worth mentioning.

Bad for the lazy press.  Though Ventrell mentioned it at the top, no one had a question about it.  No one wanted to talk about it.  They were like a House Committee hearing -- you had the angry mob that hates Venezuela, you had the portion that sucks up to the Israeli government, you had everything but Iraq.  Excuse me, the last question (which received no answer) was about the KRG . . . oil.

How many people have to die before the lazy press wakes the hell up?  They could and did talk about Afghanistan and Burma, Libya, Sudan, Bejing, they basically covered the whole globe, the press at the briefing just weren't interested in Iraq.

Adam Shreck (AP) quotes Osama al-Nujaifi, the Speaker of Iraq's Parliament, stating,  "What happened today is a total disaster.  If this bloodshed spreads to other provinces, God forbid, there will be a huge fire that we cannot put out."

 With reports of as many as 80 injured, NINA notes that the Director of Health in Erbil has announced their hospitals are open to received the injured.  Erbil is one of the three provinces that make up the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

NINA notes MP Yassin al-Obeidi issued a statement today, "We, the MPs of Kirkuk and parliamentary delegation who came to Hawija yesterday, had asked the security forces to give us more time to talk with the demonstrators before storming the Hawija sit-in Square."   Sheikh Aabulmalik al-Saadi blames Nouri's forces for the blood shed todayAlsumaria adds that mosques in Dhuluiya (Salahuddin Province) are seeing protests in solidarity with the victims and martyrs of Hawija.  They're not only the protesters objecting to the slaughter.  NINA notes Mosul's sit-in is demanding that the military leave Nineveh Province.  The Ramadi protesters are making the same demand for Anbar Province.

Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) gets this take on the events from the International Crisis Group's Maria Fantappie, "This has increased the risk of an escalation of the situation from a political crisis to a security crisis.  On the one side, you will have the government increasing the security grip on the demonstrators, while on the other you will have the most radical voices taking advantage to organise better and launch violent attacks."

A similar fear is echoed by Iraqiya MP Nada Ibrahim Aljubori who tells Matt Bradley and Ali A. Nabhan,  "I think it will be the beginning of a civil war and the beginning of the country falling apart. It won't fall apart in an easy way, it will be thousands of people dying."

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