Saturday, June 04, 2011

Adam Kokesh's Dance Party

"Protesters plan more dancing despite cops' orders" (Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun):

They were arrested, slammed to the ground and choked last weekend. But protesters opposed to a federal judge's ruling that bans dancing inside the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in D.C. aren't backing down.

Led by Russia Today host Adam Kokesh (an Iraq war vet), the protesters plan a larger silent dance party for noon this Saturday at the memorial.

Kokesh's movement found support from a majority of this blog's readers on Monday in an unscientific poll, in which voters 2-1 said the police were wrong to arrest the protesters.

So tomorrow he holds his Dance Party.

adam kokesh

Adam Kokesh's Thomas Jefferson Memorial Dance Party is tomorrow at noon. He will be in DC at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and solidarity events are taking place around the world -- click here for more.

Everyone else took the time to promote that on Thursday but I don't blog on Thursday so let me note it now.

Repeating, it is tomorrow, Saturday, at noon, the Jefferson Memorial in D.C.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, June 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed by bombings, activists demonstrate in Baghdad's Tahrir Square despite intimidation efforts by security forces, Adam Kokesh gears up for his dance party, and more.
Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh holds the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Dance Party tomorrow at noon. Young Americans for Liberty (a continuation of 2008's Students for Ron Paul) picks Adam Kokesh as their Rebel Of The Week. John McKenna explains, "Dancing, even if you are the worst dancer known to man, is a free act of expression, which I'm pretty sure is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Banning it as a 'dmonstration' is bad enough, but the Gestapo-like reactions of the Park Rangers was beyond unnecessary." What is McKenna talking about? On last night's Adam vs. the Man, Adam spoke with Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry and, in a column, Medea explains what happened last weekend:

It was Memorial Day weekend. My partner Tighe Barry and I were on our way to New York, but we decided to make a quick trip to the Memorial to support the dancers. When we got there, two park policemen were talking to the group. We moved closer to hear what they were saying and overheard someone ask the police how they define dancing. Tighe put his arms around my waist and started swaying, illustrating how hard it is to define what, precisely, is dancing.
Suddenly, to our utter amazement, we were set upon by the police. They yanked us apart, handcuffed us and shoved us on the ground. That's when three members of the group put on their headsets and started boogying. The police went wild, bodyslamming, chokeholding, and jumping on top of them. The police cleared out the entire Memorial as if they were protecting the tourists from some kind of terrorist threat, then threw us in a paddywagon and hauled us off to jail. Three hours later, after mug shots and fingerprinting, we were charged with "dancing in a restricted area" and cited to come back to court.

Adam got the body slam, the choke hold and the arrest for the 'crime' of rhythmic movement. He is fighting back and there will be a Dance Party at the Jefferson Memorial this Saturday at noon. More information can be found at RT's Adam vs. the Man. Especially refer to Wednesday's broadcast. In addition to Adam's program, you can also find out information at this Facebook page on the event and on solidarity events taking place around the world.
May 11th, Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, held a press conference to explain Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, a Senate bill to assist veterans with employment. Among the things that the bill would do:
* Makes participation in the Transition Assistance Program mandatory for separating servicemembers;
* Requires that each servicemember receive an individualized assessment of jobs they may qualify for when they participate in the Transition Assistance Program;
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is supposed to help service members transitioning to veteran status with a number of issues that will come up in the civilian world such as how to market skills. "TAP is a program," US House Rep Marlin Stutzman declared yesterday, "that is supposed to help discharging veterans transition from the military into civilian careers. VA also has a portion of TAP where they educate the servicemembers on the multitude of services that are available to them once they become veterans."
Stutzman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity which was holding a hearing on TAP. The first panel was composed of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Marco Reininger and AMVETS' Christina Roof. Excerpt.
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: I do have a couple of questions for both of you. You mentioned the figure of 45% of service members attend TAP. Is that for all branches? Am I wrong in that the Marines do require, it is mandatory for their service members to attend TAP before they are discharged? And do we know if their percentages are any higher than the other branches?
Christina Roof: When I spoke with Marine Corps officials last week, I was told it is mandatory that their Marines complete the TAP program. I was also told there were some exceptions, of course, you know, like critical injuries involved and so on. But I was told last week that it is mandatory that all their Marines complete TAP before their service discharge.
Subcommittee Chair: Marlin Stutzman: So that's with no exceptions? Every Marine coming out does -- has completed TAP or . . .
Christina Roof: Again, I can only go on what they told me which was, it is mandatory which I think is a great idea that should be across the board. I can't speak, again, to each individual case but it seems like they are enforcing it.
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: So would the 45% number have Marines in that percentage? Or do we not know more of -- the demographics or --
Christina Roof: I'll let my colleague, I think that was his number.
Marco Reininger: Sir, if I may, I'm not 100% sure whether or not this number includes the Marine Corps but I believe that making it mandatory DoD wide would be the right solution here. That same survey indicated that many veterans didn't attend the TAP program where TAP courses were offered because it had a reputation of being redundant, not really useful for making a successful transition. And, in some cases even, commanding officers wouldn't let them go. This is what they say, again, this is what the survey indicated. So mandating it DoD wide for all service branches would be the right answer here, sir. And, of course, along with that comes having to overhaul the program so that it actually works and makes sense for people to actually attend.
[. . .]
Ranking Member Bruce Braley: Let me ask you this basic question. Isn't it true that the Department of Defense could make these programs mandatory, across the board right now without any further action by Congress if they wanted to? [They nod their heads.] That was a "yes" from both of you.
Marco Reininger: Yes, sir, absolutely, the executive branch could order this to be mandatory and that would most likely be the end of it as far as I understand the process.
At Third last month in "Hiring Heroes Act of 2011," we noted our support for Senator Patty Murray's bill including the mandatory aspect of TAP:
We think it has to be mandatory to be successful and we feel that way based on the many stories shared with us and those shared in public about returning service members. How you're gathered in a large group and told there's help available if you have 'emotional' problems, but nobody has 'emotional' problems, right? In other words, the VA's been able to avoid issues like PTSD by demonizing and ridiculing them when they should be providing treatment.

We can see something similar happening with the military's job skills training program. Wait. See it happening? It's already happening which is why Murray could state, in the news conference, "Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army don't get this training."

There are a lot of programs the military offers. There's a real problem getting the word out. In some instances, such as PTSD, it's hard to draw any conclusion either than the military wants to keep the numbers down. Making the program mandatory means it falls back on superiors if veterans aren't getting access to these programs.
Making it mandatory does make superiors answerable if TAP isn't attended. Why wasn't it attended? Why didn't you ensure that ___ attended it? Did you not understand it was mandatory and your role in this was to ensure that it happened?
Back to the Subcommittee hearing. The second panel was composed of VA's Thomas Pamperin, Ruth A. Fanning, Dept of Labor's Ramond Jefferson and DoD's Philip A. Burdette and Brig Gen Robert Hedelund. Staying with the topic of TAP, we'll note this exchange.
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: General Hedelund, my question is with the Marine Corps policy that requires TAP, have you seen any negative effects? And how does the Corps enforce mandatory attendance?
Brig Gen Robert Hedelund: Yes, sir. Thank you for that question. First, no. No operational impacts by requiring Marines to go to mandatory TAP. As I mentioned in my opening statement, our goal is to make this mandatory requirement almost OBE because people will figure out this is something they need and want. That said, some of the discussion earlier from the first panel is relevant in that it is a bit of a leadership issue. Let's not forget that this event does not happen in a vacuum. And that's part of the issue right now with TAP is that it's a one-shot deal. And where it falls on a Marine's timeline to get out of the Marine Corps sometimes is convenient, sometimes not so much.
Now we'll note another hearing this week (I didn't attend this hearing) via press coverage. Jane Cowan reports on PM (Australia's ABC -- link includes text and audio) about the Wednesday House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing.
JANE COWAN: In a report to Congress in the middle of last year the Pentagon said Iraq's security forces would continue to rely on US support to meet and maintain minimum standards. In March this year the US Senate heard there would be "loose ends" unless the Iraqis asked America to stay on. This is how the Democratic congressman Gary Ackerman puts it:

GARY ACKERMAN: Iraq seems to have been a marriage of convenience. Everybody seems to agree that there should be some kind of a divorce but when? And everybody thought that we were waiting for the final papers to come through and now we seem to have some remorse about that. Maybe we're sticking around for the sake of the children, and now they're all saying we should leave, although they really mean we should stay but we ain't staying unless they ask us it seems like a mess. I don't know how you explain that to the civilian population that's going to be asked to pay for child support.

JANE COWAN: The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been saying for months he'll stand by the deal but recently did a turnaround, saying he'd support keeping some troops beyond the deadline if he can get most of the country's politicians to agree.
Sophie Quinton (National Journal) adds, "Testifying experts stressed that the United States is expected to continue to influence Iraq by civilian means. The State Department is scheduled to take the lead role in supporting Iraq's security, political, and economic development in October 2011, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will continue its capacity-building efforts." Quinton quotes the State Dept's Patricia Haslach (Iraq Transition Coordinator) telling the Subcommittee, "We're not done. We have no intention of leaving Iraq." John T. Bennett (The Hill) emphasizes US House Rep Gary Ackerman's remarks:
"Most Americans believe we're done in Iraq," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and South Asia subcommittee. "That is at odds with the reality in Iraq.
"The American people thought they had already bought this and paid for this," Ackerman said. "That appears to not be the case."
So, too, did members of Congress.
That means the White House soon will have to start "selling a lot of members," Ackerman said, predicting that the "collision" of reality and lawmakers' desires "will not be pretty."
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Informed sources in PM Maliki's Office: confirm news that the press has been buzzing with : Maliki has formed a secret committee with his direct oversight to complete the secret discussions with the Americans about the second security agreement." In related news, John R. Parkinson (ABC News) reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner has siad Barack Obama needs to "step up and help the American understand why these missions are vital to the nationaal security interest of our country. [. . .] I really do believe that the president needs to speak out, in terms of our mission in Afghanistan, our mission in Iraq, our mission in Libya, and the doubts that our members have frankly reflected they're reflecting what they're heaing from their constituents."
Iraq was slammed with bombings today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Seventeen people were killed and 50 others wounded in a blast from a container full of explosives left outside of the Presidential Palaces Mosque in central Tikrit, Iraq, officials told CNN. That was followed in the evening by another explosion when a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest enetered a Tikrit hospital treating the wounded, Iraq interior ministry officials told CNN. Six people died and 10 were wounded at the hospital in the second attack." On the mosque bombing, BBC News notes, "Some reports suggest the bomb was hidden inside a fuel canister at the entrance to the mosque." AP explains, "The mosque was inside a government-controlled compound where many officials live, and most in attendance were security or government employees." Muhanned Saif Aldin and Tim Craig (Washington Post) quote MP Jamal Algilani stating of the government out of Baghdad, "The procedures that they are following don't meet the size of the responsibility that they are in charge of." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) quotes provincial counil member Hussein al-Shatub stating, "I don't know how they were able to put these explosives in such a secure area. I was at the main gate of mosque on my way to pray when the explosion occurred. I started evacuating injured people to the hospital. It was a huge explosion." Al Jazeera adds, "Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, quoting government sources, said, 'Significantly, the compound houses the governor, police command and several other security directorates'." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) offers one government response to the bombings, "Friday's explosions came less than 24 hours after four explosions hit another predominantly Sunni Muslim city, Ramadi, on Thursday night, killing five and injuring 27. Residents of Tikrit said that authorities had imposed a curfew until further notice."

Today was truly a violent day in Iraq and not the day for the US State Dept to issue a release promoting business in Iraq that opens with one bad lie after another until it sinks under its own spin:
Iraq today is emerging from years of civil conflict and economic isolation, and has the potential to again become what it was not so long ago: a prosperous country with a thriving middle class. Iraq is a market with tremendous potential.
  • By many estimates, Iraq has the world's third-largest oil reserves, and plans to explore for additional reserves.
  • Iraq's population is estimated at around 30 million, among the largest in the region, and is projected to grow more than two percent annually over the next five years.
  • According to the Iraqi government's National Development Plan, the government has plans to spend $100 billion of its own money on thousands of reconstruction and development projects over the next four years.
In recent years, there are a number of tangible signs that Iraq's economy is stabilizing and expanding:
  • Iraq's economy averaged an estimated 4.5 percent real growth over the past four years;
  • Oil production has increased an estimated 22 percent since 2005, and oil exports have increased an estimated 58 percent over the same period;
  • Consumer prices have stabilized, with single-digit inflation over the past three years after more than 50 percent inflation in 2006;
  • The Iraqi government has spent more than US $20 billion on reconstruction and investment projects each of the last two years.
The economic sectors in Iraq with the greatest investment potential include: energy, including both hydrocarbons and the electrical power sector; infrastructure such as architecture, construction, and engineering and transportation; information and communications technology; health such as medical technology, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and health care services; and agribusiness.
We'll come back to the State Dept's embarrassing days but you'll notice the release ignores the issue of unemployment. That issue, the lack of jobs, has been among the reasons Iraqis have been protesting.
Youth activists and others (including The Great Iraqi Revolution community) gathered in Baghdad's Tahrir Square to honor the detainees lost in the so-called 'justice' system in Iraq. People whose families have no idea where they are or if they are still alive. And, specifically, to show solidarity with the four arrested last Friday. Last Friday was "False Promises Friday." The Great Iraqi Revolution noted the four arrested: "THE 4 YOUNG ACTIVISTS WHO WERE ARRESTED TODAY BY QASSIM ATTA AND TAKEN TO A PLACE UNKNOWN - 27.5.2011 - THEIR NAMES ARE: JIHAD JALEEL, ALI ABDUL KHALIQ, MOUAYED AL TAYEB AND AHMED AL BAGHDADI. We pray God to have them released very soon."

They also noted of last Friday's Baghdad protest -- or in response to it, a smear campaign is being launched on TV, "In the serial of attempting to bad mouth and blacken the Tahrir Square protestors and demonstrators, Qassim Atta and the Iraqiya air photos of one of the detained activists in the Protests and accuse him of several crimes, they then proceed to air a film of a crime whose perpetrators are known to all and sundry, and in the same film some hooded men are heard to accuse that the activist is the person who committed the crime!" And the assault on protesters continued Saturday. Aswat al-Iraq reported:

An eye witness said that a military force raided an NGO, known as Where is My Right, and arrested 11 persons, including its secretary general, in suspicion for their relationship with the organizers of Tahreer Square demonstrations.
"Four Hummer military vehicles and two 4-wheel drive cars surrounded the organization premises in Maidan Square, in the center of Baghdad, where they searched it and destroyed its computers," the source told Aswat al-Iraq.
On the other hand, an activist said on the Facebook page for the Tahreer Square demonstrations, that the organization is an NGO that participated in organizing the demonstrations.
The arrested persons were meeting to discuss how to release the four activists who were arrested last Friday.

Yesterday Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both issued statements decrying the government crackdown on protest and free speech in Iraq. Today The Great Iraqi Revolution offers audio of a song and notes, "Today, all of Iraq is a Revolution Battlefield."

On the four arrrested last Friday, Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) speak with the families of the activists and one of the fathers tells the reporters, "I know about Ahmed that he loves his country, he loves freedom. I don't know where to go, whom to ask. Are our sons really criminals? .... Even if they have fake identities, why can't we see them? This is not a threat to the state's security." Meanwhile Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) note, "Rights groups said the people detained had been denied access to lawyers and visits with their families, and criticized the arrests as a ploy to stifle any dissent in the streets, even if it was peaceful and relatively low-key."

The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Our Correspondent in Baghdad: Government Intelligence officers in plain clothes seriously assaulted members of the press on FALSE PROMISE FRIDAY and particularly Russia Today Channel crew, Diyar Channel and Al Ain, attacking them with knives resulting in the very serious injury of the Diyar correspondent and the theft of 4 cameras as well as the smashing up of the Rasheed Channel camera." and "Our Correspondent in Baghdad: Very heavy deployment of government security forces in Baghdad and heavy deployment of SWAT on Mohammed Al Qassim Highway." Alsumaria TV also notes that "Iraqi security forces massed up."
Turning to the political scene where everything's fallen apart over Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to keep his word and honor the Erbil Agreement (that agreement allowed the stalemate regarding selecting a prime minister and Parliament holding sessions to end by having the various political blocs agree on key issues and positions). Earlier this week, Iraqiya walked out on the process (Iraqiya was the political slate that won the most votes and the most seats in Parliament). UPI notes, "Iraqiya announced it was standing on the sidelines until Maliki's State of Law coalition met a series of demands. Iraqiya in its demands called for an end to 'security violations' in the country, partnerships in security and human rights and the approval of the Sunni-backed slate's list for top defense positions, the Voices of Iraq new agency reports." Aswat al-Iraq notes that Iraq's Sunni Vice President and Iraqiya member Tariq al-Hashimi issued a statement declaring Nouri "has no solution to the present crisis except fleeing from political forces by his weak promises. Maliki will not be able to achieve the national partnership, because he is eager for the (necessity leader) idea." al-Hashimi is calling for new elections. And Alsumaria TV reports, ""Head of the Islamic Supreme Council Sayyed Ammar Al Hakim believes that blaming the current downfalls in Iraq on national partnership is wrong, a source told Alsumaria. The present situation relies on partnership between the weak not between the strong and competent, Al Hakim argued."

And as that debate continues, back to a US government embarrassment. Eli Lake (Washington Times) reports on an emerging scandal involving the US State Dept and your right to know:

The State Department is blocking inspectors from the U.S. government's independent auditor for Iraqi reconstruction from conducting an assessment of the department's multibillion-dollar effort to train Iraq's police.

Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, discussed the standoff with the State Department in an interview this week.

"We have a long history of auditing the police training in Iraq," Mr. Bowen said. "It is simply a misapprehension to conclude that our jurisdiction only applies to bricks-and-mortar reconstruction. To the contrary, Congress has charged us with overseeing the expenditure of funds in Iraq."
Moving to the US, one of the perks of being friends with a strangely influential person in the antiwar movement is apparently that you don't get called out. So a CIA/former CIA/something gets to brag how groovy Robert Gates is an Robert Gates gets years and years of cover. Donald Rumsfeld didn't. But Robert Gates has managed to be the Secretary of Defense under two different administrations. Yet somehow, he doesn't get called out. As Mike recently pointed out, when CIA Ray McGovern wanted attention and attempted to disrupt Hillary Clinton's speech, he insisted it was just like what he'd done with Rumsfeld. No, it wasn't. Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense. Over the war. But a special, loving friendship appeared to prevent McGovern from protesting Gates. And surprisingly, Gates hasn't been held accountable by the left for anything throughout his tenure -- despite his Iran-Contra history. Gates is on his never-ending Love Me tour. The War Hawk has paired up twice this week with War Pimp Robert Siegel. The day (Feb. 5, 2003) Colin Powell, then-US Secretary of State, went to the United Nations to lie (what Collie calls the "blot" on his record), Robert Siegel hailed it on All Things Considered as "the most extenisve, most documented and mosturgent presentation." Siegel was happy, in that segment, to present Collie's accusations -- just not to question them or note the embarrassing realities of the lies. Strangely, while Siegel couldn't question any of the assertions, Democracy Now! (link has audio and video) -- covering the same segment with Phyllis Bennis, James Paul and As'ad Abu Khalil -- was able to and to note that how "much of Powell's presentation is impossible to verify." In fairness, the All Things Considered segment did not "a bunch of determined liars" -- however, that was the 'peace' voice (Jessica Tuchman Mathews) speaking of Iraqis. Please note that JTM was their idea of 'peace' because she (a) hated Iraqis on air and (b) wasn't opposed to the idea of going to war with Iraq and just concerned herself with whether Colin Powell was really groovy or he-makes-her-panties-wet groovy. They also had time for Coward Daniel Schorr (no longer 'with us' and no loss there) to provide a commentary declaring it was time for those European countries who were enjoying "popularity," he insisted, because they were "thumbing their nose at a super power" (the US) needed to "consider the risks and the costs of letting America go it" alone and they just might regret "turning their backs on America."
The first part of the interview (which aired Wednesday) was embarrassing but Iraq didn't really factor in. The second part aired yesterday.
In the interview, Gates explains he was always for the surge (and that he plans to write about what really took place on the Iraq Study Group he served on before becoming Secretary of Defense "and I will write about this later, but I was not the only one"). Siegel wanted to talk about the defense industry advertising on TV and in print in the DC area and Gates chuckled about how he believed the costs of that would show up "in one of our contracts" causing Siegel to laugh, "You'll end up paying for that ad is what you see.." That's not funny nor is it accurate. Gates doesn't "pay." The American tax payers pay. It's the American people's money.
And instead of asking about the 'surge,' why the hell wasn't Siegel asking about the realities of Iraq or does Siegel not pay attention to what actually happens in Iraq? Siegel -- and All Things Considered -- bungled things (at best) in real time when they should have been investigating and informing the American people that there was no case for war on Iraq. Eight years later, he wants to chuckle and laugh with Gates and present the notion that Iraq is somehow stable and things are groovy. That this passes for journalism is the strongest argument for defunding NPR.
All Things Considered isn't the only pro-war outlet to be promoting the Iraq War these days. There's also The New Republic which has been around since 1914 and has a long and embarrassing history that would make for an epic mini-series. Following 9-11, the center-left magazine became ever more War Hawkish. And, as it did so, it lost more and more readers. Thomas E. Ricks 'young thang' Spencer Ackerman worked for The New Republic back then (he was later fired) and Ackerman was among the staff pimping the Iraq War. Among the staff? Howard Kurtz (then at the Washington Post) reported June 19, 2004:
Ever since the New Republic broke with liberal orthodoxy by strongly supporting President Bush's war with Iraq, the magazine has been getting a steady stream of e-mails from readers demanding an apology.
Now the left-leaning weekly has admitted that it was wrong to have backed the war based on the administration's claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
"We feel regret, but no shame. . . . Our strategic rationale for war has collapsed," says an editorial hammered out after a contentious, 3 1/2-hour editors' meeting.
"I wanted the editorial to be honest not just about the war and other people's mistakes but our mistakes," Editor Peter Beinart says. "We felt we had a responsibility to look in the mirror."
Pretty words from Petey but if they were at all truthful and represented the way the editors actually felt, T.A. Frank's hit piece would never have been published in 2005. From Dave Zirin's article decrying Frank's attacks on the peace movement:
Author Tom Frank -- clearly from the Glass School of Journalism the New Republic has made famous -- described sitting in on an anti-war panel sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, the Washington Peace Center, the DC Anti-War Network and other groups.
After having heard the 100 plus attendees cheer sentiments like "Money for Jobs and Education Not For War and Occupation," Frank became so riled up, he unloaded a deranged harangue about the suffering he would like to rain upon people daring to organize against this war. After Stan Goff, a former Delta Forces soldier and current organizer for Military Families Speak Out, expressed sentiments like "We ain't never resolved nothing through an election," Frank's jag began. Clearly too doughy to do it himself, Frank started to fantasize about a Teutonic strongman who could shut Goff up.
Frank writes, "What I needed was a Republican like Arnold [Schwarzenegger] who would walk up to [Goff] and punch him in the face."
As the panel continued, every cheer and standing ovation seemed to set Frank deeper down a path of psychosis. After International Socialist Review editorial board member Sherry Wolf asserted that Iraqis had a "right" to rebel against occupation, Frank upped the ante in his efforts to intimidate anyone considering entry into the anti-war movement.
Were the editors serious -- and not just trying to revive their failing magazine -- in the spring of 2004, the start of 2005 would have been a lot different. And some publications -- The Progressive or The Nation, for example -- may feel superior to The New Republic today. They have no reason to. Kat, Wally, Ava and I are speaking about the Iraq War to various groups probably 44 or more weeks a year. And people sometimes ask why that is? 'Isn't the Iraq War over?' No, it's not. 'But Americans turned against the war.' At one point they had. And it's doubtful there will be a signifcant change in the next five or so years. But the revisionary tactics by War Hawks following Vietnam weren't interested in changing everyon's mind by 1980, they were laying the groundwork for the real revisionary techniques that would follow in the 80s. And a truth that pollsters never like to admit, any poll with a strong response (oppose or support)? It's not really accurate. Let's say 63% of Americans felt the Iraq War was a mistake in 2007. As much as 10% of that may not be a feeling. As much as 10% of the respondents are not really following the issue. What they're basing it on (true in any poll with strong support or strong opposition) is the cues, the cues in public, the cues from the media, the herd mentality.
In that environment, you can't be silent. Unless you're trying to hand a victory to the War Hawks. While The Nation and The Progressive are silent about an ongoing war, The New Republic is always working it into columns. Fouad Ajami's latest (published at midnight) is entitled "Robert Gates Is Right About Iraq We've made progress -- and we shouldn't remove all U.S. troops." And maybe the first question should be: Why is The New Republic publishing a member of the right-wing Hoover Institution? The man's a moron and like most of the morons who were Academic War Hawks, he's with Johns Hopkins. No where in the article is there any indication that Ajami has been repeatedly wrong on the Iraq War since it started. And for a 21-year-old today, you're really expecting a lot if you think she or he is going to know who helped lie the US into war eight years ago.

In addition, there are people who are just desperate for the Iraq War to be acknowledged in any way or form. By being silent you're helping to create the vacuum that the War Hawks will not shy from filling. Meanwhile Emily Bourke (The World Today, Australia's ABC -- link has audio and transcript) notes a new study:
EMILY BOURKE: As Australia buries yet another one of its soldiers killed in the war in Afghanistan, a new survey has found most Australians and Americans think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not been worth it.

The research by the US Studies Centre in the University of Sydney has revealed that almost a decade after the September 11 terrorist attacks the subsequent military campaigns are not helping to win the war on terror.

The data shows the majority of Americans and Australians are suffering war on terror fatigue and they're questioning the cost in blood and treasure.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


In an interview, the Wall Street Journal asked Paula Weinstein, executive producer of HBO’s Too Big to Fail, about the problem she faced in creating a suspenseful drama about the 2008 financial crisis that “wasn’t too esoteric” for a general audience.

Her reply indicates some of the problems with this production: “Everyone in the country suffered from it [the financial crisis], so we treated it like a thriller, like it was a regular movie.”

The movie features a fine cast, and a few of the actors have been given characters with a degree of dimensionality. However, the filmmakers’ decision to make a “regular movie,” i.e., a formulaic one, results in the type of stale story of a valiant individual saving the US from an evil power (in this case, certain predatory elements on Wall Street) so prevalent in American political movies. Not only is the story stale in this case, it is also untrue.

Most damaging to the television film’s credibility and ability to grapple critically with the epochal 2008 crisis was the choice of former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as the individual in question. In sum, Too Big to Fail is propaganda for the population presented from an upper-middle class liberal perspective.

Too Big to Fail focuses on Paulson (William Hurt) as he and other top financial figures (both within and without the Bush administration) respond to the September 2008 crash. Initially, they are certain the problem will be contained within the subprime mortgage market, but as stocks plummet and rumors spread of major investment firms failing, the White House and Wall Street clash over who should save the banking system: the government or the private sector.

I've met Paula Weinstein and that review will hurt like none other can. I wish that was my way of jumping into a defense of Paula's film. But that's an accurate criticism.

What's really sad is that Paula's mother was a Socialist and incredibly political and, Paula believes (I agree), managed to blend politics and art. (She did, among other things, TV programs in England, some of which were popular not just in the UK but in the US as well.)
I think in part that choices like the ones that were made for that film -- and, let's be fair to Paula, she's promoting what she produced but that doesn't mean it is as she conceived it would be when she initiated the project -- are made when we think, "Oh, we can't do this, we'll lose the audience. They won't get this. It'll be over their heads."

I think the audience can be -- and too often is -- underestimated.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 1, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq tops a list yet again but it's not the one you want to be on unless you enjoy being a haven for journalist killers, Iraqiya says no movement until the Erbil Agreement is honored, talks on extending the US military presence in Iraq continue, Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh plans a meet-up for this Saturday at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and more.
Kate Wiltrout (Virginia Pilot) reports on today's send-off ceremony for members of Task Force 183, "The group is also part of the Viriginia National Guard's largest single-unit deployment since World War II. Its 825 soldiers come from seven unites across the state, including four in Hampton Roads." Erin Barnett (WSLS) adds, "The soldiers will spend 45 to 60 days at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, before leaving for Iraq. They are expected to be in Iraq for more than a year." Hugh Lessing (Daily Press) reports on those departing including Capt Brian Gallavan who states, "We have some of our soldiers where this is their third or fourth deployment. I have two on their fifth deployment."
And it's a year long deployment. But they're being told to be 'flexible.' Why? Because the US government's really not sure what's happening with the US military and Iraq just yet. On Antiwar Radio. Scott Horton spoke with Jason Ditz about what may or may not happen with US troops in Iraq. Excerpt.
Scott Horton: We've been talking quite a bit about this. The empire has made no secret that they're determined to stay, they want so badly to stay, but there is no UN resolution authorizing the occupation. There's only the Status Of Forces Agreement that Bush signed with Maliki in 2008 and now that says that every last one of our army troops have got to be out of the country -- and that goes for Air Force, Navy and Marines too -- at the end of this year, December 31, 2011. Our guys are trying to get Nouri al-Maliki to "invite us" to stay -- the way they've been able to successfully coherce the South Koreans and the Japanese into inviting us to stay in their countries. And this Sadr guy doesn't seem to be going for it -- but then "seems" are iffy things. And I read a couple of things that said that the Pentagon is betting that Sadr is bluffing and that the only way Sadr can make the United States leave is basically by what he's doing right now which is saying, 'Listen, you're going to have to start the war all over again and you don't want that.' They stood by when the Americans rolled in from Kuwait to take out Saddam Hussein, they've been fighting for the Shi'ite factions -- the Iraqi National Alliance -- this whole time. They're saying, 'You're going to have to start the war all over again against us.' And the Pentagon is betting, trying at least, they're hoping that he's just bluffing. And I wonder, from all the indications, what you're reading about the situation over there, whether you think Moqtada al-Sadr is really willing to turn the south of Iraq upside down in order to force the Americans out?
Jason Ditz: It looks like he might well be but Prime Minister Maliki, of course, came up with ruling out the occupation beyond the end of the year several times in public speeches and then recently he's backed off that entirely saying that 'Well, it's going to be up to the Iraqi Parliament to decide whether or not to extend the Status Of Forces Agreement --
Scott Horton: You know I wonder --
Jason Ditz: -- so --
Scott Horton: You know I wonder exactly how to spin that one or which spin on that is most likely, I guess. Whether that's him beginning to give in to the Americans and really work for them and trying to invite us to stay or whether that's him just setting the stage for trying to say, 'Look, I tried to reason with them and they just won't go along' -- you know, as his excuse to us for not inviting us to stay?
Jason Ditz: Well either one is possible but the several times that he came out publicly and said absolutely not, the US pretty much pretended like they didn't hear. It's like they put their fingers in their ears and said, 'La-la-la we can't hear you.' And then they would ask again, a couple of days later. And they even went so far in one of their public speeches -- I believe it was Secretary Gates -- expressing concern that the Iraqi government hadn't responded one way or another after several times of Maliki saying 'absolutely not.'
Scott Horton: Right. Yep, well, boy oh boy, I mean, it's not hard to imagine that over at the Pentagon, they figure that they stole Iraq fair and square, they get to keep but somebody should have told them who they were fighting for and how it wasn't working out so well. I got to refer again to that book The Good Soldiers by [David] Finkel, the Washington Post reporter where he covers the surge in east Baghdad against the Sadrists in 2007 and 2008 and these guys had no idea that they were fighting for Moqtada al-Sadr against the rest of the country, that in the Sunni provinces that are guys are basically the reserve forces for Sadr's death squads, going in there and ethnically cleansing or religiously cleansing, whatever, the vast majority of Baghdad and consolidating all that power for the Iraqi National Alliance and their Iranian allies. All they thought they were doing was going out on patrol, fighting those terrible Sadrists. They had no idea the war they were even in.
Jason Ditz: Oh and I think a lot of people still don't realize the type of war that we're in and a lot more people seem to figure that this war is over and has been over for awhile now.
Scott Horton: That's what Rachel Maddow says and apparently that's what makes things true.
That broadcast may need to be revisted January 1, 2012. (Listen in full and you'll understand that remark.) Jack A. Smith (Foreign Policy Journal) observes:

The Obama Administration is anxious to retain military bases and thousands of troops in Iraq, which it is supposed to leave entirely at the end of this year, and in Afghanistan as well, when the U.S. is scheduled to depart at the end of 2014. President Obama is applying heavy pressure to Baghdad and Kabul to "request" the long-term presence of U.S. troops and "contractors" after the bulk of the occupation force withdraws.

Why keep troops in Iraq? The neoconservative Bush White House invaded Iraq, which was considered a pushover after 12 years of U.S.-British-UN killer sanctions, not only to control its oil, but as a prelude to bringing about regime change in neighboring Iran, thus providing Washington with total control of the immense resources of the Persian Gulf. The Iraqi guerrilla resistance destroyed the plan, for now.

Thus, the upshot of the war -- in addition to costing American taxpayers several trillion dollars over the next few decades in principal and interest -- is that Shi'ite Iran's main enemy, which was the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad until 2003, has been replaced by the Shi'ite government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a politician who usually bends the knee to Washington but is quite friendly to Tehran, as are many Iraqi politicians. (The Shia are nearly 65% of the population; the Sunnis, nearly 35%.)

On May 16 Maliki declared that "Security, military and political cooperation between Iran and Iraq is essential, and we will certainly see the expansion of relations in these areas in the future." Washington's big fear is that Maliki may eventually thumb his nose at Uncle Sam, and that in time, Iraq and Iran will draw much closer together -- a prospect deeply opposed by the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

According to Stratfor, the private intelligence resource, on April 26: "[T]he U.S. has reportedly offered to leave as many as 20,000 troops in the country" after its "pullout" at the end of this year. In addition, a large but undetermined number of "contractors" -- often paramilitary hirelings -- are to remain.

Further, according to an Inter Press Service report May 9, the State Department "intends to double its staff in Iraq to nearly 16,000 and rely entirely on private contractors for security." So large a staff is almost unbelievable, but so is the immense size of the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone -- the largest such facility in the world.

Lara Jakes (AP) informs, "The Obama administration is ready to play ball on keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond this year. But for Iraq's government, in the words of one lawmaker, the issue is like playing with fire." In iraq, New Sabah calls it US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey's "first public reaction" on the issue of US forces staying in Iraq beyond 2011 (and possibly it is for the Iraqi press). It? He's dimissed the review of the Mahdi militia from last week. He also called out Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia's claim that they can attack US forces insisting that the presence of US forces on Iraqi soil was a result of the "legitimate will of the Parliament." (He's referring to the 2008 Thanksgiving Day vote on the SOFA. And while he may have a point, a stronger point would be that the Iraqi people were promised a voice in the process -- without that promise, some believe Parliament wouldn't have passed the SOFA -- I disagree, but a number of people believe that -- and the promised referendum that they'd vote in never came to be.) And a new group joins the chorus of 'extend' that Kurdish officials have been chanting. Dar Addustour reports that the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Association has come out in favor of US forces remaining on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011 stating that their presence is necessary to provide safety for Iraq's religious and ethnic minorities. The organization also maintains that the continued presence of US forces would allow Iraqi forces the opportunities to refine their own performance. Nouri al-Maliki is expected to call a meeting shortly to discuss keeping US forces on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011.

Saturday Al Mada noted that as the end of the 100 days approaches (June 7th, "100 days" refers to the promise Nouri made that he would clean up government corruption and provide services within 100 days) Iraqi security forces seem to be taking a harder line with protesters. They cite as an example what took place Friday in Baghdad when youth activists protested in Tahrir Square and four were arrested. The paper notes that the forces used "special security measures" that were new to this arrest. Iraqi forces also used some actions that were the same as previous ones: closing the bridges and cutting off roads, etc. The Iraqi Democratic Youth Federation and the Union of Students in the Republic of Iraq issued a statement condemning the arrests, calling for the immediate release of the four protesters and denouncing the "return to repressive authoritarian" measures. Friday was "False Promises Friday." The Great Iraqi Revolution noted the four arrested: "THE 4 YOUNG ACTIVISTS WHO WERE ARRESTED TODAY BY QASSIM ATTA AND TAKEN TO A PLACE UNKNOWN - 27.5.2011 - THEIR NAMES ARE: JIHAD JALEEL, ALI ABDUL KHALIQ, MOUAYED AL TAYEB AND AHMED AL BAGHDADI. We pray God to have them released very soon."

They also noted of Friday's Baghdad protest -- or in response to it, a smear campaign is being launched on TV, "In the serial of attempting to bad mouth and blacken the Tahrir Square protestors and demonstrators, Qassim Atta and the Iraqiya air photos of one of the detained activists in the Protests and accuse him of several crimes, they then proceed to air a film of a crime whose perpetrators are known to all and sundry, and in the same film some hooded men are heard to accuse that the activist is the person who committed the crime!" And the assault on protesters continued Saturday. Aswat al-Iraq reported:

An eye witness said that a military force raided an NGO, known as Where is My Right, and arrested 11 persons, including its secretary general, in suspicion for their relationship with the organizers of Tahreer Square demonstrations.
"Four Hummer military vehicles and two 4-wheel drive cars surrounded the organization premises in Maidan Square, in the center of Baghdad, where they searched it and destroyed its computers," the source told Aswat al-Iraq.
On the other hand, an activist said on the Facebook page for the Tahreer Square demonstrations, that the organization is an NGO that participated in organizing the demonstrations.
The arrested persons were meeting to discuss how to release the four activists who were arrested last Friday.

All for calling for an end to corruption, calling for basic services, calling for the detainees to be freed, calling for the occupation of Iraq to end. Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) cover these events and speak with activist Hanna Edwar:

The government's actions raise the specter of a security apparatus that tolerates little dissent by people not affiliated with religious parties or any of the major groups in government. It also speaks to the limits of American influence in a country where the U.S. still has nearly 50,000 troops and has served as the main architect of the country's new democracy and sponsor of those in power.
The government has been far from clear about the status of the four activists. First it said they were being held by military intelligence. Then it denied that, adding that there was no record of any protesters being arrested. Baghdad's military command issued a statement late Tuesday saying that the four had been picked up with fake IDs in the same neighborhood as the demonstrations — a charge the men's supporters called ludicrous. The men's families were told they would be taken to see them Wednesday at a military intelligence prison.
Edwar said the nine others detained Saturday were probably being held in the same place.
The detained activists' friends, mostly young people who met through Facebook, spent Sunday and Monday stealthily putting up posters about the four around university campuses.

Dar Addoustour reports that youth activists are gearing up for demonstrations on June 10th, three days after the end of the 100 days. David Ali (Al Mada) adds that the government continues to assert the protesters were not arrested for their political activities. Al Mada's Fakhri Karim surveys the scene to see what has taken place in the 100 days thus far and finds that the security situation has worsened (and notes the increase in assassinations), the political blocs in the government continue to be at loggerheads, protesters had noted that the security ministries had no heads (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Defense) and that remains the case, and calls any claims of tensions being eased to be a mirage and illusion. In addition,
Nahrain is reporting Iraqiya's Tareq al-Hashemi (the country's Sunni vice president) has declared that Iraqiya has suspended all discussions with State of Law and will not resume them until the Erbil Agreement is followed. Aswat al-Iraq quotes from the statement Iraqiya issued, "Due to the delay of the negotiations that took place on Monday, May 30, 2011, the leaders of al-Iraqiya have studied the political situation and decided to suspend the attendance of its delegation in the said talks in the future, unless the State of Law Alliance responds to its legitimate demands, within the agreements concluded in response to Kurdistan President, Massoud Barzani's initiative,"
Reuters notes today's violence includes a Mussayab bombing which claimed 6 lives and left eleven people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing that may or may not have been intended as an assassination attempt on a deputy minister for Abdul-Karim Abdullah who is the Ministry of Human Rights (two by-standers were injured in the bombing), another Baghdad bombing left seven people injured and a Jurf al-Sakhar attack on Sahwa which killed 1 Sahwa leader and left his bodyguard injured. Aswat al-Iraq reports that a US military convoy was attacked with a grenade in Qurna (no one was reported injured or dead), the Basra Operations Command (Iraqi outpost) was attacked with mortars today, and yesterday there was an attack outside Tikrit by "four armed men" who killed 3 brothers.

Still on violence, last week mini-thug Ali al-Lami was murdered. In 2010, Ahmed Chalibi's little fellow used the Justice and Accountability Commission to settle old scores. Al Sabaah reports that a raid was conducted in Taji and a suspect (an officer in the intelligence service during the Saddam Hussein era) was arrested. Xinhua adds that Baghdad Operations Command released a statement which included: "Iraqi security forces have arrested a terrorist who carried out the assassination of Ali al-Lami. The terrorist was affiliated with the intelligence service of the former Saddam Hussein's regime."

Hundreds of Iraq Christians, Iraqi Jews and other religious minorities have been killed while Nouri al-Maliki has been prime minister -- as have many journalists. Those deaths? Never solved to this day.

Apparently there just wasnt a 'desire' on the part of Nouri to find those killers (many of whom were in his party and/or working for him). But Ali al-Lami dies and all stops are pulled out to arrest a suspect.

Today the Committee to Protect Journalists released their Impunity Index: "CPJ's annual Impunity Index, first published in 2008, identifies countries where journalists are murdered regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. For this latest index, CPJ examined journalist murders that occurred between January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2010, and that remain unsolved. Only the 13 nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained." And guess who comes in first? That's right:

The scourge of impunity worsened in Iraq, a country with a rating far worse than anywhere else in the world. None of the 92 journalist murders recorded in Iraq in the past decade has been solved, and, after a brief decline in targeted killings, journalist murders spiked in 2010. Among the four murder victims in 2010 was Sardasht Osman, a contributor to several news outlets who had received numerous threats for coverage that accused Kurdistan Regional Government officials of corruption. The investigation of his murder is emblematic of the deeply entrenched culture of impunity in Iraq. Authorities took no discernible action in the case until they faced intense international pressure. Then, investigators produced a cursory, 430-word report that vaguely accused Osman of having links to an extremist group that led to his killing. The report, which cited no supporting evidence for its claims, was widely denounced for lacking credibility and transparency.

Impunity Index Rating: 2.921 unsolved journalist murders per 1 million inhabitants.
Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.794.

AFP notes, "Iraq remained worst in the world when it comes to punishing murders of reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Wednesday. The war-wracked country topped the list, published by the New York-based press watchdog to spotlight countries where media killings often go unpunished, for the fourth year running with an unsolved murder rate more than three times that of Somalia, which was next worst." Iraq has 'topped the charts' every year of the Impunity Index. Wladimir van Wilgenburg (Rudaw) notes:

In a report released on June 1, Iraq is ranked first on the 2011 impunity index of the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ). CPJ criticizes the Kurdish government for its unsatisfactory handling of the murder case of Kurdish writer Sardasht Osman in 2010.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has come in for fierce criticism by human rights and press organizations such as Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), CPJ and Human Rights Watch in the last few months for the way it dealt with demonstrations and the media.
On May 30, the KRG responded to the allegations and didn't deny violations by Kurdish security forces and ill-treatment of protestors.

So the message is that when the deaths matter to him, Nouri is interested in finding at the very least a suspect and the deaths of journalists and Iraq's religious minorities really don't matter to Nouri. Meanwhile Iran's Fars News Agency insists, "The United States and Saudi Arabia have sent their death squads to Iraq to assassinate the country's Shiite officers and scholars, Iraqi security sources revealed on Wednesday." While the idea of Special Ops being sent on such a mission wouldn't be shocking to me, it's a bit hard to take seriously a report that promises "security sources" -- plural -- in its opening sentence but spends the entire report citing one and only one source. In addition, the actual article -- in Arabic -- is from Nahrain and it mentions one source and only one source for the allegations. (It's an unnamed source.) On the topic of rumors, Nahrainnet reports that an unnamed "official source in the police of Najaf" is denying previous reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is the target of a planned assassination. Now about the Human Rights Watch issue brought up a second ago. Last week Human Rights Watch issued an alert on the KRG which included the following:
Kurdistan regional government officials and security forces are carrying out a growing assault on the freedom of journalists to work in Iraqi Kurdistan, Human Rights Watch said today. Regional officials should stop repressing journalists through libel suits, beatings, detentions, and death threats, Human Rights Watch said.

Kurdistan authorities have repeatedly tried to silence Livin Magazine, one of Iraqi Kurdistan's leading independent publications, and other media. The international community should end its silence and condemn these widening attacks, Human Rights Watch said.

"The Kurdistan Regional Government promised a new era of freedom for Iraqi Kurds, but it seems no more respectful of Kurdish rights to free speech than the government that preceded it," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "In a time when the Middle East is erupting in demands to end repression, the Kurdish authorities are trying to stifle and intimidate critical journalism."

On May 17, 2011, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of regional president Massud Barzani brought a defamation lawsuit against the Livin editor-in-chief, Ahmed Mira, for publishing an article about an alleged plot by the KDP and its ruling alliance partner, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), to assassinate opposition leaders. According to court documents obtained by Human Rights Watch, the KDP is seeking total damages of one billion dinars (US$864,000) and an order to shut down the magazine by revoking its license.

The court documents say the party is suing Mira because the Livin article "not only has no basis in truth but is a threat to national security [and] a violation to the dignity and glory and the great achievements" of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Earlier in May, the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, the PUK leader, filed his own lawsuit over the same article. Mira told Human Rights Watch that, as a result, police detained him and a Livin reporter, Zhyar Mohammed, for five hours on May 5.

"Such libel suits by Kurdistan government officials are nothing more than a thinly-veiled effort to punish critics and create an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship," Whitson said. "The attacks by Barzani and his colleagues on independent journalists do more to undermine Kurdish 'dignity' and 'glory' than anything in the media reports."

A Livin reporter told Human Rights Watch that when he called Sheikh Jaffar Mustafa, Minister of Peshmerga (Kurdistan security forces), on April 24, Mustafa threatened Livin's editor, Mira, with death. The reporter had called Mustafa and taped the conversation because he wanted to get an official comment on an unrelated matter. The reporter said that Mustafa was upset over an unflattering article in the magazine that compared Mustafa to the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak. Mira said he decided to report the threat to the regional government's prime minister rather than make it public or go to the police, which he believed would be ineffectual and put him at further risk.

AFP and NOW Lebanon note that the KRG's response to Human Rights Watch was a statement which included: "We will not deny that a few individuals from KRG security forces may have committed violations and might have subjected some protesters to ill treatment." The response was in the form of a letter from Falah Mustafa Bakir who heads the Foreign Relations Dept:
I have been directed by the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Dr. Barham Salih, to write to you in response to Human Rights Watch's statement on April 21, 2011 in relation to the protests in Suleimaniyah between February and April of this year.

First and foremost, we reaffirm our gratitude and appreciation for the work conducted by HRW throughout the years in defense of Kurdish rights. While we take issue with some of the assertions in your statement, we consider your intervention consistent with your concern with the human rights of Kurds and others.

This has been a testing period in so many ways for our government and the Kurdistan Region's political process. We will not deny that a few individuals from KRG security forces may have committed violations and might have subjected some protesters to ill treatment. We can assure you, however, that these incidents have occurred despite KRG's clear directives for strict adherence to the law and the rights of the protesters. These violations can be attributed, at least in part, to lack of training and equipment needed for crowd control, which has also led to the death and injury of many police and security personnel. It is also important to recognize that the protests in the governorate of Suleimaniyah were not entirely peaceful. Many of the protest leaders incited violence, some even called for Jihad. Many of the demonstrators took part in violent actions that caused extensive damage to public and private property as well as hundreds of injuries and even the deaths of two security personnel.

The protests and opposition politics

The KRG, since its inception in 1991, has achieved much progress—despite many setbacks that have been manifested through internal strife. Nonetheless, after twenty years, there is still need for change and reforms. Our constituents legitimately aspire to better governance, combating corruption, and preventing the abuse of power. The initial wave of protests was undoubtedly a reflection of this desire for reform.

However, the facts show that much of the protests' organization and motivation, as well as the degeneration of the security situation, is a result of political opportunism whereby opposition political parties and leaders have attempted to achieve in the streets what they were unable to achieve at the ballot box. The violence accompanying some of the protests is not an expression of democracy—it is a direct challenge to democracy.

Here are some key facts to take into account when considering what is happening in the Kurdistan Region:
  • The current administration of the Kurdistan Regional Government came into office in July 2009 as the result of a competitive election in which the winning coalition received 59% of the vote.
  • More than 320 international observers from 35 countries and organizations, including the UN and EU, monitored the elections. They praised the high turnout of the elections and its competitive environment.
  • Opposition parties made significant gains in these elections, and for the first time in history, the Kurdistan Region's Parliament has a large opposition group in attendance.
  • The Gorran Party, the main opposition, first called for the KRG to resign more than three weeks before the first protest, and they promised to bring their people to the streets if the government was not dissolved.
  • The outbreak of violence on February 17th resulted when a group of protesters left the licensed protest area and attacked the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Suleimaniyah. A regrettable shooting incident took place. Of the 64 total wounded (reported by the Suleimaniyah Emergency Hospital), 11 were security personnel.
  • Some protesters have repeatedly insulted, taunted, and used violence in attempts to provoke security officers in order to gain sympathy for their cause.
  • In Halabja, two police officers were killed and many others were wounded during violent protests in which not a single protester was injured, illustrating the restraint shown by the police.
  • In addition to the two officers who were killed, almost 500 security personnel have been wounded by protestors throwing sticks, rocks, glass, and using knives, guns, and other weapons. Of the 99 persons reported injured during the events of April 17th and 18th, 66 were security personnel, and two of these were blinded by broken glass fired from slingshots.
  • Of those arrested, over 95% were released almost immediately. Due process is a fundamental right, and the government does not hold any persons for political reasons. Those who have been held are being detained with charges ranging from carrying a weapon without a license to assault with the intent to kill.
  • Almost 90% of the demonstrators were male, and 60% of them were under the age of 18.
  • Of the nearly one million residents of Suleimaniyah, the usual turnout of less than 1,500 protesters had a devastating impact on the economy in the Suleimaniyah area and on the Region as a whole. Local merchants, shops and service centers have suffered terrible financial losses, and the government has received countless calls for action to be taken to protect their welfare.

The KRG and reform

The government has recognized the need for reform since long before these protests began, and many significant reforms have already been passed. Among these are:
  • Before protests began in the region, the government was already taking steps to initiate many reforms. The current cabinet, which took office in October 2010, embarked on a series of reform initiatives aimed at limiting political party interference in governmental work and promoting new levels of transparency in public finances.
  • On November 23rd, 2010 President Barzani held a meeting with Prime Minister Salih and the Council of Ministers urging a wide ranging reform agenda to improve government services, the unification of Peshmerga forces, and measures to eliminate corruption.
  • President Barzani called parliament together on February 10th. In addition to the measures listed above, he asked each party to draw up a plan for introducing reforms on: improving government efficiency, creating more jobs, and making public access to services easier and more convenient.
  • In a public meeting on February 14th, the President reiterated his firm resolve to fight corruption and stressed that no one is above the law.
  • Establishing an independent Judicial Council to separate the judicial system from the influence of the Ministry of Justice.
  • Promoting the protection, rights, and participation of women in government through establishing the Higher Council of Women and a directorate to follow up on the government's actions to prevent violence against women, passing a law to prosecute perpetrators of honor killings as murderers, and passing a law requiring 30% of MPs to be women.
  • Passing a Press Law ensuring imprisonment is no longer possible as punishment for press-related matters.
  • Enacting a Code of Ethics and Conduct for greater accountability of government officials to ensure separation of public and private interests.
  • Establishing a continuing program of training and mentoring for KRG civil servants with the UK's National School of Government.
  • Starting a program with the UK's Westminster Foundation for Democracy to enhance the Kurdistan Parliament's training and capacity-building for MPs and parliamentary staff.
  • Bringing in the independent firm Price Waterhouse Coopers to advise the KRG on strategies for good governance and transparency.

Response to criticism
  • Since the protests began, the government has listened closely to the people's demands and has taken many steps to address the protesters' concerns in a responsible and democratic way.
  • Parliament has passed an extensive program to institute 17 points of reform (see attached translation – app 1).
  • A committee was formed by the Council of Ministers on February 23rd to investigate the events that took place in Suleimaniyah and elsewhere. This report, based on video footage, health reports, and interviews with civilian and government witnesses, has now been presented to the public.
    The substantial criticisms of government actions in this report are a testament to its credibility, and you can rest assured that we will do everything that we can to address the issues brought to light in this report (see attached translation of the report's findings summary – app 2).
  • The Prime Minister issued a statement to the protestors responding to their demands and establishing a committee to work on a mechanism for coordination (see the translation of the letter – app 3).
  • On February 27th, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) officially returned a list of party properties to government control (see attachment – app 4).
  • The Prime Minister and Ministers of Peshmerga Affairs and the Interior have all attended sessions of parliament to be questioned about events related to the protests.
  • The Ministry of Interior has sought training and equipment for non-lethal crowd management, and a directive was sent to all the security forces of the Kurdistan Region regarding appropriate procedures for detaining and processing prisoners (see attached directive – app 5).
  • On March 20th, President Barzani laid out a list of 20 reforms that he called on parliament and the other appropriate entities to enact in response to many of the legitimate demands of the protesters (see attached translation – app 6).
  • The government has scheduled provincial elections for September 10, 2011, and President Barzani has indicated a willingness to consider holding Parliamentary elections before their currently scheduled date in 2013.
  • The government has repeatedly asked for the assistance of the people to put an end to the violence and to address their concerns through constructive and peaceful dialogue, and in recent days the local security forces in Suleimaniyah have successfully cleared the protest area so that business and commerce may resume - their restraint during this action is evidenced by the fact that more than two thirds of the reported injured were security personnel.

Concluding thoughts

While this government acknowledges significant shortcoming and deficiencies in its performance, we ask that it be viewed with appreciation for the challenges that it faces and with honest consideration for the progress it has made. Since obtaining limited autonomy from Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime in 1991, this Region has quadrupled its number of schools, doubled the number of hospitals, completed more than 4,000 drinking-water projects, built more than 900 km of paved roads, made significant improvements in sewage and waste management, multiplied its average electricity output by more than 9 times, and has increased oil exports from zero to 150,000 bpd since 2007. The number of newspapers, magazines and broadcast media outlets has risen dramatically, and all of these improvements have been made in order to enhance the education, healthcare and the provision of services and infrastructure to the people of the Kurdistan Region. The KRG is proud to be a government that puts the security and the needs of its people above all else.

In addition to the reforms mentioned above, Amnesty International recognized the region for discontinuing the incarceration of political prisoners, for passing legislation to compensate detainees that have been held without charges, and for its improvements in human rights overall in its 2009 report. This region has also become a refuge for tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), particularly those fleeing religious persecution, and the KRG provides them with food, housing, and financial assistance.

Progress and reform are not new to this government. A culture of positive change has been fostered since well before the protests began. The KRG welcomes the new opposition as a means of improving the efficiency of the democratic system, and it is open to constructive criticisms and cooperative efforts toward further progress. However, we call on the opposition to take its responsibility seriously. They should participate in the coalition government to help implement the many reforms that are still needed or win the right to lead the country through the ballot box. Their calls to dissolve a democratically elected coalition government are irresponsible, and ceding to this demand would set a dangerous precedent for the Kurdistan Region's emerging democracy.

We would like to thank you for taking the time to consider these thoughts. I hope that we have been successful in communicating a more complete picture of our region. For, as the Prime Minister has recently stated, "the lives and the safety of the people, as well as the stability of the region, are above all of the political positions that we hold."

That's the letter in full there's also this: "See also the appendices to the letter. Click here for PDF files of the original signed letter to HRW and letter to Amnesty International."
Adam Kokesh: As most of you are now aware I was body slammed, choked and arrested at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial this past weekend for silently making some vaguely rhythmical body movements well within my First Amendment rights. But rest assured, citizen, my silent movements were put to a stop before they were able to terrorize the nation. That said dissent and free expression is the very highest form of respect for the lifelong champion and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. Not to take the W line of being 'with us or with the terrorist' but wasn't it the Taliban who was all hardline about illegal dancing? So about the whole body slamming and choking me thing? You know what? We'll let it go. You guys aren't very good dancers. I get it. You're forgiven. Okay. Nice badge. Sorry about your penis. Compensating for something obviously. But you know there's a lot of pent up anger there for a good reason. Seriously, no hard feelings. I want to look at the bright side of this. You know I thought it was a really fitting tribute to the late Macho Man Randy Savage for me to be body slammed into the granite there but no more freebies. You guys want to try to take me again? We'll throw down. Mano y mano. In fact, I'll take all of you at once and it still won't be a fair fight for you. But you better remember your dancing shoes because I'm fighting dance off style. In one corner, we've got the First Amendment, you know that whole mess about no laws being made abridging free expression or press. In the other corner, laws that abridge free expression and press. You want to help make sure that I win this contest? Be there. TJ's Memorial this upcoming Saturday. That's right, Dance Party at TJ's June 4th, noon sharp. Anniversary of Tineman Square by the way. Now we don't all need to go getting cuffed or thrown in cages or maced or beaten with cubs or punched, so if you want to play it safe, party on the stairs. If you're feeling really footloose, harness your Constitutional right and shimmy your way into the Memorial. Just, like me, be ready for the consequences.
He also briefly discussed it on air with Stewart Rhodes.
Adam Kokesh: How are we going to get accountability for this because, you know, Oath Keepers would not have done this. Am I right?
Stewart Rhodes: No. Of course not. It's absurd. Because, first of all, where's the law that says you can only move your feet in a certain manner as you cross the tile, cross the marble. I mean what is dancing away? How do they define that? So it's just ridiculous. And where is the law is what I want to know? And then, how does that trump the First Amendment?
There's a student paper that just published an editorial on the Iraq War that's awful. Kelly McEvers (NPR) does not do "columns" for NPR, for example. A report that you link to, a report that aired on Weekend Edition Sunday, is not a "column." That's (a). Next, this Washington Post webpage ("Faces of the Fallen") does not say 6,013 US service members died in the Iraq War. Your editorial says it does, but the page says 4,442 died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and 1,571 died in Operation Enduring Freedom for a total of 6,013. "Operation Enduring Freedom" is the Afghanistan War. (C) Moqtada al-Sadr has not "led a march in Iraq of tens of thousands . . ." Moqtada al-Sadr was not in Iraq last week. He could not physically lead the march from Iran. It's a student paper and we're going to be kind and not name it or toss in a link. We'll just note those are really serious mistakes for a college newpaper to have in its editorial. But they are students. So they're not responsible for the most ridiculous nonsense the country may see this month. No that would be Tracy Baim promoting her bad book or 'book' on The Progressive Radio with Matt Rothschild. Time and again, she shows ignorance (at best) and flat out lies at worst. I'm really tired of the little brats who don't know the history of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Tracy's decided to write a book including but feels she can be ignorant or lie about it. But promoting the book appears to mean trashing Bill Clinton and Hillary as well. Hillary doesn't have "a veneer" of support for LGBT rights. That's not poor word choice, it's a bitchy remark and it's a lie. And seconds later, liar Tracy has to back away from that claim (because it's a damn lie). It's cute to watch how Tracy addresses Barack putting homophobes on stage at campaign events (for more on that you can see Kevin Alexander Grey's "Obama's Big Gay and Black Problem.") To Matthew's credit, in their print publication, The Progressive ran Kevin Alexander Grey's article -- this while The Nation, in print and online, actively ignored what was taking place on the campaign trail. Asked about this issue by Matthew, Baim wants to laugh about the homophobe who claims he's an ex-gay (and ignores the other homephobes on stage at that event) before immediately adding "and several other missteps during the campaign, now the thing is Clinton wasn't pure on . . ." That's how she deals with. By never dealing with it and by immediately defocusing on Hillary. (Who, for the record, did not stage a campaign event featuring known homophobes paraiding on stage.) Is her book about Hillary or is it about Barack? If it's about Barack, the alleged reporter (who seems to feel she was both a reporter and Barack emissary to the LGBT community during the 2008 campaign) needs to stop whoring and start addressing what the man she wrote a book about did, what he actually did. She's a stupid moron, a petty con artist and dirty liar. I have no use for these fools who will sit there and ignore reality or attempt to explain it away. Stupid, stupid moron.. It only gets worse. And please note, she needs to learn how to speak. She makes a remark about Barack's former church that I can follow because I'm very familiar with that church. But I doubt many others can since she's using "denomination" repeatedly including when she's speaking of the church and how it differs, yes, from the "denomination." (And on how it differs, she actually manages to use the term "denomination" correctly. It's a damn shame she wasn't able to do so consistently.)