Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Kennedy Brothers

"JFK, RFK and Some Myths About American Foreign Policy" (William Blum, CounterPunch):

On April 30, 1964, five months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was interviewed by John B. Martin in one of a series of oral history sessions with RFK. Part of the interview appears in the book “JFK Conservative” by Ira Stoll, published three months ago. (pages 192-3)
RFK: The president … had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam.
MARTIN: What was the overwhelming reason?
RFK: Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall.
MARTIN: What if it did?
RFK: Just have profound effects as far as our position throughout the world, and our position in a rather vital part of the world. Also it would affect what happened in India, of course, which in turn has an effect on the Middle East. Just as it would have, everybody felt, a very adverse effect. It would have an effect on Indonesia, hundred million population. All of those countries would be affected by the fall of Vietnam to the Communists.
MARTIN: There was never any consideration given to pulling out?
RFK: No.
MARTIN: … The president was convinced that we had to keep, had to stay in there …
RFK: Yes.
MARTIN: … And couldn’t lose it.
RFK: Yes.
These remarks are rather instructive from several points of view:
1. Robert Kennedy contradicts the many people who are convinced that, had he lived, JFK would have brought the US involvement in Vietnam to a fairly prompt end, instead of it continuing for ten more terrible years. The author, Stoll, quotes a few of these people. And these other statements are just as convincing as RFK’s statements presented here. And if that is not confusing enough, Stoll then quotes RFK himself in 1967 speaking unmistakably in support of the war.

The Kennedys do have their worshipers.  I'm not one.

I don't hate J.F.K.'s government.  I think his presidency had a few bright spots.  As far as we know, he wasn't homophobic and didn't go after gay people.

LBJ did and Bill Moyers was his hatchet man.  (LBJ did go after gay people, target them.  Was he a homophobe?  I don't believe so.  One of his closest friends was caught with another man in a DC bathroom.  He remained LBJ's friend.)

JFK was actually more than gay friendly if the rumors about him and Peter Lawrence were accurate.

But for me, I can't applaud either JFK or RFK as heroes, not after what they did to Marilyn Monroe.

I never bought the lie that JFK alive meant the US would have gotten out of Vietnam.


He lived long enough to see how awful it was going and he was against the war four years after the interview.

Would he have felt the same way if his brother had not been assassinated?

Who knows?

But I have to believe that losing his brother made him more empathetic to those families who had loved ones dying in Vietnam (and by "loved ones," I mean both America and Vietnamese families).

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 9, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the protests continue in Iraq, there's news on the Jewish archives, we continue to examine how Brett McGurk misled Congress about Iraq, we also note Human Rights Watch's report on the abuse of Iraqi women, and much more.

January 16th, Senator Pat Toomey introduced Senate Resolution 333 on behalf of himself and Senators Richard Blumenthal, Chuck Schumer, Mark Kirk, Ben Cardin, Marco Rubio, Pat Roberts, Tim Kaine, Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez:.

Strongly recommending that the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq.
Whereas, before the mid-20th century, Baghdad had been a center of Jewish life, culture, and scholarship, dating back to 721 B.C.;
Whereas, as recently as 1940, Jews made up 25 percent of Baghdad’s population;
Whereas, in the 1930s and 1940s, under the leadership of Rasheed Ali, anti-Jewish discrimination increased drastically, including the June 1–2, 1941, Farhud pogrom, in which nearly 180 Jews were killed;
Whereas, in 1948, Zionism was added to the Iraqi criminal code as punishable by death;
Whereas, throughout 1950–1953, Jews were allowed to leave Iraq under the condition that they renounce their citizenship;
Whereas, as result of past persecution, few Jews remain in Iraq today, and many left their possessions and treasured artifacts behind;
Whereas the Ba’ath regime confiscated these artifacts, later dubbed the Iraqi Jewish Archive, from synagogues and communal organizations;
Whereas, on May 6, 2003, members of the United States Armed Forces discovered the Iraqi Jewish Archive, which included 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents, in the heavily damaged and flooded basement of the Mukhabarat (secret police) headquarters;
Whereas, under great urgency and before adequate time could be dedicated to researching the history of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, an agreement was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority on August 20, 2003, stating that the Iraqi Jewish Archive would be sent to the United States for restoration and then would be sent back to Iraq after completion;
Whereas, the Iraqi Jewish community is the constituency of the Archive and is now represented by the diaspora outside Iraq;
Whereas, the current Government of Iraq has publicly acknowledged the importance of the Archive and demonstrated a shared respect for the wishes of the Iraqi Jewish diaspora by attending the December 2013 burial of several Torah fragments from the Archive in New York;
Whereas United States taxpayers have invested $3,000,000 to restore the Iraqi Jewish Archive, and the National Archives and Records Administration has worked diligently to preserve the artifacts;
Whereas the National Archives and Records Administration is displaying the Iraqi Jewish Archive in Washington, DC, from October 11, 2013, to January 5, 2014, and in New York City from February 4, 2014, to May 18, 2014; and
Whereas the Iraqi Embassy to the United States has said that the Iraqi Jewish community, like other communities in Iraq, played a key role in building the country, shared in its prosperity, and also suffered exile and forced departure because of tyranny: Now, therefore, be it
That the Senate—
strongly urges the Department of State to renegotiate with the Government of Iraq the provisions of the original agreement that was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be kept in a place where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed;
recognizes that the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it;
recognizes that the agreement between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority was signed before knowing the complete history of the Iraqi Jewish Archive;
reaffirms the United States commitment to cultural property under international law; and
reaffirms the United States commitment to ensuring justice for victims of ethnic and religious persecution.

January 27th, other Senators began joining the resolution: Senator Jim Inhofe, Jerry Moran, Bob Casey, Daiel Coats, Orrin Hatch, Ed Markey, Roger Wicker, Chris Murphy, Roy Blunt, John Boozman, James Risch, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Chris Coons, Ted Cruz, Chuck Grassley, Mike Johanns, Patty Murray and Bill Nelson.  Rebecca Shimonsi Stoil (Times of Israel) reports today, "Late Thursday night, the Senate unanimously adopted the resolution" and that, barring "a re-negotiation of terms, the items are scheduled to be returned to Baghdad in June, a move that many fear will threaten their very existence."
There is a time issue.  As Josh Robin (Daily Beast) reports today, "A U.S. State Department official, insisting on anonymity, said in an email the Obama administration understands 'the sensitivities surrounding these items,' adding discussions are likely to intensify as the visit of the director of Iraq’s National Library and Archive approaches. The date for his trip hasn't been set."

Does US President Barack Obama understand "the sensitivities surrounding these items"?

And if so, why the hell should that reassure anyone.

What Josh Robin's reporting is not comforting and is, in fact, disturbing.

It's more foot dragging from Barack and his administration.

We need to include something right here.

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  There was bipartisan support for leaving a residual force in Iraq.  That required a Status Of Forces Agreement with the Maliki government.  And the Status Of Forces Agreement would have had to have included immunity for our soldiers so that they would not be subject to Iraqi courts.  We ask our soldiers, Marines, Airmen, etc. to take many risks.  One of them we don't ask them to take is the idea that their actions would be  held up to judgment in a court in Iraq or a court in Afghanistan for that matter.  We didn't get a Status Of Forces Agreement.  Some -- One theory is the administration blew the negotiations.   The other argu -- view is the Maliki government was in place when this government got there.  Maliki didn't have to give immunity to our troops and chose not to. We've seen that these immunity agreements are-are difficult for a host country to provide. [Afghanistan leader Hamid] Karzai isn't providing them.  And there are several elements of Iranian history going back seventy or eighty years when the Shah was held up to great ridicule for providing such immunity agreements.   Did we fail to get a Status Of Forces Agreement because we blew the negotiations or given the political reality starting with Maliki was there simply no way to get the immunity?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, first, you're keying on the history is really important here.  The history of immunity agreements, particularly in this region, is really what colors the entire debate.  The negotiation in 2007 and 2008 took almost 18 months.  And while we got those two agreements got passed -- the security agreement which allowed our forces to stay for three more years with immunity and a permanent Strategic Framework Agreement -- they barely passed.  And they passed on the last possible day and almost by the skin of their teeth.  And I was working on that issue with Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker for almost 18 months --

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  This was passing the Iraqi parliament?

Brett McGurk: Yes, the Iraqi parliament.  Um, our legal requirements in, uh, in 2011 were that another follow up agreement would have to go through the Iraqi parliament.  It was the assessment of the Iraqi political leaders and also of our leadership that it was unlikely to pass and, therefore, the decision was made that our troops would leave by the end of -- by the end of 2011.  But we still have a permanent -- a permanent Strategic Framework Agreement.  That agreement has passed the Iraqi parliament, was ratified in 2008 and it provides us a strong basis for providing security systems to the Iraqis.  It does not provide us the basis for having boots on the ground in a training presence but we do train Iraqi special forces under our Office of Security Cooperation through the [US] Embassy [in Baghdad] and we're also in discussions with regional partners for having a training presence.

When we objected to McGurk as Barack's (failed) nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq, we pointed out the SOFA and the e-mails from the Cult of St. Barack poured in insisting that McGurk had nothing to do with the SOFA, some idiots even insisted that McGurk hadn't been in Iraq.  Then news emerged of how he cheated on his wife in Baghdad, under the Bully Boy Bush administration, by sleeping with then-reporter for the Wall St. Journal Gina Chon and they dropped that complaint in their e-mails but insisted McGurk hadn't been working on a new SOFA.

There he is his words.  But more importantly, his words prove (a) that we were right, Nouri is no hero -- suck on it and your lies, Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio -- and did not stop the SOFA and (b) it proves Senator John McCain is right about how it went down.

On (a), we've had to suffer with Nouri fan bois like Scott Horton.  Desperately immature boys gripping their tiny penises, in search of a Daddy and seizing on Nouri as a hero.  He is a tyrant.  As Leon Panetta made clear in Congressional testimony, Nouri was not the stumbling block.  The stumble was the Parliament.

Approval would not come from it, not enough to get a winning vote.

On (b), I'm not a fan of McCain's I have criticized him here many times.  He is a War Hawk and he's mean-spirited. But his argument has been that the current administration failed with the SOFA and he has criticized the way they attempted it.  He also attributes motive -- that Barack wanted to keep a campaign promise so he tanked the SOFA.  I disagree with the motive and I don't know how anyone but Barack proves or disproves the motive.

But Brett McGurk is talking about two SOFA's.  McCain's complaint was that Barack started late and that the negotiations were not serious.

That's true.  They started in the summer of 2011.  That was much too late.  As McGurk notes above, they spent almost 18 months -- he, then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and others -- negotiating the first SOFA.

By contrast, not even six months were spent negotiating on a second SOFA before the October 2011 announcement that it hadn't worked.

The inept administration (and I'm glad they were inept with attempting a SOFA) still hasn't learned a damn thing.  Four months from now, the documents are scheduled to leave.  You can't postpone these talks.

But that's what the administration has done yet again.

Connolley questioned McGurk Wednesday at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.  The sole witness appearing before the Committee  was US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.  Committee Chair Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel were among those noted in Wednesday's snapshot. with an emphasis on the Congress' opinion of Nouri (not good) and Camp Ashraf. Thursday's snapshot covered the hearing with regards to the Jewish archives.  This time, we'll report on a few other aspects and we may report on the hearing in at least one more snapshot.

Let's stay with Connolly and note this exchange.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  Elections in April?  Still on schedule?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, we, our team at the Embassy, is talking every day to the United Nations Assistance Mission-Mission in Iraq and the Iraqi High Electoral Commision which are planning the elections and the information I have received most recently is that we have tens of thousands of displaced families from Anbar Province.  We have been assured by those planning the elections that displaced people will still be able to vote and their vote will count as if they were in their home province.  So we are still confident the elections will be held on April 30th.  And our consistent position, our firm position, is that those elections have to be held on April 30th.  There should not be a delay.

Some fear a delay.  I'm fearful that Nouri's going to again prevent Anbar and Nineveh from voting -- as he did in the 2013 provincial elections.  Yes, after international pressure, they were allowed to vote in June.  The other provinces -- except for the KRG which votes on its own schedule in provincial elections and Kirkuk which Nouri prevented from voting -- voted in April.

Yesterday, we noted this from last month's "Will Nouri call off elections in provinces he's unpopular in?" (January 25th):

Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) report al-Nujaifi gave two interviews today, the first to Sky News and the second to Alsumaria.  Osama al-Nujaifi noted Nouri cannot continue to act unilaterally, that there are checks and balances in the system and he was concerned that Nouri thinks he's "singular" when it comes to decision making and that this could lead Nouri to attempt to postpone the upcoming election citing "poor security."  Nouri did just that last year.  And he wasn't supposed to.  He ruled that Anbar and Nineveh could not vote.  Under pressure from the US, specifically Secretary of State John Kerry, Nouri relented and, months later, allowed the two provinces to vote.
He never should have been allowed to postpone them.  He doesn't have that power.  The Independent High Electoral Commission is the only one that does and, as their name notes, they are supposed to be "independent."
If Nouri tries to keep provinces from voting, it will be worse than last time and it will be worse then cancelling the election all out.  It will be corrupt.
He penalized the two provinces he was most disliked in last year.  Those were provincial elections, citizens were voting on who to represent them in their provincial governments (think state governments if you're in the US and confused).  These parliamentary elections are like federal elections.  And if Utah wasn't allowed to vote to send people to the House and Senate, it wouldn't be a real election in the US.
In a later report, Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani report that the 'independent' commission is now saying that one or more provinces could be prevented from voting in the parliamentary elections.

The idea is being floated.  Twice, Brett McGurk was asked about elections.  We noted one in yesterday's snapshot and another today.  Never once did McGurk inform Congress that this idea was being floated -- let alone that the IHEC declared that it could possibly happen.

There will not be free or fair elections unless everyone votes on the same day.

Today, All Iraq News reports that Iraqiya MP Salim Dali declared the attack on Anbar Province was Nouri's attempt to delay the parliamentary elections.  He tells All Iraq News:
The government is trying to disturb the situation such as the situation in Anbar starting from arresting MP, Ahmed al-Alwani, which will negatively affect holding the elections.

More than 200 thousand refugees have left Fallujah city which raises the question about the way of holding the elections in this city and the other cities of Anbar. 
Witnessing the same situation of the former elections where they were postponed in Nineveh and Anbar provinces.

Iraqiya, for those who don't know or forgot, defeated Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 elections which should have resulted in Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi being the prime minister.  But Nouri refused to step down after losing -- for eight months he refused to step down bringing the government to a halt (this is known as the "political stalemate" and set a record at the time for the longest period in any country between elections and the forming of a government) and he had Barack's backing so he got away with it.  Barack ordered US officials to negotiate a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) that went around the Constitution and the Iraqi voters (and any notion of democracy) which decreed a second term for Nouri.

In this year's planned elections, it is the post of prime minister, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports, that is the supreme prize:

The ultimate goal for almost all parties competing in the elections, due to be held at the end of April, is clear though:  the Prime Minister’s chair. After eight years of leadership from current prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki it is clear to most ordinary Iraqis, and therefore also to their politicians, that this is the most powerful position in the country. Over the past decade the executive branch of Iraq’s government has shown that it seems to have more power over what goes on in the country than Iraq’s parliament.

And how will the next Iraqi Prime Minister be chosen? Doubtless the person will be chosen by the members of political alliances that form after the upcoming federal elections. Right now the shape of those alliances are far from clear cut. Additionally the fact that Iraq’s current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is so deeply unpopular and that his mostly Shiite Muslim political alliance has been crumbling, alongside the differences in opinion among Iraq’s Sunni Muslim politicians, means that voters will definitely see some new alliances formed.

Analysts inside and outside the country are already coming up with a number of scenarios they believe may occur.

If Brett McGurk were honest, not only would he have informed the Congress on Wednesday about the IHEC stating it would be acceptable to deny a province the right to vote in the parliamentary elections, he would have also noted that in the two previous parliamentary elections, the desires and wishes of the Iraqis were ignored as the White House imposed Nouri as prime minister in 2006 and again in 2010.

Brett's not an honest man.  As his ex-wife can probably attest, he struggles with the truth.  But turns out, he's got a sense of humor.  Warped, yes, but a sense of humor.  We'll note this long exchange but, believe me, the set up pays off, you will howl.

US House Rep Juan Vargas: I personally am very concerned about the Christian community.  The Christian community has been slaughtered.  I mean the Christians that we saw killed on Christmas. You know, very unified attacks on Christians, 37 murdered.  The Chaldean community  before the war was about a million Chaldean Christians.  Now I think there's less than half, maybe a third of that,.  We're very thankful in San Diego that many Chaldeans have been able to come to San Diego and a great community is forming there and continues to form. I'd like to hear from you what we can do and what we should do and what we're not doing to help not only the Christian community, but especially the Christian community, but other communities as well.  I mean, what-what else should we be doing?

Brett McGurk: Uh, Congressman, thank you.  I-I've visted the Chaldean community in Michigan.  I would welcome the opportunity to come to your district to visit the community there.  Uhm --

US House Rep Juan Vargas: You're invited then.

Brett McGurk: Uh, extremist groups, as I've mentioned, are threatening Christians, Muslims, everybody in the region.  It is a phenomenon throughout the region, this is a regional problem. And one thing we're trying to do is work with the Christian leaders in Iraq is make sure that they have the resources they need from the central government and also the Kurdish Regional Government and making sure that there areas are as secure as possible.  In Iraq, the Chaldeans and other Christian minority groups are located in the Ninewah Plains.  Uhm, there is an al Qaeda extremist presence south of there.  We are working to try to make sure that local people, Christians in that community, have the resources they need to protect themselves and to police their own communities.  And we've made some progress there in that area over the last six months.  In the north, in Erbil and the Kurdish Region, uhm, when I was in Iraq a few months ago, I spoke to, as I mentioned earlier, with Archbishop [Bashar] Warda of the community there and linked him up with the Prime Minister so that they could talk about schools for the community and making sure that they're getting the resources that they need from the Kurdish Regional Government.  What we can do is a neutral group in Iraq with relationships between everybody because we've been there for ten years and are seen as a neutral player, one of the very few, is try to make sure that the connections are made between the governments provincial, regional and national. so that the Christian and minority communities have the resources they need to protect themselves but also for schools and for children and for everything else.

US House Juan Vargas:  Now I do have to say that I've heard from many that the central government, they claim that the central government is not doing much of anything at all to help the Christians.  In fact, just the opposite, that they leave them exposed, that their churches are exposed, that the schools are exposed.  I mean could you comment on that?  That they haven't been doing enough, not nearly enough, to protect the Christian community and especially the churches?

Brett McGurk:  Uhm, since a series of church bombings if I recall correctly in 2009 or 2010, uh, the Iraqis have really buttressed the Christian sites in Iraq.  Uhm, but as you mentioned, there are still attacks --

US House Rep Juan Vargas:  The Christian attacks, I believe, killed 37 --

Brett McGurk:  That's right

US House Rep Juan Vargas:  Christians.

Brett McGurk:  I have found the prime minister, when you discuss this issue with him, fairly emotional about wanting to protect Christians just like everyone else in his country.

Just like everyone else in his country?

Oh, that Funny Man Brett McGurk.

The killers of journalists go unpunished.  I will assume Congress is noting their own disdain for the press by refusing to cover that reality in any of the last five Congressional hearings on Iraq.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch issued their 105-page report (PDF format warning) "‘No One Is Safe’: Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System,"  Does Brett want tell us how much Nouri cares about women in Iraq?

Before he preps that joke, he might want to read the report.  If that's too much work for him, he can just start with the opening of the report's summary:

In May 2012, Hanan al-Fadl (not her real name) was grocery shopping in a market in central Baghdad when security forces dressed in civilian clothing seized her, bundled her into a car, and drove her to the office of a state institution, she told Human Rights Watch. 
There, she said, they beat her, shocked her with electric cables, and drenched her in cold water in an effort to force her to admit that she had taken a bribe. Hanan, a manager at a state-affiliated company that approves construction projects, said she realized she was paying the price for refusing to waive through a project in which the contractor had used sub-standard materials. “I made a mistake,” she said. “I didn’t know someone important in the government had a stake in the project.” Beaten and tortured for hours, Hanan said she refused to confess—until her interrogators threatened her teenage daughter. 

They pulled up her picture on my mobile, and said, “Is this [name withheld]?” They knew her name, where she went to school, everything. They said “We can take her just like we took you.” I would have said anything at that point. 

After holding her for more than a day, security forces took her to a judge, who refused to acknowledge bruises and swelling on her face, she said. She did not have a lawyer. Four months later, a Baghdad court convicted her of forgery and sentenced her to three years in prison, based solely on her “confession” and the testimony of a “secret informant.” When Human Rights Watch visited Hanan, she had been detained in Baghdad’s Central Women’s prison for more than a year. 
Hanan is one of thousands of Iraqis imprisoned by a judicial system plagued by torture and rampant corruption. Last April, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay issued a scathing indictment of Iraq’s “not functioning” justice system, citing numerous convictions based on confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment, a weak judiciary, and trial proceedings that fall far short of international standards.

Or maybe Funny Brett would prefer to dive deeper into the report?  Say page 19 through 22?

Human Rights Watch found that security officials in the Interior and Defense ministries round up women, especially family members of male suspects, without an arrest warrant, deny women access to a lawyer, and fail to bring detained women before an investigative judge according to Iraq’s Code of Criminal Procedure. At least 15 female detainees, their families, and lawyers told Human Rights Watch that they were detained as a part of a round-up of an entire family or village. Security officers conducted warrantless raids in neighborhoods and detained some residents for several days.  
Ten women reported that security forces questioned them not about their activities, but about their relatives. 34 Security forces released some of the women without ever charging them, and charged others with “covering up ” for their husbands or other male family members, effectively punishing them for familial associations rather than any wrongdoing. 
A former judge, who asked not to be identified, said: 

If someone is arrested as part of an emergency operation, no matter how urgent, an investigative judge must still issue an arrest warrant.  In exceptional cases, where there is an explosion, for example, the arresting unit can collect testimonies at the scene while they await the issuance of arrest warrants. But what happens in fact is that they arrest them and later have a judge provide a warrant that justified the arrest.  

He added that security forces “often arrest a large number of people in an area where an incident occurs without an arrest warrant.” 
A lawyer, who asked not to be identified, said that this practice was especially frequent in arrests of women. “They arrest the women just to get at one person – their husband, or their brother,” he said.  Another lawyer who also requested anonymity said: 

Individual officers have taken the law into their own hands to arrest the wife and children to put pressure on the husband, but the wife is not responsible.  ...If a man is arrested and won’t confess, they bring his wife in. 

Arrests of women because of their relationships to suspects, without any evidence that they have committed a crime, amount to collective punishment, and violate international human rights law’s guarantee of the rights to liberty of person and the right to a fair trial.  These prohibit arbitrary detention and require that detention only be in accordance with clear domestic law, that detainees be in formed immediately of the reason for their detention and are promptly brought before a judge and charged with a criminal offense. Such arrests also violate Iraqi laws protecting these rights, including provisions of Iraq’s Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure.  
On November 3, 2012, federal police invaded 11 homes in the town of al-Tajji, 20 kilometers north of Baghdad, and detained 11 women and 29 children overnight in their homes. The lawyer representing the women told Human Rights Watch that people were detained from every house in the village.  
After detaining 12 of the women and girls, aged 11 to 60, for several hours in their homes, police took them to a police station where they held them without charge for four days.  Throughout their detention, police put plastic bags over each of their heads until they began to suffocate, and electrocuted and beat some of them, according to the women’s accounts. 
Majida Obeidi, 22, detained as part of the Tajji operation, told Human Rights Watch that at around midnight on November 3, a large number of security forces raided the village and invaded the house where she was staying with her four young children and her husband’s 12-year-old second wife.  Some wore the uniform of the National Guard, others were Special Forces, and some wore civilian clothes, she said. 

I think there were about 10 or 15 soldiers. Zahra [the second wife] and I were alone in the house with my children. They blew open the doors and streamed in. They demanded to know where my husband was, but they didn’t know his name, and they asked where we kept the weapons. They looked for the weapons under the floor and ripped bricks off the house but they didn’t find anything. 

They held them overnight in her home, and then took Majida and her children, along with 11 other women and 25 of their children, to the federal police brigade headquarters in the Kadhimeyya compound, also known as Camp Justice, in Baghdad. Police held them there for four days, and then transferred them to the al-Shaaba al-Khamsa detention facility in the same compound. Police released the children after three days, but detained 12 of the women for a month before bringing them before an investigative judge. Majida said the officers repeatedly questioned her about her husband, and then accused her of being a terrorist.

Why don’t you show us the bodies of the Shia you slaughtered -- where have you hidden them?” They said horrible things to me.... I don’t want to repeat them. They called me daughter of a bitch, daughter of a whore. 

The judge charged the women with terrorism under article 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law for “covering up” for their husbands. 
A high-level government official confirmed the details of the women’s detention and added that according to the brother of one woman, a colonel in Kadhimeyya offered to release his sister if he paid him US$6,500.  The statements of dozens of officials, lawyers, detainees, and their families indicate that bribery of this nature is common. The brother paid, but the colonel did not release his sister.

Nouri's 'concern' for Iraqi women isn't just appalling, it's criminal and the US government is in violation of the law by providing him with financial aid and weapons.

Do you wonder about the US press?  Not one member has bothered to ask the State Dept (which is over Iraq, in the executive branch) about this report or the legal implications of it.

Not one.

Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) notes the report:

A separate HRW report, released Feb. 6, 2014, documented cases of abuse against Iraqi women — both Shiite and Sunni — during detention. The report revealed that thousands of Iraqi women have been arrested and detained illegally, and many have suffered torture and been raped. The report concluded that corruption was rampant in the Iraqi judiciary, for a number of convictions based on confessions under duress have been recorded. Moreover, the documents demonstrate that international laws and conventions are not followed in Iraqi courts.
Surprisingly, Iraqi officials accusrd HRW of relying on false and biased information, even though they referred to HRW reports when Saddam Hussein was in power and they were in opposition to the regime.
In the latest developments on such matters, Iraq's Court of Publishing and Media issued two arrest warrants in early February 2014: the first against Judge Munir Haddad, who approved the death sentence of Saddam Hussein; and the second against Iraqi journalist Sarmad al-Tai, a known critic of the government’s political and economic performance.
The warrants charged them with “defaming” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In the instance of Tai, it was the first time the defamation charge has been used since 2003. Tai was even charged based on laws issued under the former regime. 
Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, defended the warrants, saying, “The prime minister is an Iraqi citizen, and like anyone he may defend himself through legal and judicial means. … That would strengthen the role of law and the judiciary because everyone is subject to them.” 

Let's go back to Wednesday's hearing.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly: And if I understand your testimony correctly, we're now relying on tribal support to dislodge the occupying forces in Falluja.  How in the world -- Isn't that an indictment of the investments we've made in the Iraqi military  and its inability to hold its own territory secure?

Brett McGurk:  Well the Iraqi military would have the equipment and the numbers to go into Falluja tomorrow and clean out the streets.  Uh, we believe that were they to do an assault like that would actually exaserbate the problem --

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  I guess, excuse me a second, Mr. McGurk, I don't mean -- But before you get there, how did it happen in the first place?  How is it that the Iraqi government was not able to secure something as symbolically important if not really important as Falluja?

Brett McGurk:  Uhm, Congr -- As I tried to explain in my testimony, there was a series of incidents throughout 2013 including a protest movement which kind of added to the political instability in the -- in the region.  And in Falluja in particular, it is an area, as we know, any outsiders coming in to Falluja are resisted and that includes the Iraqi army, it includes us, wit includes, we hope now, these al Qaeda extremists.  All I can say is we are where we are right now and we're helping the Iraqis develop a plan right now developing a plan -- one that will lead -- I say, "tribal fighters" but what I really mean is that the local people, local population who know the street are able to actually identify the foreign elements and push them out.  But right now in Falluja, it's a mix of al Qaeda, former insurgent groups and former Ba'athists networks who are in control of the streets there.  It has always been a difficult place.  And, uh, so it's always been a difficult territory.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  The tribal support we're relying on, what is their attitude toward the Maliki government?  I mean because doesn't some of that support, cooperation, isn't some of that a reflection of how they view the central government?

Brett McGurk:  Yes.  There's certainly -- there's tremendous mistrust in the area of Falluja towards the central government, there's no question about that.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  And does that impede our work to try to dislodge the occupation forces in Falluja?

Brett McGurk: Uh, it does.  It makes -- it makes it harder.  As I said,  some tribes are actually working with the extremists, some are now working to oust them, many others are on the fence.  And that's why it is incumbent  on the central government, through resources and through dialogue and communication to mobilize the population against them.

Brett says the protest movement -- which was sparked by the torture and rape of women and girls in Iraqi prisons and detention centers -- "kind of added to the political instability."

The protest against the torture of women contributed?

You have to be pretty ____ dumb and a real whore -- and we all know Brett's a whore -- to get away with that one with a straight face.

No, Nouri's treatment of women absolutely added to the political instability.

Even in the face of  Norui calling them "terrorists," in the face of Nouri's assaults, in the face of the violence, nothing can stop the ongoing demonstrations that kicked off December 21, 2012 and have continued ever since.  Including today.

  1. الجمعة الموحدة في منطقة العامرية غرب العاصمة بغداد.

Protesters turned out in Amiriya today.  Yes, they do protest in that section of Baghdad and let's all just pretend that Nouri ordering two mosques raided in Amirya today had nothing to do with that.

Iraqi Spring MC notes that protests also took place in Baiji, Jalawla, Baquba and Rawa.

For 'fun,' Nouri ordered the military to also raid two mosques in western Baghdad (Amiriya).

No where is sacred in Nouri's Iraq, everyone is a victim and everyone is a target.

There is no respect for anything, certainly not for human life.  Nouri makes that clear every day.

Nouri's forces conducted 110 bombings in Anbar today, NINA notes.

It didn't always turn out the way tyrant Nouri al-Maliki hoped.  But when does it ever?

Even so he must be licking his paws in sorrow because, while he's happy to bomb and kill civilians, it's hard to picture him humping someone's leg excitedly when he heard the news that, as Iraqi Spring MC reports, Nouri's helicopters accidentally bombed some of Nouri's forces to the north of Falluja -- bombed and killed.

As if he wasn't already having enough problems recruiting volunteers for his killing squads.

That's not all he bombed.  Iraqi Spring MC reports he bombed the power station in Falluja and the city is now without electricity.

That qualifies as a War Crime as well.  But he's gotten away with collective punishment (a War Crime) because so many have been too stupid or too scared to call him out.

The death and dying continue.

National Iraqi News Agency reports Falluja General Hospital received 5 dead and twenty-injured people as a result of Nouri's shelling of the city (the dead and wounded included children and women),  Nouri's military shot dead 4 people in eastern Ramadi, a Sadr City car bombing left 2 people (one a police member) dead and seven more injured, 1 person was shot dead in Muqdadiyah, a Hammam al-Aleel roadside bombing left the brother of the area's police chief injured, an armed clash in Garma left 6 rebels dead and four Sahwa injured, Joint Operations Command declared they shot dead 2 suspects in Mosul, a Baiji car bombing targeted Maj Gen Hamid Mohammed Kemer didn't harm the officer but left three soldiers injured, 1 candidate with the Ahrar bloc was assassinated in Baghdad (Ghazaliya area), and clergy members Sheik Shehab Mahmoud al-Hamdani and Sheikh Abu Noah al-Hamdani were shot dead in Hamman al-Aleel. All Iraq News adds a Tuz Khurmato bombing killed 4 people and left twenty-three more injured.

One of the  only ones to really confront Brett and his lies on Wednesday was US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Let me just say that the idea that -- we're talking about Camp Ashraf -- it just seems to me that fundamentally you're suggesting that our approach to stop the massacre, the ongoing massacre of the people at Camp Liberty that we basically have to go to the Maliki government and ask them?  The problem is they're not providing enough security.  The Maliki government is responsible for these deaths.  I don't understand.  The military -- the Iraqi military invaded Camp Ashraf and murdered people.  These are the people under Maliki's command did that.  They recently went into the fifty or so that were left at Camp Ashraf, tied their hands behind their back and shot them in the back of the head. And it was Maliki's own military, we know, who did that.  We know that the Camp Ashraf and these people were attacked numerous times by the Iraqi military.  This isn't rather Maliki and his people are not protecting the MEK.  This is a crime against humanity.  These are unarmed refugees and which Maliki's own troops are murdering.  And I'm not talking about rockets we don't know where they come from, we're talking about actual -- by the way, I would suggest  that they probably know about those rockets as well -- Maliki, let's make it very clear, as far as I'm concerned and as far as many people in Washington are concerned,  Maliki is an accomplice the murders that are going on.  And as an accomplice, we should not be treating him as begging him to have a residual force of US troops in order to help his regime?  I don't understand why the United States feels -- why we feel compelled to be part of all of this?  Why do we feel compelled that we have to go in and be in the middle of this fight between people who are murdering each other?  Thirty to forty suicide bombers a month? Thousands of people are losing their lives to this insanity.  Why should the United States, tell me, this is my question, why does the United States feel that we need to become part of this insanity?  And does that not instead turn both of the parties against us?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, Congressman, the suicide bomber, uh , phenomenon is complete insanity.  Uh, I agree with you.  When you look at Iraq and look at the region and you define our interests -- and I don't go to any leader and beg for anything.  We protect and advance US interests as we define them.  And in Iraq, whether you like it or not, oil, al Qaeda, Iran, vital US interests are at stake in Iraq.

Note where Brett went first: Oil.

It's always oil with the War Hawks.

Let it be noted that unlike so many of his colleagues, Rohrabacher didn't ply Brett with compliments, gushing of how he informed he was (he wasn't and neither were they or they would have asked better questions) or thank him for his service, etc.

Brett's a whore.  A whore knows how to seduce.  And from the distance, for example, the members of Congress mistake smarmy for charm and fail to notice that the forelock in the front is now separated from the rest of the hair on Brett's head by a deep island of scalp or the bald spot in the back.

Dreaming of all the pleasure I'm going to have
Watching you hairline recede 
My vain darling
-- "Just Like This Train," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Court & Spark

Joni was singing of the supremely vain -- so vain, he might think the song was about him, might he?, might he? -- James Taylor; however, it also applies to Brett.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

About the songs on Nanci Griffith's One Fair Summer Evening

I hope you saw Trina's "Nanci Griffith" -- we both wrote about the album.

I was asked in a few e-mails what my favorite track was on Nanci Griffith's One Fair Summer Evening?

That is so difficult.

"Once In A Blue Moon" is so beautiful as is "Trouble In The Fields."

The story she sketches out "Love At The Five and Dime" and the melody is just so wonderful.

Her cover of "From A Distance," as several of you e-mailed to point out, is far better than Bette Midler's later version.

But right now, at this point in time, my favorite track if I had to pick just one would be "More Than A Whisper."

However, I can't find any sort of a video of her on that one so I'll go with my second one, "Workin' In Corners."


If you've never heard Nanci, I hope at least one of the songs speaks to you.  If it does, please consider getting One Fair Summer Evening which is not just Nanci's best album, it's one of the great albums of the 20th century.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 5, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, attacks in Baghdad scare the politicians, the Anbar assault continues with Nouri planning to hide behind Sunnis because he's lost so many soldiers in the Iraqi army, Brett McGurk spins for Congress, Jen Psaki tries to pretend 7 years isn't a big time to wait on a promise, and much more.

Nouri al-Maliki is the chief thug and prime minister of Iraq and his assault on Anbar Province continues. Ramzy Baroud (International Policy Digest) offers an explanation at how arrived where they are now:

Mostly Muslim Sunni tribesmen were fed up with the political paradigm imposed by the Americans almost immediately upon their arrival, which divided the country based on sectarian lines. The Sunni areas, in the center and west of the country, paid a terrible price for the US invasion that empowered political elites purported to speak on behalf of the Shia. The latter, who were mostly predisposed by Iranian interests, began to slowly diversify their allegiance. Initially, they played the game per US rules, and served as an iron fist against those who dared resist the occupation. But as years passed, the likes of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, found in Iran a more stable ally: where sect, politics and economic interests seamlessly align. Thus, Iraq was ruled over by a strange, albeit undeclared troika in which the US and Iran had great political leverage where the Shia-dominated government cleverly attempted to find balance, and survive.
Of course, a country with the size and history of Iraq doesn’t easily descend into sectarian madness on its own. But Shia and Sunni politicians and intellectuals who refused to adhere to the prevailing intolerant political archetype were long sidelined -- killed, imprisoned, deported and simply had no space in today’s Iraq- as national identity was banished by sect, tribe, religion and race. Currently, the staff of the US embassy stands at 5,100, and American companies are abandoning their investments in the south of Iraq where the vast majority of the country’s oil exists. It is in the south that al-Maliki has the upper hand. He, of course, doesn’t speak on behalf of all Shia, and is extremely intolerant of dissidents. In 2008, he fought a brutal war to seize control of Basra from Shia militias who challenged his rule. Later, he struck the Mehdi Army of Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr in a Baghdad suburb. He won in both instances, but at a terrible toll. His Shia rivals would be glad to see him go.
Maliki’s most brutal battles however have been reserved for dissenting Sunnis. His government, as has become the habit of most Arab dictators, is claiming to have been fighting terrorism since day one, and is yet to abandon the slogans it propagates. While militant Sunni groups, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, have indeed taken advantage of the ensuing chaos to promote their own ideology, and solicit greater support for their cause, Iraq’s Sunnis have suffered humiliation of many folds throughout the years long before al-Qaeda was introduced to Iraq --  courtesy of the US invasion.

The assault on Anbar is only a more public and more extreme version of what Nouri's carried out for years.  He's done so with the criminal participation of the US government.  And now the US government is actively involved in War Crimes.

"While al-Qaeda in Iraq has been powered by prison breaks and the Syrian civil war, it has also been fueled by the alienation of much of the Sunni population from the Shi’a dominated government in Baghdad," declared US House Rep . Ed Royce today.  "Al-Qaeda has become very skilled at exploiting this sectarian rift; and Maliki’s power grab has given them much ammunition.  This is a point that Ranking Member Engel and I underscored with President Maliki when he visited Washington last fall."

He was speaking this morning at the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Royce is the Chair of the Committee and US House Rep Eliot Engel is the Ranking Member.  Appearing before the Committee this morning was  the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.

In his opening remarks, Chair Ed Royce cautioned, "But Iraqis should know that their relations with Iran and the slow pace of political reconciliation with minority groups raise serious Congressional concerns.  While he may not be up to it, Maliki must take steps to lead Iraq to a post-sectarian era."

We're going to note some positions expressed from others.  We'll start with the Ranking Member.  Please note, I usually only add (in brackets: "[]") to illuminate what's being said.  But War Hawk Engel is not going to get to lie here.  He can offer his opinion, and he does, but when he lies that all US troops are out of Iraq?

We're not going to play that game.  We're also not ever going to include his crocodile tears.

Like Hillary Clinton, Engel voted for the Iraq War.  If you feel her clarification that her vote was wrong -- but after Gates' book who can believe her when he reveals she lied to the American people with regards to the so-called "surge" of US troops into Iraq because she was trying to get votes -- you should also be aware that Engel has never apologized.  So he should cry for the American dead, he should be haunted by them.  He voted for an illegal war.  That said, the people killed in Falluja when the US military was ordered to attack twice in 2004 matter as well.  Even if Engel doesn't think so.

Ranking Member Eliot Engel: Iraq continues to be ravaged by sectarian violence and the situation's getting worse.  Last year, more than 8500 Iraqis were killed in bombings, shootings and other acts -- the most since 2008.  I should note that on Monday of this week, the senior leadership of al Qaeda excommunicated and disowned their affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- ISIS -- as a result of that group's tactics in Syria. For the purpose of this hearing, ISIS remains a threat to stability in Falluja, other areas of Anbar Province and the whole of Iraq.  Some may argue that the lack of an enduring US presence in Iraq  has contributed to the resurgence of violence -- especially in Sunni terrorism related to al Qaeda.  But let's be honest, the dire security situation in Anbar Province is much more about Iraqi politics than it is about the United States.  In any case, the direct use of US military force in Iraq is virtually unthinkable at this point.  We've withdrawn from Iraq and we aren't going back.  Although we no longer have boots on the ground [except for Special-Ops and the 100 or so Brett McGurk noted today were guarding the Embassy and its diplomatic staff and, as Brett noted, various 'trainers' and persons who facilitate the selling of weapons], the US does maintain a huge stake in Iraq's security.  And I believe we should continue to provide appropriate assistance  to the Iraqi military and their fight against ISIS.  But we must also recognize that the current situation in Anbar cannot be resolved through military means alone. An all-out assault on Falluja by the Iraqi security forces would play right into the hands of ISIS, reinforcing the perception among Sunnis that they have been systematically victimized by Prime Minister Maliki's Shia-led government.  To defeat al Qaeada, the Iraqi government must take a page  out of our playbook from the Iraq War and enlist moderate Sunni tribes in the fight.  I understand that [US] Vice President [Joe] Biden recently discussed this issue with Prime Minister Maliki encouraging him to incorporate tribal militias fighting al Qaeda into security -- into Iraqi security forces and to compensate those injured and killed in battle.  By taking these steps, I'm hopeful that Maliki can begin to bridge the widening sectarian gulf  in Iraq.  

Did Joe Biden talk to him?  I'm really tired of  Joe and his talk right now and probably going to let it rip on him next week.  But for now, we'll note that Joe  did do that.  As he's done repeatedly and, apparently, ineffectively since 2009.  In other words, he's accomplished nothing and is still trying the same tactics which is a complete waste of time.  Iraq is now on him in the minds of Americans.  He might want to try something new real quick or he might want to accept the fact that the destruction of Iraq will be hung around his neck should he choose to run for the presidency.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  al Qaeda's resurgence is directly related to Prime Minister Maliki's mishandling of his government.  Incompetence and corruption seem to be the norm.  The centralized power alienated the Sunnis and brought back Shia hit squads. He has allowed Iranian supportive operatives to kill MEK Iranian dissidents [the Ashraf community] now on seven occasions without consequences. The last time you were here, Mr. McGurk, you testified before my Subcommittee and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's Subcommittee, I predicted that there would be another attack.  Seven days after you testified in December, Camp Liberty was attacked again.  All this chaos has created an environment ripe for al Qaeda.  al Qaeda's re-establishing a safe haven to launch attacks outside the region.  That is a totally unacceptable trend.  The question is: What is the United States going to do?

Now we'll note another opinion expressed:

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  In the 1940s, we occupied countries no one doubted our right to occupy. We took our time, we created new governments and those governments created new societies.  At various other times, we've invaded countries, achieved a limited objective or as much as could be achieved at reasonable cost and we left.   The first example of that was Thomas Jefferson's military intervention in Libya.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, we established a bad example. The world -- and even some in the United States -- doubted our right to occupy, so we hastily installed Karzi in Afghanistan and in Iraq we installed a structure which is now presided over by Mr. Maliki.  It is not surprising that Afghanistan and Iraq continue to be problems since we hastily handed over governance to those who are ill prepared. Iraq is not the most important Arab state strategically.  It does not become more important in the future because we made a mistake in the past that cost us dearly in blood and treasure.  We should not compound that mistake.  On the other hand, Iraq is important in part because of its proximity to Iran which I believe is one of the greatest threats to our national security. Finally, I agree with several of the prior speakers that we need to, with regard to Camp Liberty and the T-Walls

T-Walls are basically barrier walls which would protect from bombs placed outside the walls and which would also heighten security within the camp.

If you don't understand how inept the White House and the State Dept are, let's do a walk through.  Starting with the October 3rd snapshot which reported on that day's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  We'll again note this exchange between Senator John McCain and  the State Dept's Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman as well as Committee Chair Robert Menendez' follow up.

Senator John McCain:  In the situation as it relates to the Camp Ashraf people, we know that they were Iranian dissidents.  At one point,  they were designated as a terrorist organization.  But the United States government, it's true, gave them an assurance that if they moved [to Camp Liberty] they would be protected.  We know that the Iranian influence has increased in, uh, in Iraq.  In fact, we know now that Iraq is alive and well and doing extremely well moving back and forth across the two countries.  Now there was a murder of, I believe, 51 people who were members of this  camp and many of them had in their possession guarantees from the United States of America that they would not be harmed.   What-what lessons -- First, are these facts true?  And, second, if they are true, what message does that send to people who we say will be under our protection?

Wendy Sherman:  Senator, uh, I share your, deep concern about what happened, uh, at Camp Ashraf.  This was a vicious attack in September 1st and many lives were lost.  And the US continues to press the government of Iraq at every opportunity, at very senior -- at the most senior levels to ensure the safety and security of residents at Camp Hurriya where many of the MEK were moved for better safety.  We strongly and swiftly condemned the attack.  We of course extend  our condolences to the victims' families and we are working with the government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, to peacefully and voluntarily transfer the surviving residents to safety at Camp Hurriya on September 12th.  And we are working for the protection of the people in Camp Hurriya because we do not want a repeat of this.   So, to date, the government of Iran -- of Iraq has moved in over 700 large T-walls, over 500 bunkers, over 600 small T-walls and nearly 50,000 sandbags.  UN monitors visit the camp daily in accordance with the MOU to asses human rights and humanitarian conditions.  But I must say, Senator, the real answer to this, to the safety and security of all the people in the camps -- who wants to live in a camp? -- is resettlement to third countries to get out of Iraq and to get out of harms way.  And I would call on all the people who are here today representing the rights and the interests of the MEK and the leaders of the MEK in the camps and in Paris, uh, to allow this resettlement to go forward because until the resettlement happens safety and security is going to be a risk.  We will do everything in our power to keep people safe in these camps.  But, as you point out, the al Qaeda threat is increasing in Iraq and it is difficult.

Senator John McCain:  And I hope that this issue will be raised with the Iraqi government.  And we in Congress may have to look at the kind of aid and how we are extending that to Iraq if this kind of thing is going to be countenanced by the Iraqi government.  I don't -- I've used up all my time.  And I thank you for your response.

Chair Robert Menendez: Before I turn to Senator [Edward] Markey let me echo what Senator McCain has said in this regard.  And I put out a statement in this regard, I also talked to our Department.  You know, America went to the MEK and we said, 'Disarm and we will protect you.'  And then we ultimately left and that protection has not been there.  You can put up I don't care how many tons of sand bags but when elements of the Iraqi forces actually may very well be complicit in what took place, sand bags aren't going to take care of the problem.  And I agree with you that resettlement is a critical part.  Maybe the United States could be part of leading the way in saying to a universe of these individuals that in fact you can be resettled to the United States.  And that would get the rest of the world to offer further resettlement. But it is unacceptable to lose one more life when American commanders gave these individuals a written guarantee towards their safety.  And it sends a message to others in the world that when we say we are going to do that and we do not, they should not trust us.  And for one thing that this Committee can do since it has jurisdiction over all weapon sales is that I doubt very much that we are going to see any approval of any weapon sales to Iraq until we get this situation in  a place where people's lives are safe.   

They moved them there, they just refused to put them up.  But don't worry, insisted the State Dept, they're going up immediately.

No, they aren't.  And the US government is obligated under the Geneva Conventions to maintain the safety of the Ashraf community as long as it is in Iraq.

November 13th, Brett McGurk appeared -- we reported on that hearing in the November 13th snapshot, the November 14th snapshot and the November 15th snapshot.  Like that hearing, we'll be covering today's in multiple snapshots.  This following exchange is from the November 14th snapshot.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  You believe them that that there's really a security reason that they haven't put those T-walls up at Camp Liberty?

Brett McGurk:  No, I do not think that there are legitimate security reasons that the T-walls have not been put up.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: You sounded to me when I was listening to you -- and I listened very closely to what you said -- that we can't blame the leadership -- the Maliki leadership for the lack of security at Camp Liberty?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, no.  And in fact my conversation with Maliki was that you need to get as many T-walls into that facility as possible without any excuses.  Period.  Full stop.  So I -- if I -- You may have heard me say something differently but I --

In November, the promised T-Walls were still not up.  In the December 26th snapshot, we noted a statement from State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki which included:

We continue to call on the GOI to take additional measures to secure the camp against further violence, including by immediately installing additional protective barriers, such as bunkers and t-walls. 

Wait?  You're still calling, in December, for the T-Walls to go up?  The ones the State Dept said in October were going up?

The next month, in the January 28th snapshot, we noted the US Embassy in Iraq's press statement which included:

He [Brett McGurk] noted that in meetings with senior Iraqi officials the U.S. will continue to press the Government of Iraq (GOI) to buttress security inside the camp, and welcomed the commitment to install additional t-walls following the next Camp Management meeting among camp residents, UNAMI and the GOI. DAS McGurk stressed the urgency of relocating the residents of Camp Hurriya to third countries as soon as possible and noted the full-time efforts of Jonathan Winer, Senior Advisor for MeK Resettlement, towards that objective. Given the special challenges involved in addressing these issues, DAS McGurk expressed deep appreciation to UNAMI and UNHCR for their work and ensured ongoing U.S. Government support of their efforts.

And today we learn that T-Walls are still not up.

The same conversations take place over and over with no results from Nouri al-Maliki.  So why are the conversations happening?

No, I'm not saying shoot him the way they did int he past.  (Though no one will mourn the death of Nouri whenever it comes.)  I'm saying you stop arming him.  You stop taking, "I'm going to do it."  He wants a helicopter?  Let him put up all the T-Walls first.  Then give him one.  For the second one?  Don't swallow his "I'll work on it" about national reconciliation.

He agreed to that formally in 2007 to keep US funding.  And he never followed up on it.  The de-Ba'athifcation was supposed to end.  That was a promise he made the US government.  And not something that was supposed to take years to end.  It was supposed by 2008.  It never has.

Why are you arming him?

Not only is hurting the Iraqi people, it is hurting the government's prestige and strength around the world as various world leaders look on and watch Nouri get what he wants from the US government without ever following up on any promises he makes to them.

If I'm the government of Algeria, for example, why should I worry about keeping my word in any dealings with the US government when Nouri al-Maliki has at least a seven year pattern (going back to 2007) of failing to live up to his promises and yet still getting billions of US aid to his country as well as weapons?

The White House looks weak and ineffectual because that's how it's acting.  And it's shameful and embarrassing but, most importantly, it is contributing to the deaths and injuries of thousands of Iraqis.

And with all these failures, the one Brett wanted to focus on was the flights over Iraq from Iran to Syria (supposedly providing Syria with weapons)?

That's the issue that Brett says is " where the Iraqi government has not done enough"?  Not the failure to protest the Ashraf community?  Not the failure to end the de-Ba'athifcation process as Nouri promised he would in 2007?

Repeating, the White House looks weak and ineffective.  Even journalists are bringing it up now.  Today Jen Psaki presided over the State Dept press briefing and the State Dept spokesperson Psaki got asked about another promise made but never kept.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about your efforts regarding having a hydrocarbon law and why is it being held up. And how does that affect all the contracts that many American companies have already signed with the north – with the northern region of Kurdistan?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think broadly speaking on the specific – excuse me – hydrocarbon issue, I’d have to connect you with one of our experts on that, and I’m happy to.


MS. PSAKI: As you know, our position has long been that we believe that all of these contracts and any revenue should go through the central government, and that’s been the case we’ve continued to make. But obviously, the Media Note we sent was pretty detailed, and if you have a specific question about an energy resource, I can connect you with some experts.

QUESTION: Well, I do, because one of the main stumbling blocks and the points of contention between the central government and the regional government of Kurdistan is basically the hydrocarbon law that has been held up for the past --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I mean, for the past six years or so. So, I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, why don’t we connect you with someone --


MS. PSAKI: -- from our Iraq desk who can get into more level of detail about specific forms of energy.

The hydrocarbons law?  Go look at the 2007 benchmarks Nouri signed off on?  He promised in 2007 to see that was passed.  Seven years ago.  The White House looks ridiculous.

Again, we're not done with today's hearing. It is important and we will cover it in two more snapshots (including tomorrow's).  But let's move to the Iraqi people who are suffering now and who will suffer even more when/if the US government makes good on Brett McGurk's revelation at the hearing today that the White House wants to send even more Apache helicopters and Hellfire missiles as well as fifty more drones.  By the way, Brett's a liar, a cheap liar.  And his lie today that the tribes will be the ones leading an attack on Falluja and just be backed by the military.?

What Anbar tribe leader or member will be flying any of the existing helicopters?  Or over the Hellifre missiles.  Oh, that's right, they won't be.

They'll be cannon fodder.  And there's primary reason for that which is a cheap little hustler like Brett will never tell.  The Iraqi military is thinned out.  The assault on Anbar has led -- as the 2008 assaults on Basra and the Sadr City section of Baghdad -- to numerous defections.  Nouri tried arresting some in early January and had to drop that plan because arresting those who walked out only made more Iraqi soldiers walk off the job.  This was before the reports/spin/rumors that 'al Qaeda in Iraq' had enough weapons to destroy the government -- more weapons than Nouri's government.

Nouri doesn't have the forces to take Falluja based on the desertion rate in the Iraqi military currently and it's a little whorish that Brett McGurk before Congress and didn't inform them of that but Brett's a little whorish anyway, right?

As the assault on Anbar Province continues, things heat up across Iraq including a curfew gets imposed on Tikrit, Mosul's curfew is extended -- for 7 more days, and a section of Baghdad's already sealed off Green Zone gets further sealed off.

The Green Zone is the 'secure' area of the capital where the US set up headquarters during the invasion and initial occupation.  It's where the US Embassy is today as well as many of the Iraqi government buildings and where many of Iraq's 'elite' (such as Nouri) live. Marcy Casey and Cortini Kerr (Foreign Policy) note that the Parliament is also in the the Green Zone.  The Green Zone never suffers from lack of electricity the way the rest of Baghdad -- or the country, for that matter -- so often does.

Iraqis deride it as where politicians hide out to.   But the fortified part of the capital isn't so fortified.  NINA reports:

Foreign Ministry announced that " one of the terrorists riding a motorcycle bombers tried to enter the security perimeter of the building of the ministry at about nine in the morning but he blew himself up at the first external checkpoint of the Ministry headquarters .  

And then came the car bomb outside the Foreign Ministry. Seven people dead and more injured.

Then the Ministry of the Interior spokesperson Saad Maan announced that "the number of victims of the bombings which occured today near the Ministry of Foreign [Affairs] by two suicide bombers reach 20 dead and 28 injured."  All Iraq News also notes the statement and that both bombings are now identified as suicide bombings by the Ministry.  Laura Smith-Spark, Jomana Karadsheh and Saad Abedine (CNN) observe, "Conflicting accounts have emerged, with initial reports from security sources indicating all three of the morning blasts were car bombings."  Kareem Raheem (Reuters) reminds, "The blasts came a day after two rockets were fired into the Green Zone, home to the prime minister’s office and Western embassies, and are likely to heighten concerns about Iraq’s ability to protect strategic sites as security deteriorates."

The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following today:
February 5, 2014
U.S. Embassy Baghdad
Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release                                                     
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad condemns the vicious terrorist attack today on the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims, to Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari, and to our colleagues and friends at the Ministry, and hope for a rapid recovery for those who were injured.

The United States stands with the Iraqi people and will continue to work closely with the Government of Iraq to combat those who commit such senseless acts.   

National Iraqi News Agency reports 3 Baghdad car bombings left 1 person dead and eight more injured, in an update on this attack it is noted that the death toll rose by 9 (to ten) with a total of thirty-two injured,  a Baghdad car bombing in al-Saha district left 2 people dead and ten injured, an oil pipeline outside of Tikrit was blown up, a suicide bomber (wearing an explosive belt) and a car bombing attacked a west Mosul police station leaving five police members injured, a suicide bomber attacked the al-Shurta army headquaters and took his own life as well as the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers with six more left injured,  a Baghdad bombing (Dora district) left six people injured, the Ministry of Defense announced security forces had "killed 35 members of the terrorist organization 'Daash'," a Mosul car bombing left four SWAT members injured, a suicide tanker bombing north of Tikrit left the bomber dead as well as 3 Iraqi soldiers and 7 police members, an Abi Tammam bombing left three people injured, a Jisr Diyala roadside bombing left 3 people dead and five injured, a Katyusha rocket attack on central Baghdad (Haifa Street) left six people injured, a Sharqat roadside bombing left 1 military officer dead and five other people injured, 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead at an eastern Mosul checkpoint (Zebour), a suicide bombing attack on a Baghdad checkpoint (Karada Mariam) claimed the life of the bomber and 2 Iraqi soldiers, 1 police member and 1 civilian, another suicide bomber in Baghdad's Karada Mariam district blew himself up and killed 1 civilian and left five more injured,  and a Baghdad car bombing near the Baghdad Municipality left 1 person dead and four more injured.  All Iraq News adds 3 corpses were discovered in Basra. Alsumaria adds that there was a mortar attack on a Nineveh Province prison northwest of Mosul.

On "another suicide bomber in Baghdad's Karada Mariam district blew himself up and killed 1 civilian and left five more injured, " this was at the Ibn Zanbour restaurant.  AP explains that the "nearby falafel restaurant frequented by officials and visitors waiting for security escorts to take them inside the Green Zone, a walled-off area that houses the prime minister's office and the U.S. and other foreign embassies."

Above is  22 dead from the attack on the ministry (20 dead from spokesperson plus 2 dead -- the suicide bombers) and plus the ones in the paragraph above that comes to 101 dead.  There's also 127 noted as injured.

Duraid Salman and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) note Nouri announced today that the assault on Anbar is "nearing the end."

Which means what?

Two more weeks?


Iraq's supposed to hold parliamentary elections April 30th.  Those ballots have to start being printed March 1st.  That's 23 days from now.

As the assault continues, into its third month, this started in December, Karl Vick (Time magazine) asks:

What has changed? Not as much as hoped from a U.S. investment of well over $1 trillion. Iraqis no longer have an American occupation to resist, but combatants find ample fuel in the sectarianism that claimed  50,000 lives there from 2006 to 2008. The situation is aggravated on the one hand by the exclusionary performance of the Shiite-heavy government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s, and the resurgence of Sunni extremism in the heavily sectarian civil war in neighboring Syria, which has spilled across the border. Last month Iraq’s deputy interior minister said al-Qaeda-linked forces now back in Fallujah, 44 miles west of the capital, held weapons “huge and advanced and frankly enough to occupy Baghdad.” 

Today, the US State Dept issued the following:

Joint Statement of the Iraq-U.S. Joint Coordination Committee on Energy

February 5, 2014

The Governments of the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America reaffirmed their commitment to joint cooperation in the areas of oil production and export, natural gas, electricity resiliency and reliability, clean energy, and critical energy infrastructure protection during the second meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on Energy, held February 5, 2014 in Baghdad.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Dr. Hussain Al Shahristani chaired the meeting with U.S. co-Chairs Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman and Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the State Department Carlos Pascual.
During today’s meeting, both sides reiterated the significance of Iraq’s future energy sector development and its contribution to greater economic prosperity, as well as the valuable role that Iraq plays in providing a steady flow of petroleum resources to global markets. Both sides lauded Iraq’s offshore installation of the central metering manifold platform for the new single point moorings (SPMs) and recognized Iraq’s bold plans to increase further its oil production and exports.
The delegations discussed Iraq’s Integrated National Energy Strategy; opportunities to strengthen production and export infrastructure in order to meet Iraq’s mid- and long-range export goals; Iraqi and U.S. lessons learned in the field of natural gas capture and distribution; and best practices from the United States and the region.
The two sides discussed the importance of improving the protection of critical energy infrastructure for oil, natural gas, and electricity installations. To this end, Iraq and the United States are embarking on a significant new area of cooperation by having experts from the U.S. Departments of Energy and State work with Iraq to develop approaches to protect Iraq’s energy infrastructure from terrorist attack or natural disaster.
The two governments discussed the importance of supporting Iraq’s efforts to harness its vast natural gas resources. They reviewed the status of Iraq’s work to capture natural gas that is currently flared and redirect it to meet Iraq’s growing energy demand. We have agreed to form a new working group under the JCC focused on combining mobile power generation technologies with reduction in gas flaring. We hope to engage both government and industrial actors in bringing forward rapid, deployable solutions. The delegations also discussed continued efforts to build Iraqi Government capacity to oversee and regulate the natural gas sector, including through programs under the Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program. The U.S. delegation discussed the current development of shale gas resources and its impact on international markets.
For its part, the United States expressed its continued support of Iraq’s energy sector, committing to workshops and technical assistance that built upon the success of earlier programs. One such earlier program provided 230 key engineers and managers in Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity on best practices in energy security, operations, maintenance, and safety. We have agreed to form a new working group under the JCC on the roles energy efficiency and renewable energy can play in meeting electricity needs, including energy efficient standards and business models for renewable energy.
The JCC on Energy was established by the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between Iraq and the United States to strengthen the two nations’ strategic partnership on a variety of initiatives. The United States hosted the first JCC on Energy in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2012 at the Department of Energy. The November 1, 2013 meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Vice President Joseph Biden, reaffirmed the value of the JCC on Energy. The Republic of Iraq and the United States committed to convening the next JCC on Energy in Washington, D.C., at a date to be agreed.

Quickly.  In yesterday's snapshot, I stated, "Oil. Well someone might want to inform the State Dept that currently Iraq's shipment of oil to Jordan has ceased due to the assault Anbar. Maybe that will give our 'diplomatic geniuses' -- who, remember, are now the government department responsible for Iraq -- a needed push to attempt to stop the assault on Anbar."

Proof insisted an e-mailer.  I had none.  I was going by what a US Senator told me in private yesterday.  But today, today, you've got a news story on it.  Raheem Salman, Ahmed Rasheed, Isabel Coles and Jason Neely (Reuters) report: "Trucked exports of oil from Iraq to neighboring Jordan have been halted due to deteriorating security in Anbar province where militants have overrun the city of Falluja, an oil ministry spokesman said."  There's your proof.

Now this:

US House Rep Jon Runyan:  Today's hearings will focus on technological incentives  initiatives of the Veterans Benefits Administration as well as the secondary effects of those initiatives.  Specifially, we'll hear information on the status of the Veterans Benefit Management System 6.0 release and the Veterans Relationships Management System including E-Benefits.  We will also address the recently implemented secure electronic transition of service treatment records between health care artifacts in the image management solution in the Dept of Defense and VA's VBMS.  Additionally, the Subcommittee will seek information on VA's Work Credit System within the new electronic framework of their regional offices and the national work que, the propose rule of VA as it relates to the standardized forms. Many of these technological advances will reduce the reliance on paper processes and were designed to simplify and streamline the VA's services to veterans, their families and survivors.

I would like to cover that hearing, I was at it this afternoon.  There may or may not be time for it tomorrow.
If there's not, I'll see if there's a chance of covering it at Third on Sunday.  And he was speaking this afternoon as he Chaired the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

jomana karadsheh

saad abedine