Saturday, December 22, 2012

Heads up

Just a heads up tonight.  Zero Dark Thirty is the new film directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

Today's snapshot originally opened with a lengthy section on the treatment of that film and of its director and how she's expected to do different things than male directors are.  C.I. worked in a conversation with Berry Gordy (C.I. and Berry became friends in the 70s) and talks about Lady Sings The Blues and works that in and several other things and it was just this amazing opening and a call to refuse attempts to censor.

What happened?

The longest snapshot ever.

So she had to pull that.

But you will see it in some form at Third.  Either she and Ava will use it for a rough draft or else it will go up as a stand alone.

From the White House:

This afternoon, speaking from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Obama nominated Senator John Kerry to serve as Secretary of State.
"Over these many years, John has earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world," the President said. "He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training. He has earned the respect and trust of his Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans. I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry. And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead."
The President also made a point to thank Teresa Heinz Kerry, Senator Kerry's wife.
"As someone who came to this country as an immigrant, she understands the shining values that America represents to the world," he said. "As a former interpreter at the United Nations, she appreciates how our interests can be advanced in partnership with others. Teresa, thank you so much for being John’s partner in this next endeavor."

About time.  I agree with C.I. that Hillary Clinton is really the only big success from Barack's first term of all his nominees.  In his second term, it appeared he wasn't even going to go for one.

John Kerry isn't perfect, no one is.  But is he ready for the job, he is qualified and I believe he will do a strong job.

(Will do?  He's going to be confirmed.  When you nominate a senator or former senator, the Senate tends to support them out of some fellowship feeling with the Senate.)

By the way, did you notice what happened this week?

An independent investigation into Benghazi releases its findings and finds there was no protest and for some strange reason, Bob Somerby doesn't write about Benghazi once.

Remember how he's used the lie of the protest to clobber those who disagree with him?  Now that it is proven that there was none, he suddenly wants to find another topic and pretend like he didn't get it wrong over and over for weeks and weeks and weeks.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, December 21, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri uncorks The Crazy, the New York Times rushes to cover for him and invents their own set of 'facts,' Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc both call Nouri out, the leader of Sahwa calls him out, top US officials insult Iraq by refusing to issue a statement from the President or Vice President or Secretary of State note that the President of Iraq is ailing and hospitalized, we go back to the Benghazi hearings yesterday, and more.
In Iraq, it's seasonal tidings.  Yes, that time of the year when Nouri uncorks The Crazy.  How bad is it?  So bad that rumors attach War Criminal Henry Kissinger's name to the current crisis.   Or, with a take from a different angle,  conservative Max Boot (Commentary) proclaims, "Ho hum, another holiday season, another power grab by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."  AFP says the new crisis "threatens to reignite a long-running feud between the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc" and Nouri and his State of Law political slate.  What the heck are we talking about?  Look at this Reuters photo (individual photographer is not credited by the news agency or we'd note him or her by name) of the thousands who turned out to protest in Falluja today demanding Nouri al-Maliki resign as prime minister.

After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki.  They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest.  Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin.  Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad.  Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.

So what happened yesterday?  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports:

Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.
 Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.
Kitabat explains that these raids took place in the Green Zone, were carried out by the Iraqi military and that Nouri, yesterday evening, was insisting he knew nothing about them.    In another report, Tawfeeq quotes al-Essawi stating, "My message to the prime minister: You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people." BBC News adds, "Rafie al-Issawi, a prominent member of the al-Iraqiyya political bloc, said about 150 of his bodyguards and staff members had been arrested on Thursday."  Nine in some reports, the Ministry of the Interior states 10.  So al-Essawi's just a liar?
No.  What appears to have happened is what Nouri practices, it's disgusting and it's illegal and the White House looks the other way every damn time.
What appears to have happened was that about 150 people were kidnapped.  Of those 150, 10 or so were arrested on charges of 'terrorism.'  And the rest?
They're being held.  They're being 'questioned' which, in Nouri's Iraq, means they're being tortured.  At least one of Tareq al-Hashemi's bodyguards was tortured to death -- beaten so badly he had kidney failure.  Two women who were part of Tareq's office staff were held for weeks, kidnapped and held for weeks, to get them to 'confess.'  Nouri did the same thing in October when he 'fired' (he didn't have that power) Sinan al-Shabibi as Govenor of the Central Bank of Iraq.  Suddenly, al-Shabibi's staff was rounded up and 'detained.'
We now have to drop back to the March 22nd snapshot:
Since December, those working for Tareq al-Hashemi have been rounded up by Nouri's forces.  At the end of January, Amnesty International was calling for the Baghdad government "to reveal the whereabouts of two women arrested earlier this month, apparently for their connection to the country's vice-president.  Rasha Nameer Jaafer al-Hussain and Bassima Saleem Kiryakos were arrested by security forces at their homes on 1 January.  Both women work in the media team of Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted by the Iraqi authorities on terrorism-related charges."  Yesterday, al-Hashemi noted that his bodyguard had died and stated that it appeared he had died as a result of torture.
 Alsumaria notes Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is calling for the international community to call out the death of his bodyguard, Amer Sarbut Zeidan al-Batawi, who died after being imprisoned for three months. al-Hashemi has stated the man was tortured to death. The photo Alsumaria runs of the man's legs (only the man's legs) appear to indicate he was tortured, welts and bruises and scars.  They also report that the Baghdad Operations Command issued a statement today insisting that they had not tortured al-Batawi and that he died of chronic renal.  They also insist that he was taken to the hospital for medical treamtent on March 7th and died March 15th. Renal failure would be kidney failure.  And that's supposed to prove it wasn't torture?
If you work for an outlet that just spits out what you are told and didn't actually learn a profession, yes.  Anyone with half a brain, however, apparently that's half more than the average journalist possess today knows to go to science.  The Oxford Journal is scientific. This is from the Abstract for GH Malik, AR Reshi, MS Najar, A Ahmad and T Masood's "Further observations on acute renal failure following physical torture" from 1994:
Thirty-four males aged 16–40 (mean 25) years in the period from August 1991 to February 1993 presented in acute renal failure (ARF), 3–14 (mean 5) days after they had been apprehended and allegedly tortured in Police interrogation centres in Kashmir. All were beaten involving muscles of the body, in addition 13 were beaten on soles, 11 were trampled over and 10 had received repeated electric shocks.
Out of that group? 29 did live. Five died.  I don't think the Baghdad Command Operations created any space between them and the charge with their announcement of renal failure as the cause of death.  But, hey, I went to college and studied real topics -- like the law and political science and sociology and philosophy -- and got real degrees not glorified versions of a general studies degree with the word "journalism" slapped on it.  So what do I know?
We have to note that -- all of that -- because one of the worst outlets on Iraq decided to 'report' today and they didn't get one damn fact right.  We'll get back to it. 
Now if Bully Boy Bush were in office currently, I would honestly cut him some slack here because he can't call out Nouri for rounding up innocent people, not after he ordered US troops to pick up the wives and mothers of various supposed criminals, not after he ordered US troops to 'talk tough' to these women, not after he ordered US troops to let them think they would be raped and tortured if they did not talk.  (As far as is known, no woman was raped or tortured by US troops to give up information on a family member.  But many Iraqi women were threatened and bullied into believing that would happen.  There is a word for that: "Terrorism.")  So if Bully Boy Bush were still occupying the White House, I'd understand why he couldn't call out actions so similar to his own.  But President Barack Obama is a different person -- one who supposedly hasn't decided that the US government should demonstrate less scruples than the mafia -- so I'm having a real hard time understanding why the current White House can't call out these clear violations of the law and of human rights.
We all need to grasp and acknowledge what's happening.  AFP's quoting Abdelsattar Bayraqdar ("Higher Judicial Council spokesman") stating that the commander of the bodyguards has "confessed" -- these are forced confessions.  And it's past time that Nouri's screwed up 'justice' system in Baghdad was called out.  The judiciary does not issue statements on guilt before any trial.  They did that with Tareq al-Hashemi as well (with multiple judges holding that press conference and one 'objective' judge telling reporters present that Tareq had tried to kill him).  This is a joke but it's a sad one because Iraqis have to live with this.  It's yet another failure of the US government's war on Iraq.
As a result of these actions, Al Mada reports, Sahwa leader Ahmed Abu Risha has called for Nouri to apologize (and do so within 24 hours) and to release the hostages.  He floated the notion that Nouri's refusal could relate in the international highway that links Iraq to Jordan being cut off.  Al Mada also notes that a member of the Sadr bloc spoke to the media to note that this is yet another political crisis, yet another one created by Nouri in his six years in office, that the way this was carried out makes people lose trust/faith in the government, that this seems to be an echo of the divisions Nouri started last year with the targeting of Tareq al-Hashemi, that the operation was unobjective and unprofessional and that the lack of respect shown to Minister al-Issawi is a worry and threat to all the political blocs.   The article notes that Iraqiya repeated their assertion from a few weeks back that Nouri creates these crises to distract from his failure as head of state.  That's not all Iraqiya is doing.  The Iraq Times reports that they have formed two delegations.  The one headed by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi will go to Erbil and discuss this latest crisis with various Kurdish officials including KRG President Massoud Barzani.  A second delegation (the head of which is not noted but is most likely Saleh al-Mutlaq) will remain in Baghdad and meet with cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and with the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim. 
Al Arabiya reports he held a press conference today with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq standing by his side as al-Issawi declared, "I call on the prime minister to resign, because he did not behave like a man of state."

Rafei al-Essawi is a Sunni.  He is also a member of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 parliamentary elections.  Nouri's State of Law came in second.  Per the Constitution, Iraiqya should have had first crack at forming a government and one of their members named prime minister-designate.  However, Barack Obama decided -- the will of the Iraqi voters, democracy and the Iraqi Constitution be damned -- he wanted Nouri to have a second term instead.   From John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
In Iraqi eyes, it's actually even worse than that as one report maintains that Nouri was in conversations with former US Secretary of State and noted War Criminal Henry Kissinger.  That may not be an accurate rumor.  Whether it's true or not doesn't matter.  The fact that it's being passed around goes to the distrust Iraqis now have with the US government and, if it's not true, the selection of Kissinger is especially meant to offend.
 If you're thinking, "He's trying to arrest a member of Iraqiya in December," and you're thinking, "This seems so familiar," you are correct.  It was this time last year that he tried to oust one Iraqiya member from his Cabinet and to have the Vice President arrested.  And, for those who've forgotten, al-Issawi was being mentioned even then as being on the targeted list.  Dropping back to December 24th:

Mustafa Habib (Al Mada) notes that Nouri al-Maliki's targeting Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with terrorism charges and calling for Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq have many noticing that both are members of Iraqiya and political opponents of Nouri and that while the political crisis has revealed a diminished role for the US it has underscored that the Kurds remain the heart of the country's political process. Dar Addustour reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi announced the postponement of the scheduled meeting yesterday of the political blocs while Nouri's spokesperson floated the notion that there are other charges waiting in the wings. Reportedly this includes charging the Minister of Finance, Rafie al-Issawi, with terrorism, specifically with killings in Falluja back in 2006. Like Tareq al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq, Rafie al-Issawi is a member of Iraqiya. Dar Addustour also notes Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister, issued a statement declaring the matter should have been resolved by the political blocs but has instead played out in the press. Al Mada adds that Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani and US Ambassador James Jeffrey spoke yesterday and are calling for a meeting among the political blocs and that State of Law was whining about the Friday meet-up, whining that Iraqiya is boycotting Parliament but they want to attend the meet-up. Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Iraqiya bloc leader Iyad Alawi described recent events in Iraq as 'liquidation of differences', warning an explosive era waiting Iraq in the coming days, according to an interview with Arabia TV late yesterday (Friday)." Sinan Salaheddin and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report that Moqtada al-Sadr is proposing a "14-point 'peace code'" and attempting to present himself as a leader.

Last December, he waited until the bulk of US troops had left the country to uncork The Crazy.  This December, he waited until Jalal Talabani had a stroke and was out of the country.  Nouri is paranoid.  When we made that point in 2006 and 2007 and 2008, you could ignore it.  You could ignore it when I'd say, "State Dept friends say . . ."  But thanks to WikiLeaks release of the US State Dept cables, there is now proof that the State Dept found him paranoid, called him paranoid in one cable after another and at what point does the US government stop stroking the crazy and start demanding justice for the Iraqi people?

Alsumaria notes that Saleh al-Mutlaq is calling for  Iraqiya to withdraw from Parliament, the government and the political process if there is not an immediate investigation into what was done and Rafie al-Issawi is not protected.  al-Mutlaq says it's a question of sovereignty and the law.  (Nouri's attempt to oust al-Mutlaq were abandoned by last May due to the fact that Nouri could not get the votes in Parliament needed to oust the Deputy Prime Minister).  Patrick Mareky and Rasheem Salman (Reuters) note:

Finance Minister Rafie al-Esawi, a member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, said late on Thursday that more than 100 bodyguards and staff were snatched illegally by militias, and blamed Maliki for orchestrating the raids to target opponents.
Maliki's office said only six bodyguards were arrested under counter terrorism laws.

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi remains Vice President.  Let me repeat that: Tareq al-Hashemi remains Vice President of Iraq.  The New York Times has wrongly stated this evening that he is no longer vice president.  I'm sorry but the New York Times is a newspaper, it is not a governing body.  It would do well to stick to facts. I'm sorry that facts are so hard for it.  Tareq al-Hashemi is a Vice President of Iraq.  Until his term expires, until he is removed from office before his term expires, until he dies or resigns before his term expires, he remains Vice President.  Tareq al-Hashemi was convicted of terrorism by the Baghdad 'court,' yes.  So you can say he is the only convicted Vice President in the world.  Or you can say he's the only sitting Vice President who has been sentenced to death -- five times, not three as the New York Times also wrongly states.  AFP noted last Friday (December 14th), "An Iraqi court has handed down a fifth death sentence on the country's fugitive Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on a weapons charge, Iraqiya state television reported on Thursday."  Al Arabiya carries that AFP report here. Xinhua reported, "An Iraqi court on Thursday issued for the fifth time a death penalty verdict in absentia against the fugitive Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, a judicial source said."  Adam Schreck, Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reported:
Also on Thursday, an Iraqi court handed the country's fugitive Sunni vice president a new death sentence after finding him guilty of possession, transportation and using silenced weapons. It is the fifth death sentence since trials against Tariq al-Hashemi began last spring, according to his defense team leader, Muayad Obeid al-Ezzi.
Do I need to continue or is the point established that the New York Times is 100% wrong when they claim Tareq was "sentenced to death three times."  Did you also notice everyone calls him the "fugitive vice president."  Not the former vice president.  He's not been removed from office.  Iraqiya has not turned on Tareq.  (Ayad Allawi made that clear in a video interview earlier this month that we'll try to link to before the end of this month.)  The Kurds have not turned on him.  To say that last year he "was then a vice president," Tareq remains a vice president.  I'm sorry that the New York Times doesn't care about accuracy.  I'm actually more troubled that the same outlet that covered for Nouri's attack on protesters and journalists at the end of February 2011 is yet again slanting things for Nouri instead of playing it down the middle.
Maybe Tim Arango shouldn't be reporting on Iraq from Vermont?  Maybe it's not Tim's fault, maybe it's the co-writer?  (As a general rule, an Iraqi writer gets several strikes before I call them out here. That reporter just had their first strike and I'm not mentioning their name.)  I don't know but I know the report is factually wrong -- as we've already noted and could continue to note --  and it is offensive.  To note an alleged "confession" and not note the history of torture in Nouri's Iraq -- well documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International -- or that last March saw the death of Amer Sarbut Zeidan al-Batawi while in Iraqi custody -- the man was tortured to death and they can't even note that he died.  I try to avoid the New York Times, it's too frustrating but then I've got a voice mail, NYT friend, "We've got an Iraqi story can you link to it?"  Can you read it to me?  Can you tell me how that crap made it into print?  The second question they never can answer. 
Nouri didn't have the votes to oust him either.  Nouri does control the kanagaroo court in Baghdad -- which declared Tareq guilty in a February press conference, months before the trial even began.  But according to the law, the conviction and the five death sentences Tareq received were really not received.  Tareq would have to first be stripped of his office to be tried.  Due to the targeting, Tareq left Baghdad and then the KRG and now resides in Turkey.  All Iraq News reports Tareq states today that Nouri's actions aren't surprising (they aren't) and that this is futher targeting of political rivals because Nouri does not want to share power.   He also notes that what's happening was completely expected.

And he's correct there as well.  So the question is, how much longer is the US going to support the tryant Nouri who they know has repeatedly run secret prisons in which Iraqis have been tortured?  He's run these secret prisons since first being installed by the US as prime minister in 2006?

Secret prisons, broken contracts, targeting of political rivals, corruption and so much more.

And in the US, there has been a Republican occupant of the Oval Office (Bully Boy Bush) and now an elected President (Barack Obama) from the Democratic Party and both men have supported and backed thug Nouri -- a thug so sick and disgusting that he spent the start of this year demonizing and targeting Iraqi youths -- Emo and LGBT and those suspected of being either.  He had his Ministry of Interior draw up warnings about these groups, he had them to go to school and demonize these people and the deaths followed and only international attention stopped it.

This is what two different US administrations have embraced.  It's disgusting and it needs to stop.
But reporters don't even call it out.  At today's US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Patrick Ventrell was finally asked about Iraq at the very end of the press conference.

QUESTION: Change topics? Iraq?
MR. VENTRELL: Iraq? Sure.
QUESTION: With the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the hospital, tension seems to be rising between the KRG and the central government. Is our – your ambassador in consultation or in talks with both parties to sort of mitigate these tensions?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Thanks for the question, Said. We're absolutely engaged. Since learning of the reports, we've been engaged across the political spectrum. We've urged Iraqi leaders to uphold their commitments to due process and the rule of law as enshrined in their constitution. Any actions from any party that subvert the rule of law or provoke ethnic or sectarian tension risk undermining the significant progress Iraq has made toward peace and stability and important work that the United States and Iraq are doing together. So we've absolutely been engaged on this, certainly from our Embassy in Baghdad, and we will continue to be engaged.
QUESTION: One of the most daunting issues between the two, the KRG and the central government, is actually the oil law, the hydrocarbon law. What have you done? Sort of what kind of progress is being made in that area, and what kind of assistance are you giving?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, suffice to say our – this is a longstanding policy of the U.S. that we support a constitutional solution to disputes over the management of Iraq's hydrocarbon resources. So this is something that we continue to urge both sides to reach an agreement on, but I have no update for you on our policy in that regard.
Since we're on the US State Dept, let me ask a question -- am I the only one bothered that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama have all failed to issue any statement regarding Jalal Talabani?  Other heads of states and organization have issued statements wishing the Iraqi President a speedy recovery.  The Obama administration just seems to ignore Iraq day after day.  This while they continue to spend billions in Iraq and while they are planning to ask for more billions for the next fiscal year.  Yes, for example, Hillary was injured over the weekend and has been working from her home.  But she had plenty of time today to issue a statement about Senator John Kerry being named to replace her as Secretary of State. Barack's issued a ton of statements as well, Joe's last statement issued was December 17th.  What must Jalal Talabani's wife think of America?  She's probably too busy to think of it now but when things calm down and she reflects on which leaders and officials reached out and which didn't, there's going to be a lot of hurt there.   The US government can throw all the (taxpayer) money at Iraq that it wants to, until it demonstrates that it actually gives a damn about Iraqi people, that money is useless.  And while I feel very sorry for the offense and bad manners the US government is showing to the First Lady of Iraq, I think we also need to remember that the silence is also an insult to the people of Iraq.
Jalal Talabani is in Germany having been medically transported there yesterday.  Al Mada interviewed First Lady Hero Ibrahim Ahmed on the plane en route to Germany yesterday.  She stated that her husband's condition was stable and that he was able to gesture.  Seh stressed that the President was giving his all to bring peace in Iraq (Jalal has been mediating on several of the crises Nouri al-Maliki's created in the last two years -- ongoing crises).  She explains that Talabani returned to Baghdad solely to address the crisis involving the stand-off between the Peshmerga and Nouri's forces in the disputed areas.  She stated everyone knows that the president was willing to do anything to resolve the issue, even sacrifice his own health.  The couple has been married for over thirty years.

On Monday evening, following a meeting with Nouri, Jalal was taken to Baghdad Medical Center Hospital for what the prime minister's office has said was a stroke but the president's staff has left it as an unidentified health condition.  The news broke on Tuesday.  Wednesday, Iraqi doctors were joined by British and German doctors.  It was felt that Talabani was in stable enough condition and could be transferred to Germany.  Al Mada reports he is  at Berlin's  Charite University Hospital which is one of Europe's largest hospitals and was established in the year 1710. 

Of Jalal's role in Iraqi politics, AKE Group's John Drake tells AFP, "While on paper his role is somewhat limited, his influence and mediation skills have gone a long way in smoothing over the country's troubled political scene. Some may describe his position as 'ceremonial' but he has made it a lot more active, simply through dialogue and discussion, which play a strong role in Iraqi politics."

US House Rep Mike Kelly:  Ambassador Burns, when you talk about resources -- only 1% of the budget -- so what is 1$ of the budget?  So what is our budget?

Thomas Nides:  Our budget is $50 billion.

US House Rep Mike Kelly:  Fifty-billion dollars.

Thomas Nides:  That's right.  Approximately 8% of the defence budget.

US House Rep Mike Kelly:  Okay.  So when people hear "1%" it doesn't sound like a lot of money but fifty billion is certainly a lot of money.  When we talk about resources -- and I'm trying to understand because I've listened to a couple of different briefings, I've heard  Mr. Pickering and Adm Mullen, I've heard you gentlemen today and  think maybe you're not the folks that should be here because, as Mr. Johnson pointed out, you weren't really part of the decision making process.  But what I'm trying to understand, what I can't get my mind wrapped around is everybody says this was a very unstable and highly volatile area.  Then why, for God's sake, would we take out the best trained people we have?  Why? Why did we move the SST team?  Was it because of money?
That's from yesterday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.  We noted it in yesterday's snapshot.  Last night, Ava covered it with "Howard Berman's fuzzy figures (Ava)" noting that Howard Berman wanted to talk about how underfunded the security for security was . . .  by talking about global warming funding -- he couldn't find the figures for security apparently (suprising since Senator Barabara Boxer was able to and to cite them in yesterday morning's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing).  You can't talk money without talking waste and Wally's "Waste at the State Dept. is okay (Wally)" last night addressed the State Dept witnesses William Burns and Thomas Nides being confronted (by two different House Reps) with a long list of money spent on non-necessary items and events and Nides chose to respond that there is waste in the private industry as well.  Yes, there is.  But the private industry doesn't run on taxpayer funds.  Ruth's "Benghazi questions must still wait" covered so much including how accountability got lost as US House Rep Karen Bass went on in the hearing about how she said no one should be called out until an investigation was conducted but now that it was conducted and released, she didn't want to focus on accountability, she wanted to figure out what to do?  And you wonder why no one is ever held responsible for their actions?
Ruth also notes US House Rep Jean Schmidt and I'd planned to include that section of the hearing in full.  Maybe next week.  We've gutted 30K, the original opening of the snapshot, because it was 150K, we've got to lose some more.  We're going to note an exchange by Committee Chair Ilena Ros-Lehtinen instead and then discuss that.
Chair Ilena Ros-Lehtinen:  Secondly, who specifically changed Susan Rice's public talking points by eliminating references to al Qaeda and why?  If there was a national security concern, what was it?  When did the inaccurate, spontaneous protest narrative originate?   Where did it originate?  And why was that story deemed more fit for publication than the accurate terrorism evidence?  And if Ambassador Rice had little knowledge of the facts on the ground in Benghazi, why was she selected by the administration to be the spokesperson on this subject?  Ambassador Burns?
William Burns:  Well, Madam Chair, on your second question, and then I'll turn it over to Tom on the first with regard to the budget, what happened in Benghazi on September 11th was clearly a terrorist attack.  Secretary Clinton addressed that directly the following morning in her first public statement when she talked about an assault by heavily armed militants on our compound.  Later that same day, President Obama talked of an act of terror.  What was not clear that day was who exactly was involved?  Which terrorists were responsible?  What their motives were? How exactly this terrorist attack came about? Whether it was planned well in advance or more of a target of opportunity?  I am confident that the senior administration officials who spoke to this issue and the intelligence community experts -- on whom they relied -- acted in good faith throughout this period.  Their focus was on trying to be as factual as possible. Their focus was on actions because, Madam Chair, as you know, there were a number of other concerns in this period.  Over that period of days, we had mobs coming over the walls in our embassies in Cario, in Tunis and in Sinai and that was a very heavy focus for Secretary Clinton and for people across the administration.
What?  I'm referring to Sinai.  The attack in Sinai was on September 14th (a Friday) and shouldn't have required focus from the State Dept -- it wasn't a State Dept facility it was a military outpost that some US forces were at, but it was an international outpost.  It was not a US facility.  If you're new to that attack, read this Times of Israel report. And after you do, explain to us all why an attack on the Multinational Force and Observers headquarters in Sinai required State Dept attention?  The Telegraph of London noted in a live blog of the attacks, "A little more about the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) based in Sinai.  There are 1,656 troops stationed at bases throughout the area.  Twelve nations contributed soldiers to the force but the largest contingent is from the United States.  Their mission is to monitor and enforce the 1979 peace agreement that ended the conflict between Israel and Egypt."  Rawya Rageh (Al Jazeera) called it "a camp for the UN multinational peacekeepers in Sheikh Zuwayed town."
William Burns:  As we were able to clear up, the inaccuracies in the original assessments, because, as the ARB points out, there was no protest or demonstration before the attack took place.  But it did take the intelligence community some days to determine that that was inaccurate as they debriefed the survivors of the attack on Benghazi.  I'm sure our colleageus in the intelligence community wish that they could have cleared up those inaccuracies sooner. They did it as quickly as they could and were then in direct touch with the Congress and briefed you on it.
[Thomas Nides then speaks to Ros-Lehtinen's budget question.]
Chair Ilena Ros-Lehtinen:  Thank you.  On the specific questions regarding Susan Rice, do you have anything further to add about the talking points and references?  Because in e-mails, as the attacks were under way, the Diplomatic Operations Command Center was calling it a terrorist attack, as it was under way.  So it's not like the picture was clearer several days later -- while the attack was taking place, in e-mails.
William Burns:  Madam Chair, as I said, both the Secretary and the President, on September 12th addressed, I think, in very clear terms what happened and what the nature of the attack was.  Second, the talking points that you refer to were produced by the CIA.  I think the CIA has briefed a number of people on the Hill about the process that they went through and I'm sure that they'd be able to come out --
Chair Ilena Ros-Lehtinen:  Thank you.
What confuses those of us who have attended all the public hearings on that September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack which killed Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Chris Stevens with regards to Susan Rice's presentation is that it was not confusing.  Schmidt establishes that.  The State Dept's Patrick Kennedy, in an October hearing, covered that he was in the halls of Congress the day after the attack, speaking to Congress members and their staff, and explaining it was a terrorist attack.  He made a point to state that he and the State Dept did not refer to a spontaneous protest or flash mob or any such nonsense.  We have sat through these hearings as the State Dept officials have been repeatedly clear that they never passed that on to Congress, that they presented it as a terrorist attack from the very first.  So now Schmidt and the Committee Chair are both talking about the observations -- recorded observations -- of those present.  Ros-Lehtinen referred to e-mails, Schmidt referred to a report filed that called it a terrorist attack -- and did so before any US official with the administration ever spoke.  These are the first-hand observations of those people on the ground in Benghazi.  [See Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BAD NEWS FOR BOBBY!" and Cedric's "Somerby's big lie gets rejected" from earlier this week on those who can't grasp what the Congress has been told.]
So when Susan Rice goes on five different live television programs on one Sunday morning and repeatedly talks about a video and about a protest -- no connection to the video, no protest took place -- her words were not just inaccurate, they were misleading.  Whether she's a liar or a dupe is something to take up with her.  But repeatedly, we have watched and heard the State Dept raise their hands in a don't-shoot-me-posture and say, "We never did that.  We always knew." 
Susan Rice may be the stupidest person in the world.  It's possible.  Or she may have lied.  I don't think the American public will get the truth anytime soon.  But to pretend  -- and to lie -- as so many have in recent weeks that 'no one could have guessed,' no one could have known better is a lie.  And since there were people who were first-hand observers, I think if I were entrusted with conveying the truth to the American people about what had happened in Benghazi and since all survivors had been transported (first to Germany, then to the US) days before Susan Rice went on TV, I think I would have asked to speak to at least one of them before going on camera to 'explain' what happened.  I think her failure to do so goes to either her eagerness to lie or to her own gross incompetence.  When you are about to go before the American people to discuss what happened and you weren't there and it's not your area, you speak to everyone you can, not just a few handlers who help you hone some talking points.  Susan Rice is not fit to serve in government.  She's damn lucky she's been able (thus far) to keep her current post as Ambassador to the United Nations.  We will be covering the hearing more next week.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

World Can't Wait jumps off the deep end

I don't tolerate sexism.  I'm sad to see that Debra Sweet now does.

Back in 2010,  I wrote "The Pile On Never Ends."  I could have written it today.

After nine or so years of being around, World Can't Wait has decided to protest a film.  Now there have been a ton of films promoting torture and a ton promoting war.  But let Kathryn Bigelow direct a film (which she states does not promote torture) and suddenly it's time to attack.  So they're protesting Zero Dark Thirty.

In fact, I could have written this November 2009 post today:

Do you remember the last time Dissident Voice 'weighed in' on a feature film?
Yeah, me too: Sex In The City.
What's up with that?
How many films are released each year? Each month?
But it's only when they're identified with a woman that Dissident Voice attacks. Do you remember them attacking Adam Sandler films? Nope. Me neither.
It's just when a woman's involved that they bring out the darts.

I am so sick of it.

I am so sick of the left that gladly looks the other way over and over.

Can Debra Sweet explain to me when she protested Inglorious Bastards?

The answer is she didn't.  The answer is that no one at World Can't Wait gave a damn.  Over and over, they give men a pass.  Women?

Women they appear to deliberately misunderstand.

Mark Hughes (Forbes) reviews the films and notes:

It is this clear and unflinching portrayal of the immoralities and brutality of the U.S. personnel, and the questionable motivations and outcomes, that give lie to the current controversy claiming the film promotes torture or acts as a jingoistic propaganda piece. Anyone claiming this film’s depictions of torture glorify or justify it simply don’t understand the film or the narrative at all. Moreover, the direct claims about the film’s content are just flat-out wrong in many cases.
First, let me clear up one particular bit of misunderstanding — the film does not portray torture as having provided the information that leads to bin Laden’s death. That claim is such a gross mischaracterization of the film’s events that anyone repeating it either didn’t really see the film, didn’t pay attention, or is just using the bogus claim in order to express political points of their own by asserting a non-existent political point in the film.
In this film, torture pretty much doesn’t work.

What does Hughes know?  All he did was actually watch the film, unlike Debra.

Ava and C.I. cover TV every week at Third.  If they say something is sexist, they can (and do) back it up.  But they're critical thinkers.  Debra's hung around the awful Glenn Greenwald for so long that she now mistakes bumper stickers for actual thought.

Sunny told me everyone was writing today about C.I.'s "World Can't Wait goes completely nuts."  Isn't that something?

No one writes like she does.  It's a powerful piece and says pretty much everything that needs to be said.

Glenn Greenwald -- who voted for Bully Boy Bush and who egged on the Iraq War -- now uses his 'fabled' judgment to tell us Bigelow's film is bad, really bad.

I think I'm done with World Can't Wait.  I think Debra should be ashamed of herself.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 19, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Jalal Talabani is said to be in better condition and prepping to transfer to Germany, a report from UNAMI notes the lack of progress on human rights, rumors float that Iraq's failing power grid is actually about to be obsolete, we look at the government report about the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, and more.
Today a report was released on the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Chris Stevens. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had a classified briefing today on the report. The unlcassified version has been [PDF format warning] posted online at the State Dept's website.
It's a damning and disturbing report that will probably most disturb those State Dept employees stationed overseas and their families -- including the largest State Dept mission overseas, the one in Iraq. As noted on page two of the report, "With State Department civilians at the forefront of U.S. efforts to stabilize and build capacity in Iraq, as the U.S. military draws down in Afghanistan, and with security threats growing in volatile environments where the U.S. military is not present -- from Peshawar to Bamako -- the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is being stretched to the limit as never before."
It's hard to tell which details are the most disturbing? Take the death of the Ambassador Chris Stevens. His body can't be found -- is he alive or dead, at this point no one knows -- and, page 25 notes, after "many and repeated attempts to retrieve the Ambassador having proven fruitless and militia members warning them the SMC could not be held much longer, the Annex team departed the SMC, carrying with them the body of IMO [Sean] Smith." They left before Stevens was found -- dead or alive. Six people (presumably Libyans, labeled "good Samaritans" in the report) would find him later in the same area that "many and repeated attempts" failed to find him. He would be taken to the Benghazi Medical Center (the report states he was dead when he arrived but doctors attempted to revive him for 45 minutes) and when the US Embassy in Tripoli was notified that Stevens had been taken to the hospital? "There was some concern that the call might be a ruse to lure American personnel into a trap. With the Benghazi Medical Center (BMC) believed to be dangerous for American personnel due to the possibility attackers were being treated there, a Libyan contact of the Special Mission was dispatched to the BMC and later confirmed the
Ambassador's identity and that he was deceased."
It was not safe for American diplomats and those working with the diplomatic coprs to be stationed in Libya. It was not safe and they should not have been there. Magnify that 100 times and you have Iraq where the State Dept has its largest presence.
It was so dangerous in Libya that when the call came in that Ambassador Stevens was at the hospital -- remember, his whereabouts were unknown for hours -- the US was unable to send an American to a hospital to see if it was Stevens and if was alive or dead. That is appalling. That is a sign of how tremendously unsafe it was.
The report notes that Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed in "an Annex building," which "came under mortar and RPG attack." Sean Smith and Chris Stevens apparently died from smoke inhalation. The description of the two of them them in a so-called safe house which was under fire and with only one ARSO-I (Assistant Regional Security Officer-Investigator) to attempt to protect them is shocking and chilling.
Among the findings in the investigation led by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Retired General Mike Mullen (former Chair of the Joint Chiefs)?
The attacks were security related, involving arson, small arms and machine gun fire, and the use of RPGs, grenades, and mortars against U.S. personnel at two separate facilities -- the SMC [Special Mission Compound] and the Annex -- and en route between them. Responsibility for the tragic loss of life, injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities and property rests solely and completely with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks. The board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.
There is so much incompetence on display. Let's note one section.
About 2150 local [time], the DCM was able to reach Ambassador Stevens, who briefly reported that the SMC was under attack before the call cut off. The Embassy notified Benina Airbase in Benghazi of a potential need for logistic support and aircraft for extraction and received full cooperation. The DCM contacted the Libyan Presidnt and Prime Minister's office to urge them to mobilize a rescue effort, and kept Washington apprised of post's efforts. The Embassy also reached out to Libyan Air Froce and Armed Forces contacts, February 17 leadership, and UN and third country embassies, among others. Within hours, Embassy Tripoli charted a private airplane and deployed a seven-person secruity team, which included two U.S. military personnel to Benghazi.
At the direction of the U.S. military's Africa Command (AFRICOM), DoD moved a remotely piloted, unarmed surveillance aircraft relieved the first, and monitored the eventual evacuation of personnel from the Annex to Benghazi airport later on the morning of September 12.
Let's again note this is the unclassified report. Additional details are in the classified report. If there are additional details to the above, they need to be revealed immediately because, as it stands, everything in the two paragraphs above except for Chris Stevens' phone call, is wrong -- not a little wrong, life-threatening wrong.
The scramble being described above is for an extraction. As the public report reads, extraction was the priority. A US Ambassador is on the phone with you telling you that his consulate is under attack and the line goes dead and your first throught is "extraction"?
No, not if you're following protocol. Protocol wasn't followed as the unclassified report presents events. Let's be clear, even with the extraction, protocol wasn't followed. The scramble being described for several hours inside Libya but outside Benghazi? Did no one receive training or did they just ignore training? There are SOPs in writing [Standard Operation Procedure outlines] of what to do in these cases. There should have been no scramble on extraction, the existing SOP should have been followed and if someone was too stupid to know what that was, again, it is written down. But extraction shouldn't have been the Tripoli staff's chief concern. A consulate was under attack and the safety of the people at the consulate (and annex) should have been the primary concern. Doesn't matter if a number of them were CIA (and there were a number of CIA present). Attempting to secure their safety should have been the primary focus for Tripoli with extraction being the secondary focus -- a distant second.
There was no knowledge of what was going on, who was alive, who was dead, and you're focused on extraction? Let's remember too that Tripoli wasn't under attack.
Valerie Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, wouldn't have made the mistakes that appear to have been made (the classified report will have more details and may explain the above). When he was going up against Sadam Hussein, he wouldn't have been channeling all efforts into an extraction while other Americans in the country were under attack. This is appalling.
This is disgusting for the message it currently sends State Dept employees who are overseas. Let's take Iraq. There's an attack on the US in Basra. Baghdad gets the call and instead of addressing the attack and trying to ensure the security and safety of those under attack, Baghdad runs around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to order an extraction for Baghdad.
That is insane. Public hearings start tomorrow. This needs to be addressed and US diplomatic staff and those working to protect them in foreign countries need to know that, if an attack takes place, the response will be to rescue them, not for the unattacked to figure how to quickly leave the country.
As we move over to Iraq, let's stay with government reports. The Kuwait Times offers "US reducing military presence in Kuwait" and that's misleading. Their report is based on a Congressional Research Services report [PDF format warning] entitled "Kuwait: Security, Reform, and US Policy." In fairness to them, they are documenting a report -- not about the US leaving Kuwait -- that is either sloppily written or intentionally misleading. Has the number of US troops in Kuwait (which borders Iraq) gone down? They've dropped down to 13,500 which is what was expected. The CRS report notes, "A staff report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee published June 19, 2012, said that the United States will keep about 13,500 troops in Kuwait as of mid-late 2012 -- somewhat less than 25,000 there during the U.S. presence in Iraq." We covered that report in the June 19th snapshot, it's [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council." So what has changed since that report was published?
Nothing. Nothing has changed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report was published. If there was news to be found, it was some time ago. 15,000 as the high point has been true throughout 2012. The report in the Kuwait paper makes you believe there's been a development -- and that attitude can be found in the CRS report but that's not accurate.
Another issue -- and like the one before, it came up in the e-mails to the public account. DM raises this job listing on Kolkata. The listing is under the heading "Labor jobs for US Army in Kurdistan." It's full time, requires knowledge of English (but not Kurdish) and promises "Labor jobs in Kurdistan for US Army good salary Free food Accomadtion reasonable service charge . . ." This isn't a job for a member of the US Army. That of course wouldn't be posted by a third party. DoD would do the assingments. What it appears to be is a job (or jobs) in the KRG that would be assisting the US Army. And, if the ad is correct (and I have no reason to believe it's not), what it appears is that the US government is looking for cheap labor to work with the US Army in the KRG.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is three semi-autonoumous provinces in nothern Iraq. Many people live there and it is where Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and First Lady Hero Ibrahim Ahmed make their home. Today's Iraqi news cycle continues to be dominated by news and speculation about Jalal. The 79-year-old was rushed to a hospital in Baghdad late Monday evening. Nouri al-Maliki's spokespeople have stated Talabani was suffering a stroke. Talabani's people have not identified the health issue.
This morning, All Iraq News reported that First Lady Hero Ibrahim Ahmed issued a statement on her husband's condition noting that it is improving and crediting Divine Providence and the medical team for the improvements. She denied that he was in a coma and stated that a team of doctors from Germany were due to arrive shortly and that they would be working with local doctors (led by the Chief of ICU Dr. Ayad Abass) and a team of British doctors who had already arrived. She stated that there was no plan to transfer her husband to another country for medical treatment. Hurriyet Daily News notes that "Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan offered to send ambulance plane to Iraq to bring Talabani for treatment in Turkey." Despite the assertion of the First Lady, All Iraq News quoted one of Talabani's doctors saying they are planning to move him to Germany on Thursday. Kitabat also reports that there is a plan to transfer Talabani. Hours later, everyone was reporting that transfer would take place. Al Jazeera quoted Najmaldin Karim ("governor Iraq's Kirkuk city who is also part of the president's medical team) stating that the move would take place "within 24 hours." BBC News quotes Talabani's spokesperson Barazan Sheikh Othman stating that he will leave Baghdad for Germany either tomorrow or Friday.
Al Mada notes that most recently he was in Germany (back in June) and stayed there until September. At the time, it was stated that he was having knee surgery. (Which may be true.) The Iraq Times and Kitabat are both reporting that insiders are saying the collapse Monday night followed a verbal altercation with Nouri al-Maliki. According to an unnamed source or unnamed sources with Talabani's office, Nouri arrived last Monday evening at Talabani's office and as the political crisis was discussed, Jalal called for Nouri to lower the rhetoric (as he has done publicly) but he was referring to what Nouri was stating to him at that moment. This call to lower the rhetoric was met by a "violent explosion" from Nouri who called into question whether Jalal was able to be impartial or neutral. Nouri is said to have brought up the effort last spring to seek a no-confidence vote on Nouri in Parliament. Jalal is said to have remained civil, asked that Nouri consider the options for resolving the crisis, Nouri was shown out and as soon as he was out of the office, Jalal complained of ill health.

Naseer al-Ani is part of the president's staff and Kitabat reports on the press conference he held Turesday evening at Baghdad's Medical City Hospital noting Talabani remained in intensive care but stated he was doing better. In the press conference, he continued the policy of not identifying the president's condition and of not using the term "stroke." As Turkish Weekly notes, "a health emergency" is the popular term used by Talabani's staff. Adam Schreck (AP) observes, "Talabani's doctors have not formally said that the 79-year-old statesman suffered a stroke, though several government officials have publicly confirmed that is the case." Citing an unnamed medical source, All Iraq News states that Jalal moved his hand this morning and that this is seen as a good sign by his team of doctors. The Voice of Russia quotes one of Jalal's staff, media official Barzan Sheikh Othman, stating this morning, "Thanks be to God, the president is in good condition and he is improving hour after hour."
Dar Addustour points out the conflicting reports yesterday and it most likely will be that way again today. Deutsche Welle notes, "He has suffered poor health in recent years, traveling to the US for heart surgery in 2008 and being treated for dehydration and fatigue in Jordan in 2007." Deutsche Welle also notes, "As a Kurd, he is seen as a mediator to bridge divisions between the country's majority Shiite and minotiry Sunni Muslim communities." And that role being empty has some worried. As Ruth noted last night:
Jalal Talabani is a Kurd. The top positions of power in Iraq are the prime minister, the speaker of Parliament, and the president. Since 2006, Iraq's Constitution is voted into effect at the end of 2005 and Parliamentary elections are held then as well, the presidency has gone to Mr. Talabani (a Kurd), the Speaker has been a Sunni (since 2011 it has been Osama al-Nujaifi), and a Shi'ite has been prime minister (Nouri al-Maliki). Because of that division, which is not required in the Constitution, it is assumed that should Mr. Talabani step down before his term expire or should he pass away, the replacement selected by Parliament (not the temporary one before Parliament can vote) should be a Kurd. As C.I. explains in the snapshot, leading contenders are said to include Hoshyar Zebari who is the current Foreign Minister and the deputy in Mr. Talabani's political party (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) Barham Salhi.
If Talabani has to step down and isn't replaced by a Kurd, that could cause tensions, said Marina Ottaway, a senior associate in the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy group.
"Talabani was a mediating influence because he managed to keep a foot in both camps," Ottaway said in a telephone interview. "There's no doubt he's a Kurdish nationalist, but he also was Iraq's president and he managed to straddle the line."
Talabani's health, UPI noted, is an issue now because there is a "risk of a deterioration in Iraq's fractious and often violent politics centers of a simmering confrontation between government forces controlled by Prim Minsiter Nouri al-Maliki and Peshmerga fighters of the semiautonomous Kurdish enclave over disputed territory in nothern Iraq." Tensions between Baghdad and Erbil have never been greater. You have the unresolved issue of oil because Nouri never passed that oil and gas law he promised he would back in 2007 when he signed off on the White House benchmarks. Oil companies prefer the KRG at this point. That angers Nouri. The Constitution decreed, Article 140, that disputed areas in Iraq would be resolved by census and referendum..Nouri became prime minister in 2006, the constitution mandated he fix the issue by 2007. He refused to implement Article 140. His promise had been written into the Erbil Agreement (US-brokered contract that ended the 8 month political stalemate during which Nouri threw a public tantrum because Iraqiya got more votes than Nouri's State of Law). On top of those crises, Nouri recently sent the Tigris Operation Command forces into the disputed areas which the Kurds saw as Nouri attempting to use force to claim the disputed provinces for Baghdad.
Nuri al-Maliki's government in Baghdad, dominated by Shia Muslims, has unwisely pushed Turkey into this oily Kurdish embrace. Mr Maliki's close ties to Iran and support for President Bashar Assad in Syria have angered Turkey's government and convinced it not to rely on Iraq. The refuge offered by Turkey to Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's vice-president, who was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Baghdad in September, has also upset Mr Maliki, who has duly insulted Turkey's leaders. In November his government expelled Turkey's state oil company from a block in Iraq, plainly out of political spite. In December he ordered his air-traffic controllers to deny landing rights to Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yildiz, who was en route to Erbil for an investor conference.
Iraq's central government seems bent on wrecking the Kurds' thriving oil industry, saying that their regional government has no legal authority to export oil independently or sign contracts with developers. The government in Baghdad has delayed payments to Iraqi Kurdistan's oil producers, who say they are owed about $1.5 billion. Some explorers fret that they will never recoup their cash. Pars Kutay, an executive at Genel Energy, a Turkish oil-producer in Kurdistan, says that depending for payment on Iraq's central authorities is like "pumping oil into a black hole". Kurdish oil exports are now said to have collapsed to around 30,000 b/d.
For six long years, Nouri al-Maliki has been prime minister and Iraq's got very little to show for it. In terms of investment? Joao Peixe (Oil Price) observes, "It has been nine years since US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq and yet due to various deep-routed problems few have capitalised on plan's to revive the nation's economy or rebuild its infrastructure. Even specialists in frontier markets are giving the Middle Eastern state a wide berth." Back in the early days of the war, after the US bombing had destroyed (further destroyed) Iraq's infrastructure, there were promises about how it would be fixed and fixed quickly. Iraqis still lack basic public services today. Alsumaria reports that the electriticy crisis has become the puzzle with no solution and that Iraq continues to depend upon Iran for importing electricity. Meanwhile the Iraq Times reports that despite claims that next year will see a marked improvement in electricity, officials are saying the reality is that the power grid is in danger of collapsing and that the Dawa political party (Nouri's political party) is decieving the people about the coming problems. The Gulf News observes, "Yet, despite being a country with large oil reserves wealthy enough to guarantee a steady income for its people, Iraq has failed to utilise this resource efficiently. As a matter of fact, the political changes in the country have only brought about an increase in corruption and an alarming misuse of public funds."
Nouri certainly hasn't brought safety to Iraq. Nor has he protected human rights. UNHCR released the "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: January to June 2012" today. We'll cover the report tomorrow. Today, we'll note this from the UN News Centre:
The United Nations human rights chief today called on Iraq to move towards abolishing the death penalty, saying – in response to the latest periodic report on Iraq's human rights record – that the rate of executions in the country this year "cannot be justified."
"I would like to stress that, under international law, the death penalty is permitted in very limited circumstances, including after trial and appeal proceedings that scrupulously respect all the principles of due process," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in her comments on the Report on Human Rights in Iraq: January to June 2012, released today.
"The number of executions so far in 2012, and the manner in which they have been carried out in large batches, is extremely dangerous, cannot be justified, and risks seriously undermining the partial and tentative progress on rule of law in Iraq outlined in this report," she added, according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
Iraq, which retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes, executed 70 people in the first six months of this year, compared to 67 for the whole of 2011, and 18 in 2010, according to the 46-page report, produced by UNAMI – a UN political mission established by the UN Security Council in 2003 at the invitation of the Government of Iraq – in cooperation with OHCHR.
"I encourage the Iraqi Government to declare a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in the near future," Ms. Pillay said.
The human rights chief also called on the Iraqi authorities to address other "serious human rights violations" highlighted in the report, which, as with earlier reports, reflects information gathered by UNAMI from the mission's on-site monitoring.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
Kitabat reports that, according to Nineveh Province Governor Ethel Nujaifi, a young girl was raped by a lieutenant in the Iraqi military. A judge ordered the officer's arrest but the Iraqi military has refused to turn him over. The Ministry of Defense is the one refusing. (The Ministry of Defense is headed by Nouri al-Maliki since he refused to nominate someone for the post and allow Parliament to confirm the nomineee.) Still on the topic of rape, Kitabat reports that Iraqiya MP Hamid al-Mutlaq revealed today that federal prosecutors have presented pre-liminary evidence to the Supreme Judicial Council that, prosecutors argue, prove that women are being raped and tortured in Iraqi prisons. As we noted when this scandal was breaking, Nouri has been very lucky and able to walk away from many scandals unscathed but Iraqis will not let this one pass by. Instead of attacking those who brought it up publicly, Nouri should have been announcing that he was addressing it and fixing it.
On the rape, Alsumaria reports Major General Ali Furaiji, commander of the Iraqi army's second division, declared today that the rape is being exploited for political purposes. They need to learn how to damage control. The first words out of your mouth are sympathies for the rape victim -- especially when she's under the age of 18. At CounterCurrents, Dirk Adriaensens covers the prison issue noting:
On 12 December the Sadrist movement submitted a request to the Public Prosecutor to issue an arrest warrant against the Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari and other officials in the ministry, for preventing the Iraqi MP's from visiting prisons after they received information about the existence of torture and rape of some of the inmates.
Justice Minister Hassan Shammari responded on 13 December by filing a lawsuit against the Liberal bloc deputies for "overriding" the staff of the ministry during performing their duties, demanding the political blocs to "refrain from pushing the ministry into their conflicts," he said, and added that "the ministry will not remain silent on abuses against its staff."
Despite the fact that the House of Representatives voted on 20 November to form a committee to investigate the situation of female detainees, the problem has not been solved. Although there are leaked judicial reports that indicate the involvement of security personnel in systematic torture and rape of women prisoners, the Committee didn't find a real case of rape, only "threats of rape".
The Iraqi Interior Ministry denied in a report of 28 November that women are arrested without arrest warrants and tortured to extract confessions against their husbands. The Ministry said that all detainees had been lawfully arrested with legal arrest warrants issued by the judiciary system, and invited the local and international committees to visit its detaining centers to verify these "lies and false allegations."
The Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights held on 28 November the executive bodies of prisons fully responsible for the proven cases of torture against detainees, and called on women who were released to start legal proceedings to condemn the officers and persons who assaulted them. The Interior Ministry denied the accusation of such "heinous acts" and called upon the local and international committees to verify the allegations related to the conditions in detention.
On 21 November The Ministry of Justice denied it is responsible for the torture and rape of women to obtain confessions, indicating that the interrogation operations conducted in prisons are the responsibility of the Ministries of Defence and Interior.
And that is Nouri's Iraq. And that is Nouri's fault. And if the Ministry of Defense or Interior is responsible, who would be the person responsible? Did you guess Nouri? You're right. Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." Those positions have remained empty. So he is in charge of the ministries. Are you starting to get why, a few weekends back, Nouri threatened to have MPs discussing the abuse arrested?

Through Monday, Iraq Body Count counts 186 people killed by violence in Iraq so far this month. IBC's count for this (ongoing) month is already greater than the official count by the Iraqi government ministries for November's death toll. Violence continued today. Alsumaria reports 1 Peshmerga and 1 civilian were killed in a Kirkuk attack, 1 employee of the Ministry of Industry was shot dead outside of Baghdad, and that, in Anbar Province, assailants who kidnapped 1 contractor and six oil workers got into a clash with Iraqi soldiers leaving two soldiers injured.