Thursday, February 05, 2015

That still not published Iraq Inquiry report

John Chilcot is useless.  If this was ever in doubt, Nicholas Watt (Guardian) makes this clear:

Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq war inquiry, said on Wednesday that he was unable to set a date for the publication of his report as it emerged that some witnesses have received papers from the inquiry running into hundreds of pages.
As he faced intense questions from MPs over the delay in the publication of his report, Chilcot blamed the holdup in part on “very long and difficult and challenging discussions” with two successive cabinet secretaries over the release of secret government documents, including correspondence between Tony Blair and George Bush.

The report should have been released years ago.

Chilcot should have raised a stink publicly.

Instead, he stayed silent and useless.

Best guess, when the report is finally released, it too will be silent and useless.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 4, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Shi'ite militias -- insists the minister of Iraq's Human Rights Ministry -- have killed only a 'tiny' number of Sunnis, the nominee for US Secretary of Defense is concerned about Iran's influence in Iraq and wanting to arm the CIA-backed 'rebels' in Ukraine, and much more.

Remember when the media used to mock the way Sarah Palin spoke when answering questions?

"And to -- uh I-I-I think the uh-uh-uh the-the strategy connects, ends and means -- and our ends with respect to uh  ISIL needs to be it's lasting defeat.  Uh,  I say lasting because it's important when they get defeated and they stay defeated.  Uh, and, uh, that is why it's important that, uh, we have, uh, those on the ground there who will ensure they stay defeated once  defeated."

And to really underscore that statement by Ashton Carter, let's note that it was in response to this question from Senator John McCain, "What do you understand the strategy to be?"

Again, the answer was:

And to -- uh I-I-I think the uh-uh-uh the-the strategy connects, ends and means -- and our ends with respect to uh  ISIL needs to be it's lasting defeat.  Uh,  I say lasting because it's important when they get defeated and they stay defeated.  Uh, and, uh, that is why it's important that, uh, we have, uh, those on the ground there who will ensure they stay defeated once  defeated.

This morning the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing.  Senator John McCain is the Committee Chair and Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.  They heard from only one witness:  Ashton Carter,  the nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense.

Yes, it's time for a new Secretary of Defense.

It's the start of year seven of Barack's eight years as president and that means a new Secretary of Defense, apparently.

Already, his tenure has seen Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel serve as Secretary of Defense.

So, if confirmed, Ashton Carter will be the fourth Secretary of Defense in the administration.

For context, let's turn to Bill Clinton's terms.

Bill was elected president twice (1992 and 1996).

In his eight years, he had three Defense Secretaries: Les Aspin, William Perry and William Cohen.

Aspin was a mistake.  He had health issues which got worse in his brief tenure and he also had a highly embarrassing public moment (the Mogadishu attack which left eighteen US service members dead and over seventy injured) which led Bill to ask for Aspin's resignation.

Barack's asked for no resignations (as far as we know) from Gates, Panetta or Hagel.  He just can't seem to keep them.  Maybe he should be singing "Shake It Off"?

I go on too many dates
But I can't make them stay
That's what people say
-- "Shake It Off," written by Taylor Swift, first appears on her 1989.

Carter's biography at DoD is as follows:

Ashton B. Carter served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense from October 2011 to December 2013.
Previously, Dr. Carter served as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics from April 2009 until October 2011.  As Under Secretary, Dr. Carter led the Department’s efforts to accelerate the fulfillment of urgent operational needs; increase the Department’s buying power; and strengthen the nation¹s defenses against emerging threats.
Over the course of his career in public service, Dr. Carter has four times been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal.  For his contributions to intelligence, Dr. Carter was awarded the Defense Intelligence Medal.
Dr. Carter earned bachelor's degrees in physics and in medieval history from Yale University, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. 
Prior to his most recent government service, Dr. Carter was chair of the International and Global Affairs faculty at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Co-Director of the Preventive Defense Project.   Dr. Carter was also Senior Partner at Global Technology Partners, a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, a member of the Board of Trustees of the MITRE Corporation and the Advisory Boards of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratories and the Draper Laboratory, and an advisor to Goldman Sachs.
During the Clinton Administration, Dr. Carter was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.  From 1990 until 1993, Dr. Carter was Director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Chairman of the Editorial Board of International Security.  Previously, he held positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and Rockefeller University.
Dr. Carter is a member of the President’s Management Council and the National Council on Federal-Labor-Management Relations. He has previously served on the White House Government Accountability and Transparency Board, the Defense Science Board, the Defense Policy Board, the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board, and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.  
Dr. Carter is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Diplomacy and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Physical Society.
In addition to authoring articles, scientific publications, government studies, and Congressional testimonies, Dr. Carter has co-edited and co-authored eleven books.

Dr. Carter is married to Stephanie Carter and has two grown children.

His wife Stephanie sat behind him this morning and fidgeted throughout the (very long) hearing.

Various issues came up throughout the hearing.  We'll note this exchange on Iraq.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: So, the Middle East, do you believe the most immediate threat there to US interests in the region is ISIL?

Ashton Carter: Uh, uh-uh-uh-uh, I hesitate to, uh-uh-uh, ISIL only because in the back of my mind is Iran as well.  Uh-uh-uh, so I think that we have two immediate, substantial dangers, uh, in the Middle East.  Uh, one is ISIL and one is Iran.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: In terms of our current military operations, they are clearly directed at ISIL is that --

Ashton Carter:  That's true.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: -- the appropriate response at this moment to the threats in the region.

Ashton Carter:  It is. 

Ranking Member Jack Reed: And as you point out, there are two theaters.  One is Iraq where we have more traction and the other is Syria.  So you would think in terms of responding to the threat that our actions or our vigorous support of the current Iraqi government is appropriate in responding to this ISIL threat?

Ashton Carter:  It is appropriate if I -- as I said -- if I -- if, uh, -- whether and how to improve it will be my first job if I'm confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: One of the issues  -- particular with respect to Iraq --  is that not only  improvement as you suggest in your comments, the longterm defeat, uh, of ISIL rests not just on military operations but on political arrangements.  And what we've witnessed in Iraq particularly was a political arrangement that consciously and deliberately degraded the Sunni population.  At least, that's there perception.  And it gave rise.  So would you acknowledge that part of a strategy has to be constituting an Iraqi government that is perceived by its own people as being a bit fairer and inclusive?

Ashton Carter: Absolutely.  That's what the previous government of Iraq did not do and that was instrumental in their military collapse.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: And one of the issues that complicates, you've pointed out, in terms of Iran being a strategic issue for the United States in the region is their relative influence in Iraq and throughout the region was enhanced over the last several years by the government in Iraq, by the [Nouri al-] Maliki government.  Is that accurate?

Ashton Carter:  That is accurate, yes.

Ranking Member Jack Reed:  So we are now in a position of.trying to essentially contain the regional ambitions of the Iranians and kinetically defeat the Sunni radical Islamists.  Is that the strategy?

Ashton Carter: Yes, that sounds right.

Ranking Member Jack Reed:  And you understand that?  And that to you is a coherent strategy?

Ashton Carter: It is, uh, yes.

Ranking Member Jack Reed: Uh, now that means that your prioritizing -- or the administration is prioritizing these actions you've talked about in building, uh, over time, capability in Syria. Uh, in terms of using US resources in addressing the most serious threats, is that a coherent response in your mind?

Ashton Carter: Uh, I think it is the beginning of a, uh, strategic response.  Uh, I think that, uh, as I noted on the, uh, Syrian side of the border, the, uh, assembling of the force that is going to keep ISIL defeated. Uh, there is, uh -- We're in the early stage of trying to build that force.  We're participating in the uh-uh building of that force, I think it's fair to say that we're at an earlier stage there.  On the Iraqi side, we have the existing Iraqi force.

Senator Jack Reed:  Let me --

Ashton Carter:  Uh, uh, mister, uh, Senator Reed -- 

Senator Jack Reed:  Please.

Ashton Carter:  Let me add one other thing.  Maybe it's something I missed in your, uh, line of uh-uh questioning.  There is, uh, an issue, uh-uh, looming over this which is Iraq in the region.  I mean Iran in the whole region.  That is why I pointed it out at the beginning.  That is a serious complication. 

There are other moments I'd like to note about the hearing.

I'm not really concerned with his position on the Ukraine -- but then I'm not selling war on the Ukraine.

The US press corps is which is why they ran like crazy with that aspect of the hearing.

They can't stop beating off and fingering themselves to the thought of a full blown US invasion of Ukraine.  They're that sick and that nutty.

Carter insisted that he did support sending arms to the so-called 'rebels' in Ukraine and, in one exchange, he added "lethal arms" at that.

If they were less hot and bothered over war on Ukraine, they might have wondered about his wording and if that reflected on his competency?

I have no idea if it does or not.

People can get flustered speaking off the top of their heads and clearly Ashton Carter was flustered throughout the hearing.

But if someone's going to be over the Defense Dept, I kind of expect that they would grasp that any arms sent to be used in battle would be "lethal arms."

Or is Carter proposing water guns and super soaker water blasters be sent to the CIA-backed 'rebels' in the Ukraine?

Equally true, it doesn't matter what Carter thinks.

US policy in terms of whether to go to war will continue to be decided by the president and the national security advisor and others -- the others and the national security advisor were, of course, neither elected nor confirmed by an elected body.

The American people had no say in them.

That's not how it's supposed to be in a democracy.

And careful readers of Robert Gates and Leon Panetta's recent autobiographies caught what the press refused to explore: how little the Secretary of Defense can impact foreign policy.

What the person holding the post can impact is regulations and rules for those serving.

With that in mind, we'll note this exchange.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: [. . .] but specifically, let's focus on the military sexual assault issue, which you know, I'm very passionate about trying to solve this scourge.  One of the concerns I have is that last year, we had 20,000 cases of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact within the military.  And I would like your view as to whether you believe that level of sexual assault today is still the good order and discipline we would want from our services?

Ashton Carter:  No, Senator, it's not. And I-I use the word "passion."  I have the same passion you do.  This-this problem of sexual assault is something that is -- It persists in our military.  It's widespread in our society but it's particularly offensive in the military community because uh-uh-uhm the military community ethos is one of -- one of honor.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:  Mm-hmm.

Ashton Carter: And uh-uh trust.  You have to trust the person who is, so to speak, in the foxhole next to you.  These are violations of honor and trust.  It-it-it -- Also in military life, we put people in positions -- we put them in positions of austere deployment -- of a situation where the hierarchy of military life is a necessity in-in battle.  And these also provide opportunities -- these -- this-this military context for predators.  So it is more offensive in military, uh, life even than civilian life.  And we've-we've got to root it out.  And I-I know that many members of this Committee, but you especially, Senator, have-have led in that regard.  And I'm-I'm grateful for the, uhm -- for the thoughts and, uhm, frankly for-for keeping the heat on. I-I-I-I -- If I'm confirmed, I'll feel that heat and I'll-I'll understand it and-and be with it. 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:  The one statistic I was particularly concerned about in the most recent report is that in all those who were willing to report the assaults openly were retaliated against.  62% of those who reported these crimes were retaliated against -- experienced some form of retaliation.  So I am highly concerned that the military is still failing in living up to their zero tolerance policy.  Do you agree?

Ashton Carter: I-I-I-I  do agree that retaliation is a dimension of the problem that be-  we-- uh, to me at least is-is-is, uh, uh.uh,uh, be-be-becoming increasingly apparent.  Uh, this is a problem, if I may -- if I may say -- and you know this because you've worked so-so hard on it.-- but that the more we dig into it, the more dimensions of it we come to understand.  And I think the idea that victims are retaliated against not only by the hierarchy above them but by their peers is something that is unacceptable that we have to combat also.  And the survey that you referred to indicated that that is widespread and we need to get at that. 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:  I understand from your testimony that you place a premium on chain of command and I fully understand that for combat situations the chain of command is not only essential but necessary in every respect.  Uhm, I would like you though to consider all options for how you can reform the military justice system to actually professionalize it, make it more effective.  And when our allies have reformed their military justice system to guarantee more civil liberties and to professionalize it and to take out biases, they've not seen diminution in the ability to train troops, to instill good order and discipline within the troops and to do their jobs.  I would ask you that you would keep an open mind to look at all possible solutions for improving our criminal justice system within the military

Ashton Carter:  I-I will.  

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:  Thank you.  Another concern I have is in terms of the issue of how we can create opportunities for women in combat. One of the issues that I have looked at is how each of the services being able to open those positions -- opening all positions to women in combat because, as you know, in order to become promoted within the military, often times combat missions are required and having certain roles that require combat is required for promotion.  Are you committed to allowing women to serve in all positions and to gender-neutral standards for each of the services. 

Ashton Carter:  I-I'm certainly committed to gender-neutral, uh, standards.  Uh, the forces -- What I do know is this: That the, uh, services are examining whether there are any positions, uh-uh-uh, in the military that should not be open to women. I strongly incline towards opening them all to women but I'm also respectful of the circumstances and of-of-of-of professional military judgment in this regard, I've not been involved in those studies.  If I am confirmed, I'd want to confirm with our own leaders in the Dept of Defense, with you and others who've thought carefully about that-that problem and try to come to a view.

The issues Senator Gillibrand raised are serious ones.

And as for the military justice issue, the outgoing Secretary of Defense (Hagel) refused to consider military justice being reformed so that criminals were punished like criminals.

He wanted to keep it a 'good old boy' system where a convicted rapist, found guilty in a military trial, could be set free by a high ranking general.

And this did happen.

It's outrageous and Senator Gillibrand has led the charge against it.

At it's most basic in a democracy, justice should be uniform.  There should not be a standard for rapists in the civilian world and a different one for them in the military world.  The notion that a convicted rapist was set free under 'military justice' is repugnant and undemocratic.

This is an issue that a Secretary of Defense can lead on and reform or can block any changes to.  The next Defense Secretary will have tremendous power over this outcome.  It's a shame the press was so uninterested in the exchange.

There are many other exchanges from the hearing I'd like to note if we have time tomorrow and/or Friday.

Turning to Iraq, AFP reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government is stating that, from June 10th through February 3rd, that close to 1,000 Peshmerga were killed in battle with the Islamic State and another 4,569 were left injured.  The loss of any life is tragic but what makes this news even more important is that this is the body that is seen as having its act together in Iraq.

Yes, there are reports of abuses by the Peshmerga and that's nothing new to this year or last.  But in terms of fighting and winning battles, it's the Peshmerga that's accomplished things.

In today's hearing, nominee Ashton Carter offered his take on the failure of the Iraqi military controlled by Baghdad:

Ranking Member Jack Reed: One of the issues  -- particular with respect to Iraq --  is that not only  improvement as you suggest in your comments, the longterm defeat, uh, of ISIL rests not just on military operations but on political arrangements.  And what we've witnessed in Iraq particularly was a political arrangement that consciously and deliberately degraded the Sunni population.  At least, that's there perception.  And it gave rise.  So would you acknowledge that part of a strategy has to be constituting an Iraqi government that is perceived by its own people as being a bit fairer and inclusive?

Ashton Carter: Absolutely.  That's what the previous government of Iraq did not do and that was instrumental in their military collapse.

Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister and forever thug, has offered one lunatic conspiracy theory after another for why the Iraqi military deserted when the Islamic State attempted to seize Mosul (and did seize Mosul -- which they continue to hold).  But most observers and commentators take the position that Carter expressed -- Nouri's own divisive actions led to the military being weakened (including his firing generals and replacing them with flunkies loyal to him because he was always convinced the military was going to overthrow him so he didn't want them to be too powerful).

The Iraqi military has been 'beefed up' in the eyes of some -- due to bringing in Shi'ite militias -- armed thugs.  The Badr Brigade is but one example. And of course it means that it was all a lie.  Nouri used the Accountability and Justice Commission to toss out political rivals, to keep them from running in elections.  And insisted that this or that rival (usually Sunni, but not always) was connected to a militia and you couldn't run for office if your organization continued to operate a militia.

Nouri began bringing them in a few years back.  They remain under new prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

Last week, Ahmed Rasheed, Stephen Kalin and Robin Pomeroy (Reuters) reported, "Sunni politicians and tribal chiefs from Iraq's eastern Diyala province accused Shi'ite militias on Monday of killing more than 70 unarmed civilians who had fled clashes with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants."  And then Ahmed Rasheed, Ned Parker and Stephen Kalin (Reuters) reported on the testimony of the survivors.  The testimony makes clear militias were involved.

The US government needs to insist this stops.

Unless, of course, the point is to keep Iraq unstable.  If that's the real point, then by all means continue to look the other way.

Zaid Sabah and Jack Fairweather (Bloomberg News) report on the Shi'ite militias:

“There is gross and widespread sectarian cleansing,” said one of Iraq’s vice presidents, Ayad Allawi, by e-mail while traveling in Amman, referring to the areas controlled by Shiite militias that the government has turned to for its defense from Islamic State. Allawi said he had been approached by victims and taken their concerns to the government.
The risk is growing that Iraq -- the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ second-biggest producer -- will fragment along sectarian lines, undermining the authority of U.S.-backed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and reigniting the country’s recent civil war, according to Wathiq al-Hashimi, a political analyst in Baghdad.

“The government turned to militias to defend Baghdad, but now they’ve lost control of them,” said Hashimi. “The use of ethnic cleansing by militias is destroying what belief Sunnis had in piecing the country back together.”

As this takes place, the Iraqi government makes an 'interesting' move with regards to militias and the UAE.  Fahd al-Zayabi (Asharq Al-Aswat) reports:

 Iraq has asked the Emirati government to remove an influential Shi’ite political party and its militia from its list of terrorist organizations.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday, Iraq’s minister for human rights, Mohammed Mahdi Al-Bayati, said that the Iraqi government had asked Abu Dhabi to reconsider its decision to blacklist the Badr Organization led by Iraq’s former transport minister Hadi Al-Ameri.

We've warned before about Mohammed Mahdi al-Bayati and the laughable Ministry of Human Rights.  But for those who still don't get it, let's note this from last December, Roula Khalaf (Financial Times of London) reporting on her face-to-face with al-Bayati, "The discussion takes an even more worrying turn, however, when we talk about why his country is facing this predicament. He absolves the former government of abuses against Iraq's Sunni minority, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the factors that allowed Isis to thrive, and also dismisses the number of human rights violations committed by Shia militias as 'tiny'."

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

If Barack Could Tweet

If Barack Could Tweet (soon to air on HBO -- with segments directed by Cher, Ellen  and more).

  • We are now burning people alive in iraq and syria by missile in revenge of pilot.we'll not allow any1 to be more barbaric than us.

  • I'm waiting for the day when Barack's finally called out for a 'plan' that is nothing but dropping bombs non-stop, destroying the people, destroying the land.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Tuesday, February 3, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Islamic State is in the news for another execution, the spring Mosul operation is pushed back on the observations of a US general, a US general tells Congress Iraq needs that political solution -- you know, the one the White House has forgotten about, and much more.

    AFP-JIJI and Reuters note, "Islamic State militants released a video Tuesday appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive, the jihadis’ most brutal execution yet of a foreign hostage."  The pilot thought to be dead is Jordanian military Lt Muath al-Kasaebeh whose plane was either shot down or crashed on its own December 24th.  All Iraq News notes the burning took place while Muath al-Kasebeh was locked in a cage.

    Michelle Shepard (Toronto Star) points out, "The Islamic State had reportedly set a deadline of Jan. 28 saying he would be killed if Jordan did not surrender Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman incarcerated for her role in a 2005 bombing attack in Jordan"

    The Oman Tribune notes, "In Amman, State television said Kassasbeh was already killed a month ago."  Reuters quotes Jordanian military spokesperson Colonel Mamdouh al-Ameri stating, "The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan."

    The Islamic State was said to be seeking a swap, the Lieutenant for failed suicide bomber.  On tonight's The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, video and audio), Gwen Ifill spoke with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace' Marwan Muasher and the New York Times' Rod Nordland.  Excerpt:

    GWEN IFILL:  Rod Nordland, we are now learning that, in fact, we’re hearing that this Jordanian pilot was killed a month ago, even though negotiations were under way just until, we’re told, this week. Is there some sense now that this was nothing that was ever going to be fixed or that this was futile?

    ROD NORDLAND, The New York Times: Well, I think it’s clear that Jordan’s position they had to show proof of life was informed by their belief that he was already dead, and they weren’t going to release this terrorist, Sajida Rishawi, from prison if they thought that he really was dead. And that now appears to have been the case.

    GWEN IFILL: Were the — was his family still hopeful that he was alive?

    ROD NORDLAND: They were really hopeful. They were hopeful up until a few seconds before word came that this video was out showing his death in this really horrible manner, burned to death in a cage.
    As it happens, my colleague Ranya Kadri was sitting with the mother and the wife of the pilot when the word came, and it was kind of an unfortunate insight into just how devastating this kind of news is to families and the loved ones of somebody this happens to.
    They were just completely hysterical, pulling their hair out, screaming. And it just really brought it home, because I was actually on the phone with Ranya when this all happened. And then, when we saw the video, it was really — it was just about as despicable a thing as you can imagine.

    GWEN IFILL: Marwan Muasher, does this tit-for-tat diplomacy, now we’re hearing the woman prison will also be executed, is that — has that replaced diplomacy?

    MARWAN MUASHER, Former Foreign Minister, Jordan: Well, first of all, these are unconfirmed reports, but there is no question in my mind that there is a state of anger and shock today among all Jordanians and that there will probably be a public demand to execute this woman and three others also that are in Jordanian prisons.
    But let me point out that these are people who have already been condemned and sentenced to death, so they were awaiting execution for many, many years. And whether the government is going to retaliate in this way remains to be seen, but I think it will fall under public pressure to do so.

    GWEN IFILL: Does this put Jordan between kind of a rock and a hard place? It’s part of the coalition. At the same time, it’s taking in so many refugees, and at the same time so many recruits for ISIL are coming from Jordan.

    MARWAN MUASHER: Well, Jordan has been in a tough position.
    The king has made it clear that he regards this war not just as a military war against ISIS, but also a cultural war, a war of values, if you want, to determine who speaks on behalf of Islam. And I think that, whereas some people in Jordan didn’t take that message, and really, you know, it is estimated that maybe between 2,000 to 5,000 people are ideologically attached to ISIS, I think this message will resonate more, particularly after the horrible, horrible way in which the pilot was killed.

    Byron York (Washington Examiner) reports that Jordan's King Abdullah  met in DC today with House Armed Service Committee members and US House Rep Duncan Hunter quotes the king stating, "He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn't seen [. . .] They're starting more sorties tomorrow than they've ever had."

    That would be a change because the bombings had slacked off.  The World Tribune notes that the government in Jordan was already facing protests over their part in the US-led bombings of Iraq and, as a result:

    Jordan, under heavy domestic pressure, has sharply reduced air operations against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
    Diplomatic sources said the Hashemite kingdom has ordered a virtual suspension of air operations in the U.S.-led war against ISIL. They said the Royal Jordanian Air Force stopped all air strikes on ISIL in Iraq and Syria while approving limited reconnaissance operations along the kingdom’s border.

    This is the second Islamic State assassination to receive media attention in the last few days.  Peter Symonds (WSWS)  reports:

    The execution of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, as conveyed in a video released late Saturday night, is the latest atrocity to be carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It follows the beheading of another Japanese citizen, Haruna Yukawa, last week after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refused to pay a $200 million ransom for the two hostages.
    The callous slaying of Goto and Yukawa, despite the appeals of their families and friends, once again exposes the reactionary character of Islamist organisations like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Far from being engaged in an anti-imperialist struggle, they represent dissident sections of the Arab bourgeoisie that are seeking to refashion relations with the major powers. Their methods of terrorist attack and execution of innocent civilians play directly into the hands of imperialism.

    The killing of Goto immediately provoked a chorus of condemnation from the US and its allies, which have cynically seized on the executions as another justification for the renewed war in the Middle East. Washington, above all, is responsible for the creation of ISIS, which was spawned by the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and then financed and armed by America’s Middle Eastern proxies as part of the Syrian civil war to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

    Yesterday, Holly Williams (CBS News -- link is text and video) reported on the Bard Brigade -- Shi'ite thugs fighting in Iraq -- fighting the Islamic State and fighting any Sunni civilians they can get near.  Williams characterized them as possibly "effective" and then went on to note last week's massacre of Sunnis (over 70) carried out by Shi'ite militia members (according to survivors).

    That renders them ineffective.

    There is no chance that they "may be effective."

    They could kill X number of IS members a day, they would still not be effective.

    That's because their targeting of Sunnis is exactly why the Islamic State got a foothold in Iraq and continues to thrive there.

    As long as the Iraqi government continues to use these thugs, the Islamic State continues.

    This is basic but Jen Psaki prefers to to play the public fool at the US State Dept such as today in the press briefing when she thought she was 'cute' during this exchange with Al Quds' Said Arikat.

    QUESTION: Now, I know this is probably a question better addressed to the Pentagon, but there’s a great deal of talk about postponing the much-anticipated spring offensive, but there’s a political dimension to it. It seems that a great deal of differences between Sunni and Shiite --

    MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to – in Iraq?

    QUESTION: Yes, yeah. In the fight against ISIL, in the fight or in the effort to reclaim or retake, liberate Mosul. So there seems to be a lot of bickering and infighting among Sunni and Shiites and so on. My question to you – that General Austin was there, of course, Mr. McGurk was there the week before, I think, or maybe a couple weeks before. What are you doing in terms of bringing all these different points of views together, having the Kurds, the Peshmerga, and the central forces working together?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say on the first part I have no confirmation of that or validation of that, and my suspicion is your information is inaccurate.
    On the second piece, there are a range of steps that we’re taking. Obviously, we work closely with the Government of Iraq. As you know, one of the efforts that the anti-ISIL coalition is very focused on is not only boosting their capacity but taking steps to go after ISIL in Iraq. We have – and you are right; most of this in terms of technicalities is best posed to the Pentagon, and they can get into specifics – let me finish – as they often do. And so I would certainly encourage you to pose this question to them.
    But I would also add that, in addition to the efforts of the coalition countries, that Prime Minister Abadi has been taking steps to – greater – create greater unity to better incorporate different forces underneath the Iraqi Security Forces. That is something that has been ongoing. It’s not new now, but they’re continuing to take steps on.

    QUESTION: I guess my point, or the thrust of my question, is the following: That while there was a great deal of enthusiasm, let’s say, a month ago among the Sunni tribes who was working with Prime Minister Abadi, there is less of that enthusiasm because they feel that much of what they have been promised has not been delivered. They are a bit skeptical about the national guard that is being formed and so on.
    I wonder if you could – if you have any information, to begin with, that you can share with us on this.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I have nothing to validate your view or your opinion, and I haven’t --

    QUESTION: It is not opinion. I mean, that’s --

    MS. PSAKI: -- seen those reports that you’ve mentioned. So I don’t think anyone should take that as fact. The national guard is part of the Iraqi Government’s long-term restructuring plan of the Iraqi Security Forces into a federalized security force. This is something that they’ve asked for United States – the United States for assistance to help further define and develop the program. We’re working with the government and providing advice based on our previous experiences. The national guard would not replace, but rather augment a restructured multi-sect and multiethnic federal security force as well as address a key demand that many leaders from across Iraq have called for over the last 10 years. It’s been in the process of being implemented for a couple of months now, but obviously, it’s not at full completion.

    Poor Jen.  She didn't come off cute, she came off like an ass -- and an uninformed one at that.

    For example, this morning Alice Fordham (NPR's Morning Edition) reported today on this reality and notes, "[Sheikh Ahmed] Dabash's views are typical of a broad spectrum of Sunnis in Iraq Islamists, tribes, one-time supporters of Saddam Hussein.  They feel victimized by Iraq's Shi'ite-led government and many fight against the Shi'ite-dominant army either joining ISIS or aligning with them -- even if they find the group extreme."

    Fordham notes how the US feels the (still not formed) Iraqi national guard is the solution but Sunni leaders feel differently.

    Jen Psaki missed that report -- how uninformed and ignorant is she?

    Al Quds reports the long planned spring offensive to retake Mosul just got kicked back and the decision was made after US Gen Lloyd Austin shared his observations about the current state of Iraq following his visit to the country last week.

    There is no plan, there is no forward movement.

    And the window for new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to show change has been closing for some time.

    We've noted that here, we've noted the lack of a political solution in Iraq and we've noted the White House's inability to aid Haider in pursing a political solution.  Instead, US President Barack Obama has not just used the Pentagon to plan military strikes on Iraq and to build the so-called 'coalition,' he's diverted the State Dept from its mission of diplomacy to make it a mouth piece for a militant theocracy that worships exploding bombs.

    And how's that working out?

    David Alexander and Lisa Shumaker (Reuters) report:

    "Quite frankly, we need to see in Iraq political outreach that addresses the fact that some 20 million Sunnis are disenfranchised with their government," Lieutenant General William Mayville told a hearing on global threats facing the United States.
    Mayville, director of operations for the Pentagon's Joint Staff, told lawmakers he endorsed the current steady, deliberate pace of efforts to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria because it gave the Iraqi government time to act politically, a step he said was necessary to resolve the crisis.
    "I think it is very, very important that the pace of operations be such that ... the military lines of effort don't get out in front of the political lines of effort that must be achieved in order to get an enduring solution here," he told a panel in the House of Representatives.

    It's February.

    Nothing's been accomplished but talk.

    Empty words from Haider.

    Like on September 13th when he got a swarm of positive press for announcing he was stopping the Iraqi military bombing of the Sunni residential neighborhoods in Falluja (War Crimes)/  But the bombings continued September 14th and they continue to this day.

    And, no, Sunnis in Iraq have no real reason to believe Haider al-Abadi represents change.

    Ned Parker and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) report, "Iraq's cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft law creating a national guard, which Sunni political figures have described as a necessary step to achieving national reconciliation."  "Draft law" is a bill.  Parliament passes laws.  So what happened is the Cabinet voted to pass a bill onto Parliament -- two in fact.

    One is the national guard measure.  The other is to put an end to the US-imposed de-Ba'athification.  Sunnis don't feel the measure passed by the Cabinet was enough.

    And they're probably right for many reasons, not the least of which is that the Justice and Accountability Commission which was supposed to have been disbanded following the 2006 elections has been morphing into a Parliamentary committee and doing so publicly and with little attention from the western press.  (They held a press conference last week.  Which US outlet reported on it or even noted it?  None.)

    This commission was supposed to dismantle in 2006.

    In 2007, Nouri signed off on the White House benchmarks that would end the de-Ba'athification (kicking Ba'ath Party members out of government and military posts).  This de-de-Ba'athification was not supposed to come about in a decade but while Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.

    He left in January of 2009, after Barack Obama was sworn in as president.

    And de-Ba'athifcation was never ended.

    And continues to this day.

    Then there is the rape and assault of Sunni girls and women in Iraq's jails and prisons.  There's all the Sunnis in prison because they were related to someone the forces had an arrest warrant for -- not for the daughters, sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters who they hauled off.  Tossing people in prison because you couldn't find the person you had the arrest warrant for.

    That's 'justice' in Iraq.  Still.

    And Haider hasn't done a damn thing to indicate that there's any change coming.

    Human Rights Watch issued a press release Monday which included:

    Unlawful deaths in Iraq skyrocketed in 2014 as emboldened militias and security forces carried out unfettered abuses against civilians and the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) brutally took thousands of civilian lives, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2015.
    Government-backed Shia militias headed security forces in leading the fight against ISIS. In their enhanced role, they carried out kidnappings, summary executions, torture, and mass displacements of thousands of families with impunity. In turn, ISIS grew in strength and carried out atrocities from beheadings to mass executions to sexual slavery of women. The government has not held anyone accountable for the abuses by these groups or its own forces.
    “Between state-sponsored militant groups and ISIS, the risk of falling victim to serious abuses has become all too common for many Iraqis,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “The Iraqi government urgently needs to move beyond window-dressing reforms so that it can win back public trust, confront the growing disaster that ISIS is unfolding in Iraq, and save Iraqis from an endless cycle of horrors.”
    In the 656-page world report, its 25th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth urges governments to recognize that human rights offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times, and that violating rights can spark or aggravate serious security challenges. The short-term gains of undermining core values of freedom and non-discrimination are rarely worth the long-term price.

    Government forces attacked largely peaceful demonstrations on December 20, 2013, sparking an armed conflict in Anbar province between local residents, Iraqi security forces, and multiple armed groups, including ISIS. The fighting, which included indiscriminate government firing and the use of barrel bombs on civilian areas, displaced close to 500,000 people and killed an unknown number of civilians. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as of December 2014, more than 1.9 million Iraqis were internally displaced due to conflict.

    The White House either doesn't want a political solution in Iraq or they're too stupid to figure out to work on one.  One thing is certain though: The Islamic State doesn't want a political solution in Iraq.

    If that happens, their support dries up, their presence in Iraq no longer has footing, no longer has backing.

    Moving over to the US for one more thing, today Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following:

    Gretchen Andersen
    Press Secretary
    Tel: 212-982-9699

    Washington D.C. (February 3, 2015) – Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, critical legislation that increases access to quality mental health care and combats veteran suicide. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), who spearheaded the bill, applauds members of the 114th Congress for the legislation’s swift, bipartisan passage and calls on President Obama to honor our nation’s commitment to our veterans with an urgent signing ceremony at the White House. The historic legislation is named after Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Clay Hunt, a Marine sniper who died by suicide in 2011. More than 20 veteran service organizations and partners such as the American Psychiatric Association support the legislation.

    Introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the bipartisan bill has a total of 53 cosponsors – 30 Democrats, 21 Republicans and two Independents. A full list of co-sponsors can be found here.

    “We are extremely grateful for the Senate passing this bill and all those who have worked so hard on it. While we are a little bittersweet, because it is too late for our son Clay, we are thankful knowing that this bill will save many lives,” said Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt. “No veteran should have to wait or go through bureaucratic red tape to get the mental health care they earned during their selfless service to our country. While this legislation is not a 100 percent solution, it is a huge step in the right direction.”

    “This is a tremendous day for our community,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “For too long the crisis of veteran suicide has been hidden in the shadows. This bill gives many veterans the new hope they so desperately need and demonstrates that our leaders are willing to give veterans the care they deserve. We call on President Obama to demonstrate his commitment to our veterans with a public signing ceremony. After being blocked by a lone Senator last session, our veteran members are relieved that we are now a huge step closer to reversing the trend that has taken far too many sons, daughters, friends and loved ones from us. We thank Senator McCain and Senator Blumenthal for their leadership in combating suicide and for reintroducing this vital bill. While we are thrilled about today’s vote, all of us must remember the sobering reality that necessitated this action: the invisible wounds of war and our nation’s initial failure to treat them.”

    Earlier this month, the U.S. House unanimously passed the House version of the measure, H.R. 203, sponsored by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

    Developed by IAVA and its allies on Capitol Hill, and driven by qualitative and qualitative data from IAVA’s annual member survey, the Clay Hunt SAV Act will:

    Increase Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand
    ● Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans.
    ● Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists.
    ● Extends Combat-Eligibility for mental health care services at VA for one-year, providing for increased access for veterans that may be suffering from conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

    Improve the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA
    ● Requires evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care.

    Develop a Community Support System for Veterans
    ● Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services.
    Over the past 10 years, IAVA has grown to become the leading advocate for veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization has put top issues for veterans on the map and jump-started historic changes, including passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, funding for health care at the VA, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, efforts to combat veteran suicide, and, in 2014, a national focus on the high VA disability claims backlog.

    Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.


    Tuesday, February 03, 2015

    TV critics

    "TV: How they pretend they care about racism" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):

    The trashing of Heigl is inexcusable all on its own.  It becomes even more downright offensive, however, when it means that Alfre Woodard's amazing acting is ignored in The Water Cooler Set's efforts to continue the trashing of Heigl.

    They don't even have the excuse that they're defending Shonda when they go after Maggie Q.

    And, make no mistake, they're tearing apart Maggie Q.

    The only Asian-American woman to carry an action TV show -- or one hour drama -- in US TV history is following up Nikita with Stalker on CBS.*

    Like Mandy Patikin, we've long criticized the violence in so many CBS vehicles, violence presented in a sexual manner.

    So if Stalker were the show The Water Cooler Set says it is, we would've long ago called it out.

    But it's not.

    It's a smart drama that needs to emphasize the continuing elements more.

    It is not an exploitation show.

    And Maggie Q alone should have earned it strong raves due to the work she's doing.

    But women don't get applauded by The Water Cooler Set, they get attacked.

    Viola Davis is applauded.

    Yes, but only after there was pushback when a TWCS-er wrote a highly offensive and insulting piece about her. 

    Ava and C.I. have written an amazing and important article.  As usual.

    We should all be wondering why it is that Viola Davis is being held up.

    She is talented and deserves praise.

    But it only came after she was trashed in the New York Times (by Alessandra Stanley) and elevating her appears to be the so-called 'critics' way of getting away with ignoring all the other women of color on TV.

    "Oh, I already wrote about Viola Davis!  I've done my bit!"

    That really seems to be the excuse.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Monday, February 2, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the UN releases their tolls for the dead and wounded in Iraq for January, Margaret Griffis offers real tolls, Dirk Adriaensens and BRussells Tribunal break the news that Iraq was the deadliest country for journalists in 2014, Haider al-Abadi and Nouri al-Maliki flap their gums, and much more.

    Dirk Adriaensens has updated  "Iraq: Media professionals assassinated in 2014." (BRussells Tribunal) to note that 2014 was even deadlier for journalists in Iraq than previously known:

    Here are those 17 reported cases of  assassinated media professionals in Iraq in 2014, making the country in 2014 again, as was the case in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013, the deadliest place on earth for media professionals:

    17- Ali Rasham, 15 November 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)
    Martyrdom of journalist Ali Rasham, in Jurf Al Saqhar Battles in Babylon Province.

    16- Muhanad al-Akidi, 13 October 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)
    Iraqi Kurdish journalist working for the Sada news agency, was killed Monday at the Al-Ghazlani camp in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Islamic State (IS) militants on Monday evening executed an Iraqi-Kurdish journalist in north-west Iraq.
    Muhannad Akidi was shot in the head and killed by IS militants in Alghazlani camp, south of Mosul, a representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said in a statement.
    Akidi was kidnapped two months ago by IS in Mosul. He worked as a reporter for a local news agency and presented programs on domestic television.
    Medical staff in Mosul on Monday night were said to be preparing his body to be returned to his family, according to the Abu Dhabi based Erem News.

    15- Ammar Amir Lattoufi, 12 October 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)
    Martyrdom of Al Anbar TV satellite Channel photographer, Ammar Amir Lattoufi, while accompanying Al Anbar commander of Police, General Ahmad Saddaq Al Dulaimi, who was also martyred in an IED explosion north of Ramadi City.

    14- Raed Al-Azzawi, 10 October 2014
    Islamic State militants killed al-Azzawi, a cameraman for the local Sama Salaheddin channel, six weeks after he was kidnapped, according to the station, news reports, and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate. Al-Azzawi was killed with his brother and two other residents of Samra village, near Tikrit, the reports said. There were conflicting reports on how he was killed. Family members said he was shot, according to Al-Jazeera, but other news reports cited an anonymous security source saying the victims were beheaded.
    The journalist was kidnapped by Islamic State militants in early September 2014, the director of the station, Marwan Naji Jabara, told CPJ. There were conflicting reports on the exact date of his kidnapping.
    It is not clear why Islamic State militants kidnapped and killed al-Azzawi. Jabara told CPJ that al-Azzawi was accused of helping the Iraqi Air Force target Islamic State positions, an allegation Jabara denied. Islamist militant groups including the Islamic State have previously accused journalists of spying as an excuse or rationale for abducting them, according to CPJ research.
    CPJ has documented numerous cases of Iraqi insurgents targeting journalists who have any contact with government officials, including the security forces. Jabara told CPJ that the channel's support of the Iraqi armed forces leads to constant threats by insurgents, including the Islamic State group. After insurgents took control of Tikrit in June 2014, Sama Salaheddin's office was raided and its equipment looted, Jabara told CPJ.
    Al-Azzawi had also previously worked in the media center for the governor of Salaheddin province, according to news reports, and he may have been targeted for that reason as well. Insurgents have previously targeted individuals working for the government as press officers, according to CPJ research.
    It is also possible al-Azzawi was kidnapped after criticizing the group. Jabara told CPJ that some citizens in Samra were upset with Islamic State's control over their village, especially as it drew bombing from the Iraqi military. According to Jabara, al-Azzawi told his friends that the militants, including one of his relatives who is a senior leader in the group, should leave Samra to stop the bombing.

    13- Ali Ghazzay Al Miyyahi, 10 September 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)

    Martyrdom of Editorial Secretary and Union Member of Qutouf Newspaper, Ali Ghazzay Al Miyyahi, with his wife in an IED explosion in New Baghdad District, south east Baghdad.

    12- Fatimah Omar Abdul Kareem, 22 August 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)
    Martyrdom of Iraq’s Journalist Syndicate Member Fatimah Omar Abdul Kareem in and IED explosion in Central Baghdad.

    11- Leyla Yildizhan (Deniz Firat), 08 August 2014
    Yildizhan, a Kurdish journalist who also goes by Deniz Firat, was killed when shrapnel from a mortar shell hit her in the chest, according to news reports. Yildizhan was covering the clashes in the Mukhmur district between Kurdish forces and insurgents with the Islamic State, an Al-Qaeda splinter group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, the Firat News Agency said.
    Firat, who was from the Kurdish city of Van in eastern Turkey, was embedded with Kurdish forces, according to Rahman Gharib, general coordinator for the local press freedom group Metro Center to Defend Journalists, and news reports. She was reporting for the Firat News Agency, an outlet based outside Turkey pro-Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) station. She also reported for other several pro-Kurdish TV stations, including Sterk TV, Med NUÇE, andRonahi TV.
    Firat's body was sent back to her hometown in Çaldıran district of Van in Turkey for herfuneral, according to news reports.

    10- Khalid Ali Hamada, 15 June 2014
    Hamada, cameraman for Al-Ahad TV, was killed in an attack in northern Diyala province, the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate and Iraqi news outlets reported. Moataz Jamil, a correspondent for the station, was also injured in the attack. Al-Ahad TV is affiliated with the Shia militant group League of the Righteous, according to Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland who focuses on Shia Islamist groups.
    The station reported that Hamada was killed as the crew reported on military operations in Diyala province between what it called the "Islamic Resistance" and "terrorists." CNN reported that Iraqi security forces, backed by Shia militias, clashed with suspected ISIS gunmen in Diyala that day.
    The deadly attack came amid escalating clashes between the Iraqi government and its allies against an insurgency spearheaded by Islamic State, an Al-Qaeda splinter group formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS).
    There were conflicting reports on how Hamada was killed, with some outlets reporting the journalists were hit by a mortar shell while others said gunmen drove up to them and opened fire with automatic weapons.
    Al-Ahad TV did not provide details on the attack or an update on the health status of Jamil, the wounded journalist. The station did not immediately respond to CPJ's e-mailed request for more information.
    It was not clear who was responsible for the attack or whether the journalists were targeted specifically. Some Twitter accounts claiming to support ISIS rejoiced at the news of the attack, declaring the "lions of Islamic State" were responsible. CPJ was unable to verify the claims.

    9- Kamran Najm Ibrahim, June 2014. (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)
    Iraq has consistently been among the most dangerous countries for journalists, who are victims of threats and violence from security forces and armed groups. However, the security situation has deteriorated considerably since ISIS began a major offensive in June.  Cameraman Khalid Ali of Al-Ahad TV and freelance photographer Kamran Najm Ibrahim both lost their lives in June while covering the fighting between pro-government forces and militants in Diyala province and Kirkuk.

    8- Hammam Mohammed, 09 April 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)  
    Photographer of Altaghyir satellite TV channel, Hammam Mohammed was killed due to the fall of an army cannon shell on his home in downtown Ramadi city capital of Anbar province.

    7- Wathiq Al Ghathanfari, 27 March 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)
    Martyrdom of television presenter in Mosul TV Satellite Station, Province Media Director, Wathiq Al Ghathanfari, in an armed attack, east of Mosul.

    6- Mohamed Baidawi, 24 March 2014. (not reported by CPJ)
    Reporters Without Borders is dismayed to learn that Mohamed Baidawi, Radio Free Iraq’s Baghdad bureau chief, was shot dead in Baghdad on 22 March, while Radio Babel journalist Raji Hamadallah was badly injured in a shooting attack yesterday in Babil province.
    Baidawi was trying to enter the high security “Green Zone” where the Radio Free Iraq’s office is located when he got into an argument at a checkpoint with a member of the presidential guard, who hit him several times and finally shot him in the head.
    This well-known journalist’s murder has shocked Iraqi media workers. The presidential guardsman has been arrested and an investigation is under way to determination the circumstances of the shooting. Reporters Without Borders offers its condolences to the victim’s family and colleagues.
    Hamadallah was badly injured in a targeted shooting yesterday outside his home in Qada Jalba, in Babil province, 90 km south of Baghdad. Unidentified gunmen shot him several times before fleeing.
    “We condemn the repeated attacks on journalists in Iraq and we urge the competent authorities to carry out independent and impartial investigations in order to shed light on the circumstances and identify those responsible,” said Lucie Morillon, head of research and advocacy at Reporters Without Borders.

    5- Muthanna Abdel Hussein, 10 March 2014
    Abdel Hussein, a cameraman for the state-run Al-Iraqiya TV station, was killed in a suicide bombing at a police checkpoint in Iraq's Babil province, according to news reports. The explosion killed dozens of Iraqis, including Khaled Abdel Thamer, another cameraman for the station.
    The blast destroyed dozens of cars waiting to pass through the checkpoint, trapping some victims in their burning vehicles. It is unclear if the journalists were driving a vehicle or how near they were to the checkpoint at the time of the explosion. There were conflicting reports on the number of casualties, but a Reuters report citing police and medical sources said that as many as 45 people were killed and 157 injured. Abdel Hussein's mother told Reuters that she identified her son by his socks and shoes.
    The Iraq Journalists Syndicate reported that Abdel Hussein and Abdel Thamer were covering preparations for next month's parliamentary elections. The elections would be the first since American forces left the country in 2011 and would be held despite a significant spike in violence across the country.
    No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Iraqi officials said they believed Al-Qaeda was responsible. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the formation of a committee to investigate the explosion, according to news reports.

    4- Khaled Abdel Thamer, 10 March 2014
     Abdel Thamer, a cameraman for the state-run Al-Iraqiya TV station, was killed in a suicide bombing at a police checkpoint in Iraq's Babil province, according to news reports. The explosion killed dozens of Iraqis, including Muthanna Abdel Hussein, another cameraman for the station.
    The blast destroyed dozens of cars waiting to pass through the checkpoint, trapping some victims in their burning vehicles. It is unclear if the journalists were driving a vehicle or how near they were to the checkpoint at the time of the explosion. There were conflicting reports on the number of casualties, but a Reuters report citing police and medical sources said that as many as 45 people were killed and 157 injured. Abdel Hussein's mother told Reuters that she identified her son by his socks and shoes.
    The Iraq Journalists Syndicate reported that Abdel Hussein and Abdel Thamer were covering preparations for next month's parliamentary elections. The elections would be the first since American forces left the country in 2011 and would be held despite a significant spike in violence across the country.
    No group immediately claimed responsibility f or the attack, but Iraqi officials said they believed Al-Qaeda was responsible. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the formation of a committee to investigate the explosion, according to news reports.
    3- Thamir Mani'i Mohammed, 13 February 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)
    On the 13th February, martyrdom of Al Mustaqbal journalist Thamir Mani'i Mohammed, in an IED explosion in central Baghdad.

    2- Firas Mohammed Attiyah, 20 January 2014 (Not reported by RSF)
    Attiyah, a correspondent with the pro-government news station Fallujah TV, was killed when a bomb exploded at the side of the road in the city of Khalidiya, according to news reports. At the time of the attack, the journalist was accompanying a government patrol that was headed to a ceremony for the reopening of a police station, according to the local Journalistic Freedoms Observatory and other press freedom groups.
    The bomb also injured Anbar TV correspondent Muayad Ibrahim, the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate said.
    Attiyah had been reporting on clashes between the Iraqi army and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) in Anbar province, according to news reports. In late December, Sunni militants--some linked to ISIS--launched an offensive against security forces in Anbar province, taking at least partial control of both major cities in the province, Ramadi and Fallujah.
    Fallujah TV, which was founded in part to counter Al-Qaeda's influence in the city, posted on Facebook a picture of the journalist's body draped in an Iraqi flag.

    1- Mohammed Ramadan al-Hadidi, 12 Januari 2014 (not reported by CPJ, not reported by RSF)
    Gunmen shot and killed a local television presenter outside his home in Mosul.
    Mohammed Ramadan al-Hadidi, who hosted a show on herbal medicine on Nineveh al-Ghad TV, was shot by unidentified gunmen as he left his house in the western part of the city.
    A local journalist told CNN that the journalists union received a text message Sunday threatening to target journalists in Nineveh province. The message was signed by al Qaeda-linked groups in the province.

    In another incident Sunday, an Iraqi journalist was wounded along with a driver when a bomb attached to the car they were in detonated south of Mosul. The journalist works for the city's Mosuliya TV channel.

    Dirk Adriaensens'  "Iraq: Media professionals assassinated in 2014" documents the reality no one else bothered to.  Reporters Without Borders, CPJ and others should probably explain why that is.

    Staying with the topic of violence, UNAMI issued the following on Sunday:

    Baghdad, 1 February 2015 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 1,375 Iraqis were killed and another 2,240 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in January*.

     The number of civilians killed was 790 (Including 59 civilian police), and the number of civilians injured was 1,469 (including 69 civilian police).
    A further 585 members of the Iraqi Army were killed and 771 were injured.
    Civilian Casualties (killed and injured) per governorate
    Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,014 civilian casualties (256 killed, 758 injured). According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, up to 31 January inclusive, the Governorate suffered a total of 779 civilian casualties (195 killed and 584 injured). This includes 49 killed and 375 injured in Ramadi and 146 killed and 209 injured in Fallujah. Diyala suffered a total of 114 killed and 49 injured; Salahuddin 100 killed and 52 injured; Ninewa 85 killed and 12 injured; and Kirkuk 14 killed and 6 injured.
    *CAVEATS: In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas.  Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted below. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents.  UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care.  For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

    Margaret Griffis ( reports 6,106 violent deaths and 2,240 left injured.

    Margaret does a great job counting.

    She's shakier when she moves to other ground -- such as classifying death categories.

    Were you there?

    Then you don't know if they're "militants."

    Please stop the bulls**t.

    It's not helpful and it's certainly not anitwar.

    Also on shaky ground is this statement she writes, "Meanwhile, on Saturday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised to address the deaths of 72 Iraqis allegedly murdered by Shi’ite militiamen."

    Did Haider promise to address it?


    And the link, a Reuters report, doesn't maintain that he did.

    Stephen Kalin, Ahmed Rasheed, Saif Hameed, Dominic Evans and Stephen Powell report that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abahdi gave a speech.

    It's an insignificant speech.

    Al Jazeera noted of it:

    Iraq's prime minister has fired a warning at government and militia fighters who operate beyond the law.
    Speaking at a security summit in Baghdad, Haider al-Abbadi said criminals and outlaws responsible for kidnappings and killings were no less dangerous than what he called terrorists.

    Here's the quote:

    "Let everyone hear me - those are outlaws by the consensus of all Iraqi society. They do not represent the popular mobilisation forces, nor the security forces or even Iraqis," Abadi said.
    "Those are criminals and outlaws. They came with their agenda to entrap Iraqis.
    "I have said it before and will say it today - those who were conducting killings and kidnapping crimes in Baghdad and other cities are no less dangerous than terrorists."

    What the hell was that?

    He did not promise to address the deaths.

    His comments about the investigation weren't even news.

    He wasn't announcing an unknown thing.

    The investigation was noted days ago.  Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times) reported it the Ministry of the Interior announced the investigation last Tuesday.

    Haider al-Abadi did not say anyone would be arrested, did not assert that anyone would be punished.  He just noted the investigation and that this behavior (the massacre) is not helpful and is as destructive as terrorism.

    Well it is terrorism.

    Shi'ite militias (and possibly Iraqi forces) targeting and killing Sunnis is terrorism.

    The Reuters report notes that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani endorses an investigation and that is new and news worthy.  But Haider just flapped his gums.

    He flapped his gumbs because, as a State Dept friend said on the phone tonight, Democrats in the Senate are in a panic over Human Rights Watch's report on Iraq in their [PDF format warning] 25th annual World Report.

    In November of 2013, Barack came dangerously close to the Senate cutting off his flow of weapons to Iraq because  they were concerned that the weapons were being used on the Iraqi people by thug Nouri al-Maliki.

    Barack strong armed to get his way.

    Now he's not just trying to continue the flood of weapons into Iraq -- with a new prime minister, Haider -- he's also trying to get authorization for US ground troops in Iraq, to keep critics of his 'plan' for Iraq at bay and much more.

    In other words, Barack doesn't have time for the bad publicity of the massacre. Last Monday, Ahmed Rasheed, Stephen Kalin and Robin Pomeroy (Reuters) reported:

    Sunni politicians and tribal chiefs from Iraq's eastern Diyala province accused Shi'ite militias on Monday of killing more than 70 unarmed civilians who had fled clashes with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants.

    And then Ahmed Rasheed, Ned Parker and Stephen Kalin (Reuters) reported on the testimony of the survivors.

    Barack doesn't have time for this.

    So the White House that can't or won't use their power to force Haider to put through a more inclusive government did use their power to inform Haider he had to make some remarks the White House could use to calm Congressional Dems.

    Staying on the topic of meaningless words, former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki insists he is not plotting to seize the post of prime minister (coup). He makes those remarks to Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Vivian Salama (AP) while also insisting he would retake the post if the Iraqi people elect him.

    They've never elected him.

    The Parliament elects the prime minister per the Constitution.

    But that's not how it worked in 2006 when Bully Boy Bush insisted Nouri be named prime minister.  Or in 20102 when Barack had US officials negotiate The Erbil Agreement to give Nouri a second term when he couldn't get the post through honest (and Constitutional) means.

    We may go into more of Nouri's lies from the interview tomorrow, we may not.

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    For now, we'll note that Vivian Salama (AP) reported this morning on the Kurds "tenuous hold" on areas surrounding Mount Sinjar like Snuny, "The Kurds retook Snuny from the Sunni militants last month, but a weeks-old battle has reached a point of stalemate on the other side of the mountain for militant-held Sinjar. To the southeast, the oil-rich city of Kirkuk remains at risk of falling to the Islamic State group."

    But the Kurdish Peshmerga need not worry, the cavalry is coming!

    In about six months . . .

    Asharq Al-Aswat explains:

    Iraqi National Guard units will be formed within six months, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi pledged on Saturday at an interfaith dialogue conference in Baghdad.
    “The government is committed to forming a National Guard force within 6 months,” the prime minister said, highlighting the importance of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “gang”.

    So just hold on and know that help is coming . . . in six months.
    Well . . . six months to form.  
    How long to train?

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