Saturday, April 30, 2011

Free press?

"White House, San Francisco Chronicle spar over video" (Abby Phillip, San Francisco Chronicle):

The Obama administration is pushing back against accusations of intimidation in a tussle with the San Francisco Chronicle after a high-dollar fundraiser in the city last week.

The White House is denying that officials threatened to exclude the Chronicle from presidential events in its coverage area after one of its reporters recorded a video of a group of singing protesters, who interrupted President Barack Obama during an event restricted to print reporters. The reporter then posted the video on the newspaper’s website.

“The San Francisco Chronicle violated the coverage rules that they — and every other media outlet — agreed to as part of joining the press pool for that event. If they thought the rules were too restrictive they should have raised that at the beginning,” White House press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “However, no reporters have been banned from covering future presidential events and the White House of course would have no problem including any reporter who follows the rules in pool-only events.”

The above shouldn't happen in the United States. That it did is appalling. That, later on in the article, CNN's Ed Henry wants to whine that they wish the San Francisco pool reporter had first shared the video so they could all post it at the same time is beyond disbelief.

Ground rules?

For the press.

In a so-called democracy?

If you've never gotten how secretive Barack is and how he truly is Worse Than Watergate, get it now.

The White House should issue a public apology to the San Francisco Chronicle and the reporter involved and then issue a public apology to the public.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, April 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, throughout Iraq protesters are surppressed by military forces, the head of the Iraqi Army says they need the US to stay beyond 2011, and more.
Tuesday Chen Zhi (Xinhua) noted, "The Iraqi government is preparing to accept the presence of more than 15,000 U.S. servicemen in Iraq to protect the U.S. interests after the deadline of U.S. troops' pullout by the end of 2011, an Iraqi newspaper reported on Tuesday. [. . .] It also said that thousands of employees working for foreign security firms will stay in the country to protect the U.S. embassy staff, American civil contractors, engineers and investors." Nouri went on to hold a press conference that day declaring that he had made no deal "to keep 10,000 or 5,000 or 1,000 or even 100 US troops in Iraq." In addition, Nouri stated that Iraq's forces could protect the country internally (meaning the military can take on the people of Iraq); however, it was not yet ready to defend itself from external threats and would not be for at least two years -- that especially included the Iraqi air force.
Rudaw interviews Babaker Zebari who is the Chief of Staff of Iraqi Joint Forces. Excerpt:

Rudaw: What does the US say about its army presence in Iraq?

Zebari: If we ask them to keep their army in Iraq, I think they will respond positively because they have fears about the region.

Rudaw: How about yourself?

Zebari: Yes, I am personally worried, too.

Rudaw: This means the US army must stay then?

Zebari: We are soldiers and this is a political decision that must be made by the politicians. We can only give our impression to the politicians and they will decide.

Rudaw: What is your impression?

Zebari: We have conveyed our impression to the politicians which is that the Iraqi army will not be ready to control Iraq until 2020.

These remarks are consistent with remarks Zebari has made since 2007. Last August, BCC News reported, "Gen Zebari told a defence conference in Baghdad that the Iraqi army would not be able to ensure the country's security until 2020 and that the US should keep its troops in Iraq until then." Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reported yesterday that Iraqi observers believe that a narrative will be found to excuse the government extending US forces' stay beyond the end of this year. David Ali (Al Mada) adds that should a withdrawal take place the unresolved Article 140 of the Constitution (calling for a referendum to be held on the status of Kirkuk by 2007) would lead "armed groups" to attempt to game the system.
While some try to have an adult discussion about reality, others resort to fairy tales. Adult child Brian M. Burton (Foreign Policy) grabs the big box of Crayolas and scribbles:
Over the past few weeks, top U.S. officials have started to publicly press the Iraqi government to decide whether it will allow thousands of American troops to stay in the country after the expiration of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) on December 31st. On recent trips to Iraq, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen appeared to signal that the U.S. government desires a continued American military presence past the end of the year. "Time is short for any negotiations to occur," Admiral Mullen warned last week.
In one sense there is less here than meets the eye. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen are probably less concerned with whether Iraq wants the troops or not than with simply getting an answer for practical purposes. Complying with the SOFA's requirement that all American troops leave is a massive logistical undertaking, and it would be much better to know whether a residual force will be needed before the final stages of withdrawal begin in earnest this summer. Any extension of the U.S. military presence if troops were to remain past the 2011 withdrawal deadline requires a request by the Iraqi government. U.S. officials hoped that the Iraqi government would share their own assessment of the lack of readiness of the country's security forces and ask for a continued presence sufficiently far in advance of the deadline to enable an orderly transition. Instead, the Iraqi government has been bogged down in its own internal troubles and has made no official moves toward renegotiating.
But the problem is that, while cajoling Iraq into giving an answer, American leaders send a counterproductive, if unintended, signal that the United States wants a longer-term military presence. To be sure, there is some basis for such a position: a residual American force could continue to train Iraqi forces, provide intelligence and other important support capabilities, and, in northern Iraq, help maintain the peace between the forces of Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish government. Iraq is also incapable of defending its borders and airspace from external threats. Yet however well-intentioned or seemingly obvious these arguments seem in Washington, they are unlikely to sway the Iraqi government because they ignore the domestic imperatives faced by Iraq's political leaders.
He scribbled, "In one sense there is less here than meets the eye. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen are probably less concerned with whether Iraq wants the troops or not than with simply getting an answer for practical purposes." Yeah and next the White House is sending Regis and Meredith over so they can ask, "Is that your final answer?" Guess they raise them mighty stupid at the Center of a New American Security. Forget what Robert Gates has repeatedly testified to Congress, forget what the US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey has stated, forget what the heads of each division of the military -- Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force -- have repeatedly testified to Congress. Forget? More likely: Don't know. Again, they appear to raise them mighty stupid at the CNAS.
If you want the Iraq War to continue, I'm not going to call you "stupid" just for that. I'll disagree with you and disagree with you strongly. But "stupid"? Stupid is reserved for the idiots -- grown adults -- who need fairy tales. Right now the US and Iraq are determining what will happen. No one is served by the child-like and stunted fantasies of Brian Burton. He needs to grow the hell up and someone needs to ask CNAS if they're a think tank or a fairy tale tank? Of course, CNAS tells many fairty tales about counter-insurgency which they claim saves lives but which is and has always been seen historically as war on a native people. Brendan McQuade (CounterPunch) provides an overview:

Today the War on Terror involves American military forces and intelligence operatives in at least 75 countries, not just Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan but the Philippines, Colombia, Yemen, Somalia and "elsewhere in Middle East, Africa and Central Asia." The CIA is now on the ground in Libya and questions about the twenty years General Khalifa Hifter spent in suburban Virginia and a possible CIA ties are rising. Leon Panetta, the CIA director Petraeus is set to succeed, just held five days of secret talks in Turkey regarding the rebellion in Syria. As the United States continues to involve itself in conflicts like these, counterinsurgency becomes increasingly important. In places like Pakistan, Libya and Syria, where an overt military presence is political difficult, the CIA leads. Under Petraeus' command, we can expect the CIA to become even more active in this regard.

As Philip Giraldi, a retired CIA counterterrorism expert, told me when I interviewed him in the summer of 2009: "The military's got a huge tail whenever it goes it has an enormous footprint. The CIA operates in smaller units. They're civilians. They can blend in. They can have predator [drone] bases in places that politically sensitive like inside Pakistan. For example, the other predators are operating out of Africa. They operate in Djibouti. There's a French military base where the CIA people are stationed. The French would not let an American military presence but they would accept an intelligence group under civilian auspices."

Political circumstances have not always favored counterinsurgency. In the Vietnam years, the CIA was the leading proponent of counterinsurgency and the military was quite resistant. It needed the backing of President Johnson to force its agenda on a recalcitrant generation of traditional military officers. After the Tet Offensive, the military embraced counterinsurgency but only for a time. After Vietnam, everyone -- including the CIA -- distanced themselves from counterinsurgency.

When I asked Giraldi who was the leading counterinsurgent today in the CIA, he told me: "Nobody comes to mind. When I was teaching at the CIA school back in the early eighties, the counterinsurgency people -- the Special Operations Group is what it was called at the time -- was down to about forty guys and, you know, no leaders, no renowned figures. It wasn't that kind of thing. It was an adjunct of the Special Activities Division, which I was in, and was sent in do training in various places in Asia and Africa."

CNAS and former journalists like Thomas E. Ricks join the great unwashed of academia in attempting to 'rebrand' counter-insurgency today.
To return to reality we'll note this from Amy Belasco's March 29th Congressional Research Service's [PDF format warning] "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11:"
Funding to train Iraqi forces fluctuated between $3.0 billion and $5.5 billion from FY2004 to FY2008. In 2008, Congress became reluctant to rebuild Iraqi security forces as Iraqi government revenues rose rapidly with the swell in oil prices.
In response to congresional concerns raised in September 2008 House Budget Committee hearing on a GAO report suggesting that there would be an Iraqi budget surplus of from $67 billion to $79 billion in 2008 due to oil prices, members called for "burdensharing" by Iraq in the rebuilding of its security forces.
This push to require Iraq to share the burden of rebuilding its security forces resulted in restrictions prohibiting U.S. funding of security forces as well as other "infrastructure" projects in Iraq, including those to rebuild security forces in the FY2008 Supplemental, as well as various requirements to report the readiness and transfer of responsibility to Iraqi units, and the overall costs to train both Iraqi and Afghan security forces. DOD has not provided estimates of these total costs for either Iraq or Afghanistan.
In FY2008, U.S. funding dropped from $3 billion in FY2008 to $1 billion in FY2009 as Congress halved the ISFF request. In its initial FY2010 request, DOD did not ask for any funds but then modified that to request $1 billion in the FY2010 supplemental for expenses that DOD believed were necessary but the Iraqi government would not cover, an amount Congress approved.
UPI reports Kurdish MP Dilair Hassan would like to see some US troops remain in Iraq. Reports deny that a UN force would remain in Iraq but that may be the case. Meantime, Rohan Gunaratna (Sri Lanka Daily Mirror) notes:
Given the delays in the UN seeking similar mechanisms to bring alleged war crimes by US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan under discussion, is the allegation that the UN exercises double standards fair?
The UN levelling allegations of war crimes against Sri Lanka in a report is not unique. It is a common challenge faced by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian forces in Chechnya and elsewhere in the caucuses, Pakistani forces in FATA and in Swat, Israeli forces in occupied Palestine, and Indian forces in disputed Kashmir and in its northeast. All these theatres have produced civilian suffering, injuries and deaths. As such, instead of singling out Sri Lanka, Colombo should call the UN to launch an investigation into all on-going major conflict zones especially Iraq and Afghanistan where as a proportion more civilians have been killed by US and British forces. Nobel laureate Mohamed Mustafa ElBarade former Director General of the UN body, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), [December 1997 to November 2009] called international criminal investigation of former Bush regime officials for their roles in fomenting the war on Iraq. Over a million civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fighting is still continuing. Nonetheless, human rights have become a political instrument used by Western and other nations to pressurize other countries.

The government of Sri Lanka has many problems of its own to deal with (click here for Amnesty International reports on Sri Lanka), but it obviously intends to note the tragedies and crimes that are the US-led wars. They have more traction than usual with the publication of Mohamed ElBaradei's book and his assertion that there should be a War Crimes probe of the Bush administration. (When ElBaradei, former UN nuclear inspector, calls for the same of Barack's administration, we'll take him seriously and not assume he's just trying to generate publicity for a book that's going to be a hard sell.)

Still on the UN, the Himalayan News Service reports, "The Nepali Army is considering sending its troops to restive Iraq to become a part of the 'stationary force' under the United Nations, a highly placed source said.The UN had asked Nepal to commit around 222 personnel -- including 35 personnel for mobile units -- for deployment in Iraq around four months ago."
In related news, Alsumaria TV reports, "The Sadr Front affirmed on Thursday that in case the Mehdi Army has to resume armed opposition, it will include in addition to its Iraqi members other sects and components and non Iraqis as well to fight against the US military if US forces stay in Iraq beyond their scheduled departure late this year." And yesterday, Alsumaria TV reported on US Maj Gen Bernard Champoux "blamed Mahdi Army for some of the latest assassinations in Baghdad. Iraq should establish good relations with the neighbouring countries that are uninvolved in providing armed groups with weapons and missiles, the US Commander stressed."
Assassinations and other violence continues, Reuters reports a Buhriz home invasion (by assailants wearing Iraqi military garb) in which 3 brothers were killed and a fourth was injured and 1 of the assailants was shot dead, 1 Iraqi military officer was shot dead in Baghad and, dropping back to Thursday for both, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi military doctor (and left two more Iraqi soldiers injured) and a Baquba home invasion in which an Iman, his wife and their daughter were killed. AFP identifies the Iman as Basheer Mutlak. Aswat al-Iraq adds that the daughter was 9-years-old and adds, "A police officer was killed late Thursday by gunmen in al-Shurqat district, a police source said on Friday." Reuters also notes 2 Bahgdad roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left twenty eight injured, a Kirkuk attack in which 1 person was injured and 1 person shot dead in Mosul.

Al Mada reports Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (Shi'ite political body), is calling out the continued inability of the government to function and stating it's harmful to Iraq. Iraq lacks a Minster of the Interior, Defense and one for National Security. Not really sure that bickering is the country's biggest problem.

Surveying the region, Tariq Ali (Guardian) observes:
In January, Arab streets resounded to the slogan that united the masses regardless of class or creed: "Al-Sha'b yurid isquat al-nizam!" – "The people want the downfall of the regime!" The images streaming out from Tunis to Cairo, Saana to Bahrain, are of Arab peoples on their feet once again. On 14 January, as chanting crowds converged on the ministry of interior, Tunisia's President Ben Ali and his family fled to Saudi Arabia. On 11 February the national uprising in Egypt toppled the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak as mass rebellion erupted in Libya and the Yemen.
In occupied Iraq, demonstrators protested against the corruption of the Maliki regime and, more recently, against the presence of US troops and bases. Jordan was shaken by nationwide strikes and tribal rebellion. Protests in Bahrain spiralled into calls for the overthrow of the monarchy, an event that scared the neighbouring Saudi kleptocrats and their western patrons, who can't conceive of an Arabia without sultans. Even as I write, the corrupt and brutal Ba'athist outfit in Syria, under siege by its own people, is struggling for its life.
The dual determinants of the uprisings were both economic – with mass unemployment, rising prices, scarcity of essential commodities – and political: cronyism, corruption, repression, torture. Egypt and Saudi Arabia were the crucial pillars of US strategy in the region, as confirmed recently by US vice-president Jo Biden, who stated that he was more concerned about Egypt than Libya. The worry here is Israel; the fear that an out-of-control democratic government might renege on the peace treaty. And Washington has, for the time being, succeeded in rerouting the political process into a carefully orchestrated change, led by Mubarak's defence minister and chief of staff, the latter being particularly close to the Americans.
In his column, Tariq wonders who will reshape the MidEast? In Iraq, at least, it may very well be US-backed and supported thugs. It's Friday, the day of protest and yet it's been transformed to the day of oppression. Namo Abdulla (Reuters) shows up in the KRG at Sulaimaniya, site of "the largest and most sustained of rallies across of Iraq" only to find that "heavily armed troops" have put down the legal demonstrations: "This week, Sulaimaniya's Liberation Square, where protesters had camped out for weeks chanting 'freedom, freedom, freedom,' was a military zone watched over by hundreds of armed forces. The ruling parties have said the demise of the protests represented a success over 'trouble-makers' staging 'politically motivated' demonstrations."
And don't expect to hear a peep out of the US government over the latest assault on freedom of speech and the right to assembly. "Democracy" is just a word tossed around when you're caught on camera.
Ramadi was hard to catch on camera today with the imposed media embargo. Don't look for the White House to call Nouri out for that either. And don't look for the US to convincingly play dumb on this one, US reconnaissance planes flew over the demonstration repeatedly. Iraqi Revolution reports that a cleric speaking to the assembled declared, "We demand the withdrawal of the US occupation forces and the release of the detianees." And the cleric vowed they would "sit continuasly until we acheve all the demands." And Mosul?
The Iraqi Revolution reports, "Clerics of the mosques within the city of Mosul Iatbon on Arabic channels, which have bcome accessible to the West and the non-coverage permanently to the sit-ins in Iraq depiste the demonstrations in Iraq. Demonstrators in all the provinces of Iraq have been subjected to repression by the government forces." Wire, so frequently used to keep protesters away from demonstrations in Baghdad, has made its appeareance in Mousl as security forces attempting to keep protesters from the site of protest. Mosul saw reports of gun fire. And the media emargo will continue.
Call it the coalition of the baffled -- a diverse group of prominent public figures who challenge the U.S. government's logic of keeping on its terrorist blacklist an Iranian exile organization that publicly renounced violence a decade ago and has fed details on Iran's nuclear programme to American intelligence.
On the U.S. Department of State's list of 47 foreign terrorist organizations, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq is the only group that has been taken off similar lists by the European Union and Britain, after court decisions that found no evidence of terrorist activity in recent years. In the U.S., a court last July ordered the State Department to review the designation. Nine months later, that review is still in progress and supporters of the MEK wonder why it is taking so long.
Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California.
Toby Vogel (European Voice) reports, "The Iraqi government has denied a group of MEPs access to Camp Ashraft, where Iraqi security forces killed scored of Iranian opposition supporters earlier this month." Camelia Entekhabifard (Alarabia) observes, "Thousands of MEK members, most of them middle-aged, were residing in the Ashraf camp when it was taken over by the Americans in 2003. Iran wondered what their fate might be. Eight years later, still nothing has happened to them. Iran won't have them back and they're struggling to stay in Iraq. Who's going to offer a safe haven to 3,500 MEK members, all on the US terrorist list?" And in other Iraq-Iran news, Alsumaria TV adds, "On Thursday, a Shiite cleric called the Iraqi government to file a lawsuit against MP Haidar Al Mulla for offending Imam Khomeini. Insulting Imam Khomeini is an offense against the entire Shiites, he said and warned that 'Shiite resistance' will take strict measures against Al Mulla.
'When two people are fighting they cannot both be wrong. One should be right and the other mistaken,' said Watheq Al Batat Spokesman of the Shiite Authority in Najaf, Mohammad Ali Al Alawi Al Jarajani.'"No comparison can be made between Imam Khomeini and Saddam', he added."
A US commander is leaving Iraq. Matthew Hansen (Omaha World-Herald) reports Nebraska National Guard's Col Philip Stemple has been dismissed of his command according to the US Army and "Stemple's dismissal comes just six weeks before the brigade is expected to return home. Army spokesperson Col Barry Johnson states "there was an environment in the command not conducive to the standards and expectations of leadership."

Commemorating 6,000 servicemembers killed in Iraq & Afghanistan

Today we mark a tragic milestone: 6,000 U.S. service members have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We mourn for these lost lives, as well as those who've taken their own lives as a result of their experiences. We extend our deepest condolences to all Gold Star families, and honor those who have chosen to speak out and channel their grief into ensuring that no other family goes through what they have gone through.
What you can do:
  • Volunteer to send condolence cards to Gold Star families who are MFSO members. To volunteer, write to
  • Let other families know about the resource page we provide to help families cope.
rohan gunaratna
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alsumaria tv
al mada

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

She really is Gross

There is nothing "fresh" about stale Terry Gross. I had the misfortune of hearing Gross today because I was at the dentist for the yearly check up. I am so lucky not to listen to that awful woman. I think she would drive me crazy.

Today she had on Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker to talk about his new article. She and Lizza both misunderstood the damage of "leads from behind" -- a concept about Barack's so-called leadership that is in Lizza's latest article.

As bad as it was to realize how dense they were, it was equally appalling to hear Lizza and Gross try to spin it for Barack insisting that it was actually a good move and allowed him to do the war with Libya in a "stealth" manner.


That's what we're applauding? It took him 9 days to deliver any kind of a real explanation on the Libyan War. 9 days after he started the war.

That's "stealth" to be praised?

In what world?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Mosul, Nouri preps for a takeover if his 100 days results in failure, Howard Dean calls Nouri a cold-blooded killer, Tim Arango has a snit fit in front of the entire world, and much more.
O our people everywhere in the pure land of Iraq ...

What was expected happened and the occupation supported, corrupt government bared its teeth when the forces in Nineveh province, raided AlAhrar Square last night, controllled and closed all entrances all under the supervision and orders of war criminal Naser Ghannam, commander of the government second battalion, and then have these forces led by the offender Colonel Ismail al Joubouri randomly opened fire on the crowd which resulted in a large number of martyrs and wounded, including the brothers stationed from the popular movement to save Iraq:

1 - Brother Khalid al-Khafaji, Fri 2 - Brother Rakan Abdullah al-Obeidi 3 - Brother Ghanim Abid 4 - Brother Haitham Jubouri 5 - Brother Mohammad AlKadhy, and we shall relsease a detailed list of names in a later statement.

This cowardly criminal act which flows directly in the interest of the American occupation and survival, is only appropriate to the authority of the war criminal Nuri al-Maliki, who will bear legal and moral responsibility in full for every drop of blood shed being Minister of Interior and Minister of Defense.

While we promise the children our brothers to continue to demonstrate and picket, we declare after depending on God the case of civil disobedience in Medeenat Elremah until the criminals are tried in court in the city of Mosul, on top of this list of war criminals is Nasser Al-Ghannam and Colonel offender Ismail Jubouri, which we call upon the renowned Jabour tribe , to disown him like the people of Heet disowned the rootless Nasser Al-Ghannam, which has become a wanted criminal not only for the people of Mosul, but for all the Iraqi people, and we call on this occasion on our people to exercise restraint and to work closely and avoid giving them the opportunity to lure us into violence and confrontation and the need to maintain a peaceful and civil protest and without prejudice to public and private property.

((And no victory except from Allah, the Mighty Holy))

Popular movement for the salvation of of Iraq

Oday Al Zaidi

NCRI notes Monday's assault on the people of Mosul, "On April 25th, al-Maliki's forces opened fire on protesters in Mosul and killed and injured dozens of people. Al-Baghdadia TV quoted witnesses and announced: The forces of the 2nd Division that had entered Mosul two days ago, started indiscriminate arrest of a large number of demonstrators. The protesters, picketing at Mosul's Ahrar square (Freedom square), are asking the leaders of the southern and central tribes to intervene, join them, and support them." An e-mail from Iraq Veterans Against the War notes that Mosul has "become the epicenter of the continuing protests" and, "Last week, Iraqi Facebook pages administered directly by protest organizers reported that government security forces encircled their camp, surveiled and taunted them, and called on them to end their sit-in. Protesters also reported that a low-flying American military helicopter swept towards the demonstrators, in what was interpreted as an attempt to intimidate them. Their response, captured in the video below, was to throw shoes. Demonstrations have been joined by dozens of women, who are calling for the end of the U.S. occupation and the release of their sons and brothers who are held in both Iraqi and US prisons throughout Iraq. This week tribal chieftains from nearby Anbar province joined the Mosul prostests as well." Today the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "A member of Ghannam's henchmen has now announced live on air that he and 16 other members of Ghannam's force are resigning because they cannot accept his comands to detain women demonstrators as well as shoot at demonstrators. He also stated that there are Iranian officers in Ghannam's force in the 2nd Regiment."
Let's move over a second to one of Iraq's neighbors, Syria. Eleanor Hall (The World Today with Eleanor Hall, Australia's ABC -- link has text and audio) summarizes the current events as follows, "Now to Syria where anti-government protesters say that government security forces shot dead at least six more people in Deraa overnight in a new round of clashes. Human rights groups say that up to 400 people have now died since the protests began in mid-March. The United Nations Security Council held emergency talks on the issue and the secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, led Western nations in expressing alarm at the deadly Syrian government crackdown." AFP adds, "UN chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed 'increasingly grave concern' at the bloody crackdown on protesters in Syria, especially at the use of tanks and live ammunition by security forces" and quotes Ban Ki-Moon stating, "Syrian authorities have an obligation to protect."
And what about the obligations of Iraqi authorities? Where's the "increasingly grave concern" for the Iraqi protesters? When even the governor of Ninevah Province is calling out the Iraqi military's attacks on the people of Mosul, where's the concern from the United Nations? Human rights groups -- Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Women's Freedom in Iraq -- have decried the targeting of protesters (and the targeting of Iraqi journalists). Where's the concern for what's happening to Iraqis from the UN -- or, for that matter, from the US government?
I'll get a pen and make a list
And give you my analysis
But I can't write this story
With a happy ending.
Was I the bullet or the gun
Or just a target drawn upon
A wall that you decided
Wasn't worth defending?
-- "I Can't Help You Anymore" written by Aimee Mann, first appears on her album The Forgotten Arm
On Mosul, War News Radio posts video from Link TV's Moasic which is from Al Jazeera:
Al Jazeera: In Iraq, security forces opened fire on protesters in Mosul city's Ahrar Square. In light of the events, the Ninevah Provincial Council suspended its official duties in the province for one day, in protest of the security forces attack on Mosul demonstrators. In this video, people rising up are trying to reach Mosul's Ahrar Square. Security forces prevented them from doing so in an open fire on them with live bullets. There is no doubt that this video will be followed by others. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was unexpectedly confronted on three different levels. These days it comes from al Mosul. These are stressful days for every ruler that finds himself surrounded by angry protesters calling for his downfall unless he meets a list of demands. Their first no is a firm rejection of the Ninevah Provincial Council's nomination of a new police commander in the province who protesters accuse of killing hundreds of Iraqis. The second no comes as a rejection to Nouri al-Maliki's invitation for delegation of Mosul residents to meet with him. What is the purpose of such a meeting when their demands are as clear as the sun at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The government of Baghdad is politically marginalizing Mosul and imposing its security mechanism on the city -- security forces arrest whomever they want and impose arbitrary rules on the people's movements to impede traffic and daily life. And this rejection is based on the marytyrs.
Speaker at protest: Brothers in your name and in the name of all honorable people, we reject this offer! We reject this offer! We say to al-Maliki -- we say to al-Maliki that those who want to talk to us can come to us They can meet with us here in the Square.
Al Jazeera: Then came an official rejection -- in addition to that of the masses -- to the curfew and teh ban on demonstrations because as soon as the curfew is imposed, the people take to the streets en mass. Their actions are reciprocated as if the issue is some sort of struggle to break the people's will and see who will last longer. An additional facet was added to the issue when security forces fired live bullets at protesters. The Constitution of the country allows the people of the country to stage sit-ins and protests but then the land seems to be devoid of a Constitution. Powerism imposed on the people telling them either you stay home or live bullets from above and probably to your heads is what you can expect. In reality a number of Mosul residents were hit after security forces forcibly dispersed protests; however, this has been tried and proven: As soon as people hear the sounds of bullets, feelings of nationalism and revenge are born inside of them. 'Why are they killing us and depriving us of our rights?' So the ruler applies in the end, 'How I wish hadn't killed and how I wish I had met their demands on the very first day.'
Still on the protests but moving over to the KRG, Christian Peacemaker Teams have been on the ground in the KRG reporting on the violence. CPT publishes this piece by Annika Spalde today:
On Monday 11 April, the four of us from the CPT short-term delegation accompanied the CPT Iraq team to the central square in Suleimaniya to meet the demonstrators and the people organizing the demonstrations.
As soon as we entered the square, we were surrounded by twenty-thirty men of different ages. One of them started asking CPTer Michele Naar Obed, "Have CPT done the report that you were talking about? What are you doing to tell the world about what's happening here?"
I started talking with a young man standing next to me. He had been a student at the university, but was now unemployed. "Our leaders are worse than Saddam," he said, with a tired voice. "They have learnt from Saddam. There are no human rights for us here." In his opinion, many of those who come to the square each day are unemployed. "It is very difficult to get a job if you don't have a connection to one of the parties, PUK or KDP. And if you don't have a job, you have no money. You can't even afford to buy a cup of tea."
Michele told one of the men questioning her that Amnesty International would publish a report on the repression against protesters in Iraq and Kurdistan the following day. He said they would mention this from the stage as an encouragement to the people that the information is getting out.
After a half hour we met with two organizers of the protests in a café. One was a journalist, the other works for an international non-governmental organization. They told us how, in mid-February, the demonstrations started in a very spontaneous way, with inspiration from the people's nonviolent fight for democracy and human rights in Tunisia and Egypt. After just a few days of demonstrations, representatives from different sectors of society created a committee to coordinate activities and to think strategically. One decision they took early on was to always follow the principles of nonviolence. Another was to have an "open mike" at the square, where anyone could share his or her opinions and experiences.
The demonstrations at the square in Suleimaniya have become a daily event for almost two months. Demands to the government that it prosecute persons responsible for the killing of unarmed protesters, have not been met. There is no dialogue between the demonstrators and the authorities. The ad hoc committee organizing the demonstrations is thinking about its next step. They have written and published a "Roadmap for a peaceful transition of power in Southern Kurdistan," where they would call for the resignation of the president, among other things.
We're going to be pulling from the Amnesty report mentioned above. But first, Tim Arango (New York Times) reports:

When he returned to his native Kurdistan in February to join the flickering of a protest movement, Dr. Pishtewan Abdellah, a hematologist who lives in Australia but also carries an Iraqi passport, suspected that the demonstrators might face harsh treatment from the Kurdish authorities. At several protests during the last two months security forces have opened fire, and an estimated 10 people have been killed and dozens wounded, according to human rights activists.
What Dr. Abdellah did not anticipate, though, was a barrage of one of this country's more peculiar menaces: death threats by text message.
Death threats by text message. Hmm. I want to text you, I do what? April 12th, Amnesty International issued the report [PDF format warning] "DAYS OF RAGE: PROTESTS AND REPRESSION IN IRAQ" and pulling from the section on the KRG:
At around 2.30pm as I had just finished a phone conversation with a friend, three men confronted me and asked me to give them the mobile. Other men arrived within seconds, including from behind, and then I received several punches on the head and different parts of the body. I fell to the ground, they kicked me for several minutes, but I managed to stand up. They put one handcuff on my right wrist and attached it to someone else's left wrist. But I managed with force to pull my arm away and the handcuff was broken. I ran away towards the Citadel but within seconds another group of security men in civilian clothes blocked my way and they started punching me and hitting me. There were now many security men surrounding me and kicking me. There was blood streaming from my nose and from left eye. My head was very painful.
They put me in a car . . . One security man told me I was one of the troublemakers. I was taken to the Asayish Gishti in Erbil. I was first asked to go to the bathroom to wash my face wash my face which was covered in blood. I was then interrogated in the evening and the person interrogating me kept asking about why I was in the park and kept accusing me of being a troublemaker. I was asked to sign a written testimony. When I said I needed to see what is on the paper he hit me hard. Then I signed the paper without reading it. I stayed there for two nights sharing a room with around 60 people. Then on the third day I was taken to a police station where I stayed for one night before I was released. I was not tortured in the Asayish Prison or in the police station."
As noted earlier this month, "There are many more in the KRG who share stories and one of the most disturbing aspects -- something that sets it apart from the arrests/kidnappings of activists elsewhere in Iraq -- is how and when the forces appear. The report doesn't make this point, I am. Forces in the KRG show up as people are on the phone or have just finished a call. It would appear that beyond the physical abuse and intimidation, they're also violating privacy and monitoring phone calls." Tim Arango's article today makes that even more clear. How do you call someone to threaten them over the phone or to text them over the phone? You start by knowing their phone number. How do you get that information if you don't personally know the person? How do you end up with their cell phone number? Privacy is not being respected within the KRG and the big question is are telecoms cooperating with the government to spy on residents and, if so, when did this spying begin?
We're still on the protests -- specifically teh coverage of them. Dan Hind is a British writer who posts at The Return of the Republic. He wrote about the protests in Iraq. He questioned Tim Arango's coverage. A friend at the New York Times was pleased (proud) of Tim's response and thought I'd like to include it. Friends know I'm not just going to write what they want and there's nothing to be proud of here. Dan Hind weighed in on coverage of the protests here. Excerpt:
The reader might reasonably wonder what these other issues were, but the article, at least in its British incarnation, was remarkably unforthcoming. Arango tells us later that 'inspired by uprisings by Arabs elsewhere, Iraqis held their own protests in Tahrir Square' in late February. The authorities attacked the protesters and the protests did not 'blossom nationally'. But apparently the government did decide to 'dial back the crackdown on night-life'.
But why were the protesters taking to the streets in Iraq? The New York Times doesn't give us much of a clue. But the Guardian, the Observer's sister paper in London, published a piece by Sami Ramadani that sheds light on their grievances. Ramadani quoted some of the slogans:
Dan Hind was very kind. There's no point in being kind. Reporters -- ask any editor -- can't take criticism, they're married to every damn word and convinced that they've done something amazing when most haven't even risen to "adequate." Tim's one of those who likes to whine in e-mails. Instead he left a comment. He opens saying he's responding "with great relish" -- thereby explaining the breath. He snaps that if Hind had "read the original article" -- there's no reason for him to, Tim. Your paper chose to syndicate the article. Dan read it in the Observer. If your larger points are missing (or, more likely, you think they are) you take it up with people at your paper who syndicated the article, don't blame British readers of the Observer. Tim could have noted -- but fails to -- that he wrote the piece for the Week In Review sectio nof the paper and therefore it is an opinion piece and not actual reporting. That's no reflection on Dan Hind's commentary but it would explain the point of view in the piece. Instead he wants to note that if Dan had "perused The New York Times' coverage of the ongoing protests in Iraq you would have discovered that your points of criticism do not hold up to scrutiny." First, Tim, familiarize yourself with your paper's style manual. You should get the point very quickly. Secondly, it's not on the reader. No reader of an article has to "familiarize" themselves with past coverage.
If I don't convey something in the snapshot -- and frequently I don't, these are dictated and dictated quickly, any edits are done in my head with 'take out paragraph three and move the section on Camp Ashraf up above the Parliament section' -- that's on me. If you don't, that's on you. You wrote a piece for your paper's opinion section on Sunday -- biggest day of the week for the paper in terms of circulation so you had the potential to reach a large section of readers you've never reached before. Your article, as Dan Hind pointed out, did not offer clarity on the protest motivations. It should have. Instead of carping and trying to bicker, you should file that away for when you next write for The Week In Review.
Tim Arango then writes, "You then continue with a more general critique of The Times' coverage of the protests in Iraq, a gripe that you surely wouldn't be able to make had you taken the time to read our numerous articles over the last several months about the grievances of Iraqis. It is astonishing that you would take the liberty to make the following statement, without seemingly reviewing our coverage: '… for The New York Times to be so vague about the grievances of the Iraqi people in a country that is, after all, still occupied by 50,000 American troops seems to me to be extraordinary'." Take the liberty? Again, no one's required to read every article the paper's published to weigh in on one of your pieces. If you'd practiced clarity in your Week In Review piece, no one would have been confused.
Of course, they wouldn't have been informed either. Because the Times has done a lousy job of covering the protests. That includes the fact that the Washington Post has owned the government's reaction to the protests because the Times has ignored journalists being pulled out of cafes, beaten in Baghdad by security forces.
You pretend to know, Tim Arango, how the protests started in Iraq -- well they re-started. They were enough last year to force the Minister of the Electricy out. But you weren't covering Iraq then and are apparently unfamiliar with that aspect of the protests. To prove the paper's been on the ball and show that the paper covered the issues, you provide a list of links. But, thing is, Tim, those links don't go back far enough this year alone.
What started the protests? The paper's never been huge on crediting others but Iraqi protests this year kicked off in February and kicked off outside of Baghdad. As January wound down, Ned Parker. reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the while Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq -- such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call out the use of secret prisons while Nouri continued to deny them.
But while many in the press would play dumb, the Iraqi people knew better. They knew their loved ones were gone, disappeared into Iraq's legal system. That is what began the protests in Iraq: the prisons. It's what fueled them throughout. From the Feb. 10th snapshot:
Alsumaria TV reports protests took place in Babel Province today with one protest calling for the release of prisoners and another calling out the continued lack of public services. Dar Addustour reports the the Council of the Bar Association issued a call for a Baghdad demonstration calling for corruption to be prosecuted, for the Constitution to be followed and sufficient electricity in all the schools. Nafia Abdul-Jabbar (AFP) reports that approximately 500 people (mainly attorneys "but also including some tribal sheikhs") marched and that they also decried the secret prisons. They carried banners which read "Lawyers call for the government to abide by the law and provide jobs for the people" and "The government must provide jobs and fight the corrupt." Bushra Juhi (AP) counts 3,000 demonstrating and calls it "one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in Iraq" this year. Juhi also notes that attorneys staged smaller protests in Mosul and Basra today. Al Rafidayn reports that five provinces saw protests yesterday as the people demanded reliable public services and an end to government corruption. Noting the Babylon Province protest, the paper quotes Amer Jabk (Federation of Industrialists in Babylon president) stating that the provincial government has not provided any of the services the province needs, that basic services have deteriorated and that heavy rains have not only seen streets closed but entire neighborhoods sinking. Hayder Najm (niqash) observes protests have taken place across Iraq, "The protesters' grievances have been many and varied: the quality and level of basic services, government restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of expression, violations against civil servants, and the rampant financial and administrative corruption within state institutions. [. . .] Eight years after the US invasion of Iraq, the electricity supply in most areas of the country still does not exceed two hours a day, and the country still suffers from poor infrastructure, a weak transport network, and an acute crisis of drinking water and sanitation."

The February 10th snapshot. But Tim Arango can only go back to Feb. 15th because that's when the paper finally, kind of sort of (Jack Healy's article is an embarrassment of non-knowledge) acknowledges the protests.
Again, I didn't seek out the above topic. A friend with the paper thought Tim Arango had done an amazing job responding to a critique. I said I'd review it and then note it in some way but warned I might disagree. And I do. Tim Arango wrote an article (an opinion piece) that his paper chose to syndicate around the world. A reader in England, reading the syndicated version, was left confused. Instead of owning that and addressing it, Arango wants to stomp his feet and insist it is the reader's job to go back and read eight other articles. No, that's not how it works. And Arango's stomping of the feet? Off putting here in the US. But overseas, probably a little worse than that? If I made the call at the Observer, Tim Arango would not be featured again since he's unable to take criticism from Observer readers and wants to insist that it is their job not just to read what the Observer prints but all these articles from another paper. It's a point I'll be making to two friends at the Observer on the phone tomorrow morning.
Ben Birnbaum (Washington Times) reports former head of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean is speaking out on behalf of the MEK and said yesterday of Nouri al-Maliki, "The truth is the prime minister of Iraq is a mass murderer." What's Howard Dean referring to? Camp Ashraf. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California. Dean explains to Birnbaum how he learned of the MEK, "I got asked by my agent to go over to Paris to speak to a group I knew nothing about. I spent a lot of time on the Internet learning about them. Brinbaum notes, "Mr. Dean cited a long list of former U.S. officials who had become vocal supporters of the Mojahedin, maing Jim Jones, a former director of the National Security Council and Louise Freeh, a former FBI director."

The US government failed to live up to its legal obligations. It's an issue in England -- even letters to the editor decry the US, like Martyn Storey's letter to the Guardian which includes, "Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has issued a strongly worded statement deploring the loss of life and emphasising the need to make medical assistance available. There is no sign, however, of the US administration rushing to fulfil its obligations. We are waiting for President Obama's strong condemnation of the atrocities committed by Iraqi troops at Ashraf. " For all the attention it receives in England, it's largely ignored in the US. The Tehran Times notes, "The Iranian ambassador to Baghdad has predicted that the members of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) would leave Iraq by the end of the current Iranian calendar year, which started on March 21. The Iraqi government has issued a declaration and the Iraqi cabinet has approved a ratification, both of which require that the MKO members leave Iraq, Ambassador Hassan Danaiifar told the Mehr News Agency in an interview published on its website on Tuesday." This week at the Huffington Post, former resident of Camp Ashraf Hajar Mojtahedzadeh contributed a column:

On Thursday, April 8th, I received a phone call a little before midnight D.C. time. The voice on the other end franticly told me to turn on the Iranian satellite channel, Iran NTV, adding that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces had stormed Camp Ashraf just hours before. As my friend on the phone continued speaking, all I could think about was my brother Hanif and our mutual friend Elham. Hanif and Elham Zanjani, both 29, are residents of Camp Ashraf located in the Diyala province, north of Baghdad in Iraq. The camp is home to 3,400 unarmed Iranian refugees, members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the primary opposition group to the tyrannical mullahs in Iran. Surely acting at the behest of Tehran, the Iraqi Prime Minister ordered the deadly assault.
As I watched the scenes of carnage unfold that day, I recognized the familiar face of my dear Elham. Her body, badly injured by a hand grenade thrown by Iraqi forces, was lying on a medic stretcher. Overwhelmed with a sense of anger and disbelief, I realized that my loved ones were paying the price of their legal protector's broken promises, with their blood.

In England, Natalie O'Neill (Times) reports, "A MOTHER has protested almost every day for 25 years in aid of Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf, where her daughter lives. Despite finding it difficult to walk, 75-year-old Fatemeh Mohammad has rallied alongside hundreds of fellow Anglo-Iranians outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and US Embassy in Westminster calling for the protection of exiles in Camp Ashraf, Iraq." A British MP, Alex Carlile of the House of Lords, weighs in on the assault on Camp Ashraf at the Independent of London:
Such international condemnation as there has been of the deadly attack this month carried out by Iraqi forces against a camp housing members of the Iranian opposition leaves two pertinent questions unanswered. First, is the attack a crime against humanity under the principles of international law; and, secondly, have the US authorities turned a deliberate blind eye to a massacre on their watch in Iraq as part of a deal with the Iraqi authorities, or as part of a policy of appeasement?
Undoubtedly, the answer to the first question is yes. Video footage of the incident shows Iraqi forces running over unarmed residents with armoured vehicles and Humvees. Further as stated by the Bar Human Rights Committee: "the Camp residents, all of whom are recognised as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, were shot at indiscriminately". The United Nations confirmed that at least 26 men and 8 women were killed, while 178 suffered gunshots out of some 300 injured.
The actions of the Iraqi authorities and specifically Nouri Al-Maliki is an international criminal justice offence which demands that the UN, US and EU condemn the attack and define it appropriately as a crime against humanity. Firing at the unarmed residents with live machine gun rounds in these circumstances was clearly a government sanctioned act of war perpetrated against a civilian population and specifically a civilian population which has repeatedly been recognised as protected under the Convention.

Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki threatened on Tuesday to ask for the dissolution of the government in case it fails to accomplish the country's projects beyond the 100 day deadline. The deadline involves Iraq's Parliament also, Maliki said." If that happens, Nouri says, he may call for early elections. Yeah, that's what Iraq needs, another round of elections. Those 2010 elections were resolved so quickly. Not noted in the report, it's already been floated by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nufaifi that if the 100 days passes without marked improvement, it may be necessary to register a vote of no confidence. That would topple Nouri's government. It is fear of that which has prompted Nouri to begin speaking of the need for a "majority government." Al Rafidayn reports Nouri was again speaking of that yesterday saying it would allow 99% consensus -- that would be 99% consensus on plans that currently his own hand-picked Cabinet can't or won't agree to. The puppet wants some puppets of his own to play with.

Al Mada reports on Nouri's press conference in Baghdad yesterday where he declared that Iraq could not defend its external borders or the country from an invasion if one should take place. Moqtada al-Sadr's spokesperson Salah al-Obeidi is quoted insisting that if US forces remain on the ground in Iraq past December 31, 2011, the Mehdi milita/mob will be in the streets of Iraq again. Al Rafidayn also reports on the press conference noting something others are skipping, Nouri says that afer he returns from his trip to Korea, he will invite members of Parliament to share their own views. The wording could be seen as Norui refusing to see the Palriament as a body that makes the decision -- that's a position in keeping with his previous stance. Meanwhile Dar Addustour notes that MP Haidar al-Mula and 75 others are calling for Nouri to appear before the Parliament and take questions in his role as commander-in-chief of the military.

Al Sabaah reports
that the Cabinet has put an end to employees of "the three presidencies" (Iraq's president and two vice presidents) grabbing up residential land plots. Dar Addustour calls it a "private ownership scheme" It sounds very good but before you buy it hook-line-and-sinker, note that the source is Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh.
We've noted Firas Ali several times in the snapshots, most recently Monday:
In the text version of the report, Muir notes that Firas Ali campaigned for Ala Nabil's release while he was imprisoned for eight days and that the response was for "armed security operatives" to seize Firas Ali from an NGO office and that Ala Nabil is attempting to get Firas released.
In Defense of Marxism notes, "After almost two weeks of detention, Firas Ali was released from Muthanna Airport prison on the evening of Monday, 25 April. We would like to express special thanks to all those who in the campaign to free Firas Ali the youth leader of Rahrir Square in Baghdad Iraq."
Turning to violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad shooting that left the a Ministry of Defence official injured, a Hamman al-Alil roadside bombing which claimed 1 life, a Baghdad market bombing which injured five people, a Baghdad bombing which injured two people, a Baghdad bombing which injured four people and a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting Shafqi Mahdi ("general director of Iraq's theatre and cinema department").
On violence in Iraq, Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered -- link is audio and text) filed a report yesterday that's rather confusing. John Drake of AKE Group is on speaking. He does not say in the report what Michele Norris apparently wanted so Norris puts in his mouth? Maybe she just misunderstood him or McEvers' report? I have no idea but McEvers interviewed him, recorded the conversation and the pitch of the report Norris did on air is not him actually being quoted. That's a problem right there. It's a bigger problem for those of us who receive AKE Group's reports because it's hard to believe that the John Drake who writes those reports would have said the words NPR puts into his mouth. Kelly McEvers has an interesting report. But violence has been on the rise since February 2010. Steady rise. And the latest report from AKE opens with, "Levels of voilence rose in Iraq over the past week." Those of us who are paying for AKE's reports like to believe we're not wasting money.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guantanamo, game changer

"Guantanamo documents reveal US brutality and lawlessness" (Patrick Martin, WSWS):

A new trove of documents released Sunday night by WikiLeaks profiles more than 700 prisoners who passed through the Guantanamo Bay detention camp between 2002 and 2009. The documents demonstrate that, even in the eyes of the US military/intelligence apparatus, there was no evidence connecting the vast majority of the prisoners to any form of terrorism, let alone terrorist threats against the United States and US citizens.

The documents consist largely of Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs), short summaries of the alleged evidence against individual detainees, as well as accounts of their physical and mental health, how they came into US custody, their value as intelligence sources and their eventual disposition, if any. Along with the DABs on 704 prisoners—out of 779 men believed to have been imprisoned at Guantanamo for any length of time—there are documents providing guidelines for interrogators and other procedures at the US-run prison camp in Cuba.

The documents require careful review, but certain preliminary conclusions can be drawn immediately from the digests which have appeared in a dozen newspapers and magazines, some of which are collaborating with WikiLeaks and others which are openly hostile to the whistle-blower web site. There is also a useful summary posted on WikiLeaks itself (

Patrick Martin draws a conclusion similar to the one I did. What I disagree with are the other people who are running around with, "Did you hear!!!! We have a bomber in NYC!!!" Or whatever. They're treating 'confessions' as real. Even knowing these were torture confessions. Confessions where a person was put in pain, at which point, especially if you're scared, you'll say whatever you think your interrogators want to hear.

So I am really disappointed with some people on the left who should know better using 'evidence' from torture to argue their points.

"TV: Exploding a stereotype" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Many years ago, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show ("My Brother's Keeper"), Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) was distraught because her brother Ben (Robert Moore) was hitting it off with her nemesis Rhoda (Valerie Harper) only to bathed in relief when Rhoda informs her there's no romance and Ben is gay. Max is another breakthrough.

And he's sexy as hell which presents the only dilemma: Is it good that Adam Pally's playing the part?

He's great in the part. He was sexy in the first episode aired Wednesday night with hair out of Doogie Howser and bad clothes (the second episode featured a much needed hair cut and a new manner of dressing for Max). He's funny. He's truly gifted in this role. (He's been funny in his previous work. He's never been on fire like he is in this part.)

So what's the issue?

He's straight in real life. (He's married, in fact.) Max is such a huge breakthrough that, yes, the sexuality of the actor does matter and a gay friend who makes documentaries forwarded us a list-serv where he and others explore whether Max would have been more revolutionary played by a gay actor or whether the fact that Pally is straight will allow Max to permeate pop-culture more than would likely happen if a gay actor had been cast?

These are important questions worthy of discussion and debate and they won't be answered in one day, one week or one month. Max is a game changer, to be sure.

That's from Ava and C.I.'s review of Happy Endings which airs on ABC tomorrow night. I thought I'd include that as a reminder. It really is a funny show and it is "a game changer." So check your local listings if you haven't seen the program yet.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, April 26, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi military scores another "kill" in Mosul as they continue their assault on peaceful protesters, Nouri denies reports that he and the US have come to an agreement regarding continued occupation, and more.
Chen Zhi (Xinhua) notes, "The Iraqi government is preparing to accept the presence of more than 15,000 U.S. servicemen in Iraq to protect the U.S. interests after the deadline of U.S. troops' pullout by the end of 2011, an Iraqi newspaper reported on Tuesday. [. . .] It also said that thousands of employees working for foreign security firms will stay in the country to protect the U.S. embassy staff, American civil contractors, engineers and investors." DPA reports Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and puppet of Iraq, is insisting that no agreement for 50,00 US troops to remaing. He goes further, 'There is no agreement to this day with the US administration to keep 10,000 or 5,000, or 1,000 or even 100 US troops in Iraq." You may notice that while he bandies about many figures none of them are the 15,000 that was reported. AFP reports Nouri held a press conference today in Baghdad and stated, "In terms of the level of the external deence of Iraqi sovereignty, Iraq has a shortfall. These forces will not be complete in one or two years because they need a lot of money and training, especially in terms of air defence. But there is no danger for Iraq. No neighbor of Iraq's wants to enter Iraq by force. So our sovereignty is protected, especially in light of the circumstances and changes in the region." Rebecca Santana (AP) explains, "Many Iraqi leaders privately acknowledge the country's security shortcomings, including its lack of intelligence gathering capabilities and its inability to protect its own airspace." Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) also notes that "Iraq's air force will need support beyond this year".
That is surprising . . .
only if you're late to the party.
Four years late in fact. From the June 14, 2007 snapshot:

The [PDF format warning] Pentagon report has many sections and one of interest considering one of the 2007 developments may be this: "There are currently more than 900 personnel in the Iraqi Air Force. . . . The fielding of rotary-wing aircraft continued with the delivery to Taji of five modified UH II (Iroquois) helicopters, bringing the total delivered to ten. The final six are scheduled to arrive in June. Aircrews are currently conducting initial qualifications and tactics training. The Iroquois fleet is expected to reach initial operation capability by the end of June 2007." By the end of June 2007? One of the developments of 2007 was the (admission of) helicopter crashes. US helicopters. British helicopters. Some may find comfort in the fact that evacuations and mobility will be handled by Iraqis . . . whenever they are fully staffed and trained. Four years plus to deliver the equipment, training should be done in ten or twenty years, right?
It's long been known that the Iraqi air force would not be ready. One of the first to cover the story after the 2008 election -- when much of the press was so eager to pretend all bad news ceased to exist -- is Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times and you can refer to her "Iraq Can't Defend Its Skies by Pullout Date, U.S. Says" as a starting point. On the topic of withdrawal, 'withdrawal' and safety, Kelley B. Vlahos ( offers:
Therein lies the rub -- and the fear -- that the Iraqis won't be able to protect the oil, the rights to which are already being carved up among Western interests, as well as Asia and Russia. The Iraq oil ministry, hoping to boost oil production capacity from today's approximately 2.7 million barrels per day to 13.5 million bpd in seven years, announced a fourth round of bidding in April for a dozen new oil exploration blocks.
Although the U.S hardly dominated the first licensing round in 2009, Exxon Mobil still got in a toehold, as did British Petroleum (BP) and the Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell. Now, no one can read the reporting on the 2003 secret memos containing the minutes of meetings between British ministers and senior oil executives just before the invasion of Iraq and not be convinced that big oil had not played a decisive role in the Brits' decision to help us overthrow Saddam. As Jim Lobe pointed out in his recent column, it was one of several self-serving reasons for regime change.
Apparently, according to the memos, the Bush Administration was using fertile oil and gas prospects as bargaining tools to build a "coalition of the willing" (more like "coalition of the drilling"), and BP and Shell were among the companies that were promised a piece of the action. "Iraq was a straightforward smash and grab," charges writer Conn Hallinan.
"What always puzzles me is that people think oil is not at the base of it. Given that the U.S. imports two-thirds of its oil, and 65 percent of the world's reserves lie in the Middle East, what kind of fool would the U.S. be not to pay attention to those reserves?"
One thing you shouldn't do is lie. We favor a full withdrawal of US troops -- an immediate withdrawal. That has always been this community's position. (See "Should This Marriage Be Saved?" from 2004.) From futher right on the spectrcum, Kelley B. Vlahos calls out the Iraq War and does so without lying. I'm being very kind because I realize how little media coverage in the Beggar Media (that would be the "independent" media -- Pacifica Radio, The Nation, et al) there is. So I'm not naming the idiot who seems to think lying is the way to argue for a withdrawal. This time. Next time liar lies, I will be calling him out. And let me be really clear on this, don't cite the New York Times without doing your damn home work. If you're talking violence and you cite NYT as a reputable publication for violence figures, you better know those figures were correct. (That month they weren't and we called it out here and noted how the ministries figures were higher, how Iraq Body Count's monthly toll was higher, how AFP's totals were higher.) I have no idea why anyone would be stupid enough to accept the Times at face value after it helped sell the Iraq War unless they just wanted to lie and knew the paper of record would help them along. There is some solid reporting in the Times -- no that doesn't include the boy who fancies himself Dorothy Parker (nor was Dorothy Parker a hard news reporter, she fell under feature articles with her arts beat -- books and plays). But if you're trying to argue that the US should leave because violence is down, quit lying. Violence is not down. When US officials try to sail a wave of Operation Happy Talk with that b.s., they at least have the brains to say, 'when compared to the sectarian war of 2007 and 2008.' Stop lying. Again, next time, I will call you out and do so loudly. I will school you on everyone of your sources and how you misquoted them or didn't do the basic research required to determine whether their report was accurate. The cause of the violence in Iraq has always been the occupation. Don't start lying now. Thomas E. Ricks -- as he moved from journalist to COIN think tanker -- began trying to shame people who called for an end to the Iraq War by insisting that when US forces pull out, Iraq will suffer a meltdown. Apparently, possessing manboobs allows you to make predicitions. I have no idea what the future holds for Iraq. But we've never lied and claimed that when the US finally left -- whenever that was -- that the Iraqis would group hug and break out into Sister Sledge's "We Are Family." It is highly likely that when the US finally stops occupying Iraq, violence will rise. That's due to the fact that Iraqis are not represented by people they trust. And the US military has propped up a puppet regime for years now. So it is very likely that when their bodyguards pull out, the puppet government may finally have to address the wrath of the people.
But that doesn't change the fact that violence is going on right now in Iraq and has been every year of the illegal war. It doesn't change the fact that any poli sci class on rebellions, resistance and revolution will tell you that occupations breed violence. There's no need to lie in order to advocate for a withdrawal from Iraq. But when you do lie in order to advocate for withdrawal, you make the rest of us look like liars. So the next time you lie, you will be loudly called out here. (The obvious solution is to stop lying to make your case. Your case was solid without lies.)
And the above is not about Tom Hayden. A friend with The Nation just called asking for a link to a piece Tom wrote. Here's the Iraq part:
In Iraq, Obama made a surprising commitment to withdraw all American troops by December of this year, a pledge that has been derided by military commanders and national security insiders. The game, it is suggested, is to induce the Baghdad government to "invite" the United States to stay past the December deadline. Obama remains a sphinx as to his ultimate intentions, but a serious obstacle to delaying the withdrawal is posed by Moktada al-Sadr, with a powerful bloc in the Iraqi parliament, armed militias in the wings and supporters in Iran possessing great influence. On the other side, Saudi Arabia is strongly opposed to a US total withdrawal, which would leave Iraq in the Shiite orbit dominated by Iran.
Sadly, American public opinion is shaped by American casualties, which means the peace movement has little influence over Obama's decision concerning Iraq. Peace sentiment was highest in the years 2003–07, when 3,899 American soldiers were being killed and 28,890 wounded in Iraq. Since then the death toll has dropped from 903 in 2007, to 313 in 2008, to 148 in 2009, sixty in 2010, and fourteen as of early this April. The American public has zero interest in Iraq, although that might change if Obama's leaves a small contingent of US troops in the midst of sectarian violence in violation of his previous pledge.
I disagree with pretty mcuh everything above. (Tom's entitled to his opinion and he hasn't lied above.) Last week we repeatedly noted that Moqtada is not seen as strong by government analysis -- two Arab states, the British and the US government. His influence is seen as dwindling. We even quoted from a Congressional study in yesterday's snapshot about how Moqtada is now hemmed in since he is a part of the Cabinet. (In fact, his bloc is over-represented in the Cabinet.) It would have been nice for Tom to have explained why he feels Moqtada -- who has repeatedly caved in the past -- has 'strength' but the above is all there is on Iraq in his essay.
I disagree with the claim put forward that the deaths don't register because they're few. They're not few. But they're not covered. Repeatedly, to note a funeral, to note a passing, we have to go to regional media. When's the last time the New York Times gave significant coverage to a death of US soldier in Iraq? And there are soldiers who have died from New York state, neighboring New Jersey and Connect. among others. No we had to listen to the New York Times staffer who's 'husband' died in Iraq. Even though he'd broken up with her and even though the paper knew that the woman wasn't being either convincing or truthful (and she really pissed off the soldier's family and friends). Now they were happy to promote this woman who didn't live with the man, certainly wasn't married to him, wasn't even involved with him prior to his leaving for Iraq, they were happy to present her as the grieving widow. So apparently for a death to register at the New York Times, you've got to have some woman working for the paper insisting, "He was my husband!"
And our pathetic 'independent media'? The last five soldiers killed in combat -- killed in combat, not just dying -- in Iraq were not even included as a headline by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! She didn't even have time for them -- she who grandstanded on the Iraq War, she who attacked ABC for attempts to censor Ted Koppel's Nightline programs noting the fallen.
Again, this is opinion and Tom may be right. But I think he's wrong and I firmly believe that. If you asked people how many US soldiers deployed to Iraq have been died since the end of 'combat operations' (August 31, 2010), most people wouldn't know the answer (PDF format warning -- 31). 31 have died since he and the media (except for AP) declared the Iraq War over. Most people do not know that number. If you asked them the number when Barack was inaugurated (4229) versus the number today (PDF format warning -- 4452), they wouldn't know. Since "We want to end the war and we want to end it now!" was sworn in as president, 223 US soldiers have died. Again, most people do not know that. That's not because they're idiots and it's not because they don't care. It's because the media isn't interested. In the last 12 weeks, Diane Rehm has given Iraq four minutes out the 12 "international" hours she offers (one each Friday). Four minutes. Wow. Want to pretend the media gives a damn about Iraq in this country? They don't.
NPR raised funds this go round -- and did quite well raising funds -- by insisting that you got Iraq coverage from them. The reality was, you really hadn't been getting it. But Kelly McEvers was back in Iraq and you had her and Mike Shuster both reporting. But two or three reports from Iraq a week worked into Morning Edition and All Things Considered doesn't really cover it. The non-reporting shows, the gas bag shows, need to be covering Iraq. There's no excuse for it. You've got 47,000 US troops still over there. You've got 4452 who have died there. You've got an uncounted number of wounded back home. You've got diplomatic staff that's over there and that's been over there and back, you've got contractors . . . This is a large number of Americans and it's an onoging war -- as AP noted in the fall of 2010 when everyone else was rushing to call it over -- and where's the coverage?
Add in that UPFJ, as Tom damn well knows, posted immediately after the 2008 election their little 'war is over go home' message. The Iraq War wasn't over. Tom's on the steering committee of UPFJ, he needs to call that out. As far as I know, the only ones who've repeatedly called that out are Justin Raimondo ( and this community. Tom didn't write the note, he didn't even sign off the note. I know that and I'm not trying to accuse him falsely of writing the note. But he needs to publicly rebuke that action because it was a tactical disaster and it dispirited the peace movement back then but today it has enraged young peace activists. And if Tom wants to be heard by the high school and college activists, he's going to have to call out that boneheaded move by ____ at UPFJ or else he'll just have to accept the anger that UPFJ is the focus of.
And let me say one more thing on this subject. I don't give a damn who wins this election or that election. In terms of national politics, the Congress and the White House flipped and the policies were exactly the same. But some of these people whose whole life is wrapped up in electoral politics -- and in the Democratic Party -- better grasp real quick that you're losing the committed activists. They're growing up with no alligence to the Democratic Party because no one in that party will call out the War Hawk in the White House. We're seeing a lot of people soured on election politics, we're seeing a lot of young people interested in the Green Party and other third parties, we're seeing a revival of real Socialists (the type represented by WSWS which has convictions) and we're seeing a lot o peace activists who now lean right. I don't know Justin Raimondo or I'd ask him, but should be seeing a huge bump in readership because it is becoming the campus bible for many peace activists. It has become the only game in town. (And good for Justin and Kelley and all the others at Big praise to them for having ethics when Republicans were in the White House and when Democrats were in the White House.) It's exactly this sort of movement on the ground that explains why Gore couldn't carry states he should have in 2000. Don't blame Ralph Nader for people being disenchanted with the Democratic Party. And all you've done is allow to happen again. As a poli sci major whose domestic emphasis was campaign politics, I find it alarming that the Democrats have lost the "true believers" and they don't even care -- or worse, don't notice. The true believer is the voter who follows the news and votes and votes and votes. Most will never be as politically active as they were in college, it will lessen and lessen over time. But they will have established a voting pattern. And that, statistically, remains. These are the young voters the Democratic Party lost and doesn't even realize it. (If community members are interested, we'll come back to this topic Thursday night.)
We in the United States are not any different from the people of Iraq in terms of wants and desires. And in Iraq, they saw two national elections -- one in 2005 and one in 2010. In one, Shi'ites turned out in large numbers, in the other Sunnis turned out in large numbers. And they look around and they see that it didn't really matter in terms of their lives. Unemployment didn't improve, potable water didn't flow from the pipes, electricity was not a given. And the Iraqi jails and prisons -- public and secret -- continued to disappear people regardless of election outcome. And that's why they protest. That's why they go into the streets and risk being beaten or shot or killed or kidnapped or rounded up by Iraqi forces (or Kurdish forces for those in the KRG). They show tremendous bravery and a desire for the basics that were promised them.
They protest whether or not reporters are present. They're fully aware that the international media has largely abandoned them. It's really easy to protest in Egypt when you know the whole world's watching because every news outlet in the world sent in reporters. In Iraq, not even the appalling reports that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been releasing on what's happening to the protesters (and the Iraqi journalists covering the protests) has managed to move the ones who determine what appears in your paper or what floats across your TV screen.
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Today the Shiyoukh of Mosul called upon all International Humanitarian Agencies including the UN to come to Mosul and see at first hand what is happening. But I believe that all these NGOs are quite deaf, blind and dumb." Dar Addustour reported on the ongoing attempts to intimidate the people of Mosul. While the military in many other Arab countries spent the year thus far defedning the people, in Iraq, the military attacks the people. Dar Addustour counts 10 people injured in Mosul yesterday by the Iraqi military. The paper notes that Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi suspended work hours yesterday to protest the military's attack on demonstrators and they quote the governor stating, "We reject the use of the security forces against protestors and demonstrators who have today been demonstrating for 17 days." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN -- note the photo that runs with the story) notes 1 protester was killed in Mosul and twenty-one were wounded due to the 'security' forces firing on them today and "After the incident, local officialssaid provincial Gov. Atheel al-Nujaifi called for acts of civil disobedience across the province in response to the shootings." Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Ninewa Province's Governor, Athil al-Nujeify, has charged the Province's Ninewa Security Operations command with responsibility for recent 'bloodshed' in Mosul, the center of the province." They quote Nujaifi stating, "I burden the Ninewa Operations Command with responsibility for bloodsheds among demonstrators who had organized sit-in demonstrations in central Mosul's al-Ahrar (Liberation) Square." Does Maliki -- does the US -- really think you can bully and push around people like this? These aren't people taking up guns (I'm not condemning or applauding those who have taken up guns), these are people using the rights guaranteed to them in their Constitution and being attacked by Iraqi military for it. Does no one see what happens next? Does no one realize the distrust this is breeding in Iraq? This is insane. The United Nations should have strongly condmended it some time ago.

If you're not getting it, note this from the Great Iraqi Revolution:
Maliki and his military and civillian minions have been treading over their own feet for the past 2 days contradicting their own statements and lying through their teeth - making statements about democracy and at the same time calling all the demonstrators and all the detainees, terrorists! I would suggest to Haliki that since all th...e demonstrators are terrorists he must be in the wrong country and that he returns to Iran where there are no terrorists being imported to Iraq!
He also criticises all our tribal leaders for their hospitality - I quite agree with him! since he is neither an Iraqi nor an Arab, he does not know anything about our habits and cutoms - again, I would suggest to him that he return to Iran where he is used no doubt to their type of hospitality or whatever!
He has a very few days left of the 100 days he gave himself and of course he has nnot and cannot do anything with the days that are remaining or even in another 100 years! SO what he will do is see how many "ministers" are going to vote for or against the Military Agreement with the occupation and then just get rid of the ones who voted against or objected and then get a new cabinet together. He really has not understood or has decided not to understand anything about the events that are taking place in Iraq!
Haliki is livingon a different planet and in another country! Good Luck to him - he really does not know anything about our anger.......
For those in the US who are old enough to remember -- or happened to have studied it -- this is an awful lot like Chicago in 1968 at the DNC convention. You're going to have a lot of Iraqis who would never take to the street be appalled by what's going on, by the use of the military on Iraq's own people. A friend at the State Dept said that al-Maliki seems to be catching on and offered as an example his enlisting people to start protesting in favor of him in Mosul. That's ridiculous. That's insane. That just demonstrates how out of it he is. And if I were a puppet installed by a foreign government that might leave at some time -- maybe even the end of this year or next -- I think I'd be working really hard to be loved by the people, not trying to piss them off and remember me as the leader who turned the Iraqi military loose on the youth of Iraq, on the widows of Iraq, on the people who believe the most in a modern day, unified Iraq.
The Rebels of the Great Iraqi Revolution and the Rebels of the 25th February Alliance have stated today that the Iraqi have decided that there is no doubt whatsoever that the Occupation should depart immediately from Iraqi soil as well as the immediate departure of the Maliki Government. They also demand the immediate release of all detainees in government and Occupation prisons.
When Nouri gives the military orders to attack peaceful protesters, it's not surprising that people turn on him. He looks even more like a thug when he does that. In other violence, Reuters notes 2 Hawija home bombings (both were police officers' homes) in which 1 man and 1 child were killed an additional four poeple were injured, a Riyadh home bombing ("municipal official") injured two people, 3 Kirkuk roadside bombings which claimed 1 life and left nineteen other people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured eleven people, and, dropping back to last night, 1 official with the Baghdad govenor's office was shot dead in Baghdad.
Alsumaria TV notes that the Ministry of Human Rights spokesperson Arkan Kamel declared yesterday, "The Ministry of Human Rights registered 14025 missing people in Iraq because of violence, bombings and military operations during the last 8 years that followed the entry of the US troops to the country since 2003."

The protesters are demonstrating for a better way of life, for the life the war propaganda promised. They want occupying forces out of their country, an end to corruption, detainees who have been lost in the Iraqi 'justice' system released and a government that is responsive and provides jobs and basic services. Omar Abdel-Latif (Al Sabaah) reports that next week Parliament is supposed to explore the issue of tea that is tainted. At least 150 tons of tea has had to be destroyed this month alone due to it being tainted. The paper has also done an unofficial count of the number of beggars in Baghdad and come to the number of 800. One of the editors went undercover as a beggar and learned several things. The standout thing that has nothing to do with poverty -- and maybe should have been the lead -- is that Iraqi security forces are permitting beggars to work near checkpoints which may demonstrate compassion but does not ensure security. Meanwhile Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Parliament's Finance Committee is reviewing the CPA books in an attempt to figure out where approximately $8 billion disappeared to. And Al Rafyidayn reports that 37 employees of Nouri's Cabinet of falsifying their credentials.

The World This Week is a program from France 24 that utilizes footage the program has been sent to cover world events. The latest edition began airing today and the top story is on the MEK living in Iraq at Camp Ashraf:
Lorena Galliot Members of an Iranain opposition group called the People's Mujahedeen of Iran have lived in a camp on Iraqi soil since 1965. They were sheltered under Saddam Hussein's rule, but the new Iraqi government, which has developed close ties with Tehran, has decided it wants to get rid of them. Our Observer filmed an event that happened in the camp in early April. We go now to Camp Ashraf, 80 kilometers north of Baghdad with Arman, a member of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran.
Arman: Iraqi armored tanks began running over the barricades at around 5:00 am and then drove full speed ahead to the place where the camp's residents had gathered. Very quickly, gun shots rang out. They were randomly shooting at the crowd and throwing hand grenades. Seconds later, vehicles started charging at residents. They were equipped with machine guns and they were shooting and charging at residents. There was a clear intention of killing a deliberate will to massacre. It was very difficul to film in these circumstances because anyone holding a camera was especially targeted by soldiers. And we expect another massacre to break out any second. Right now, everything is in the hands of the interational community.
Lorena Galliot: Iraqi authorities say 10 people were killed in the clashes. The People's Mujahedeen say 34 were. It's impossible for us to verify either account because journalists are barred from entering the camp.
Actually, France 24 didn't need to verify the death toll, the United Nations already has. Background, following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California. Ensieh Yazdanpanah, mother of Asieh, tells UPI, "She wanted to live in a free Iran. She was sending lots of messages of hope to youth in Iran. She was full of life and joy." Reporters Without Borders noted that she and journalist Saba Haftbaradaran were both killed. The UN News Center reported over the weekend, "The United Nations mission in Iraq today voiced its deep concern at the recent events that led to the deaths of 34 people at a camp housing Iranian exiles, noting that it has repeatedly urged the Government to refrain from the use of force. The Iraqi military operation on 8 April at Camp Ashraf, located north of Baghdad, also left dozens of people injured.
Since the UN provided a death toll, the Iranian state controlled FARS News Agency has worked hard to act as an advance team fr the Association for Defending Victims of terrorism. Saturday it was repeating the group's attack on the Boston Globe. Sunday it was the Independent of London. Meanwhile AFP reports, " Iran and Iraq have signed an accord to extradite 'convicts and criminals' wanted by the two neighbours, state television's website and newspapers reported on Monday. Justice Minister Morteza Bakhtiari and his visiting Iraqi counterpart Hassan al-Shammari signed the agreement late on Sunday, Aftab-e Yazd newspaper said." Reuters notes that Iraq Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim denies that the treaty would apply to the residents of Camp Ashraf, "No. They are not detainees or prisoners. This agreement is to trade criminals between the two countries." British MP Tarsem King (House of Lords, Labour Party) offers a commentary via UPI which includes:
The U.S. government now finds itself in a strange trio alongside the Iraqi and Iranian regimes in continuing to blacklist the group. It appears that rather than follow in the footsteps of judgments from the highest courts of the United Kingdom and European Union, which concluded in the ban on the MEK being removed in the United Kingdom and EU, U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continue to cling to the ban in a vain hope of appeasing the Iranian regime.
One day, long ago it may have been the case that such political justifications made prudent political sense in the case of Iran. The ban has now been in place for 14 years, within which time the Iranian regime has increased its support for terrorism in the region, increased its human rights abuses at home and plowed full steam ahead in its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. If any prudent political reasoning ever did exist, no sensible analyst could say it any longer does.
The ban on the MEK is no longer a political issue but an issue that in day-to-day reality is leading to deaths in Iran and Iraq. Hardly anyone would consider an end to the U.S. ban to have any impact on the Iranian regime in terms of its continued human rights abuses, however in Iraq there can be little doubt that an end to the ban will save lives.

Feburary 28th, British Iraq War veteran Danny Fitzismons learned he'd been found guilty. He had been accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9, 2009 Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. Danny was sentenced to life in prison, to be served in Iraq. We don't endorse the Iraqi 'justice' system for obvious reasons. But I also don't want to be like all the Scott Horton groupies who fell silent when the pedophile was found guilty this month. The big thing in England right now among certain elements of the press is to trot out a story about Danny Fitzsimons. You can click here for a Rochdale article which will tell you he was arrested -- he was arrested -- and offer his mother's defense ('Step-mother!' Liz Fitzsimons has stood by Danny publicly and loudly, some children are lucky enough to have multiple parents) but what it fails to note (and it's one of the better articles in terms of fairness) is that Danny was convicted of nothing. (Scott Horton had entered a guilty plea years ago on another sexual sting case. People should have been bothered by that.) You can say he was arrested but that's it. Had he been found guilty of the crime he was accused of, it wouldn't change the fact that we don't believe in Iraqi 'justice' is just.