Friday, January 27, 2012

Screw Flanders and screw Nader

So Gender Traitor Laura Flanders writes another uniformed piece wherein she laments that people aren't calling out the military nature of Barack's speech.  Her piece was written Thursday.  Barack gave his speech on Wednesday.  C.I. called out the military nature in her Wednesday snapshot, Mike called it out in his Wednesday night post and WSWS has had several articles calling it out.  I'm sure there are many others.  But Laura can only find one: Ralph Nader.

Why does Laura suddenly love Ralph again?

For the same reason that I will NEVER vote for Ralph again.

Ralph has been a disgrace, as a bad a disgrace as Barack Obama.  Actually worse than Barack.

Ralph's answer, given this week, for what the left needs to do in 2012?

Pressure Barack!

He's broken the Constitution and started illegal wars.  When that was Bush, did Ralph tell us to pressure him?

Ralph Nader has spent the last three years being a f**king coward while others have stood strong.

I don't care if Ralph runs for president again.  But I can tell you right now he'll never get my vote again because he's demonstrated in the last three years that he is a pathetic and craven groveler.  He has refused to call out Barack strongly and clearly.

So he can go f**k himself.

People sometimes e-mail the community sites noting that everyone (except maybe Ava and C.I.) voted for Ralph in 2008 so why don't we note Ralph's weekly commentaries or why don't we . . .

C.I. has a standard issue e-mail that goes out on that crap explaining that Ralph's weekly commentaries are weak and that when Ralph wants to get off his hands and knees, to stop crawling and begging, we might care what he has to say but right now he's useless.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, January 27, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, a Baghdad funeral is targeted with a bombing, the media keeps undercounting the dead in Iraq since December 18th, new conditions of a national confrence in Iraq, and more.
Today in Baghdad, a funeral procession was attacked by a suicide bomber. Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) quote Hamit Dardagan, Iraq Body Count, stating, "The situation is worsening.  Sectarian politics in Iraq in Iraq is setting the stage for armed conflict."
Throughout the Iraq War, there have been non-stop waves of Operation Happy Talk.  Efforts which have consistently failed leaving the US official who produced the spin looking like an idiot.  Reality will always slap you in the face, when it comes to Iraq.  That is the lesson of every year of the Iraq War and occupation.  As Iraq's former Ambassador to the UN Feisal Istrabadi explained December 13th to Warren Oleny on KCRW's To the Point:

The critical mistake the Obama administration made occurred last year when it threw its entire diplomatic weight behind supporting Nouri al-Maliki notwithstanding these very worrisome signs which were already in place in 2009 and 2010. The administration lobbied hard both internally in Iraq and throughout the region to have Nouri al-Maliki get a second term -- which he has done. Right now, the betting there's some question among Iraq experts whether we'll ever have a set of elections in Iraq worthy of the name. I mean, you can almost get odds, a la Las Vegas, on that among Iraq experts. It's a very worrisome thing. What can they do in the future? Well I suppose it would be helpful, it would be useful, if we stopped hearing this sort of Happy Talk coming from the administration -- whether its Jim Jeffrey in Baghdad, the US Ambassador or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers. We're getting a lot of Happy Talk, we're getting a lot of Happy Talk from the Pentagon about how professional the Iraqi Army is when, in fact, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff himself has said it's going to take another ten years before the Iraqi Army can secure the borders. So it would help, at least, if we would stop hearing this sort of Pollyanna-ish -- if that's a word -- exclamations from the administration about how swimmingly things are going in Iraq and had a little more truth told in public, that would be a very big help to begin with.
"We're getting a lot of Happy Talk," Istrabadi noted. And it's not helpful no matter what US official it comes from -- whether its James "Jeffrey in Baghdad, the US Ambassador, or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers."  And it was the US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, who got slapped upside the face by reality today due to insisting, in an interview Gulf News published yesterday, that the political crisis had nothing to do with the current wave of violence, "These attacks are not a result of the political crisis as they are planned months in advance; they are very carefully put together by Al Qaida." Operation Happy Talk is just one of the many things Barack's administration has continued from the Bush administration. It was laughable during the previous administration, it's just pathetic now. Nine years of continuous lies from the government and Jeffrey is supposed to be the face of the United States in Iraq.

(If you're confused, the attack on today's funeral procession was not "planned months in advance." Nor is most of the violence.)

Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph of London) reports, "A suicide bomber killed at least 32 people on Friday by driving an explosives-laden vehicle into a Shia Muslim funeral procession in Baghdad, heightening fears that Iraq is in the grips of sectarian conflict." KUNA notes, "The car exploded on Markaz street, targeting a funeral of a man who was killed in Al-Yarmouk district on Thursday, a police source said." Kareem Raheem, Patrick Markey and Myra MacDonald (Reuters) quote an unnamed Baghdad security official stating, "The suicide car bomber failed to arrive at the Zaafaraniya police station so he blew himself up close to shops and the market." The Daily Mirror notes, "Half of the victims were policemen guarding the march".  Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) add, "Among those killed Friday, witnesses reported, was a woman who sold fish from a cart at the intersection.  Rescuers put the woman's corpse in her cart and took the remains to the hospital, a witness said."

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Authorities believe Col. Norman Dakhil may have been the target of the bomber. Dahkil and his family were in the procession making their way to the hospital to collect bodies of three relatives, including his brother, when the bomb exploded, police said." Ali A. Nabhan and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) add, "The suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the crowd, which included the pallbearers at a funeral for an Iraqi army commander's brother, who was assassinated along with three others on Thursday, according to a Ministry of Interior official." Sebastian Usher (BBC News) was on the NPR hourly news break this morning stating that many details were not clear at this time and that the funeral was for a real estate agent. Al Bawaba notes, "The funeral was held for an Iraqi man, his wife and son who were killed yesterday in the predominantly Sunni Yarmouk district of the capital." Al Rafidayn identifies the realtor as Mohammed al-Maliki (they do not give the names of his wife and son who were also buried after being killed last night "by gunmen." Salam Faraj (AFP) provides this view of the attack, "Helicopters flew overhead as a heavy security presence cordoned off the site of the explosion, while distraught witnesses screamed in anguish, surrounded by the remains of the dead, their clothes and shoes, and chunks of twisted metal. Outside the hospital, groups of men called out names, searching for missing relatives." Bushra Juhi (AP) notes that the death toll has risen to 32 (per hospital officials) and quote grocer Salam Hussein describing "human flesh scattered around and several mutilated bodies in a pool of blood." Lu Hui (Xinhua) reports hospital sources state the toll might rise, "Many of the injured are in serious condition, which could make the death toll higher, said the official. "
Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) states, "The attack Friday was the deadliest in a month and came as part of a wave of attacks that has left more than 200 people dead since US forces withdrew on Dec. 18, reports Al Jazeera." Doesn't that seem like an undercount?  It is one. All this week that claim's been made.  So let's take a look at it because, on its face, it doesn't seem correct (because it's not).  We're referring to the violence covered by the press and noted in the snapshots. We'll start with December 19th but only reported violence from the 19th (on December 19th, the press was also reporting violence from the night of December 18th, we're leaving that out of the count).  In addition, we're ignoring the Turkish bombing on the border of Iraq that left 5 dead -- that's not in the count.  We're focusing on the dead in Iraq from violence (other than Turkish war plane bombings) and in parenthesis is the number injured, FYI. Also 'credited' for the "more than 200"? The Los Angeles Times today credits AFP for that (false) figure.
December 19th,  2 were reported dead (5).  December 20th, 0 were reported dead (0).  December 21st,  3 were reported dead (4).  December 22nd, 75 were reported dead (213).  December 23rd,  0 were reported dead (0).  December 24th, 5 were reported dead (5).  December 25th, 3 were reported dead (12).  December 26th, 8 were reported dead (37).  December 27th, 2 were reported dead (1).  December 28th, 2 were reported dead (15).  December 29th, 0 were reported dead (0).  December 30th, 0 were reported dead (0).  December 31st, 0 were reported dead (0).  January 1st, 9 were reported dead (21).  January 2nd, 0 were reported dead (3). January 3rd, 3 were reported dead (13).  January 4th, 9 were reported dead (17).  January 5th, 75 were reported dead (80).  January 6th, 3 were reported dead (20).  January 7th, 7 were reported dead (25).  January 8th, 3 were reported dead (20).  January 9th,  20 were reported dead (59).  January 10th, 12 were reported dead (3).  January 11th, 6 were reported dead (14).  January 12th, 6 were reported dead (25).  January 13th, 6 were reported dead (32).  January 14th, 53 were reported dead (157).  January 15th, 21 were reported dead (0).  January 16th, 0 were reported dead (0). January 17th, 10 were reported dead (5).  January 18th, 6 were reported dead (5).  January 19th, 4 were reported dead (8).  January 20th, 6 were reported dead (5).  January 21st, 7 were reported dead (1).  January 22nd, 7 were reported dead (6).  January 23rd, 2 were reported dead (5).  January 24th, 20 were reported dead (86).  January 25th, 1 was reported dead (1).  January 26th, 14 were reported dead (8).
So what did we get?  Check my math (always).  391 is the number killed from December 19th through yesterday's reporting cycle.   Now add in today's death totals and you get over 400.  Yes, 400 is "more than 200," in fact, it's twice 200.  And calling over 400 dead "more than 200 dead" is leaving a false impression with your reader.  Please note, those aren't all the deaths, those are just the deaths that we noted from press reports (meaning I may have missed some deaths) and, in addition, all violent deaths do not get reported on in Iraq.  And calling over 400 deaths only "more than 200" is cutting the truth in half.
Violence didn't end with the bomb attack on the funeral.  Barbara Surk (AP) reports, "Minutes after the explosion, gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint in Zafaraniyah, killing two police officers, according to police officials."   In addition, Reuters notes 1 electrician was shot dead in Mosul and 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 civil servant in Mosul.
Prensa Latina explains, "The current escalation of violence is associated with political frictions between the government, led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  Al-Maliki issue[d] a warrant for the arrest of al-Hashemi, who is under protection of Iraqi Kurdistan, for alleged terrorist acts in 2009, and also . . . . [is attempting] to make the Parliament withdraw its vote of confidence on Sunni Deputy Prime Minster Saleh Al-Mutlaq."  Middle East Online adds, "The United States and United Nations have urged calm and called for dialogue but oft-mooted talks involving Iraq's political leaders have yet to take place."
The only hope for resolving the political crisis was said to be the national conference that President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since the end of December. Last week, things appeared promising for a national conference at least being held. One planning meet-up had taken place and another was scheduled for Sunday January 22nd; however, last Sunday's meet-up (which was hoped to be the final planning session) was postponed due to Talabani having to fly to Germany for spinal surgery. Since then, Nouri and his State of Law have insisted that if anything take place, it not be called a "national conference" and that participants be limited to Nouri, Talabani, al-Nujaifi and the leader of blocs in Parliament. Al Rafidayn reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has declared he will not participate and that he can't be forced to. Whether this means no one from his bloc will participate or not isn't clear. Dar Addustour also covers al-Sadr's statements which he issued online in reply to a question from one of his followers. Al Mada quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh talking down the national conference and stating that it will be a failure if it raises the issue of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. (Nouri wants him tried for treason; he wants Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq stripped of his post. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are members of Iraqiya which bested State of Law in the March 2010 elections.) The report also notes that State of Law's push to replace Saleh al-Mutlaq with former Speaker of Parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani does not have the full support of the National Alliance (a Shi'ite coalition made up of many actors including the Sadr bloc and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq).

The political crisis has many roots but at the heart is the failure to follow the agreement that ended the eight month political stalemate which followed the March 2010 elections. Nouri refused to allow anyone else to be prime minister. During this time, Iraqiya should have been allowed to build a coalition but Nouri blocked it. During this time, Moqtada al-Sadr and others were vocal that they didn't want Nouri to be prime minister. But he had the backing of the White House so the will of the Iraqi voters and the Constitution didn't matter. To get the country moving forward, all political blocs except State of Law made major concessions in the US brokered Erbil Agreement of November 2010. It allowed Nouri to continue as prime minister. It was supposed to mean a number of other things but after Nouri was named prime minister-designate, he trashed the agreement and refused to honor it.

Some online sycophants of Nouri al-Maliki, worshipers of authoritarianism, insist that the agreement must be trashed, that it's "unconstitutional." The aspect that's against the Constitution, the only aspect, is the section that made Nouri prime minister. Not surprisingly, the self-styled 'analysts' never object to that or suggest that section was unconstitutional. Yet they expect to be taken seriously as analysts and honest brokers. Only in your all male circle jerk, boyz, only there.

Al Mada notes that a spokesperson for KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih that the Erbil Agreement must be part of the national conference and that it must be followed. The Kurdish blocs have been calling for that for months.

In other news of announcements, Al Mada notes that the Badr Brigade (Shi'ite militia) has declared that there are still people who need to be targeted in Iraq, foreigners and embassies, and has called on the Promised Day Brigade, the League of Righteous and the Hezbollah Brigades not to lay down their arms but to stand with the Badr Brigade agasint the foreign countries with embassies in Iraq. The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad was attacked last week. The United States has the largest embassy in Baghdad (it's a compound) as well as consulates throughout Iraq. Kuwait is specifically mentioned in the article. In addition, many other countries -- including France, England, Australia and Russia -- have embassies in Iraq and many foreign dignitaries visit.

In another sign of risks, Alsumaria reports that a US helicopter was forced to make "an emergency landing this morning" and that "another US helicopter landed and evacuated it.

On diplomacy, the White House received a visitor this week according to Al Mada but there's no release on it from the White House. Al Mada reports that Iraq's new envoy to the US, Ambassador Jaber Habib Jaber, spoke with Barack and that Barack was full of praise for Nouri and "convinced" that Iraq would resolve the political crisis.
While Barack downplays the crisis, at least someone in the administration makes statements that appear to recognize this is a serious issue and a serious moment for Iraq.  Yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a departmental townhall (link is transcript and video -- and, in the left hand corner of the video, the speech is signed for those with hearing issues).
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Behar Gidani, and the last time I stood before you I was an intern, and now I'm a program analyst, so it's quite an honor to be here before you again today. (Applause.)
QUESTION: My question is regarding foreign policy, if I may. As a Kurdish American, much of my interest focuses on the current state of Iraqi political affairs. Given what's going on or what's happened since the American troop withdrawal, with Hashimi fleeing to the Kurdistan region, I was wondering what the role of U.S. diplomacy is right now with that situation, and what you hope you will see in the future to ensure Iraqi security and democracy and stability continue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I'm delighted that you've gone from intern to full-fledged employee in such a short period of time, and we're delighted, and that's exactly the kind of movement of young people into our ranks that I'm thrilled to see.
Look, there is no doubt -- all one has to do is follow the media -- that there's a lot of political contention in Iraq right now. The United States, led by our very able, experienced Ambassador Jim Jeffrey -- I don't know if the man has slept more than an hour or two, because he is constantly, along with his able team, reaching out, meeting with, cajoling, pushing the players, starting with Prime Minister Maliki, not to blow this opportunity. Let me just be very clear: This is an opportunity for the Iraqi people of all areas of Iraq, of all religious affiliation, of all backgrounds -- this is an opportunity to have a unified Iraq, and the only way to do that is by compromising.
And one of the challenges in new democracies is that compromise is not in the vocabulary, especially in countries where people were oppressed, brutalized over many years. They believe that democracy gives them the opportunity to exercise power and, even though it's not the specific individual -- Saddam Hussein is gone -- he oppressed the Shia, he terribly abused the Kurds, including chemical attacks -- he's gone, but people's minds are not yet fully open to the potential for what this new opportunity can mean to them. And unfortunately, there's a lot of line-drawing going on and boundary-imposing between different political factions.
So we are certainly conveying in as strong a message as we can that these political difficulties and disagreements have to be peacefully resolved for the good of all Iraqis, and that everyone has a chance to grow the pie bigger, to have more freedom, more economic prosperity by working together.
And it's not easy. It's unfortunately one of the challenges we face everywhere in the world right now. With the great movement toward democracy, which we welcome and applaud, it has upended a lot of the historical experiences that people have held onto, and there is a need to get moving beyond that. But it will take time. The United States will be firmly in the role of advising and mentoring and playing the go-between in every way that we possibly can. But at the end of the day, Iraq is now a democracy, but they need to act like one, and that requires compromise.
And so I'm hoping that there will be a recognition of that, and such a tremendous potential to be realized. Iraq can be such a rich country -- it's already showing that with the oil revenues starting to flow again -- but problems have to be resolved. They cannot be ignored or mandated by authoritarianism; they have to be worked through the political process. (Applause.)
Now let's turn to the issue of women and former Minister of Women's Affairs Nawal al-Samarraie who publicly stood out and decired the discrimination within the government during Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister.  February 6, 2009, she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio).

Nouri didn't care for Nawal al-Samarraie or the needed attention she raised. Which was reflected in his second term when he tried to erase women completely. From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:

Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).

42 posts to fill and Nouri couldn't think of a single woman? And wouldn't have if Iraqi women hadn't gotten vocal on the issue. (And note that Nouri increased the Cabinet from 31 in his first term to 42.)  December 22nd, AFP reported on women's status in Iraq and  how it has fallen from a high for the region to a nightmare (my term) today.  Excerpt:
Safia al-Souhail, an MP who ran in March 2010 elections on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law slate but has since defected and is now an independent, said US forces made some progress, but did not do enough in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
"They were always giving excuses that our society would not accept it," she said. "Our society is still wondering why the Americans did not support women leaders who were recognised by the Iraqi people."
She lamented that Maliki had completed a recent official visit to Washington without a single woman in his delegation, describing it as a "shame on Iraq". Indeed, only one woman sits in Maliki's national unity cabinet, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, the minister of state for women's affairs.
We bring that up because Nouri did finally find a woman and named her to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. The woman is Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi. And Al Mada reports the lovely doesn't believe in equality stating equality "harms women" but she's happy to offer government dictates on what women should be wearing. No, she's not a minister. She's many things including words we won't use here but she's not friend to women and that's why Nouri picked her. A real woman fighting for other women? Nouri can't handle that. A simpering idiot who states that women should only act after their husband's consent? That gender traitor gets a ministry. She's currently at work devising a uniform for Iraqi women.

We noted American gender traitors in a snapshot this week and Trina's "Diane," Rebecca's "continuing c.i., i grab goodman," Elaine's "Grab bag" and Ann's "2 women, 4 men" followed up on that.  We were noting silences of American women who should have been speaking out for Iraqis especially now that a new Human Rights Watch report had found that Iraq was turning into a police state.  Along with that major finding (which we noted earlier this week), the report, [PDF format warning] World Report: 2012 also noted realities for Iraqi women today:
Iraq adjudicates family law and personal status matters pursuant to a 1959 Personal Status Code.  The law discriminates against women by ranting men privileged status in matters of divorce and inheritance.  The law futher discriminates against women by permitting Iraqi men to have as many as four polygamous marriages.
On October 6 Iraq's parliament passed legislation to lift Iraq's reservation to article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Atricle 9 grants women equal rights with men to acquire, change, or retain their nationality and pass on their nationality to their children.
Violence against women and girls continued to be a serious problem across Iraq. Women's rights activists said they remained at risk of attack from extremists, who also targeted female politicians, civil servants, and journalists.  "Honor" crimes and domestic abuse remained a threat to women and girls, who were also vulnerable to trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced prostitution due to insecurity, displacement, financial hardship, social disintegration, and the dissolution of rule of law and state authority.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced mainly in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and several official and non-governmental studies estimate that the prevalence of FGM among girls and women in Kurdistan is at least 40 percent.  On June 21 Kurdistan's parliament passed the Family Violence Bill, which includes several provisions criminalizing the practice, as well as forced and child marriages, and verbal, physical and psychological abuse of girls and women.
The rights of women have been destroyed in Iraq.  It may take generations for them to return to the legal rights that they had prior to the US invasion of Iraq.  That story probably won't be told by too many US outlets but you can always count on the nonsense.  Case in point, Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) conducts  an interview with Adnan al-Asadi whom Nouri has put in charge of the Minster of Interior. Not noted in the article -- so probably not raised in the interview -- al-Asadi has no powers. He was not presented as a nominee to the Parliament, he was not voted into office by the Parliament. Legally, he heads no ministry and Nouri can strip him of the post (with no input from Parliament). He serves at the whim of Nouri, the puppet has a puppet. Somewhere in an article on violence, Schmidt and the New York Times should have had the guts to note that the security ministries still have no heads -- Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of National Security. But, as we've already noted this week, the paper of US-government record has always sucked up to and covered for Nouri. Al Mada reports that Iraq's Integrity Commission has released a list of the most corrupt ministries in Iraq. At number four: Electricity. At number three: Trade. At number one: Defense. And at number two? Interior. No, Schmidt didn't cover that in his report either. How does one interview the 'acting minister' of the ministry just ranked the second most corrupt in Iraq by the independent governmental Integrity Commission and 'forget' to inform readers of the ranking? One manages that feat only when filing for the New York Times.
Let's go legal.  Wednesday's snapshot included:
Today in Iraq, many look to the US today as a result of yesterday's sentencing. Stan Wilson and Michael Martinez (CNN) reports Staff Sgt Frank G. Wuterich, who entered a guilty plea, will not serve any time for his part in the Haditha killings which claimed 24 lives November 19, 2005. Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) quote a teacher in Haditha, Rafid Abdul Majeed, stating, "The Americans killed children who were hiding inside cupboards or under beds. Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn't kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?" Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) quotes Ali Badr stating, "This sentence gives us the proof, the solid proof that the Americans don't respect human rights." AFP reports, "The Baghdad government vowed on Wednesday to take legal action after an American marine was spared jail by a US military court over the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005." James Joyner offers his opinion of the verdict at The Atlantic while Gulf News' editorial board concludes, "Prosecutors have just committed a final indignity against the victims of Haditha." Salman and McDonnell observe, "Overall reaction in Iraq to Wuterich's plea appeared somewhat muted Tuesday, reflecting, Iraqis say, an already deeply rooted skepticism about the U.S. justice system. Iraqis are also distracted by a political crisis that some fear could result in renewed sectarian warfare: At least 10 people were killed Tuesday in bombings in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, a Shiite Muslim stronghold."
Do you see an opinion in there from me? No, you do not.  We didn't follow that case here.  What prevents us here from following an Iraq legal case?  Not me knowing anyone on the legal teams of either side but if I act as a sounding board (only to listen to an idea later not pursued) for a friend who's on that case.  I did that.  I did not comment here for that reason.  That has always been the policy here.  I have covered cases here where I knew someone on the prosecution or the defense -- and they never got any slack from me -- but if I've only agreed to allow someone to bounce something off me, I don't comment on the case.  I have no comment on the above -- so those who keep e-mailing bothered by my comment better figure out what comment I made because I made no comment on that case here.  (Haditha was addressed here when the story broke.  That's before the just decided case.  In terms of the legal arguments, the plea bargain, etc., I have made no comment.)
We're not done with that case.  Aswat al-Iraq notes that Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for the case to be reviewed.  There's nothing to review now.  When statements in the pargraph from Wednesay were being made (and more were made than what I included in the paragraph), I understood the emotions involved.  But I really didn't think someone would try to pursue something that couldn't be pursued. 
The plea bargain was signed off on by both sides.  The judge has implemented it and done the sentencing.  A ruling has been made.  He can't be retried and, unless there's proof that the plea bargain was violated in some way, there's nothing to re-open.  What's more bothersome to me is that there's talk in Iraqi media -- that I would have thought would have died down by now -- of the soldier being transferred to Iraq for another hearing.  That will not happen.  Anyone pursuing that is wasting their time.  The US does not allow double jeopardy.  The soldier has been tried and punishment has been handed out.  (Iraq also doesn't allow double jeopardy, per their Constitution, FYI.)  The US government would never transfer the soldier over to Iraq for a trial.  Just as they refused to transfer soldiers over to face charges in Italy for actions in Iraq, they will not allow it to happen.  Even more so with this soldier, because he's already been tried and, in the eyes of the legal system, been punished.  The only avenue left -- and this is not a comment on the case which is now closed -- is civil court.  In the US, charges could be filed, civil charges not criminal, requesting payment for damages  -- and it would have to be in the US because the soldier will not go to Iraq (I wouldn't if I were him either) and it would be very difficult for an Iraqi court to get the US to agree to a lien on what would be a trial in absentia.  Family members could sue for damages in a US civilian court.  They'd no doubt use his confession as evidence.  That's better than just a guilty verdict, he confessed and he made a statement of remorse that's now in the court record.  There is no criminal avenue that can be pursued now.  The only legal option currently would be for family members to file charges in a civilian court, file for damages as a result of the loss of the loved ones.  That would be the only option left and it could go either way before a jury.  But this nonsense of wasting everyone's time on this topic as you insist that criminal charges will come about or his punishment will be changed, that's not happening and you're wasting everyone's time with your fantasy.
Lastly, and still on legal, Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include an update on Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Michael Ratner: Heidi, we all heard the good news over the last few weeks that Mumia was taken off death row and is no longer facing the death penalty.  I know there are other issues you want to talk about with Mumia and I know you just had a visit with Mumia.  So why don't you tell us what's going on with Mumia, where is he, how was your visit?
Heidi Boghosian: Mumia was transferred from the facility SCI Greene where he'd been on death row for 17 years -- 17 of the past 30 years --  in that facility and he was transferred to SCI Mahanoy which is in Frackville, Pennsylvania.
Michael Ratner: SCI means?
Heidi Boghosian: State Correctional Institution.  It's about two and a half hours from New York so it makes it a lot easier to visit him than in the other location.
Michael Ratner: Is that where you visited him? In his new location?
Heidi Boghosian: I've been to his new location three times.
Michael Ratner:  Wow.
Heidi Boghosian: Yes. And it's actually a medium security facility.  The problem is that Mumia's held in what's called Restrictive Custody in the Administrative Housing Unit there.  So he was literally taken off death row and moved into solitary confinement where he is shackled and handcuffed whenever he leaves his cell, his number of weekly visits has been reduced to one and that's just for one hour -- that doesn't include legal visits which can last for several hours.
Michael Ratner: Let me ask, and I want you to go on, when you visit him, he comes into the room or where ever you visit him in shackles?
Heidi Boghosian:  Yes.  And it's noteworthy that years ago at SCI Greene, he also was in shackles until [Bishop] Desmond Tutu visited him a few years ago and complained that this was inhumane treatment because essentially he's behind thick plexi-glass in a small 4 by 6 roughly foot holding unit and there are little perforated holes on the side so you can hear each other.  But, so now he's back in the shackles. His phone call privileges have been --
Michael Ratner: Wait a second.  You talk to him through a wall?
Heidi Boghosian: Yes, you're sitting on one side of a thick plexi-glass partition. So you're in the same room but it's divided in half by plexi-glass.  So, anyway, his phone call privileges have been reduced.  He can only have, I think it's ten stamps and envelopes a week.  And, as a writer, you can well imagine that Mumia writes probably at least ten letters a day so this is a dramatic change. He doesn't have his radio or TV. 
Michael Ratner:  Books?
Heidi Boghosian:  I think he only has four books.  At first, he had none, then they allowed him four.  The National Lawyers Guild along with the Human Rights Research Fund, which is co-chaired by Kathleen Cleaver and Natsu Taylor Saito, sent a letter to the Department of Corrections on January 11th calling for him to be moved into General Population as he was supposed to have been when he left SCI Greene.  And we cited, as listeners probably know, that for over a century the US Supreme Court has recognized the psychological damage that results from being held in solitary.  There was a case in 1890, In re Medley, Also the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America, a few years ago, found that the increasing use of punitive segregation is not only counter-productive but it often results in violence in the facilities and also contributes to post-release recidivism and Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rappoorteur on Torture just a few weeks ago called for a ban on solitary confinement longer than 16 days, reiterating that it amounts to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. As a result, the people's movement has really been calling the facility. We are disheartened to note that there were rumors Mumia was going to be moved into general population as of last Thursday and that has -- of this airing -- not happened.
Michael Ratner: Tell me, Heidi, he's not been moved yet and what can people do?
Heidi Boghosian: People can call.  We'll put a link to the website that has all this information but they can basically [. . .]
And we'll stop there because yesterday saw an update.  From Free Mumia:
As of 1/27/12, Mumia Abu-Jamal has officially been transferred to General Prison Population after being held in Administrative Custody ("The Hole" or Solitary Confinement) at SCI Mahanoy, Frackville, PA for seven weeks.  This is the first time Mumia has been in General Population since his arrest in 1981.
This comes within hours of the of delivery of over 5,500 signed petitions to Department of Corrections headquarters in Camp Hill, PA and a compliant filed with the support of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez.
PLEASE NOTE that while this is a victory in transferring Mumia out of the torturous Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), we call upon the closure of ALL RHU's!  Furthermore, we call upon the IMMEDIATE RELEASE of Mumia Abu-Jamal and are not disillusioned by this transfer.  Free Mumia!

Write to Mumia to send him some love!
Mumia Abu-Jamal

SCI Mahanoy
301 Morea Road
Frackville, PA 17932

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The War Hawks

Ken Sofer and the Center for American Progress are nothing but War Hawks.

They tried to pretend like they were against war when Bush was in office but if you're really against war you don't feature Lawrence Korb as your main voice.

But now they've done even worse.

Look at the (financial) costs of the Iraq War . . . Now look at the costs of the Libyan War.

The legality of either?

Not a concern to them.

They're only concerned with pounding their sunken chests and pretending that Barack is manly.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, January 25, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, Nouri launches another verbal attack on Turkey's prime minister, Talabani tries to keep the peace from a sickbed, US President Barack Obama gives a speech dubbed State of the Union, and more.
Sir Talks A Lot gave his State of the Union speech last night.  A more accurate summary of the state of the union was delivered last Thursday in Harlem by Ralph Poynter.
Ralph Poynter:  I want you to know that we all should have known better when Mr. Obama said that he was for change and peace.  I want you to know that we should have known better when he started to run and he went to the Black Caucus to ask for their support.  When they asked him why hadn't he supported the issues of the Black Caucus, his words were he did not want to be tainted by the Civil Rights Movement.  We all know that Fannie Lou Hamer only wanted to vote.  This is what Mr. Obama did not want to be tainted by; therefore, when we choose not to support Mr. Obama we want him to remember all of his words where he did not want to be tainted by the Civil Rights Movement, he said stop whimpering, stop whining, stop yammering.  So we want to say to Mr. Obama when we don't show up to vote, stop whining!  Stop whining, Mr. Obama!  We no longer believe that you will stand for anything.  You never stood for the First Amendment right of free speech.  You never stood for the Fifth Amendment right to have an attorney.  You never stood for anything that didn't support the corporations.  We are standing for all of the people not the corporations.  Mr. Obama, we are going to send you back home to Chicago where you helped destroy the projects.  We need someone who stands for housing.  We need someone who stands for jobs.  We need someone who will be true to the words they say.  Goodbye Mr. Obama.
Ralph, husband of political prisoner and legendary attorney Lynne Stewart, delivered the speech as a call and response with the over 400 gathered outside the Apollo Theater which was shut down for Barack's private fundraiser.  On this week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey, (airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), they play the speech and report on the protest.  We'll excerpt a section of co-host Nellie Bailey being interviewed by Don DeBar.
Nellie Bailey: This rally was called by Occupy Harlem along with a number of other sponsors and endorsers.  And we're here to send a clear message to President Obama that he will not come to Harlem and not receive a scathing message of his service to the 1%.
Don DeBar: We just had the Dr. King holiday pass.  I was listening to some of the things that were being played on the radio and one included 'the greatest purveyor to violence in the world today, my country.'  That was when there was one war going on in Vietnam.
Nellie Bailey: And now we have three wars going on.  Not only that, we have a military budget greater than all of the military budgets of the nation-states in the world combined.  That is where we are.  And we have seen the expansion of war under Obama than under President Bush.  We have the National Defense Authorization Act under Obama, not under Republican Bush.  We have NDAA that can be used by any sitting president including right-wing Republicans.
Don DeBar: And what is the NDAA, for people who aren't familiar with it?
Nellie Bailey: It is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that authorizes the indefinite detention, arrest without judicial review, charges of any American citizen on American soil at the behest of the president.  Only the president of the United States can authorize this and we say that this is dangerous despite the fact that President Obama says that he would not authorize the use of NDAA but he has proven in so many instances that he does not tell the truth and we know that he can and will authorize the use of this bill.  And we believe that this bill and the passage, particularly at the beginning of an election year, is to outflank the Republicans in terms of his right-of-center agenda and, secondly, to have a law that will crush any militant dissent and protest here in this country as the US plutocracy and oligarchy expand their illegal wars, occupation and military aggression against nation-states.
Nellie Bailey was one of the organizers of the successful protest.  As Glen Ford notes here (link is text and audio) and as Nellie Bailey notes here (link is text), there has been a strong effort on the part of 'allies' to distort the protest in terms of number and who turned out.  It was at least 400 strong and it was a success.  On the National Defense Authorization Act, later in the program Glen Ford spoke to Chris Hedges about it. Excerpt.
Glen Ford:  Veteran journalist Chris Hedges fears that anyone can be thrown into prison without trial under the preventive detention bill signed into law by President Obama so Hedges has sued the president. We asked Hedges how he decided to take on the White House. 
Chris Hedges:  It actually wasn't my idea.  Carl Mayer who has been involved in lawsuits to defend the assaults against civil liberties including the ACLU lawsuit against the FISA reform act -- of which I am one of the plantiffs -- came to me and said, "Look, under this legislation, someone like you could be, potentially because of the nebulous language, charged.  You've had direct, personal contact with groups that the state has defined as terrorist organizations.  There are no provisions in this legislation to exempt journalists.  Would you be willing to be a plantiff?" And I said yes.
Glen Ford: Particularly ominous in this legislation is the use of the term "substantial support," not material support.
Chris Hedges: Right.
Glen Ford: And most people think they understand what material support is --
Chris Hedges: Right.
Glen Ford: -- giving money, passing a gun, something, but substantial support?
Chris Hedges: Right and it could be substantial support for something called associated forces so it leaves open such a broad interpretation that there is no protection for someone like me under this law or I think for ultimately any kind of dissident because there has been a clear effort on the part of the security state to try and tar the Occupy Movement as a movement that's an enemy of American democracy.  When you look at the list or the criteria by which the Attorney General's office can investigate people for terrorism, tossing in a couple of obstructionist tactics by the Occupy Movement isn't much of a stretch.  I mean, people who are missing fingers on one hand, people who store over seven days of food and provisions, people who have weather proof ammunition.  I mean, they're going to have to round up my entire family in rural parts of Maine.
Glen Ford: That's their profile of the potential terrorist.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, as 'worthy of investigation.'  We know that there are at this point probably tens of millions of Americans who, because of the FISA reform act, whose e-mails, home messages, all of which are being monitored by the government
Glen Ford:  In terms of substantial support, that could be interpreted as speech, giving aid and comfort to someone that they declare is the enemy. 
Chris Hedges: Yeah, the way the law is written is, when you read it really closely, really terrifying because it's the whim of the security and surveillance state whoever they want to go after they can pretty much do so under this piece of legislation and then, of course, the way they do it is to use the military to carry out extraordinary rendition on American streets.
None of that reality made it into the State of the Union speech last night.  David Swanson (War Is A Crime) observes of the speech:
In the news around the world and even in the United States on Tuesday was the anger among Iraqis at the failure of the United States to hold anyone seriously accountable for the 2005 massacre in Haditha. The story was a useful reminder of how the operations of the U.S. military over the past decade have fueled hostility toward our nation.
President Obama began his State of the Union speech Tuesday night by absurdly claiming the exact opposite, asserting that the war on Iraq has made us safer and -- I kid you not -- "more respected around the world." He later equated the war on Iraq to World War II, a surefire way to put anything beyond criticism in the United States, provided you can get people to fall for it.
Remember, this is the guy who won the Democratic Primary in 2008 by the simple fact of having not yet been in the Senate in 2003 and thus having avoided voting for the war that he funded to the hilt as a senator beginning in 2005. He had called it a dumb war. Now he says it made us safer. If it was dumb, was he dumber? What is he trying to say?
In the next breath, Obama says "some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home." Never mind that there are three times as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan now as when Obama moved into the White House. The myth is that he's ending wars. Never mind that he was compelled to end the Iraq War, in so far as it has ended, by the treaty that Bush and Maliki created, and which Obama sought every possible way to violate. Never mind that Iraqi hostility toward U.S. criminals being granted immunity from prosecution was the primary reason that the Iraqi government insisted on the Bush-Maliki withdrawal date. A myth is a myth, and who will question it and still keep their job on U.S. television?
On Morning Edition (NPR -- link is text and audio), Elizabeth Shogren, Tom Gjelten, John Ydstie, David Wessel, David Welna and Claudio Sanchez provided facts checks on various sections of the State of the Union SpeechSusan (Random Notes) terms the speech  "more neoliberal claptrap" and notes Patrick Martin (WSWS), "The State of the Union Speech delivered by Barack Obama Tuesday night was memorable only as a further milestone in the decay of American democracy."  Mike took exception to 'religious' Barack telling Americans they needed to serve their country.  Cedric and Wally objected exception to both the length of the speech and Barack's attempt to pass of recycled ideas as fresh.  Betty questioned his "America's back" claim wondering, "From a bathroom break?  Where did America go?"  Mr. Pretty Words' pretty speech team was attempting to grab the Reagan luster.  But, as Chrystler understood in the 80s, you say "the pride" is back, not America.  It's assumed that America and Americans have remained strong regardless of the events and/or crisis -- be it a civil war or what have you.  Only Barack and his speech writing team could manage to insult on a patriotic level while attempting to go jingoistic.
As noted yesterday, reality spoiled Barack's plans for self-stroking over Iraq in the State of the Union.  As a result, last night Barack Iraq was only five sentences in the over one hour speech:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq.  Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought --  and several thousand gave their lives.  We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. [. . .]  Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. 
As noted this morning, what stood out in the speech was how inauthentic Barack was and how shocking that was since this was his fourth State of the Union speech:
It's partly because there's no speech writer in charge able to say, "Nice phrase, but it doesn't fit with the rest of the speech. It's clunky in its 'beauty' and causes people to notice it as opposed to noticing the point being made." So you get a variety of 'voices' in one speech. And Barack's not able to maintain consistency for more than seven minutes tops so that hour-plus performance last night was brutal, like watching Elizabeth Berkley struggle to breathe life into Nomi in Showgirls.
 "Proud salute to the colors under which . . ." That's exactly the sort of phrase that stands out because one of the writers thought it was "beautiful" and they -- the writers -- horsetraded for their favorite moments.  It's part of the reason Barack sounded like an idiot.  One moment, 'Oh, I'm so serious and the economy and Congress must do this and without drama blah blah blah' and now I'm going to tell my milk joke ha ha.  Now let me switch tone again and maybe they'll love me the way they loved Sally Field when she played Sybill!"   It was awful and, for Brenda who wanted it included again, that includes his unnatural speech pattern which, as Ava and I observed several years ago, is ripe for parody:

We watched Monday in full as Barack uh-uh-uhed and spoke in that robotic manner that allows him to find more unnatural pauses than Estelle Parsons and Kim Stanley combined. "He's our Method president!" we quickly gasped while wishing we could have one president this decade capable of normal speech. If he gets any worse, he'll be Sandy Dennis.
Let's review the five sentences on Iraq.
1) Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. 
He knew to say "some" because military families have gotten very vocal about the fact that not everyone came home from the Gulf -- meaning not just the fallen but also the fact that US troops remain in Iraq -- Marines to guard the diplomatic sites, soldiers to be 'trainers' for weapons [which Al Arabiya points out Nouri al-Maliki noted today, "American soldiers in Iraq work as military trainers"]  and Special-Ops -- and that thousands of troops have been repostured outside of Iraq in the surrounding region.  Rowan Scarborough (Washington Times) reported Tuesday on all the troops being kept in the Gulf region:

About 50,000 U.S. military personnel are serving in and around the Gulf. Most are aboard ship or in Kuwait. News reports from the region say 15,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Kuwait as a check against a destabilizing situation in Iraq and the threat of aggression by Iran.
The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln strike group sailed into the Gulf on Monday. Carrier contingents typically include a guided missile cruiser, two destroyers and an attack submarine.
In all, more than 30 U.S. ships and about 22,000 sailors are in the Gulf area.
"Some" may have been the most intelligent moment of the speech.
2) Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought --  and several thousand gave their lives.
This was the State of the Union.  Why is it members of Congress are able to note the number but Barack can't.  We pointed that out last month when he gave his Andrews Air Force Base speech.  As commander in chief, he shouldn't be saying "thousands," he should know the number (his speech writers should) and he should state it.  The Defense Dept's official count is at 4487 American military personnel died in the illegal war.
3) We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. 
He really lies. 
You lie too much
You lie too badly
You want everything for nothing
-- "The Windfall (Everything For Nothing)," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Night Ride Home
The illegal war did not make America 'respected around the world.'  There's a reason, and even Barack knows this, that in 2004, Americans in college, traveling abroad, were encouraged to keep a low profile, maybe even pretend to be Canadian.  Yes, it sounds like a Simons' episode but it did happen, Steve Giegerich (Associated Press) reported on it. That was 2003.  Four years later, Anne Applebaum (Slate) would offer this:
It isn't just that the Iraq war invigorated the anti-Americanism that has always been latent pretty much everywhere. Far worse is the fact that -- however it all comes out in the end, however successful Iraqi democracy becomes a decade from now -- our conduct of the war in Iraq has disillusioned our natural friends and supporters and thrown a lasting shadow over our military and political competence. However it all comes out, the price we've paid is too high.
Three years later, 2010, Peter Ennis (Dispatch Japan) would note another column by Applebaum and add to the discussion:
As is usual in Washington these days, there was no mention -- probably no consideration -- of Japan. But a strong case can be made that the Iraq war hurt America's reputation in Japan as much, if not more, than in any other allied country.
The consequences are evident today in the increasingly bitter dispute over a replacement for the US Marine Air Station Futenma, on Okinawa, which is scheduled to be closed. They are reflected in the broader calls in Japan these days for a "more equal" alliance relationship with the United States.
The Okinawa dispute predates the Iraq War, and the calls for more equality in the alliance were inevitable. But deep concerns and disappointment about American 'unilateralism' and haughty, heavy-handed diplomacy, prompted by the Iraq War, have made those sentiments more salient and intense.
No, it did not help the image of America. 
4) For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. 
Well we really don't know what Special Ops is doing in Iraq or the CIA or the FBI.  We do know all three are involved in 'terrorist' 'hunting' and that Special Ops continues to have the ability to operate throughout Iraq.  We don't talk about it too much but we know it and it's even made it on air on network television.  And, of course, many Iraqis have questions about the numerous Americans that have been arrested in the last two months in Iraq.
5) Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. 
And that may be the most disturbing statement in the speech.
Decisive blows against our enemies? Whatever happened to the peace that was supposed to follow a war?  Barack claims the war has ended and then starts making vengeful statements that harken to a deliberate search for 'foreign adventures.'  The laugh is, yet again, on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee who gave a peace award to Barack because they liked how he posed for magazines covers.
Barack tried to talk tough.  al Qaeda in Mesopotamia -- created by the Iraq War, didn't exist until then -- knows a bit more about tough up close than a little prince who went to prep school in Hawaii -- and in what some will dub "the terrorist response," they issued a statement today.  AP reports that they declare, "America has been defeated in Iraq. They pulled out because its economics and human losses were unbearable. America's bankruptcy and collapes is imminent. This is the real reason behind the withdrawal."

Today in Iraq, many look to the US today as a result of yesterday's sentencing. Stan Wilson and Michael Martinez (CNN) reports Staff Sgt Frank G. Wuterich, who entered a guilty plea, will not serve any time for his part in the Haditha killings which claimed 24 lives November 19, 2005. Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) quote a teacher in Haditha, Rafid Abdul Majeed, stating, "The Americans killed children who were hiding inside cupboards or under beds. Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn't kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?" Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) quotes Ali Badr stating, "This sentence gives us the proof, the solid proof that the Americans don't respect human rights."   AFP reports, "The Baghdad government vowed on Wednesday to take legal action after an American marine was spared jail by a US military court over the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005."  James Joyner offers his opinion of the verdict at The Atlantic while Gulf News' editorial board concludes, "Prosecutors have just committed a final indignity against the victims of Haditha."  Salman and McDonnell observe, "Overall reaction in Iraq to Wuterich's plea appeared somewhat muted Tuesday, reflecting, Iraqis say, an already deeply rooted skepticism about the U.S. justice system. Iraqis are also distracted by a political crisis that some fear could result in renewed sectarian warfare: At least 10 people were killed Tuesday in bombings in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, a Shiite Muslim stronghold."
Ivan Eland ( observes of the political crisis, "In Iraq, even before U.S. forces had withdrawn, Shi'ite President Nouri al-Maliki was taking the country back toward dictatorship. Now that American forces are gone, with attempts to arrest the Sunni vice president and the detention of other prominent Sunnis, Maliki is accelerating the process. Meanwhile, the radical Sunni group al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is stepping up attacks on Shi'ites, hoping to re-ignite the sectarian civil war of 2006 and 2007. With Iraq's long history of rival ethno-sectarian groups in conflict, Sunni dictators, and no culture of political compromise needed for democracy, the prospects for an imposed democracy taking root were never great."

In an attempt to end the political crisis Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference.  Over the weekend, Talabani went to Germany for spinal surgey and, as a result, missed the planning meet-up for the national conference (it's supposed to be rescheduled shortly).  
Al Mada reports Talabani spoke on the phone from his sickbed in Germany yesterday with an envoy for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani with the envoy passing on al-Sistani's hopes that Talabani has a swift recovery and outlining al-Sistani's concerns regarding the ongoing political crisis and the importance of resolving the differences. This morning Al Rafidayn reported that the rumors are Iraqiya will resume attending sessions of Parliament and Cabinet meetings and that this will help lead to a resolution over Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Rumors of the return have sprouted repeatedly and I'm not seeing anything in this one that makes it any different. I am confused as to how the political crisis ends with the resolution of al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq. I grasp that the bulk of the US press messes up the timeline but Iraqiya announced their walkout on a Friday, the following Saturday is when Nouri began attacking al-Hashemi publicly and two days later, Monday, December 19th, is when the arrest warrant for al-Hashemi was issued. The point being, the political crisis is about more than those two officials. It is about the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement and Nouri's power-grabs primarily. That's why there's been the call -- by Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi for a national conference. Clearly a national conference couldn't resolve the al-Hashemi issue ("clearly" because various participants have demanded that it not be part of the national conference). Aswat al-Iraq notes National Alliance MP Mohammed al-Sayhood is okay with Iraqiya continuing their walkout and believes it may be a "step forward for the emerging democatic process in Iraq." Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports Iraqiya meets tomorrow to determine whether or not they continue their boycott
Nouri started the political crisis and he started a row with Turkey.  Along with speaking to al-Sistani's representative, Aswat al-Iraq reports:

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has received a phone call from Turkish President Abdullah Gull, the first of its kind since the crisis that occurred due to the so-called "crisis of statements" between both countries, a presidential statement reported on Tuesday.
The statement, as was received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency, stressed that "during his phone call with Talabani, Gull wished continued health and prosperity for the Iraqi President," reiterating the significance of continued efforts, exerted to achieve national consensus and his continuous efforts to expand relations of friendship and cooperation between Iraq and Turkey."
Hurriyet Daily News reports the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's leader Ammar al-Hakim went to Turkey to meet with Preisdent Abullah Gul, Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutogu -- but that the public exchanges between Nouri and Recep Taylor would not be the focus of the meetings. And while al-Hakim met with officials of one of Iraq's largest trading partners, Nouri sounded off again.  Today's Zaman explains, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday again criticized Turkey's 'interference' in Iraq's affairs, waring Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Edrogan to change his tone in a weeks-long battle of words between Maliki and his Turkish counterpart."
Yesterday, Iraq was slammed with bombings.  Dan Morse (Washington Post via San Francisco Chronicle) notes "at least 19 people were killed in Iraq" yesterday with at least eighty injured. Peter Cave reported on them for AM (Australia's ABC News -- link is text and audio):

"What do they want to achieve?" says this man watching the latest victims being carried away. "What do they want from all these killings? Will this end? What did the people do to be killed? A blind man who sells newspapers, another selling soup. What did those innocent people do? What do they want from the people?"

Violence continues today. Deng Shahsa (Xinhua) notes Sahwa leader Mulla Nadhim al-Jubouri was shot dead Tuesday night in Dhuluiyah: "Jubouri, who is introduced by the media as an expert with al- Qaida affairs, was a member of Dhuluiyah's most respected religious families. He first joined al-Qaida to fight the Americans after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but then he switched sides to become leader of one of the U.S.-backed Awakening Councils that fought al-Qaida in his volatile country in north of Baghdad." Sammer N. Yaccoub (AP) adds that three years ago, the US detained him on suspicion of bringing down a US helicopter in 2006 and that "Postings on an Islamic extremist website celebrated al-Jubouri's death." Reuters notes a Baquba roadside bombing which injured one police officer.
Turning to the United States where Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which has just released their updated hearing schedule:
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: January 25, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012    2:30 pm     345 Cannon HOB
Joint Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans
Wednesday, February 29, 2012  10 am     SR-418
Hearing: The Fiscal Year 2013 Budget for Veterans' Programs
Wednesday, March 7, 2012        10 am      SDG-50
Joint Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the Veternas of Foreign Wars
Wednesday, March 14, 2012       10 am      SR-418
Hearing: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans: VA's Progress on its 5 Year Plan
Wednesday, March 21, 2012       10 am      SDG-50
Joint Hearing :Legislative Presentation of the MIlitary Order of the Purple Heart, IAVA, Non Commissioned Officers Association, American Ex-Prisoners of War, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, and The Retired Enlisted Association
Thursday, March 22, 2012          10 am         345 Cannon HOB
Joint Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Air Force Sergeants Association, Blinded Veterans Association, AMVETS, Gold Star Wives, Fleet Reserve Association, Military Officers Association of America and the Jewish War Veterans
Wednesday, March 28, 2012       10 am       SR-418
Nomination Hearing: Nomination of Margaret Bartley to be Judge of United States Court of Veterans Appeals for Veterans Claims and Coral Wong Pietsch to be Judge of United States Court of Veterans Appeals for Veterans Claims
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk/System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Lastly, many US service members and veterans, as well as contractors, have returned to the US sick due to exposure to burn pits.  For some, these are breathing issues that cause hardship, tremendous hardship.  For others, the exposure has cost them their lives.  Next month is the first ever scientific symposium on Burn Pits:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by
Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University

Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5
Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
Medical Center

This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


* Register with your credit card online at:

* Download the registration form from:
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman
Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph
Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant
Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt
King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in
Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of
Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White
River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)

Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues
and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.
(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.