Saturday, October 15, 2011

The itch he can't scratch alone




Starting with small and tired. The Washington Post's Dan Zak Tweeted:
Dan Zak
MrDanZak Dan Zak
Fave complaint at small, tired Tahrir protest today: Group of high schoolers want Maliki to let them retake their exams bc they failed.
You know what's small and tired?
Journalists who think they're better than the beat than they're assigned to cover.
A reporter for the Style pages who is fortunate enough to get a break into real reporting needs to lose the snark and snide about the subjects they're covering.
The high schoolers may or my not have been amusing -- this wasn't their first appearence at the protests. They really aren't my concern. A "small tired" protest? Well aren't you just above the people protesting because their loved ones have disappeared into what passes for a legal justice system in Iraq? Aren't you above all those women crying in public for their sons, their husbands and their fathers that they haven't seen in months or years, that they don't even know if they're alive.
The Disappeared.
That's what they are but apparently journalists whose experience comes via the Style pages, lack not only reporting chops but any real sense of value or perspective or, if nothing else, the instinct to know what plays as a good story. The snark goes a long, long way towards explaining why Zak's coverage has been at, best, disappointing and, at worst, superficial to the point that actual attempts at news stories read like clip jobs.
Videos of the protest -- here, here and here -- show at least 52 adults. At least. And I'm not arguing that's all of the protesters. I'm saying there are at least 52 different adults on video and there's never an establishing wide shot of the crowd to demonstrate that that's all of those present or that there's a lot more present. Dar Addustour reports "hundreds" were participating.
Let's assume it was just 52. Other than WWD and possibly In Style 'magazine,' does Dan Zak read? Does he read the Washington Post? The Post was the only print outlet to nail down what was happening with the protests in real time. (The only broadcast outlet to get it right was NPR.) Intimidation, arrests, torture. Is Dan Zak familiar with what has happened to activists taking part in the Friday protests?
He doesn't seem to be. That's a large number in the midst of war zone with a new Saddam watching over and taking retribution against those who speak out. While Dan Zak was demonstrating just what a little bitch he can be, the Great Iraqi Revolution reported, "A number of brave Iraqi women attended Tahrir square demonstrations today wearing coffins to represent the government repression and to express their challenge to the government. " And they noted, "The government forces attacked the female activist -Shahrazad- in Tahrir square today, they have beaten her up , dragged her on the street after the demonstrations ended and stole her camera, 2 mobiles and money "
But what does violence against activists matter when Dan Zak's more concerned with announcing to the world that his parents raised a little bitch. What a wonderful moment for them, for the US and for journalism. And, in fairness to Zak, whomever was foolish enough to judge him ready for actual reporting should have stepped in a long time ago and told him, "You are blowing it and your career with it." The crap he's turned out is not sufficient for hard news reporting. He deserved to be told that so he could try to make adjustments. Instead, he's just been allowed to embarrass himself with no support and guidance.
Turning to the topic of withdrawal, Al Mada reports that, while in London, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaif told the BBC that the Parliament would not grant immunity to US soldiers in Iraq after the end of this year. The newspaper also notes that US officials are pressing Nouri to grant the immunity himself but Nouri continues to state immunity would have to be referred to Parliament. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reviews some of the options which might allow the US military to remain on the ground in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011: "The US government plans to maintain a sizable presence in Iraq, where it has its largest foreign embassy. This already has US military trainers attached to it, and uniformed military personnel could receive diplomatic protection. NATO, which has a training mission in Iraq that will stay through 2013, is providing expertise in logistics and policing. Iraqi lawmakers are also discussing an extension of the NATO mission, which would allow trainers in many cases to come under their own country's legal jurisdictions for certain crimes." Dar Addustour notes that US Vice President Joe Biden is expected to visit Iraqi shortly Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq's first deputy Parliament Speaker, Qusay Al Suhail, expected on Thursday a surge in armed attacks as US forces are close to withdraw from the country. Suhail urged security forces to double efforts and carry out preventive operations to prevent gunmen from carrying on with their suspicious agendas." Jordan Michael Smith (Salon) weighs in on why pulling all US troops is the thing to do:
Just as withdrawing from Vietnam enabled the United States to concentrate on its only true foe in the Cold War, so leaving Iraq will permit us to focus on the anti-American terrorists that should always have been our only targets after the 9/11 attacks. Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges argues in his new book, "The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda," that the terrorist organization is effectively decimated, its leadership destroyed and operational abilities devastated. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior military officials have made similar claims. Even if they are too sanguine, withdrawal from Iraq will aid efforts against al-Qaida. Iraq has always been at best a distraction from campaigns to defeat those who attacked America on 9/11, and the war there continues to consume precious American resources, attention and, of course, human lives. Redirecting these against bin Laden's few remaining followers is the wisest course of action. None of this is to say that leaving Iraq will be completely painless. Leaving Vietnam was not, either. Ultimately, however, keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops only delays the inevitable. Americans and Iraqis will be better off if the United States learns the most important lesson the Vietnam War teaches: Once you get into a losing venture, getting out as soon as possible is the only way to win.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beginning of the end?




If Bush were in the White House, the press could argue (as they're so fond of doing) that reporters don't take positions and they could pretend that was somehow opinion journalism. But Bush isn't in the White House. Barack is. Barack who ran pretending to be against the Iraq War. Barack who pretended he would bring home all US troops from Iraq.
It's not opinion journalism to ask why the candidate is not living up to his promise on the issue that generated so much support for his campaign.
The US press has ignored the White House efforts to extend the US military presence in Iraq as much as it could. When forced to cover it, they will with an article that tosses the question to the Iraqi side when what needs to be asked is:
1) Why is the campaign promise being broken?
2) If it was a "dumb war," why has President Barack Obama continued it for years now?
3) At what point are the American people and their desires going to be factored into any decision on Iraq?
4) How is the US secured by US soldiers remaining in Iraq?
The US press had a million and one excuses for their coverage that sold the war. They swore it would be better someday. We're still waiting for an adult press to emerge in the United States when it comes to Iraq.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: Hi. I'm Congressman Dennis Kucinich, To my brothers and sisters with Occupy Wall Street and around the nation who are fighting for economic justice, let's not forget the wars. Nine years ago, the House of Representatives authorized the war on Iraq based on lies. Those who would rewrite history today would have us believe that we were fooled into thinking that Saddam Hussein was a threat and had something to do with 9-11. That's not true. We were not fooled. We were lied to. Lied to by those who wanted the war for their own personal financial gains. Nine years ago, I analyzed the authorization for military force in Iraq and it was obvious based on information freely available that it was based on lies. I'll put a link to that analysis below. We were not fooled. We were lied to. It's now obvious to even the most fervent war profiteer that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Iraq was not pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction, had nothing to do with 9-11, was not a threat to the United States, so why have we stayed in Iraq so long when we know it's a lie? Why did we see an estimated a million Iraqi civilians die? We know war profits have soared. Wall Street favorites like Haliburton, KBR, Bechtel, DynCorp, Northrup Grumman, General Electric and General Dynamics do very well when we spend money on war. Halliburton's stock price rose 600% between October 7, 2002 and June 30, 2008, the end of the quarter before the financial crisis. The war in Iraq may end up costing as much as $5 trillion dollars, and we have sacrificed the lives of 4,473 brave Americans and tens of thousands of our troops have been injured. The money spent for war could have spent on education, creating green jobs and rebuilding our infrastructure. It's time to end these wars. It's time we got some of our money back. We should implement an excise tax on the profiteers who have gained so much from a war based on lies. Keep Occupying Wall Street and I will keep occupying Congress.
With all the money wasted, with all the US lives wasted, with all the Iraqis murdered, and with no functioning government and Little Nouri as the new Saddam, exactly why should US tax payers support another day of this illegal war?
At what point does that question get asked? Maybe if Helen Thomas were still in the White House pool but, of course, the whole point of running her out of the pool was to avoid those important questions and instead to banter with the White House like, this week, when Jay Carney apologizes for showing well after the press-conference-in-two-minutes, he declares something came up and the alleged best and brightest in DC quickly shout out 'jokes' about was it his lunch they came up?
It's good to know that while they fail to inform the American people and while the US is still engaged in endless war, the DC press corps does find time to get their yucks on.
The Palm Beach Post pretends to ask the important questions about the US military remaining in Iraq. Pretends because their 'on the one hand' for staying is that if Iran takes over Iraq, "it would be bad for him [Barack] politically -- not to mention any actual increased risk of global terror." Yes, those are the stakes, Barack's image. In that case, let's kill another one million Iraqis (is it up to two million yet?) and send another nearly 5,000 US troops to their death because what really matters is not what Barack does, but how he looks. That really is why the United States was created, right? To ensure that one day Barack's image would be protected. The paper's readers are smarter than the journalists who work for the paper as evidenced by the poll -- 80% say no to US troops staying in Iraq. Yes, it's a small poll but maybe the paper doesn't have a lot of readers?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

He wants to inflict his damage on another country






"I'd like to begin this hearing by stating the Oversight Committee's mission statement," declared US House Rep Jason Chaffetz this morning. "We exist to secure two fundamental principles. 'First, Americans have the right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent. And second, Americans deserve an efficient and effective government that works for them. Our duty on the Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee is to respect these rights'." Chaffetz is the Chair of the
Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations which heard from the State Dept's Patrick F. Kennedy and DoD's Alexander Vershbow and Alan F. Estevez this morning on the topic of Iraq and the US presence beyond 2011.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: To fill the void left by the Defense Department, the State Department will hire thousands of private contractors to complete the mission. In all, the State Department's footprint will balloon to approximately 17,000 personnel. And, according to the Government Accountability Office, the GAO, nearly 14,000 will be private contractors. These contractors will perform a wide range of tasks including life support services and logistics. They will also recover downed aircraft and personnel, dispose of ordnance and tranport personnel. State Department will also hire a private army of nearly 7500 security contractors to do everything from guarding the walls and gates to guarding VIP convoys and flying UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles]. While they will have the abilities of sense and warn of incoming ordnance, they will not have the ability to shoot it down. I find this puzzling. I'd like to discuss this further. So as the Defense Department winds down, the State Department is ramping up in what may be more of a political shell game than a drawdown of forces. When President Obama tells the American people that forces will be out of Iraq, I'm not sure the average American understands that the troops will be replaced with a private army of security contractors.
That was some of Chaffetz' opening remarks regarding the State Dept and now will note some of his comments with regards to the Defense Dept.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: On a related manner, I'd appreciate it if the Defense Department would clear up some of the confusion surrounding it's drawdown. There have been numerous reports that President Obama may order thousands of combat troops to remain in Iraq at the Iraq government's request to conduct training of Iraqi military. While I understand negotiations are ongoing with the Iraqi government, I believe the American people have the right to additional clarity on how many troops will remain and what their mission and legal status will be?
John Tierney is the Ranking Member and a public embarrassment. Wally's covering Tierney's nonsense at Rebecca's site tonight. Wait. Kat's grabbing it at her sight. Wally's going to rank Chaffetz as a chair in his post at Rebecca's site. Opening (prepared remarks) by the witnesses aren't worth noting. And Kennedy's remarks sounded exactly like they did in February when he was appearing before the Senate. There were two key exchanges in the hearing. I'll note one and if Ava doesn't grab the other at Trina's tonight, I'll note it here tomorrow.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Mr. Ambassador, first of all, I'd like to start with you. McClatchy Newspapers in an article that came out yesterday [Sahar Issa's article] in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the headline is "US Military Trainers Can Stay, Leaders Say." But I'm troubled by what President [Jalal] Talabani said. "We have agreed to retain more than 5,000 trainers without giving them immunity. We have sent them our agreement to retain this number and are awaiting their response: Yes or no." I find it deeply troubling that there's the prospect of our troops being in Iraq without immunity. I think this is totally unacceptable Can you please give us an update on the situation?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'd be happy to, uh, to respond. Uh, indeed there's some important issues raised by that article. First of all, Iraq's political leadership has indicated that they are interested in a training relationship with the United States after 2011 and we very much want to have an enduring partnership with the Iraqi government and people and a relationship with the Iraqi security forces would be a very important part of that relationship. I think, as you know, we have long been planning to have the Office of Security Cooperation Iraq -- OSCI -- which would be under chief admission authority -- serve as the cornerstone of a chief security partnership and it would be the hub for a range of security assistance and security cooperation activities. So that, of course, is the baseline. We've been reviewing the official statement issued by Iraqi leaders on training assistance on October 4th and discussing with them how this fits into the principle of security cooperation under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement. Uh, I should add that we appreciate the democratic spirit represented by Iraqi leaders in debating this important subject and we will continue our discussions with our Iraqi counterparts in the days ahead. So these negotiations are ongoing and it's, uh, premature to discuss what any --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: What --
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: -- potential training relationship will look like --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Well will our troops have immunity, yes or no?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: Yeah, well I'll get to that issue, Mr. Chairman. As we work to define the parameters of what it will look like uh-uh the issues raised yet again in this article regarding status protections will of course be important issue. And again I don't want to get into the specifics of the negotiations but we will always ensure that our forces have the appropriate protections that they need when they're deployed overseas. There's a number of different --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: When you say appropriate protections is that -- is that immunity?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: [Long intake of breath] I think there's different terminology.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: That's why I'm seeking a little clarification here. I'm not feeling too comfortable at the moment. Will our troops have immunity?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: They will -- we-we --They will have status protection which has been defined under the Strategic Framework -- under the security agreement, excuse me, the Status Of Forces Agreement that now applies as indicating that our forces would be subject to US law rather than Iraqi law. So we'll be looking for something going forward that provides the comparable level of protection. Exactly how that will be achieved again is a subject of ongoing negotiations. Some of the personnel as I mentioned under the OSCI will be covered under chief admission authority. The question that's still being asked whether any additional personnel would be involved and how they would -- how they would be protected. We certainly take very seriously the concerns that you have expressed.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Let me move on. I think that this is the major, major point of concern. It's obviously a major point of difference. It's something that obviously must be resolved. And it's totally unacceptable to think that our troops would be there without immunity as they've enjoyed currently. Ambassdor Kennedy, let me go back to these loss functionalities. Last time we gathered together, we were referred to this July 12, 2010 Commission on Wartime Contracting special report. It talked about the loss functionalities. This is on page four of that report. There were fourteen specific security-related tasks now performed by Department of Defense that State must provide as the military draws down. I know there's been progress on at least seven of those but could you give me an update as to those fourteen specific ones, what are you not prepared to take care of? [Kennedy's speaking. Microphone's not on.] If you could hit that [button].
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: My apologies. Mr. Chairman, as we outline in my -- in my June 8th letter, to, uh, to the Committee, we believe that we have covered the functions that are absolutely essential to our operations there. We will have the abilitiy through the --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Would that be all fourteen of these?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I think -- I think you can say we will have the ability to do everything except, for example, the recovery of downed aircraft. Should an aircraft go down, we will be able to move to recover the personnel from those aircraft but but whether -- because we don't have quite the heavy lift as the Department of Defense, we might not be able to recover the airframe itself.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: So of the fourteen, that's the only one that you're concerned about?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I am concerned about everything possibly go wrong.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Right.
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I cannot -- I cannot --
Chair Jason Cahffetz: But functionality?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: But functionality, going if I could, Mr. Chairman, to your earlier, in your opening statement, you asked about counter-battery neutralization. We will have the-the ability thanks to my colleagues in the Pent -- the Defense Department with the system that is called GIRAFFE [Radar] which is an [air defense] early warning system that tracks incoming rockets or mortars, give us sufficient warning to deal with that, we'll be able to sound the alarm. And in the construction activities that we are undertaking and all the sites that our personnel will both work and live. We are constructing overhead cover that means should one of the, uh -- those missiles or mortars strike our facilities -- and this has happened in Baghdad and the construction techniques we've been using in Baghdad have proven very, very effective -- There is no penetration of the building itself. The, uh, the --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: But can we or will we fire back?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: We will not -- Sir, the State Dept has no howitzers and no counter-rocket fire. We will not fire back. That is not a diplomatic activity. We're not of a diplomatic mission in Iraq, not a military mission but -- if I might add -- we are partnered extensively with the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police who have been assisting us during the last few months. We have been without such a -- such a counter-battery fire ability and the Iraqi police and the Iraqi military have been great assistants of disrupting the attempts of uh, uh, forces to attack our, uh, our, uh, facilities via rockets and mortars.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Well God bless the men and women who are going to be there because if it's the policy of the United States not to fire back I have -- I have deep concerns.
Again, that was one of the two key exchanges. In addition to possibly noting another exchange here tomorrow (if Ava doesn't grab it -- she's welcome to it, by the way), I've also got to talk late tonight to a friend who attended the hearing and I'll check with him to see if something different stood out. If so, we'll note that.
As for Kennedy's testimony? I think a lot of people are going to feel what the Chair did and I wonder if it will be a repeat of the second Bush term when Condi Rice had trouble repeatedly as she attempted to fill diplomatic slots in Iraq? In addition, to Kennedy's testimony about GIRAFFE, unless it's changed, that's a bit like connecting to the internet via a mobile attenna -- it'll work but if you're planning to use the internet consistently and from the same spot, why not just get DSL as opposed to something that's really designed as a temporary measure? GIRAFFE gets its name from the fact that the radar equipment is on the end of this long arm that rises in the air when in use and folds down when you don't feel the need to use the radar system. So where I'm confused is, GIRAFFE is really designed for temporary use. Why is the State Dept staking lives on the use of a temporary device as opposed to monitoring equipment that would sense incoming rockets or mortars? A wealth of military equipment is being handed over to the Iraqi military -- that's fine, it's really not worth the financial cost to carry it back to the US and it will soon be out of date. This was known and factored in long ago. But was there not better equipment protecting US military bases in Iraq -- radar equipment -- that could have been handed over to State at a time when the US military -- as planned -- is discarding equipment like crazy in anticipation of the re-ordering of equipment which was always planned? Seems there should be something better than GIRAFFE especially when you consider how long the State Dept intends to stay in Iraq.
Again, Chair Jason Chaffetz' concerns are going to be concerns a lot of people will have though, granted, some may not have them unless something horribly wrong takes place and a State Dept worker is injured or killed under this new program.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mirror, Mirror








John Glaser ( offers his take on how the upcoming 2012 election season will play out:
The Obama administration's so-called shift in war strategy -- from country-wide military occupation to targeted special operations and training missions -- is Orwellian claptrap for more of the same. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, in remarks in Washington in mid-September, said that by 2014 "the US remaining force will be basically an enduring presence force focused on counterterrorism." The technocratic pedantry obscures the reality that the war will continue.
Yet, watch and see in the upcoming 2012 campaign how much Obama will use this 2014 date as a stump speech to coddle gullible Obama voters into casting their ballots -- again -- for a reincarnation of their supposed nemesis, George W. Bush. See if Obama gets reelected on a promise that the war in Afghanistan has nearly ended (that is, if recession-conscious Americans can conceive of going to the ballot box with any intention other than voting themselves other peoples' money).
As a matter of fact, watch how much Obama's similarly broken promises vis-a-vis ending the Iraq war will be completely stricken from the presidential debates. The Obama administration has spent years badgering the Iraqis into accepting a large contingency of US troops and contractors to remain in Iraq beyond the December 2011 deadline for a full withdrawal. To push this through, Maliki circumvented the Iraqi Parliament to make the decision dictatorially. Now that Obama has succeeded in strong-arming the continuation of the US occupation of Iraq, they are demanding US soldiers maintain immunity from Iraqi law.
Sadly, John Glazer's prediction is sound, based on past actions and highly likely of coming true. Al Mada calls it the largest US occupation since the Marshall Plan, the US State Dept's intent to send 16,000 employees into Iraq. Approximately 80% of these 16,000, the paper notes, are not State Dept workers but instead are contractors. It's noted that the prospects of graft and corruption are high due to the size of the mission (which will include training Iraqis). Al Sabaah notes that Jalal Talabani met with a number of editorial boards to discuss various issues including the decision to approve 5,000 US troops to stay in Iraq beyond 2011 (that's last week's decision). Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The statement, which appeared in most Iraqi newspapers Tuesday, is the first by any American or Iraqi official to detail the size of the U.S. training contingent that the Iraqis have requested. It seemed to make clear that there were no further discussions likely on the thorny issue of immunity, something U.S. officials have always said was a non-negotiable condition of leaving American troops in Iraq."
Is that what it seemed?
Because eight hours before McClatchy found it, when I was commenting this morning, I was being nice and moving right along.
What did it seem?
It seemed like Jalal was shooting off his mouth again and trying to make himself look important. What am I referring to? His inflation of his duties as High Commander of the Iraqi military. It's a title, that's all it is. And if Jalal doesn't get that, he must be one of the many Iraqi politicians who's never read the country's Constitution.
Let's quote it. Chapter 2, Article 70, Section I, "Perform the duty of the Higher Command of the armed forces for ceremonial and honorary purposes."
That's the Constitution. If we're going to go off into the world of what-it-seems-like, then let's be realistic about what it seems like -- as opposed to using "seems" to cover for our own wishes and desires.
Jalal Talabani can't stop bragging about himself. That was key to his first term, it remains the hallmark of his second term. What stood out the most in his comments would be his inflating his non-existent powers into somehow the equivalent of the commander-in-chief powers that Nouri al-Maliki currently holds as prime minister.
If we accept that Jalal doesn't have the powers he said he has, that he was (as usual) stroking his own image, then anything else he says is filtered through that prism as well which would negate the so-called "seems" that McClatchy wants to exist.
Meanwhile Al Sabaah reports that Nouri is publicly floating the idea of obtaining military equipment from France or Russia and Nouri notes that negotiations with the US are ongoing. Walter Pincus wonders "So what's the goal of our being in Iraq again?" (Washington Post):

It's been more than eight years since Saddam was deposed, yet Iraq — and even Baghdad — remain a war zone for Americans. Along with those 5,000 private contractor guards needed on the ground, the State Department is now looking to hire a contractor to provide drones for aerial surveillance.
In addition, last Wednesday, the Swedish defense group Saab AB announced that it had received a $23.7 million order from State to buy its Giraffe multi-mission radar system and related services. Two units owned by the U.S. Army are now on loan to State to protect the U.S. Embassy and other buildings in Baghdad's Green Zone. State had to buy its own drones now because the units take 15 months to build. Then it will return the others to the Army.
The embassy area is "the target of rocket and mortar attacks on an almost daily basis," according to a State document justifying the purchase. The Giraffe system provides 360-degree coverage with a single unit, says the document, and the capability "to detect, sense and warn of prospective rocket, artillery and mortar attacks." State even believes it needs protection against "ordnance launched against U.S. personnel via unmanned aerial vehicles, an identified high-risk potential for future attacks," according to the document.

Sahfiq Qazzaz asks a similiar question, one that can be summed up as "What have the Kurds gotten out of this?" (Rudaw):

Amid all of this, the feeling of helplessness among American officials with regard to the situation in Iraq is coupled with their concerns about the dangerous conditions in a country that was expected to fare better.
A report by veteran politicians James Baker and Lee Hamilton in 2006 emphasized the need for a "strategic shift" in Iraq, asserting that Iraq can convince Kurds to lower the bar on their demands only through a strong centralized system, winning the public's loyalty and establishing a united national identity.
To put it in another way, the report's recommendations called for a government in Iraq that can save the country from falling off a cliff. This would have provided the opportunity or the Bush administration to have a speedier withdrawal less marked by defeat.
The events of the last few years showed that the report's strategy was not realized. Eight years after the liberation of Iraq, Professor Michael Gunter says, "Most Shias and Sunnis try to restore the situation to the past… and there are some in the Kurdistan Region who believe it's better for them to militarily confront Baghdad sooner rather than later lest in the future the balance of power would be less in Kurds' favor."

Dan Zak (Washington Post) reports
from Anbar Province and quotes the head of the Security and Defense Committee for the Province, Eifan al-Issawi, stating, "The Iraqi police and army forces are in dire need of aid from the U.S. [. . .] We need continuous support for our forces because al-Qaeda is not an easy enemy and should not be taken lightly."
BridgingDivide posted a video to YouTube last month entitled "Iraq - Interview with a Battered Woman."
ASUDA Women's Shelter
Suleimaniyah, north IRAQ
interview with a battered woman
code name
Since my childhood I have lived a miserable life. I grew up in a small village, coming from a poor family. My father's economic condition was very poor. When I was a child, I had so many dreams that never came true. I had hoped that marriage would mean a prosperous new life for me. But, on the wedding night, when people usually talk about where to spend a pleasant evening with family, instead my husband spoke about all the people whom he had robbed and murdered. So I regretted getting married to him from the first day. Even when I went home to my parent's house, three days after the wedding, everyone in our family, even the neighbors could see how clearly sad I was. They all asked if there was a big problem, like if I wasn't still a virgin. Or that maybe I had a physical disability or something. I was very depressed, and cried a lot. I knew that my life had been ruined. I knew that none of my dreams would come true. One of the reasons my life was ruined was my mother. One of my cousins wanted to marry me, but my mother did not agree because he was not very good-looking and not very well educated. She negotiated with him as if she were selling an animal and in the end . . . my mother and uncle did not agree on an amount of money and changed their minds. My cousin's family was willing to pay only 9,000 Iraqi Dinars, but my mother demanded 20,000. Neither side reached an agreement, so the relationship between our two families deteriorated. So, she decided that I should marry a husband in the traditional way, in an arranged marriage, the bride and the groom not knowing one another before the wedding day. On the day of the ceremony, the groom ran away. He was only brought back with the help of some elderly people who were there at the time, and finally, we were married against our will. When the Mullah had asked him if he agreed to marry me, at first he did not respond. Eventually, he responded "yes." My father and uncle then said that we were still young, and that we would get used to the situation. But after we got married, the situation got worse every day. Our new family never had a nice moment. I had always tried to be very good to my husband, but he always looked for an excuse to abuse me. He failed to find anything positive in my behavior. He would complain about the food or how I did my work. For example, when he felt that I was being too good to him, and he was unable to find any other excuse, he would complain about the way I washed his clothes, or did my other chores. He would start to argue with me, and kick me out of the house. When he would kick me out, I had to go back to my mother's house. My mother would get angry at me, saying that I was shameful for leaving my home, for leaving my husband. She told me that it is shameful for a woman to divorce her husband. While at my parents' house, I was unable to leave or go outside. It was like a prison. It was like when I am here [at the shelter], and I can't go out. It was the same at my parents' house. After a while, I had no choice but to return to my husband. Then in 2004, I had twin girls named Hana and Niga. My husband got very angry because I visited a doctor before delivery, and was told that I was pregnant with twin girls. When my husband found out about the two girls, he divorced me right in front of everyone, saying he no longer wanted me as his wife. Despite this, I kept living with him, as I was no longer welcome at my parents' house. I stayed with my ex-husband for about 9 months, until I delivered the twin girls without a real divorce. When the girls were 9 months-old, I got pregnant again. The baby was a boy. After reaching 5 or 6 months pregnant, my husband took me to a medical assistant paying him $730 to abort the baby. It was December 5th. I will never forget that day. He took me to the medical assistan, who then gave me a lethal injection for the fetus, which put me in a lot of pain. But the baby did not die the same day. It died the next morning between 10 or 11 AM, a Friday. I will never forget that day. At around 12, the baby was aborted from my body, and my disabled baby Niga was laying next to me. After a few moments, she also died. I lost two of my children in the same hour. I called my husband and asked him where he was. He told me that he was out somewhere, off to a public bath to take a shower. I told him that both Niga and the baby had died, but he wouldn't believe that both had died at the same moment. He told me not to tell anyone, not to cry, and that he would come home immediately. When he got back, he buried the aborted baby boy in a little ditch in our garden, and went to tell our neighbors that our girl Niga had just died. They already knew she was not well, as I had been taking her to the hospitals for the last four or five months. The neighbors came and took Niga to the cemetery for burial, while my husband stayed behind to finish burying the baby boy in the backyard. I lived in very difficult conditions during the three or four days of mourning for Niga, and had to be taken to the hospital a few times for internal bleeding. A doctor told me that it looked like my baby had not died normally, that it looked like a surgical operation. He asked me to tell him who had performed the abortion, so that legal action could be taken against the perpetrator. But I was afraid of my husband, and couldn't say anything. I didn't give them the name of the medical assistant who performed the abortion even though I knew him well -- his name is [. . .]. I even know where he lives. He had charged us $730 exactly, then asked for $50 more. When my husband found out that it was a baby boy, he argued with the assistant, and refused to pay the extra $50. He then threatened him, sending him messages that he would tell others that he was doing this kind of work. I am not aware of how this was resolved, as I was very ill. Afterwards, I continued living with my husband anyway, not letting anyone know about the abortion. For this reason, my parents stopped talking to me, and no one attended my daughter's funeral, because I was divorced from my husband. No one came to visit me, so he started telling me that if I had lost two children without any family membmers to pay condolences, he had to take more control over me. I had to say "yes" and agree to his every word, I had to tell him this, because I had nowhere else to go. I continued to live with him this way until March 2nd. At around 6PM my brother-in-law came to my house, asking me to have sex with him. I refused, so he shot at me with a gun. He called my husband to say that he had found me with a strange man in the house. My husband believed him, so I had to run to the neighbor's. He helped me to escape, taking me to a place far from my husband. I stayed the night there. The next morning he handed me over to the army, who brought me to Asuda. I have been living in shelters ever since, in a bad mental state. I have so far, during my three years living in shelters, received no support from the government, not even for the divorce procedures. I still haven't seen a judge, and don't know the legal status of my own divorce. I have seen no good from the legal system. I haven't seen my children in two and a half years.
Today Bushra Juhi (AP) reports on the increasingly bleak picture for Iraqi women as it becomes more and more evident that little will be done to restore their rights. Juhi notes that the World Health Organization estimates that one-fifth of Iraqi women have been abused. Prior to the Iraqi war, they had more rights than any women in the region. The US installed thugs who specialized in ignorance and thuggery and they repeatedly dismantled the rights of women. As MADRE notes, "Despite promises of 'democratizing' Iraq, the US supported Islamist political forces bent on dismantling women's legal rights." Under the US occupation, Islamist militias have waged a systematic campaign of violence against women in their bid to remake Iraq as an Islamist state. There has been a sharp rise in gender-based violence within families, including domestic battering and 'honor killing.' Newly adopted Shari'a laws, such as Article 41 of Iraq's Constitution, have degraded women's rights, making them more vulnerable to abuses." MADRE partners with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and, over the summer, Marcia G. Yerman (Women's Media Center) spoke with OWFI's Yanar Mohammed:
Yanar Mohammed cofounded OWFI during the U.S. invasion of her country in 2003. In two rooms inside a burned out bank, she put a sign on the door proclaiming Women's Freedom in Iraq. "One thing led to another," she said, but from day one, the profile of the group reflected the philosophy that "anything military would not lead to a solution for the women of Iraq."
In addition to setting up safe houses in 2004 to protect women from domestic abuse and honor killings, Mohammed fought sexual trafficking and advocated for women who were incarcerated. She runs a newspaper and a radio station under the banner name of Al Mousawat, which means "equality."
Beyond providing services, Mohammed demands parity for women with the men of Iraq and promotes secular and human rights, earning her the antagonism of Islamic fundamentalists -- who have threatened her life. She sees the power of these religious extremists as a direct result of the military occupation of Iraq. "The Americans did more harm than good," she said. "Under Saddam, women were educated." She pointed to how the occupation had left a vacuum for the rise of Islamists -- who wrote a new constitution taking away women's gains. She noted, "In a religious group, there is not moderation. You are not equal to men." Currently, Mohammed sees the popularity of the Shiite leadership waning. "You can't force democracy through a gun."
Mohammed talked about Iraqi mothers who come to Tahrir Square dressed in traditional garb, holding pictures of their missing sons. Beyond being poor, deprived, and desiring social change, they want to know where their children are. It is impossible to penetrate the many layers of security in Iraq, with detainees held in jail without due process as a result of "anti-terrorism" laws.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Barry O sees the unpretty present






The editorial board of the Arab News has a few comments and a question, "America's audacity is breathtaking. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demanded that Iraq provide total immunity to the US troops staying on beyond the scheduled pullout later this year. First, the US must invent a pretext to maintain its military presence in Iraq, not to mention thousands of 'advisers,' private security contractors and mercentaires, notwithstanding President Barack Obama's promised withdrawal from the Arab country. And now it has the temerity to deman 'immunity' from Iraqi laws for its forces. Talk of adding insult to injury. The question is: What are America's brave soldiers afraid of if their hands are clean?"
The general offered no apologies
He said, "The soldiers erred in judgement
They should have hired a hooker"
No apologies
to the outraged Japanese
No "Sorry little girl"
The pigs just took her
Tire skids and teethmarks
What happened to this place?
Lawyers and loan sharks
Are laying America to waste
-- "No Apologies," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Taming The Tiger
Joni's song is based on the comments of a US general following the September 4, 1995 gang-rape of 12-year-old girl by three US troops. In June of 2001, as another rape case was getting attention in Japan, ABC News noted, "Okinawa is home to most of the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan, and crimes committed by soldiers against Japanese there have raised public outcries in the past. The biggest case involved the gang rape of a 12-year-old schoolgirl in 1995 by two U.S. Marines and a sailor, which sparked the biggest anti-U.S. demonstrations in Japan in decades." Sailor Marcus Gill and Marines Rodrico Harp and Kendrick Ledet first abducted the young girl, then tehy beat, then they tied her up before beginning the gang rape (Kendrick Ledet has always asserted he was just 'pretending' to take part in the rape) -- Gill would enter a plea of guilty to the rape while Rodrico and Ledet would plead guilty to conspiracy. (In 2006, Lauren Cooper was found dead in her apartment in Kennesaw, Georgia. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and choked to death. Also in the room was the body of Kendrick Ledet who had taken his own life after, presumably, raping and killing Lauren Cooper.) These actions and others like them are why immunity is a sticky issue for some countries.
Saturday Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) reported US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was speaking to US sailors in Naples Friday and, asked about the issue of whether or not US troops would stay in Iraq (as US troops under the US Defense Dept -- as opposed to under the State Dept umbrella or NATO) without a guarantee of immunity, responded, "If they want the benefits of what we can provide, if they want the assistance, if they want the training, if they want the operational skills that we can provide, then I think they have to understand that they've got to give us some protections in that process. [. . .] If you're going to play a large role in dealing with another country where it requires, as I said, a large group of troops to be on the ground and to be dealing with that country, I want to make damn sure that you're protected."
The problem for the Arab Times editorial board is that they fail to address all the issues. Yes, some US troops have behaved not just poorly but criminally while stationed overseas. That is an argument against immunity. But Iraq isn't Japan, nor is it Germany or Spain or any number of functioning countries. Not only is it among the most corrupt [PDF format warning, Transparency International ranked it fourth most corrupt on the globe in their latest study] it does not have a functioning legal system.
That is among the reason Iraqis have been protesting for most of 2011. Let's drop back to the April 1st snapshot:
The Great Iraq Revolution reports Iraqi security forces attempted to disperse protesters. As usual and, as usual, barbed wire is roped around to stop mobility and hinder access and the press are being harassed. Alsumaria TV reports that they were "calling for the release of detainees and urging to end unemployment and corruption in Iraq mainly in governmental institutions. Protestors urged to provide them with ration cards." Chanting and carrying banners (video here) what appeared to be thousands occupied Liberation Square. Al Mada reports that many more attempted to join the protesters but Iraqi forces surrounded the scene of the protest and blocked access. As with last Friday, those protesters who had family members imprisoned carried photos of their loved ones. They were easy to spot amongst the crowd with their photos and generally clad in black.
[. . .]
Kitabat has multiple videos on their home page of today's protest in Baghdad. One woman holds photos of four missing men. She yells out for Allah to help her while others around her note that [Nouri al-] Maliki does nothing. In another video, twenty-one women dressed in black and holding photos gather together chanting while one woman wipes her tears with the back of one hand, displaying the photo of her missing family member with the other hand. A woman, Um Ahmed attempted to set herself on fire, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes. They explain she is "the mother of a detainee" and the other protesters prevented the fire and rescued her.
The two main groups behind this protest were the Youth Movement of Liberty and the Coalition of the Revolution. The Youth Monument of Liberty states, "We are not asking, we are calling for the immediate trial of all detained Iraqis who were not brought before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest because that is a violation of the Constitution's Article 19's thirteenth paragraph." That paragraph reads:
["]The preliminay investigative documents shall be submitted to the competent judge in a period not to exceed twenty-four hours from the time of the arrest of the accused, which may be extended only once and for the same period.["]
Leaving aside Pentagon press releases, the Iraqi legal system has won no praise in recent years. At the end of 2008, Greg Bruno (Council on Foreign Relations -- link is audio) interviewed The Century Foundation's Michael Wahid Hanna about the system and Hanna noted the forced confessions (among other problems). In December 2008, Human Rights Watch published "The Quality of Justice." For a discussion of the special issues female prisoners face click here (link is video). Many outlets have reported on the Iraqi legal system over the years but Ned Parker and the Los Angeles Times have owned the issue with repeated filings on the legal system, on the prison system and on the secret prison systems (click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, and here -- among other reports). Outside of the Los Angeles Times, Michael Gordon had an interesting article in July 2007, "Justice From Behind the Barricades in Baghdad" (New York Times).
And those are among the reasons that there are concerns about immunity. (Though, to be clear, the US government always expects other countries to grant US troops immunity.) Those concerns aren't addressed or acknowledged in the Arab Times' editorial. They are not minor concerns. We don't note 'confessions' here -- check our archives -- unless it's to question them. The Iraqi legal system is infamous for forced confessions. The system is infamous for torturing prisoners. Muntadar al-Zaidi was not a violent person or someone who needed to 'confess' -- he's the reporter who threw the shoes at Bully Boy Bush. That was on tape. But he still got tortured while awaiting his trial. The Iraqi legal system is a joke and were the White House to make a deal without immunity, they'd risk anger some Americans and, if something went wrong, they'd risk angering even more.
Aswat al-Iraq notes Moqtada al-Sadr declared "today that the continued presence of occupying forces under the pretext of training police and military force is 'an organized occupation in new attire'." This morning Suadad al-Salhy had a report for Reuters billed as an "exlusive" and it's apparently so exclusive that other Reuters reporters filing this morning missed it. al-Salhy reports Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri "Maliki told Reuters U.S. troops could be attached to the existing U.S. embassy training mission, or join a broader NATO training group, rather than seek a bilateral deal requiring U.S. immunity that would fail to pass Iraq's parliament." That Nouri said it is the news factor. We've covered those options Saturday and last week. These are options both the White House and the State Dept have been weighing seriously since Wednesday. And those are only two of the options. Dan Zak (Washington Post) reported late Saturday, " A State Department official said Saturday that while Iraq is not likely to budge on its resistance to military immunity, there are other paths to continuing the U.S. training mission in the country." Iraqi MP Mahmoud Othman is quoted stating, "Americans misuse immunity. They've had it for eight years. They made a lot of violations . . . Sometimes they killed people, attacked people, captured people, and no one could tell them anything. Iraq doesn't want a repeat of that." In addition, Camilla Hall and Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) report this afternoon that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stated today that they could use "commercial" trainers -- meaning something other than US military personnel. He is quoted stating, "We are ready to discuss the options available without immunity and a different definition for the trainers." However, Aswat al-Iraq cites a statement from the Ministry which states that US security forces will not be replaced with "private security companies."
It would be interesting to see Nouri get private trainers into Iraq and most interesting to see just how long that would take. This morning Dar Addustour reported that Nouri was going to announce Abdulkarim Aftan as Minister of Electricity, following yesterday's vote in Parliament to confirm Aftan. (AFP notes that the announcement took place and provides background of Aftan.) Raad Shallal al-Ani was the Minister of Electricity until questions arose about what the Iraqi press dubbed "phantom contracts" which appeared to enrich individuals while robbing Iraq.

For some, that was too long, the two months to name a new Minister of Electricity. But if Nouri had only taken two months to name a Minister of National Security, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of Defense, many would be applauding him. Instead, those posts remain empty. Per the Constitution, Nouri was supposed to nominate individuals for those posts and Parliament was to vote on the nominees. And this was to take place before he could move from prime minister-designate (a post to last no more than 30 days during which the prime minister nominee proves he or she is up to the job by creating a full Cabinet) onto prime minister. Per the Constitution, when Nouri was unable to do that after 30 days (the end of Decembe 2010), a new prime minister-designate should have been named.

When Nouri got wavied through Political Stalemate II began. The Erbil Agreement -- hammered out by the US and Iraqi political blocs -- allowed Nouri to become prime minister-designate after over 8 months of Political Stalemate I. It also promised things to other political blocs. Nouri became prime minister-designate and then prime minister and trashed the Erbil Agreement, refusing to follow it because he got what he wanted. At the end of December 2010, Nouri, 'informed observers' in the US press assured us, would name ministers for those three security positions in no time. It's over nine months later and he hasn't named them.

While the US press insisted it would be just a little bit before these ministers were named, in the foreign press, Iraqis could be heard voicing the opinion that this was, in fact, a power grab on Nouri's part and that he had no intention of naming people to head these three ministries. They may have indeed been right about it being a power grab. (Nouri would argue that he named two ministers, he named "acting ministers" -- they have not been approved by Parliament. Without being approved by Parliament, the 'acting ministers' are nothing but Nouri's rubber stamp, they can be removed at any time by Nouri and Parliament can't protect them. Anyone in such a position is not independent nor do they have any real power.)

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