Wednesday, October 16, 2013


"Obscuring the Details: A Panoramic Look at America's Case Against Syria" (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research):

The US federal government and the various agencies, media organizations, individuals, foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, lobbies, forces, and other entities that are tied to it have done everything in their power to obscure the details involving the chemical attacks that took place in Syria on August 21, 2013. The aim has been to justify the US-led foreign campaign that was launched against Syria in 2011 by making the Syrian government appear culpable of grievous crimes. The chemical attack on Ghouta has now come to represent the crux of the matter.
From the very start there was double-speaking coming from Washington and its cohorts about what happened in Ghouta. The Obama Administration and America’s allies deliberately ignored that chemical weapons were used in Syria prior to August 21, 2013. They have pretended that the United Nations investigation team that had arrived in Syria when chemical weapons were used in Ghouta had just stumbled there coincidentaly or with the purpose of «inspecting» the Syrian government’s chemical weapon depots.
Ignoring the Original Mandate of the UN Investigators 
In reality, the UN team that arrived in Syria in August was not a team of weapons inspectors. It was a team of «investigators.» Even more importantly, the Syrian government had invited the UN investigation team to Syria in March 2013. This was because the insurgents had launched chemical attacks on March 19, 2013. The US and its allies tried to blame Syria, but they were embarrassingly contradicted by Carla Del Ponte, one of the UN investigators responsible for Syria, that said all the evidence pointed to the insurgents and not the Syrian government. Although she backed her conclusion with facts, Del Ponte was dismissed by the US, and NATO even abnormally took the time to make a statement against here. Moreover, the insurgents were even caught trying to sneak sarin gas into Syria from Turkey by Turkish security forces in May 2013.
Because the insurgents were behind the chemical attacks in March 2013, Syria’s government originally wanted the UN investigators to have the authority and mandate to officially assign blame on which party used the chemical weapons. The US, however, put all types of obstacles in place to prevent the UN from issuing a report that the US-supported insurgents were using chemical weapons. It was the US, Britain, and France that prevented an UN investigation that could assign responsibility for any chemical weapon attacks from taking place. Instead they wanted a politicized inspection team that would try to demonize Syria and write reports against Damascus. This led to a deadlock in the United Nations over the type of team that the UN would send to work in Syria. A settlement was eventually reached. The US and its allies eventually reduced the mandate of the UN inspectors to one of only determining if chemical weapons were used.
The United Nation’s team even spells out the fact that they had originally entered Syria to investigate the March 2013 chemical attacks all in their September 2013 report’s Letter of Transmittal signed by Ake Sellstrom, the head of the UN mission, Scott Cairns, the head of the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) component of the UN mission, and Maurizio Barbeschi, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) component of the UN mission. The UN team states the following on the report’s third page: «Having arrived in the Syrian Arab Republic on 18 August 2013, we were in Damascus on the 21 August preparing to conduct on-site inspections in connection with our investigation into the allegations concerning the use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Asal and in Sheik Maqsood and Saraqueb. Based on several reports of allegations on the use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August 2013, you instructed us to focus our investigation efforts on the Ghouta allegations. We, therefore, proceeded to conduct on-site inspections in Moadamiyah in West Ghouta and Ein Tarma and Zamalka in East Ghouta».
Cooked US Intelligence and Implausible White House Stories
The narrative that the US government and its allies present about Ghouta is contradictory to logic and highly implausible. Added to the fact that the US has a track record of lying to create pretexts for aggression, Washington’s claims should be heavily scrutinized. So should the same group of non-governmental organizations that have consistently backed American wars and conjured instant reports to justify US foreign policy and war.

The desire for war on Syria has not left the White House.  They're hoping to return to it.  One plus of the shutdown is that it's hampered the efforts to go after Syria.

But the White House hasn't given up.  They were caught lying before.  They'll be caught lying again.  That's what they do.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, October 15, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, a holy day doesn't stop the violence, Nouri's inability to provide security is noted, Moqtada notes Jalal Talabnai's long absence from Iraq, a new study is released on deaths throughout the Iraq War, and more.

Starting with a bit of house cleaning, from yesterday's snapshot:

First, we addressed the coverage of al Qaeda in Iraq earlier today.   A 'sweet' 'analyst' e-mailed to advise me of how "uninformed" I am for this statement:

Starting in 2009, regular press reports pop up about how Nouri's failure to pay or create other jobs for Sahwa (Sunnis and a few Shi'ites paid to stop attacking US forces and US equipment) was leading them to join rebel groups or terrorist groups or other groups.

"Everyone," the e-mail informs me, "knows that the Sons of Iraq are Sunni."  Sahwa is also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" (with the less covered female counterparts known as "Daughters Of Iraq."  As for what "everyone" knows, I know reality, what do you know?  Oh, that's right, you know crap ass nothing.

I explained we were quoting then-General David Petraeus in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee April 8, 2008.  I explained yesterday:

But in terms of the "Shia as well as Sunni"?  As I recall that moment in the hearing (I could be wrong, it was over five years ago -- but, thing is, I'm not wrong), Petraeus didn't just say it, he had a visual aid, a chart, to illustrated it.   So the chart would have had to have been wrong too.
In addition, and this is what really nails it, I remember being really ticked off when he said it.  What really pisses me off in a hearing?  Someone wasting everyone's time reading their written statement for the record out loud.  There's no reason for it.  It's put in the record.  Stop it, please.  When Secretary of State John Kerry chaired committees, he would instruct/beg witnesses not to waste everyone's time by reading those prepared remarks.
Prepared remarks.  Meaning Petraeus was reading from his written submission.  This was not an ad-lib in response to a question.  He said [it].  He meant to say it, he put it in writing before he said it and he brought a visual aid.

Community member Brandon tried to establish the above on his own but the Senate Armed Services Committee site doesn't have archives.  Brandon didn't give up though.  He found, at Real Clear Politics, Petraeus' written testimony submitted for the record.  Paragraph 34:

The emergence of Iraqi volunteers to help secure their local communities has been an important development. As this chart depicts, there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq, Shia as well as Sunni, under contract to help coalition and Iraqi forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.

As we noted yesterday, Petraeus was then the top-commander of US forces in Iraq, he was the one who implemented the program.  If he didn't mean to say "Shia as well as Sunni," he wouldn't have said it.  He did.  It does go against the repeated press portrayals.  There's no reason for Petraeus to lie about this to Congress.  I don't believe he was lying.  If you need more on it, you need to talk to Petraeus.  Not, as the 'analyst' did on Monday, e-mail me about an error that wasn't made.  Thank you to Brandon for his research.

Let's leave the recent history of five years ago for many more years ago for Eid al-Adha.  This holy day kicks off the four-day festival for practicing Muslims.  Time and Date notes:

Ibrahim, known as Abraham in the Christian and Jewish traditions, was commanded by God to sacrifice his adult son. He obeyed and took Ishmael (Ismail or Ismael) to Mount Moriah. Just as he was to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped him and gave him a ram to sacrifice in place of his son. Some people dispute that the son of sacrifice was Isaac (Isḥāq). Regardless, these events are remembered and celebrated at Eid al-Adha.

The religious days have meaning around the globe; however, that's especially true in Iraq where, Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) explains, "According to polling by Gallup, Iraq is one of the most religious societies in the world, with about 84% of Iraqis professing devotion to one faith or another."  Of the holy days themselves, Al Arabiya adds:

Eid al-Adha - the Feast of Sacrifice - marks the end of hajj, an annual pilgrimage undertaken by some 1.5 million Muslims this year in Saudi Arabia.
The holiday commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son Ismael.
Muslims believe that the very moment Ibrahim raised the knife, God told him to stop, that he had passed the test, and to replace Ismael with a sacrificial ram.
Muslims worldwide traditionally slaughter sheep or cattle in commemoration. The meat is distributed among the family and neighbors as well as the poor and needy.
But before the slaughter, men, women and children alike flock to mosques around the country to take part in the prayers.
Across the Muslim world, families were in a festive mood as they took to the markets and malls on Monday night, preparing to mark the occasion.

That's the historical background to what's being observed.  AP reports a disruption of the observance in Poland where "animal rights activists on Tuesday tried to prevent Muslim community in Bohoniki, in eastern Poland, from proceeding with the Eid al-Adha holidary, or Feast of Sacrifice, that includes cutting the throats of conscious animals."  The protest was a mild disruption.   Saad Abedine, Joseph Netto, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Qadir Sediqi (CNN) report that Afghanistan and Iraq saw the day "marred by bomb blasts."
Many Iraqi leaders had issues statements expressing joy for the four-day festival and asking for peace for the Iraqi people.  Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya, Tweeted a call for security and a holy day greeting:

نهنئكم بحلول عيد الاضحى المبارك اعاده الله على شعبنا الكريم بالامن، سائلين المولى عز وجل ان يحفظ ارضاً وشعباً

 But the hopes of the many were not to be.  Mustafa Mahmoud, Suadad al-Salhy and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) report, "A bomb exploded near a mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, killing eight Sunni worshippers after the first prayer of the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice, or Eid al-Adha, police and medical sources said."  NINA noted the death toll has risen to 10 with twenty-two injured.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) updated it to 12 dead and twenty-four injured -- but the numbers continued to climb.  AFP reports the death toll reached 15 -- including three children -- with twenty-six injured and quotes an outraged group of people "shouting, 'God take revenge on those who are evil!'"
Kirkuk is where, as Aswat al-Iraq noted last month, the biggest industrial complex in Iraq is being built.  AP offers this carefully worded statement today, "Kirkuk, a frequent flashpoint for violence, is home to an ethnic mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen who all have competing claims to the oil-rich city."  Wow.  That has almost all of the non-insight of "The Pig-Pen Ambassador" Christopher Hill's ridiculous statements at his 2009 confirmation hearing to become the US Ambassador to Iraq  (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th one).  Kirkuk, he explained, was "just an old-fashioned land dispute."

Oil-rich Kirkuk is claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government and by the central government in Baghdad.  That's where the dispute is.  Article 140 is in the Iraq Constitution -- hence its name -- and it requires that the disputed territories have a census and referendum.  It also was supposed to be implemented by the end of 2007.  This is not open to debate or dispute, this is written into the Constitution.  Nouri al-Maliki becomes prime minister in Iraq in the spring of 2006.  But Nouri ignored it, despite taking an oath to uphold the Constitution.  He has repeatedly refused to implement this. 

Again, Article 140 is not open to interpretation.  It is a law and not a distant one.  The Iraqi Constitution was drawn up in 2005.  Not only was it recent, Nouri should have had no problem grasping intent and meaning.  May 15, 2005, he was appointed to the Iraqi Constitution Drafting Committee.  Yes, Nouri served on the committee that wrote the Constitution.

Nouri refused to implement Article 140.  Until 2010 when his State of Law lost to Iraqiya in the parliamentary elections.  In the eight month-plus stalemate that followed the elections, stalemate created by Nouri, he rushed around from one bloc to another making one promise after another.

The Kurds had reason to believe he was serious.  Not only did he swear it would happen, not only was it included in the contract the US negotiated (the Erbil Agreement) which gave Nouri his second term, but when all parties signed off on the Erbil Agreement (Novemeber 2010), there was a census in Kirkuk scheduled for the start of December.

As is always the case with Nouri, he just can't be trusted.

He cancelled the census, swearing it would be rescheduled shortly.  Almost three years later, it never has been rescheduled.

If you're not getting how serious Kirkuk's status is, let's fall back to the  July 26, 2011 snapshot for more on this issue:
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war.  They don't want it solved.  The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them.  However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake.  So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over.  Greed trumps loyalty is the message.  (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007.  Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven."  Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time.  They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq."  It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
Again, AP kind of oversimplifies in their single-sentence explanation of Kirkuk.
Today, Saad Abedine, Joseph Netto, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Qadir Sediqi (CNN) report, "The bomb went off as worshippers were leaving the mosque, police said."  Kirkuk Now adds, "The bomb was reportedly wrapped in a plastic bag and put near the entrance of the Quds mosque located in the Zubat neighborhood of Kirkuk."  They also have a visual essay of the aftermath featuring six photos by Salam al-Ansari.  AFP's Mohamad Ali Harissi Tweets:
The Latin American Herald Tribune points out, "The attack also caused vast destruction to nearby buildings and vehicles."
Though the western media is focused on the bombing noted above, that's not the only violence in Iraq today.  NINA reports an Aneh bombing left an Iraqi soldier and an Iraqi military captain injured, a military and police operation in Tikrit has left 3 suspects dead and a fourth injured, a Mosul bombing killed 3 members of the police force, and 2 brothers en route to a mosque were shot dead in Mosul.  In other violence news, All Iraq News reports the police commander in Baiji has been dismissed due to what it seen as security failures.  No word on when Nouri gets dismissed for security failures throughout Iraq.
But Prensa Latina notes today,  "The inability of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is criticized by political and social sectors who fear the worsening of a sectarian conflict like the one that shook the country in 2006, 2007 and 2008, at the peak of the U.S. military occupation, before which religious battles were unknown in this country."  Last week, Aswat al-Iraq reported on MP Hussein al-Sharifi, with the Sadr bloc, who stated Nouri had made clear he was unable to govern and that Nouri's call for an "international contribution" to the safety and security of Iraq was an invitation to bring foreign armies into the country.  And, of course, last year KRG President Massoud Barzani called Nouri a failure.  Aswat al-Iraq went through Baghdad at the time to get a feeling of the mood in the capital and found agreement with Barzani's statement with a 51-year-old male in Sadr City remarking, "Barzani underlined a truth everyone knows."  And a woman was quoted then stating, "All Iraqi governments have continued lying to Iraqis.  They live in the fortified Green Zone far from the rest of the citizens."
Let's stay with the KRG for a bit.  KRG President Massoud Barzani's nephew is Nechirvan Barzani who is the Prime Minister of the KRG.  Last week the KRG issued this statement:
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani received the new Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI), Mr Nickolay Mladenov, today to discuss political developments in Iraq, the forthcoming Iraqi elections and the ongoing violence in Syria.
Mr Mladenov previously served as the Minster of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and has visited the Kurdistan Region several times in the past.
During their meeting, Prime Minister Barzani congratulated the new Special Representative and commended the relationship between KRG and the United Nations, particularly with its agencies operating in the Region.  He also said that the United Nations, with its rich experience and knowledge, can partner with the KRG in implementing its long-term development plans for the future.
They also discussed the political developments in Iraq and Kurdistan, including the recent parliamentary elections.  Mr Mladenov praised the peaceful elections, saying it served as another important milestone in cultivating the democratic culture in Kurdistan and underlined the UN’s strong support for the democratic journey in Iraq as a whole.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the forthcoming 2014 parliamentary elections in Iraq and the election law which is currently under discussion in the Council of Representatives in Baghdad. He said it is important to ensure that the rights of all groups are recognised in the new election law. He said, ‘Commitment to the Iraqi Constitution is a key factor for good governance, the implementation of genuine federalism and partnership and in promoting and protecting the political process in Iraq.’
The meeting also touched on the ongoing conflict in Syria and the influx of Syrian refugees into Kurdistan. Speaking on behalf of United Nations, Mr Mladenov expressed his appreciation for the hospitality the Region provides to the 235,000 refugees and for its financial contributions. He added that the United Nations will continue to support and provide assistance to those fleeing the violence and to those inside Syria.
That was sent to the public e-mail account for this site from an official with the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party -- one of the two dominant parties in the KRG -- the other being Gorran) with the note that "Othman does not speak for the KDP."  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the Iraqi Parliament has been unable to pass an election law for the possible parliamentary elections which Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi says will take place October 30th and, if necessary, they will use the previous election law.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Of course, just saying it doesn't make it so.  And while MP Mahmoud Othman's been telling everyone for days (NINA here) that as soon as soon as Eid al-Adha ends (the holiday starts tomorrow) that the Kurdish bloc will cease objections to the bill and vote for it, those are just words as well.  Also true, if Othman spoke for the Kurdish Alliance, he wouldn't be billed as an "independent MP."
Currently, the Parliament agree on a law but somehow, magic?, they're all going to agree with Osama al-Nujaifi's announcement that a previous law can be used?
That seems pretty pie in the sky for a country that is always 'turning a corner' to listen to the spinners but whose government continues the same death march it began in 2006.
Again, the e-mail sent today noted Othman does not speak for the KDP and enclosed this press release from last week where Prime Minister Barzani declared an election law must recognize the rights of all.  
Mohamad Ali Harissi Tweeted today:
  • Asked if he wants to become the 1st president for an independent state, told : (follow next tweet)

  • "I hope that there will be a Kurdish state, and let anyone be its president" ( to )
  • That is why Barazni is a leader with international stature. It's why the KDP did so well in the elections.  And it's why the PUK did so badly.  Barzani is the head of the KDP.  Jalal Talabani is the head of the PUK and Jalal's  long disappointed the Kurds.  There was his refusal and backstab in the summer of 2012 when he refused to allow the petition for Parliament to vote (no-confidence) on Nouri.  That pissed Kurds off.  But there were also things like this: "The ideal of a united Kurdistan is just a dream written in poetry." That's Jalal from March 16, 2009.  It's exactly that kind of crap that makes Jalal look weak.
    The difference between Massoud and Jalal is very sharp and while Barzani has emerged as a leader, Talabani looks like the happy fool the US kept propped up.  
    All Iraq News notes that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called out Jalal Talabani remaining president of Iraq, said a delegation needed to be sent to determine his status (and competency) and that the people of Iraq deserve a president.
     Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently. 
    For ten months of this year, Jalal's been out of the country and everyone knows he's not 'ruling' from a hospital bed.  Everyone's caught on that it's much worse than his office or the PUK has ever acknowledged.  You could argue that the Iraqi people have been defrauded and that legal charges can be brought.  This is beyond ridiculous.  It's one thing for a month or two but clearly he is unable to do his job.  Reality should have been faced before summer began.  As the reality sinks in about the lies from the PUK and Talabani's family, it's going to do even more damage to the PUK.
    On the topic of damage, Bobb Nodell (UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine) quotes the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at John Hopkins' Gilbert Burnham stating, "There were two big reasons to do this study: to cover the entire period of the war and to improve on the groundwork laid by earlier studies.  By broadening the sources of information we used and by covering the full length of the conflict, this study provides a more complete picture of mortality during the Iraq war."
    The study he's referring to?  Al Jazeera reports:

    The number of deaths caused by the Iraq War has been a source of intense controversy, as politics, inexact science and a clamor for public awareness have intersected in a heated debate of conflicting interests. The latest and perhaps most rigorous survey, released Tuesday, puts the figure at close to 500,000.
    The study, — a collaboration of researchers in the U.S., Canada and Iraq appearing in the journal PLoS Medicine — included a survey of 2,000 Iraqi households in 100 geographic regions in Iraq. Researchers used two surveys, one involving the household and another asking residents about their siblings, in an attempt to demonstrate the accuracy of the data they were collecting. Using data from these surveys, researchers estimated 405,000 deaths, with another 55,800 projected deaths from the extensive migration in and emigration from Iraq occurring as a result of the war.
    The University of Washington notes in a press release, "Based on household survey responses, gunshots were reported to cause 62% of violent deaths; car bombs, 12%; and other explosions, 9%. Cardiovascular conditions were the main cause of nonviolent death, accounting for 47% of nonviolent deaths over the entire study period. Other common sources of nonviolent deaths included infant or childhood deaths other than injuries (12.4%), chronic illnesses (11%) and cancer (8%)."  Dan Vergano (National Geographic) speaks with Columbia University epidemiologist Leslie Roberts who declares of the study, "This is a really serious and credible piece of work."
    Bill Briggs (NBC News) quotes Amy Hagopian ("lead author of the study") declaring, "In a war situation, people can’t leave their homes to get medical care. When they do leave their homes to get medical care, they arrive at institutions overwhelmed with violent injuries. The water is compromised. Stress is elevated. The power is out. The distribution networks for medical supplies are compromised."  The Medical Press adds:

    Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Simon Fraser University, Mustansiriya University, and the UW's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation also participated in the study. The study is the first population-based survey since 2006 to estimate war-related deaths in Iraq and the first to cover the full-time span of the conflict.
    Researchers state with 95% certainty that there were approximately 461,000 excess deaths during the Iraq war, but the actual number could be as low as 48,000 or as high as 751,000. (For comparison, three years after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the death toll has been estimated anywhere between 46,000 and 316,000).

    The World Health Organization Collaborating Centre at the Imperial College of London's  Salman Rawaf observes, "To my knowledge, none of the governments involved in the invasion or occupation have conducted an official inquiry into the health consecquences of the conflict, calling into question their interest in the true impact of their actions on the civilians in Iraq."

    Winding down with the arts.  Remember this image:


    Groups like the UK's Stop The War Coalition have helped popularize it.  Jonathan Jones (Guardian) reports on the photo today:

    What he did do is pose with his phone, apparently taking his own picture, at a photo opportunity with a group of naval cadets during the 2005 general election campaign. Political artists Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps were combing through scores of pictures from the Guardian when they came across this slightly bonkers-looking portrait of a politician on campaign and realised it was just what they needed in their quest for a picture that told the truth about the Iraq war. "It was born out of two years of hard work to pull down the propaganda machine," say the artists. Using Photoshop they replaced the innocuous cadets with an apocalypse of fire. A satirical icon was born.
    Photo Op, as their photomontage is called, has become the definitive work of art about the war that started with the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Ten years on from that war's beginning, this manic digital collage states succinctly what a large number people feel and believe about Blair's responsibility for the chaos that ensued. It says in a nutshell what protesters claimed at the time and what has become a generally accepted version of history – that Tony Blair was a monster charging into Iraq without scruples. Look, there he is, taking a selfie in front of his handiwork. Such is his notoriety that viewers really can take this as fact.
    "Some people do," acknowledges Kennard. "He's maniacal enough for people to believe he actually would be happy photographing an oil explosion."
    If an iconic picture is one that speaks to our feelings, this anti-war montage is an icon of our time. It was popularised with a little help from street artist Banksy when he included it in a Christmas grotto installation on Oxford Street, London. Campaign magazine praised it as an advert. Now it is on view at the Imperial War Museum in Manchester in an exhibition about contemporary art and war. Although the show includes conceptual responses to war by such art world luminaries as Steve McQueen and Jeremy Deller, it is "Tony Blair's crazed selfie", as a headline put it, that has grabbed media attention.

    In other arts news, Blu-Ray News reports, "Kimberly Peirce's 2008 war drama will enlist on Blu-ray in February. In an early announcement to retailers, Warner Brothers is readying 'Stop-Loss' for Blu-ray on December 3."  Stop-Loss starred Channing Tatum, Abbie Cornish, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Phillippe and Timothy Olyphant among others.  It made over $11 million in theaters and then arrived on DVD where it became the hit it should have been.  In the first two weeks of release alone,  it made over $2 million in sales.  That was in 2008 and it has continued to sell ever since.  It's a moving film, it's an effective film.  It's also one with eye candy.  As last year ended and sexists went after director Kathryn Bigelow with hate and scorn, Ava and I noted Stop-Loss in our defense of Kathryn:

    Along with Bigelow, this loser crowd has also trashed Kimberly Peirce for Stop-Loss.  Those attacks helped ensure that she would go nearly five years before she'd get another crack at directing a film.  She's incredibly talented (her first film was the classic Boys Don't Cry).  But she's a woman and she directed a film against war that wasn't enough against war for some big cry babies:  'Oh no, the guy wants to drop out of the war!  But then he decides to get on the bus and return!  Why, oh, why, can't the film say what we want it to! Even if it doesn't fit the character!'
    It said more than any of its critics managed to and reached more people.  In its first week on DVD, it made $4.8 million in sales and rentals.  That was long before Channing Tatum was declared (weeks ago) The Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.  In fact, this is the film that makes Channing a star and, most important to his fans, features lots of shirtless scenes, lots of scenes of him in briefs.  Which is why it continues to rent and sell on DVD and via streaming.
    The whiners wanted Kimberly to make a film where she clobbered everyone over the head.  Instead, she made a film where a man wants out of the war but in the end, much to the viewers' regrets, goes back into it.  You have to be really stupid to not grasp how that impacts an audience.

    While Stop-Loss comes to Blu-Ray in December,  Kimberly Peirce's follow up film opens Friday, her remake of Brian De Palma's classic horror film Carrie (which has more of an emphasis on Stephen King's novel than on Brian's film).