Saturday, February 08, 2014

Takes one to know one





Let's stay with Connolly and note this exchange.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  Elections in April?  Still on schedule?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, we, our team at the Embassy, is talking every day to the United Nations Assistance Mission-Mission in Iraq and the Iraqi High Electoral Commision which are planning the elections and the information I have received most recently is that we have tens of thousands of displaced families from Anbar Province.  We have been assured by those planning the elections that displaced people will still be able to vote and their vote will count as if they were in their home province.  So we are still confident the elections will be held on April 30th.  And our consistent position, our firm position, is that those elections have to be held on April 30th.  There should not be a delay.

Some fear a delay.  I'm fearful that Nouri's going to again prevent Anbar and Nineveh from voting -- as he did in the 2013 provincial elections.  Yes, after international pressure, they were allowed to vote in June.  The other provinces -- except for the KRG which votes on its own schedule in provincial elections and Kirkuk which Nouri prevented from voting -- voted in April.

Yesterday, we noted this from last month's "Will Nouri call off elections in provinces he's unpopular in?" (January 25th):

Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) report al-Nujaifi gave two interviews today, the first to Sky News and the second to Alsumaria.  Osama al-Nujaifi noted Nouri cannot continue to act unilaterally, that there are checks and balances in the system and he was concerned that Nouri thinks he's "singular" when it comes to decision making and that this could lead Nouri to attempt to postpone the upcoming election citing "poor security."  Nouri did just that last year.  And he wasn't supposed to.  He ruled that Anbar and Nineveh could not vote.  Under pressure from the US, specifically Secretary of State John Kerry, Nouri relented and, months later, allowed the two provinces to vote.
He never should have been allowed to postpone them.  He doesn't have that power.  The Independent High Electoral Commission is the only one that does and, as their name notes, they are supposed to be "independent."
If Nouri tries to keep provinces from voting, it will be worse than last time and it will be worse then cancelling the election all out.  It will be corrupt.
He penalized the two provinces he was most disliked in last year.  Those were provincial elections, citizens were voting on who to represent them in their provincial governments (think state governments if you're in the US and confused).  These parliamentary elections are like federal elections.  And if Utah wasn't allowed to vote to send people to the House and Senate, it wouldn't be a real election in the US.
In a later report, Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani report that the 'independent' commission is now saying that one or more provinces could be prevented from voting in the parliamentary elections.

The idea is being floated.  Twice, Brett McGurk was asked about elections.  We noted one in yesterday's snapshot and another today.  Never once did McGurk inform Congress that this idea was being floated -- let alone that the IHEC declared that it could possibly happen.

There will not be free or fair elections unless everyone votes on the same day.

Today, All Iraq News reports that Iraqiya MP Salim Dali declared the attack on Anbar Province was Nouri's attempt to delay the parliamentary elections.  He tells All Iraq News:

The government is trying to disturb the situation such as the situation in Anbar starting from arresting MP, Ahmed al-Alwani, which will negatively affect holding the elections.

More than 200 thousand refugees have left Fallujah city which raises the question about the way of holding the elections in this city and the other cities of Anbar. 
Witnessing the same situation of the former elections where they were postponed in Nineveh and Anbar provinces.

Iraqiya, for those who don't know or forgot, defeated Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 elections which should have resulted in Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi being the prime minister.  But Nouri refused to step down after losing -- for eight months he refused to step down bringing the government to a halt (this is known as the "political stalemate" and set a record at the time for the longest period in any country between elections and the forming of a government) and he had Barack's backing so he got away with it.  Barack ordered US officials to negotiate a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) that went around the Constitution and the Iraqi voters (and any notion of democracy) which decreed a second term for Nouri.

In this year's planned elections, it is the post of prime minister, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports, that is the supreme prize:

The ultimate goal for almost all parties competing in the elections, due to be held at the end of April, is clear though:  the Prime Minister’s chair. After eight years of leadership from current prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki it is clear to most ordinary Iraqis, and therefore also to their politicians, that this is the most powerful position in the country. Over the past decade the executive branch of Iraq’s government has shown that it seems to have more power over what goes on in the country than Iraq’s parliament.

And how will the next Iraqi Prime Minister be chosen? Doubtless the person will be chosen by the members of political alliances that form after the upcoming federal elections. Right now the shape of those alliances are far from clear cut. Additionally the fact that Iraq’s current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is so deeply unpopular and that his mostly Shiite Muslim political alliance has been crumbling, alongside the differences in opinion among Iraq’s Sunni Muslim politicians, means that voters will definitely see some new alliances formed.

Analysts inside and outside the country are already coming up with a number of scenarios they believe may occur.

If Brett McGurk were honest, not only would he have informed the Congress on Wednesday about the IHEC stating it would be acceptable to deny a province the right to vote in the parliamentary elections, he would have also noted that in the two previous parliamentary elections, the desires and wishes of the Iraqis were ignored as the White House imposed Nouri as prime minister in 2006 and again in 2010.

Brett's not an honest man.  As his ex-wife can probably attest, he struggles with the truth.  But turns out, he's got a sense of humor.  Warped, yes, but a sense of humor.  We'll note this long exchange but, believe me, the set up pays off, you will howl.

US House Rep Juan Vargas: I personally am very concerned about the Christian community.  The Christian community has been slaughtered.  I mean the Christians that we saw killed on Christmas. You know, very unified attacks on Christians, 37 murdered.  The Chaldean community  before the war was about a million Chaldean Christians.  Now I think there's less than half, maybe a third of that,.  We're very thankful in San Diego that many Chaldeans have been able to come to San Diego and a great community is forming there and continues to form. I'd like to hear from you what we can do and what we should do and what we're not doing to help not only the Christian community, but especially the Christian community, but other communities as well.  I mean, what-what else should we be doing?

Brett McGurk: Uh, Congressman, thank you.  I-I've visted the Chaldean community in Michigan.  I would welcome the opportunity to come to your district to visit the community there.  Uhm --

US House Rep Juan Vargas: You're invited then.

Brett McGurk: Uh, extremist groups, as I've mentioned, are threatening Christians, Muslims, everybody in the region.  It is a phenomenon throughout the region, this is a regional problem. And one thing we're trying to do is work with the Christian leaders in Iraq is make sure that they have the resources they need from the central government and also the Kurdish Regional Government and making sure that there areas are as secure as possible.  In Iraq, the Chaldeans and other Christian minority groups are located in the Ninewah Plains.  Uhm, there is an al Qaeda extremist presence south of there.  We are working to try to make sure that local people, Christians in that community, have the resources they need to protect themselves and to police their own communities.  And we've made some progress there in that area over the last six months.  In the north, in Erbil and the Kurdish Region, uhm, when I was in Iraq a few months ago, I spoke to, as I mentioned earlier, with Archbishop [Bashar] Warda of the community there and linked him up with the Prime Minister so that they could talk about schools for the community and making sure that they're getting the resources that they need from the Kurdish Regional Government.  What we can do is a neutral group in Iraq with relationships between everybody because we've been there for ten years and are seen as a neutral player, one of the very few, is try to make sure that the connections are made between the governments provincial, regional and national. so that the Christian and minority communities have the resources they need to protect themselves but also for schools and for children and for everything else.

US House Juan Vargas:  Now I do have to say that I've heard from many that the central government, they claim that the central government is not doing much of anything at all to help the Christians.  In fact, just the opposite, that they leave them exposed, that their churches are exposed, that the schools are exposed.  I mean could you comment on that?  That they haven't been doing enough, not nearly enough, to protect the Christian community and especially the churches?

Brett McGurk:  Uhm, since a series of church bombings if I recall correctly in 2009 or 2010, uh, the Iraqis have really buttressed the Christian sites in Iraq.  Uhm, but as you mentioned, there are still attacks --

US House Rep Juan Vargas:  The Christian attacks, I believe, killed 37 --

Brett McGurk:  That's right

US House Rep Juan Vargas:  Christians.

Brett McGurk:  I have found the prime minister, when you discuss this issue with him, fairly emotional about wanting to protect Christians just like everyone else in his country.

Just like everyone else in his country?

Oh, that Funny Man Brett McGurk.

The killers of journalists go unpunished.  I will assume Congress is noting their own disdain for the press by refusing to cover that reality in any of the last five Congressional hearings on Iraq.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch issued their 105-page report (PDF format warning) "‘No One Is Safe’: Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System,"  Does Brett want tell us how much Nouri cares about women in Iraq?

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Friday, February 07, 2014

Gutting food stamps








US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  In addition to the biggest issue, which is that we don't have al Qaeda on the run, there are two issues which I continue to be very concerned about.  The first is the safety of the residents of Camp Liberty.  They still have very little protection.  When last you testified, Mr. McGurk, 192 T-walls were up.  Then the big progress, supposedly, is that 43 T-walls are now up in addition.   This is out of 17,500 T-walls. T-walls save lives.  Put them up.  Number two, the Iraqi Jewish archives.  Ted Deutsch and many other members are very concerned, don't want them to be shipped back.  The Iraqi government incorrectly states that these papers are theirs.  That is not true.  And we hope that you continue to work on that.  And the bigger issue that brings us together is that obviously since the departure of our troops, al Qaeda's re-emergence has caused Iraq to take a very worrisome turn for the worse.  We've sacrificed so much blood and treasure there to watch it descend into full sectarian violence and an al Qaeda safe haven.  So we've got to rebuild our influence there.

That's Ros-Lehtinen speaking at yesterday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.  The sole witness appearing before the Committee  was US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.  Committee Chair Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel were among those noted in yesterday's snapshot.  We'll be covering the hearing for several snapshots.

Yesterday we noted the T-walls and we'll use Ros-Lehtinen to recap on that and to note other topics as well.  We jump to her questions for McGurk and there aren't any ". . ."  in the exchange we're noting below but please note she asked three questions and we grab one here and two more later and the three were asked at once and they were answered at once by McGurk.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen::  On the issue of T-walls at ,Camp Liberty why have there been only 235 out of 17,500 T-walls put up?  And why have we only seen an addition of 43 since our November Subcommittee hearing?  Can you please commit that you will put extra effort in saving lives there?

Brett McGurk:  On Camp Liberty, on specifically the issue of T-walls, I have, again, made a number of trips to Iraq and every time I go, from Maliki on down, I raise the issues of T-walls.  We got T-walls moving back into the camp, earlier this month.  They stopped.  I raised it again last Thursday with the Iraqi National Security Advisor.  I understand this morning, T-walls are moving into the camp again.  I visited the survivors and residents of Camp Liberty earlier this month.  I told them I promised I would do everything I could.  I also urged them to do everything they could and that meant showing up at these camp management meetings where plans are made to move the T-walls into the camp.  This is an issue I'm going to continue to stay on top of.

How lucky for him that the T-walls, he 'understands' started going up again Wednesday morning when he was to appear before the Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

This is nonsense.  We went over this yesterday.  The Congress was told by the State Dept in October that the remaining T-walls would be put out.  Brett McGurk himself repeated that to the Congress in November.  The State Dept issued a statement in December saying the T-walls were going up.  They still weren't.  In January, it was the US Embassy in Baghdad, noting McGurk's visit to Camp Liberty, that said the T-walls were going up.

It's a shame no one asked Brett McGurk what his 'understanding' really meant.

Did someone pass on that Nouri says now they'll go up.  What does his answer mean?

And since the world -- including the European Union -- think he's a liar for his November testimony on the kidnapped Ashraf residents and who has them?  Since the UN didn't call him a liar but did put out a statment (again) contradicting his claims on that, why should we believe him now?

And if he's before Congress again in a few months and the T-walls are still not up, does anyone tell him that he's doing a lousy job and suggest that it's past time the State Dept stopped wasting time and money repeating actions and statements that do not effect any change?

Or are we all supposed to stand there rooting for Brett and the State Dept to win the longest marathon ever?

In her opening remarks, Ros-Lehtinen noted the Jewish archives.  These were discovered by the US military shortly after the start of the Iraq War, they were discovered submerged in watery basement.  These artifacts are Jewish artifacts.  Many were stolen from them by Saddam Hussein's government.  Many they were prevented from leaving with.  The artifacts came to the US to be restored so that they could be preserved for the future.

Nouri al-Maliki has insisted that his government has the right to these documents which include the Torah which, last time anyone checked, was not an official document of the Iraqi government.  Also, last time anyone checked, the number of Jews in Iraq could be counted on one hand -- a direct result of the post-invasion Iraqi government's refusal to protect the Jews of Baghdad.

After the documents were restored, they went on exhibit last year.  The US National Archives and Records Administration not only displayed them, they digitized them.  The National Archives notes:

Startling evidence of the once vibrant Jewish life in Iraq came to light in May 2003 — over 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents were discovered in the flooded basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters by a US Army team.
The remarkable survival of this written record of Iraqi Jewish life provides an unexpected opportunity to better understand this 2,500-year-old Jewish community. For centuries, it had flourished in what had generally been a tolerant, multicultural society. But circumstances changed dramatically for Jews in the mid-twentieth century, when most Iraqi Jews fled and were stripped of their citizenship and assets.

As Jewish people from around the world came to view them, one Iraqi woman whose family fled to Israel found her report cards from when she was a little girl.  Others found records and belongings of their parents.

This is not the property of the government Iraq.  This was personal property which was systematically stolen by a government of a country that has historically persecuted the Jews.

Those decades of persecution are why it so offensive to so many Jewish people around the world that this cultural heritage is going to be handed over to the Iraqi government.

The White House and the State Dept lamely and wrongly assert that they have to return it.

Their argument is that an agreement was made that the US would restore the documents and then hand then hand them to the government of Iraq.

But you can't enter into a property contract with anyone other than the owner of the property or a legally designated representative of the owners of the property.

The Iraqi government has no claim of ownership.  They also were not contracted by the world's Jewish community to represent the property on their behalf.

This is stolen property.

As we already noted, Ro-Lehtinen stated, "The Iraqi government incorrectly states that these documents are theirs."  That's what she was referring to when she said it.  Here she is asking about it (again, she asked three questions all at once during the questioning, we're splitting it up and splitting Brett McGurk's responses up).

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen::  The Iraqi Jewish Archives, you have been engaged in discussions with the Iraqis on this issue and your staff has spoken with representatives, the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora and the Jewish community as a whole.  But could you give us an update on progress of these discussions?  Have there been alternative plans proposed?

Brett McGurk:  On the -- on the Jewish archives,  uhm, as you know, this a very sensitive topic.  Uhm, I've been working directly with the Iraqis on this.  I was just in Iraq and raised it with those officials in charge of the file.  We are engaged in sensitive negotiations with the Iraqis.  Uhm, in the coming weeks the Director of Iraq's Archives and Library will be coming to the United States and, again, I hope to report progress on this  But we're engaged  and it's a sensitive investigation but I will keep you fully informed of those talks. 

How about you explain what you're talking about?

Brett McGurk is not talking about the archives being turned over to the Jewish people -- though he did  mislead Congress on just that in 2013.  What he's talking about is handing them over to Iraq and then maybe something will be done like it can tour every few years in the US.

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Getting punked while the world watches









"While al-Qaeda in Iraq has been powered by prison breaks and the Syrian civil war, it has also been fueled by the alienation of much of the Sunni population from the Shi’a dominated government in Baghdad," declared US House Rep . Ed Royce today.  "Al-Qaeda has become very skilled at exploiting this sectarian rift; and Maliki’s power grab has given them much ammunition.  This is a point that Ranking Member Engel and I underscored with President Maliki when he visited Washington last fall."

He was speaking this morning at the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Royce is the Chair of the Committee and US House Rep Eliot Engel is the Ranking Member.  Appearing before the Committee this morning was  the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.

In his opening remarks, Chair Ed Royce cautioned, "But Iraqis should know that their relations with Iran and the slow pace of political reconciliation with minority groups raise serious Congressional concerns.  While he may not be up to it, Maliki must take steps to lead Iraq to a post-sectarian era."

We're going to note some positions expressed from others.  We'll start with the Ranking Member.  Please note, I usually only add (in brackets: "[]") to illuminate what's being said.  But War Hawk Engel is not going to get to lie here.  He can offer his opinion, and he does, but when he lies that all US troops are out of Iraq?

We're not going to play that game.  We're also not ever going to include his crocodile tears.

Like Hillary Clinton, Engel voted for the Iraq War.  If you feel her clarification that her vote was wrong -- but after Gates' book who can believe her when he reveals she lied to the American people with regards to the so-called "surge" of US troops into Iraq because she was trying to get votes -- you should also be aware that Engel has never apologized.  So he should cry for the American dead, he should be haunted by them.  He voted for an illegal war.  That said, the people killed in Falluja when the US military was ordered to attack twice in 2004 matter as well.  Even if Engel doesn't think so.

Ranking Member Eliot Engel: Iraq continues to be ravaged by sectarian violence and the situation's getting worse.  Last year, more than 8500 Iraqis were killed in bombings, shootings and other acts -- the most since 2008.  I should note that on Monday of this week, the senior leadership of al Qaeda excommunicated and disowned their affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- ISIS -- as a result of that group's tactics in Syria. For the purpose of this hearing, ISIS remains a threat to stability in Falluja, other areas of Anbar Province and the whole of Iraq.  Some may argue that the lack of an enduring US presence in Iraq  has contributed to the resurgence of violence -- especially in Sunni terrorism related to al Qaeda.  But let's be honest, the dire security situation in Anbar Province is much more about Iraqi politics than it is about the United States.  In any case, the direct use of US military force in Iraq is virtually unthinkable at this point.  We've withdrawn from Iraq and we aren't going back.  Although we no longer have boots on the ground [except for Special-Ops and the 100 or so Brett McGurk noted today were guarding the Embassy and its diplomatic staff and, as Brett noted, various 'trainers' and persons who facilitate the selling of weapons], the US does maintain a huge stake in Iraq's security.  And I believe we should continue to provide appropriate assistance  to the Iraqi military and their fight against ISIS.  But we must also recognize that the current situation in Anbar cannot be resolved through military means alone. An all-out assault on Falluja by the Iraqi security forces would play right into the hands of ISIS, reinforcing the perception among Sunnis that they have been systematically victimized by Prime Minister Maliki's Shia-led government.  To defeat al Qaeada, the Iraqi government must take a page  out of our playbook from the Iraq War and enlist moderate Sunni tribes in the fight.  I understand that [US] Vice President [Joe] Biden recently discussed this issue with Prime Minister Maliki encouraging him to incorporate tribal militias fighting al Qaeda into security -- into Iraqi security forces and to compensate those injured and killed in battle.  By taking these steps, I'm hopeful that Maliki can begin to bridge the widening sectarian gulf  in Iraq.  

Did Joe Biden talk to him?  I'm really tired of  Joe and his talk right now and probably going to let it rip on him next week.  But for now, we'll note that Joe  did do that.  As he's done repeatedly and, apparently, ineffectively since 2009.  In other words, he's accomplished nothing and is still trying the same tactics which is a complete waste of time.  Iraq is now on him in the minds of Americans.  He might want to try something new real quick or he might want to accept the fact that the destruction of Iraq will be hung around his neck should he choose to run for the presidency.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  al Qaeda's resurgence is directly related to Prime Minister Maliki's mishandling of his government.  Incompetence and corruption seem to be the norm.  The centralized power alienated the Sunnis and brought back Shia hit squads. He has allowed Iranian supportive operatives to kill MEK Iranian dissidents [the Ashraf community] now on seven occasions without consequences. The last time you were here, Mr. McGurk, you testified before my Subcommittee and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's Subcommittee, I predicted that there would be another attack.  Seven days after you testified in December, Camp Liberty was attacked again.  All this chaos has created an environment ripe for al Qaeda.  al Qaeda's re-establishing a safe haven to launch attacks outside the region.  That is a totally unacceptable trend.  The question is: What is the United States going to do?

Now we'll note another opinion expressed:

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  In the 1940s, we occupied countries no one doubted our right to occupy. We took our time, we created new governments and those governments created new societies.  At various other times, we've invaded countries, achieved a limited objective or as much as could be achieved at reasonable cost and we left.   The first example of that was Thomas Jefferson's military intervention in Libya.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, we established a bad example. The world -- and even some in the United States -- doubted our right to occupy, so we hastily installed [Hamid] Karzai in Afghanistan and in Iraq we installed a structure which is now presided over by Mr. Maliki.  It is not surprising that Afghanistan and Iraq continue to be problems since we hastily handed over governance to those who are ill prepared. Iraq is not the most important Arab state strategically.  It does not become more important in the future because we made a mistake in the past that cost us dearly in blood and treasure.  We should not compound that mistake.  On the other hand, Iraq is important in part because of its proximity to Iran which I believe is one of the greatest threats to our national security. Finally, I agree with several of the prior speakers that we need to, with regard to Camp Liberty and the T-Walls

T-Walls are basically barrier walls which would protect from bombs placed outside the walls and which would also heighten security within the camp.

If you don't understand how inept the White House and the State Dept are, let's do a walk through.  Starting with the October 3rd snapshot which reported on that day's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  We'll again note this exchange between Senator John McCain and  the State Dept's Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman as well as Committee Chair Robert Menendez' follow up.

Senator John McCain:  In the situation as it relates to the Camp Ashraf people, we know that they were Iranian dissidents.  At one point,  they were designated as a terrorist organization.  But the United States government, it's true, gave them an assurance that if they moved [to Camp Liberty] they would be protected.  We know that the Iranian influence has increased in, uh, in Iraq.  In fact, we know now that Iraq is alive and well and doing extremely well moving back and forth across the two countries.  Now there was a murder of, I believe, 51 people who were members of this  camp and many of them had in their possession guarantees from the United States of America that they would not be harmed.   What-what lessons -- First, are these facts true?  And, second, if they are true, what message does that send to people who we say will be under our protection?

Wendy Sherman:  Senator, uh, I share your, deep concern about what happened, uh, at Camp Ashraf.  This was a vicious attack in September 1st and many lives were lost.  And the US continues to press the government of Iraq at every opportunity, at very senior -- at the most senior levels to ensure the safety and security of residents at Camp Hurriya where many of the MEK were moved for better safety.  We strongly and swiftly condemned the attack.  We of course extend  our condolences to the victims' families and we are working with the government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, to peacefully and voluntarily transfer the surviving residents to safety at Camp Hurriya on September 12th.  And we are working for the protection of the people in Camp Hurriya because we do not want a repeat of this.   So, to date, the government of Iran -- of Iraq has moved in over 700 large T-walls, over 500 bunkers, over 600 small T-walls and nearly 50,000 sandbags.  UN monitors visit the camp daily in accordance with the MOU to asses human rights and humanitarian conditions.  But I must say, Senator, the real answer to this, to the safety and security of all the people in the camps -- who wants to live in a camp? -- is resettlement to third countries to get out of Iraq and to get out of harms way.  And I would call on all the people who are here today representing the rights and the interests of the MEK and the leaders of the MEK in the camps and in Paris, uh, to allow this resettlement to go forward because until the resettlement happens safety and security is going to be a risk.  We will do everything in our power to keep people safe in these camps.  But, as you point out, the al Qaeda threat is increasing in Iraq and it is difficult.

Senator John McCain:  And I hope that this issue will be raised with the Iraqi government.  And we in Congress may have to look at the kind of aid and how we are extending that to Iraq if this kind of thing is going to be countenanced by the Iraqi government.  I don't -- I've used up all my time.  And I thank you for your response.

Chair Robert Menendez: Before I turn to Senator [Edward] Markey let me echo what Senator McCain has said in this regard.  And I put out a statement in this regard, I also talked to our Department.  You know, America went to the MEK and we said, 'Disarm and we will protect you.'  And then we ultimately left and that protection has not been there.  You can put up I don't care how many tons of sand bags but when elements of the Iraqi forces actually may very well be complicit in what took place, sand bags aren't going to take care of the problem.  And I agree with you that resettlement is a critical part.  Maybe the United States could be part of leading the way in saying to a universe of these individuals that in fact you can be resettled to the United States.  And that would get the rest of the world to offer further resettlement. But it is unacceptable to lose one more life when American commanders gave these individuals a written guarantee towards their safety.  And it sends a message to others in the world that when we say we are going to do that and we do not, they should not trust us.  And for one thing that this Committee can do since it has jurisdiction over all weapon sales is that I doubt very much that we are going to see any approval of any weapon sales to Iraq until we get this situation in  a place where people's lives are safe.   

They moved them there, they just refused to put them up.  But don't worry, insisted the State Dept, they're going up immediately.

No, they aren't.  And the US government is obligated under the Geneva Conventions to maintain the safety of the Ashraf community as long as it is in Iraq.

November 13th, Brett McGurk appeared -- we reported on that hearing in the November 13th snapshot, the November 14th snapshot and the November 15th snapshot.  Like that hearing, we'll be covering today's in multiple snapshots.  This following exchange is from the November 14th snapshot.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  You believe them that that there's really a security reason that they haven't put those T-walls up at Camp Liberty?

Brett McGurk:  No, I do not think that there are legitimate security reasons that the T-walls have not been put up.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: You sounded to me when I was listening to you -- and I listened very closely to what you said -- that we can't blame the leadership -- the Maliki leadership for the lack of security at Camp Liberty?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, no.  And in fact my conversation with Maliki was that you need to get as many T-walls into that facility as possible without any excuses.  Period.  Full stop.  So I -- if I -- You may have heard me say something differently but I --

In November, the promised T-Walls were still not up.  In the December 26th snapshot, we noted a statement from State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki which included:

We continue to call on the GOI to take additional measures to secure the camp against further violence, including by immediately installing additional protective barriers, such as bunkers and t-walls. 

Wait?  You're still calling, in December, for the T-Walls to go up?  The ones the State Dept said in October were going up?

The next month, in the January 28th snapshot, we noted the US Embassy in Iraq's press statement which included:

He [Brett McGurk] noted that in meetings with senior Iraqi officials the U.S. will continue to press the Government of Iraq (GOI) to buttress security inside the camp, and welcomed the commitment to install additional t-walls following the next Camp Management meeting among camp residents, UNAMI and the GOI. DAS McGurk stressed the urgency of relocating the residents of Camp Hurriya to third countries as soon as possible and noted the full-time efforts of Jonathan Winer, Senior Advisor for MeK Resettlement, towards that objective. Given the special challenges involved in addressing these issues, DAS McGurk expressed deep appreciation to UNAMI and UNHCR for their work and ensured ongoing U.S. Government support of their efforts.

And today we learn that T-Walls are still not up.

The same conversations take place over and over with no results from Nouri al-Maliki.  So why are the conversations happening?

No, I'm not saying shoot him the way they did int he past.  (Though no one will mourn the death of Nouri whenever it comes.)  I'm saying you stop arming him.  You stop taking, "I'm going to do it."  He wants a helicopter?  Let him put up all the T-Walls first.  Then give him one.  For the second one?  Don't swallow his "I'll work on it" about national reconciliation.

He agreed to that formally in 2007 to keep US funding.  And he never followed up on it.  The de-Ba'athifcation was supposed to end.  That was a promise he made the US government.  And not something that was supposed to take years to end.  It was supposed by 2008.  It never has.

Why are you arming him?

Not only is hurting the Iraqi people, it is hurting the government's prestige and strength around the world as various world leaders look on and watch Nouri get what he wants from the US government without ever following up on any promises he makes to them.

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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

He wants thanks for the 2 million







In 1980, the comedy classic (on the American Film Institute's 100 Funniest Movies), Private Benjamin was released.  Jewish American Princess Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn in an Academy Award nominated performance) becomes a widow on her wedding night when Yale (Albert Brooks) dies while they're having sex.  With no husband, no plans for her future and in a state of grief, Judy ends up spilling her problems on talk radio and a man schedules a meeting with her to help her address them.  The man is army recruiter Jim Ballard (Harry Dean Stanton).  Spinning a series of lies to make his recruitment number, he gets her signed up.

On base, she refuses to unpack due to a mix up.  Captain Doreen Lewis (the late Eileen Brennan, in an Academy Award nominated performance) is shown the new recruits by Sgt LC Ross (Hal Williams) and is addressing them as they stand at order -- all at order except for Judy Benjamin who files her nails before going over and touching the Captain on the shoulder.

Judy: Excuse me, 

Captain Lewis:  Huh?

Judy:  I hate to interrupt you but, uhm, could I speak to you for a sec?

Captain Lewis: Oh, my Lord.  Sgt, would you look at this.

Sgt Ross:  I've seen it, ma'am. 

Captain Lewis:  What's -- what's your name, princess, huh?

Judy: Judy.  

Captain Lewis:  Judy.

Judy:  Judy Benjamin.

Captain Lewis:  Judy Benjamin.

Judy:  Uhm, I think they sent me to the wrong place.

Captain Lewis:  Uh-huh.

Judy:  See, I did join the army but I joined a different army.

Captain Lewis:  Uh-huh.

Judy:  I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms. 

Captain Lewis and Sgt Ross laugh.

Judy: What?

Judy: No, really.  My-my recruiter, Jim Ballard, told me that --

Captain Lewis: I don't care! I don't care what your lousy recruiter told you, Benjamin. Now I'm telling you there is no other army. 

Judy:  Wait a minute.  I don't want to have to go to your boss or anything, okay? 

Captain Lewis mouths the words "my boss."

Judy:  I just  -- Look, to be truthful with you, I can't sleep in a room with 20 strangers.

Captain Lewis:  Oh, dear.

Judy: And I mean look at this place.  The army couldn't afford drapes?  I mean I'll be up at the crack of dawn here.  And I have to tell you, I am frankly a little shocked

Captain Lewis: You're shocked?

Judy: Yes.

Captain Lewis: Why?

Judy: This place is a sty.  

Captain Lewis:  It's a sty?

Judy:  Yeah, I mean, look-look.

Judy lifts up a pillow on a bed and points to it.

Judy:  Look-look at these stains.

Captain Lewis:  Mm-hmm.

Judy:  God knows where this has been 

Captain Lewis:  Yeah.

Judy:  And have you seen the bathroom?

Captain Lewis:  What, uh -- Do you think that the latrine -- Do you think that it's unsanitary? 

Judy:  Oh, it's disgusting. 

Captain Lewis:  Disgusting?

Judy:  There are urinals in there. 

Captain Lewis:  Well that's because this is the army, Benjamin, it's not a sorority house.  Uh, may I see your toothbrush?  Please?  Please?

I don't care what your lousy recruiter said, Captain Lewis snarls.  Recruiters have probably the worst image of anyone in the military.  They have that image for a number of reasons.

During wartime, they are the people seen as luring innocents into becoming cannon fodder.  That's why recruiting stations are protested during wars.  It's why many people believe military recruiters should not be allowed on campus.

Their job is to meet quotas.  They have lied to do so.  Iraq War veteran and war resister Joshua Key has spoken and written of how his recruiter swore to him that if he signed up he would be stationed in Oklahoma and never sent out of the country.

They get away with these lies.  Even if their lies are recorded, no court holds them accountable and the brass doesn't give a damn what recruiters say, only that they make their quotas.

I note that because I had to sit through a Senate hearing this morning where people were praising the 'good' recruiters.  Who are the good ones?

Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer and Harvey Miller wrote a very funny script (and were nominated for an Academy Award for this screenplay).  When we laugh, we're generally responding to one of two things: shock (disbelief) or recognition.   Private Benjamin had a lot of scenes people could laugh at due to recognition.

Recruiter Ballard: What does that look like to you?

Judy:  What?  Club Med?

Recruiter Ballard:  It's the Fort Ord Army Base in Monterey, California. 

Judy:  Those look like condos.

Recruiter Ballard:  Mm-hmm.  And every soldier gets his or her own private room. 

Judy:  What are these?  Yachts?

Recruiter Ballard:  The army is the best kept secret in the world, Judy.

Judy:  Looks great.  But, see, you don't know me.  I'm not -- I'm not the army type.

Recruiter Ballard:  You can forget that old brown boot image of the army. It's the army of the 80s.  You'd love it.  All the ladies do -- all 89,000 of them. Here, check out this list of jobs. There's over 300 jobs there and there's only a couple of them not offered to the ladies -- trained killers, stuff like that.  How much do you earn now per month?

Judy:  Now? 

Recruiter Ballard:  Mm-hmm.

Judy: Nothing. 

Recruiter Ballard: Nothing?

Judy:  Thanks.

Judy starts to cry.

Recruiter Ballard:  What are you thinking 

Judy:  I'm thinking about . . . my family . . . and my house . . . and all the gifts I have to return 

Recruiter Ballard:  Judy, you shouldn't be saddled with a lot of decisions and a lot of responsibilities right now.  Now I'm prepared to offer you $458 a month, train you in the job of your choice, pay for your food, your housing, all your medical  and give you a thirty-day paid vacation.  And let me tell you something else.  A lady with your education and background could easily land an assignment in Europe.

Judy:  Europe?  I do need to get away.

Recruiter Ballard:  And I promise you we'll get you in the best physical shape you've ever been in in your life.

Judy:  It'd be like three years at La Costa. 

Recruiter Ballard:  La Costa, that's good.

Judy:  What if I hate it once I get there?

Recruiter Ballard:  Quit.  It's a job like anything else. 

That's a recognizable scene.  And it's funny that it happens to Judy Benjamin.  She's a film character -- a great one -- and without those lies, you've got no storyline for the film.

But this happens over and over in real life and that's not funny.

I had to sit through a hearing where the Chair praised recruiters and the great work they do.  And was bothered by the latest recruiting scandal -- and surprised by it.  There's nothing surprising about it.

"However, I'm disappointed that it took a small story in the Washington Post in 2012 for this Subcommittee to even have an inkling about problems with this large contract," declared Senator Claire McCaskill this morning, "and that it took almost two years and our repeated insistence for the Army to inform the Subcommittee that the problems that the Post reported were just the tip of the iceberg."

Yesterday cam news of fraud in a government program used to recruit for the US military.  We had other things to cover in Monday's snapshot and that was fine because I knew we could grab the issue  via today's hearing.

This morning the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight held a hearing and heard from a series of witnesses: Lt Gen William T. Grisoli (Director of the Army Staff), Maj Gen David E. Quantock (Commanding General of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command and Army Corrections Command), Joseph P. Bentz (Army Audit Agency's Principal Deputy Auditor General), retired Lt Gen Clyde A. Vaugh (former Director of Army National Guard), retired Col Michael L. Jones (former Division Chief Army National Guard Strength Maintenance Division), Philip Crane (president of Docupak) and retired Lt Col Kay Hensen (former contracting officer National Guard).  The Subcommittee Chair is Clare McCaskill and the Ranking Member is Rob Johnson.

We'll note this overview of the scandal that the Chair provided.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  The Recruiting Assistance Program was born in 2005 when the Army National Guard was struggling to meet its recruitment numbers due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The National Guard's Recruiting Assistance Program, known as GRAP,  would provide incentives to the National Guard soldiers and civilians to act as informal recruiters or recruiting assistants.  These recruiting assistants would receive a payment between $2,000 and $7,500 for every new recruit.  The contract was run out of the Army National Guard's Strength Maintenance Division, known as ASM, and administered by a contractor Docupak.  The recruiting assistants were hired by Docupak as subcontractors.  After the program was put in place, the National Guard began to meet its recruiting goals and the active Army and Army Reserve began their own similar programs.  In 2007, however, Docupak discovered instances of potential fraud which it referred to -- which it referred to the Army.  Four years later, after suspecting a pattern of fraud, the Army requested a program wide audit.  And what the audit found was astounding.  Thousand of National Guard and Army Reserve participants who are associated with payments that are high or medium risk for fraud with an estimated total amount of 29 million dollars paid fraudulently.  This criminal fraud investigation is one of the largest that the Army has ever conducted -- both in terms of sheer volume of fraud and the number of participants. Although recruiters were prohibited from participating in the RAP program because recruiting was already part of their job duties.  Investigators found that potentially over 1200 recruiters fraudulently obtained payments.  For example, in Texas, a former member of the National Guard was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for leading a conspiracy to obtain $240,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.  He did this by providing kickbacks to National Guard recruiters in return for the names and Social Security numbers of  recruits who had in fact already been recruited.  The fraud was not limited to service members because anyone could sign up to be a recruiting member.  There were also cases of people not affiliated with the Army stealing names and Social Security numbers of potential recruits and receiving referral payments that they were not entitled to.   Even one case of fraud would have been too many.  Instead, we now know that thousands of service members, their family and friends may have participated in schemes to defraud the government they served and the tax payers.

In 2005, the 'brief' Iraq War -- sold as a cake walk and one that, Rumsfeld and others insisted, would find the US greeted as heroes with roses strewn in their paths -- was already obviously not going to be brief.

In 1990, Bully Boy Bush's father, US President George HW Bush, went to war on Iraq.  That was the Gulf War and it lasted from August 2, 1990 to February 28, 1991.  By 2005, it was clear that the Iraq War was not going to be brief.  In 2005, the Afghanistan War would hit the four-year mark.

That alone was enough to depress recruitment.  In addition, January 29, 2002, Bully Boy Bush gave a State of the Union Address in which he referred to the "axis of evil" -- a group of countries: Iraq, Iran and North Korea.   Reports that the US government would declare war on Iran were already making the rounds -- and would continue to including in The New Yorker -- and it was thought that a war on Iran or North Korea or both was likely.

This depressed recruitment.

The Iraq War was illegal.  That depressed recruitment.

War resisters within the ranks were increasing and the rah-rah 'turned corner, democracy created' of the administration was countered with the voices as well as due to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse and War Crimes scandal -- Seymour Hersh (The New Yorker) and CBS News broke the news on that.

"We needed recruits,"  Chair McCaskill  noted.  "We were in a very stressful position for command.  We were. really, for one of the first times in our history, beginning to use the Guard and the Reserves in operational capacity.  They were being asked to do what they were never asked to do before."

And that depressed recruitment as "weekend warriors" were now on a never-ending weekend outside the country.  The recruitment was also depressed by the stop-loss policy -- where, when your contract was up and you were out, the US government would inform you that you weren't leaving, you were being stop-lossed and kept in the military.  This was referred to as "the backdoor draft."

Recruitment was also depressed by the tours of duty. During Vietnam, you did a tour and that was that unless you wanted to go back.  In the '00s, you did a tour and it stretched out and was longer and you then found out you were being deployed again and again.  And the down time was non-existent.

In this environment, the program was embraced and embraced so warmly, apparently, that legal aspects were not considered by the military command before this program was implemented.  Chair McCaskill and Ranking Member  Johnson attempted to establish the vetting of the program, by the military, before it was implemented and the witness before them were unable to confirm if it was ever vetted or examined before it was utilized.

We'll note this exchange from the hearing.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  The first is let me get a sense of why it took four years from the time that Docupak gave you some indication that there was a problem?  Can you lay out for us in a way that would make me feel more comfortable, why it took until 2011 for the audit to be called for.

Maj Gen Daivd Quantock:  Chairman McCaskill, I'd like to take a shot at that question.

Chair Claire McCaskill: Thank you.

Maj Gen David Quantock:  If you look at the -- at the -- at how the case came to everybody's attention.  First off, it's only two cases in 2007 that are CID investigations and they came through a fraud hotline.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Okay.

Maj Gen David Quantock:  So understand that over this period of time, CID investigated over 43,000 criminal investigations.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Right.

Maj Gen David Quantock:  So two cases in 2007 wouldn't have raised.  Then in 2008, there were five cases.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Okay.

Maj Gen David Quantock:  And then of course that would not send a signal.  And then two more cases in 2009.  And then in 2010 we had ten cases in one year that one of our, uh, Huntsville agents, in Huntsville, Alabama, realized there's something that could be misconstrued -- or cause some kind of systematic concern.  So they raised it to us, we took a kind of hard look at it and that's when we basically went over to Triple A and said, 'Can you take a hard look at this, there looks to be -- there could be some kind of systematic failures in this program.  Could you do a D dive on this program? to see if there's something we should be concerned about other than the 19 cases  that we're doing?'  In addition to that, Docupak came to us in 2010 because they got the same ten cases we did.  And they also made us aware that there seeing some irregularities as well.  So it was a combination of Docupak, our agents at Huntsville -- Huntsville, Alabama office.  They really brought this to life and that's when we asked Triple A to take a look at the entire program.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Well make sure you convey to, uhm, that investigator, that law enforcement professional in Huntsville our appreciation that he raised the flag in 2010.  So basically what you're saying, General, is that, up until 2010, this appeared to be isolated incidents as opposed to a pattern and a systemic fraud?

Maj Gen David Quantock:  Yes, ma'am.  I've got 150 fraud investigators, civilians, and we look at dozens of fraud investigations.  So this was just another one of those kind of dots on a map that crossed the entire United States.  Not only that the 19 cases were, again, across the United States.  So there was really nothing that just jumped to our attention that would --

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Okay.

Maj Gen David Quantock:  -- direct us that we've got a major problem here.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Uhm, Gen Grisoli, one of the things -- and I'll get to questions for the auditor after Senator Johnson has a chance to question -- but one of the things I'm worried about is holding people accountable.  And this is maybe a question for both you and Gen Quantock.  I know that two years ago we identified 1,200 recruiters and over 2,000 recruiting assistants.  I know we're looking at a statue of limitations.  I'm really concerned that there are going to be people that there are people that wear a uniform that are going to beat this by virtue of the statute of limitations or they're only going to get "titled," not going to lose benefits, be allowed to retire and go their way.  I mean, these are criminals that have dishonored the uniform that we are all so proud of.  And I'd like you to address that briefly, if you would, what we need to be doing statutorily so that either lengthening the statute of limitations or making sure that if there is some kind of procedure internally that you lose your benefits because I don't want to mess with anybody's benefits if you've served our country honorably but if you've served dishonorably I think you deserve more than the word titled in your file.

Lt Gen William Grisoli:   Madam Chairwoman, we-we have the same concern you have on this particular issue.  And as we prioritize our efforts, we try to prioritize the greater risk of falling into that category where the statute of limitations.  As far as looking at some assistance from Congress?  We're okay now but I think we may have to come back and ask for some assistance.  We'll let you know as we work with you through these problem sets and we address the highest priority first and the ones that are closest to the statutory limits.  We'll work with that and communicate with your staff.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  It's going to break my heart if a lot of people get away with this on behalf of the amazingly brave and courageous people who step across the line.  It's just going to break my heart.  And we've got to figure out a way to hold every single one of them accountable.  If nothing else, just for the benefit of all those, the vast, vast majority that serve so well.

Lt Gen William Grisoli:  I would --

Maj Gen David Quantock: Madam Chairwoman --

Lt Gen William Grisoli:  --  agree.  Go ahead, sir.

Maj Gen David Quantock:  Madam Chairwoman, I would just say that was one of our major points, about prioritizing the cases was based on the age of these case so that we could get after and do exactly that.  The other thing was going through basically over a hundred thousand people that could be held accountable in trying to figure out the high, medium and low risk so we didn't waste our time on the low risk cases and we went after the high and the medium risk and also the biggest dollar cost that was lost. All of those things were sort of our focus so we could really focus in.  That's why today we've got 104 cases adjudicated and 16 individuals already in confinement.  And we, again, continue to go after this very aggressively across the entire [word not audible, the general's accidentally hit the microphone as he waived his hand and the 'thump' was louder than his voice] force.

Has anyone been punished?  I don't believe so but decide for yourself based on this exchange.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Let's talk about leadership and fraud in this instance. There is evidence that one major general committed fraud, 18 full colonels, 11 lieutenant colonels and dozens of other mid-level and junior officers.  I need to know -- and if you can't give me specifically all of those today -- I need to know for the record what has occurred in all of those instances in terms of holding them accountable.  It is particularly egregious when it is our leadership.  And that's why I hope they've gotten priority and I'd love you to speak to that Gen Quantock. 

Maj Gen David Quantock:  Yes, ma'am.  Actually, that was our first priority, was to look at all senior level misconduct up front. So in addition to age, we also looked at senior level conduct.  I'd have to take it for the record to go back and, uh, breakdown all those cases.  But again it was dollar value, it was age of the case and it was, of course, our first priority was senior leader misconduct before we looked at anything else.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  To your knowledge, have any of them gone to prison?

Maj Gen David Quantock:  Uh, no, ma'am, to my knowledge, none of them have gone to prison.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Have any of them lost benefits to your knowledge?

Maj Gen David Quantock:  Uh, no, ma'am, not to my knowledge.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Have any of them been forced to resign from their service?

Maj Gen David Quantock:  Uh . . . [long pause] I'd have to take that one for the record, ma'am.

Chair Claire McCaskill:  Okay. It's very important that we know that.

Maj Gen David Quantock:  Yes, ma'am.  Absolutely. 

Chair Claire McCaskill:  I think we've learned one thing over the last six or seven years of contracting oversight and that is the way you really begin to change a culture that would allow this to happen is to have everyone see that the folks with all the stuff [gestures to shoulders indicating military ribbons and decorations -- the military brass] were held as accountable as a young member of the Guard who figured out he could scam the system and game this to make thousands of dollars he was not entitled to -- or she.

Maj Gen David Quantock:  I will tell you, though, one of the leaders was-was for one case and it was for $7,500  because they brought in a doctor.  In that particular case, the statute of limitations did rise up and the Assistant US Attorney failed to go forward with the case because it wasn't that the statue of limitations had then expired at that point but, by the time it went through the courts, it would have.

Again, doesn't sound like anyone's been punished.  And if, in 2010, you put a priority on investigating officers involved in this?

By 2014, you would have handed out some punishments.

Quit lying.  The whole thing's a joke.  And why are we surprised that some recruiters would steal?

There is a code for the military and it does include forbidding lying.

But the lies of recruiters are tolerated and laughed about within the military.

But now you're surprised that thousands of dollars would be stolen by people?

If you tolerate, if you encourage lying in recruitment, why are you shocked when the same people move on up to theft?

If there's no honor code being followed, why are you surprised that there are no ethics?

McCaskill and others went on and on about the horror of stolen money and it is a horror and I'm not dismissing it on some nonsense grounds of, "It's only thousands!  Do you know how much was spent on the Iraq War!"

I'm not dismissing at all.

It is theft and it should be punished.

But hop off your high horses because Congress never explores what recruiters do and recruiters are never held accountable for misleading and lying.

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  • Tuesday, February 04, 2014

    He gets caught lying again







    Saturday, UNAMI issued the following:

    Baghdad, 1 February 2014 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 733 Iraqis were killed and another 1,229 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in January*.

    The number of civilians killed was 618 (including 178 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1,052 (including 237 civilian police). A further 115 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed and 177 were injured not including casualties from Anbar operations.
    “Iraq continues to face substantial security challenges by armed groups who promote violence and seek to divide people. Political, religious and civil leaders urgently need to show national unity in dealing with violence and in promoting social peace. Security operations need to go hand-in-hand with inclusive policies, based on the respect for human rights, the rule of law, social development”, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG), Mr. Mladenov said. “As fighting continues to affect the people of Anbar, I am deeply alarmed by the humanitarian situation of thousands of displaced families and particularly of those stranded in Fallujah. They lack water, fuel, food, medicine and other basic commodities”, the UN Envoy added.  “It is vital that everything possible is done to ensure that urgent humanitarian aid reaches those affected people”, he said. 
    *Casualty figures for January do NOT include casualties resulting from the ongoing fighting in Anbar, owing to problems in verification and in ascertaining the status of those killed and injured
    Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 882 civilian casualties (297 killed 585 injured), followed by Salahuddine (105 killed 169 injured), Diyala (89 killed 90 injured), Ninewa (81 killed 82 injured), and Kirkuk (21 Killed, 101 injured).
    According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the total of civilian casualties in Anbar up to 27 January was 138 killed and 598 injured, with 79 killed and 287 injured in Ramadi and 59 killed and 311 injured in Fallujah. Media sources as of 31 January quoted health officials from the Anbar health department stating that civilian casualties in Anbar in January 2014 have been 140 killed and 660 injured.

    Saturday, Iraq Body Count also released their total for violent deaths in the month of January: 1076.  The Iraqi ministries offered their count Friday and Press TV covered it, "According to the figures, compiled by the ministries of health, interior and defense and released on Friday, 1,013 people were killed in January, including 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen." Historically, the ministries -- two of which remain headless and controlled by Nouri (Ministry of Defnese and Ministry of Interior) -- have provided an undercount. Friday, Jason Ditz noted's count is 1,840.  Ditz also notes that Iraq's toll is 1,202.

    Friday's snapshot included this from Felicity Aruthnot's  Pravada column on Nouri al-Maliki's assualt on Abnar:.

    However, the US and UK are seemingly remarkably selective when it comes to tyrants who "kill their own people", and not only have failed to censure their tyrannical Iraqi puppet, Nuri al-Maliki, but are arming him to the teeth with the same weapons which are linked to the horrific birth defects, and cancers throughout Iraq, which he is now using on "his own people." Moreover, if allegations from very well informed sources that he holds an Iranian passport are correct, to say that US-UK's despot of choice appears in a whole new political light would be to massively understate.To facilitate Al-Maliki's assault on Iraq's citizens, the US "rushed" seventy five Hellfire missiles to Baghdad in mid-December. On 23rd January Iraq requested a further five hundred Hellfires, costing $82 million - small change compared to the $14 Billion in weapons provided by America since 2005.The AGM-114R Hellfire II, nauseatingly named "Romeo", clocked in at: $94,000 each - in 2012. Such spending on weaponry in a country where electricity, clean water, education and health services have all but collapsed since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
    Last week an "American cargo jet loaded with weapons" including 2,400 rockets to arm Iraqi attack helicopters also arrived in Baghdad.(iii)
    This week a contract was agreed to sell a further twenty four AH-64E attack helicopters to Iraq "along with spare parts and maintenance, in a massive $6.2 Billion deal." With them comes the reinvasion of Iraq, with: "hundreds of Americans" to be shipped out "to oversee the training and fielding of equipment", some are "US government employees", read military, plus a plethora of "contractors", read mercenaries. (iv)
    According to Jane's Defence Weekly, on November 15th 2013 Iraq also took delivery of: " its first shipment of highly advanced Mi-35 attack helicopters as part of a $4.3 Billion arms purchase from Russia", of an order of: "about 40 Mi-35 and 40 Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters." 

    The all to "attack his own people" in the guise of defeating "Al Qaida" in Anbar province and elsewhere where the people have been peacefully protesting a near one man regime of torture, sectarianism, kangaroo courts which sentence victims who have also had confessions extracted under torture.

    My apologies to Felicity Aruthnot because I wrongly credited this to Ramsey Clark and did not realize my error until I read her same column at Dissident Voice Saturday morning  Again, my apologies for my error.

    Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki continues his assault on Anbar Province.  Ramzy Baroud (Arab News) comments:

    As US Secretary of State John Kerry hurried to his helicopter ready to take off at the end of a visit to Iraq last year, it was becoming clearer that the Americans have lost control of a country they wished to mold to their liking. His departure on March 24, 2013 was the conclusion of a “surprise” visit meant to mark the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Ten years prior, the US had stormed Baghdad, unleashing one of the 20th century’s most brutal and longest conflicts. Since then, Iraq has not ceased to bleed.
    Kerry offered nothing of value on that visit, save the same predictable clich├ęs of Iraq’s supposedly successful democracy, as a testament to some imagined triumph of American values. But it was telling that a decade of war was not even enough to assure an ordinary trip for the American diplomat. It was a “surprise” because no amount of coordination between the US Embassy, then consisting of 16,000 staff, and the Iraqi government, could guarantee Kerry’s safety.
    Yet something sinister was brewing in Iraq. Mostly Muslim Sunni tribesmen were fed up with the political paradigm imposed by the Americans almost immediately upon their arrival, which divided the country on sectarian lines. The Sunni areas, in the center and west of the country, paid a terrible price for the US invasion that empowered political elites purported to speak on behalf of the Shiites. The latter, who were mostly predisposed by Iranian interests, began to slowly diversify their allegiance. Initially, they played the game per US rules and served as an iron fist against those who dared resist the occupation. But as years passed, the likes of current Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, found in Iran a more stable ally: Where sect, politics and economic interests seamlessly align. Thus, Iraq was ruled over by a strange, albeit undeclared troika in which the US and Iran had great political leverage where the Shiite-dominated government cleverly attempted to find balance and survive.
    Of course, a country with the size and history of Iraq doesn’t easily descend into sectarian madness on its own. But Shiite and Sunni politicians and intellectuals who refused to adhere to the prevailing intolerant political archetype were long sidelined — killed, imprisoned, deported and simply had no space in today’s Iraq — as national identity was banished by sect, tribe, religion and race.

    Also offering a take on the current events is Saadula Aqrawi (Kurdish Globe):

    Nothing seems to have changed in the new federal democracy of Iraq: the government is ruled by the same ideology, the same minds, the same policies. Personally, I don't think the democratic system is to blame, it's more about the cultures of the Middle East.

    Nothing seems to have changed in the new federal democracy of Iraq: the government is ruled by the same ideology, the same minds, the same policies.
    Personally, I don?t think the democratic system is to blame, it's more about the cultures of the Middle East.
    The Kurds have taken the Iraqi government to task over the political cost of excluding Sunnis, Kurds and other ethnic minorities.
    The Iraqi government's mismanagement of Iraqi politics has contributing to the recent surge in violence.
    The insurgents believe the Iraqi government is too dominated by Iran, and Baghdad's mistreatment of the Sunnis and the Kurds is pushing the former towards extremism.
    The unwise policies currently being pursued by the Iraqi Government are the same that drove Iraq to civil war over the last decade, and there is every reason to fear the same fate may befall Iraq once more. 

    Iraqi novelist and activist Haifa Zangana delivered a presentation before the European Parliament last Thursday.  BRussells Tribunal carries the presentation in full and we'll note the opening here:

    National Iraqi News Agency reported on Fri 24th January that the Iraqi military's mortar shelling the night before left 4 people dead and 32 more injured "including women and children" and Saturday’s military shelling of Falluja left 5 people dead and 14 more injured -- "most of them women and children." Falluja General Hospital was shelled as well.
    Iraqi’s government assault on Anbar continues.  Maliki’s Collective punishment is called “Revenge for the martyr Mohamed” which was preceded by a campaign with the title: “Revenge for martyrs”.
    And the attacks have been indiscriminate leading many civilians to flee.  – The UN refugee agency on Friday reported[1] that more than 65,000 people had over the past week fled the conflict in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in central Iraq's Anbar province. Since fighting broke out at the end of last year, more than 140,000 people have been made homeless by fighting according to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
    This number comes on top of the 1.13 million people already internally displaced in Iraq and who are mostly residing in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa provinces.
    "Many of the displaced, nonetheless, are still in desperate need of food, medical care, and other aid. As the insecurity has spread, many families who fled several weeks ago have been displaced again," according to UN.
    The UN in Iraq has asked the government to facilitate the opening of a humanitarian corridor to reach displaced and stranded families in Anbar province. Currently, it is impossible to reach the area from Baghdad and relief agencies are using roads coming from northern Iraq.
    Why am I talking about this and not about workshops for women’s empowerment and gender equality and political participation?  Because In order to fully address women’s issues and come with helpful policy suggestions we need to address women not as separate from the rest of society, but as a part of it  together with men.
    .. and allow me to read the rest of the report :
    “Other areas of Iraq including Baghdad, Erbil, Kerbala, Salah-al-Din and Ninewa have witnessed the arrival of thousands of displaced people. People are reportedly without money for food and lack suitable clothing for the rainy conditions. Children are not in school and sanitary conditions, particularly for women, are inadequate.”
    The suffering of the displaced is far beyond the sheer loss of a house, it is the loss of neighborhood, community; schools and health service, the feeling of safety associated with familiarities and on the long run the submission to the newly manufactured identity   . The lack of one of these or the combination of all leads to extreme levels of trauma, fear, depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder[2].
    The regression in women’s situation is so devastating that she has reached the bottom of human needs. Just to survive.
    I will focus on violence in the public sphere and how it became so prominent that women have been forced to give up hard earned rights, such as employment, freedom of movement, abolition of polygamy, and the right for education and health service, seeking instead, protection for themselves and their families.

    All Iraq News repors a security source has told them "that the security forces are preparing to storm in Fallujah city."  Ammar Karim and, Salam Faraj (AFP)  add, "A security official told AFP that an assault on the city was imminent, but a journalist in Fallujah said it was largely calm on Monday."

    In reaction to the announcement of an impending all-out assault on Falluja, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports Anbar government officials are calling such an attack "madness" and stating it will only increase the national crisis.  MP Hamid al-Mutlaq denounces the plan as "insane" and declares that it can only lead to more blood spilled and more cracks and fissures in the national unity.  He states you cannot call for peace while screaming war.

    Khaled Qaraghouli (Kitabat) notes the military assault on the cities of Anbar has resulted in indiscriminate bombing and shelling which have in turn led many to flee their homes -- fleeing from the military, which is supposed to provide safety -- and becoming displaced while the public infrastructure in Anbar is being destroyed by the bombings and shellings.

    Friday, a horrific video came out of Anbar and made it to YouTube.  From that day's snapshot:

    On YouTube video has surfaced of Nouri's forces today . . . next to a man being burned alive.  Did they set the Sunni male on fire?  It appears they're not concerned with putting out the fire so it's fair to conclude they started it.   It's the sort of government cruelty that's led Iraqis to protest in the first place.

    That video is impossible to forget.

    Mahdi Jassim (Kitabat) notes the video  today in a column that opens noting how Iraq (which created the zero) is seen as the owners of the written word, that a Moroccan friend points this out to Mahdi Jassim.  And how Jassim wonders what the impact of that video will be on the way people see Iraq, watching soldiers dancing next to corpses being burned?  Mahdi Jassim asks where is God's humanity and how can that soldier be dancing while the corpse is burning?   Jassim writes of wanting to believe it was a lie, wanting to believe it was being seen wrong somehow  Jassim writes that it appears the government is now beyond all laws -- international and humanitarian -- and that shameful crimes, barbaric crimes are being carried out.   Jassim says that as the government continues to fail to rebuke the actions captured on video, it sends a message that these actions are not the plans of a few soldiers but the direction that the government itself has trained the soldiers to carry out.

    It's a very strong column.

    Nothing like it has appeared in the US press but the US press hasn't even noted the video which surfaced Friday -- still hasn't noted the video.

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