Saturday, March 23, 2013

Oh, Ralph, shut up

Ralph Nader has a column which reads like an attempt, an exercise, to prove just how useless one person can be.

Multi-billionaire, George Soros was also courageously outspoken. Unfortunately, prior to the invasion, he did not provide a budget and secretariat for these men and women to provide continuity and to multiply their numbers around the country, through the mass media and on Capitol Hill. By the time he came around to organizing and publicizing such an organized effort, it was after the invasion, in July 2003.
Nine months earlier, I believe George Soros could have provided the necessary resources to stop Bush/Cheney and their lies from stampeding the government, and country, into war.
Mr. Soros can still build the grassroots pressure for the exercise of the rule of law under our constitution and move Congress toward public hearings in the Senate designed to establish an investigative arm of the Justice Department to pursue the proper enforcement against Bush/Cheney and their accomplices.

Beggarman, Soros is not going to fund you.  He has funded those who ran attacks on you in 2004 and 2008.  He does not like you.

Stop groveling.

Point of fact, the groups he funded "in July 2003" were the crap-ass kids.  Leslie Cagan and others (UPFJ, for example) who threw in the towel as soon as the Democratic Party wanted them to in 2007 and didn't do all that much before.

Soros' blood money backed liars like Leslie Cagan.

That you would even want to court Soros' money is disappointing, Ralph.

That you can be so stupid to not grasp that Soros is not now or ever interested in grass roots.  He's only interested in voter turnout.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, March 22, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, State of Law's image as a gutter gossip means they continue to spread rumors, a government official resigns, we look at Bradley Manning's importance, we note a group of people who were right about the Iraq War but haven't been recognized for being right this week, and more.

Thursday, National Iraqi News Agency notes,  a village near Tikrit was the site of a mass arrest -- 11 people for 'terrorism.'  And Baghdad today saw a mass arrest -- 21 'terrorists.'  (Alsumaria notes the Ministry of Interior insists it was a mass arrest of just 19.)  This is among the things that has resulted in protesters in the streets of Iraq since December.  The mass arrests lead to many innocent people being pulled from their lives, pulled from their families, pulled from their friends -- and where are they?  They disappear into the Iraqi 'justice' system where they wait to be charged -- and may be in jails for months or years without being charged despite the Constitutional requirements.  These people rounded up as 'terrorists'?  This includes Larry al-Jones's mother, sister, brother, daughter, grandfather because Nouri's forces couldn't locate Larry.  They don't think any of the family members had anything to do with it but they suspect Larry, can't find Larry, and citing Article IV, they arrest family members suspected of nothing.

This helps fuel the protests in Iraq, these mass arrests.  Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers observed earlier this week:

In recent months, the government has announced broad reforms in response to weekly mass demonstrations in majority Sunni provinces. These demonstrations began in December, after the arrest of Sunni Finance Minister Rafi al-Essawi’s bodyguards. Early on protesters demanded the release of prisoners — especially female prisoners, who have been held illegally for long periods of time — and reform of Article 4 of the Anti-Terror Law.
Over the last several weeks in Baghdad, I’ve spoken with more than 30 women who are in detention or were recently released, along with lawyers and families of detainees, researching allegations of torture in Iraqi detention facilities.
People told me over and over about random arrests, torture during interrogation and prolonged detention in unofficial facilities. They said corruption was rife among Interior Ministry officials, that there was collusion between officials and judges, and that trials lacked the most basic due process protections.
Detainees repeatedly told me the government uses the broad provisions of Article 4 to detain people without arrest warrants in detention centers overseen by security forces that answer to the Interior and Defense Ministries, or directly to the Prime Minister’s Office.
I asked officials I met about promises to release detainees and about the broader problems with the criminal justice system. By the government’s own admission, some detainees have been held illegally for months — even years.
There is little evidence, though, that the government is carrying out the pledged reforms, or that the reforms target illegal arrests, coerced interrogations and arbitrary detentions.

It's Friday and the protests continue in Iraq.  Above is a screen snap of Iraqi Spring MC's video of Falluja todayAlsumaria reports tens of thousands turned out in Falluja and they may have that wrong -- looking at the photo with the article, it's hard to believe that's not even more people than "tens of thousands."  It is a huge crowd.  And they honored the victims of Tuesday's violence (over 50 dead from Baghdad bombings alone, many more left wounded) by planting olive seelings on the sides of the highway and reading verses from the Koran.  All Iraq News reported this morning that protesters in Anbar Province (Falluja and Ramadi are in Anbar) have been fired upon.  In another report (still not identifying the locale other than Anbar), they quote Shaikh Hamid al-Hayes declaring, "Many demonstrators were injured" and we'll end his quote there.  All Iraq News is not the source for the reports, it's the Iraqiya Satellite Channel which is not connected to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya slate but is connected to Nouri, it's his megaphone, it's state TV.    They may be reporting of the infiltrators in Ramadi.  Social media's noted them earlier this morning.  Alsumaria has a report here.  Ramadi protesters found infiltrators attempting to start violence (like the ones who set fire to cars last week) and (as they did last week) captured them and turned them over to authorities.   There have been no reports, however, of any shots fired in this episode.  So either the TV station is inflating the event or else another incident has taken place in Anbar.   Alsumaria posted a report where Ramadi spokesperson Sayad Lafi states that there has been no shots fired at the protest and that the number handed over to authorities (of infiltrators) was four.  Rumors continued throughout the day.  All Iraq News reports the false rumor that Ali Hatim al-Suleiman, Saeed al-Lafi and Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani were kicked out of the Ramadi protest.  This left Sheikh Ali Hatim al-Sulayman to explain -- from the Ramadi protest -- to NINA that neither he nor Sa'eed al-Lafee (also spelled Sayad Lafi) were kicked out of Ramadia's protest. All Iraq News also reported on the false rumor that al-Lafi was injured at the protests. And al-Lafi tells Alusmaria that there were no gun shots in the Ramadi protest.

What were all these false rumors about?

Sheikh Rafi al-Rifa'e explains to NINA, "The government and its influential militias in Anbar spread rumors and carry out acts of subversion to infringe the protestors, but due to the braveness and awareness of the protest's coordination committees contained such plans and uncovered the conspiracy."

The crowd turning out in Adamiyah Baghdad today.   National Iraqi News Agency speaks with Anbar activist Ahmed al-Alwani who explains "two delegations arrived this morning [in Baghdad] in support of their fellow who continue demonstrations and sit-ins since about three months in Anbar province, demanding the central government to meet their legitimate demands through resitituion of their usurped human rights."

Protesters also turned out in Mosul, in Kirkuk, in Baquba, in Baiji and in Ramadi and Samarra.  Samarra protesters saw one of their own targeted.  Iraqi Spring MC reports that Prime Minister and thug Nouri al-Maliki's forces have raided the home of Sheikh Mohammed Taha Hamdoun.  In addition, Nouri's forces have arrested activist Mohammed Sabawi in Mosul.

Kitabat reports today on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for Nouri to show restraint when dealing with the protesters and for an investigation to be launched into the killing of protesters.

National Iraqi News Agency quotes Ramadi activist Mohammad Fayyad stating, "Thousands of protesters and citizens went to sit-in square in Albfarraj area north of the city of Ramadi, juxtaposed to the International Highway and to sit-in Square east of the city of Fallujah for Friday prayers." Morning prayers came before the protests.  NINA notes, "Preacher of Friday prayers in Samarra Sheikh Mohammed Taha Hamdoun held in his sermon, the commander in chief of the armed forces, Nouri al-Maliki responsible for the recent security breaches in Baghdad and other provinces, accusing the government of being 'insulting people and shed blood of protesters and raping women,' he said."  Alsumaria notes that Friday prayers in Kufa included a call for Nouri to step down and for the National Alliance (Shi'ite political slate) to put forward someone to be prime minister in Nouri's place. To that, NINA adds that Kufa's Sheikh Zia Shawki continued his sermon by explaining the past "7 years under the rule of al-Maliki, the security in Iraq was fragile and economy was shaking, adding that al-Maliki did not achieve anything for Iraq."  NINA also reports, "The Imam of Najaf's Friday Prayer, Sadruldeen al-Qubanchi, said that recent explosions in Baghdad intend to send a message to the world that Iraq is unstable and its experience has failed" and he said that all provinces must be able to vote in the elections.  (Nouri has most recently banned Nineveh and Anbar from voting.) In addition, Al Mada reports that clergy in Karbala and Nineveh also criticized Nouri today.  Al Mada notes the big news there may be have come in Karbala where the representative authorized to speak for the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called out the security system and called for change.

At the protests, Al Mada reports many speakers in various provinces spoke out against the bombings and noting Nouri's failures in providing security and they called for Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya to work together to save the country.  In Ramadi, Sheikh Muhannad al-Hiti called for the government to stop procrastinating and start meeting the demands of the protesters.  Samarra's Sheikh Mohammed Taha Hamadoun decried the beating, humiliation and rape that take place in Iraqi prisons.

At the March 1st protest in Ramadi, Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi announced his resignation.  At the March 8th protests, Minister of Agriculture Ezz al-Din al-Dawla announced his resignation.  All Iraq News reports that Deputy Governor of Nineveh, Faisal Ajill al-Yawar, announced his resignation today "in solidarity with the demonstrators in the province."  NINA adds he also said he was resigning because the government was "not fulfilling their [the protesters] legitimate demands that they have been demanding for the last three months."

The editorial board of the Washington Post offers this take today on Iraq:

Iraq remains plagued by the sectarianism that now pervades the Middle East. Following a democratic election in 2010, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, formed a coalition government with parties representing Kurds and secular Sunnis. But he has since driven the Sunni vice president into exile, while the Sunni finance minister and Kurdish foreign minister no longer visit Baghdad, much less carry out their duties. Sunnis in western Iraq are growing increasingly restless, while the remnants of al-Qaeda continue attacks against Shiite targets in Baghdad. Tensions are also growing between Mr. Maliki and the autonomous region of Kurdistan, with both sides deploying military forces near territories claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds.

In Syria, Moahmmed Saeed Bouti was assassinated by a bombing which left over 40 people dead and over 80 people injured.  He was the President of the Federation of Scientists.  The assassination led various Iraqi leaders to make statements noting the death: movement leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Scholars Association, and Ahmed Chalabi.

Alsumaria reports a roadside bombing outside Mosul has left two Iraqi soldiers injured.  AP reports that Sahwa leader Hussein Muslah and two of his sons were shot dead outside Dujail this morning.  NINA notes 2 truck drivers were shot dead in Baghdad, a Tikrit sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, and an armed attack on a police officer's Tikrit house left him, his wife and their two children dead plus ten more people injured.

February 28, Bradley Manning told a military court:

I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides. I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists.  I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized.

For years now, Bradley has been assumed to be behind the biggest government leak of this century and possibly of the last century.  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor." 

February 28, Bradley stood up and publicly declared he had released the documents.

The documents had an immediate impact and they've had an ongoing impact.  At the start of this month, the BBC Arabic and the Guardian's James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq  began airing --  you can stream online.  (If you can't stream or if you need closed captioning so the stream will not help you, Ava and I covered the documentary March 10th with "TV: The War Crimes Documentary.")  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), the topic of counter-insurgency was addressed with journalist Patrick Farrelly who was part of the  BBC Arabic and the Guardian newspaper investigative team behind the recent documentary entitled, here comes that link again, James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq

Patrick Farrelly:  He's retired not part of the administration.  But Col James Coffman is, he is a US army colonel and he reports directly to General [David] Petraeus in the army chain of command.  Steele is a consultant or an advisor but Coffman actually is in the chain of command. So therefore when this paramilitary  force, when they need money or they need equipment or whatever, Coffman is the guy who takes it upstairs to Petraeus and Petraeus is the one who provides the money, provides the weapons, provides whatever.  So these guys are in these detention centers, you have this torture going on and the torture is widespread.  And this is where Bradley Manning comes in.  'Cause I know you guys have been talking about him.  Part of the WikiLeaks discovery in terms of the War Logs which was released by Bradly Manning to WikiLeaks shows this entire pattern of US soldiers coming across these detention centers or working with these detention centers because they're involved with these special police commandos, they're providing them with guys to interrogate, they're taking guys from them for further interrogation.  And what they're seeing is --  consistently,  they're giving reports of seeing torture, of seeing abuse.  The Guardian went through these War Logs and started looking at this stuff and started seeing patterns of hundreds and hundreds of reports by US soldiers on the ground of this going on and that's really what actually launched the inquiry and that's what brought us to Col James Steele and Col James Coffman and actually General David Petraeus.

Michael Ratner: It's interesting, Patrick, because these are what they call the Iraq War Logs which Bradley Manning talks about when he made his guilty plea the other day as to why he wanted to reveal them because they were revealing all of this criminality really and the counter-insurgency and which he didn't like.  Now can you give us a sense of two things.  One is, why didn't any of this come out before?  I mean these War Logs have been out for a couple of years now and, secondly, what kind of torture is described?

Patrick Farrelly:  I mean the interesting thing for me about the War Logs is that an enormous amount was made of WikiLeaks and an enormous amount was made of these to stuff that the Times and the Guardian, El Pais and the other newspapers actually brought to light.  But I have to say that from that point onwards, the ball was dropped in many ways in the sense of like journalists really getting into the detail of what these things reveal and actually following them up.  And I think this documentary the Guardian and BBC Arabic produced is an example of the kind of material which actually lies within these and which journalists actually should be taking up.  But going back to the issue of these special police commandos, their existence was well known.  General David Petreaus was interviewed by this very find Frontline documentary called The Gangs of Iraq that Martin Smith made for PBS Frontline in which he interviews General Petraeus.  Petraeus is very proud of these, he's very proud of the commandos but the way that it was being posed in terms of our understanding of the situation was that after Petraeus left Iraq in September of 2005 -- he'd been there since June  2004 dealing with setting up this new police force.  It's only really after that, according to them that these abuses happened -- when these Shia political parties really took over and when these Shia militias started getting into great.  In other words it's another one of these situation swhere the US army and the US government sets up these police commandos which the locals invariably corrupt at a certain point and then because they don't have the same standards as we do start abusing people and start torturing people.  What this investigation has found is that from the very, very beginning, Col James Steele and Col James Coffman who answer to Petraeus and who answer to Rumsfeld had, you know, worked with these guys in these detention centers and were witnesses to and knew this stuff was going on because you've got to -- It's a production line because these young men come in, they were tortured --

Michael Ratner: How were they tortured?

Patrick Farrelly:  They were tortured by the worst kind of methods.  I mean these people were being hung up, off ceilings.  These people were having like, you know, their nails pulled out with pliers, it was waterboarding.  It was every concievable kind of torture that you can think of.

Michael Smith: And how do we know that?  That's in the documents?

Heidi Boghosian: Is it documented?

Patrick Farrelly: Because we  had a very important invidiual spoke to the Guardian about the US involvement for the first time.  He's a man by the name of General Muntadher al-Samari and he had been a general in -- he's a Sunni -- and he had been a general in Saddam's regime.  And when the United States came in, he -- actually along with a number of other Sunnis took the United States at their word that they were going to frame and bring about a pretty regular democratic society so they actually became involved with helping the United States actually put together this police force.  So Muntadher was there.  He worked for the Ministery of the Interior, he worked for the police, he worked directly with Steele and he worked with Coffman.  He'd meet Coffman, he had meetings with Petraeus.

Michael Ratner:  How many people were tortured?  Ten?  A hundred?  A thousand?

Patrick Farrelly:  We don't have exact numbers but I think we're talking tens of thousands of people were actually brought in.  You're dealing with, for example, if you take the ancient city of Samarra -- a very, very important city in terms of the religion and the culture and the history of that area -- which was also a place where there was enormous opposition to the occupation.  They went in there.  They turned the city library into a torture center.  They turfed everything out that was there and there was all these books, all these manuscripts and they turned it into a torture center.  They would then go out at night -- they were there for months on end in the fall and winter of 2004.  They would go out with trucks at night.  They would pull in hundreds of people who were then being processed.  This went on for months.  So I mean the numbers in that place alone run into the thousands.  And there was a network of approximately 14 of these centers that we were aware of throughout Iraq.  So this was a fairly -- this was a large scale operation which produced a lot of results.  I mean that's one thing that we have to be sure of, this was a thing which terrorized Sunni community.  There was no two ways, it was incredibly effective in terms of scaring the living daylights out of people because this force that they put on the ground and which started to work was a feared force.  If they're right in your neighborhood in their Dodge trucks because this was one thing these guys were very, very happy with because  Petraeus gave them 150 Dodge trucks.  They were then provided with other American pick up trucks.  I know in this country, it's a great thing to see if you're out there in the farmlands but if you are living in a Sunni neighborhood and you saw one of these trucks arriving, this was not a good thing. 

Heidi Boghosian: Well the result was a mass intimidation.

Patrick Farrelly:  It was a mass intimidation but it was also the case that they tortured people into giving up -- You  know, one of the American soldiers that we interviewed for this said, "You know, people just gave up everybody.  They just gave up their relatives, their friends."  It just became this interrogation and torture mill which no doubt produced a lot of information --

Michael Ratner: You know individuals do -- It's not so clear, people'll do anything to stop torture.  They'll give false names.  They'll do all kinds of things.  But like in Algeria in 1954, the French did mass torturing in Aljeers and as a result, they could cross the people enough so that they knew which information was correct or not, they had thousands of people tortured and that's what this sounds like.

Michael Smith: And they did it also in Vietnam around the same time.  The Green Berets were involved in Vietnam and in fact, it was the Green Berets, Michael and I did a book [Who Killed Che? How The CIA Got Away With Murder], who were brought into Bolivia to train the Bolivian troops, they eventually captured Che Guevara  so this streak in American history of Green Berets, Special Forces, torture, goes all the way back over a half a century.

Patrick Farrelly:  lI mean, for lack of better term, for empire, people like James Steele are very important.

Michael Ratner:  Explain that a little.

Patrick Farrelly:  In the sense that if you go -- You know empires tend to roam into other people's countries.  It's like living next door to a war lord.  It's never -- they're never good neighbors. But when they go in and they run into local opposition and quite often it's-it's-it's what they call assymetrical warfare, it's guerrilla warfare, it's a so-called irregular uprising, guys like James Steele are need in order to-to deal with people like that and that was his speciality.  There is another longterm consequence I just want to deal with for a moment in terms of Iraq which is that as this force became more and more part of the Shia militias, a certain point, this force with 90% members of the Badr brigades 90% Mehdi army who went into Sunni neighborhoods and caused great, great slaughter.

That's the third excerpt of that segment we've done this week.  If we'd had more space and more time this week, it would have all been excerpted.  It's the only serious interview we're apparently going to get in the US.  Don't bring up the nonsense from the Goody Whore today who couldn't even say "counter-insurgency" (Ava and I plan to tackle the Goody Whore Sunday).  The Michaels and Heidi spoke to their guests about actual issues.  I don't think there was a finer moment for radio last week than Law and Disorder Radio.  Bradley's facing some serious charges.  If we want people to understand how serious he took what he discovered, we're going to have to be able to talk about what he discovered.  Heidi and the Michaels were up to the task.

The training of the death squads, the counter-insurgency, it still goes on.  Human Rights Watch pointed out earlier this week:

New information emerged as recently as early March 2013 indicating that the US government is pursuing a policy of engagement with Iraqi security forces accused of responsibility for torture and other abuses, with little if any consideration of accountability for those abuses. A Wall Street Journal report said that the CIA is “ramping up support” to the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service (CTS) to “better fight Al-Qaeda affiliates.”

“If correct, the report that the US intends to support the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service underscores the poor US record on addressing allegations of abuses by Iraqi security forces,” Whitson said. “The CTS, though accused of committing serious abuses against detainees, worked closely with US Special Forces before the US troop withdrawal in 2011.”

Kenneth Roth (Human Rights Wach) notes of Iraq:

Worse, the CIA is reportedly building up its assistance to an elite anti-terrorism unit that reports directly to al-Maliki’s office and has been synonymous with the torture, abuse and “disappearance” of detainees. Nothing the United States could say to encourage greater respect for human rights is likely to counter such a direct manifestation of indifference. After 10 years, Washington should have learned that it cannot improve a government’s human rights conduct when it joins that government in demonstrating indifference to basic rights. At minimum, continuing security assistance should be conditioned on respect for these rights that are so lacking in today’s Iraq.

That's not five years ago, that's Iraq today.  Bradley's work matters because it has historical implications but because it also explains what is taking place in Iraq today.

Bradley's an Iraq War veteran.  All week long, as Iraq's has gotten bits of attention from the Big Media and even the small, some veterans were ignored.

Lot of talk about being right.  Lot of bragging and back patting.

But what most of us did wasn't all that.  The Dixie Chicks?  Yeah, a sacrifice followed that.  But most of us could speak out without any great suffering.

Iraq War veteran Joshua Key?

Joshua Key served in Iraq.  He returned to the United States and he couldn't go back.  He couldn't return to the illegal war.

Kim  Rivera served in Iraq.  She returned to the United States and she couldn't go back.  She couldn't return to the illegal war.

James Burmeister served in Iraq.  He returned to the United States and he couldn't go back.  He couldn't return to the illegal war.

Kyle Snyder served in Iraq.  He returned to the United States and he couldn't go back.  He couldn't return to the illegal war.

Darrell Anderson served in Iraq.  He returned to the United States and he couldn't go back.  He couldn't return to the illegal war.

Guess what?

Those are only a few of the names.  All of the above went to Canada and sought asylum.  Darrell and James came back to the US.  Kim -- like Robin Long -- was forced out of Canada.  Joshua and Kyle remain in Canada -- along with others including the first Iraq War resister to publicly attempt to be granted asylum in Canada:  Jeremy Hinzman.

Where is the outlet that will say that they were right?

They were right.  And their actions helped awaken the country.  Others who resisted and remained in the US like Kevin Benderman, Camilo Mejia and Stephen Funk were right too.  Where's their pat on the back.

All of these people who showed the courage to say no to an illegal war helped awaken the country.

Lt. Ehren Watada is the only officer who publicly resisted going to the illegal war.  So let's applaud his courage and drop back to the October 2, 2009 snapshot to remember his story:

This afternoon Fort Lewis's Media Relations department announced that Ehren Watada had completed his out processing and was discharged from the US military. We're going to stay with this topic for a bit because (a) it is important and (b) it is historical.  1st Lt Watada was the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq.  As Ann noted last night, "there are people who have no idea what a brave thing he did."  Ehren Watada was informed he would be deploying to Iraq in June 2005.  He had not given much thought to Iraq.  To prepare for the deployment, his superior advised him to study up on the war so that he could answer any questions that might come up from those serving under him.  He started researching the basics about the country itself, topography and geography and continuing through the history up to the current war.  He came across the Downing Street Memos which exposed that the 'intelligence' for the Iraq War was fixed.  He was now firmly convinced that the Iraq War was illegal and immoral.  From eager to serve in Iraq to realizing he'd be violating his oath to the Constitution, Ehren was now confronted with a decision.  He could keep his mouth shut and just do as he was told.  Or he could take a stand which would risk the wrath of the military as well as a portion of the public.
Ehren's mother, Carolyn Ho, has explained what happened next many times as she's spoken to raise awareness of her son's case.  WBAI's Law and Disorder shared one of her talks on their January 22, 2007 broadcast. Carolyn Ho explained it was the new year, January 2006, and her son called her.  He explained that he had something to tell her, he'd decided decided he wouldn't deploy to Iraq when the time came.  She was very upset and asked him if he understood what might result from his decision?  Ehren told her that he had no choide, he'd taken an oath to the Constitution, this was what he had to do and he was going to inform his superiors. 
Ehren didn't hesitate to inform his superiors.  This was in January 2006.  They at first attempted to change his mind.  He could not be budged.  So they stated they wanted to work something out.  They brainstormed together.  Ehren came up with ideas including, he could deploy to the Afghanistan War instead, he could resign (his service contract expired in December 2006).  His superiors appeared to be eager to consider every possibility; however, they were just attempting to stall.  They appear to have thought that if they put him off and put him off, when the day to deploy came, he'd just shrug his shoulders and deploy.
They did not know Ehren.  June 7, 2006 ("the day before his 28th birthday," Carolyn Ho likes to remind), Ehren went public with his refusal to deploy. Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes Ehren stated to participate in the Iraq War would be participating in war crimes.
In August 2006, an Article 32 hearing was held. Watada's defense called three witnesses, Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois' College of Law, Champagne; Denis Halliday, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN; and retired Colonel Ann Wright. These three witnesses addressed the issue of the war, it's legality, and the responsibilities of a service member to disobey any order that they believed was unlawful. The testimony was necessary because Watada's refusing to participate in the illegal war due to the fact that he feels it is (a) illegal and (b) immoral. Many weeks and weeks later, the finding was released: the military would proceed with a court-martial.

On Monday, February 5, 2007, Watada's court-martial began. It continued on Tuesday when the prosecution argued their case. Wednesday, Watada was to take the stand in his semi-defense. Judge Toilet (John Head) presided and when the prosecution was losing, Toilet decided to flush the lost by declaring a mistrial over defense objection in his attempt to give the prosecution a do-over. Head was insisting then that a court-martial would begin against Watada in a few weeks when no court-martial could begin.

January 4, 2007, Head oversaw a pre-trial hearing. Head also oversaw a stipulation that the prosecution prepared and Watada signed. Head waived the stipulation through. Then the court-martial begins and Ehren's clearly winning. The prosecution's own military witnesses are becoming a problem for the prosecution. It's Wednesday and Watada's finally going to take the stand. Head suddenly starts insisting there's a problem with the stipulation. Watada states he has no problem with it. Well the prosecution has a problem with it and may move to a mistrial, Judge Toilet declares.

The prosecution prepared the stipulation and they're confused by Head's actions but state they're not calling for a mistrial or lodging an objection. That's on the record. Head then keeps pushing for a mistrial and the prosecution finally gets that Head is attempting to give them a do-over, at which point, they call for a mistrial.

The case has already started. Witnesses have been heard from. Double-jeopardy has attached. The defense isn't calling for a mistrial and Head rules a mistrial over defense objection and attempts to immediately schedule a new trial. Bob Chapman (Global Research) observes, "With little fanfare the Army at Fort Lewis, Wash., accepted the resignation of the 1966 Kalari High School graduate, and he will be discharged the first week in October."

He deserves applause.  Ehren became a part of a movement of resistance within the military and let's note the names of others we have covered:  Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia,  Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Brad McCall, Rodney Watson, Chuck Wiley and Kevin Benderman.

War resisters were public and they were underground. Those who went public shared important details of how they came to see the Iraq War as illegal. 

Mark Larabee's "Soldiers still go over the hill even in an all-volunteer Army" (The Oregonian) was the first to tell James Burmeister's story and, in doing so, broke the news of the kill teams (broke the news domestically) July 16, 2007.  Dee Knight's "Army court-martials resister for blowing whistle on 'bait-and-kill'" (Workers World) detailed what Burmeister experienced as well:

Private First Class James Burmeister faces a Special Court Martial at Fort Knox on July 16. The charges are AWOL and desertion. He returned to Fort Knox voluntarily in March, after living 10 months in Canada with his spouse and infant child. He refused redeployment to Iraq while on leave in May 2007.

In most such cases at Fort Knox, the Army has in recent years quietly dismissed the resister with a less than honorable discharge "for the good of the military." This time it's different. The brass "offered" Burmeister a year in military prison and a dishonorable discharge if he agreed to plead guilty.
Burmeister refused the offer. His father, Erich, says the Army is making an example of James for denouncing a secret "bait-and-switch" program he was forced to participate in while in Iraq. In media interviews last year in Canada, James described the program as a war crime he was forced to commit. Shortly afterward, the program's details came out in the Washington Post.
"Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy," the Post quoted Capt. Matthew Didier, leader of an elite sniper scout platoon. "We would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual."
The Post reported that "Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said such a baiting program ... raises troubling possibilities, such as what happens when civilians pick up the items. ... 'You might as well ask every Iraqi to walk around with a target on his back,' Fidell said." (Sept. 24, 2007)
James had asked to be classified as a conscientious objector following his training in Germany, but his request was ignored by his commander. Instead, he became a machine gunner. "Our unit’s job seemed to be more about targeting a largely innocent civilian population or deliberately attracting confrontation," he wrote in his deposition seeking asylum in Canada. "These citizens were almost always unarmed. In some cases the Iraqi victims looked to me like they were children." (Eugene Weekly, May 22)
In Iraq, Burmeister had been knocked unconscious and his face filled with shrapnel when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. The shrapnel wounds left him with a traumatic brain injury, and he suffers from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His parents insist that he urgently needs medical and psychological help, not jail time.
His parents have waged an unceasing struggle for the Army to release him. They called on their representative, Peter DeFazio, to launch a congressional inquiry into James’s case, but have so far heard nothing. James' mother, Helen Burmeister, flew to Fort Knox in June, with help from anti-war ex-Colonel Ann Wright. Helen spoke directly to the base commander there, demanding that her son be discharged in lieu of a court martial. She then joined supporters from Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Vets Against the War demonstrating outside.
People who stood up -- publicly like the above or privately -- in the military deserve a round of applause, deserve some praise.  The Iraq War wasn't a "dumb" war, the term is "illegal."

law and disorder radio
michael s. smith
heidi boghosian
michael ratner

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Smash.   A major improvement.

First off, they finally remembered Eileen and Jerry had an adult daughter.

A criticism some of you are raising in e-mails is that NBC's Smash feels too much like a Broadway show and not enough like TV.

Are you being serious?

Have you seen a Broadway show?

Second, some of you are saying it is better this year.  Last night's episode was an improvement over the season but this season is not as good as last season.

TV especially needs a character to boo and hiss.  You may recall, when the first season was airing, I praised Ellis for that.

Despite having Ellis backstab everyone, they disappear him (he's not in season two) so they lose their villain and also none of the people he back-stabbed gets to tell him off.  Nick (Eileen's boyfriend) is in prison because of Ellis.

That's not good TV.  If you have a villain, the audience wants to see them get punished.

That was not good TV.

The show runners for season two don't know what they're doing.

That includes with Karen.

Tom and Karen suddenly couldn't communicate.  Last week, he gave her two sentences of direction and it changed an entire number.  Now they can't communicate.  Seems like a writer problem and not a real one.

Karen -- I'm not in the mood for a long recap -- goes to see Ivy's musical with Tom in an effort for her and Tom to mend fences.  Ivy's great but the musical's a bomb.  Karen says that Ivy's going to be out of a job.  She then tells Tom that Ivy's his Marilyn.

She quits.

She joins Derek in working on the new musical by the best friends Jimmy and what's his name.

What's his name is part in jest.

But honesty, if you're writing a musical and Jimmy wrote the lyrics and the music and what's his name wrote the 'book' that you toss out and decide to have no dialogue, then you both didn't write the musical.

I'm surprised this is surprising.

Jimmy needs to grow up.  That's the actor and the writer need to make him grow up.

If there's anything worse than Smash it's Gossip Girl Smash.

Jimmy's non-stop tantrums do not make him look dark or sexy, they just make him appear childish.

Eileen wrestles the play back.  Jerry refuses to hand it over even when their daughter insists.  Then Julia finds the contract granting Eileen the right to use Marilyn's diaries, etc -- from Marilyn Monroe's estate.  Julia says she used those in the lyrics.  The musical can't be done without that permission letter and Eileen has it, not Jerry.

Is that everything?

Pretty much.  I'm not looking forward to Ivy as Marilyn.  I'm not looking forward to Tom as a director.  How telling that they went with Tom and not: Tom and Julia.

How telling that only men can direct on Smash.  Derek, Tom, the man doing Ivy's failed musical, etc., etc.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, March 20, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, push back to Nouri's attempts to stop voting in two provinces, more attention to the torture going on in Iraq, counter-insurgency gets media attention, and more.

AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets today:

On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, follow 's Baghdad bureau: , , , +

Tweeps - has put out a multitude of angles on the 10th anniversary since the Iraq invasion. See them all here:

On the 10th anniversary of the start of the illegal war, Thom Hartman (Truthout) remembers the media lies in the lead up to the Iraq War and zooms in one attempt at the media shaming voices opposed to the Iraq War:

In March of 2003, prior to the invasion of Iraq, O'Reilly interviewed actress and political activist Janeane Garofalo, about her opposition towards going to war with Iraq.
O'Reilly asked Garofalo if she would apologize to President Bush if she was wrong, and if it turned out that the United States went into Iraq, was met with jubilant America-loving crowds of Iraqis, and in fact found "all kinds of bad, bad stuff."
Garofalo responded that she would gladly go to the White House, get on her knees, and apologize to Bush if she were wrong, but added that she didn't think she would be.
Guess what. She was right. And O'Reilly, as usual, was wrong.
Our soldiers were not met by throngs of Iraqis who loved America. And we certainly didn't find "all kinds of bad, bad stuff."
So the real question here is, ten years after being so wrong, why hasn't Bill O'Reilly apologized to Garofalo, and to the American public, for misleading us so badly?

And it was demonize Janeane and, as we noted this morning, the Dixie Chicks, and everyone who spoke out.  When your actions or proposed actions can't be defended, it's really important to shut down debate before people can catch on.  As a result, a lot of people who history demonstrates were right suffered in real time.  Call it The Curse of the Cassandras.  Eugene Kane ( explains:

A Milwaukee schoolteacher who was opposed to the Iraq invasion remembered being called unpatriotic and much harsher names whenever she participated in local protests against the war.
"After all this time later, I bet nobody apologizes for being so wrong," she told me this week.

Nope, they really don't. For example,  Charles P. Pierce (Esquire) catches real-time war cheerleader Ezra Klein attempting today to pin his cheerleading on his think-tank betters.  In Greek mythology, Cassandra had the gift of prophecy.  For failing to do as Apollo wanted (be tied to him as his lover), Cassandra was cursed to see the future but to have no one believe her.   The modern day Cassandras appear to be cursed with a refusal to give them credit for being right.   But it didn't take psychic powers to stand up against the Iraq War.  As Constantine von Hoffman (CIO) observes:

These men [Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell] are the chief criminals here, but let’s not forget that they received a lot of help. Of the 550 members of Congress only 156 voted against the war, and seven of those were Republicans with an enlarged sense of integrity. All the rest will tell you they voted in favor because they were lied to.
[. . .]
Anyone who uses this excuse leaves only two possible explanations for their behavior: Either they are idiots or they are lying.

If they were lied to, then where's the prosecution.  Former US House Rep Elizabeth Holtzman (The Nation) notes that the statute of limitations will soon expire on the illegal war:

Together with others in his administration, he made many misstatements to Congress about the Iraq War. In one noteworthy example, just before the invasion, he notified Congress that the invasion met conditions it had set for an attack, including that it was aimed at persons or nations that “planned” or “aided” the 9/11 attacks. But neither Saddam Hussein nor Iraq planned or aided the attacks of 9/11.
The five-year statute of limitations for defrauding the US started running the day President Bush left office, because the Iraq War was undertaken not just to remove Saddam Hussein and install a new government but also, as the former president explained, to secure “victory” and create a “stable” Iraq, an effort that lasted through the end of Bush’s second term. That means the statue of limitations will expire on January 20, 2014.
Since no prosecutions can be brought after the statutes run out, unless investigations are started soon, any crimes that did occur will go unprosecuted and unpunished, deeply entrenching the principle of impunity for top officials. This would be shameful for our country and strike at the heart of the rule of law
After carefully reviewing the facts and law, a fair-minded prosecutor may decide that no prosecution of President Bush and his team is justified. As a former prosecutor, I know that there is a big difference between an apparent violation of a statute and a prosecutable case. I also know, however, that the failure to investigate apparent violations of law because of the high position of those involved undermines our democracy. There cannot be two standards of justice in America, one for the powerful and another for the rest of us.

Holtzman's correct.  And those who are members of Congress who maintain they were lied to should be the ones demanding an investigation into whether are not there is the basis for prosecution.  If they're not demanding it, it makes it hard to believe their assertion that they were lied to.  If they were lied to, these lies resulted in deaths, destruction, grieving families forever torn, people left maimed and injured, babies born with defects and so much more.  In 2004, Juan Gonzalez (New York Daily News) reported:

IN EARLY SEPTEMBER 2003, Army National Guard Spec. Gerard Darren Matthew was sent home from Iraq, stricken by a sudden illness. One side of Matthew's face would swell up each morning. He had constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated. The Army transferred him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for further tests, but doctors there could not explain what was wrong. Shortly after his return, his wife, Janice, became pregnant. On June 29, she gave birth to a baby girl, Victoria Claudette. The baby was missing three fingers and most of her right hand. Matthew and his wife believe Victoria's shocking deformity has something to do with her father's illness and the war - especially since there is no history of birth defects in either of their families. They have seen photos of Iraqi babies born with deformities that are eerily similar. In June, Matthew contacted the Daily News and asked us to arrange independent laboratory screening for his urine. This was after The News had reported that four of seven soldiers from another National Guard unit, the 442nd Military Police, had tested positive for depleted uranium (DU). The independent test of Matthew's urine found him positive for DU - low-level radioactive waste produced in nuclear plants during the enrichment of natural uranium. Because it is twice as heavy as lead, DU has been used by the Pentagon since the Persian Gulf War in certain types of "tank-buster" shells, as well as for armor-plating in Abrams tanks. Exposure to radioactivity has been associated in some studies with birth defects in the children of exposed parents. "My husband went to Iraq to fight for his country," Janice Matthew said. "I feel the Army should take responsibility for what's happened.

Dahr Jamail's most recent report on birth defects in Iraq for Al Jazeera explains:

Today in Fallujah, residents are reporting to Al Jazeera that many families are too scared to have children, as an alarming number of women are experiencing consecutive miscarriages and deaths with critically deformed and ill newborns.
Dr Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, has taken a personal interest in investigating an explosion of congenital abnormalities that have mushroomed in the wake of the US sieges since 2005.
“We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine,” Alani told Al Jazeera at her office in the hospital last year, while showing countless photos of shocking birth defects.
Alani also co-authored a study in 2010 that showed the rate of heart defects in Fallujah to be 13 times the rate found in Europe. And, for birth defects involving the nervous system, the rate was calculated to be 33 times that found in Europe for the same number of births.
As of December 21, 2011, Alani, who has worked at the hospital since 1997, told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009. Just eight days later, when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.

If I were a member of Congress and I saw the birth defects Juan Gonzalez, Dahr Jamail and others have documented in the children of US service members or the vast number of children born with birth defects in Falluja and Basra and I was saying "I was lied to!," I think I'd be calling for an investigation.  What's to fear?  Today CBN -- the Christian Broadcasting Network -- reports, "A recent CNN poll shows 59 percent believe it was 'dumb' to send U.S. troops into Iraq. That's up eight points from the pullout in December 2011."  So, if you were lied to, you should want an investigation.  And if you're lying about being lied to, you'd just do nothing even now.

Brian M. Downing (World Tribune) notes that the Iraq War has resulted in closer ties between the governments of Iraq and Iran.  Trudy Rubin (Sacramento Bee) also notes that today.  They are not wrong.  Making that observation isn't wrong.  But wrong is assuming that this is an indictment of the war by itself.  For example, Phyllis Bennis, Laura Flanders, Judith LeBlanc, the ridiculous Leslie Cagan, Bill Fletcher and a host of others sign off on an open letter which includes,  "Leaving behind a pro-US, anti-Iranian government in Baghdad. Hardly, Prime Minister al-Maliki is barely on speaking terms with anyone in Washington." Is the italicized sentence (their italics) supposed to be a quote? From who?  Here's a better quote that those signing the letter damn sure should have been familiar with:

"We've understood very clearly that Iraq, especially the Shia population of Iraq, is both a source of danger and opportunity to the Iranians. I think it's more danger than it is opportunity. But the danger itself is incentive for them to try to intervene because the last thing they want to see, which I think is a real possibility, is an independent source of authority for the Shia religion emerging in a country that is democratic and pro-Western."

Who is that?  Paul Wolfowitz.  From the then-Secretary of Defense's interview with Vanity Fair's Sam Tannenhaus.  You may remember that interview.  If you do, you may remember that the White House insisted Wolfowtiz had been misquoted by Vanity Fair on another issue.  So you may be tempted -- I don't see why -- to assume that quote above is incorrect as well.  Problem with that conclusion would be that I'm not quoting from Vanity Fair.  The Defense Dept posted a transcript of the interview in an attempt to combat what they swore were distortions.  I'm quoting from the Defense Dept transcript.  Wolfowitz, in the official DoD transcript, is explaining that the war plan includes linking Iran and Iraq with the hopes that this will cause conflict.  And it does and it is.  Iraqi politicians regularly have to make pilgrimages to Iran to meet with their leaders -- even the Kurds have done that in the last months.  And each visit results in an outcry from the Iraqi people about how they are not a Shi'ite satellite.  In Iran, there are protests against various alleged acts by Turkey or Saudi Arabia in Iraq.  The two countries are linked, forever rushing back and forth attempting to fix some new issue.  And that's before you get to the still not firmly drawn physical border between Iraq and Iran.  The two sides are not in agreement regarding their country's boundaries. 

Yes, Iran and Iraq are closer.  That's a valid observation.  If you're alarmed by this, maybe you should have been paying attention in real time because regardless of what was told to the American people, it was public knowledge that the plan was to hook Iraq and Iran together and friction was part of that plan.  Then-President Jimmy Carter and his administration saw it as a 'good' dragging the USSR into Afghanistan.  This was a similar manipulation but a lower level of conflict. 

Wolfowitz's statements are important because they go to Iraq being a puppet.  This isn't creating an independent state.  This is creating a vacuum that will suck your enemy in.

The Iraq War was never about "liberation" or creating "democracy."  It was about manipulation.  Robert Scheer (Truthdig) points out:

Just weeks ago, a devastating documentary produced by The Guardian newspaper and the BBC provided all the evidence needed for any decent person to demand trials for the perpetrators of an extensive system of Iraqi torture centers, operated and financed by the U.S. government. It was part of a policy of stoking a genocidal war of Shiite extremists against Sunnis that was directed by U.S. government veterans of similar efforts in Latin America and elsewhere. As the lead on The Guardian story put it:
“The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the ‘dirty wars’ in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.”
This effort, conducted with the full knowledge of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. David Petraeus, utilized the most violent Shiite militias including the savage Badr Brigade to wreak vengeance on their Sunni opponents.
The BBC/Guardian investigation exposed our propensity for moral turpitude, with no thanks to the Obama administration, which brazenly closed the door to any serious investigation of the war crimes of the Bush era, and much credit to Pfc. Bradley Manning and his WikiLeaks trove.

He's referring to BBC Arabic and the Guardian's James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq  which you can stream online.  (If you can't stream or if you need closed captioning so the stream will not help you, Ava and I covered the documentary March 10th with "TV: The War Crimes Documentary.")  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), the topic of counter-insurgency was addressed with journalist Patrick Farrelly who was part of the  BBC Arabic and the Guardian newspaper investigative team behind the recent documentary entitled James Steele: America's Mystery Man In Iraq

Patrick Farrelly:  So we jump to 2004, the Bush administration needs a force on the ground.

Michael Ratner: The war is about a year old at this point.

Patrick Farrelly:  The war is about a year old. They turn to [David] Petraeus and Petraeus brings in Steele and Col James Coffman and they introduce him to this paramilitary force, special police commandos that's very, very small at the time --

Michael Ratner:  It's Iraqi?

Patrick Farrelly:  It's Iraqi run by a guy who had been involved in a plot to overthrow Saddam so we then end up in a situation where he introduces them to these guys.  Petreaus is really impressed with these people and that's when the spigot is turned on, hundreds of millions of dollars flow into this new force which hits the ground and it is advised by Steele and by Coffman.  It is a re-run of [El] Salvador. And they go from being a few hundred strong into being, you know, a force that grew to 17,000 to 18,000 men -- most of whom would be drawn from the Shia militias like the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Army who were very, very anxious to get revenge on Sunnis.  These people were basically put in uniform, armed and equipped by the US government and essentially let loose.

Michael Smith: A counter-insurgency force, right?

Patrick Farrelly:  A classic counter-insurgency force.

Michael Ratner: And what did they do?  Tell us about what they do because the headlines on these articles are "US Implicated In Iraqi Police Torture" -- Petraeus knew about it, Rumsfeld knew about it and it goes up the chain of command.

Patrick Farrelly: Well with Col James Steele who -- as I said the thing about Salvador, with the US military it's seen as a huge counter-insurgency success so therefore he was the guy on the ground, he's a sort of a legend in that area.  So with him in charge, they put together this force.  This force then sets up a whole chain of interrogation centers throughout northern Iraq, based in mainly Sunni areas because what the United States needs really badly is intelligence.  They need to know who the insurgents are and where they can get them.  And that's Steele's expertise -- having these guys on the ground, they go, they go after them, so they draw in thousands of people, they basically torture them for information.  And it's Steele's job to collate that information so that they can then hand it over to the US military, the US military can then go after the insurgents 'informed' for the first time as to what they were dealing with.  So for the United States, in 2004 and 2005, and Petraeus admits this himself, they were the real cutting edge in terms of going after the insurgents.  They were the first time the United States could actually make an impression on them but thousands of people were tortured in the process.

Heidi Boghosian: Now Steele and Coffman were very close and were actually in the detention centers, right?  So they couldn't say that they didn't know what was going on.

Patrick Farrelly:  Both of them were there.  The thing about it is in terms of chain of command, you've got James Steele who actually has no military standing whatsoever.  He is a retired colonel.  One of the reasons he's retired is because his career came askew in the late 80s when he was involved in the Iran-Contra Affair and was found by a Congressional Committee to have lied.

We'll cover at least one more part of that very important interview in a snapshot this week.  It was never about 'liberation' or 'democracy.'  That's why Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki, that's why Barack Obama had The Erbil Agreement created to give Nouri a second term after the Iraqi voters said no.  What happened then set the stage for all that follows.  Trudy Rubin (Sacremento Bee) observes, "Despite elections, Iraq still has a government that arrests and tortures political opponents and runs a secret police state." And she's correct.  But it can also be worded, "In spite of election results, Iraq still has a government that arrests and tortures political opponents and runs a secret police state."  Because the 2010 election results translated, under the Iraqi Constitution, as someone other than Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law gets first crack at being prime minister-designate and forming a government.  That was supposed to happen weeks after the March 2010 elections.  Instead, second place Nouri refused to allow it to happen, refused to leave the post of prime minister, refused to step down. For eight months and then the White House rescued Nouri by proposing an extra-constitutional contract -- The Erbil Agreement -- that would find the political leaders signing off on Nouri having a second term and Nouri agreeing to various things.  Various things?  They don't matter.  He never followed through.  He used The Erbil Agreement to get the second term, then he trashed the agreement.  And the torture the US taught is still used today, the secret prisons still exist (Human Rights Watch yesterday: "The abuses US officials allegedly authorized in the early years of the war in Iraq, and their tacit or direct complicity in Iraqi abuses throughout the occupation, are all partly responsible for the entrenchment of weak and corrupt institutions in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said." ) and, yes, US forces still go on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency missions with Iraqi troops but let's all pretend not to know that.

Seumas Milne (Guardian) had an important column yesterday that we'll grab this from:

As the Guardian reported this month, US forces led by General Petraeus himself were directly involved not only in overseeing torture centres, but also in sponsoring an El Salvador-style dirty war of sectarian death squads (known as "police commando units") to undermine the resistance.One outcome is the authoritarian Shia elite-dominated state run by Nouri al-Maliki today. His Sunni vice-president until last year, Tariq al-Hashimi – forced to leave the country and sentenced to death in absentia for allegedly ordering killings – was one of those who in his own words "collaborated" with the occupation, encouraging former resistance leaders to join Petraeus's "awakening councils", and now bitterly regrets it. "If I knew the result would be like this, I would never have done it," he told me at the weekend. "I made a grave mistake."

Dahr Jamail reported for Al Jazeera about the torture taking place in Iraq.  Today he discussed the findings with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! -- link is text, audio and video):

Other types of techniques being used—and again, all of this comes back to the types of workings of Colonel James Steele, where as people are being—men are being threatened. And I interviewed several Iraqis who said this, that when they were detained, they said, "Look, they threatened me that if I didn’t talk and give them the information they wanted or give them some names that would help them acquire the information that they wanted," that their sisters, their mothers, their wives would be brought in and raped repeatedly in front of them. So, of course people would just start giving them anything that they thought they wanted to hear.
But the types of torture is ongoing. It’s rampant. It’s one of the driving factors as to why we’re seeing massive Friday protests now, well into the three month, across Al Anbar province and the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad, where Sunnis are demanding a halt for the detentions, a halt of the so-called Article 4, which is the legislation passed and being used in the Iraqi government that—basically where they took a page out of the Bush playbook of giving them carte blanche to arrest anybody for any reasons under the guise of terrorism charges, of suspected terrorism, and then they can be held indefinitely. I spoke with people both at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch about this, and they said one of the problems now is, it’s the detentions and the being held secretly is so rampant now by the Iraqi security forces that there isn’t really even a need for secret prisons anymore. Remember a ways back, we had—it all came out that there were secret Maliki prisons. Well, now, today in Iraq, they’re referring—they’re being referred to by a lot of Iraqis as "secret prisoners," because people are being detained, their families aren’t—there’s no law requiring that the families be notified, nobody knows where these people are. They can be held in any prison anywhere in broad daylight, because no name is being registered anywhere. So, literally, we have untold numbers of people being detained, being treated horrifically.
And as people in Fallujah have told me, they said, "Look, we think that the Maliki regime tactics are even worse than the Americans," because when the Americans—when they detain people, there was at least hope that they would eventually be released, and likelihood that they would. Under Maliki, that hope is gone; there’s not a hope. The Fallujahns also referred to as the Americans therefore being at least somewhat more merciful than the tactics being employed by the Maliki regime, because people are being detained and not being heard from again, except in one instance, I interviewed the mother of a young man. He was 17 years old when he was detained. He was held for a year and a half. They never could find him, until she received a phone call from him saying, "Look, I’ve been a prisoner in these prisons, and I’m getting one last phone call to say goodbye to you, because tomorrow I’m going to be executed."

This is what the US government has been supporting.  Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the US government, yes.  He was also set up by the US government.  They do the same today with Nouri al-Maliki.

In a column for Global Post, Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers reports:

Over the last several weeks in Baghdad, I’ve spoken with more than 30 women who are in detention or were recently released, along with lawyers and families of detainees, researching allegations of torture in Iraqi detention facilities.
People told me over and over about random arrests, torture during interrogation and prolonged detention in unofficial facilities. They said corruption was rife among Interior Ministry officials, that there was collusion between officials and judges, and that trials lacked the most basic due process protections.
Detainees repeatedly told me the government uses the broad provisions of Article 4 to detain people without arrest warrants in detention centers overseen by security forces that answer to the Interior and Defense Ministries, or directly to the Prime Minister’s Office.
I asked officials I met about promises to release detainees and about the broader problems with the criminal justice system. By the government’s own admission, some detainees have been held illegally for months -- even years.
There is little evidence, though, that the government is carrying out the pledged reforms, or that the reforms target illegal arrests, coerced interrogations and arbitrary detentions.

Provincial elections are supposed to take place April 20th.  Today another Iraqiya candidate has been assassinated.  Alsumaria reports Ahmed Jihad Halbusi was shot dead in Falluja. In addition Alsumaria notes Sheikh Theroa Shammaria was shot dead in Mosul.

National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 2 lives and left five more people injured,  an Anbar sticky bombing has claimed the life of 1 Anbar police officer,  a former military officer was shot dead in Mosul, a sticky bombing outside Tikrit killed 1 man and left "his wife and their two children wounded."

As the political crisis continues, All Iraq News notes Moqtqada al-Sadr is planning a press conference.  Ayad Allawi is the leader of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the 2010 elections, besting Nouri's State of Law.  All Iraq News reports Allawi is in Turkey currently and quotes him stating, "Maliki run the country alone without a guide as determined by Erbil Agreement.  The current situation is a result for ignoring the former agreements in addition to the continuous tension in the neighboring countries especially Syria. The State of Law Coalition headed by Maliki violated the constitution by preventing the IS from practicing its democratic right after winning the elections in 2010.  The exclusion process after the elections of 2010 led to dividing Iraq and forming sectarian blocs."  And Allawi is correct.

The US brokered The Erbil Agreement.  They did that because Barack wanted Nouri to have a second term.  Voters had said no.  The Constitution was clear on the process.  To get around the Constitution, as Nouri entered the eight month of refusing to step down as prime minister, the US told the other political parties to do what was right for Iraq, to be the bigger person, blah, blah, blah.  Let Nouri have a second term and you'll get various things in exchange.  This was all written up and signed off on by all the leaders of the political blocs -- including Nouri -- and the White House said (lied) that the contract had the full support of the US government behind it.  Nouri used the contract to get that second term and then he trashed the contract.  Refused to live up to it.  Though Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada have been publicly calling for the contract to be honored since the summer of 2011, the US government has had little to say.  And the White House wonders why political blocs don't trust them at all?

Yesterday, Iraq was slammed with violence.  Patrick Cockburn (Belfast Telegraph) notes the death toll from the Baghdad bombings rose to 57.  All Iraq News counts 25 car bombings in Baghdad yesterday and 280 people injured or killed.  In all of Iraq yesterday, Margaret Griffis ( counts  98 dead and 240 injured.  Nouri attempted to use the violence for his own goals.    From yesterday's snapshot:

In other news of Nouri's aggression, Zhu Ningzhu (Xinhua) reports, "The Iraqi cabinet on Tuesday decided to postpone the provincial elections in the Sunni provinces of Anbar and Nineveh for a maximum period of six months due to deterioration in security across the country, an Iraqi official television reported."  AFP reports it too.  Neither notes reality.

First reality, look at the above and explain why Baghdad Province would have elections?  I'm sorry if Nouri's excuse is too much violence, Baghdad's pretty violent.  This isn't about violence, this is about punishing the protesters.

Second, the Cabinet did not vote.  Alsumaria reports Moqtada al-Sadr has already announced his opposition to cancelling the votes and says that it is not permissable and compares the injustice to the founding of a second tyrant and dictator.  Looks like Nouri's going to have to lose the "Little Saddam" moniker and just be "New Saddam."  NINA adds that the vote was taken in a session that the Kurds and Iraqiya weren't present at.

 Today,  Ayad al-Tamimi and Nevzat Hmedin (Al Mada) report the Governor of Nineveh, Atheel al-Nujaifi, has come up with an even better point, it is less violence in the province than it was in 2009 when the last provincial elections were held -- but amid that violence, the province still managed to vote.  United Nations Secretrary-General Ban Ki-Moon has a Special Envoy in Iraq, Martin Kobler.  The UN quotes Kobler declaring today, "There is no democracy without elections.  The citizens of these provinces are looking forward to these elections with great hope.  They should not be disappointed." Alsumaria reports that Iraqiya MP Nahida Daini said that postponing the elections for the reasons given would be caving into violence.

Today in the United States, there was a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  If there's room in a snapshot tomorrow or Friday, we'll cover it.  For now, we'll note this from Senator Patty Murray's office:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

Murray Reiterates Mental Health Challenges Facing Veterans

"Over the coming year, VA has its work cut out for it."

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, expressed concern for the mental health challenges that lie ahead for veterans during a hearing entitled, “VA Mental Health Care: Ensuring Timely Access to High-Quality Care.”
“Over the coming year, VA has its work cut out for it,” said Senator Murray. “This includes continuing to work towards implementing the Mental Health ACCESS Act, meeting the goals of hiring 1,600 new mental health care professionals, continuing to bring down wait times and improving access to care, and partnering with community providers to ensure that veterans have access to the care they need.”
In February, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a comprehensive report on veterans who die by suicide. The report indicates that the percentage of veterans who die by suicide has decreased slightly since 1999, while the estimated total number of Veterans who have died by suicide has increased to over 8,000 a year. 
Senator Murray’s Mental Health ACCESS Act was signed into law by President Obama as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The ACCESS Act creates a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program; expands eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs mental health services to family members; strengthens oversight of DoD Mental Health Care and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES); improves training and education for our health care providers; creates more peer-to-peer counseling opportunities; and requires VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services. Making mental health a top priority during her time as Chairman, Senator Murray crafted the amendment after a major study by the RAND Corporation showed that there are serious gaps and a lack of consistency in military services’ suicide prevention programs.
Senator Murray’s full remarks:
“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, I really appreciate you holding this hearing.  Providing timely access to high-quality care is extremely important for our veterans, servicemembers, and their families.
“I appreciate the witnesses coming to testify before us to help further the conversation that this Committee has been having for the past several years.
“I know it is not always easy to do, and we appreciate your courage in coming here so that we can learn from you.
“VA and Congress have made important strides towards addressing the invisible wounds of war. But we still have a lot to do.
“VA’s recent report on suicides among the nation’s veterans is very troubling.  And I am quite concerned that my home state of Washington appears to have a very high percentage of the known veteran suicides.
“Over the coming year, VA has its work cut out for it. This includes continuing to work towards implementing the Mental Health ACCESS Act, meeting the goals of hiring 1,600 new mental health care professionals, continuing to bring down wait times and improving access to care, and partnering with community providers to ensure that veterans have access to the care they need.
“Army, and all of DoD, also have significant challenges ahead. Just a few of these challenges are reforming the IDES process and the diagnosis of mental health conditions, addressing the problems with developing and integrated electronic health record, and ending the unacceptably high rates of military sexual trauma.
“I look forward to continuing to work with VA, the Pentagon, and my colleagues on this Committee towards meeting these goals.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

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