Thursday, December 27, 2012

The distraction

"The Final Battle" (Chris Hedges, Truth Dig):

Over the past year I and other plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg have pressed a lawsuit in the federal courts to nullify Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This egregious section, which permits the government to use the military to detain U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers, could have been easily fixed by Congress. The Senate and House had the opportunity this month to include in the 2013 version of the NDAA an unequivocal statement that all U.S. citizens would be exempt from 1021(b)(2), leaving the section to apply only to foreigners. But restoring due process for citizens was something the Republicans and the Democrats, along with the White House, refused to do. The fate of some of our most basic and important rights—ones enshrined in the Bill of Rights as well as the Fourth and Fifth amendments of the Constitution—will be decided in the next few months in the courts. If the courts fail us, a gulag state will be cemented into place. 
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, pushed through the Senate an amendment to the 2013 version of the NDAA. The amendment, although deeply flawed, at least made a symbolic attempt to restore the right to due process and trial by jury. A House-Senate conference committee led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., however, removed the amendment from the bill last week.
“I was saddened and disappointed that we could not take a step forward to ensure at the very least American citizens and legal residents could not be held in detention without charge or trial,” Feinstein said in a statement issued by her office. “To me that was a no-brainer.”
The House approved the $633 billion NDAA for 2013 in a 315-107 vote late Thursday night. It will now go before the Senate. Several opponents of the NDAA in the House, including Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., cited Congress’ refusal to guarantee due process and trial by jury to all citizens as his reason for voting against the bill. He wrote in a statement after the vote that “American citizens may fear being arrested and indefinitely detained by the military without knowing what they have done wrong.”
The Feinstein-Lee amendment was woefully inadequate. It was probably proposed mainly for its public relations value, but nonetheless it resisted the concerted assault on our rights and sought to calm nervous voters objecting to the destruction of the rule of law. The amendment failed to emphatically state that citizens could never be placed in military custody. Rather, it said citizens could not be placed in indefinite military custody without “trial.” But this could have been a trial by military tribunals. Citizens, under the amendment, could have been barred from receiving due process in a civil court. Still, it was better than nothing. And now we have nothing.

As the final battle goes down, watch the whores distract.

Like right-wing Glenn Greenwald who is boasting on his Twit feed that he started the ball rolling on the attacks on Zero Dark Thirty.

I guess if he had started book burning, he'd be bragging about that as well?

Most likely.

It's the same mob mentality that he egged on -- without even seeing the film.

He's not about freedoms, he's not about arts.

He is a menace in search of a mob.

He can only preach hate and incite.

Imagine if he'd put that focus on something that actually mattered?

He's rather pathetic for someone his age.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 26, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, protests spring up, floods in Baghdad and elsewhere, State of Law flashes the paranoia, Nouri attacks the Constitution, Chuck Hagel is not the one to be Secretary of Defense, US House Rep Charles Rangel speaks out against a war on Syria, and more.
Kamal Namaa and Raheem Salman (Reuters) report, "Tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims blocked Iraq's main trade route to neighboring Syria and Jordan in a fourth day of demonstrations on Wednesday against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki."  Is this about Nouri's refusal to implement the Erbil Agreement?  Is it about his refusal to maintain a power-sharing government?  His inability to follow the Constitution and nominate people to the posts of Minister of Defense, Minister of National Security and Minister of Interior?  Is it about the corrupt arms deal with Russia? 
No, all of those problems already existed.  As Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) has pointed out, Nouri loves to create new crises in order to distract from his inability to govern and to meet the basic needs of the Iraqi people.  This crisis was created last week.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported:

Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.
 Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.
That was Thursday evening.  The response was immediate.  From Friday's snapshot:

After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki.  They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest.  Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin.  Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad.  Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.
Sunday saw protests in Falluja, Ramadi and al-Qaim:
AP notes of today's protest in Falluja, "In al-Issawi's hometown of Fallujah, some demonstrators covering their faces with red-checkered traditional tribal headdress carried pistols under their clothes. Others held flags from the era of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and those now being raised by Syrian anti-government rebels."  AP has a slide show here.   On the Ramadi protest, Ammon News adds, :"Around 2,000 protestors blocked a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan in Ramadi in western Iraq on Sunday."  AFP notes that Ramadi protestors were composed of many different sections, "including local officials, religious and tribal leaders."  Aswat al-Iraq notes that both protests resulted in armed guards in heavy numbers being sent to 'observe' the protests.
And now today.    Alumaria reports that in Ramadi today, tens of thousands demonstrated.  It's being called "Dignity Day" and "Wednesday Dignity." And, AFP explains, the protests managed to close down "the main road to Syria and Jordan."  They also note that Minister of Finance al-Essawi was present at the protest in Ramadi "and pledged to take a representative of the protesters 'to negotiate with Baghdad'."  Adam Schreck and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) add, "He appeared before Wednesday's rally and was held aloft by the crowds."  AFP notes that some demonstrators made clear that negotiations were not enough and chanted, "We only want a revolution."

Read more here:
Alsumaria notes that security forces were out in full force but states it was to protect those demonstrating.  There is a good picture of the crowd here but an even better one here.  This is seen as another attack by Nouri on Iraqiya (which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections while Nouri's State of Law came in second) and as an attack on Sunnis -- Rafaie al-Issawi is both Sunni and a member of Iraqiya.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) provides this perspective, "Many Sunnis see the arrest of the finance minister's guards as the latest in a series of moves by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against their sect and other perceived political opponents. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of the country's highest-ranking Sunni politicians, is now living in exile in Turkey after being handed multiple death sentences for allegedly running death squads - a charge he dismisses as politically motivated."  Al Jazeera notes that Tareq sees similiarites and that they spoke with the Vice President on Monday and he declared, "On the ground, al-Maliki in fact, on a daily basis [is governing in a] sectarian way.  We don't have any option but to advocate and defend ourselves."
 Alsumaria notes the demands included calling for the release of al-Issawi's staff and correct the course Nouri is currently on.
There are so many corrections that need to be made with regards to how Nouri is doing things.   The Washington Post's Liz Sly Tweeted today:

Nouri can't protect Iraqis from attacks and now he can't even protect them from the elements.   All Iraq News notes that Baghdad is receiving the most rainfall it's seen in thirty years. Alsumaria adds that the last days alone have seen the amount of rainfall Baghdad usually receives in a full year (note the picture of the three men walking down the street with water up to their knees). Kitabat notes that the rain is destroying the infrastructure (check out the photo of the man who's apparently  trying to get home with bags of groceries).

This is not just due to rainfall.  This is also the result of Iraq's crumbling infrastructure -- infrastructure Nouri al-Maliki has had six years to address and he's done nothing.   When you allow the sewage and drainage systems to crumble, you get standing water.   AP speaks with various residents with complaints including that the flooding has left them with no electricity and Abu Ibrahim states, "The heavy rain and lack of services the muncipality of Baghdad should provide to citizens led to this catastrophe.  No good sewage, no drainage caused this bad situation."  AFP points out, "The heavy rain spurred the government to declare Wednesday a national holiday, the fourth time this year it has been forced to do so because of bad weather. The other three were due to heat during Iraq's boiling summer."

Alsumaria notes yesterday's rains have caused 3 deaths and two people to be injured in Baghdad -- two deaths from a house collapsing due to the rain and one from electrical death (with two more injured in that as well) and that main streets in the capital are sinking.  All Iraq News notes Baghdad has been placed on high alert because of the torrential rains.

You could mistake Baghdad for Venice in this All Iraq News photo essay which notes that students are forced to walk through the high standing water to get to schools.   They also note of Tuesday's rainfall:  Baghdad had the most yesterday (67 mm) followed by Hilla, Azizia and Karbala (rainfall was also recorded in Samawa, Rifai and Basra -- of those three, Basra was the highest and Baghdad's rainfall was three times Basra's).   It's not just Baghdad.  Alsumaria notes that after ten house collapses in Wasit Province village, the Iraqi Red Crescent began evacuating the entire village. Dar Addustour notes Nouri issued a statement yesterday that he's going to oversee a committee that will try to address the situation.

Now he's doing that? Dropping back to the November 21st snapshot:
In Iraq, the rains have been falling with significant consequences.  Tuesday, All Iraq News reported that the rest of the week would be rainy and foggy.  And Iraq had already seen heavy rain fall.  Sadr City was one of the areas effected.   Joseph Muhammadwi and Mahmoud Raouf (Al Mada) reported on the flooding of Sadr City and included a photo of the water up to the frame of a mini-van. Despite the flooding and continuing heavy rains, traffic police stand outside directing vehicles. One resident jokes that Nouri can replace the food-ration cards with free small boats.  The water's flooded the streets and also gone into homes and schools and a makeshift bridge of bricks has been constructed to allow access to one school.  Dar Addustour noted that many of the cities, such as Kut, have been hit with the heavy rains.  Baghdad residents protested the lack of public services -- proper sanitation (i.e. drainage) would alleviate a great deal of the standing water. Nouri's had six years to address Baghdad's sewer system and done nothing.  AFP reports today the heavy rains in Kut led to houses collapsing resulting in the death of six children and leaving one adult male injured.
But now, a month later, Nouri is going to deal with the problem?

That crisis is only one of the many problems Nouri is currently facing.  October 9th, Nouri was strutting across the world stage as he inked a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia. The deal is now iffy if not off (an Iraqi delegation went to Russia  at the start of the month to see if the deal could be salvaged) and it went down in charges of corruption. Among those said to be implicated in the corruption is Nouri's own son. All Iraq News reports that State of Law is attempting to remove Nouri's name from the list of those Parliament is investigating for the corruption in that deal.  In addition, Al Mada reports that Nouri is refusing to answer questions from the Parliament relating to that arms deal.

Al Rafidayn adds that Nouri's State of Law is also attempting to cancelt he membership of MP Ahmed al-Alwani because he took part in a protest against Nouri's targeting of the Minister of Finance (al-Alwani took part in Sunday's protest in Falluja.)  (al-Alwani is with Iraqiya.)  Dar Addustour reports that Nouri's also declared that he is limiting the political speech of MPs and they will no longer be protected for their remarks.  He is demanding the prosecution of members of parliament, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) explains.

For those who can remember Nouri's first term, there were repeated attempts by the litigous Nouri to sue members of Parliament.  They can't be sued.  The Constitution protects them.  Nouri was hoping to sue one in particular after the session expired in 2010; however, that MP was part of the new Parliament.  Nouri has sued the Guardian newspaper and many others.  Those he can't bully with guns, he tries to bully with law suits.  He really is an international disgarace.
And his State of Law is a joke around the world.  Dropping back to Monday, "In a further example of the crazy, Fars News Agency reports MP Izzat al-Shabandar is declaring that Turkey and Qatar as well as Saudi Arabi all have secret plots against Nouri.  Although he is an MP, he's generally identified as Nouri's 'aide' -- such as in this CBS News report from July."  Today Fars News Agency reports State of Law's Shakir al-Daraji is proclaiming "secret information" in his possession tells of Turkey's part to plot against Baghdad.  You sound insane, you all sound insane.  I feel like we should put that in all caps.
Are there plots against people?  Yes.  But if you have nothing to back up your claims, you come off as crazy. Now maybe that's what State of Law is going for, maybe they're trying to churn up the crazy vote ahead of the provincial elections scheduled for April.  But among the reasons Nouri is a joke on the international stage is because he's political slate (State of Law) is forever announcing plots against them.  You sound crazy.  You sound paranoid.  Your crazy does not instill confidence in you or Nouri.  And when you go on to attack Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, no one takes you seriously because you've already acted crazy on the public stage.  By contrast, Press TV reports State of Law's Yasin Majid called yesterday for the expulsion of Turkey's ambassador to Iraq based on his objections to remarks made by Erdogan.  Whether you agree with his call or not, the fact that he's not screaming about some conspiracy make the average person stick around long enough to learn why Majid is calling for expulsion.

Through Monday, Iraq Body Count counts 221 people killed in Iraq so far in the month of December from violence.  Today? Alsumaria notes that an armed attack in Tikrit left 1 farmer dead (assailants had machine guns) and a Kirkuk police car was bombed (while no one was inside it)
As Radio New Zealand notes, Iraqi has approximately one million children who have lost at least one parent.  On the suffering in Iraq, Nesreen Melek (OpEd News) writes:
I was truly touched by the tears your president [President Barack Obama] shed during his speech because of the killing the twenty beautiful children and the six remarkable adults as he called them.   He reminded me of the tears I shed watching my country ruined by the shock and awe bombing during the last war on Iraq almost ten years ago.
You gathered to mourn the death of those kids but when the war was launched, my sister who lived in the states that time and I cried alone as our family members were still in Iraq and we didn't know what happened to them. The American missiles didn't differentiate between children and adults during the war, all Iraqis were exposed to death all days long.
No one offered us condolences for the loss of our country, our dreams and our hopes for good days to come. We were alone with our grief; the whole world watched the continuous bombing in silence. Some people protested but their voices weren't heard. The leaders of the Middle East watched their brothers and sisters killed, your military bases were on their lands yet they did nothing to stop you from the war.
Your President called the kids who were killed at the school by names. Our children who were killed by the American bombs had no names. I remember a picture of bodies of small kids covered with blood and piled on the back of a truck, those kids were killed during the bombing of a small city in Iraq. No apologies where given to their parents or to the Iraqis for taking the lives of these kids... there were no teddy bears and no candles..
Do you know Abeer? Abeer is the Iraqi kid who was fifteen when she was raped in front of her family members by the American soldiers. The soldiers burnt the house to hide their atrocities. How many of the American people know the story of Abeer? .
This and so much more tragedy was caused by the Iraq War.
And yet Barack is apparently testing the waters to see how a Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense nomination would go over?
Marcia has noted Hagel's curious election results -- in an election where he owned the voting machines.  She, Cedric and Wally have called out Libeterain Glenn Greenwald for pimping for Hagel to be nominated for Secretary of Defense.  (Remember Glenn was an Iraq War Cheerleader and supporter of George W. Bush.  He's the Guardian's token American conservative columnist.)  It's a shame Barack -- the supposed anti-war president or anti-Iraq War candidate for president -- can't find any people who stood against the Iraq War to nominate for Cabinet positions -- so much for his claim to change the mindset.  Hagel's nomination was a topic on last Friday's broadcast of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR). The Atlantic's Yochi Dreazen questioned how the nomination helps the Democratic Party and doesn't it just send the message that Democrats are weak on defense (as in, "That's why Barack has to pick a Republican!").  Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy) had other points and, though she moved over this one, it's not one I would move over.
Susan Glasser:  The controversy that former Senator Hagel, a Republican by the way, has excited really revolved around the question of whether he is deemed sufficiently pro-Israel in his policies. And there's a particular quote that he gave to an author, one of Foreign Policy's columnist as it happened, in which he referred to the quote unquote "Jewish lobby" as opposed to the quote unquote "Israel lobby." That's being taken in some quarters as a sign that he is not a real supporter. He's been critical of Israeli settlement policy for example.
The "Jewish lobby"? That's not a minor mistake.  When Glenn Greenwald goes off on one of his many rants that so many see as anti-Semitic, I give him the benefit of the doubt because he does make a point to call out the government of Israel and not liken a government to all the Jewish people in the world. The "Jewish lobby"?  Doesn't draw such a difference.  It also doesn't recognize that, if he's referring to Americans, there is no monoloithic Jewish lobby.  There are left Jews, centrist Jews, conservative Jews, Jews who believe pot should be legal, etc. 
That a person who made it into the US Senate would make such an idiotic remark is bothersome.  That he might become Secretary of Defense is even more bothersome.  As Marcia pointed out, the 1998 anti-gay remarks were fine with him for all these years.  He only felt the need to apologize last week.  That tells you a great deal about the type of person you're dealing with.
There are a number of people who could be nominated.  As Elaine's noted, Susan Rice could go out for that post.  Elaine wouldn't object, I wouldn't object.  She doesn't have the temperment for Secretary of State but she could handle Secretary of Defense. Susan Rice also has the energy and youth needed for that job.  Chuck Hagel's past retirement age.  He's too old for the job.
Grasp that the suicide rate in the military has not seen marked improvement.  Grasp that the assault and rape rate is still not going down.  These are issues that need to be addressed.  Robert Gates didn't.  Leon Panetta (I know and like Leon) has spoken of these issues publicly and gotten things in motion.  Susan Rice or someone with her energy and youth could take it further. 
Chuck Hagel has nothing in his background that demonstrates he can take on these issue.  He can't even speak publicly without attacking LGBTs or Jews in the last 20 years.   He's not equipped for the office.
Glenn Greenwald thinks he is but then Glenn thought the Iraq War was a good idea too.  And Glenn counts 'activism' as his living half the year in the US and half in his partner's country.  He claims that's to protest DOMA.  Maybe so.  It's a half-assed protest and that is Glenn's style.  (Half-assed because if you're really against DOMA, so much that you don't want to live in the US, then you don't live in the US.)  But more than likely, it's another easy stand for Glenn -- his partner has family in the other country and doesn't want to leave them and lets Glenn play drama queen and insist he's doing something.  At any rate, why the US needs to listen to a part-time resident on who would be Secretary of Defense has yet to be explained.  But surely there are much better choices than Chuck Hagel.
Turning to radio, Nellie Bailey and Glen Ford are the hosts of the weekly  Black Agenda Radio (here for this week's broadcast) which airs on Progressive Radio Network each Monday from 11:00 am to noon EST.  This week they broadcast two segments from earlier in the year and also provide coverage of the December 19th press conference about war on Syria.  We'll excerpt on that press conference.
Glen Ford: Six members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama urging him not to send troops or otherwise engage in hostilities with Syria without the express authorization of the Congress.  The effort to head off yet another undeclared war is spearheaded by North Carolina Republican Walter Jones.  Only two of the Congressmen that signed the letter were Democrats and only one of them, Charles Rangel of New York, is Black.  Rangel spoke at a press conference called by Congressman Jones in Washington.
US House Rep Charles Rangel:  Well I think you for relieving some of the guilt that we, as members of Congress, should have.  Knowing that day after day week after week, you, our moral voice, will be heard makes it difficult for a lot of us because we're here to uphold the Constitution.  And there are no courses in schools and universities that allow any president to send our young men and women off into harm's way without coming to the Congress.  Now that's the way it is and that's the way it has been. And yet we have so many tens of thousands of families that have lost their loved ones since WWII and it's actually reached the point that presidents just don't give a darn about the Congress. That may not be too bad but how do we go to the funerals of our constituents what do you say when you look in the casket and see a young man and a young woman and the family clings to you because you're so -- you're a symbol of the United States government?  And they want so badly to hear that their son or their daughter was a patriot, was a hero.  And you know that once that flag goes up, of course you are a hero.  But how do you answer the question as to why  they were there?  Why were they there?  And that's the painful stain that we have on our history.  Now it's very simple.  I am just as patriotic as the next guy.  And when someone says that our nation is in trouble, that our national security is threatened, the way I look at it, it's time to call up our troops and have a draft.  That's the way I look at it.  And if you cannot find in your heart to ask every American to step forward and make some sacrfice, then we should not be involved in it.  It means clearly it's not in our national security.  I challenge anybody to come to this country and enjoy all of its benefits and then we get into trouble and you say, "Hey, I'm with the United States of America but don't ask for an increase in taxes and don't put my son or grandson in jeopardy and for God's sake don't put me in jeopardy." That is wrong and that is unAmerican.  So what is my collegue saying?  Don't go off an fight wars?  He doesn't even say, "Don't go off and fight wars for oil."  He just says that if it's important enough to go to war, come to the Congress.  And you know what that means?  It means come to the American people.  Is that asking too much to say -- before anyone gets hurt, wounded or dies -- that we ask our people back home do you think that it's worth it?  So let me thank you and your dad and everyone for coming out.  It's remarkable the small number of people.  I couldn't even find this room. I honestly, when I saw "Canon,"  I thought it was in 345, the big room.  And if sending men and women off to combat is this important and I end up in saying, "Where are the ministers, where are the rabbies, where are the emons?"  Because I hear their voices with same sex marriages, Oh, that's a terrible thing.  World's going to come to an end."  I hear their voices with men who like men and women who like women and 'that's going to break up marriage in the United States, whatever's left of it.'  And I know they bless guns wherever the guns go.  And I know the chaplains, they carry guns too, just in case some of the enemy gets in God's way, shoot them!  But on this issue, human beings that are born, I would like to believe that they would think it's outrageous, immoral, unconstitutional.
Glen Ford:  That was New York Black Congressman Charles Rangel.  Also on hand was Patrick Lang, a retired Lt Col and former head of Defense Intelligence Agency  Operations in the Middle East and North Africa.  He says the US is behaving towards Syria in much the same way as it did to Iraq just before the 2003 invasion.
Patrick Lang:  I spoke at a town meeting gathering in Lexington, Virginia in the late, late part of 2002 -- that's where my alma mata is located --  and I told people in the audience, "If you're not paying attention, perhaps you don't know that the train has already left the station, that we are already on our way to war in Iraq."  And a number of people still remember my saying that, they thought it was a strange thing to say at the time but it turned out to be correct.  Well, in my opinion, this is late 2002 again.  It is come again to us.  Because you can look across the spectrum of -- of think tank, generation opinion and various meetings in Washington which I am sometimes invited to, or the general tenor of stuff in the mainstream media and it all kind of says the kind of thing that was being said in late 2002.  There's a great deal of exaggeration going on and a couple of things need to be pointed out about this.   One is that in contradiction to what is being said in all this propaganda, the outcome in Syria is not at all certain.  If you read foreign newspapers, you might have seen in the British newspaper the Independent a few days ago, an article by a man named [Patrick]  Cockburn who wrote from Damascus about what actual conditions are like on the ground in Syria based on having been there two weeks.  He said that he got in a car and drove 100 to the city of Homs without any inteference whatsoever, didn't see any of the war going on, talked to people in and around the city -- which has in the past been a hotbed of Sunni activism -- and came to the conclusion that the picture being painted in the west of how close the [Bashir] Assad government is to falling is grossly exaggerated.  That is an extremely significant fact.  The other things is the government of the United States has clearly embarked on a course that, if followed, will lead to military intervention in Syria.  How can I tell that?  Because our stated policy is that regime change is the desired policy of the United States.  That's been established for some time now.  Recently, we recognized the various groups of the Syrian opposition as being the official government of Syria.  Based on that kind of a proceeding -- even though there's no UN action on this that I can think of at the moment, it will be possible for that 'government' to ask for our intervention and we could claim that it is a legitimate action. The next thing about this that is interesting is that among the coalition of groups that are fighting the Assad government is one called the al-Nusra and this is an off-shoot of al Qaeda worldwide, the very essence of our enemy, spread across the world, projected into Syria.  They are one of the leading fighters against the Assad government.  The United States has condemned this group as a foreign enemy. But in spite of that, the leaders of the rest of the guerillas fighting the Assad government have come forth across the world to demand that we rescind that condemnation of al-Nusra because they are in fact their friends.  So the other thing that is clear here is that if the Assad government falls, we have no idea really at all what kind of government would succeed it.   When you consider all of this put together you have to ask yourself why these two gentlement from the House of Representatives are not completely correct?  Especially in a situation where the outcome is uncertain?  And what the successor regime might be or how aminacable to our interests it might be, why on earth would the government not go to the Congress for the approval of the appointment of US forces?  And as things are going now, it seems inevitable to me that if we continue on this path the US government will feel that rather than be defeated in its policy at this point it will have to use military force which will probably take the form of air intervention, no fly zone, direct resupply of the rebel groups, I don't think that after what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan they are likely to occupy Syria with a COIN campaign. That has proven to be a not very fruitful enterprise.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Isaiah, Third, Feminist Wire Daily

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barry O's Favorite Topic"

barry os favorite topic

I'm so glad Isaiah's taking on the Drone War.  You won't find our 'brave' cartoonists from the Bully Boy Bush era doing it.  They're busy fawning.

"Hasbro Making Gender-Neutral Easy-Bake Oven" (Feminist Wire Daily):
Toy company Hasbro will release a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven at the Toy Fair in February after meeting with a thirteen year old girl who sparked an internet outrage over the toy.

McKenna Pope from Garfield, N.J. created an online petition that gathered over 40,000 signatures after she went shopping for an Easy Bake Oven for her little brother, Gavyn. Feeling that the company's stereotypically advertising and design discouraged boys from cooking, she decided to urge the company to provide more gender neutral designs and advertising. Pope even had cooking celebrities such as Bobby Flay support her petition.

That is good news.  I remember Easy-Bake Ovens.  I was too old for them.  But I remember them being very popular and that was with guys too.  So this is a good move.  Also we really need to move away from gender toys.  I thought we had in the 70s.  But then came Ronald Reagan's presidency and a rebirth of bad retro.

In Friday's post, I noted Bob Somerby was avoiding Benghazi.  I was corrected in an e-mail that noted the post went up around 11 on Friday.  Yes, I had already read his Friday posts by then.  I didn't realize he was posting so late.  He did pick up Benghazi to clobber Rachel Maddow with.  But he didn't acknowledge his major mistake (insisting there was a protests for weeks and weeks).

I see he savaged Delia Ephron.  He's furious that she wrote a column about online shopping when there are so many serious issues.

The idiot.  He is aware the column runs in the paper put out on Christmas Eve, right?

Is he aware that the opinion pages are supposed to cover a variety of topics and that not eveyone's interested in politics?

He probably knows all that.  He just needed a woman to mock today and went after Delilah Ephron.

"Media: The allure of Bash The Bitch" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
'Explaining' why he felt it was okay to attack Bigelow, Brett Easton Ellis wrote, "The Hurt Locker also felt like it was directed by a man.  Its testosterone level was palpable, whereas in Sofia Coppola's work you're aware of a much softer presence behind the camera."
Does he not get how sexist and insane that sounds?

You have to be 'educated' to make such stupid remarks.  Take Jodie Foster who is an airhead that's been fawned over by the press.  Never challenged, she sucked up the patriarchy and thinks it's cute when she tries to pass 'biology' off as destiny.  (We think it's cute that she still thinks most of America doesn't know she's a lesbian.  Or that she still talks about kissing Scott Baio in interviews -- while at the same time taking offense when asked about her personal life.  Can you get more closeted?)  Foster tries so hard to fit the 'educated' opinion of what a woman is that it's destroyed her directorial efforts, rendering them  huge disappointments that seem both strained and artificial.

Like Jodie, Brett sucked up an 'education' without thinking (only repeating) and it allows him to write sexist crap without even realizing it.

A woman can be anything in the world.  Sofia's a wonderful director.  She is not, however, the template for all womankind.  And Bigelow's film is not full of 'testosterone' unless you've treated your brain like veal and never let it out to wander in the real world.

Women can tell any kind of story any kind of way.  Women can be good, they can be evil.  (Despite Jodie Foster's ridiculous claim that there are no women serial killers.)

But Brett feels women can only be real women and authentic if they present a "softer presence."  That's sexism and it's exactly what's at play.

Glenn Greenwald feels he can trash the film for that very reason.  Debra Sweet feels she can organize a protest for that very reason.

Neither was offended enough by the opening scene of Casino Royal (where torture becomes erotic as a nude Daniel Craig receives it) to protest.  Neither's been offended by any of the many films glorifying torture in the last eight years to step forward and launch an attack.  But those films were directed by men.

When a woman directs a film, it's as if she becomes the straw that breaks their camel's back.

I loved their article.  I'm quoting it again, later in the week.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, December 24, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's crazy continues, protests spring up against the targeting of the Minister of Finance and against the treatment of women in Iraqi prisons, the torture legacy (from the US and England) remains in Iraq, a new potential successor to President Jalal Talabani emerges as a front runner, and more.
Tom Spender (Voice of Russia -- link is text and audio) reports England's "Ministry of Defence has paid out a total of 14 million pounds to Iraqis who say they were tortured by British troops during the UK's five-year occupation of southern Iraq.  The Mod says the vast majority of British troops in Iraq behaved with integrity and professionalism."  The most infamous Iraqi torture victim of British troops was Baha Mousa.  From the July 13, 2009 snapshot:

Moving over to England, Matthew Weaver (Guardian) notes that Iraqi Baha Mousa's death at the age of 26 while in British custody in September 2003 is the subject of a public inquiry in England which began today and that, "A central issue of the inquiry is why five 'conditioning techniques' -- hooding prisoners, putting them in stress positions, depriving them of sleep, depriving them of food and water, and playing white noise -- were used on Iraq detainees.  The techniques, inflicted on IRA suspects, were banned in 1972 by then prime minister, Edward Heath."  The Telegraph of London offers that Baha "was beaten to death" while in British custody, "sustaining 93 separate injuires, including fractured ribs and a broken nose."  The Telegraph also notes that the inquiry was shown video of Corporal Donald Payne yelling and screaming, "shouting and swearing at the Iraqis as they are force to main painful 'stress position'."
The inquiry, like so many others, didn't offer much.  However, in June of this year, ITV reported that the doctor on dusty, the one who examined Baha, Dr. Derek Keilloh, was facing charges that he had "failed to conduct an adequate examination of Mr Mousa's body after death and failed to notify a superior office of the circumstances of his death.  He faces similar claims relating to two other detainees he examiend after Mr Mousa's death."  From last Monday's snapshot:
Today, Andrew Johnson (Belfast Telegraph) reports the latest, "A former British Army doctor has been found guilty of attempting to cover up the death of an Iraqi civilian who was fatally beaten by British troops in 2003, and of failing to protect other detainees."  Peter Magill (Lancashire Telegraph) notes of the Baha Mousa inquiry,  "Another detainee, Ahmed Al Matari, who had also been seen by Dr Keilloh at the detention centre after being kicked in the kidneys and legs, accused him of behaving like a 'criminal' during."  Press TV adds, "Britain's Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service will now decide what penalty the British doctor will face.The editorial board of Scotland's Herald weighs in, "Army medics cannot afford to be squeamish but ignoring such brutality amounts to a betrayal of all the servicemen and women who behave decently and within the rules. It also acts as a recruiting sergeant for extremism and destroys at a stroke any goodwill built up with the local population. It is shameful that it has taken so long to uncover the truth. Though maltreatment of detainees may not have been routine, the fact that a number of other such inquiries are still crawling through the system suggests this was more than the work of a 'few bad apples'."
Yesterday, Ashleigh Barbour (Press and Journal) reported Dr. Derek Keilloh had been "struck off the medical register."  The Yorkshire Post adds, "The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service announced its decision to ban Dr Keilloh from working as a doctor yesterday after finding him guilty of misconduct." The Herald Scotland explained, "The MPTS recognised Dr Keilloh, now a GP at Mayford House Surgery in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, never harmed Mr Mousa and did everything possible to save his life, in a setting that was 'highly charged, chaotic, tense and stressful'. But they ruled he must have seen the injuries and, especially as a doctor, had a duty to act."  Mary Gearin (Australia's ABC) quotes MPTS Chair Brian Alderman telling Keilloh, "The panel determined that erasure is the only appropriate sanction in this case.  Given the gravity and nature of the extent and context of your dishonesty, it considers that your misconduct is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration."
On the payouts by the UK government to Iraqi victims of torture, Melissa Stusinski (Inquisitr) notes, "The Ministry of Defense has promised it will launch an investigation for every abuse allegation that is brought forward."  Lutz Oette (Guardian) feels the only way to deal with torture is a public inquiry:
This compensation leaves a sour taste: although it is an important measure of redress for victims, it is certainly not justice done. The full truth of what happened is yet to emerge, and those responsible have not been held to account. There is still no sign that the government is prepared to do the right thing and establish a full independent public inquiry into torture and ill-treatment by members of the British armed forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2008.
This failure is part of a clear pattern. When allegations of abuse are made they are first downplayed -- any wrongdoing, we are told, is down to a "few rotten apples" -- then, if any investigations do follow, they are carried out within existing military structures. This "trust us, we will deal with it" approach has long since lost credibility; as for rotten apples, the numbers of victims are too large and the patterns of abuse too similar to speak of exceptions.
On the topic of torture, director Kathryn Bigelow is in the crosshairs of many for her film Zero Dark Thirty.  What's that?  You haven't seen it?  Oh, don't let that stop you from weighing in, it hasn't stopped any of the pigs from weighing in.  Ava and I covered it in "Media: The allure of Bash The Bitch" at Third and Third also wrote "Can't do their jobs, so they blame a film."
Before we get to that second piece, Glenn Greenwald felt so 'validated' this weekend when he appeared on Chris Hayes' MSNBC program and the two of them got to bash the Bigelow.  I like Chris.  If Chris gives you his word, he keeps it.  I have negatively criticized Chris for only one thing since Winter Soldier but it's not a minor thing. 
Back in 2010, Ava and I called out Chris for the fact that he was covering the White House for The Nation magazine.  That was an ethical no-no.  Not a minor one, a major one.  Chris is married.   His wife is an assistant attorney in the Office of Special Council.  Due to that, he shouldn't be covering the White House.  Whether or not he can be objective and fair, it creates the impression of a conflict of interests and journalists are supposed to avoid not just a conflict but the appearance of one.  His wife was not working in that department under Bully Boy Bush but that is where many of the torture memos orignated.  She works there now.  There has been no effort to punish any former officials, especially not those working for that legal office out of the White House (one that Bruce Ackerman argued at Slate should be abolished).
Chris Hayes is a nice person.  But maybe part of being a nice person is running interference for his wife?  Maybe if his wife's department isn't doing their job -- and clearly, they are not -- it's a lot easier to glom on and attack a film.  Maybe not.  But if someone didn't realize that they were ethically compromised by reporting on the White House when their wife worked for it?  That's not anyone I need to listen to for a film review filled with righteous indignation. 
In Third's "Can't do their jobs, so they blame a film," we took on Senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain for their idiotic letter to the head of Sony trying to alter Bigelow's film.  As we noted:
First, the complaints they lodge are that the film distorts things that happened. 
If that's true, that's the fault of the Senators who have allowed programs to take place in secrecy.  If they fear the American people do not know what happened and might be 'swayed' by a film, that goes to the secrecy level that they Congress has allowed the CIA to operate in.
So in other words, Dianne, Carl and John are complaining about the fact that they didn't do their own jobs.  That's on them.
Second, they insist, "The use of torture should be banished from serious public discourse for these reasons alone, but more importantly, because it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because it is an affront to America's national honor, and because it is wrong."  If, indeed, they feel that way, they need to (a) hold hearings into the torture that took place (public hearings) and (b) demand the Justice Department prosecute cases of torture carried out by people working for the US government.
In other words, Dianne, Carl and John's real problems stem from the fact that they haven't done their jobs.
And let's move beyond that.  Dianne was Chair in 2007 (after the 2006 mid-terms).  She has an obligation and responsibility in that role: If she knows of torture or any other law breaking, she is tasked with reporting it.  It appears Dianne did the exact opposite.  John McCain claims that watching Kathryn's film made him sick.  Good.  Because he was in the Senate looking the other way while the actual torture took place.  I'm glad it made him sick.  And while he and Dianne may find it easier to hiss and scratch at Kathryn and her film, the fact remains that they're just trying to distract from the reality that the US government tortured people -- as they admit in their full letter -- and they did nothing to punish the law breakers.  They did nothing.
And now they want to show up and hiss about some film?  They need to take accountability for their own actions.  What's becoming very clear about Kathryn's film is that it's a Rorschach test.  And people bring to it what they've done.  So if you didn't do your job as a senator, for example, the movie's going to upset you and make you issue a lot of stupid statements that people may pick up on and notice go to the fact that you didn't and haven't done your job.  In England, there's a call for a public inquiry into torture.  In the US, where's that call?  Dianne?  John?  Barack?
And for those who think the US government only tortured under Bully Boy Bush or that Barack stopped extraordinary renditions, they might want to look into the story of Mahdi Hashi.  Then again, life is so much easier when you can just hiss and spit at a movie and let the government and all the officials off.  Peter Van Buren notes at Al Jazeera:
The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America's decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helped cover up evidence of the torture practices. But it did deliver a jail sentence to one ex-CIA officer who refused to be trained to torture and was among the first at the CIA to publicly admit that the torture programme was real.
At what passes for trials at our prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, disclosure of the details of torture is forbidden, effectively preventing anyone from learning anything about what the CIA did with its victims. We are encouraged to do what's best for America and, as Barack Obama put it, "look forward, not backward", with the same zeal as, after 9/11, we were encouraged to save America by going shopping.
In the essay, Peter does a walk through on a point that's so obvious it's easy to forget that not everyone realizes it.  Torture isn't about the broken finger or bleeding cut or about gaining information.  Torture is about the memory.  Those who, for example, survived the concentration camps, still carried the scar of torture.  John McCain was sickend by Kathryn's film because he carries what was done to him (but apparently was fine with it being done to others until forced to actually witness it in Kathryn's film).   We're not using terms like 'spouse abuse' or 'domestic abuse' here or at Third.  If you've missed it, we call it what it is: Torture.   It's meant to scare and scar.  It's not about the moment of violence, it's about what will follow.   Jennifer K. Karbury wrote a very detailed examination entitled Truth, Torture and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture
In Iraq, the US government ordered torture and the reasons weren't for 'information.'  What happened at Abu Ghraib wasn't for information.  It was to break people, to humilitate them, to destroy them with the intent of sending them back into the community filled with shame and knowing that photos of their torture could surface at any time.  It's terrorism.  Terrorism was practiced in Iraqi prisons before the start of the 2003 Iraq War, but the US government ensured that their Iraqi proxies would be trained on how to use torture.  It's effects are still felt (and practiced) in Iraq today.  The BRussells Tribunal's Dirk Adriaensens (Global Research) reports:
Kitabat reports on 18 December. The chairman of the Iraqi List, Hamid al-Mutlaq, said in a press conference in Baghdad on 18 December: " Iraqi prosecutors have submitted today a report to the Chairman of the Iraqi judiciary Medhat al-Mahmoud that confirms the occurrence of torture and violations and rape of women detained in Iraqi prisons. The report
is based on confidential testimonies of female prisoners in Iraqi jails."
Mutlaq said that "the report confirms what has been recently stated by some parliamentary committees and human rights organizations, that there is a systematic violation, torture and rape of female prisoners in Iraqi prisons,"
The Chairperson of the Committee on Women presented a report on the situation of women prisoners. This report confirms that prisoners are routinely subjected to torture and rape. The presentation led to a heated argument between the deputies of the Iraqi List and the Coalition of State of Law, evolving into a serious affray.
Mutlaq demanded that the Iraqi government and the judiciary system would "do their legal duties by issuing a death sentence against those who commit such crimes against Iraqi women and take the necessary measures to prevent these abuses. He also asked to protect the confidential informant and to implement Article IV of the Anti-terrorism Act.
The announcement of the Public Prosecutor to the Iraqi Judicial Council coincides with the statement of the Governor of Nineveh  Ethel Nujaifi, on Tuesday, about an officer in the Second Division of the Iraqi army who raped a 17 year old minor after forcing her into the Headquarter of his Regiment in the Nimrod's District.
The prison abuse is not going away.  Yesterday protests took place in Falluja and Ramadi.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) explains that in Falluja they also demanded the release of prisoners.   Kitabat goes further and reports that yesterday's Falluja protest found people protesting what's taking place in Iraqi prisons and detention centers -- the abuse of women.

Kitabat also reports that the Supreme Judicial Council has found four cases of females being raped in a Baghdad prison.  The article also notes the young girl in Nineveh Province who was raped by one of Nouri's soldiers and how the Ministry of  Defense (Nouri -- because he never nominated anyone to head the ministry) refuses to turn over the soldier despite the arrest warrant.  As we noted Saturday, "Alsumaria reports that Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi has closed the road linking the province to Baghdad.  This is over one of Nouri's soldiers raping a young girl and the refusal of Nouri to obey a court order to turn the soldier over to Nineveh police. "
As noted, there were protests in Falluja and Ramadi yesterday.  The Falluja protests noted the treatment of women in Iraqi prisons.  Both protests revolved around one central issue, Nouri's targeting of the Minister of Finance.   Xinhua reports:

Thousands of Sunni Arabs on Sunday took to the streets and blocked the highways in Iraq's western province of Anbar to neighboring Syria and Jordan, demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The demonstrators, including local officials and Sunni clerics, mainly rallied in Anbar's capital city of Ramadi and the provincial cities of Fallujah and al-Qaim near the Syrian border.
"We want the government to abandon its sectarian rhetoric when it deals with Sunni community and to free Sunni detainee," a Sunni cleric told protestors by loudspeakers in a demonstration on a highway at the edge of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.

As noted in Friday's snapshot, Nouri's created a new crisis -- he sent forces into the Green Zone in Baghdad to round up 150 people working for the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and ten of them have been charged with 'terrorism' while the others are being 'questioned' (tortured).  The arrests led to protests on Friday in Falluja, Tikrit, Samarra, Ramadi and just outside of Falluja.  It also led to condemnation from Moqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc and from Iraqiya (which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections).  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reported Saturday that the solidarity is holding and that today Iraqiya and Moqtada were joined by statements from National Alliance figures including Islamic Surpeme Council of Iraq head Ammar al-Hakim and Ahmed Chalabi.  The World Tribune quotes a statement from Iraqiya declaring of the targeing of Rafie al-Issawi, "This confirms there is continued systematic symbols and leaders participating in the political process."

AP notes of Sunday's protest in Falluja, "In al-Issawi's hometown of Fallujah, some demonstrators covering their faces with red-checkered traditional tribal headdress carried pistols under their clothes. Others held flags from the era of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and those now being raised by Syrian anti-government rebels."  AP has a slide show here.   On the Ramadi protest, Ammon News adds, :"Around 2,000 protestors blocked a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan in Ramadi in western Iraq on Sunday."  AFP notes that Ramadi protestors were composed of many different sections, "including local officials, religious and tribal leaders."  Aswat al-Iraq notes that both protests resulted in armed guards in heavy numbers being sent to 'observe' the protests.  Jason Ditz covers today's protests for
The targeting of Rafie al-Issawi comes exactly a year after Nouri targeted two other high profile Sunnis who were also members of Iraqiya.  Fakhri Karim (Al Mada ) notes the similiarity between targeting al-Issawi and the December 2011 targeting of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  He writes of how this is seen as an attempt to monopolize power and how it is contrary to the Constitution. 
Right about now, usually, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would attempt to clean up Nouri's mess.  He can't do that.  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is in Germany having been medically transported there ThursdayOn Monday evening, following a meeting with Nouri, Jalal was taken to Baghdad Medical Center Hospital for what the prime minister's office has said was a stroke but the president's staff has left it as an unidentified health condition.  The news broke on Tuesday.  Wednesday, Iraqi doctors were joined by British and German doctors.  It was felt that Talabani was in stable enough condition and could be transferred to Germany.  Al Mada reports he is  at Berlin's  Charite University Hospital which is one of Europe's largest hospitals and was established in the year 1710.

All Iraq News notes that a letter from US Vice President Joe Biden was delivered to the Talabanis Saturday wishing Jalal improved health and successful treatment in Germany.  The letter praised Jalal Talabani for having long been a voice of sobriety and reason and that he is urgently needed.  It cited his work in the last weeks on de-escalating tensions between Baghdad and Erbil over the military-standoff between the Tigris Operation Command forces and the Peshmerga in the disputed areas.  Biden stressed that Iraq greatly needs Talabani and asks the Talabani family to call on him if there is any way he can provide assistance at this time.  Alsumaria adds that the letter noted Biden's distress over hearing of Jalal's medical problems and stressed the partnership between Jalal and the US.

Last Tuesday, we noted that there was another person who could become Iraq's new president and would have a similar profile to Jalal Talabani:
Like many notable Iraqis, her family has a long history of involvement in Iraqi politics and in being persecuted.  Novelist Ibrahim Ahmad was her father.  He was also a judge and one of the first chairs of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (the first after it changed its name).  Moving up the political chain in Iraq has always meant creating enemies.  He would end up in Abu Ghraib prison for two years.  He would go on to become an editor of a newspaper and, more importantly to the political situation, the voice of the KDP following it's split into two parties -- the other, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, would be headed by Mustafa Barzani.    Today the PUK is headed by Massoud Barzani who is also the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  He is the son of the late Mustafa Barzani.  Mustafa's grandson is KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. 
Jalal and Hero have been married for over thirty years -- by all accounts a happy marriage -- and their own personal histories and experiences go to why Jalal has been an international presence. When Parliament votes in a new president, which may not be until 2014 when Talabani's term expires, it is very doubtful that anyone with the same national or international stature will be the president.  (Although Hero Ibrahim Ahmed would obviously have a similar stature and the Talabani tribe has long supported women politicians.  It was nieces of Jalal's that were most vocal in decrying Nouri's  Cabinet in January 2011 for it's lack of women.)  The editorial board of  Lebanon's Daily Star observes, "Replacing Talabani with someone as charismatic and experienced, with the same skills of mediation, and with as few blemishes on his nationalism, will be no easy task, especially for a government's whose reputation has thus far been far from clean."
At that time she wasn't being mentioned.  That has no changed.  Saturday, Dar Addustour noted Jalal's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party met Friday to discuss potential successors to Talabani.  The news outlet states it is coming down to three choices: Barham Saleh, Fuad Masum and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed.  They stated Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, First Lady of Iraq (who is in Germany with her husband Jalal), is the current favorite. However, All Iraq News reported that her brother Hluwa  Ibrahim Ahmed states that the news is untrue regarding the First Lady.  He notes that the family is praying -- along with all of Iraq -- for President Talabani's speedy recovery.  This is me, not All Iraq News, her brother also knows, as does she, that if she's called on to serve, she must.  In her family, that's really not open to debate due to the historical presence in Iraq (think the Kennedys in America).  Were a successor needed, she would make the best choice because of her presence in Iraq and the region, because of the accomplishments of her family, because of the accomplishments and history of her husband and concern for her husband (either due to illness or passing away) would translate into international attention for her.  She would bring a whole level of attention to Iraq that the other two being mentioned cannot.

The point of the presidency for the Kurds is to have a prominent person in the post -- personal stature of the individual can combine with the duties and functions of the office to make the presidency a powerful position.  Under Jalal Talabani, that has happened.  Great care must be taken in selecting any replacement.  They need to come with an independent base of power that will allow them to stand up to Nouri or anyone else.   Hopefully, Jalal Talabani will recover quickly and be back at work.  If that does not happen or is not possible, the names so many have mentioned bring little stature to the post.  Only Hero Ibrahim Ahmed has stature on the international stage -- stature that she would bring with her if she became the next president.  That would be the best thing for the Kurds and it would also be the best thing for Iraq.  With Nouri attempting to put a non-Kurd in the post, it would probably be good for the Kurds to begin coming together on one choice right now and to name that choice publicly so that Nouri cannot pull a double cross.
Today Michael Rubin (Commentary) notes that last Wednesday he went over a list of possible successors to Jalal
Several Iraqi Kurds -- and a commenter on my AEI-Ideas post -- have put forward another name: Jalal Talabani's wife, Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, also known as Hero Khan.
Hero Khan has long been a major power within Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Her power is based not only on her marriage, but also her pedigree and frankly her intellect and ability. Her father, Ibrahim Ahmad, was a famous Kurdish writer whose split with Masud Barzani's father ultimately led to the PUK's creation. Many Westerners are impressed with her for her obvious independence and intelligence. I first met the chain-smoking Hero more than 12 years ago, when she gave me a tour of the television studio she ran in Sulaymani. She came in wearing a t-shirt and jeans to serve me coffee as I waited, and it took me a moment to realize that she was -- at that point -- the PUK's first lady. She also has established a number of "non-governmental organizations" in Iraqi Kurdistan, most notably Kurdistan Save the Children.
I was iffy about linking to Rubin on this.  Not because he's conservative and I'm left but because of his next pargraph.  We're not quoting and I don't approve.  When Ted Kennedy was dying, I didn't know it because I gossiped with medial personnel -- who damn well should know how to keep their mouths shut (that is what patient confidentiality means).  I noted it because it was known in the Senate.  (And I only noted it because a House member went on NPR to talk about how he was promised Ted would fight for his legislation in the Senate.  So we noted that day in the snapshot that that was not happening because Ted was much sicker than most people knew.)  I would never talk to a doctor or nurse about anyone else's health condition and I would seriously doubt the ethics of any doctor or nurse who chose to gossip with me about someone else's health.

American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith (Foreign Policy) shares some thoughts on Jalal Talabani:

At this stage, the long-term prognosis for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who suffered an apparent stroke earlier this week, is unclear. He has been my friend for 25 years and I am hoping that his innate exuberance will carry him through this latest crisis. After all, he defied even longer odds to become the first ever democratically elected head of state in the multi-millennia history of a place that is considered the cradle of civilization. It's as yet too soon to guess at a prognosis, but he clearly will be out of action for some time -- and he will be missed.Talabani, who devoted his life to the Kurdistan national cause, has been described as a unifier -- and, indeed, he may be the only unifying figure among Iraq's top political leaders. There is a certain irony to this because Talabani remains a Kurdish nationalist. When he speaks of "his country", he means Kurdistan, not Iraq. As president, he has tirelessly advocated for Kurdistan's rights under the Iraqi constitution.But, by dint of personality, Talabani has used the largely ceremonial office of president of the republic to calm conflicts among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. He is, in effect, the mediator-in-chief. Most recently, he won agreement from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government to withdraw their armed forces from a disputed area around Kirkuk. In other cases, he mediated conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites, and even within the Shiite community.
Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Iraq's Parliament's Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi on Monday congratulated Christians in Iraq and all over the world on Christmas, stressing on the national unity among all Iraqi factions."  December 25th is Christmas.  Those of the Christian faith celebrate it as the birth of Jesus Christ.  (Some people celebrate Christmas in terms of Santa Claus, the jolly man who travels the world bringing presents to children.)  Nouri al-Maliki, this month, wanted to attack Europe yet again for taking in Iraqi Christians (who flee for their own safety).  Yet today, one of the two biggest holidays of the Christian faith (Easter in April would be the other), Nouri can't issue a statement.  That's how you know he's insincere. 
Through Sunday, Iraq Body Count counts 219 people killed in violence so far this month.  Today? All Iraq News notes that a Ramadi parking garage bombing has left one child injured, two Baghdad bombings have left six people injured,  and 2 police officers were shot dead in an armed attack in SamarraAlsumaria adds that a Falluja bombing has killed 1 shepherd and left three more injured.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include the late Robert Bork, the shooting in Newton Connecticut and political prisoner Lynne Stewart  is discussed with guest Ralph Poynter (Lynne's husband).  Lynne was always there for anyone who needed her.  She took the clients no one wanted, the clients other attorneys were scared to take, the clients who couldn't afford an attorney.  She did all of this and more earning the title The People's Lawyer.  She is a credit to her profession and a role model for many.  She is also, now, a political prisoner.
Heidi Boghosian:  Criminal defense attorney, political prisoner and our good friend Lynne Stewart continues to inspire people around her while serving a ten year sentence in the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.  As many listeners know, Lynne was convicted on charges of materially aiding terrorism related to her representation of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.  Her original two year sentence was later increased to ten years after the government pressured the trial judge to reconsider his sentencing decision.  Michael Smith will read a few paragraphs from a recent letter that Lynne sent.  Let's take a listen.
Michael Smith:  Lynne Stewart wrote this letter on November 29, 2012:
Dear Friends, Supporters, Comrades, Brothers and Sisters:
I am now beginning my fourth (4th) year of imprisonment.  It does not get better and I have to gut check myself regularly to be certain that I am resisting the pervasive institutionalization that takes place.  A certain degree of reclusiveness  with the help of good books, interesting people to correspond with, writing on topics of public interest, seems to work for me.  Of course I still am working with any woman who needs help but I know that my sometimes truthtelling self is not what folks here want to hear. 
[. . . -- the letter is avaible in full here -- our 'edit' is Michael Smith's]
Some of you have written asking where I get the strength to keep on.  My  simple and truthful and sincere and heartfelt answer is that I get it from the depth of love and respect from my beloved partner, Ralph, my dear children and their children, and  from all the people, that stay in touch with me, yes.    I receive regular and wonderful mail from all segments of the movement, from the young asking for advice "on being a lawyer like you", from octogenarians, nonagenarians and 70 + who have given their political all for their lifetimes and continue to do so, from the lawyers in the Guild, from the poets and the songwriters, the rappers and  the writers whose art is not separated from our movement for change -- So Many More. So impossible to include everyone but know that even if I am slow to answer, I read every word I receive and it sustains me and strengthens me and makes it possible to face each new day.  While the political landscape is gloomy at best, I always remember that in the 50′s, no-one imagined that the 60′s were right around the corner !  Onward !!
Michael Smith: That's a letter from Lynne Stewart.
Heidi Boghosian: Joining us today for a personal and legal update is Lynne's partner Ralph Poynter.  Welcome, Ralph, to Law and Disorder. 
Ralph Poynter:  Yeah, and thank you so much for having me.  When you have me, you have Lynne.
Michael Smith: I know you've been down to see her recently.  Could you tell our listeners how Lynne is feeling?
Ralph Poynter: Well Lynne is Lynne -- that's the only thing I can say.  She's always up.  Her spirits are such -- Imdomitable.   She's just constant and she amazes me -- but she's been doing that for fifty years.  And it troubles me, just the whole concept, the idea of Lynne in prison is tragic -- but there she is in prison And her response every time I look down or say something that's not upbeat -- like "I'm so sorry to see you there" --  is, "Hey, don't worry about me, I have enjoyed the benefits of racist, impearlist America and so many people have struggled so hard and paid such a high price tp bring America to the level that it now is although we have a long way to go, Lynne says, "I can't complain."
Michael Smith: Well  that-that leads into my next question and that's how are we going to get her out of there?  What's her legal status?  She lost at the trial level and the appellate level, where do you go from here?
Ralph Poynter:  Well we are going, as Lynne says, to the Supremes.  And she says, "I don't mean Diana Ross."  And her letter about her loss at the Second Circuit was so clear and so historical and she says, "Well you don't go to the company store to get a fair deal." And the Second Circuit is a company store.  And this brought in the whole history of unionism, the struggle for a fair deal in this country, all in one sentence.   And this is the importance of Lynne, she can do that, she can say these things.  And so now we're on our way to the Supremes and the issues -- She says to remind everybody to read the letter you wrote about why you should support Lynne Stewart defending the Bill of Rights.  And that letter is so clear. You may want to remind people or read a short paragraph from that as to why we should all be supporting Lynne Stewart.  But we're going to the Supremes, Michael, I'm certain, to see if they are going to look at the issues of her First Amendment rights, her ability to speak and say what she had to say.  And the question of changing her sentence from 28 months to 120 months with no new facts, the same case, nothing was added, just change their view of the facts that were there.  And the third issue we're looking at is the issue of supplying material support.  The government claims that she supplied personnel to a terrorist organization by her press release through Reuters.  And the question is, they know better than that, material support.  Why should anybody go to the [. . .] -- they should just say something about al Qaeda or whomever is the government's favorite terrorist of the day and that would be supporting them.  They know that you have to put personnel on the ground with guns, material, etc.  But they just wrapped Lynne up in this nonsense to say, 'Well the Sheikh's words were the same as personnel."  We're also looking for groups of people, lawyers particularly, to add in, to give us advice because the papers are not due until February the 21st.  There was a sixty day extention -- the papers that were due to the Supreme Court December 24th.  So February the 21st, we have that date.  And we're looking for attorneys of good will, smart attorneys, those who believe in the Bill of Rights, those who believe that the law has meaning to give help, to add in, to speak to us about what they would do and how they would frame these particular issues that we're carrying to the Supreme Court.
Heidi Boghosian: Now, Ralph, just to briefly touch on the First Amendment claim in case our listeners aren't familiar with the case, what happened was basically after the initial sentencing, a few comments that Lynne made we believe were meant to punish her and to help justify that increasingly harsh sentence.  I assume that will be the thrust of the First Amendment argument. 
Ralph Poynter: Yes.  And the sad thing about that issue is they misquoted her.  When everybody knows if you want to find out what somebody said in front of a television camera, you send $19 or $20 to the station and you get the transcript.  They mistated what Lynne had said.  They left out a lot of it.  Otherwise, they lied about what Lynne said --  and then said, 'Because you said that, we're going to extend your sentence.'  And so many people jumped on that terrible bandwagon without listening, without going back over her statements and it hurt.  But we maintain that whatever the statement Lynne made -- and as her attorney said at trial, 'Well suppose she came out and said the judge is wonderful, would they have reduced her sentence?'  Which is, well, you know, well stated.  No, it has nothing to do with anything.
Heidi Boghosian:  Her comments after have no effect on sentencing --
Michael Smith:  Well Ralph --
Heidi Boghosian: -- or shouldn't.
Michael Smith: -- thank you very much for coming on Law and Disorder.  I know you're going to be going back down to Texas to see Lynne and I want you to please convey Michael and Heidi and my good wishes to her and the good wishes from our entire radio audience.  A good holiday to the two of you, as best as it could be under the circumstances and thanks for being on the show.
Ralph Poynter: Well thanks for giving me a few minutes to speak on Lynne and if you were to ask your audience to look up her commissary, it would be a great help.
And Heidi then noted Lynne's website.
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