Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Why can't Policy Mic handle the topic of rape?

"Iraq Bombings: Does the Violence in Iraq Hint At a New War in the Making" (Dylan Maguire, Policy Mic):

Iraq is a country forged from disparate parts. The Ba’ath Party under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, dominated for decades leaving the majority Shiite population struggling under the yoke of oppression and fear. After the U.S. overthrow of Saddam in 2003, the Shiite took power and under the rule of Prime Minister al-Maliki have systematically rooted out almost all remnants of the Ba’ath. Yet Maliki’s destruction of the Ba’ath has not been able to root out the last bastions of Sunni power. In the western Iraq governorate of Anbar, where the famous Sunni awakening occurred that turned the tide of the 2006 civil war in the U.S.’s favor, tribesmen and religious dignitaries have formed a new army that threatens to once more pull the country into sectarian civil war.
Since late 2012, a grassroots protest movement has been fomenting among western Sunni communities that feel disconnected from and oppressed by the Shiite-dominated government. On April 20 Iraqis went to the polls to elect representatives for local councils, yet Prime Minister al-Maliki postponed elections in the governorates of Anbar and Ninawa in direct response to the protestors’ calls for “an end to Sunni marginalization, balance within state institutions, and jobs for the unemployed.” Herein lies the deeper problem.
Under the U.S. occupation, Sunni tribal leaders such as Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha were turned into allies that helped to drive Al-Qaeda out of Sunni communities in the western governorates. After the U.S. departure, Abu Risha’s Sahwa Council militiamen were to be incorporated into the newly reformed Iraqi Army. However, under Prime Minister al-Maliki the Sunni militiamen who helped to turn the tide of the civil war were never brought into the military. This has left a pool of disenchanted, well-armed Sunni men who, angered by the increasing presence of the Shiite-dominated military, may no longer recognize the viability of organizations such as the Sahwa Council.

Herein lies the deeper problem?

I'm sorry but that author understands nothing about Iraq.  Zilch.

Sahwa is not the Sunni people.  It is a group of Sunnis.  Some have a level of respect because of tribal ties (also due to intimidation -- I believe Risha's the equivalent of a minor league mafia don but I guess we don't talk about that).

Sahwa is also not admired by portions of the Sunni community.  Not just due to the mafia element, but also because they were paid for by the US to fight other Sunnis.

The term for that is "collaborator."

Under the employment of the US, they became abusive and terrorized portions of Iraq.  C.I. was the only one to call this out in real time.  The New York Times sent two reporters to a Sahwa patrolled town and all was wonderful.  But if you examined the details, and C.I. did, you didn't see a town at peace, you saw a town terrorized.  Not surprisingly, when the US turned control of Sahwa over to Iraq, you had townspeople come forward about how Sahwa was not 'peaceful' but scary.

Protests have not taken place over Sahwa.

Protests have taken place over rape and torture of Iraqi women.

Is Policy Mic unable to talk about that?  Because they lack maturity or intelligence -- or both?

No one's carrying banners for Sahwa at protests, sorry, Policy Mic.

I'm going to quote liberally from C.I.'s Iraq snapshot of  April 10th and I'm going to set it off with "----------" at the start and "----------" at the end to show I'm done because C.I.'s quoting in what I'm sharing.  Bold and italics will only confuse everyone.


Two months ago, Iraqis also protested outside the British Parliament.  Signs carried at that demonstration had messages such as "END RAPES AGAINST WOMEN IN IRAQI PRISONS,"  "END THE POLITICISATION OF IRAQ'S JUDICIARY," "IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE POPULAR PROTEST MOVEMENT IN IRAQ AGAINST INJUSTICE, TYRANNY & THE LOSS OF RIGHTS" and "RELEASE THE INNOCENTS FROM MALIKI'S TORTURE PRISONS."  The protesters chanted, "1, 2, 3, 4, Maliki no more, 5, 6, 7, 8, stop the terror, stop the rape."

As DPA observed Friday, "Thousands of protesters have been holding protests for more than 100 days to demand that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki repeal laws they claim target a section of the population."  That is one aspect of it.  The least reported aspect of it has been what has scandalized so many Iraqis, the rape and torture of women and girls and Iraqi prisons and detention centers.  A protester in London could and did put it on a sign ("END RAPES AGAINST WOMEN IN IRAQI PRSIONS") but the western press has tried so hard to bury that part of the story.  Few outlets have even bothered to mention it and no western outlets has reported on it.  Reporting on it would require note the Parliamentary committees that backed up the reports Nouri spent the month of November denying.  It's funny how news that's negative about Nouri never really makes the Western press.

It's amazing how far the press will go to disguise the realities of life for Iraqi women.  Amazing?  No, change that to appalling.  That's what Rebecca was getting at last night in "when a woman is killed it's a 'personal matter'" -- a crime is a crime . . . unless the victim is a woman and then the crime becomes a 'personal matter' that must not be discussed.

[. . .]

Unlike Prashant Rao and the pigs of AFP and AP, the Iraqi media has never ignored the rape charges.  They've reported it.    Here's Dr. Souad Al-Azzawi (URUKNET) explaining what was on Iraqi TV:

Al Maliki, occupation appointed Prime Minister of Iraq, appeared on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 on Arabia TV channel. The dialogue evolved around the protests of millions of Iraqis which have lasted more than 40 days. In this interview, Al Maliki emphasized that his government (occupation assigned) will not meet the demonstrators demands. He kept eluding and twisting facts about the humanitarian and justified demands the protesters. Nothing is unexpected in what he said or claimed because we all know in Iraq that he is an occupation puppet and would only serve American and Iranian occupation interests in Iraq.
What was disturbing and caught my attention was Maliki’s comments on the detention and torture of women in Iraqi prisons. He claimed that under law, a woman can be detained if she covers up the crimes of her husband. With this statement, Maliki claimed he had the answer to the angry protests all over Iraq calling for the release of all innocent women. Mothers, sisters, daughters and wives have been unjustly detained, tortured or raped, simply because they do not know the whereabouts of the men in their families. Thousands of women have been detained with no legal accusations. Some of them are imprisoned with their infants and children in unbearable prison conditions [1] just because Maliki claims that their husbands, brothers, or fathers have committed an act of terror.

Rape isn't a 'personal matter,' it's a crime.  And when western outlets look the other way, they're accomplices to rape.  I have no patience for this lying and this covering up.  Iraqi women damn well deserve better and how shameful that in all these months AFP has refused to report on rape.   Prashant Rao's immaturity is all over his Twitter feed.  It may even explain his inability to report on rape.  However, he's a paid journalist and immaturity doesn't excuse him or AFP.

[. . .]

Last month, Dahr Jamail (Al Jazeera) reported:

Heba al-Shamary (name changed for security reasons) was released last week from an Iraqi prison where she spent the last four years.
“I was tortured and raped repeatedly by the Iraqi security forces,” she told Al Jazeera. “I want to tell the world what I and other Iraqi women in prison have had to go through these last years. It has been a hell.”
Heba was charged with terrorism, as so many Iraqis who are detained by the Iraqi security apparatus are charged.
“I now want to explain to people what is occurring in the prisons that [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki and his gangs are running,” Heba added. “I was raped over and over again, I was kicked and beaten and insulted and spit upon.”
Heba’s story, horrific as it is, unfortunately is but one example of what a recent report from Amnesty International refers to as “a grim cycle of human rights abuses” in Iraq today.

We spent several snapshots covering that Amenesty report [see this March 11th entry aptly titled "Iraqi women and girls (and the silence on this topic)" and snapshots for March 11th, March 12th, and March 13th].  I'm very familiar with it.  So I'm aware that when Jane Arraf chose to report on it, it was really strange that she focused on a male prisoner saying they threatened to rape his wife in front of him -- as opposed to a woman in the report who was threatened herself.  Apparently, to Arraf, women are property and the thought of a rape in front of their 'owner' (husband) is appalling but their being raped outside of their 'owner' isn't outrageous.  That would explain this miserable she filed that refused to note actual rape noted in the Amnesty report.   This is from the Amnesty International report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses."

More than three years before, members of the Human Rights Committee of parliament who visited the earlier women’s prison that was then located in al-Kadhemiya told reporters in May 2009 that two women inmates they had seen had testified that they were repeatedly raped in detention after their arrest and before they were transferred to the prison. 
Sabah Hassan Hussein, 41, a journalist, was reportedly arrested on 29 February 2012 when she went to the offices of the army’s Fifth Brigade in Baghdad’s Saydiya district to collect a car belonging to one of her relatives that the authorities had confiscated. She was detained and told that she was a suspect in a murder investigation. She was then transferred to the Directorate of Major Crimes (Mudiriyat al-Jara’im al-Kubra) in Tikrit, where she was held incommunicado, for about two months during which, she alleges, she was tortured. According to a member of her family interviewed by Amnesty International, she alleges that her interrogators burnt her with cigarettes, doused her with icy cold water and forced to undress in front of male police officers. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) reported on 26 November that she had identified the police officers responsible for her alleged torture and that their names had been submitted to the Ministry of Interior. 
Sabah Hassan Hussein was returned to Baghdad from Tikrit in May 2012 and held at al- Sayid For detention centre she was acquitted by the Resafa Criminal Court at the first session of her trial on charges brought under the Anti-Terrorism Law on 23 January 2013. Another defendant charged with her, however, was convicted and sentenced to death. Despite her acquittal, Sabah Hassan Hussein remained in prison until 18 February 2013, when she was released and allowed to return to her family. She subsequently told Amnesty International that she filed a formal complaint with the authorities about her torture and other ill-treatment in detention. They were previously alerted to her torture allegations in November 2012; however, they are not known to have taken any steps to bring those responsible to justice.

That's just one story in the report.  Michele Lent Hirsch (Women's Media Center) noted of the report, "Female detainees are in a 'particularly vulnerable position,' Amnesty explains, given that any allegation they make of rape will be 'almost impossible to prove,' while interrogators can use threats of sexualized violence as a 'powerful inducement to force "confessions".'"  Again, Arraf ignored women.  Let's contrast that silence with a column at the end of February when Haifa Zangana (Guardian) wrote about the state of Iraqi women:

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

[. . .]

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

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

In February, Wijhat Nadhar (BRussells Tribunal) reported on what happens to Iraqi women when they're arrested -- based on the testimony of three national guard officers:

The first thing we do when an arrested woman is being transported to the detention location, is that every part of her body is touched by all the soldiers in the vehicle, while using dirty language. When we reach the detention facility, we leave her in the investigation room, supervised by the intelligence officer and his assistants. They directly take all her clothes off, blindfold her, handcuff her, then the intelligence officer starts to rape her with his assistant. And later they ask her some questions: if she’s guilty or innocent and so on. Then they blackmail her, saying that she should be cooperative and give important information about the District where she lives, otherwise they would distribute photos of her while she was naked and being raped. They would accuse her of false charges if she would file a complaint about harrassment and torture. If she receives a "guilty" verdict, she usually stays in the same location for a period of one to three months, in order to finish the procedures of her “case”, to be sent to the headquarters. During these months, every single intelligence officer and soldier in the Brigade will rape her. After that, she will be sent to Al Tasfeerat Prison in Shaab Stadium, or to Al-Muthanna Airport Prison. Sometimes the prisoner is transferred to the facility of the Chief Commander's Office in the Green Zone, which is a cellar under the building of the Baghdad Operations Headquarter, supervised by Major General Adnan Al-Musawi. This place is one of the most dangerous, dirtiest prisons of Al-Maliki.

 I'm sorry that crimes against women make so many men working for western outlets (and Jane Arraf) uncomfortable and they don't want to cover these crimes.  But they are crimes and they do take place and they are news.


That's the end of the excerpt.  Again, I didn't want to go in and bold print everything and turn the already bold printed into italics and hope you could follow so I just used "--------" to designate where it started and where it ended.

C.I. was covering the rape scandal before the protests began.  Western media outlets were ignoring it.  She reads 12 Iraqi papers a day online (minimum) and visits twice as many Arabic social media sites.  She does that to find out what's happening -- what's really happening -- and to cover Iraq at The Common Ills.  If she just waited for stuff to be reported, she would be one of the ones scratching their ass, mouth wide open, going, "Huh?"  You know, the people that work at Policy Mic.

When Saleh al-Mutlaq was attacked (I believe in Ramadi) or denounced by protesters, C.I. was writing about it and explaining that he is considered a betrayer of Sunnis.  When she wrote that, the day of his attack, the western press either didn't understand what happened or was pretending not to.  It's not until April, months later, that the western press finally got around to explaining Saleh's not popular with Sunnis.

Saleh is Sunni, he's seen as a sell-out -- he and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi were both targeted by Nouri in December 2011.  The Vice President would be forced out of the country but Nouri made nice with Saleh after Saleh made nice with him.  Which is why grassroots do not trust Saleh al-Mutlaq. I'll never forget when the protesters started carrying posters of Saleh with a big red X across his face and C.I. posted that.  She's not the type to say "I told you so."  But I always saw that as a middle finger to the idiots at AFP (who were listening to the crackpot, remember?) who kept acting as if C.I. was crazy when she'd write about how unpopular Saleh al-Mutlaq was.

Which reminds me, if you haven't already, go read C.I.'s "A crackpot runs AFP, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor" which went up Saturday.  Those outlets used the analysis of a crackpot.  C.I. called it out for years now noting the man didn't know what the hell was talking about.  But his 'analysis' ended up setting the terms of the debate.

On Saturday, C.I. discovered the man was a lunatic who had posted online that his local police had a crimes-unit that was out to get him so he left his country and went to London but they followed him, they followed him to the US (where they sat next to him in libraries!!!!), he tried to talk to the State Dept and CIA but the crimes-unit got to them.  Then it got to the Qatar government when he was in Qatar.  So he met with the CIA in Jordan to offer his services.  Only they turned him down!!!!! Which is why he knows they were the FBI posing as the CIA.

That paranoia?  That's the crackpot they were listening to.

They should have listened to C.I.

She's generally correct.

Before the Hawija massacre on Tuesday April 23rd? She was warning about it, she was telling you Sunday April 21st about a phone call from a State Dept. friend wanting background on it and wanting to know what Arabic social media's reaction was (at that point, Nouri's forces had killed one protester on Friday, injured three more, and had surrounded the sit-in and refused to allow Members of Parliament in or to allow food and medicine in).

Hawija caught everyone in the press by surprise . . . except for C.I.

Crackpot, by contrast, never offered any analysis that panned out.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 
Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, not since 2009 has Iraq seen as many monthly deaths as were seen in April, the Hawija massacre continues to resonate, the US State Dept fields a question about Iraq (so rare, it qualifies as news), IHEC appears to accuse several parties (including State of Law and Iraqiya) of something akin to vote tampering, an Iraq War veteran is verbally attacked by the president of a corporation who also allegedly broke the veteran's jaw, elsewhere American corporations attempt to hire veterans, Aaron Glantz uncovers still more backlogs at the VA, and much more.

Iraq Body Count announces April violence claimed 561 lives.  Not since August 2009 has a monthly death toll been higher in Iraq (614).  And the violence continues today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baquba roadside bombing left two people injured, a Falluja bombing has claimed 5 lives and left twelve injured, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injuredthree people were injured by a Falluja sniper, a Husayniaya ("northeast of Baghdad") car bombing injured five people1 person was shot dead in Baquba, and a police officer's home was blown up in Hilla.   All Iraq News adds an attack on the Tarmiya Police station left 4 members of the police dead and eight more injured, a Falluja suicide bomber took his own life and that of 6 Sahwa and "many others" were injured, and a Ramadi car bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer.  Of the Falluja suicide bombing, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains the Sahwa were gathered to collect their paychecks at the time of the attacks.   Zhu Ningzhu (Xinhua) notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured three police officers and that "gunmen using silenced weapons shot dead a cleric of a Sunni mosque" in Baquba.  (This is not the civilian noted earlier by NINA -- Xinhua also notes the civilian shot dead.)

Of the violence, WG Dunlop (AFP) observes, "The majority of the deaths came during a wave of unrest that began on April 23 when security forces moved on Sunni anti-government protesters near the northern Sunni Arab town of Hawijah, sparking clashes that killed 53 people.  Dozens more people died in subsequent violence that included revenge attacks on security forces."  Tuesday, April 23rd, Nouri al-Maliki's federal forces stormed a sit-in in Hawija, Kirkuk. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.  Last night, Kat reminded, "As things get worse daily in Iraq, we need to remember who kicked off the destruction: Nouri al-Maliki."  She noted UPI's anlaysis:

The gloves came off April 23 when Maliki's Shiite security forces stormed a Sunni protest rally in the northern village of Hawija in Kirkuk province. More than 50 Sunnis were killed and 110 wounded.
"Retaliatory assaults against the security apparatus threaten to trigger an even tougher reaction from authorities," observed the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organization in Brussels.
"Only by credibly addressing the protesters' legitimate demands -- genuine Sunni representation in the political system -- can ... Iraq stem a rising tide of violence that, at a time of growing sectarian polarization throughout the region, likely would spell disaster."
Sunni protests have been building since late 2012 as Maliki displayed an increasing authoritarianism but the massacre at Hawija ended what was seen as a period of restraint.

On the Hawija massacre, Trina wondered last night why, yet again, the Christian Science Monitor can't get the basic facts right (Ryan Lenora Brown being the latest to miss the facts).   Betty pointed out harmful Nouri is: "He's in his seventh year as prime minister and has repeatedly failed to provide security, to improve public infrastructure (drinkable water is not a given, electricity still goes off and on), he can't provide jobs, he can't provide relief.  He is completely useless.  Worse than useless, he is destructive and harming Iraq." Betty noted this from RT:

SOS Iraq coordinator Dirk Adriaensens echoes the London-based expert. “I think the situation in Iraq will go from bad to worse and it’s only the fault of Mr al-Maliki,” he says before adding: “The government should be held to account. After ten years of occupation there are still no basic services. People are randomly arrested, locked up without charge, tortured, women, children and men are being raped. The talk about sectarianism is wrong. These are not sectarian protests. These are protests against the unbearable situation for the Iraqi people. There is poverty, there is unemployment, there is no healthcare, the education system has collapsed.”
“I think it’s a war between the people of Iraq and the government. There were elections last week, but one third of the provinces couldn’t vote because of the so-called security reasons. How can this vote be legitimate? Al-Maliki is always talking about unity but he is the one, who forces people into sectarian activities. Iraqi people say it’s not the protesters who go into the streets and plant bombs. The people of Iraq suspect that the government itself and the militias that are linked to the political parties are planting the bombs themselves. I don’t know whether it’s true or false, but I tend to believe it,” Adriaensens argues.

On the protests, Ruth noted the superficial summary Patrick Cockburn offered and wondered  why the western press keeps avoiding the issue of rape but "on Inside Story (Al Jazeera), Salah Hashimi was describing the protesters goals and names this one second:  'to free the women prisoners because the government of Iraq has proven itself not to be worthy of holding women prisoners because while they were in detention, they were raped and tortured. And within Iraqi society which can be actually described as a conservative society this thing cannot go on because people are very, very sensitive towards women's issues'."

Thug and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tasked Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq with heading a committee to investigate the massacre.  al-Mutlaq attempted to get off the committee last week but, after strong words were exchanged with Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi (who wanted al-Mutlaq on the committee), he agreed to stay on it.  Adam Schreck (AP) interviewed Saleh al-Mutlaq.   al-Mutlaq is quoted stating, "We have found that extra and extensive force was used, and it was not needed."  As for the government's claim that the massacre was in response to a soldier killed not at the sit-in but 'near' the sit-in, al-Mutlaq is quoted stating, "To lose one soldier, or one officer, that does not mean that you kill such a huge amount of people."

Nouri's forces slaughtered citizens participating in a sit-in.  They did so with training provided by the US government.  The US government is also providing the thug with weapons.

Jim Fuquay (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) is in a state of bliss as he declares today, "Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth will keep building F-16s a bit longer, thanks to an $839 million contract to suppy 18 of the jeft fighters to Iraq.  According to the announcement this week from the Air Force, the contract is expected to run through April 30, 2014."

A lot of people lost blood and life in the Iraq War but a lot of companies cleaned up.  A friend who was on the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan always expresses disbelief that "the chump change" of the former Blackwater became the obsession of so many on the left while the corporations that really got rich were allowed to remain largely uncriticized.  They got rich, Iraq got destroyed.

The ICRC's Pierre Reichel notes, "Today, the situation remains very volatile and we are worried that tensions could escalate further and lead to more casualties."  Arwa Damon (CNN) offers an analysis which includes:

For those closely following what has been happening in Iraq, this is not a surprise. To a certain degree the Iraqi government and other parties have been trying to dial back these tensions, but some steps taken by the Iraqi government serve only to aggravate them. Tensions are higher now than they have been for years.
Iraq's underlying problems have never been adequately addressed. There is a growing discontent within the Sunni minority and a growing number demonstrations against the predominantly Shia government.

Last week, the US Congressional Research Service published "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights."  The report was written by Kenneth Katzman.

Ten years after the March 19, 2003 U.S. military intervention to oust Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, increasingly violent sectarian divisions are undermining the fragile stability left in place after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will collapse.  Sunni Arab Muslims, who resent Shiite political domination, are in increasingly open revolt against the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.  The revolt represents an escalation of the Sunni demonstrations that began in December 2012.  Iraqi Kurds are increasingly aligned with Sunnis, based on their own disputes with Maliki over territorial, political, and economic issues.  The Shiite faction of Moqtada Al Sadr has been leaning to the Sunnis and Kurds, and could hold the key to Maliki's political survival.  Adding to the schisms is the physical incapacity of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has served as a key mediator, who suffered a stroke in mid-December 2012 and remains outside Iraq.  The rifts have impinged on provincial elections on April 20, 2013, and will likely affect national elections for a new parliament and government in 2014. Maliki is expected to seek to retain his post in that vote.

There's a great deal in the report.  A lot of it covered here already and we'll note some of it throughout the week.  But with regards to unrest, the report was raised in today's US State Dept press briefing by State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell.

QUESTION: Yes. On Iraq, the congressional study number RS21968 that was submitted to the Congress on the 26th of April paints a very bleak picture of Iraq and it calls what’s going on in Iraq – their words – an open rebellion by the Sunnis and the Shias.

MR. VENTRELL: Who are their words?

QUESTION: That the congressional study RS21968, okay? Maybe you want to take a look at it. It’s a lengthy study. But it draws a very bad – I mean, a very bleak picture of what’s going on in Iraq and closed an open road between the Sunnis and the Shias. Have you been able to sort of look at the study and perhaps hone your policy as a result of such drastic allegations or statements?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, Said, I haven’t seen this particular congressional study. But let me just say that the current situation in Iraq is concerning, and it’s a reminder of the formidable challenges Iraq continues to face. As I said yesterday, U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad – we’ve been in constant contact with a wide range of senior Iraqi leaders to help resolve ongoing political and sectarian tensions. And these talks have focused on specific steps to avoid further violence and resolve key issues peacefully and through constructive engagement in the political process.
And I do want to highlight a couple of specific things. We were encouraged to see over the weekend this constructive meeting senior federal and Kurdistan KRG government officials on Monday – I guess this was not over the weekend; this was on Monday – and reports that the Kurdish ministers will return to the cabinet tomorrow in Baghdad. So we urge all parties to build on this positive step by promptly addressing issues raised in a constructive and effective manner. And in addition, we’ve seen positive and encouraging statements from both Baghdad and Sunni leaders on the need to work together to isolate violent extremists whose only goal is to make – is to stoke sectarian tensions, to make it worse.

QUESTION: Mr. Maliki is accusing two of your closest allies in the Arab world, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, of fomenting sectarian struggle and aiding Wahhabi sects and (inaudible) types in Iraq. Would you sort of lean on your friends to stop whatever aid, if you agree that there is aid in terms of arms and money going to these groups?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not familiar with those particular allegations, but we’ve been clear where we stand in terms of sectarian violence and extremism in Iraq, and the support that we are providing as facilitators for the political process so that Iraqis can resolve their issues through the political process.

Dropping back to Monday's snapshot:

In addition, Alsumaria noted that MP Iman al-Moussawi (also with the Sadr bloc) statement that Nouri pressured the Electoral Commission to change the votes. These charges were made during the 2010 recounts and there was validity to them. If a few votes were changed this go round, this is major because in all but one province State of Law won, it did not win huge majorities.  In Wasit, for example, it beat Amar al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq by 2% -- Wasit had charges of voter fraud and had a huge number of voters turned away when security forces were doing early voting.    There's even dispute as to whether State of Law comes in first in eight provinces.  Some outlets are claiming it's only seven.  If the IHEC would publish their totals -- as they were supposed to already do -- it would eliminate a great deal of confusion.  Deutsche Welle points out:

 There is a political North-South divide on the horizon for Iraq. The eight provinces that Maliki's rule-of-law-coalition won are all located south of Baghdad and include the capital. In the northern provinces, Maliki hardly has any supporters. On the contrary: protests against him have been raging there for months, but are beaten down violently by the army. In the village Hauwija, close to Kirkuk, almost 50 people were killed in one day, and 26 more two days later in Suleiman Beg.

IHEC still can't publish the results at their website [. . .]

Today the IHEC released the following statement:

The IHEC Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Mr. Mukdad al Sharify announced on 30 April that the IHEC will set the official date to declare the final results for the provincial council elections (PCE) which took place on 20 April.
Mr. al Sharify said that the final results for the PCE will be announced once all procedures are finalized and complaints have been adjudicated.
The IHEC will communicate the date, time and venue for the results announcement in due time to political entity representatives and media.
 Preliminary results for the PCE were announced by IHEC at a press conference in Baghdad on 25 April.

The IHEC still can't get their act together.  All Iraq News reports that Katea al-Zubaei, Deputy Chair of the IECH Electoral Commissioners Board, "Some of the IHEC employees were referred to the judicial authorities after investigating with them for committing violations during the elections of the provincial councils.  More details will be announced after the announcement of final results of PCs elections. The IHEC received four red type complaints against the State of Law Coalition, six against Ahrar Coalition and two against the United National Iraqiya Alliance."  When the IHEC was truly independent, a red type complaint could have resulted in loss of votes.  That may not happen since it's no longer truly independent and since Nouri's State of Law saw only a very slim lead in the elections held last month in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces.

From yesterday's snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Mike and Elaine covered Iraq at their sites last night.  They're addressing an important topic, US forces still in Iraq.  We'll cover that topic in tomorrow's snapshot. 

Yesterday Joe Stephens and Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) reported on Iraq War veteran Mohamed Salim who drives a cab and was verbally assaulted (documented by cell phone footage) by Ed Dahlberg who is also alleged to have struck Mohamed Salim and broken his jaw (broken jaw documented by medical records -- the cell phone has audio of an altercation but not video, that's what a court would have to sort out).  Today CAIR issued a statement which includes:

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 5/1/13) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today said it is seeking hate crime charges for an alleged assault on a Muslim U.S. Army reservist and Iraq veteran reportedly attacked by a passenger who compared him to those who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings and threatened to kill him.

[MEDIA AVAILABILITY: The victim, Mohamed A. Salim will be available for media interviews at 12:30 p.m. today at CAIR's Capitol Hill headquarters, 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington D.C. CONTACT: CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 202-742-6410, 720-251-0425,]
CAIR said the alleged attacker has been charged with misdemeanor assault, but the Washington-based civil rights group is asking prosecutors to instead bring felony charges based on Virginia's hate crime law.
In a cell-phone video taken by the driver, 39-year-old Mohamed A. Salim of Great Falls, Va., the alleged attacker is heard asking the victim if he is Muslim and claiming that most Muslims are terrorists.

James Cullum (Patch) carries a statement from Dahlberg.  I'm weighing in on one aspect.  I'm tired of what passes for an apology these days.  Cullum quotes Dahlberg's attorney on the verbal harassment (which Dahlberg does admit to), "Mr. Dahlberg's comments to Mr. Salim were regretful, and he apologizes to anyone who found them offensive."  What is that?  Anyone?  Meaning most people don't?  You made offensive remarks you apologize for them.  You don't add the weasel words of "to anyone who found them offensive."  That you admit to the remarks but can't issue a sincere apology says a great deal about your character (of lack of it).  He denies the physical assault and some believe that but probably most won't.  Cullum notes that "Dahlberg is president of Emerald Aviation, Inc."

Emerald Aviation insists (at its website)

We're specialists in the business of aircraft sales and acquisitions.  As owners, operators, and pilots we have an intimate understanding of the many facets of aircraft ownership and operations.  Armed with this knowledge and using our extensive network of industry resources, we ensure that the sales and acquisition process is smooth and seamless for our clients.

Our Mission
With over 20 years of experience successfully negotiating complex transactions, we're dedicated to building and maintaining lasting client relationships based on trust and integrity.  We are committed to meeting the needs of our clients, producing results over a wide spectrum of aviation services.

Our Clients
Below are just some of the clients we have proudly served:

* Sundt Air AS, Oslo Norway
* Frontline, A/S Seateam, Oslo, Norway
* Under Armour, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland
* Springfield Financial Services, Springfield, Virginia
* International Paper Company, White Plains, New York
* Retlaw Inc. Mrs. Walt Disney, Beverly Hills, California
* Quest Diagnostics Inc., Reading, Pennsylvania

Their "Our Team" webpage offers profiles on Leonardo Canas and Mitchell Gadsby (who are both "Sales Director"s -- and, that is how you spell it, "Gadsby"), as well as "Ed Dahlberg, President."

Ed Dahlberg, President of Emerald Aviation Inc., has more than 20 years experience in the field of business and commercial aviation.  He began flying in 1978.  After obtaining his commercial, instrument and multi engine certificates he served as a pilot for a regional commuter airline.  In 1988 he began his career in aircraft sales at Jettech, Inc and later went on to manage the company.  In 1995 Ed left to establish his own company Emerald Aviation.  His aviation experience is complimented with a Bachelors Degree in Marketing from the University of South Florida. 
Gaining trust and confidence of customers over the last two decades, he has the admiration of many in the marketplace.  Through transparent business transactions and always effectively representing the best interests of his clients, Ed has developed business relationships worldwide that have endured through the years.  Straightforward plane sales and multifaceted transactions; King Airs to Gulfstreams and everything in between, they are all handled with one objective in mind, his clients.

Yesterday, while Emerald Aviation's president was making news as a business leader allegedly assaulted an Iraq War veteran, the White House was holding an event to note businesses that were reaching out to veterans and their spouses:

Today, the First Lady [Michelle Obmama] announced that America's businesses nearly tripled the goal set by President [Barack] Obama and did so eight months early. The private sector has already hired or trained 290,000 veterans and military spouses.
The First Lady also announced that American companies have committed to hire or train another 435,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.
For example:

  • BNSF Railroad committed to hire 5,000 veterans and military spouses in the next five years.
  • UPS committed to hire 25,000 in the next five years. 
  • Home Depot committed to hire 55,000 in the next five years.
  • McDonald’s committed to hire 100,000 in the next three years.
  • Walmart committed to hiring any veteran that served honorably the year after they separate from the service.
  • Deloitte will double its veteran hiring over the next three years.
  • USAA pledged that 30% of its new hires will be a veteran or military spouse. 
  • The Blackstone Group challenged each of the 50,000 managers at its affiliated businesses to hire at least one veteran. 
  • AT& T committed to creating an online military talent exchange.
  • The International Franchising Association has helped more than 4,300 veterans own their own business since 2011.
  • The U.S Chamber of Commerce just held its 400th hiring fair since last March for veterans.

Ricardo Lopez (Los Angeles Times) notes that 2012 saw the jobless ratefor post-9/11 veterans is 3.3% higher  than unemployment figures for the general population.  Lopez adds that Target, Wal-Mart and Home Depot have also committed to hiring veterans.  Pacific Gas and Electric Company notes they are committed "to hire or train more than 290,000 veterans and military spouses, nearly tripling the initial goal well ahead of schedule.  PG&E is supporting further veteran hiring and placement by committing to increase its own hiring and placement of veterans by 10 percent through the end of this year." This is a problem that happens after every war and it's a problem that needs attention because the numbers seeking jobs is only going to increase.  Trevor Shirley (WWSB) speaks with Florida Suncoast Workforce's Joshua Matlock who explains "that as the wars overseas wind down, the number of job seekers is going up, putting the onus on veterans to make a hard sell with potential employers."

In other veterans news,  Ivey DeJesus (Patriot-News) reports on  Gulf War veteran Mona Johnson who has a chronic lung condition as a result of her service and she filed her claim in 2010 but is among the many lost in the VA's claims backlog:

Since then, the Susquehanna Twp. resident has been negotiating a system plagued with one of them most chronic backlogs of any federal agency.
“What other agency do you know that takes this long just to process claims?” Johnson said.
Nearly a million veterans have disability claims pending with Veterans Affairs. About 70 percent of those claims are 125 days or older. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America claim that on average, veterans wait 273 days - or about nine months - for benefits. Copious other reports citing considerably longer waits, in some cases, upwards of five years, have prompted a bipartisan call in Washington for reform.
Estimates put the number of Pennsylvania veterans waiting for resolutions on claims to more than 10,000.

Earlier this week, CBS St. Louis reported on US Senator Claire McCaskill's continued efforts to call on the VA to address the backlog, "McCaskill says the average wait time for a first time disability claim ranges between 316 and 327 days."  That's unacceptable unless you're Senator Tim Kaine who could be found making excuses for the VA at the Senate Budget Committee and, when the hearing had drawn to a close, having us all wait so that he could offer a round of "compliments" (his term) to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.  It sure is nice of the citizens of Virginia to vote someone into the US Senate to act as Shinseki's personal defender and bodyguard.  Pity they didn't feel that seat would be better used by sending someone to the Senate to act as an advocate for veterans.

While Tim Kaine was busy praising Shinseki, veterans were waiting for their claims to be rated and veterans' surviving spouses were waiting for the claims process to pay what was owed.  As Aaron Glantz' latest report --  The Daily Beast carries it here and you can read it at the Center for Investigative Reporting here -- demonstrates, the VA is not doing their job there either.

Glantz opens by sharing the story of how Vietnam veteran Jack Cornelius was honorably discharged and attempted to seek Post-Traumatic Stress treatment "in July 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied his widow's request to help pay for his burial and declined to grant the monthly compensation intended for survivors of veterans with deaths linked to military service."  It would take a year for the VA to correct its mistake and, by then, Sheryl Cornelius "had lost her home to foreclosure and racked up $700 in interest on a high-interest loan she'd taken out to pay for the funeral."

April 11th, the House Veterans Affairs Committee heard from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.  In the hearing, US House Rep Phil Roe raised the topic Glantz is reporting on.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  An issue I brought to you, six weeks ago, was when a veteran dies -- and there's no discussion about that.  You have a death certificate. This veteran dies and their spouse sometimes takes months or as much as a year to get their benefit. That is absolutely unacceptable.  When you've got a veteran out there -- a spouse, a man or a woman -- and they're -- especially the older veterans that are out there, that are living on a very meager income and then to have them wait?  And they have a house -- as we talked about -- they have a house payment, they have food to buy, they shouldn't miss a check.  That should not even be questioned.

It's very easy for someone like Sheryl Conrelius, faced with funeral bills she shouldn't have to be paying and denied the spousal support check she should be receiving, to lose close to everything because of the VA.  That's why it's such a serious issue.

Aaron Glantz reports:

Those documents also show that the bureaucratic logjam follows veterans to the grave. The ranks of widows, widowers, children and parents waiting for a nominal burial benefit—between $600 and $2,000—nearly tripled during Obama’s first term: from 23,000 to 65,000.

The average wait time for a funeral subsidy had reached 207 days in December, from two months four years before.

In addition, 50,000 survivors were waiting an average of 229 days to find out whether they qualified for a pension—twice as long as in 2009. That part of the backlog is especially tragic, observers say, because most of the survivors are elderly widows who depended on their husbands’ VA pensions before their deaths.