Saturday, March 16, 2013

Iraq Roundtable

C.I.: This is an Iraq roundtable.  From time to time, over the years, we've done these on Iraq and on Afghanistan.  This roundtable will go up at all the sites of the people participating.  It was last minute.  Here's who is participating:  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim and Ava;  Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts; Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. and
I'm C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review.  A few basics.  Ava is taking notes.  When I'm not speaking, I'll be helping her there.  We thank her for the note taking.  Her stipulation for participation was she didn't want to speak.  That's more than fine.

 From Samarra من سامراء

C.I. (Con't): We're using as an illustration a photograph of brave Iraqis in Samarra holding a message for the world -- and this photo belongs to Iraqi Spring MC. They are the official voice for the Iraqi Spring.  The message is four sentences: "Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us? Wake Up, this is an IRAQI REVOLUTION Not a Sectarian One! Iraqis Did not Vote for an Iranian Dictatorship Women Rights in Democratic Iraq Are NON-EXISTENT!"

Marcia: What I found interesting was that the sign was in English -- and I was briefly puzzled, but then Ava told me --

Ava: To get the message out in the US, you pretty much have to put it in English.  We're not France or Germany in that we can claim to speak multiple languages in large numbers.

Marcia: And of everyone participating in this, C.I.'s the only one who reads and speaks Arabic.  Let me clear that up, we don't read it and we don't speak it.  Rebecca, Elaine, Ann, Ruth, Ava and Wally speak more than one language.  And for a group our size, that may be out of the norm -- we should probably, to be fully representative of America, have fewer who speak more than just English.  But that was smart of the protesters to realize that and I really love that we'll all be reposting this roundtable at our sites and the thing that even the casual observer will see is this massive protest in Samarra and the sign they're holding.

Ann: I think it was also smart to put Barack Obama into the sign.  It's smart because he does have a responsibility but it's also smart because it grabs Americans and plays on the reality that we are responsible -- along with England and Australia -- for the illegal war.  I think it's smart and great that it gets Barack's name up there right at the start.

C.I.: You're saying, Ann, that there is guilt to be shared in America and that it plays to that guilt.

Ann: Right.  It pulls you in.  As an American, I read it and know my country started this continuing crime against the Iraqi people and by bringing in the American leader and basically saying, "What are you going to do?" -- it kicks the responsibility over to where it belongs. 

 Ruth: I agree and I am also impressed with the size of the turnout.  This has been going on for months now, correct?

C.I.: Yes, since December 21st.  Prior to that, in December, Moqtada al-Sadr, cleric and movement leader, had been insulted by Nouri al-Maliki, thug and prime minister.  This had led his followers to take to the streets in large numbers.  But in terms of ongoing protests, it's December 21st.

Ruth: And they have grown.  They are sizable and this despite the fact that these protesters are targeted by Nouri's forces.

Cedric:  January 25th, they were assaulted in Falluja and nine were killed.  March 8th, 3 were killed in the attack in Mosul. And they were attacked by Nouri's forces.  It's really amazing that we're sending Nouri weapons, we're spending billions of US dollars to prop up his government and he's attacking his own people.

Kat: It really is pathetic.  And we were forewarned.  What did Joe Biden say?

C.I.: When he was still in the Senate?

Kat: Uh-huh.

C.I.: April 10, 2008 he noted that the US was being asked "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and, among other things, "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."

Kat: And now he's vice president.  And I'd just love an interviewer to read those comments back to him and ask him what the hell he thinks the US is doing in Iraq today?  And I'm sick of liars like R. Jeffrey Smith -- in fact, since 2008, the so-called Center for Public Integrity has been one big joke.

Jim: I agree with you about the laughable Center for Public Integrity.  What did Smith do?

Kat: Wrote an idiotic article.  To believe his garbage and others, you have to be monumentally stupid and believe the US stopped spending money in Iraq under Bush.  It didn't stop spending in 2011.  It still spends.  And we've got no real oversight of that money so you'd think a real reporter would be noting that.  R. Jeffrey Smith is just another partisan whore, he's not a reporter.

Trina: Like Kat, I'm sick of all that crud.  I'm sick of these jerks and asses who think they can write their anti-Bush rhetoric and pretend like they did something.

Ava: Jumping in again even though I said I wouldn't.  Trina, you're not saying you're pro-Bush, clarify that because some reader will misunderstand.

Trina: Thank you.  No, I'm not pro-Bush.  But I'm sick of these writer who write their partisan whoring.  There's a lot to blame Barack on -- and not just voting on all the funding as a senator.  There's a lot to blame him on as president.  It's when he's president that Nouri loses the vote but Barack forces him off on Iraqis -- via The Erbil Agreement -- as a prime minister for another term.  It is under Barack, not Bully Boy Bush, that Iraq's Emo youth and LGBT community is targeted with death in such ghastly and public ways that it actually gets serious media attention.  And the White House response?  Never to speak of it.

Marcia: I see something like that and just wonder how anyone can get away with that.  Barack has been so awful for human rights around the world.  And with Iraq wanting those F-16s next year -- over 30 in all -- I'd say the White House could do a lot to improve human rights in Iraq by setting serious conditions before the delivery of even one jet.

C.I.: Last week, Ruth wrote "Brett McGurk spits in Iraqi women's faces,"  Rebecca, any thoughts?

Rebecca: Brett McGurk was Barack's third nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq in Barack's first term.  He didn't become the ambassador.  Turned out, he had an inappropriate relationship with a reporter, Gina Chon, while he was in Iraq during the Bush years.  In Iraq, there is such a thing as 'honor' killings.  That's where someone thinks I've brought disgrace to our family so a family member kills me.  Brett McGurk is now known in Iraq as the adulterer.  As the American who came to Iraq and didn't respect the sanctity of marriage.  To be clear, I've divorced multiple times.  I'm not talking here about my own values.  I'm talking about Iraq.  Which would have been the host country if McGurk had been confirmed as ambassador.  Now it's being reported that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran will be McGurk.  As you've pointed out, there's no way he goes to Iraq and women are comfortable around him.  They have a private meeting with him and it's "Slut! You've disgraced the family!"  And the woman could be killed just for meeting -- or being thought to have met -- with Brett McGurk.  Why would you want to select anyone for a post if you knew that half the country would be unable to interact with the person?

Isaiah: What McGurk has going for him in Barack's mind is that McGurk and Nouri are tight.  Iraqiya lodged a complaint when the administration first announced McGurk was the nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  This time around, I think if they were to launch a campaign like, "Keep Iraqi women safe, Keep Brett McGurk out of Iraq," it would be enough to kill his chances of being the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran.

C.I.: Isaiah, why do you feel that Barack sees the close relationship McGurk and Nouri have as a good thing?

Isaiah: Because Barack's primary goal is to preserve Nouri as prime minister.

Wally: Right, they're not even -- the administration -- saying anything about Nouri's decision to run for a third term.  That's not announced but it's known by the fact that the law Parliament just passed limiting the prime minister to two terms is one Nouri keeps appealing to the federal court.

Stan: And as Wally knows, it also -- that law -- covers the president of Iraq and the Speaker of Parliment.  All three are limited to two terms.  The Constitution already limited the president.

Wally: Right.  What we see under Barack is a disregard for the safety and comfort of the Iraqi people.  He just wants to keep the puppet installed and he will -- and he has -- overlook anything in order to keep Nouri in power.

Stan: I feel very sorry for the Iraqi people.

Wally: Support.

Stan: They went to the polls in 2010 and their voters were tossed aside because Barack had to have Nouri get a second term.  Can you imagine that? Some pushy foreigners invade your country, tear it apart and tell you, 'hey, we brought you democracy!'  Then you go to vote in the elections, you risk violence, and what happens is that your vote gets tossed aside because those same damn foreigners who invaded now refuse to let your country's voice be heard.  How could you even use the term democracy after that except as a punch line to a bad joke?

C.I.: Strong points all.  Stan, last week you wrote about counter-insurgency in  "What the US government did in Iraq," Did you want to talk about that?

Stan: Well you and Ava covered the documentary  James Steele: America's Myster Man In Iraq   in "TV: The War Crimes Documentary" and I think that really captures it.  My point in writing that post was really just to be on record calling out counter-insurgency.  And I think if people really gave a damn about political prisoner and whistle blower Bradley Manning, they would talk about the realities of counter-insurgency.  That doesn't happen and so I wanted to be on record and I also wanted to back up you and Elaine who have covered this topic for years.

C.I.: I agree with you, Stan, it is important to be on the record opposing counter-insurgency.  It amazes me that we think a 'debate' is on whether it's effective or not and not on how outrageous war on a native people itself is.  Mike, Elaine and Betty haven't spoken yet.  So, as we wind down, I want to toss to them.  What is the story that stands out most to you with regards to the Iraq War?  Betty, would you like to go first?

Betty: I certainly would.  I'll go with  the March 12, 2006, gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi.  To me that really was one of the biggest stories.  Also one of the most telling.  For any who don't know, Abeer was a young teenager.  14-years-old.  And American soldiers, with Steven D. Green as ringleader, plotted to rape her.  They entered her family home, the gang-rape began with two soldiers -- one holding Abeer down while the other had his turn at rape -- and Green went into the other room with the parents and Abeer's five-year-old sister.  Abeer was being raped and could hear the gun shots -- and probably the screams -- of her parents and her baby sister as she was being raped.  And how awful that she's being gang-raped but she also knows that she's going to die.  At that moment, she knows.  "I must get out of this"?  That line from Tori Amos' "Me and A Gun."  Where the woman is getting raped and she's thinking about bisquits and anything else to try to leave her body during this horrific crime and she's telling herself "I must get out of this."  But before the gang-rape was over, Abeer knew she wouldn't.  She heard the gun shots and I'm sure there were screams and cries and that she heard those as well. 

Mike: Right.  She hears all of that, like Betty said.  And I agree, there were screams and cries.  Steven D. Green is shooting the little five-year-old girl, the mother and the father.  I would assume that the father being the strongest that he shoots him first.  And that has the mother and daughter screaming and crying.  And Abeer hears that gun shot and the cries and screams.  Then another gun shot.  Then a third.  And nothing.  And then Steven D. Green's in the room and the other two US soldiers step away and Green begins raping Abeer.  And she knows this man raping her is the man who just killed her parents and her kid sister.  And she knows he's going to kill her.  And he does.  Then, to try to hide their War Crimes, they set her body on fire.  It's just disgusting.  And it's really like the story of the illegal war.  America was going to 'help.' And Green was stationed in the corner of Abeer's block to provide security, to 'help.'  And instead, he starts lusting after this 14-year-old girl, staring at her, he can't keep his hands to himself and she complains to her parents and they get a relative who'll take Abeer in.  But the night before she leaves, Green and company break into her house and that's that.

Elaine: I'm going to agree with Betty and Mike.  I think it was telling.  I think Mike's right about how it is basically a metaphor for the US actions in Iraq.   I agree with Betty's logical conclusion that Abeer heard screams and cries while she was being raped -- and gun shots.  But what I'd point out was that we saw the reaction to Abeer.

C.I.: Which was?

Elaine: Silence.  Jane Fonda gave a great speech about her.  But Women's Media Center, which Fonda's a part of, could have amplified the speech, could have given the story life.  They ignored it.  So many other outlets did as well.  There were several military trials of the soldiers involved.  Steven D. Green, the ringleader, had a civilian trial because he'd already left the military.  There was no rush to cover it.  This is after the others have confessed their crimes.  Green is the last one tried.  The Nation wasn't interested, Democracy Now! didn't give a damn.  That's just to name a few.  My point being that the War Crimes -- and that's what was done to Abeer and her family, War Crimes -- were ignored by the bulk of the media.  This let us know how unimportant Iraq was to so many in the press -- no matter how often they used it during a pledge cycle to beg for more money.

C.I.: Okay.  If I missed anyone, now's your chance to say so?  No one.  Okay, I promised Jim he could wrap it up.

Jim: The big takeaway for me with Iraq isn't that the US screwed things up in 2003.  It's that the US continues to screw things up.  The US government has prevented the 2010 election results from being honored, to give one example.  And there's been too much appeasing Nouri.  I want everyone reading this to get that we have called out the appeasement of Nouri al-Maliki. If he gets a third term, as he wants, he's in for life.  He moves from Little Saddam to Big Saddam.  I want people to realize that and realize that it was called out in real time.  The US puppets don't turn into tyrants over time.  They're selected to be installed because they already are tyrants.  And 20 years from now when President Lady GaGa is saying we have to invade Iraq to save the Iraqis from Nouri al-Maliki, I want people to remember that everyone didn't stick their heads in the sand and play dumb in real time.

C.I.: Alright.  Thank you, Jim.  This is a rush transcript and we thank everyone who participated.  Most of all, we thank the Iraqi people for their courage and strength to go on day after day, even after repeatedly facing the wrath of the US government.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, March 15, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, even Thug Nouri can't stop the ongoing protests in Iraq, Iraqis continue to suffer, Victoria Nuland is not an uninterested party in the Iraq War, John Stauber returns to tell truth, Iraq Veterans Against the War organizes an event, and more.

From yesterday's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Yes, can we go to Iraq?

MS. NULAND: We can.
QUESTION: Yes, of course there was a lot of explosions today (inaudible), but on the eve of the war, the Costs of War project by Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University issued an assessment that the war cost $2 trillion – quite staggering – and could conceivably cost $6 billion, with, like, 123,000 civilian Iraqis dead and many, many others.
So I wanted to ask you what – on the 10th anniversary, what are the lessons learned for U.S. foreign policy and indeed, the implications?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ll have more to say as we get closer to the 10th anniversary. But the path to the relationship that the U.S. and Iraq have today has obviously been challenging, but through our sustained efforts, we’ve now forged a strategically important bilateral relationship, one that continues to be a top priority for us, a top priority for Iraq. The challenges are complex. They remain.
But as compared to where we were in the Saddam era, we now have a bilateral security agreement, we have deep economic interests and ties, we have a security relationship, we have a political relationship. Both countries have made enormous sacrifices to get us where we are and to start this new chapter, but we’re committed to Iraq for the long term and we’re committed to its prosperity, its unity and integrity, and to its ability to be a strong democracy in the region.
QUESTION: The Syrian-Iraqi border is becoming a lawless frontier, and in fact, the U.S. is probably aiding the government in trying to control some of the al-Qaida elements that control actually both sides of this frontier. And at the same time, there is a possible breakaway by the KRG, they’re threatening, and so on. I wonder what you’re doing, or if you could share with us some of the things that you are doing, one, to convince the KRG to remain confederated with Iraq, and second, to help the Iraqis control their border?
MS. NULAND: First, with regard to our contacts with the KRG, you know that we maintain a broad and deep relationship with them. We are in constant contact with them, as we are with all of the major leaders and groups in Iraq. And our message to all of them is the same, that the Iraqi constitution calls for a unified country where the groups can coexist, can make political compromises with each other, that there’s a lot of work undone. And we are encouraging all sides to continue the dialogue about how Iraq can move forward, and particularly in the area of completing its work on energy, et cetera, so that all Iraqis can benefit from that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.

UPI turns the above into Iraq being called "better off" by "a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said."

But that's not accurate.  As we noted back in November 2004 when explaining why NPR shouldn't have brought Robert Kagan on to 'analyze' then-Senator John Kerry's run for president on the Democratic Party's ticket:

What is Kagan's conflict of interest appearance? (An issue NPR has still not addressed.) It's not that he writes an op-ed for The Washington Post. Dvorkin does toss out the "hawk" issue but without ever addressing it. But he also doesn't address a very important fact: who is Robert Kagan married to?

He's married to Victoria Nuland. For all I know, she's a wonderful person. But that's not the issue. The issue is who Ms. Nuland works for. Want to take a guess on that?

Did you guess Dick Cheney? If you did, you may be more informed than Dvorkin or Montagne because possibly they are unaware of that fact. Possibly, they haven't done the basic work required -- Montagne to know about the "guest" she is introducing; Dvorkin to address the issue of Kagan as a commentator/interpreter of John Kerry's remarks.

Michele Norris' husband worked for the Kerry campaign. (Warning: we're going down a very basic road here. But apparently, it's not one that NPR can navigate by themselves so let's move slowly to allow them to keep up.) Since Norris' husband is involved with attempting to get what we will call "team A" into the White House, Norris has the appearance of a conflict of interest and her reporting duties can not include commenting or covering the campaigns. That's a simple path to follow whether you agree with it or not.

But with Kagan, the path has a huge u-turn and veers off to God knows where. Kagan's wife works as Cheney's deputy national security adviser. That's Ms. Nuland' s title. So in effect, Ms. Nuland's employed by "team B" -- she's apparently not working on team B's campaign, but she works for team B. Potentially, Kagan has a vested interest in the outcome of the 2004 election.

Robert Kagan is a neocon.  He's the husband of the woman who was Dick Cheney's deputy national security adviser.   Victoria Nuland is a neocon. While she's a State Dept spokesperson -- proving that failure is the only thing DC rewards -- Nuland also was part of the team plotting the Iraq War.  So when UPI bills her just as State Dept spokesperson, that's really not accurate.  Many years ago, Jebediah Reed did an article for Radar about who made money by supporting the Iraq War and The Nation's Jonathan Schell pointed out, "There doesn't seem to be a rush to find the people who were right about Iraq and install them in the mainstream media."  It's really telling how welcoming the 'peace' candidate of 2008 has been to neocons (Robert Kagan's an adviser and his language often pops up in Barack's speeches, such as his 2012 State of the Union speech).

Here we've noted that we could have really become something in the '00s on the left.  Instead, we became the photographic negative image of all we loathed about the right in the nineties.  (We most recently pointed that out here.)  John Stauber, one of the real truth tellers, returns today with a piece at CounterPunch that should shame so many of the faux left:

Think hard.  Think about fundamental, radical, democratic, social and economic change, who might bring it about and how.  Ask yourself if the the rich elite, the 1%, are going to fund that.   Leave The Nation and Mother Jones on the shelf;  turn off Ed Schultz, Rachel Madow and Chris Hayes;  don’t open that barrage of email missives from Alternet, Media Matters, MoveOn, and the other think tanks;  and get your head out of the liberal blogosphere for a couple days.  Clear your mind and consider this:
The self-labeled Progressive Movement that has arisen over the past decade is primarily one big propaganda campaign serving the political interests of the the Democratic Party’s richest one-percent who created it.  The funders and owners of the Progressive Movement get richer and richer off Wall Street and the corporate system.  But they happen to be Democrats, cultural and social liberals who can’t stomach Republican policies, and so after bruising electoral defeats a decade ago they decided to buy a movement, one just like the Republicans, a copy.

His analysis of Occupy will have many crying -- and a few names (especially two attorneys who host a radio show and whored for Occupy) on the left cr**ping their pants.    We'll note the section on the Iraq War:

After the 2004 flop of the Kerry/Edwards campaign, luck shone on the Democrats.  The over-reach of the neoconservatives, the failure to find those weapons of mass deception (sic),  the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, turned American public opinion,  especially among the young, against the Republicans.  Growing anti-war sentiment, which had little to do with the organized anti-war movement, delivered to the Democrats what Governor Mario Cuomo called “The Gift.”  The horrific Iraq war, he explained to a Democracy Alliance gathering, was the gift that allowed the Democrats to take control of the US Congress.
It was at this point in early 2007 that the truly dark and cynical agenda of the professional Progressive Movement and the Democratic Party revealed itself.  Under Pelosi the Democrats could have cut off funding for Bush’s unpopular wars and foreign policy.  Instead,  with PR cover provided by MoveOn and their lobbyist Tom Matzzie, the Democratic Congress gave George Bush all the money he wanted to continue his wars.  For the previous five years MoveOn had branded itself as the leader of the anti-war movement, building lists of millions of liberals, raising millions of dollars, and establishing itself in the eyes of the corporate media as leaders of the US peace movement.  Now they helped the Democrats fund the war,  both betting that the same public opposition to the wars that helped them win control of the House in 2006 could win the Presidency in 2008.

We didn't get change because change was never defined.  They offered a ink blot that people could project onto. Change means end the war to you?  Oh, sure then, that's what it means?  Strengthening labor unions?  Oh, sure that's exactly what it means!  And to go with the ink blot campaign, a cypher candidate. 

One who has no appreciation for democracy.  The Iraqi people went to the polls in March 2010 and Nouri and his State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  Instead of urging Nouri to step down, Barack Obama backed him for a second term he hadn't earned.  For eight months, the political system was paralyzed because Nouri would not step aside.  Then Barack had officials work on the US-brokered Erbil Agreement which circumvented the Constitution and the will of the people to award Nouri a second term.

Yasmine Bahrani (McClatchy Newspapers) offers a take on the illegal war:
The most common excuse given is that there was bad intelligence. Recently on a documentary called "Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War" was shown on MSNBC, a major planner of the war, Colin Powell's chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson, said there had been a hoax Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. We wonder whether his "stuff happens" explanation is acceptable.
Personally I was opposed to the war not because I had any inside information but because I worried about my relatives in Iraq. Most of them told me they were glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein, and soon after the invasion, I tried to give the new Iraq a chance. However 10 years on, those same relatives, who were comfortable before the war, still don't have electricity, water or security. Car bombs explode fairly regularly and kill innocents at markets, schools and other civilian locations. Human Rights Watch charges that the regime is violating the rights of vulnerable citizens, especially women and Christians.
They agree life under Saddam Hussein was difficult, but it has become more difficult under Nouri al-Maliki. On the anniversary, the Iraqi people I know are asking why their choice must be limited to the two evils of tyranny and chaos.

Read more here:

Iraqi's have suffered under Little Saddam and, these days, they're beginning to ask questions of Barack.

Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?

Wake Up, this is an IRAQI REVOLUTION Not a Sectarian One!

Iraqis Did not Vote for an Iranian Dictatorship

Women Rights in Democratic Iraq Are NON-EXISTENT!

The above is what was written on a large sign protesters in Samarra carried in today's demonstration.

When will Barack hear the voices of the Iraqis, crying out for freedom?  As he continues to arm Little Saddam (Nouri al-Maliki), as plans continue to provide Nouri with F-16s, it's really past time Americans said "NO!" to supporting authoritarian regimes.  Protesters have been shot dead for the 'crime' of protesting.  But still the protests continue.  At what point does the US President recognize the suffering and stop playing footsie with Nouri al-Maliki?

Who knows but the protesters got a little more support today with photographic evidence of Abu Ghraib -- now back under Iraqi management.  In this photo, is that guard carrying an actual rubber hose?  That's what it appears.  There are several photos Iraq Revolution has posted of Abu Ghraib.  Is that supposed to pass for morning prayers?  The US Gulag at Guantanamo Bay doesn't even (publicly) allow the prisoners to be forced into that mockery and desecration of morning prayers as evidenced by this Reuters photo by Deborah Gembara.  Why do they protest?  Maybe one answer is found in Mustafa al-Kadhimi's report for Al Monitor:

It was not easy for Bashir Ali, 55, to recall what he lived through when he was in the prisons of Saddam Hussein’s regime during the 1980s. He could not hold back his tears when he recalled being raped to force him to confess for plotting against the regime and for belonging to the Islamic Dawa party. But when he compares Iraq back then to what it is today, what he says is surprising: “Ten years after Saddam Hussein’s regime has ended, what we have is not better.”
Ali, a Shiite from southern Iraq, is an unusual witness because he does not look at things from the perspective of his personal tragedy. He said, “Today, there are no public services, no security, and Iraq is on the brink of civil war. We are almost at an impasse. Yes Saddam was unjust, but his reign provided security and public services. The regime that succeeded him has betrayed our dream in having security and stability.”

Today's protests were noted on Twitter:

WOW. Massive protests in #Samara, #Iraq, against Maliki's regime and corruption. Dozens thousands of protesters! …

In Baghdad efforts were once again made  to stop the citizens from exercising their rights to protest -- and, as Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) has previously pointed out -- to stop them from exercising their rights to worship.  Alsumaria notes efforts to prevent worshippers from reaching mosques.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds that federal police "used batons and water hoses" in an attempt to prevent Sunnis "from reaching a prominent mosque in northern Baghdad."   Iraqi Spring MC notes that worshipers were prevented from utilizing Ramadan Bridge to enter Adhamiya.  AP notes at least five protesters wounded on the bridge and quotes Abdul-Rahman al-Azzawi stating, "We were showed with water and the policemen started to beat us.  I do not know the reason behind this savage attack.  We were only going to a mosque, not to al-Maliki's office in the Green Zone."  Al Jazeera adds:

Iraqi security forces had prevented worshippers from holding Friday prayers at the mosque last week as well, a development that reflects heightened sectarian tensions nearly a decade after the US invasion of Iraq.
Abdul-Rahman al-Azzawi was among of a group of people who tried to cross the 14th of Ramadan bridge when they were met by security forces.
"We were showered with water and the policemen started to beat us,'' he said.
"I do not know the reason behind this savage attack. We were only going to a mosque, not to al-Maliki's office in the Green Zone,'' referring to the heavily secured quarter in the center of Baghdad where many officials have their offices.

Despite these efforts, National Iraqi News Agency reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqiya MPs Salman Jumaili and Dhafi al-Aani took part in worship at Abu Hanifa Mosque in Adhamiya. Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi demanded that federal forces open a road to allow the protesters to enter.   Iraqi Spring MC offers a photo of others who made it to the mosque in Adhmiya.

National Iraqi News Agency reports the Ramadi protesters today arrested a man who was attempting to burn protesters cars and they "handed him over to Aljazeerah police station in Ramadi."  They note that, unlike some of the federal forces, they did not torture the man, simply placed him under arrest.  Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports from Ramadi:

Along both shoulders of the road, the tribal leaders have erected more than 100 canvas tents, where they display posters with their 17 demands, all couched as fitting within current legal order. There s a threat, however, of other means: A hand-painted banner at a political rally that followed a recent religious servicesummed up the mood best: “Beware the patient man, if he gets angry.”

Read more here:

Protests also took place in Jalawlaa, Baquba, Falluja, Samarra, Baiji and Kirkuk.  On Kirkuk, Sunday, National Iraqi News Agency reported  "the General Coordinator of the popular committees overseeing the sit-ins of Kirkuk Bunyyan Sabbar al-Obeidi was killed today."  Of Sunday's assassination of Bunyan-Obeidi, Alsumaria noted the activist was killed by unknown assailants in a civilian car who began shooting as they passed.  AFP added, "Obeidi’s death comes two days after activists said security forces fired on a demonstration in Mosul, another north Iraq city" --  3 protesters died in Mosul assault last Friday.  At the demonstration in Kirkuk today, protesters held a symbolic funeral for Bunyan-Obeidi and you can see them carrying a coffin in this Iraqi Spring MC video.  Earlier this week, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (Guardian) reflected on the protests:

Every Friday, thousands of peaceful demonstrators have poured into the streets of Ramadi, Mosul and Falluja mimicking the Arab spring protests elsewhere in the region.
In Mosul and Falluja, tent cities have sprung up in public squares. Some have even demonstrated in Sunni areas of Baghdad, braving the draconian Friday security measures imposed on them.
But perhaps more remarkable is the scene inside the tent. Among the tribal sheikhs and activists around Abu Saleh are former enemies and victims, men who feared him and men who hunted him on behalf of the Americans. Sensing an opportunity, Sunni factions have put aside their differences to mount a common front against Baghdad.

Moving over to violence, Yang Yi (Xinhua) reports, "A female Iraqi candidate for the upcoming provincial elections and her husband have been killed in the northern part of the country, police said Friday. Unidentified gunmen killed Kamisa Ahmed Al-Bachari and her husband late Thursday evening when they were returning from a wedding party in Al Arish village, south of Mosul, about 400 km north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, a local police source told Xinhua."  National Iraq News Agency adds that an armed attack on a Tal Afar checkpoint resulted in the deaths of 2 police officers. Alsumaria notes three police officers were injured in a Baghdad mortar attack, 1 police officer shot dead on the streets of Mosul (gun had a silencer on it),  and, dropping back to last night, an attack on a mosque to the south of Falluja left Iman Jbeil Majid al-Issawi deadMu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports an armed attack in Al Rayash in which 8 Iraqi soldiers were killed.  AFP notes a home invasion outside Baquba which claimed the lives of Khalil al-Anjili and 1 son with 2 more killed outside the home -- resulting of 17 Sahwa killed so far this month.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 158 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

Yesterday saw an attack on the Ministry of Justice.  Adam Schreck (AP) notes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for an investigation into the attack and stating, "This blatant security violation targeting an important government building in the middle of the capital only shows the weakness of the security forces (and) their limited capabilities,"

Alsumaria reports that Dhi Qar Province announced yesterday their figures for 2012 marriages which included 360 underage marriage.  And when Iraq talks underage marriage, they're referring, as in this article, to girls as young as ten-years-old.

Do not mistakenly picture two little ten-year-olds holding hands, looking like the "Love is . . ." comic strip.  While the  wife may be as young as ten, the husband is generally in his fifties.

These are the figures for one province only.  It's appalling.  It's not a joke, it's not a meet-cute story to be shared years from now.  It is abuse plain and simple.  That's why the United Nations Population Fund has their End Child Marriage initiative.  They note:

Child marriage is a grave threat to the lives and prospects of young girls. It violates their rights, denies them of their childhood, disrupts their education, jeopardizes their health, and limits their opportunities.

The campaign, Too Young to Wed, which launches on the first International Day of the Girl Child, calls attention to this egregious human rights violation. Beyond providing new data and co-sponsoring a high-level panel on this issue, UNFPA is working with governments and partners at all levels of society to deliver comprehensive programmes addressing the needs of vulnerable and married girls.

Start here by getting the facts, watching the videos, viewing the multimedia exhibit and sharing what you know with friends and colleagues.

Child marriage is not cute.  Children need to be children, they don't need to be married off to adults. They don't need to have their learning and their lives stunted or taken away from them.  Extreme poverty is at the root of many child marriages in Iraq.  

And child marriage is only one of the many ways in which females suffer in Iraq.

The International Committee of the Red Cross notes:

ICRC assists female breadwinners who face severe hardship because their husbands have been killed, arrested, disabled by war injuries, or are missing. It helps them to register with the Iraq's welfare system and offers them grants to start small businesses and become financially independent. In 2012:
  • 810 female breadwinners, among them 202 with physical disabilities, representing more than 4,300 beneficiaries, received an ICRC grant;
  • with the support of local NGOs and the ICRC, almost 4,000 female breadwinners (with close to 16,000 dependents) were helped to apply for social assistance. They also received cash payments from the ICRC to offset costs.
The ICRC continued its dialogue with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the authorities concerned to improve the living conditions of female breadwinners.

The Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq's Yanar Mohammed pointed out this month, "Iraqi women have witnessed all kinds of crimes and grievances which accompany all wars; first of which is the loss of 10% of the Iraqi female population’s husbands and fathers, leaving more than 3 million women and girls with no source of income or protection, thereby turning them into a helpless population which is deprived of all components of human dignity. In result, 3 million widows and female orphans of war are currently vulnerable to being exploited by the human beasts which were raised inside the green zone to enjoy the riches of Iraq, while depriving the 99% of resources and making sure to trample upon the human dignity of a female population who became victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation, polygamy, and religious pleasure marriages."

You can't talk about the Iraq War without acknowledging what was done to Iraqi women.  As Sami Ramadani (Guardian) observed yesterday, "Women and children pay the highest price.  Women's rights, and human rights in general, are daily suppressed."  The link there goes to Haifa Zangana (Guardian) column from last month about the state of Iraqi women:

The plight of women detainees was the starting point for the mass protests that have spread through many Iraqi provinces since 25 December 2012. Their treatment by the security forces has been a bleeding wound – and one shrouded in secrecy, especially since 2003. Women have been routinely detained as hostages – a tactic to force their male loved ones to surrender to security forces, or confess to crimes ascribed to them. Banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of protesters portray images of women behind bars pleading for justice.

[. . .]

No wonder, ten years after the invasion, the Iraqi authorities are accused by US-based Human Rights Watch of "violating with impunity the rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees". HRW's account is echoed by a report by the Iraqi parliament's own human rights and women, family and children's committees, which found that there are 1,030 women detainees suffering from widespread abuse, including threats of rape.
Responding to these findings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to "arrest those members of parliament who had discussed the violence against women detainees". Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has acknowledged that there are 13,000 prisoners in custody accused of terror offences, but he only mentioned women detainees in passing:

"We transferred all women prisoners to prisons in their home provinces."
Al-Shahristani's statement is one in a long list of contradictory and misleading statements by the regime's most senior officials – from al-Maliki speaking of "not more than a handful of women terrorists", to his contradictory promise that he will pardon all "women detainees who have been arrested without a judicial order or in lieu of a crime committed by some of their male relatives". That assurance was followed by parading nine women, cloaked in black from head to toe, on the official state TV channel, al-Iraqiya, as a gesture of the regime's "good will".
Protesters and Iraqi human rights organizations estimate that there are as many as 5,000 female detainees. The truth is leaking out, drip by drip. A few weeks ago, 168 women detainees were released and there were promises of another 32 waiting to be released. No one accused of torture, rape or abuse has yet been brought to justice.

Peter Beaumont (Guardian) reports on the Iraqi women who end up imprisoned:

Sabah Hassan Hussein is still not certain which powerful person or interest she offended. An Iraqi journalist and human rights activist, she says she had been investigating the serious abuse of female prisoners in Tikrit. Although she had not published her allegations she did raise them with Iraqi ministries.
Last year, in events she believes may be connected, Hussein found herself incarcerated in the same jail and suffering similar abuse to the other women.
Tricked into visiting an army barracks in Baghdad, she was arrested and transferred to Tikrit on a trumped-up charge involving the murder of the brother of an Iraqi MP and one of her colleagues who had been kidnapped and killed.The 12-month ordeal that followed, by her account, involved physical and psychological abuse, and included sexual assault.
She says she finally cracked when she was told her 20-year-old daughter, who was brought to speak to her in Tikrit, would be raped if she did not "confess".

On this week's Making Contact, Iraq is explored.  Excerpt.

Yanar Mohammed:  We have turned in the last ten years into a new police state. [. . .]  [W]hat happened in Iraq is that the US administration wanted to empower only those who are on the right [wing] side of the political formula.  And on the right side, it was mostly the Islamists.  And when they dealt with the political groups who are on the ground, they dealt with them in what is understood as the rule of the jungle: Whoever has the biggest militias, whoever has the better ability to kill, those were the ones who are in the Parliament now.  You do not see the political parties that are progressive in Iraq that have a history, have a big membership, you don't see them having any seats.  If we were to go back to 2003 and if there was a political will to allow the times to happen in Iraq all of the political groups should have been empowered in the same way -- and especially the working class groups and the women.  To cut a long story short, they did not want Iraq to become a modern state.  They wanted to become another Saudi Arabia in the region.  Saudi Arabia which is lying on top of a big field of oil which where the state has one function to pull the tabs of oil and to open them in full to the foreign companies.

Of course, Iraqi women have had some 'success' under Nouri's leadership.    Let's drop back to the November 12th snapshot:

Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012.  Time to add more to that total.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian").  Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council."  And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb.  A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed.  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."

Yes, in Nouri's Iraq, women are executed and put on death row.  Other rights may have withered but Nouri -- like most misogynsts -- will always support the right to proclaim a woman guilty of some crime or 'crime.'

From Amnesty International's new report  [PDF format warning] "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses:"

Men comprise the great majority of prisoners sentenced to death and executed in Iraq but at least 14 women have been executed since executions resumed.  The authorities have reported carrying out 129 executions in 2012, including five executions of women.
The number of women currently on death row is unknown to Amnesty International.  In October 2012, the HHRO reported that at least 18 women were on death row there when they visited the Women's Prison in Baghdad.
Some women prisoners have been on death row for several years, including Wassan Talib, who was sentenced to death in August 2006 after the Central Criminal Court convicted her of murdering members of the security forces, and Samar Sa'ad 'Abdullah, sentenced in August 2005 after she was convicted of murdering several relatives despite her allegations that she was forced to confess under torture in pre-trial detention.

They're represented in mulitples on death row but there's only one woman in Nouri's Cabinet -- and he only named a woman to the post after women publicly rebuked him in January 2011 -- including women in Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's family.

In the United States, next week will see a major event from Iraq Veterans Against the War:


Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Smash airs Tuesday nights on NBC.

This was the episode of the flare up.

Everyone was flaring.

Remember it ended with Eileen about to announce her decision?  It starts with Tom and Jerry happy.  Eileen sided with them, the musical will be about Marilyn.  Derek and Julia are furious and Julia swears her best work was a play 'about' Marilyn that was all about how men saw Marilyn.

Ivy continued having to deal with Sean Hayes' ego and bad acting (he's playing an actor that's supposed to be a big comedy movie star like Jim Carey).  They did a show for the press that was going to bomb.  Ivy took Derek's advice and didn't adjust her performance to anyone.  The press loved her.

They should have.  Megan Hilty was so charming in that musical number.  I'm not a Hilty fan.  But she really was brilliant in that number.  She's also so much better playing off Sean Hayes.  Now that she and Derek are through, she also gets to have more mature scenes with him and she's become the only one who can tell Derek the truth and call him on his s**t.  I am really loving season two Ivy and Megan Hilty's earned strong applause from me.

Derek walked out on Bombshell after Tom offered advice to Karen on how to re-interpret a song.  Derek felt he was being replaced.

Jerry backed Tom, Derek announced he was quitting.

He would come back for Eileen but Eileen and Julia want Tom to direct.  Tom was surprised.  Really?

Like I was surprised after Derek quit when Julia had no appetite and Tom was eating like crazy?

I wasn't surprised.  Tom and Derek fought all last season and they had history of hating one another before Bombshell.

Julia was thinking of going to London with sexy new guy but she instead promised Tom she'd stay in NYC while he's directing.

Karen wasn't able to be in Jimmy's show.  Jerry told her she couldn't do it and that her contract gave him final say.

So she bailed on the first night to Jimmy's rage.

The first act performed at The Fringe bombed.

Jimmy didn't want to go to the second night, didn't want to perform.

But Karen watched the first night.  Not only that, she was stopped by a woman you might remember from season one: Ellis' girlfriend.  She identified herself and then asked Karen if she knew Ellis was gay?  She went on to tell Karen that after Ellis dumped her when he got his big check for the work he was doing for Jerry.


The next day, Karen tries to tell Eileen but before she can the Derek quitting takes place.

When she does tell Eileen, Eileen goes into Jerry's office and digs around.  She finds a file on Nick (her boyfriend in prison).  She tells Julia and Tom that Jerry set all of it up.  Is she going to confront him?

No, she's going to get her play back and then she's going to confront him.

Apparently knowing Jerry's in trouble, Karen shows up at The Fringe to go on for the second performance.  By now, the critics have trashed the musical on Twitter.

But tickets were already sold.

Of course, with Karen there, Jimmy performs better and the musical is a huge hit.  Derek is there and even he applauds.

Afterwards, they've got an offer to stage the play -- things move so quickly on Smash except for when it comes to getting Bombshell performing on Broadway -- and Derek says he's the director.

Jimmy's a jerk to Karen at the end saying, as the rest head out to party, she should head home because she has rehearsals for her Broadway musical early next morning.

I think Karen's going to side with Derek and walk out on Bombshell for Jimmy's musical.

If not, will they plug Jennifer Hudson into the lead?  Or maybe Megan Hilty?

Though mentioned, Ellis was not on.  The only one mentioned more this season but not shown is Julia's son.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, March 13, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri has backed off threats against ExxonMobil, Iraqi Christians continue to live in fear, the US Senate hears about rape and assault in the ranks, and more.

Senator Kristen Gillibrand:  Too often women and men have found themselves in the fight of their lives -- not in the theater of war but in their own ranks, among their own brothers and sisters and ranking officers in an environment that enables sexual assault.  And after an assault occurs -- an estimated 19,000 sexual assaults happened in 2011 alone according to the Defense Dept's own estimates -- some of these victims have to fight all over again with every ounce of their being just to have their voice heard, their assailant brought to any measure of justice and then to fight for the disability claims they deserve to be fulfilled.

This morning in DC, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel held a hearing on rape and assault in the military.  Gillibrand is the Subcommittee Chair, Lindsey Graham is the Ranking Member.  Chair Gillibrand observed, "The issue of sexual violence in the military is not new and it has been allowed to go on in the shadows for far too long."  Ranking Member Graham noted that  ". . . clearly the message that we're sending to our female members of the military is that we're too indifferent and that your complaints are falling on deaf ears."

Senator Barbara Boxer doesn't serve on the Subcommittee (or the Senate Armed Service Committee period) but felt the need to testify before them.  She babbled on about being "heartened that Secretary Hagel is taking immediate action to review the facts of this troubling case . . ."  Save your babbles, Boxer.  What a bunch of crap.  The case in question is a public relations nightmare.  In November, Lt Col James Wilkerson was found guilty by a military court of assaulting a woman.  At the end of last month, Lt Gen Craig A. Franklin gave an order releasing Wilkerson from prison and Franklin tossed aside the conviction.

Boxer can babble all she wants and some groups will be stupid enough to pretend the babbles help anyone.  First off, Boxer voted to confirm Hagel.  She and her cohorts didn't give a damn about whether or not Hagel could do the job.  For the record, the job isn't hating Israel (as far as I know, Hagel doesn't hate Israel) or giving speeches against the Iraq War.  These were the 'reasons' so many idiots backed Hagel.  We pointed out repeatedly, before his name was even floated and after he was nominated, that the Secretary of Defense had two major problems to address: the rate of suicide and the rate or rape and assault in the military. 

The Senate didn't consider these problems to matter as evidenced by what passed for questioning.  Big surprise, one of the two issues blows immediately after someone who isn't qualified is voted into the position.

Will Hagel rise to the occasion? 

So far?  No.

Hagel hasn't done a damn thing except answered the questions of members of Congress.  Congress has pushed this not Hagel.

It shouldn't have come to this.  Hagel should have handled it all by himself and should have.

Rape and assault are serious crimes.  If we're not going to take them seriously then allow Hagel to muddle along, allow Barbara Boxer to give lip service to caring, but at the end of the day please drop the pretense that anybody really gave a damn.

What Lt Gen Craig A. Franklin did was outrageous.  Any other crime overturned by whim would be dealt with swiftly.  Don't give me the nonsense about, "Well it's in the code that the senior officer in someone's chain of command can overturn a court-martial."  There's nothing that can be done for this issue now with regards to Wilkerson, a sexual predator -- a convicted sexual predator, being allowed to walk.

But here's what Hagel can do -- what he damn well should have done immediately -- move to bust Lt Gen Craig A. Franklin down in rank.

Instead of acting like the chicken with his head cut off -- exactly why so many of us said Hagel didn't have the experience needed for the position -- Hagel should have immediately started the process to bust Franklin in rank. 

Instead it's been pity party, it's been "Congress you should have written something stopping this."  No, this is a flagrant assault on justice.  And guess what?  That makes is conduct unbecoming an officer.  When you add in that the offense is something out of control that the chain of command above Franklin has made clear must be dealt with, it's all the more unbecoming conduct. 

How do you address it, how do you prevent from happening again?  You bust the officer down in rank.  Not only does it ensure that Franklin won't have the power to do it in the immediate future, it also sends a message to everyone else in the ranks that this is unacceptable.  That in today's military, rape and assault will be treated as serious charges.

The member of the Senate that has addressed this the best, in my opinion, is Senator Claire McCaskill.  She's not posturing, she's demanding answers, she's demanding change, she's expressing justifiable outrage over what happened.  She also spoke in Congress last week about this.  Did a great job, I thought, and I'm not fan of Claire McCaskill's.  She didn't show up at today's hearing empty-handed, she's already got a bill that would end this type of jury nullification.  She wrote an amazing column on the issue and, in it, she points out of Franklin's nullification of the verdict, "This violates every sense of justice and fairness that we expect in America."  It does.  And -- pay attention, Chuck Hagel -- when an action "violates every sense of justice and fairness that we expect in America," that's conduct unbecoming an officer.

Hagel's refused to do what he immediately should have, move to bust Franklin down in rank -- a move US President Barack Obama should sign off on.

"Now what is it going to take to convince the military that sexual assault is a violent and vicious crime [. . .]" Boxer babbled on.  It's not a mystery.  The answer is very simple and it sends a message, "We better start taking this crime seriously." 

Boxer is part of the problem.  She's so hell bent on pontificating that she never realizes the answer already exists.  She's too busy praising Hagel to insist that he do his job. Article 133 of the UCMJ is very clear on this and you damn well better believe if you can be convicted of unbecoming conduct for being drunk in public or associating with a prostitute, your decision to set a sexual offender free and to expunge his record -- thereby allowing him not to even have to register as a sex offender -- is outrageous and, most importantly, dangerous to society.  Franklin has disgraced his rank.

After Boxer finished babbling, a second panel spoke.  Service Women's Action Network's Anu Bhagwati, former Army member BriGette McCoy, former Army member Rebekah Havrilla and former Navy Brian K. Lewis. 

Anu Bhagwati: Sexually assault is widely understood by military personnel who have been overexposed to a culture of victim blaming and rape mythology.  So let's be clear: Rape and assault are violent, traumatic crimes -- not mistakes, not lapses of professional judgment, not leadership failures and not oversights in character.  Rape is about power, control and intimidation.  Thanks to a surge of pressure over the last few years by advocates, the media and Congress, military force has finally been forced to reckon with the issue of military sexual violence.

Senator Kelly Ayotte is a former prosecutor and she noted that her home state (New Hampshire) has a Victims Bill of Rights and felt that the military would benefit from adoption one.  Senator Mazie Hirono spoke about removing the chain of command from these issues and having an independent body pursue the charges as well as the need for victims reporting attacks to be able to be reassigned to different units.  Senator Jeanne Shaheen noted  she was "amazed to see in your statistics that SWAN brought forward that 1 in 3 convicted sex offenders remain in the military and that the only branch of the service that says they discharge all sex offenders if the Navy."   Like Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator Clair McCaskill is a former prosecutor.

Senator Clair McCaskill:  Rape is the crime of a coward.  Rapists in the ranks are masquerading as real members of our military because our military is not about cowards.  Now our military does an amazing job of training.  I am so proud of our military.  But, unfortunately, I believe that this is not a crime that we're going to train our way out of because the crime of rape has nothing to do with sexual gratification, it has nothing to do with dirty jokes, and frankly there are a lot of studies that say it's not even connected necessarily with people who like to look at bad or dirty pictures.  It's a crime of assault, power, domination.  And I believe, based on my years of experience, that the only way that victims of sexual assault are going to feel empowered in the military is when they finally believe that the focus on the military is to get these guys and put them in prison.  So I believe that the focus of our efforts should be on effective prosecution and what do we need to do to make sure that these investigations are done promptly and professionally, that the victims are wrapped in good information, solid support and legal advice.  That the prosecutors have the wherewithal and the resources to go forward in a timely and aggressive way; and you don't have the ability of some general somewhere who's never heard the testimony of factual witnesses in a consent case can wipe it out with a stroke of a pen.  And so what I would like from you all -- your cases, they're all compelling, they're all moving -- I, like Senator Graham, am infuriated at that chaplain, I'm infuriated with the notion that some of the men who put up with what happened to you or even perpetrated what happened to you are still serving in our military.   I would like to hear from you -- especially those whose cases were more recent -- what happened when you reported in terms of getting good legal information about what your rights were and what to expect?

Rebekah Havrilla: Thank you, Senator McCaskill.  As mentioned, I had none.  When my friend notified me that he had found the pictures of my rape online, again, it was kind of a -- it was kind of a spur of the moment decision of, "Okay, this is enough.  This has gone on long enough.  I'm going to do an investigation.  Like this is ridiculous."

Senator Clair McCaskill:  If I could go back to your initial decision --

Rebekah Havrilla:  Mmm-hmm.

Senator Clair McCaskill: -- because we know that there is a huge number of these cases, that there's never a restricted or an unrestricted report.  Just so we make the record clear, a restricted report is kept for five years and an unrestricted report is kept for 20 years.

Rebekah Havrilla:  I believe those have now changed.  I believe that restricted reports are to be kept for fifty but previously there was a much lower cap on that correct.

Senator Clair McCaskill:  Okay.  Well whatever the amount is, the difference between a restricted report and an unrestricted report is how timely we can get after it because, if it's a restricted report, it's not going to be investigated.

Rebekah Havrilla:  Correct.  You basically just become a statistic. 

Senator Clair McCaskill:  So if in fact one of the reasons you may your report restricted was the unique nature of the victim being embedded with her perpetrator in a work environment that is intense and depends on working together, what would have happened when you went in if you were told that if there is probably cause found in the next thirty days that this crime was committed, your perpetrator would be removed from the unit, what would your response have been?

Rebekah Havrilla:  It probably would have been worth considering. At that point, you have a timeline, a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak, with set standards and guidelines of 'okay, this will happen in the event that this and this are found.'  Again, everybody -- When you're in the middle of it, you look back -- I look back on it with kind of 20/20 or Monday morning quarter back style and you're like, "Oh, I can look back on this and I might have done it differently," but when you're in the middle of it, it's extremely difficult to be able to think clearly.  I mean, it's-it's a huge trauma, it effects your mental health, it effects how you see the world, how you see yourself.  But, had I had more information, had there been some kind of recourse of saying, you know, this isn't about me, this is about him, and had there been probable cause for some kind of prosecution, and I was actually asked later, when I did my full investigation, they said, "If they find enough are you willing to take this to court-martial?"  And I said, "Yes, absolutely."  But, in the beginning, that wasn't even an option for me, that wasn't something given to me and, again, we can do the what-ifs all we want and looking forward, I'm a different person than I was.  And I were to be in the same situation and have that happen to me, I would say, "Yes, absolutely.  I'm willing to take that as far.  This perpetrator is going to be done in 30 days or at least the potential for that thereof, let's move forward with this."

Senator Clair McCaskill:  Do you feel like your SARC, your Special Advocate that you talked to, do you feel like they were neutral, supportive, tried to talk you out of it, tried to talk you into it?

Rebekah Havrilla:  Uhm, most of them are very supportive and they wanted to be helpful but they all understood that their hands were tied as to what they could actually do for you as a victim.  They kind of -- When I -- When I went in to do my restricted reporting against my rapist, I had mentioned in passing the constant sexual harassment and sexual assault of my team leader and they said, "Oh, do you want to do a report against him too?"  And I was like, "I hadn't even thought of that but sure why not."  They weren't pressuring me anything, it was just kind of a you are -- you have the option also of making a restricted report against this individual, is that something that you're willing to do?  At that time, my end of the tunnel, my light at the end was that I had 60 days and I was out of the Army and that's all I wanted.  I wanted to be out, I wanted to be done.  I wanted to be away from the unit that I was in.

Senator Clair McCaskill:  Mr. Lewis, what about you?  Did you feel like the point and time you reported anywhere that there was any legal help or any kind of help at all that would have allowed you to move forward with some kind of effort too?  And is your perpetrator still in the Navy?

Brian K. Lewis:  I honestly don't know and, at this point, I hope that I've moved forward enough away from it that I don't care.  It has to be about me at this point not what my perpetrator did.

Senator Clair McCaskill:  I appreciate that but I care, just so you know.  I care.

Brian K. Lewis:  I appreciate that, Senator.  But honestly when -- when the situation came to light there was an eerie silence that emanated from the JAG office.

Senator Clair McCaskill:  And what year was this?

Brian K. Lewis:  2000.  And it was like a black hole had all the sudden surrounded the JAG office because the Judge Advocate General of that command is subordinate to the commanding officer. At some point it becomes about the preservation of their own career than about helping me and, no, there was no effective, legal situation that I could access, Senator.

Senator Clair McCaskill:  Well my time is out. I do want to say that I do -- I've spent a number of hours with amazing professional prosecutors in the area of sexual assault at the Pentagon on Monday -- decades of experience.  And I do feel that there is some progress being made in some branches -- some more than others -- recognizing that they have failed at getting after this and doing what our military usually does best and that is: Focus on a mission and make it happen.  And what you all are doing today allows us to focus on the mission to get the coward rapists out of the ranks.  And we're going to do everything we can to make that happen so thank you all very much for being here.

Tomorrow, we'll note the hearing we attended this afternoon (House Veterans Affairs Committee) which will touch on burn pits and other topics.  I did not hear the government officials testify in the hearing above.  There was a lengthy break after the first two panels and the hearing resumed in the afternoon.  I was attending the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in the afternoon.

September 17, 2007, Bob Woodward (Washington Post) reported, "Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman said in an interview that the removal of Saddam Hussein had been 'essential' to secure world oil supplies, a point he emphasized to the White House in private conversations before the 2003 invasion of Iraq."    The topic of oil, Rupert Rowling (Bloomberg News) reports, "OPEC crude output rose in February to the highest level in at least three months, with Iraq and Iran boosting production even as refinery maintenance damped demand, according to the International Energy Agency."  Omar al-Shaher (Al-Monitor) also weighs in on Iraqi oil, "Iraq is close to completing design of a pipeline to carry Iraqi oil to Jordan and Egypt through the Gulf of Aqaba. Once completed, the project is to be handed over to a specialized company, pursuant to investment regulations."  A pipeline can carry Iraq's oil wealth to many places.  When it's working.  And the history of pipelines in Iraq is a history of bombings.  When you add in the turmoil in Egypt, the chances of the pipeline being repeatedly targeted increase even more.  The bombings themselves are a problem but so are the repairs.  In the middle of last month, an Iraqi oil pipeline was bombed.  Press TV noted at the time the Ministry of Oil spokesperson Asim Jihad "added that technical teams had started work to repair the pipeline, and that repairs would take several days."

The pipeline's not the only new deal Iraq's pursuing.  Domain-b reports, "Iraq has shortlisted Reliance Industries Ltd and six other companies firms for developing its Al-Nassiriya oilfield and construction of an associated 300,000 barrels per day refinery."  The Voice of Russia notes, "The Iraqi government has confirmed two Russian oil majors, Lukoil and Zarubezhneft, among the official bidders for the development of the Nasiriya oil field and the construction of a new oil refinery with the daily output capacity of 300,000 barrels."  Dow Jones Newswires reports Indonesia's PT Pertamina is attempting to secure "a 20% stake in the West Tuba block in Iraq which is owned by Exxon Mobile Corp."

ExxonMobil?  Dropping back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot:

In Iraq, things are heating up over an oil deal. Hassan Hafidh and James Herron (Wall St. Journal) report, "ExxonMobil Corp. could lose its current contract to develop the West Qurna oil field in Iraq if it proceeds with an agreement to explore for oil in the Kurdistan region of the country, an Iraqi official said. The spat highlights the political challenges for foreign companies operating in Iraq" as Nouri's Baghdad-based 'national' government attempts to rewrite the oil law over the objection of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Tom Bergin and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) offer, "Exxon declined to comment, and experts speculated the move could indicate Baghdad and the Kurdish leaders are nearing agreement on new rules for oil companies seeking to tap into Iraq's vast oil reserves." UPI declares, "The breakaway move into Kurdistan, the first by any of the oil majors operating in Iraq under 20-year production contract signed in 2009, could cost Exxon Mobil its stake in the giant West Qurna Phase One mega-oil field in southern Iraq." Salam Faraj (AFP) speaks with Abdelmahdi al-Amidi (in Iraq's Ministry of Oil) declares that the Exxon contract means that Exxon would lose a contract it had previously signed with Baghdad for the West Qurna-1 field.  Faraj sketches out the deal with the KRG beginning last month with Exxon being notified that they had "48 hours to make a decision on investing in an oil field in the region."  Exxon was interested but sought an okay from the Baghdad government only to be denied.

We could provide all the links for this soap opera but I think most of us are up to speed already.  The sort version is that in the two-years-plus since that day, Nouri and his flunkies have threatened ExxonMobil, have stated the White House was going to stop the deal (a State Dept press briefing cleared that up), have said they would ban ExxonMobil, they would punish it, they would . . . Last week, Reuters reported that although ExxonMobil has been willing to sell off "its stake in the southern Iraq West Qurna-1 oil field" and just focus on the Kurdistan Regional Government's opportunities, "now Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is working to keep the U.S. oil giant on side, industry sources say, offering much sweeter terms at West Qurna-1 – a $50-billion (U.S.) investment project and a greater potential prize than the Kurdish blocks if Baghdad structures the contract closer to the more lucrative Kurdish model." 

Kevin Connolly (BBC News) observes, "It is part of Iraq's tragedy that its oil wealth could easily have been spent on providing top-class hospitals as good as those of Switzerland or Germany or the US. But of course it wasn't."  Juxtapose that with Dale McFeatters (Scripps Howard News Service) assertion, "The grim truth of modern warfare is that it is a tremendous driver of medical innovation."  Seriously, McFeatters?  Here's some grim truth for you, via Bie Kentane (BRussels Tribunal and Global Research):

Iraq has a higher percentage of persons with disabilities than other countries – not only persons born with disabilities, but also those who suffered disabilities later on. Three wars in as many decades and terrorist attacks have cost a large number of people their limbs, eyesight, and various physical, intellectual and mental abilities that other people take for granted(Kobler, 2012).
Landmines and explosive remnants of war have a devastating impact on Iraq’s children with around 25 per cent of all victims being children under the age of 14 years (War victims monitor, 2011).
Causalities from failed cluster sub munitions rose between 1991 and 2007 from 5,500 to 80,000, 45.7% between the age of 15 and 29 years of age, and 23.9% were children under the age of 14. Both UNICEF and UNDP believe these figures are an underestimation (War victims monitor, 2011).
This last decade the Al Munthanna and Basra provinces of Iraq have challenged Angola for the highest proportion to total population of children amputees (Indymedia Australia, 2011).
Children are often more vulnerable to the dangers associated with approaching or disturbing landmines and UXOs.  24% of victims in the Kurdistan Region were under 14 years old.
Many children lose their limbs, sight, or hearing resulting in lifelong disability. Child victims are then often perceived as a burden to their families and are discriminated against by society, with limited or no future prospects for education. The country will not meet the 2018 deadline to clear all landmines and UXO (IRIN, 2012).

That's only a small sample of the grim truth of what the illegal war 'gifted' Iraqis with.  Grim truth can also be found in  Amnesty International's new report  [PDF format warning] "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses."  Let's explore the grim reality of forced 'confessions' which dominate the Iraq 'justice' system today.  From the report.

In December 2011, Iraqi TV stations broadcast testimonies of at least three detained former bodyguards of the office of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi in which they accused him of ordering them to murder government and security officials and others.  At least two of them later testified against al-Hashemi in court; the testimony of at least one of them was accepted as evidence by the Central Criminal Court when it convicted al-Hashemi on 9 September 2012 [case number 372 of 2012, First Branch] of involvement in killings and sentenced him to death.  His son-in-law, Ahmad Qahtan, was sentenced to death in the same trial.  Although both have so far evaded arrest, al-Hashemi and his son-in-law have since been convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Law in at least three further trials by the Central Criminal Court and sentenced to death in absentia [Verdict of 1 November 2012 in case number 1675 of 2012, Third Branch; verdict of 4 November 2012 in case number 1430 of 2012, First Branch; verdict of 2 December 2012 in case number 1638, First Branch].  Some of those detained in connection with the government's allegations against al-Hashemi are alleged to have been tortured in detention; one former bodyguard is alleged to have died in detention as a result of torture.  (See section 3.4.)
Several of those arrested in connection with the allegations against al-Hashemi, including two detainees whose confessions were broadcast on television in December 2011, have also been sentenced to death.  The two were among six defendants convicted by the Central Criminal Court under the Anti-Terrorism Law and sentenced to death on 6 November 2012 [case number 1334 of 2012, First Branch].  Others were sentenced by the Central Criminal Court on 9 September 2012 [case number 783 of 2012, Third Branch], 30 September 2012 [case number 1672 of 2012, Third Branch]; 30 September 2012 [case number 1674 of 2012, Third Branch], 9 December 2012 [case number 373 of 2012, First Branch], 10 December 2012 [case number 1926 of 2012, First Branch], and 16 December 2012 [case number 1639 of 2012, First Branch]
The TV broadcasting of self-incriminating testimony by detainees before they actually stand trial or before the verdict in their trial is delivered appears intended by the authorities to serve several purposes: to stigmatize the individuals concerned and intensify pressure on the courts to return guilty verdicts against them, to convince or reassure the public that the authorities are making effective efforts to combat attacks and killings by armed groups and other violent crime.  Sometimes, possibly, such broadcasts may be intended to denigrate particular individuals out of a political motivation.  Such pre-trial exposure, however, fundamentally undermines the presumption of innocence and the right of the individuals to receive a fair trial; there are equally concerns that such testimonies have been admitted as evidence against others.  In this regard, UNAMI has commented: "the interrogation of witnesses in such circumstances without the presence of legal counsel casts doubt on the credibility of the testimony and the legality of the process.

We're all supposed to pretend Iraq isn't a failed state, that's it's functioning and some want you to lie that it's flourishing.  It's a failed state.  Clue one: Name another country where the Vice President has fled (even now, Tareq remains a Vice President, he's never been removed from office) and has been convicted of 'terrorism.'   Iraq is a failed state.  Peter Beumont (Guardian) reports.:

Abu Muhammad lies in his front room and tells a story depressingly familiar by Iraqi standards. A public servant, he was travelling to work when he hit traffic at the nearest checkpoint to the highway out of his neighbourhood. So he took a detour and used another checkpoint that would take him through a predominantly Shia area.
One hundred metres from the checkpoint he was blocked by two cars and dragged from his vehicle by masked, armed men. "They didn't seem to know my name. They swore at me and when I asked what they were doing, I was hit on the head with a pistol. I fought and then they shot me in the foot. They tried to put me in the boot but I managed to break free. Then I was running. That's when they shot me again."
It may sound like a story from the bad years of sectarian conflict from 2005 to 2008, when at its peak on average 3,000 people were killed every month. But this episode happened earlier this year, and speaks volumes about the rising tide of sectarian confrontation that has returned to Iraq.

National Iraq News Agency reports, "Police chief of Zummar district, Nineveh province survived an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb exploded on his convoy today 13, March."  And they report that a roadside bombing targeted Peshmerga Colonel Azad Mohammed.  In both attacks, the target emerged unscathed but a bodyguard was left injured.  NINA also reports that a Mosul bombing has left two police officers injured, a second Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured, a Kirkuk sticky bombing left one person injured, an attack on a Falluja checkpoint left two police officers injured, and a Baghdad sticky bombing left city council member Bardan Abid Saud wounded.

Today Dennis Sadowski (Catholic News Service) reports:

Attending the installation of Patriarch Louis Sako as the new leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, looked around at the large crowd gathered in St. Joseph Cathedral and what he saw gave him a sense of hope.
Seated in the congregation amid tight security during the March 6 ceremony were Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. That political leaders would attend was not unexpected.
But Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, and Nujaifi, a Sunni Muslim, are political rivals from different branches of Islam. That they were able to put aside their differences in a show of unity to support the minority Chaldean church and its new patriarch impressed Bishop Pates.

Last week, Trina wrote about Iraqi Christians, "Like other religious minorities in Iraq, the Christian population has just been targeted over and over.  The Jewish population?  You can count it on one hand and have fingers left over.  The Jewish population has been run out of the country.  I want the Iraqi Christians to be safe so I will not say, 'I hope they are not run out of their own country.'  I would prefer that to them being killed in Iraq."  Tengri News expresses similar concern today:

After 10 years of attacks on Iraqi Christians, Monsignor Pios Cacha wonders if the ancient community's days are numbered, AFP reports.
"Maybe we will follow in the steps of our Jewish brothers," he says.
The priest's reference to Iraq's Jewish population -- once a thriving community numbering in the tens of thousands but now practically non-existent -- neatly sums up the possible fate of Iraq's Christians.

Salam Faraj (AFP) explains, "Estimates of the number of Christians living in Iraq before 2003 vary from more than one million to around 1.5 million. But repeated attacks by Islamist groups pushed many to leave, and now they are estimated at less than 500,000."  At the end of last month, MidEast Christian News reported:

A Christian leader has stated that Iraqi Christians are deserting the region due to harassment from numerous bodies in the Middle East country.

Archbishop Mar Youhanna Boutros Moshe of Mosul for Syriac Catholics said the reasons for the migration of Iraqi Christians include their exposure to harassment by many bodies, security instability and a lack of job opportunities.

Though a minority within Iraq, Iraqi Christians make up a large portion of the international Iraqi refugee population.

They still make up a large portion of the international Iraqi refugee population.  Which still exists.  Even if organizations that took money to 'address' the situation and to 'help' -- organizations like Human Rights First -- can no longer even be bothered pretending to care about their plight.

Another long running issue is the decades long conflict between the government of Turkey and the PKK.  Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."

Monday came news that the PKK was planning to release "10 Turkish officials [they had]  kidnapped."  From yesterday's snapshot:

Hurriyet adds today, "A delegation from Turkey arrived in northern Iraq on Tuesday to oversee the handover of eight Turkish officials kidnapped by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)."  World Bulletin offers, "The officials the PKK is now holding were kidnapped on various dates in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Van, Mus, Bingol and Sırnak."

Middle East Online reports this morning, "The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on Tuesday freed eight Turkish prisoners held for two years in northern Iraq, as part of a new peace push by Ankara to end a 29-year-old insurgency."  Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz (CNN) quote Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party's MP Adil Kurt stating, "This is a very important step. ... This shows that there can be a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue. It is a show of goodwill that they were released without any preconditions."  Hurriyet Daily News notes that the Peace and Democracy Party had representatives at the exchange and "The group, accompanied by Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials, headed to an undefined meeting point in northern Iraq, Anatolia news agency reported. It was composed of BDP Hakkari Deputy Adil Kurt and BDP Bitlis Deputy Husamettin Zenderlioglu, Head of the Human Rights Association (IHD) Ozturk Turkdogan, İHD Diyarbakır Provincial Chairman Raci Bilici, Head of Mazlum-Der Faruk Unsal and Deputy Head of Mazlum-Der Selahattin Coban." Azad Lashkari (Reuters) has a photo of the release here.

Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera) offers this judgment, "Now this takes us to the more important step we could see by next week, this is according to Ocalan, we could see calling for the PKK to announce a ceasefire."  Constanze Letsch and Ian Traynor (Guardian) provide this context, "The release was the first tangible result of the attempt at a negotiated settlement, which kicked off gingerly last October with Turkish intelligence service approaches to Ocalan, but which in recent weeks has escalated, generating a wary confidence that the chances of ending one of the world's longest-running conflicts are perhaps better than ever before."