Saturday, April 13, 2013

His troubled days of celebrity





Last month, Banen al-Sheemary (Mondo Weiss) observed, "'The war in Iraq will soon belong to history' stated Barack Obama, in an address marking the supposed end of the occupation of Iraq.  America will remember it as history, but Iraqis live through it every day."  Masarat editor Saad Salloum offers at Niqash:

The war being fought in Iraq today pits Iraqis against one another. Today the people of Iraq are fighting over a ruined and divided country with no real national identity. Iraqis don’t know whether they have a theocracy, similar to that in neighbouring Iran, or whether they have a more secular democracy, complete with sectarian and ethnic quotas in leadership, similar to those used to rule Lebanon.   

After 2003 the US has played a similar role to that played by Great Britain in 1921, when they installed Faisal bin Hussein as the king of a new Iraq. Some say Iraq was never created by God; rather it was created by Winston Churchill, who was Colonial Secretary with special responsibility for the Middle East at the time.

Now, in 2013, Iraqis are still trying to formulate their identity – but they’re doing it in a way where they must challenge one another. On the ethnic level, they are Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Turkmen. On the religious level, they are Muslims, Christians and Yazidis as well as Sunnis and Shiites too.

It has become clear to many that the US only removed the lid to a melting pot containing a stew of many foul-smelling flavours. Those smells had been repressed during the short life of the Iraqi state.

This newly discovered pluralism makes Iraqis more afraid of each other than they are of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. It makes them more afraid of each other than of the Safawi [Shiite Muslim religious] state, an Ottoman Empire [out of Turkey] or the UK or US.

As noted in an Iraqi Spring MC video, Sheikh Ali Hamad spoke in Jalawla today at the protest there.   He asks a basic question in his speech: If the Constitution guarantees Iraqis the right to protest and demonstrate why are those who exercise the right being targeted, arrested and tortured?

The question lingers in the air with no answer forthcoming.

On one side of the Sheikh, a protester carries a sign that reads, "Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?"  On the other side of the Sheikh, a protester carries a sign which reads, "IRAQ has become the Wild West, Land with NO LAW."  In Samarra, they burned flags of Israel and the US.  At the start of 2009, Iraqis had such hope for the US.  A new president was being sworn in, Barack Obama.  He'd make things so much better.  Instead, in 2010, when they voted Nouri out, Barack demanded he stay.  Barack went around the Constitution, having the US broker a contract, The Erbil Agreement, to give Nouri a second term.  As they've seen that the US government does not care about human rights, does not care about the torture and secret prisons Nouri runs, as they've seen that Barack is no better than Bully Boy Bush, they burn more and more American flags.

As a young Iraq male explains on this month's War News Radio, "We hope that Americans will help us or something like that.  But they did nothing. They just, I think, I not sure, they steal some oil or something.  Nothing's changed.  The government now is worse and worse."  A young Iraqi woman, Noor, tells War News Radio, "We like the people of America" but not "the power, the government."  The State Dept wants to pour over two billion into Iraq in the next fiscal year -- most of it to prop up Nouri.  It doesn't matter.  The Iraqi people can't be bought.  You can't ignore their 2010 vote and then bribe them with money.  Barack cannot buy away the bruises he has left on the dignity of the Iraqi people.

All Iraq News quotes MP Majida al-Timimi declaring, "The many government in Iraq after 2003 failed to improve the services and economic situation in Iraq."  She is with the Moqtada al-Sadr affiliated Ahrar bloc.

At the sit-in in Baiji, protesters declared that their biggest concern was the release of our men and women.  This goes to the point we've been making all week.  The Justice and Accountability Law and Commission -- not the big concern for the average Iraqi.  It's concerns for politicians and government officials.  The people are concerned with Article IV.  That's what allows innocent people to be arrested.  That's what the protesters mean when they say release the innocents.  It's not that complicated or difficult to follow unless you're paid by a western media outlet and then you're cluseless.  In Mosul, protesters delcare they will not relinquish their rightsIn Falluja, activists chanted, "We will not retreat.  We will not surrender.They turned out in Tikrit.

Alsumaria notes that thugs tried to infiltrate the Kirkuk protests and they were expelled by the activists.  (The reason they tried to infiltrate?  They were carrying the Iraq flag from the days of Saddam Hussein, hoping to pose as protesters and discredit the movement.)  NINA quotes Dr. Abdullah Jawala stating, "We continue our demonstration and sit-ins until our demands are met."

NINA reports, "Thousands of protesters and worshipers flocked from the early hours of the morning to the main squares of sit-ins north of Ramadi and west of Fallujah to participate in Friday prayers."  Alsumaria reports tens of thousands in Ramadi (and check out their photo). NINA also quotes Sheikh Qusai Zein of the Ramadi sit-in declaring, "We do not only demand to bring down Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, but we want to execute him from crimes committed against humanity that he tolerate." Al Mada reports that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief crooked thug of Iraq, was denounced by protesters in Ramadi and Falluja who said he only pretends to listen to the demands of the protesters.   Iraq Times reports that students demonstrated at the University of Basra.

For strong and varied coverage of the protests,  refer to the Iraqi Spring MC  -- here for Facebook, here for Twitter, here for Flickr.

Meanwhile Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Kanaan double bombing targeting Sunnis leaving a mosque which has claimed 7 lives and ldeft twenty-five injured.  Alsumaria has a photo of some of the wreckage hereXinhua notes the mosque was near Baquba.  Raheem Salman and Patrick Markey (Reuters) quote survivor Ahmed al-Karkhi stating, "We were about 250 worshippers, we were just leaving when the explosion went off.  Police were not protecting the mosque and people had to be taken to hospital in cars."  The Irish Independent notes, "The blasts struck as worshippers were leaving after midday prayers from the town's Omar Bin Abdul-Aziz mosque, said police officials in Diyala province, where Kanaan is located." DPA notes that the death toll has risen to 15 (twenty-six wounded) and that a third mosque bombing (Baquba) claimed 1 life and left five people injured. The United Nations issued the following statement today:

12 April 2013 – The top United Nations envoy in Iraq today condemned “in the strongest” terms a deadly attack on worshippers at a mosque in Diyala province and appealed for peaceful coexistence among all groups in the sensitive region.
According to published reports at least seven people were killed and 25 wounded in front of a Sunni Muslim mosque, as worshippers were leaving after Friday prayers in the town of Kanaan in Diyala where a surge of attacks by Sunni Islamists have targeted Shi'ite Muslims in growing sectarian confrontation.
“These brutal acts of violence, particularly in such sensitive areas, will not undermine the true and deep belief in peaceful coexistence among the people of Diyala,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Iraq Martin Kobler said in a statement.
He extended his deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery for the wounded.

In other violence, All Iraq News notes a Shurqat bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and left another injured. National Iraqi News Agency notes that 3 corpses were discovered in Hatra (south of Mousl, 2 police officers, 1 Iraqi soldier, all shot to death), an armed clash in Samarra left 5 people dead,  a sniper shot and wounded a police officer in Falluja, a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured,

On the topic of violence, Tuesday's "Iraq does executions, press doesn't do corrections" noted AFP's ridiculous claim of 271 violent deaths in Iraq for the month of March was disputed when UNAMI released a statement  Monday noting that they counted 456 violent deaths.  As noted Tuesday, AFP's way of dealing with that 'discomfort' was to ignore the UN release in its reporting but to mention it in a Tweet by journalist Prashant Rao.

It's bad enough they wouldn't do a correction -- and let's be clear Prashant left Iraq during that time period and no one kept up with the daily deaths until he was back so AFP knew their count was wrong (or 'incomplete') before they published it.  Today AFP repeats their lie, "Violence killed 271 Iraqis last month, the highest monthly figure since August, according to an AFP tally."

If you're not going to get the violence, don't pretend to cover it.  AKI, Iraq Body Count and the United Nations all have over 150 more deaths than AFP.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Another stinky from Barry







This morning the House Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony on the buget request for Fiscal Year 2014. If you're wondering about the timing, Chair Jeff Miller pointed out at the start, "As everyone knows, this budget is a couple of months late."  Not only did the administration falter in coming up with a timely budget proposal, they also failed to give the Committee more than 24 hours to review the proposal.

Appearing before the Committee were two panels.  The first was led by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki who brought with him the 'madcap screwup' Dr. Robert Petzel, the always incompetent Allison Hickey, Steve Muro, W. Todd Grams and Stephen Warren.

Chair Miller thanked Shinseki for his attendance and stated "I look for your cooperation in getting timely answers to the Committee."  This is a problem, this a regular problem.  Miller pointed out that discretionary spending was increasing in the VA budget at a time when other departments were decreasing their discretionary spending and he said this could be seen as a sign that, even in tough economic times, there is committment to VA spending.

Chair Jeff Miller:  On the other hand, I'm concerned that we're not really seeing the results for the money that Congress has provided to VA over the last years.  For example, the budget proposes a 7.2% increase for expanding mental health services.  I'm still waiting, Mr. Secretary,  for information from VA showing that veterans with mental illnesses are in fact getting healthier with the resources that we've provided.  After all, I know that's an outcome that you and this entire Committee are both after.  Dr. Petzel,  I asked that question of you at our mental health hearing two months ago and we are still awaiting a response.

Which is why Congress should stop allowing witnesses to take questions for the record.  Government officials use that as a way to avoid providing embarrassing answers while reporters are present at the hearing.  They say they will follow up "for the record" and provide that information.  They may or may not follow up -- clearly, Robert Petzel didn't and this is a repeated probelm with him that's gone on for a number of years now/  This is the modern age.  You don't know the answer?  As you sit at the panel table, you have behind you staff.  Any one of them can text your Dept for an immediate answer or step outside and use the cell phone to call your Dept for an immediate answer.  Congressional hearings are a lot like court hearings only in a court a judge wouldn't let you say, "I'll take the question for the record, your Honor, and provide you with a written answer in a week or two."

Chair Jeff Miller:  Then we get into the funding request for the Veterans Benefits Administration -- a staggering 13.4 precent increase over the current year -- and I'm really at a loss because the claims processing performance just isn't there.  Despite already record high budgets, numerous investments in technology, record numbers of employees available to process claims, the situation is worse today than it ever has been before.  Mr. Secretary, when last year's budget was released, VA issued a press release saying that with the funding provided, "By 2013 . . . no more than 40 percent of compensation and pension claims will be more than 125 days old."  Here we are today, and we have 70% of claims out there that are older than 125 days.  And the same is true for prior budget requests --  what many of us would say are lofty promises, excitment about new initiatives and technologies, but lackluster, at best,  results.  And we don't have what this Committee would contend  was a positive trend.  VA has missed its own performance goals every single year. And I think most Committee members are very tired of the excuses we keep hearing from those who come before us testifying.

Chair Jeff Miller:  VA submitted a strategic plan to eliminate the compensation claims backlog.  That plan was submitted in January of this year --  in which it forecast expected number of claims it will decided in years '13, '14 and '15.  And now, three months later, the budget assumes a lower number of claims will be decided.  For example, the strategic plan assumed 1.6 million claims would be completed in 2014 but now the budget that's been submitted assumes only 1.32 million will be completed. So I think this is consistent with my opening statement where I said we talk about bold predictions about performance year and after year but the results aren't backing up.  And -- and my question is, it happens all the time.  The goal posts keep shifting and I'd like, just as brief an answer as possible because we will go to a second round of questioning and we'll talk about the backlog further but why does the goal post keep moving on one of the most important issues that are out there with the veteran community today and that's the backlog?

Secretary Eric Shinseki: Fair enough.  Mr. Chairman, I'm going to call on, uh, uh, Secretary Hickey to provide some detail.  But, uh, I would say, any time you write a longterm, large plan that describes solving a complex problem, they are assumptions based.  And we rely on those assumptions being fulfilled.  One of which is there are no additional complicators which get edited -- added to the work load.  Uh -- And another, uh, assumption is that we're going to be funded for the things we say we need.  If either of those things change, it's going to change the, uh, the work flow.  I believe the plan that, uh, uh, you're referring to, the, uh-uh, Common Operating, uh, Plan, uh, delivered in, uh, in January, uh, did not include VOW- VEI as-as-as part of that, uh, discussion.  Uh, the current estimate does.  And so there is an additional requirement that we've accomodated. Uh, I think, uh, we can explain the difference between those two numbers but we have a resource uh, uh plan now with submission of this budget and I believe our latest, uh, estimates are-are accurate.  Uh, let me just see if Secretary Hickey has anything to add.

No, they didn't make an accomodation.  The VA failed -- probably intentionally -- to include VOW/VEI in their projections.  I say probably intentionally because it's the excuse they're using now.  I also say that because the VOW/VEI aspect was something the VA was very familiar with long before Januarary. 

"VOW VEI" refers to the legislation Senator Patty Murry led on (Vow to Hire Heroes Act) and to Veterans Employment Initiative (VEI).  Why didn't a projection turned in in January include it?  As you can see if you [PDF format warning] click here, this is a document put out by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (bottom right hand corner of first page) and the Veterans Benefit Administration (bottom left hand corner of first page).   What's the title of this information flier?  "VOW Act and Veterans Employment Initiative" is the title.  And the date of it?  August 2012.  So if the VA is circulating information on VOW and VEI in August of 2012 to veterans, it's VA's own damn fault if a Common Operating Plan they turn in five months later fails to include projections for VOW and VEI.  And January 25, 2013, VA submitted "(VA) Strategic Plan to Eliminate the Compensation Claims Backlog."  Page 11 of that 20 page document?  "Veterans Opportunity to Work Act/ Veterans Employment Initiative (VOW/VEI)."

If indeed it was left out, that was on the VA.  Congress didn't suddenly pass something after January.  The VA was damn well aware of VOW/VEI long before January rolled around.  So it was the VA's mistake and yet Shinseki tries to blame Congress for it.   Nothing changed.  Nothing was added.  VA made the mistake and Shinseki refuses to even get honest about that.  There is no accountabilty at the VA.

Allison Hickey:  Mr. Chairman, we do create a plan.  And then we look at our actuals and if -- I know that most of you all have uh individuals that are checking our uh eekly reports that we send to you uhm, uh, through the Monday work load report or through aspire and I will tell you that we try to adjust for what we see in real life.  And if we -- And you will see right now there is a slight decrease uhm in-in applications being made for claims compensation.  Not a ton.  But there's a little bit of a decrease.  It is -- These are objectives.  These are estimates for the future in terms of past veteran behavior that we have to base, you know, what we're looking at in the future in terms of what, you know, what we are seeing and adjust for that year after year.  So we will be making those adjustments on a regular basis and as we start to see changes we will certainly keep this Committee and you up to -- up to speed on where we are.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Mr. Chairman, I'll just add as close out here.  I believe I'm correct that the-the-the COP you saw in January did not have VOW/VIE in it.  This latest set of estimates does and that's why you see an adjustment.

US House Rep Michael Michaud is the Ranking Member.  In his questioning about the seamless transitioning that DoD and the VA are supposed to finishing -- he said working on as did Shinseki.  No, finishing.  This has been funded for several years now.  Shinseki tried to weasel out saying there was a new Secretary of Defense (Chuck Hagel).  Well whine to Barack if that's causing you a problem.  This is nonsense that Shinseki told the Committee that he's talking with Hagel to find out what Hagel wants to do and what --

No.  This was supposed to have been planned years ago, the implementation stage was already supposed to have been rolled out.  This is nonsense.

And it's the lack of awareness of what's already taken place.  Gus Bilirakis, is not that new to the Committee, new to the Congress (he took his seat in 2007).  More importantly, he should know what happened beacuse his father served on this Committee.  And in 2006, June 30, 2006, this document was sent to him.  It outlines the efforts of seamless transition beginning in 2005.  So the nonsense that Shinseki offered about how he's getting with Hagel ("just yesterday") to discuss this matter?  No.  The discussions should have stopped long ago, the implementation should have already been started.  Where has the money gone on this each year because it's been funded each year?  Where has the money gone because if all that's taken place in the last 8 years is talking?  There shouldn't be millions being spent on it.  Again, this is nonsense.  US House Rep Gus Bilirakis would do well to speak to his father former US House Rep Michael Bilirakis.  Even better, ask the former House Rep Bilirakis to appear before the Committee to provide a refresher for members who were serving in 2006 and a summary for those who weren't.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  Another question I have is the integration between DoD and VA on the eletronic health records and the benefits. Should we have a joint meeting between VA and DoD -- and I realize that Senator -- that Defense Secretary Hagel has a lot on his plate with North Korea and the Middle East right now. 

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Yep.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  But this is one of my concerns when we changed was the fact that this would get a backburner again.  And are we going to be sitting here -- and you and I have spoken about this and that was a private conversation and it will remain that way but are we going to be sitting here a year from now or two years or three years because it's not a resources -- putting of money -- to be able to integrate these systems.  I mean, it's really become very frustrating to me to sit here year after year and, unless the voters have a different idea, I plan to be here in 2015 and see if we complete these things we say we're going to do.  Is it there.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Again, Congressman, Secretary Hagel and I have discussed this on at least two and maybe three occassions.  He is, again, putting into place, his system to assure the way ahead for him to make this decision and be the partner that we need here.  Uhm, he is committed to a, uh, integrated electronic health record between the two departments.  We are -- VA has made its decision on what the core  and we're prepared to move forward.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  Somebody has to blink. Obviously, we can't integrate them, so it's going to have to be one system or the other.  And I think what I heard you say was you've decided the VA is going to stay with the system it has.  That means that he's going to have to blink.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Uh, I would say the VA system is government owned, government operated.  We have put VISTA into the  open architecture trade space so that anyone who wants to use it can use it. It's used in other countries.  I believe it is, uh, a powerful system and, uh, I'm just awaiting, uh, a discussion with Secretary Hagel.

Clearly, from Shinseki's remarks, it is time for US President Barack Obama to step in a Cabinet meeting and say, "The system used will be" either VA or DoD.  That decision should have been made years ago.  Again, this has been funded and covered in Congress over eight years now.  The most basic step for a seamless transition record is deciding what system will be used.

So what we learned today is that nothing's been decided.

It needs to be.  Barack needs to make a determination of which system will be used, announce it and make sure the determination sticks -- no matter if Hagel is replaced or Shinseki or both.  This should have been determined long ago.  It is the first step.  Instead, for over eight years now, this has gone on and on without even completeing the first basic step.

Could be replaced?  Hagel is Barack Obama's third Secretary of Defense (after Robert Gates and Leon Panetta).  Shinseki's tenure has not been stellar.  In fact, Chair Jeff Miller noted his support for Shinseki was waning.  This was in his opening statement.  We're going with the written here and not as it was delivered because I'm assuming greater precision was taken when writing than when speaking off the cuff.   (Miller doesn't read his opening statements, he uses the text as a format or outline and often changes it up -- we usually go with what he states in the hearing -- and did earlier above -- but because this is a major move, we're going with the written statement).

Chair Jeff Miller: I'm proud of the efforts this Committee has made to protect VA's resources.  But the point of those efforts is to ensure improved benefits and services to America's veterans.  And, right now, I'm not seeing improvement in many key areas.  I'm seeing the opposite.  Mr. Secretary, we need to see results.  We need to see the outcomes the Administration promised with the resources Congress provided.   The excuses must stop.   I have supported you and your leadership up to this point.  I believe the Committee and the Congress has provided you with everything you have asked.  It's time to deliver.  

"I have supported you and your leadership up to this point."

US House Rep  Phil Roe continues to be one of the strongest members of the Committee.  Hearing this and that excuse for the backlog and how much work it is to check the claims and the process and blah blah blah, Roe cut through the nonsense by noting, "An issue I brought to you, six weeks ago, was when a veteran dies -- and there's no discussion about that.  You have a death certificate. This veteran dies and their spouse sometimes takes months or as much as a year to get their benefit. That is absolutely unacceptable.  When you've got a veteran out there -- a spouse, a man or a woman -- and they're -- especially the older veterans that are out there, that are living on a very meager income and then to have them wait?  And they have a house -- as we talked about -- they have a house payment, they have food to buy, they shouldn't miss a check.  That should not even be questioned."

Most idiotic remark made during the hearing by a member of Congress?  No, not Corrine Brown.   Ava will cover it at Trina's site tonight (she'll note another moment as well), Wally's going to cover an aspect at Rebecca's site and Kat's going to cover some basic impressions of the second panel.  The second panel was composed of Disabled American Veterans' Jeffrey Hall, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake, AMVETS' Diane M. Zumatto, VFW's Ray Kelley and the American Legion's Louis Celli.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

The American Whore Corps






It's all a con game.  And I have about had with union leaders pimping this crap about "the rich will pay their share in taxes!"  F**k taxes.  Protect Social Security.  If the unions are worth a damn, they will stop worrying about presenting Barack as 'inspirational' and start drawing a line in the sand on Social Security.


This is the con game the White House is playing.  They have been priming us for this fake for some time.  That's what the pretense of us versus them was all about in Barack's campaign.  As you may remember, Barack did not support the Occupy Movement.  No, they rushed to have it shut down.

So the idea that he gives a damn about us versus them?

Give me a damn break.

But we were supposed to be outraged at the rich (which does include Barack Obama) and feel like, "We are paying our share of taxes!  Why aren't they!"

And so now, having stoked our rage, they want to pretend that raising the tax rate on the rich makes up for gutting the safety net.

It does no such thing.

It puts no food in your mouth, it provides no safety for you in your old age.

You are being conned.  Attacks on Social Security, when they've been effective in the past, have always had to be bi-partisan.  It's no different now.





Before we get there, still on elections, we move over to Iraq which is gearing up for elections -- or that's what the press insists.  Only 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces are scheduled to vote April 20th in provincial elections.

  1. Kurdistan Region presidential and parliamentary elections will be held before Sep 8th, 2013.

Barzani is the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohok Provinces make up the KRG.  That takes us from 12 to 15.  The other three provinces?

There's Kirkuk.

Kirkuk is disputed.  Baghdad and Erbil both claim the oil-rich province.  Chris Hill, failed US Ambassador to Iraq, infamously dismissed Kirkuk as an issue when appearing at his Senate confirmation hearing (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th one).  It's not 'a simple land dispute.'  A simple land dispute can be settled.

The Iraqi Constitution's Article 140 provided for the disputed regions.  It said that the prime minister would implement a census and hold a referendum and that would determine the fate.  Nouri is aware of that because he did participate in the writing of the Constitution.  He becomes prime minister in the spring of 2006.  The Constitution dictates that Article 140 be implemented by the end of 2007.  That was years ago.  It's never been implemented.  Nouri has failed to follow the Constitution.  And the result is that all this time later Kirkuk not only still remains in dispute, it also can't participate in provincial elections.

That takes us from 15 to 16 which still leaves 2 provinces not voting.  The other two?  Nouri has declared that Sunni strongholds Anbar Province and Nineveh Province will not vote.  He's declared them to violent, too prone to fraud, too this, too that.  Though the Electoral Commission is supposed to be independent and he doesn't sit on it, though the United Nations has said that the two provinces need to be included in the vote, Nouri says they won't vote.

As disturbing as that is, as huge an overstep as that is, what's even more alarming is how the western press whores for Nouri.  Alarming but not surprising.   March 8, 2010, we witnessed Quil Lawrence whoring for Nouri on NPR -- declaring Nouri got the most votes -- before even a third of the votes had been counted -- and, oh, by the way, Nouri's political slate State of Law didn't get the most votes, Iraqiya did.  But whoring is really all the press is good for.

Which is why they're running with the script he's supplying.  It's not reality but reality's never been a concern for the press.

The script Nouri's supplying is that the results of April 20th will demonstrate how popular he is.  Nouri will not win in the KRG.  That's three provinces.  Kirkuk's not voting.  That's four.  And the two provinces where Nouri is outright loathed?  He wouldn't carry Anbar or Nineveh.

Is Iraq made up of 18 provinces or not?  If it is, you can't judge popularity when you rig who gets to vote.  In addition, provincial elections can indicate national trends, they do not, however, reflect upon Nouri or anyone else who might be prime minister.  They're the equivalent, in the US, of election governors.  Barack Obama's popularity is not determined by who wins the governorship in Alaska or Alabama.  States are concerned with their own series of issues just as, in Iraq, provinces are concerned with their own issues.

Nouri tried to film this script in 2009 and the press was happy to greenlight it.  They ran with the nonsense -- all of them including the New York Times -- that it proved how Nouri was popular.  Yet the next year, as the same press was debating just how big of a win Nouri would have in the 2010 elections, Nouri didn't win.  His State of Law came in second.

It's amazing how damn lazy what passes for the western press is.  They can't think for themselves which is why they can't carry out the press corp role which is supposed to be skepticism.  They can't think for themselves so they swallow and spit back out any 'theme' someone feeds them.  If the 12 provincial elections this month are worth watching, they're worth watching only to see just how much whoring a lazy press can do.

And Iraqi media?  Al Hayat reports that TV stations in Iraq -- controlled by various political parties -- are pushing candidates but not informing their viewers of the candidate's platforms and Iraqi TV correspondents complain that it is difficult to get interviews with candidates, that when they do get interviews and difficult to hold candidates accountable -- and that's if you're state media and not technically controlled by a political party. 

The Kurdistan Region Presidency notes that KRG President Masoud Barzani met with the US State Dept's Brett McGurk this week to discuss tensions between Baghdad and Erbil: "President Barzani stressed the importance of genuine partnership and consensus-based decision-making in the Iraqi government and restated Kurdistan Regions position toward the political process in the country.  He added that a good start would be for the Iraqi government to undertake some concrete steps towards the resolution of the problems facing the country."  To empthasize the main point, Barzani Tweeted:

A good start would be for Iraqi gov to take some concrete steps to address problems facing country:

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

FDR rolls over in his grave





Jane Arraf files a highly disappointing and misleading report for Al Jazeera today.  It opens.

Jane Arraf:  Ten years after Baghdad fell to US forces, the anniversary is just another work day where there would have been portraits for only Saddam Hussein, there are posters for upcoming elections.  The fall of Saddam's statue in central Baghdad signaled that his regime was finished.  Iraqis joined US Marines in bringing the statue down. 

Let's stop here there before she embarrasses herself further and let's deal first with the statue.  If you hear that crap about the statue on a US network, you tell yourself, "Media Whore."  And know that they're not going to tell the truth even all this time later.  But apparently Al Jazeera is as cowed as everyone else.  Shame on them, shame on Jane.

The truth is now well known.  A friend who was with CBS News has always credited Jan Ackerman (Post-Gazette) with accidentally "approaching" the story when covering US Army Reserve Cpl Michael Rega Jr. April 11, 2003 -- two days after the staged take-down of the statue:

Now Rega is in Baghdad, with the 303rd Psychological Operations Company (Tactical) waging the information war and trying to convince the Iraqis that the American presence in their country is a good thing.
Yesterday, an Associated Press photo of Rega being kissed on the cheek by an Iraqi man appeared on television Web sites and in newspapers across the country, indicating he's on track with his mission.

And that propaganda photo that AP distributed? Taken by Jerome Delay who's now working for AP and the US government in Africa (currently trying to stir war on Mali). Don't mistake him for a reporter, he's not.  Jerome Delay also took the 'news' photos of the Saddam statue for AP.  His propaganda is everywhere.

July 3, 2004, the Los Angeles Times ran David Zucchino's "Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue:"

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel -- not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images -- who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.
After the colonel -- who was not named in the report -- selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.

The same day Jon Elmer (New Standard) noted that "Marines brought in cheering Iraqi children in order to make the scene appear authentic, the study said.  Allegations that the event was staged were made in April of last year, mostly by opponents of the war, but were ignored or ridiculed by the US government and most visible media outlets."  Click here for peace activist Nevill Watson (April 17, 2003) telling Australia's SBS TV it was a rent-a-crowd.  August 4, 2003, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber would offer "How To Sell A War" (In These Times):

The problem is that the images of toppling statues and exulting Iraqis, to which American audiences were repeatedly exposed, obscured a larger reality. A Reuters long-shot photo of Firdos Square showed that it was nearly empty, ringed by U.S. tanks and marines who had moved in to seal off the square before admitting the Iraqis. A BBC photo sequence of the statue’s toppling also showed a sparse crowd of approximately 200 people–much smaller than the demonstrations only nine days later, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad calling for U.S.-led forces to leave the city. Los Angeles Times reporter John Daniszewski, who was on the scene to witness the statue’s fall, caught an aspect of the day’s events that the other reporters missed. Most Iraqis were indeed glad to see Saddam go, he wrote, but he spoke near the scene with Iraqi businessman Jarrir Abdel-Kerim, who warned that Americans should not be deceived by the images they were seeing.

Please note, Sheldon and John wrote that before the Psy-Ops report was issued.  That's the report the Los Angeles Times broke the news on and SourceWatch quotes from the report:


On Point, a US army report on lessons learned from the war, notes that it was a Marine colonel, not Iraqi civilians, who decided to topple the statue. "We moved our [tactical PSYOP team] TPT vehicle forward and started to run around seeing what they needed us to do to facilitate their mission," states a U.S. military officer involved in the operation. "There was a large media circus at this location (I guess the Palestine Hotel was a media center at the time), almost as many reporters as there were Iraqis, as the hotel was right adjacent to the Al-Firdos Square. The Marine Corps colonel in the area saw the Saddam statue as a target of opportunity and decided that the statue must come down." The pyschological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, packed the scene with Iraqi children, and stepped in to readjust the props when one of the soldiers draped an American flag over the statue. "God bless them, but we were thinking from PSYOP school that this was just bad news," the officer reported. "We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, 'No, we want an Iraqi flag!' So I said 'No problem, somebody get me an Iraqi flag.' " [1]

After the military report was released in 2004 and David Zucchino reported on it, Janine Jackson (FAIR) noted an interesting press move:

Today, the elite media strategy appears to be to pretend they always knew the event was a U.S. military exercise. The July 3 New York Times, for example, refers to the square where "American marines toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein." But it's worth looking back to recall just how much was made of this purportedly spontaneous event, likened by some to the fall of the Berlin Wall. AP's April 10, 2003 headline: "Iraqis topple statue of Saddam and celebrate the fall of Baghdad." The L.A. Times, in the editorial "New Day in Ancient Land," explained it as the work of "Iraqi mobs." The Chicago Tribune likewise described "a crowd of hundreds of Iraqis assisted by U.S. marines" and opined, "This was the day the fog of war lifted. And the whole world could see the truth." Well, as it turns out, not exactly.

On the topic of the statue?  For those who whine that Ava and I were too hard on poor little Peter Maas when we wrote about James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq  in our "TV: The War Crimes Documentary," Maas has a little history with the fall of the statue as well.  Got a real problem with the truth as Peter Hart pointed out for FAIR in 2011.  Know reality and know what happened.  Peter Maas' dishonesty was actually planned as a parenthetical but let's talk about what really happened that day.  Jane Arraf remembers, right? She just never tells you what happened that day. 

Two friends of mine were at the Palestine Hotel that day.  That's where most US and foreign journalists were.  Jane could probably give you a list of who was there.  The Pys-Ops operation worked so well because the US press was so overyjoyed to see the US military.

The part of this 'statue' story they don't tell you is that everyone had left Baghdad -- security wise -- before US troops came in.  They like to play big and brave but I had two friends in the Palestine Hotel and they were scared.  Most of the journalists there were.  See Big Bad Saddam Hussein was protecting them.  And then everyone of his forces were fleeing -- all gone by April 8th.  There was no real concern about the safety of the Iraqis in Baghdad -- not among journalists at the Palestine Hotel.  No, the concern there was who would protect them.  And they shouted support for US Marines who pulled up April 9th at the Palestine Hotel.  The manufactured joy in that day's photos of Saddam's statue being pulled down is said to have been nothing compared to the outpouring of slavish devotion by the journalists when the Marines pulled up.  The same unit that pulled up would move quickly to the square where the statue would be pulled down by the US military shortly after.

That's what the press doesn't tell you and it's key to understanding how that moment was sold.  Not by accident, not by the press misunderstanding what was going on.  But by their doing exactly what they were told to by the US Marines and doing it out of gratitude that someone was present to protect them.  Some were especially timid rabbits that day because the US military had fired on the hotel the day before.  (See CPJ's report here.)  Was that all part of softening up the press? 

Who knows but someone should Jane Arraf why she continues to lie about that moment?  Someone should ask why, after a Psy-Ops operation is exposed, people continue to treat as real?  And especially why at Al Jazeera.  Now we should note Jane made her name at CNN.  December 3, 2004, FAIR issued a press advisory entitled "The Return of PSYOPS: Military's media manipulation demans more investigation" -- CNN had again 'fallen' for propaganda (this time on Falluja) and 'reported' it leading FAIR to remind:

CNN 's history of voluntary cooperation with PSYOPS troops is also worth considering. In March 2000, FAIR and international news organizations revealed that CNN had allowed military propaganda specialists from an Army PSYOPS unit to work as interns in the news division of its Atlanta headquarters.
As FAIR reported at the time (3/27/00), some PSYOPS officers were eager to find ways to use media power to their advantage. One officer explained at a PSYOPS conference that the military needed to find ways to "gain control" over commercial news satellites to help bring down an "informational cone of silence" over regions where special operations were taking place.
And a 1996 unofficial strategy paper written by an Army officer and published by the U.S. Naval War College ("Military Operations in the CNN World: Using the Media as a Force Multiplier") urged military commanders to find ways to "leverage the vast resources of the fourth estate" for the purposes of "communicating the [mission's] objective and endstate, boosting friendly morale, executing more effective psychological operations, playing a major role in deception of the enemy, and enhancing intelligence collection."

So is Al Jazeera refusing to allow reports to note that the pulling down of Saddam Hussein's statue was a PSY-OPS operation or is Jane's CNN training?  Ten years later, when you can't tell the damn truth, people have a right to ask that question and, more than that, they have a right to have the question answered.

It matters and it matters because of so much that Jane Arraf's not telling.  That PSY-OPS operation?  It was used as an 'end marker.'  Battles were going -- in Baghdad -- and the news media ignored it to report on the statue.  From History Commons:

While the iconic Firdos Square photo op dominates US news broadcasts (see April 9, 2003), the fighting throughout Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq goes almost unreported. CNN’s Paula Zahn makes a passing reference to “total anarchy” in Baghdad; CNN reporter Martin Savidge and CBS reporter Byron Pitts give brief oral reports on the fighting, but no film is shown to American viewers. The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media will later note: “Despite the fact that fighting continued literally blocks from Firdos Square, apparently no camera crews were dispatched to capture those images. According to CNN and FNC [Fox News Channel], in other words, the war ended with the collapse of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square.” After that, the Journal will conclude, “the battlefield itself disappeared”; author and media critic Frank Rich will note that war coverage dropped “precipitously on every network, broadcast and cable alike.” War footage will drop 76 percent on Fox and 73 percent on CNN.

That PSY-OPS operation was really more about tricking US eyes than Iraqi eyes.

It is not a minor point and when, ten years after it happened, nine years after a US military report exposed it as a PSY-OPS operation, a journalist wants to talk about that moment, that damn well better be honest.

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"It takes a Queen . . ."

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

It takes a Queen . . .






Starting in the US,  Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner.  As we noted at Third yesterday, the 'change' of 2008 has brought about many political prisoners.  Lynne is an attorney, a grandmother, a breast cancer survivor.  She's in prison because --

Well why is she in prison?

We're taught you will go to prison if you break a law.  So what law did Lynne break?  She broke no law.  She broke an agreement with the Justice Dept when she gave Reuters a press release from one of her clients.  This was when Bill Clinton was president.  Then-Attorney General Janet Reno and the Justice Dept examined it and saw no law had been broken -- because there was no law -- said, "Lynne, don't do this again" and that was it.  Then the Supreme Court put Bully Boy Bush in the White House and the bully picked John Ashcroft to be the Attorney General.  For those who've forgotten, Arianna Huffington found John Ashcroft charming and used to rave -- as late as 2004 -- over his singing voice.  So if you wonder why Huffington Post never takes up Lynne's case, there you go.  Ashcroft went after Lynne.  Despite the Justice Dept having already ruled on the matter, he decided he was going to take her to trial and he would used Ground Zero as the location for the trial and he would use 9-11 as the backdrop.  The same way this lying administration linked Iraq to 9-11?  That's how they linked Lynne to 9-11. 

It's shameful and it's shameful that so few have had the courage to speak up for Lynne.  As bad as it was under Bully Boy Bush, Lynne was able to remain free on bail when he occupied the White House.  It's nearly a year after Barack Obama is sworn in as president that the Justice Dept insists Lynne go to prison while the appeals are being ruled on.  Lynne's already had breast cancer and been treated during this process.  But that doesn't matter to Barack.

No, Barack only cares about a woman's health if he's lying about his mother Stanley and using her death to try to scare up votes.  In addition, it's Barack's Justice Department that fought Judge John G. Koeltl's sentence of 28 months, forcing the judge to resentence Lynne (in July 2010) to ten years.  As Stephen Lendman has pointed out, "Obama Wants Lynne Stewart Dead" (People's Voice).  Lynne's cancer has returned.

On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include political prisoner Lynne Stewart.

Michael S. Smith:  Michael, we sorely miss our friend Lynne Stewart who's in prison serving a really unjust ten year sentence.  And, of course, as we've reminded our listeners over the last few weeks, Lynne has taken ill again.  And there's a petition for her and I know you want to talk about it and get as many active because we want to get Lynne out of prison on a compassionate release.  So tell our listeners how they can help and what the situation is now for Lynne.

Michael Ratner: Well we're going to link to how you can sign the petition.  Lynne's got Stage IV Cancer as a lot of you know.  That is, her initial cancer which was in remission when they put her in prison three years ago is now in full bloom.  It's spread to her bones.  It's spread to her legs. It's spread to her lungs.  It's spread to her lymph nodes.  And it really is fatal.  We all want to get her out and get her some better medical care that she can get.  She's in a seven person cell down in Fort Worth, Texas.  Get her up to New York, better medical care and be surrounded by her family and friends.  And in order to do that, the Bureau of Prisons, the people with the key have to make a motion to Judge Kotel to ask that she be given a compassionate release.  It's possible.  You can get that.  They don't do it very often.  But with all the friends and supporters that Lynne has, we're hopeful that we can accomplish that.  6,000 people have signed the petition so far.  And I want to read you what Lynne said in thank you to these people -- two of them were Dick Gregory and Desmond Tutu and I'll read you something that Tutu said also. But here's this from Lynne:  "I want you individually to know how grateful and happy it makes me to have your support.  It's uplifting to say the least.  And after a lifetime of organizing, it proves once again that the People can rise.  The acknowledgment of the life-political and solutions brought about by group unity and support, is important to all of us.  Equally, so is the courage to sign on to a demand for a person whom the Government has branded with the "T" word -- Terrorism.  Understanding that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client's desire for his or her case, I hope our effort can be a crack in the American bastion.  Thank you, Lynne."  Pete Seeger wrote her back and said, "Lynne Stewart should be out of jail."  And he signed the postcard "Old Pete Seeger" accompanied by a drawing of a banjo.  Bishop Desmond Tutu, this was his esprit de corps.  He said, "It is devastating.  Totally unbelievable.  In this democracy, the only superpower?  I am sad.  I will sign praying God's blessing on your reference. Desmond Tutu."  Let's hope Lynne gets out on compassionate release while she's still able to at least be part of her community.  And if you'll go to Law and, we'll put the link where you can sign the petition.  And if you'll grab a pencil, I'll give you the name and address of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons  because a well-aimed letter at him is not going to hurt.  His name is:

Charles E. Samuels Jr.
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534

Please send a letter.  Go to Law and -- our website -- sign the petition. We'll be updating you every week on how Lynne is doing.

We'll return to the topic of political prisoners but let's stay with radio for a moment.  On this week's Progressive Radio, Ruth Conniff fills in for Matthew Rothschild and her guest is author and activist Aruhdahti Roy.  Excerpt.

Ruth Conniff:  I want to segue to the Iraq War anniversary that we just passed.  And you were an opponent of the invasion of Iraq ten years ago and now that we've passed this anniversary, I'm curious to know what you think Americans should take away from this experience of the Iraq War?  You said recently that the psychosis of US foreign policy prevails even though George W. Bush is gone.  What did you mean by that?  And do you think that President Obama is as bad as George W. Bush from a global perspective?

Arundhati Roy:  Well from a global perspective I don't think that there's much to choose between him and Bush.  I mean President Obama has expanded the war into the sovereign territory of Pakistan and Pakistan is now being torn apart, you know?  So you have Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, now they've -- two days ago they started talking about "a game changer" in Syria because they don't know who's using chemical weapons -- though they probably supplied it to both sides.  So you have -- you have a situation where it looks like it's a psychosis which is -- You know, look at -- look at what's going on with Tony Blair says that it was one of the better decisions he made in his life and now he's getting paid $500,000 a lecture to go and talk about morality and ethical behavior and God, and so on, you know?  Bush is painting self-portraits of himself in the shower and [former US Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld is congratulating people who participated in the war -- after killing 134,000 people and the sanctions were more than a million.  So what are American citizens to do?  I think, well, perhaps it's a good question for all of us because all of us seemed to be strapped into some kind of straight jacket and the idea is that, "Are you going to again go out and vote for a Democrat or Republican or Democrats and Republicans when we know that this is what is going on?"  So until, in some way, we are able to at least -- at least not participate so enthusiastically in what these governments are doing with us.  It is the same thing in India, though people don't actually participate so enthusiastically. I mean in India the current government has actually 10% of the population voted for it in this great majority that it claims it has.  And I think more people vote for the American Idol than vote for the American president.  But the problem is that we are faced with a crisis in our idea of democracy because governments who claim to represent us, do not.  I mean, before the Iraq War, millions of people marched against it.  None of the governments in any way cared about what people really wanted.  So, to answer your question, I think the danger of somebody like Obama is that he smokes up the mirrors and a lot of the opposition just thinks "Oh, he's better than Bush!" and so then it divides the opposition -- whereas he's actually doing things in terms of foreign policy which are sometimes worse than Bush.

Since Arundhati mentioned War Hawk Tony Blair, let's move over to England for the latest on him.    Over the weekend,  Jonathan Owen (Independent) reported on a new development in the Iraq which has still not released its final report:

Hitherto unseen evidence given to the Chilcot Inquiry by British intelligence has revealed that former prime minister Tony Blair was told that Iraq had, at most, only a trivial amount of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that Libya was in this respect a far greater threat.
Intelligence officers have disclosed that just the day before Mr Blair went to visit president George Bush in April 2002, he appeared to accept this but returned a "changed man" and subsequently ordered the production of dossiers to "find the intelligence" that he wanted to use to justify going to war.
This and other secret evidence (given in camera) to the inquiry will, The Independent on Sunday understands, be used as the basis for severe criticism of the former prime minister when the Chilcot report is published.

Press TV picks up on the report and notes Blair ordered intell to be cherry-picked to make the case.  The Daily Mirror emphasizes that "the inquiry heard that the day before Mr Blair went to see Mr Bush in the States, he appeared to accept Iraq did not pose a threat to Britain."  Jason Groves (Daily Mail)  adds, "By contrast, one senior MI6 officer said it was clear 12 months before the war that Saddam Hussein had no nuclear weapons and no significant WMD at all."  The Scottish National Party issued the following statement:

New reports in today’s Independent on Sunday reveal even more evidence of Tony Blair's dishonesty in his planning for the illegal invasion of Iraq.
According to media reports evidence given to the Chilcot inquiry by British intelligence has revealed the former Labour Prime Minister conceded Libya was more of a threat than Iraq and more likely to have weapons of mass destruction, but that following a meeting with George Bush, Blair ordered the production of the dodgy dossiers to find the evidence to go to war.
SNP Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:
"The case against Tony Blair is mounting day by day, and we look forward to seeing the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry.
“We know the UK’s participation in the illegal invasion of Iraq was based on a massive deception by the former Labour Prime Minister and the Westminster system.
"Despite intelligence that Libya was a greater threat than Iraq Tony Blair led the UK into war with Iraq, but into business deals in the desert with Libya.
"The lives of 179 UK service personnel and many tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians were needlessly lost because of Blair’s determination to blindly back George Bush.
"The most important lesson of Iraq is that our foreign and defence should be conducted according to the rule of international law, and that is the prospect offered by an independent Scotland.
“Those who supported the illegal Iraq war can be in no doubt about their own culpability, and the Iraq war is a graphic example of why Scotland should not leave these decisions to Westminster.”

Today Tony Blair has his own unofficial statement.  Speaking at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania today, Tom Coombe (Patch) reports, Blair declared the present to be "the toughest times to be a leader."  He also issued a statement today praising Empire Thug Margaret Thatcher -- praise that should bother Labour Party members with any real memory.  Thatcher was a thug all by herself but she raised a thug as well.  In fact, her son Mark carried out her empire lust in the '00s.  You can refer to Morning Edition's January 13, 2005 report about the $563,000 fine Mark Thatcher was able to pay to escape prison in South Africa or to Michael Wines' "Thatcher's Son Pleads Guilty in Coup Plot, Avoiding Prison" (New York Times, January 14, 2005) or, months later,  to Harvey McGavin's "Thatcher is refused US visa over coup plot conviction"  (Independent):

Sir Mark Thatcher has been refused a visa to live in the United States following his conviction for involvement in the failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. Sir Mark, the son of Baroness Thatcher, the former prime minister, had intended to join his wife and their two children in the US after being given a four-year suspended jail sentence and fine at his trial in January, but immigration authorities turned down his visa application, it was confirmed yesterday.
"It is quite true that my visa application has been rejected," Sir Mark said in a statement. "It was always a calculated risk when I plea-bargained in South Africa."
Sir Mark was fined £265,000 by a South African court but escaped jail as part of a deal in which he admitted to having "unwittingly" financed the attempted overthrow of the government in Equatorial Guinea.

At least she lived long enough to see her son carrying out her own empire lust be publicly disgraced around the globe.  At least there is that.