Thursday, April 03, 2014


I told C.I. on the phone earlier that I was exhausted (from sessions today) and so not looking forward to blogging.  She said there was a Senator Ron Wyden press release that she had not gotten to and that she'd run it tomorrow and I could grab it tonight.

Ron Wyden is a Senator from Oregon.  He has decried the illegal spying.

So this is the latest on the spying:

Wyden, Udall on Revelations that Intelligence Agencies Have Exploited Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 'Loophole'

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement following revelations that the National Security Agency has been exploiting a loophole in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to search for Americans' private communications:
"It is now clear to the public that the list of ongoing intrusive surveillance practices by the NSA includes not only bulk collection of Americans' phone records, but also warrantless searches of the content of Americans' personal communications,"* Wyden and Udall said. "This is unacceptable. It raises serious constitutional questions, and poses a real threat to the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans. If a government agency thinks that a particular American is engaged in terrorism or espionage, the Fourth Amendment requires that the government secure a warrant or emergency authorization before monitoring his or her communications. This fact should be beyond dispute.
"Senior officials have sometimes suggested that government agencies do not deliberately read Americans’ emails, monitor their online activity or listen to their phone calls without a warrant. However, the facts show that those suggestions were misleading, and that intelligence agencies have indeed conducted warrantless searches for Americans’ communications using the 'back-door search' loophole in section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Today’s admission by the Director of National Intelligence is further proof that meaningful surveillance reform must include closing the back-door searches loophole and requiring the intelligence community to show probable cause before deliberately searching through data collected under section 702 to find the communications of individual Americans."
Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act established a legal framework for the government to acquire foreign intelligence by targeting non-U.S. persons who are reasonably believed to be located outside the United States under a program approved by the FISA Court. Because Section 702 does not involve obtaining individual warrants, it contains language specifically intended to limit the government’s ability to use these new authorities to deliberately spy on Americans. 
"The revelation that — despite the clear intent of Section 702 to target foreign communications — the government is deliberating searching for the phone calls or emails of specific Americans and circumventing traditional warrant protections should be concerning to all," Wyden and Udall added.
Click here to read the letter.
*The original version stated that the searches include emails but the letter does not specify what forms of communications were searched.

It is very horrifying that we have two US senators who know something is wrong in the country but have to tip-toe around.  Why?

If they just came out and said it, there's a good chance Barack would file some charges against them.  It's considered a 'for sure' that they would lose their security clearances for briefings.

Again, this is horrifying.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, April 2, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues his efforts to disenfranchise Sunni voters, Moqtada al-Sadr may be the only official in the world to note this fact, Operation Happy Talk always results in the world pushing back and today it pushed back with another deadly shooting at Fort Hood military base, and much more.

Today, at the US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Marie Harf noted Iraq because Said Arikat, Al Quds bureau chief, raised the issue:

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The death toll as a result of violence in March was 1,888 in Iraq. And as we’re getting closer to the election day, what is the United States providing in terms of security aid, trying to help the Government of Iraq stemming the violence?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. Let me be clear that the elections need to happen. We have every expectation they will. This is an important step forward for the people of Iraq in choosing what they want their country to look like going forward, so elections need to happen as scheduled.
We are concerned by the continued escalation of violence in Iraq. We know there’s been a number of adverse impacts on the population, including massive civilian displacement.
In terms of security assistance, I don’t think I have anything new to update you for on that. I would – and so we are working very closely with the Iraqi Government on the security issue. I can see if there’s more update for you on what we’ve provided. We believe it’s very, as I said, very important for these elections to go forward. They’ve held successful elections in the past during periods of significant violence, which is obviously not the situation we want to see, but I think – I just want to underscore the importance for the Iraqi people of these elections going forward.

QUESTION: Could you – these deliveries that were promised last fall, could you update us or --

MS. HARF: Which ones are you talking about specifically?

QUESTION: Well, there were the Hellfire missiles --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- the – other equipment, helicopters and --

MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me see. Said, let me take that and check with our folks and see what has been delivered.

The State Dept thinks elections need to happen?

No, they don't.  They don't give a damn about real elections or they would be speaking up as Iraqis denied the right to vote in the planned April 30th parliamentary elections.  Elections were supposed to take place in all 19 provinces (the KRG increased by 1 province last month).  But Iraqi elections, to be legitimate, must include the displaced.  And they have in the past.  In fact, Nouri's attempt to short change refugees out of the country in 2009 pushed the parliamentary elections back to 2010 (Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi used his veto power to sink the bill).

The illegal war in Iraq created the largest refugee crisis the region had seen in over sixty years.  Many fled to neighboring countries.  That's why, in 2010, polling stations for the elections were all over the world.  Syria has a large number -- even now -- of Iraqi refugees.   This go-round, it has been decided that refugees in Syria will not be allowed to vote (see the March 3rd snapshot).

It is stated that Syria is just too dangerous for a polling station.  Syria, Jordan and Lebanon remain the three countries with the highest number of Iraqi refugees as a result of their sharing borders with Iraq (and as a result of governments like the US leaving them stranded -- both in terms of ridiculous regulations and, in Syria, by closing down the means the refugees had to apply for admission to the US).

As we pointed out weeks ago, "Then again, it really just effects the Sunnis so maybe that's why it didn't receive any coverage?"

You saw that yesterday:

Yes, campaigning kicked off today and to ensure that the corruption could take hold, broken promises were not called out.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports, "If the fighting goes on, Iraqi military officials say it would be impossible to hold elections inside the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, which has been taken over by the militants — but they hint the vote could perhaps be held on the city's outskirts. As many as a third of the province's cities might be affected, election officials say."  AFP words it, "Though not officially confirmed, the vote appears unlikely to take place throughout parts of the western desert province of Anbar, which has been wracked by violence since the beginning of the year, with militants holding control of an entire town on Baghdad’s doorstep."  The US State Dept, once so adamant that elections must take place everywhere in Iraq, was silent on the news.

And today?  Anadolu Agency reports, "Residents of militant-held cities and towns in Iraq's western Anbar province will have to leave their neighborhoods to cast ballots in upcoming parliamentary elections, Anbar Governor Ahmed al-Dulaimi said."  It's real cute how, bit-by-bit,  Nouri al-Maliki chips away at the Sunni vote in his attempt to win a third term as prime minister.

Only one person right now is speaking up, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.  Al Arabiya News reports:

Iraq’s Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday not to run for a third term, accusing him of terrorizing Sunnis so that they don’t go to the polls in the upcoming April 30 general election.
“I advise brother Maliki… brother Maliki thinks he served Iraq, let him rest for four years, and see if whoever comes next would serve better… if not let him come back after four years, it is not a problem,” Sadr told reporters in Najaf, 60 kilometres south of Baghdad.

The Shiite leader, who had announced his withdrawal from active politics, accused Maliki’s government of “building a dictatorship” by excluding candidates from the parliamentary elections.

Good for Moqtada but how telling that he can speak the truth that the State Dept can't.

Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar is months old and still continuing.  Nigel Wilson (IBT) notes, "The violence in Anbar began when government forces stormed a protest camp last December. The protestors had been there for a year, disgruntled by government neglect and withholding of regional funds."  It was a bit more complex than that -- there was the issue of the rape and torture of Iraqi girls and women in detention centers and prisons, there was the lack of public services, the lack of jobs . . .   But the storming of the camp, the murder of protesters, did kick off this assault.

In his continued shelling of residential neighborhoods in Falluja, Nouri has killed 2 civilians and injured five more (including children).  This is the dictator Barack insisted Iraq must keep in 2010, even though Nouri lost that election.  Barack knew better than the people of Iraq.  Strange because after insisting  Nouri remain prime minister, Barack's not visited the country once.

He won't visit a country where a thug like Nouri is in charge but he'll inflict Nouri on the people of Iraq who've already suffered more than enough.

And as the suffering continues, people aren't staying silent except in the United States.  One of the most vocal statements was issued by Campaña Estatal contra la Ocupación y por la Soberanía de Iraq (CEOSI) and BRussells Tribunal carries it here.  Excerpt:

  At the beginning of 2011, the different peaceful protests that began to struggle fight against the occupation — involving trade unions, students, human rights activists, etc.,— unified their efforts in what was called the February 25th Movement [5] and reached a national level.
This peaceful resistance was suppressed by the state and intentionally ignored by the mainstream media, which largely led to its disappearance. However, this long journey of struggle and growing popular discontent has been the root of the popular revolution that we are witnessing today in Iraq.
Since late 2012, these demonstrations and popular and peaceful sit-ins have resumed in some western provinces; they have been spread to the South and have reached the capital, Baghdad. [6] Despite the government non-stop attempts to put an end to the protests, they have continued till now, especially in Central and West Iraqi provinces, where people have been suffering persecution and the regime’s sectarian policies. There are many reasons for the people to take the streets: Corruption, sectarianism, unemployment, lack of access to basic services, illegal arrests, etc., which derives from the foreign occupation and from a class rule that triggers hatred, division, power struggles and the plundering of the national resources. In 2011 the reasons for the popular revolution were crystal clear in the mottos demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. troops and the removal of the regime.
For more than two months now, the Maliki government has been waging a war against the Iraqi people in several provinces in an attempt to end the popular revolution. Although the protests have been totally peaceful, Maliki has accused the population of these (majority Sunni) areas of being part of or supporting the terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. [7] Without any hesitations, the government continues bombing the civilians, while receiving military aid from the U.S., Russia and Iran. The bombing has caused numerous deaths and new waves of refugees. [8] In response to the government attacks, the population has organized itself into military councils to protect its territory and fight for what all Iraqis ― from North to South ― have demanded since the beginning of the occupation: prosperity, unity and national sovereignty. [9]

In these critical time to Iraq, CEOSI would like to express its full support for the Iraqi popular revolution — armed and peaceful— and we state that the military councils have been created for self-defense due to the total absence of legal protection and contempt for the law in Iraq; a situation where sectarian and partisan militias run the country and the government, far from ensuring the safety of citizens, exercises state terrorism, so that,

We noted many counts yesterday on the death toll for the month of March.  UNAMI (leaving out Anbar Province) 582 deaths,  AFP had 512Iraq Body Count counted 1009 dead from March violence and  Jason Ditz ( reported, "Another month has come to an end, leaving a staggering number of people dead across Iraq. figures show 1,886 killed and 2,186 wounded nationwide, with 1,063 of the dead civilians or security members, and 823 militants."

I forgot John Drake of AKE.

Not including militants, I counted at least 146 people killed and 366 injured in violence last week. True figure likely higher.

  • The West has criticised for military intervention in . In totally unrelated news I counted 153 deaths in last week.
  • He only Tweeted two weeks but we'll include him because he usually does the full month.
    Again, I forgot him, my apologies.  There's another count.  I didn't forget this person, I didn't know they were doing a count.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) offers his own count:
    Finally, Musings On Iraq’s own statistics had 1,607 killed in March, the highest amount so far this year. One major cause for deaths to go up and down are the number of major bombings. Musings On Iraq counted the same number of car and suicide bombers 73 and 43 respectively in February and March, so that was not the case this time. Rather the reason why there was an increase in casualties was a sharp jump in violence in Anbar and Salahaddin. The news agencies and the Iraqi press reported 184 killed in Anbar in February compared to 343 in March. 122 of the latter were from government shelling. Likewise in Salahaddin deaths went from 272 in February to 368 in March. Since the start of the year those two provinces have become some of the most insecure in the country. 

    Today?   National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 SWAT member was shot dead in Kut (and one civilian was injured), 1 person was shot dead in Taji, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 1 suspect in Baghdad, a security source states 3 suspects were killed in Ramadi, Desert and Island Operations Command stated they killed 1 suspect in AnbarNineveh Operations Command announced they killed 11 suspects, 2 police members were shot dead in Mosul, 1 police member was shot dead in Ramadi, a University of Baghdad teacher was injured by a Baghdad sticky bombing, an Abu Ghraib roadside bombing left 2 Sahwa dead and two more injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing left 5 Iraqi soldiers dead and three more injured,  another Kirkuk bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and eight more injured2 Sahwa were shot dead in Anbar and two more left injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left six Iraqi soldiers injured, a Hit roadside bombing killed 1 police member and left three more injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Wadi Hajar, 1 person was shot dead in Mosul, a Lakes Region of Alexandria armed battle left 4 rebels and 1 police officer dead, and a Karbala shooting left "Anti-Crimes police chief of Karbala Col. Aqeel Al-Kurtani injured,  IANS adds, "At least five people were killed and 16 others wounded in a suicide attack at a recruitment centre in Iraq's northern province of Kirkuk Wednesday."

    Let's turn to the world of Tweets.

  • Pres. Obama: "We just went through the first month since 2003 that no U.S. soldier was killed in either Afghanistan or Iraq." Students cheer

  • Did Barack say that today, Nerdy Wonka?  I notice you didn't note the Iraqi death toll.  We covered that nonsense yesterday.  Today, Charles P. Pierce (Esquire) sums up the silence on the Iraqi dead, "Casualties among the native populations are not noted, because that's the way we roll."

    What makes the moronic statement from Barack today (the press was doing the propaganda yesterday, Barack joined in today)  is the fact that on a US military base there was an attack today.  So maybe next time don't act like what should be normal events are news.  If Iraq has won one war in all the years since the US started the illegal war, it's been the war of fate that slaps upside the head any idiot stupid enough to offer some form of turned corner.  Call it fate, call it karma, call it reality, say that the universe doesn't like being Punk'd,  or that Iraq just doesn't like being used as a prop, but those who engage in Operation Happy Talk always get their ass kicked in public.

    So you take what should be a normal event, inflate it to propaganda levels and what happens?  Tragedy.

    Ben Brumfield (CNN) reports the location was Fort Hood and a service member or veteran shot dead 3 people, left sixteen injured and then killed himself.  Ivan Lopez is the name of the man who did the shooting and took his own life.  The names of the other people who have died or were wounded have not been released yet.

    Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner offered a series of Tweets on the tragedy.

  • If there's anything Army officers do best, it's throwing enlisted soldiers under the bus to cover their asses. Fort Hood Ivan Lopez
  • Retweeted by
    Yeah, I used to wake up screaming, "Gas, gas, gas..." before I joined.
  • This is likely how Ivan Lopez was treated for PTSD. Notoriously stupid classes while waiting on years-long discharge
  • In March the Army contributed to fighting PTSD by popularizing study asserting troops with PTSD were just screwed up before joining.
  • Hope all my veteran friends are doing okay today; these things can stir up so much. Remember you always have someone to call, me included
  • Army launched study to "detect threats" after 1st Fort Hood shooting, aimed at "radicalism," when threats always been the kids they screw up
  • Our politicians and officers too busy passing out blank checks to defense contractors to think about fixing suicide/PTSD crisis. Fort Hood
  • If Ivan Lopez was in Warrior Transition Brigade in 2010 it means he really should have been discharged from the Army in 2010.

  • If 22 veterans suicides a day (1 a day in active-duty military) isn't enough to embarrass US politicians/officers, maybe 2nd Fort Hood will

  • And we'll note Tweets on the tragedy from Greg Mitchell and Andrea Mitchell:

  • Update: General at Ft. Hood says shooter served in Iraq 4 months and was being treated for PTSD. Had mental issues.

  • Hood says shooting suspect was being checked for PTSD Iraq combat veteran recently purchased Smith +Wesson semiautomatic handgun

  • Tuesday, I almost weighed in a poll a number of people are talking about.  Then I noticed no one was speaking of  Shaima Alawadi's murder and wrote "The real war against women" instead.  We may or may not address the topic -- I already crunched the data so it would be easy but it's something there may not be time for.  In case not, we'll at least note Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe on the topic:
  • MUST-READ: 2nd in series of stories on and vets "After the Wars" (by and )

  • Iraq Veterans Against the War notes that their event last week is streamable (it was streamable live last week but the event is now archived):

  • Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). We'll close with this from Bacon's "YOUNG, AT WORK IN THE FIELDS" (Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, v. 41 no. 5):

    The communities of Mexican migrants living in California are increasingly made up of young people. The typical age of someone crossing the border today is about twenty years old, and the average age of all California farmworkers is twenty-one. Many young people, even children, work in the fields. On average, Mexican farmworkers in California have only six years of school, but younger Mexicans tend to have more education than older migrants.

    Ricardo Lopez, living in a van with his grandfather in a grocery store parking lot in Mecca, a tiny farmworker town in the Coachella Valley, says working as a migrant without a formal home was no surprise:

    This is how I envisioned it would be working here with my grandpa and sleeping in the van. It's hot at night, and hard to sleep well. There are a lot of mosquitoes, very few services, and the bathrooms are very dirty. At night there are a lot of people here coming and going. You never know what can happen; it's a bit dangerous. But my grandfather has a lot of experience and knows how to handle himself.

    al arabiya news